Moira Young’s Dust Land series, it definitely The Road meets The Hunger Games. You’ve got your badass, gladiator girl in a world so desolate that it can only be brought to life by some perfectly sparse writing. Saba is scrappy and strong and her experience in the ring makes Katniss’ life look like a cakewalk. But it’s the writing in Blood Red Road and Rebel Heart that really won me over. The story flies forward at breakneck pace, fueled by this Cormac McCarthy-style bareness. What better way to describe a barren world than with spare, carefully chosen words? Yes, there is a love story. And yes, Saba must come of age and take charge, but there is so much more going on here. The Dust Lands is a broken world and Saba is a broken girl. She is repairing herself while managing the people and problems around her. I can’t wait to see how Young pulls it together.
We are thrilled to be the fourth stop on Moira Young’s cyber blog tour celebrating the release of the second novel in the Dust Lands series, Rebel Heart.
Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): You’ve created a very bleak world in the Dust Lands books. What were your inspirations for such a stark world?
Moira Young (MY): Well, it all started with a concern of mine: the profound disconnect between human beings and the environment. We’re completely dependent upon the natural world – earth, air, water, plants and animals - for our survival. But we’re a short-sighted, destructive species. We live as if we’re lords of the planet and can exploit it as we wish, without consequences. So, with climate change high on media and government agendas in 2006 – sadly, no longer the case - I began to ask myself the writerly question, “what if?” What if the world were to heat by 3 degrees? Six degrees? What would happen? Add to that my mother’s tales of her depression-era childhood in the Alberta Dustbowl, my travels in the Canadian landscape, a love of epic movies, Westerns and boys’ own adventure stories and the scene was set: I began to write the story that would become Blood Red Road.
ITB: While you have a sparseness of style, you still give readers such rich visuals. How do you manage to create such clear images with so few words?
MY: I don’t really know. I’m just glad if it seems to work! I do choose my words carefully. Other than that, all I can say is that, as a reader, I don’t like long passages of description or explanation or narrative. I tend to skim over those bits until I get back to the meat of the story. These books are told from Saba’s point of view. It’s an intensely personal, close point of view, as if we’re inside her head; we think her thoughts with her, see the world through her eyes, experience it as she does. As I write, the story plays like a movie in my head; the writer as a movie camera, you could say. Descriptions and so on are painted in lightly, with an impressionist’s brush. I want to give the reader enough to anchor them in the landscape - to give them a feel, smell, taste of the places we’re moving through – and, at the same time, leave plenty of room for their own imaginations to roam.
ITB: Many readers and reviewers have commented on Saba’s dialect. Do you find it difficult to write in dialect? How did you keep track of all the subtle nuances of Saba’s interior monologue? Do you find that using a dialect allows you more freedom?
MY: I always refer to Saba’s voice rather than dialect or language. Her voice is very particularly her and I have no trouble writing it or knowing what she would say or how she would say it. She is earthbound and moves from monosyllables at one extreme to simple poeticism at the other. The musical part of me really comes into play with Saba’s interior monologue, as it demands pulses, beats, rhythms and arcs.
She has such a singular voice that it gives me great freedom with words and phrases: I invent them, steal them from here, there and everywhere, and generally kick up my heels. Luckily, English is a robust, rough and tumble language and can survive almost any kind of ill treatment. It does cause some problems for foreign translation and my English language publishers have had to compile a Dust Lands spelling, usage and meaning handbook for desk and copy editors, but I have no problems at all!
ITB: Saba follows in the footsteps of some great butt-kicking females. What is the best part about writing a strong female character? Is there a living person who inspired Saba?
MY: I hope that she doesn’t follow anyone, but is a one-off. She’s a mash up of every character I’ve ever loved and – no doubt - internalized. She’s the boys of Treasure Island and Huck Finn, the gentleman adventurers of King Solomon’s Mines and The Lost World, swashbuckling cinema idols such as Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn and strong silent Western movie heroes. She’s also the strong women of mid-century movies, such as Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Crawford. Saba doesn’t conform to contemporary sexual stereotypes, but why should she? She doesn’t live in our world. Writing her is remarkably freeing. Anything that I wouldn’t dream of doing, she does. I would say that Saba is everything that I am and everything that I am not. So, I’m the inspiration for her.
