#6: Feed by Mira Grant
Zombies are in right now, and have been for a while. While I personally can’t deal very well with scary movies, I’m happy to read a zombie book or three. The latest one was Feed.
The year is 2040, 26 years after the Rising, when the interaction of the cure for the common cold and the cure for cancer caused the dead to rise. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead proved to be remarkably accurate advice on how to deal with zombies, and he’s revered as a hero to the people. During the Rising, the conventional news media failed to respond with helpful information leading to the rise of bloggers. Georgia and Shaun Mason are two such bloggers, she a Newsie who is closest to a traditional reporter, he an Irwin, the kind of blogger who goes out to poke zombies with sticks and see what happens. Blogging requires a license and some pretty heave weaponry to head out into infested areas.
Georgia, Shaun and Buffy, their resident tech and fiction writer, are chosen to follow the presidential campaign of Senator Paul Ryman (R-WI), the first time bloggers have been invited to follow a campaign so closely. What they find on the trail is more than they bargained for, including an assassination by zombie attempt and a religious zealot and a former stripper (not the same person) as opponents. Grant does a good job with the technology–miniature cameras are everywhere–and the zombie creation myth. How heartbreaking is it that two of the most exciting medical breakthroughs are what cause the zombies? It’s also really interesting to see how politics changes in a world where gathering more than 10 people together at once is pretty much unheard of. Makes it really hard to go door to door, have big rallies or hold conventions.
Georgia is a compelling narrator. She’s dedicated to the news and to the truth, but that doesn’t seem to get in the way of making the story emotionally strong. Chapters end with passages from Georgia, Shaun and Buffy’s blogs, giving you the sense of how what they write for the public is different than the story Georgia is telling.
Deadline, book two in what’s supposed to be a trilogy, comes out on May 31st. I can’t wait!
#7: I am J by Cris Beam
The cover of this book is a neutral gray hoodie, unzipped just a little. This intrigued me so I picked it up. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this book is about a transgender teen who calls himself J, trying to escape his given name Jeni and the high expectations his Jewish dad and Puerto Rican mom have for him–to go to college, to be a pretty girl. J has always felt that he wasn’t a girl, like his body might indicate, and hides behind two sports bras and at least 3 shirts. Getting his period is the worst ever. J has consciously tried to mimic men around him (in New York City), including how he holds a cigarette and how he walks. He’s intensely private, not sharing his photography (prospective college major?) with anyone.
J attends a party with his best friend Melissa, where he sees her flirting with a guy he deems unworthy of her, and they get into a fight. Combined with peer pressure, this is not a good situation for J, and he starts to skip school to get away.
After discovering chest binding on the internet and making his own binder, J begins to pass a little more easily, meeting a couple of girls from a different school at a Starbucks and beginning a flirtation with one of them, Blue. He also reads about T, testosterone, and sees this as a magical fix for all his problems. Of course it isn’t–changes aren’t instantaneous, and even if they were, the clinic rejects him. He can’t get T without being 18 or having parental consent and at least 3 months of therapy. However, the clinic does get him into a school for GLBT youth and into counseling. He’s able to tell his mom and Melissa about his situation, and finds himself considering sharing his art.
Beam worked for years with transgender teens and wrote this book to give a voice to an experience that is underrepresented. She is sympathetic to the rough situation that J, and others like him, find themselves in. Though the narrative is in the 3rd person, it is closely focused on J–he is present throughout, and his mental state is thoroughly illuminated. I found myself rooting for him immediately, and proud of the steps he takes towards being proud of the person that he is. Definitely an eye opener for me, and a good read.