Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lips Touch by Laini Taylor

Nominated for a National Book Award in 2009, Lips Touch is the first young adult novel written by Laini Taylor. It is composed of three stories that take the reader into a world of goblins, demons, hell, curses and kisses. Sound incongruous? It all makes sense when you realize that kisses can be dangerous. 

The first story in the book,Goblin Fruit, is the strongest and my favorite, maybe. Kizzy is a high school student who longs to be beautiful, alluring and attractive to men. But she's not. This makes her the perfect victim for goblins who prey on girls just like her. When a new boy starts school and is immediately attentive to her she responds, though she's been warned by her grandmother to be alert to beautiful men and situations that seem too-good-to-be-true. As relations quicken between Kizzy and Jack she ignores the signs her grandmother is sending, until one final moment of decision. This story is highly sensual and evokes the feelings and atmosphere of Goblin Market, the famous Christina Rossetti poem, perfectly, yet with a modern sensibility.

The second story, Spicy Little Curses Such as These, is set during the British Raj and centers on a curse. At birth Anamique is cursed with the most beautiful voice ever heard, but one that would kill any human who happens to hear it. She lives her life in silent motion, begged by the servants to never utter a sound. At 17 she falls in love with a damaged war veteran and struggles with her desire to tell him of her love. Will the curse be violated or will she remain without a voice? This story didn't capture my interest as much as the other two, but I think it is mainly because I don't really care for the time period or subject matter. It has nothing to do with Taylor's writing.
The third story is longer than the other two and maddeningly fascinating. Hatchling relates the tale of Esme, a sheltered fourteen-year-old whose life changes dramatically when she wakes up one morning with one blue eye and one brown eye. From this she discovers her mother's shocking history as a "milk sacrifice" to a frightening race of soulless vampire/werewolf like creatures. Hatchling felt Eastern European, black forest, wolfish and dark. I loved it. I think this may be my favorite story. 
The illustrations by Taylor's gifted husband, Jim di Bartolo, help create the right atmosphere for her writing.

Taylor is a magnificent and imaginative writer. Her prose is lush without being flowery and gorgeous to read. I am truly in love with her. Her next YA novel will be released in October. I have baited breath.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

Exposed is a novel in verse that recounts the experience of Liz after her brother is accused of raping her best friend, Kate.
Liz and Kate have been friends since elementary school, "forever-bests", who spend one Saturday a month sleeping over at each other's houses and spending time alone without their boyfriends. This particular Saturday they get into a nasty argument as Liz insults Kate's boyfriend for being a wet blanket and Kate takes offense. Liz tears off to sleep in her room leaving Kate on the couch.
The next morning, Kate is gone.
When Kate won't speak to her or let her apologize, Liz assumes that she is still upset over their argument. But as days turn into weeks she realizes that something more is troubling Kate and she demands to know what. When she finds out that Kate has accused her brother, Mike, of rape she wishes she had never asked.
Marcus does an excellent job at creating the conflicting emotions that Liz experiences as she tries to decide who to believe. Her passion for photography is interwoven through the story, giving us a look at the world through Liz's eyes as she photographs her surroundings.
Though I usually cringe at the thought of reading verse novels, the few that I've read I have really enjoyed. There is something so to the point, yet elusive in their form that works very well in relating dramatic and forceful stories.
This is a convincing novel that does not have a neat solution. For readers who like a firm ending, Exposed won't do. It creates more questions than it answers.