ITB: Why do you think there is such an interest in dystopian fiction for teens?
MY: Every time I’m asked this question, I think of another answer, and every writer has their own take on it. I’d say there are a number of factors at play here.
Books set in the future free a writer from many of the constraints of real-world settings. All you have to do is operate within the rules of the world you have created. You can put your young protagonist in exciting, dangerous situations that no teenager could possibly encounter in real life. They are the heroes of these stories, the monster-slayers. That makes them exciting to read.
They tend to ask the big questions of life: Who am I? What do I believe? How can I make my life meaningful? We start asking these questions as young people and continue asking them throughout our lives.
The themes and settings mirror and explore our own fast-changing society: civil unrest, war, technology, military-style surveillance of citizens by their own governments, climate change, conformity, the decline of the west, propaganda and doublespeak, the undermining of democracy by corporations, repression, oppression and so on. Despite the serious subject matter, these aren’t polemics but provide rich settings for engaging stories where young people are the agents of their own destiny.
ITB: Are there particular dystopian fiction lit that inspired you or would recommend to your readers?
MY: I would never describe my books as dystopian but, since The Hunger Games, any book set in the future seems to get squeezed into that box. I’ve happily roamed across genres for my Dust Lands books, including fantasy, sci-fi, Westerns, thrillers, classic literature, psychology, mythology, fairy tales, romance, and ancient and modern history. I also draw on movies and music. I use whatever works for the story.
I’ve not read much of recent vintage, so I’d recommend the classics: Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Ballard’s The Drowned World and Shute’s On the Beach are great post-apocalyptic tales.
We would like to thank Doubleday Canada and Moira Young for offering us to take part in her blog tour.
While I’m typically not one for these sorts of made-up holidays, there is something so nice about taking a day, an hour, or even just a minute, to honour dear ol’ dad.
Not to brag or anything, but my dad is amazing. He is super smart and crazy funny and often embarrassing. He is also kind and generous and thoughtful. My dad is an actor by trade. Yes, that’s right. I grew up with a dad who could occasionally be seen on television or in a movie. So, you can probably guess that my dad has a big personality and is totally comfortable acting silly and performing—especially if that means performing for us kids.
My dad read to me all through my childhood. I have all kinds of memories of him sitting on the edge of my bed and slowly turning the pages of a book, using his lovely deep voice to give life to characters on the page. We had this one big book of poetry that we both lament having lost somewhere along the way. But there was also a selection of classic story books like Miss Rumphius, Madeline, and Doctor DeSoto. I definitely credit my dad with helping to instil in me a great love of books and reading. There is something so special about sitting down together and sharing a story.
All that being said, I would like to propose that all of you kids out there grab your dad, grab a book, and settle in to read together...
Here are a few fun titles to help you celebrate:
You can’t go wrong with Dr. Seuss’ Hop on Pop.
I loved Mercer Mayer when I was a tot, so I feel great about suggesting Little Critter Happy Father’s Day.
Some Dads by Nick Bland is totally adorable.
The modern art and lovely story of Dan Yaccarino’s Every Friday is one of my new favourites.
And you can’t have a Father’s Day read-a-thon without David’s Father by Canadian idol Robert Munsch.
Lastly, I need to recommend My Dad is the Best Playground by Lucianan Navarro Powell, because dads ARE the best playgrounds.
You can also check out our Books for Daddy shop for some more inspiration.
Happy Father’s Day and happy reading!
HAPPY STAR WARS DAY!
I have some very fond memories of Star Wars. It was a huge part of my childhood. I know that I’m not alone in this. I remember watching the movies with my dad. Collecting plush Ewoks (please don’t judge me, I was a little kid and I really liked stuffed animals). Waiting in line to see The Phantom Menace. Then waiting in line to see Attack of the Clones AND Revenge of the Sith.
Actually, thinking about it, I also waited in line when A New Hope was rereleased into theatres. It was one of those great moments when I got to be a part of something fun and larger than life along with all the other Star Wars lovers.
Lately I’ve been noticing how much Star Wars has seeped into our general consciousness. There are references everywhere. (Not to mention all the DVDs, toys, books, LEGO, etc. some of which you can see here.)
May 4th has become a sort of Star Wars Day, too. As in: May the FOURTH be with you!
I’m not going to get profound or anything. I just want to share the excitement and bask in the glow of the force on this special day.
So, with that, I bid you enjoy this selection of Star Wars-inspired internet shenanigans:
From the book Darth Vader and Son:
Some bunnies re-enacting the movie:
The number of memes out there is astonishing:
Finally, as an equal opportunity employer, one of our stores seems to have hired a Stormtrooper:
May the fourth (and the force) be with you!
Happy Star Wars Day!
Have you ever thought about two characters from different books being friends? It happens to me all the time. Sometimes, I’ll just be reading along, minding my own business, when BLAMMO! I burst out laughing because I realise that Madeline would totally get along with Miss Lina’s Ballerinas. And Chester would most certainly be friends with Olivia. Even across from the book shelf I think they look at each other and nod in agreement: "Yup, we WOULD be friends. If only we were in the same story."
Tell me they wouldn’t be best friends if they met?! There are a couple of young ladies in my life who adore Fancy Nancy, and I can’t wait to share Pinkalicious with them, too.
Luckily, both Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious are 20% off in stores until February 27th, 2012. Happy shopping!
Lately it seems like girls are ruling the roost. We’ve got Katniss and Aria, Hazel and Tris, and don’t even get me started on Cinder and Tessa. These girls are amazing! They can kick butt, solve problems, survive, and are often smarter than all the boys in the room, er, book. It’s pretty glorious. But let’s be honest, my heart belongs to the boys.
Sigh… boyfriends. My book boyfriends. There are dozens of them. I can’t get enough. These guys are tough, smart, strong, and funny. They say the right things and the wrong things and it doesn’t matter if they do the wrong thing sometimes, because I see through it. And I know they are perfectly imperfect.
They are also hot.
Last year I fell head over heels for Four in Divergent. Swoon! He is strong, quiet, and sincere. Four is patient and smart and has dark blue eyes, slender hands, and tattoos. He is also tough. And treats Tris with a tenderness that is… very appealing. Did I mention the tattoos?
Under the Never Sky was a surprise hit for me. It’s an awesome dystopian adventure with a great female lead and a fantastic boy. Perry is an Outsider. He is haunted, powerful, and savage. As a reader we get to see through Perry’s eyes… and, oh, are those eyes special. Did I mention that he has tattoos, too?
Fire has TWO guys that are kind of irresistible… Archer and Brigan. The first is a devoted, painfully handsome, childhood friend who runs astray. The other is a powerful army commander with grey eyes and a heart of gold. What’s a Monster girl to do?
And then, Etienne St Clair. He’s French. He’s British. He has great hair. He is smart AND charming. A romance set at the American school in Paris... I don’t think I need to say much more. Anna and the French Kiss was one of the most unexpectedly entertaining (and well written) books I read last year.
Now, they can't all be winners. Ed Slaterton. How could you? I don't blame Min for falling for you. But you don't deserve her and you don't deserve my devotion either. Maybe that's Why We Broke Up?
Boys. A great boy in a book is more appealing than free chocolate cake. Well, maybe it depends on the cake. But I know that I can’t imagine Teen books without my boyfriends.
#bookboyfriends #ftw #moarplease
Now that I’m all up in this blog thang, I’ve been checking out everyone else’s Best Of lists to see what I've missed. Chandra and Mel have theirs up, now it is my turn to contribute to #teamteen. This was a pretty awesome year for teen books and I’ve spied a few books that I’ll have to move to the top of the pile. I also read a lot of good stuff. And, now I’m going to get on my soap box and share the books that I loved this year.
In no particular order:
- Divergent by Veronica Roth – OMG. Couldn’t put it down, reread it immediately. Hooray for kickass girls and swoony boys and action-packed dystopias!
- Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler – Funny, hopeful and brilliant. You can see my review here.
- Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley – Lovely, moving, and thoughtful, with a wonderful small-town setting. Cullen won’t give up hope for his missing younger brother.
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Awesome world building, supercool characters and creatures, and plain ol’ great storytelling. I was charmed by Karou (and her blue hair) as she became caught in an otherworldly battle.
- Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare – Basically the most awesome book ever. This second book in The Infernal Devices series that had me at ‘hello.’ I had to put it in the freezer so it could cool off and think about what it did. (I had to cool off, too. Oh the makeout scenes!)
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – A great concept for a book. The super creepy pics weave into this strange and wonderful story about a teen boy trying to learn about his (possibly supernatural) family history.
- This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel – Victor Frankenstein was never so appealing. I loved this unofficial prequel. Great characters and an excellently gothic setting.
- Red Glove by Holly Black – An organized crime family with magic powers? Sign me up! Cassel is a fabulously tormented character.
- Forever by Maggie Stiefvater – It does not get any more romantic than the love story between Sam and Grace in this third book in Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy. Also, werewolves are cool. The end.
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Okay, okay… it’s not technically a teen book, but I fell head over heels for this enchanting world and I bet teen readers will, too. A circus that only comes alive at night and deadly game serve as the backdrop for this epic love story. Also, that is one beautiful cover.
Happy Reading! ;)
I love when a book is almost about nothing, but then is really about everything that is going on in my life. And I really love when the character could almost be me (except that they are usually better looking and have special powers). There is something so reassuring when I see a piece of myself right there on the page and it makes me laugh or cry or remember.
As an Assistant Category Manager for Kids Books I wind up reading everything from lift-the-flap Elmo books to the latest from Cassandra Clare, often well ahead of the public. (Yes, I DO have a super fun job.) Obviously this means I’ve read loads of teen books. And this year I’ve encountered a few that were about nothing and everything and let me fly my angst flag. (That flag, btw, has a big unicorn on it. Wearing an eye patch. He’s very emo.) Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley and What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen were two of those glorious books. I also read Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (I know! How could I have waited so long to read this?), which is coming out as a movie in 2012 with Emma Watson. All three books spoke to me and reminded me that I’m not an island. Other people out there understand what it’s like to feel lonely, sad, misunderstood, and angry.
But the book that spoke to me the most wasn’t any of the above. I was lucky enough to get an early copy of the deliciously angsty Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) with fabulous art by Maira Kalman. Kalman’s bold art has been seen in many books and magazines and she has worked with Handler before on the odd and beautiful picture book 13 Words. These two kindred artists got together again and really made my day.
Min Green is our heroine. And a hero she certainly is dealing with a bad breakup like a champion. Min has left a box on Ed Slaterton’s doorstep. In that box are all the mementos from their relationship. And a letter. A letter explaining what each item meant to her and how Ed ruined everything.
Why We Broke Up seems like such a basic concept. And it seems like not much is happening in the book. But really it’s about everything. It’s about falling in love and seeing only the most amazingly great parts of a person. It’s about realizations and anger and hurt. It’s about friends and laughter and maybe, a little bit, about revenge. Why We Broke Up is about all the things that go on in your mind and your heart while the world continues to spin around you.
It’s perfectly angsty. And honest and smart. With a big dash of humour.
If you feel like sharing your own horrible break up stories, be sure to check out the Why We Broke Up Project. I’m not telling which one of those is mine…
You can also check out a hilarious video of Daniel Handler talking break ups: