Thursday, May 29, 2008

Behind the Blog: Another Perspective

One thing about reading blogs or myspace profiles is they only give you an idea about that person. My name is Philip, and I am going to guest blog on my mom's blog and give another point of view.

I am in the eighth grade this year. When my mom's book came out, a lot of the girls in my school bought it and they kept asking me questions about the plot. I haven't read it yet because it's not required. If a book isn't required, I pretty much don't read it.

It's a little bit weird growing up with a mom who is a writer. When I was little, we used to get magazines in the mail and we would find mom's name in them. I thought all mom's wrote until I was in the first grade and none of the kids in my class had moms who had stories in magazines.

Mom is very big on reading. She's the kind of mom who buys everyone books for their birthday, and then asks them if they liked the book like a week later. She bugs us all the time about not reading and tells us we are going to end up homeless if we don't start reading more. She says weird stuff to us, like, "Why don't you go journal that and see what you come up with?" And she puts commas on birthday cakes.

But there are good things about having a mom who writes. She can figure out the symbols in a movie right away. I have perfect English homework. And she's easy to buy a present for: we just get her gift cards to bookstores. This usually backfires though because she comes home and says, "Look what I found for you to read at the bookstore today, Philip." That's my mom.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Living A YA Theme

If asked, and I haven't been, but if asked what a major YA theme is, the one that comes to my mind first is the learning and earning of trust.

After we moved to a new state, I knew it would take time for my boys to meet new friends. They had mingled with the same kids since pre -
school. I took for granted the convenience of knowing all the parents. In a new state, none of us had any idea as to a kid's background. I had never realized how much I had navigated my sons' choices in friends: steering them away from homes where lawns grew cars, and the insides of houses smelled like cabbage boiled in beer.
Here, in our new home, my teens experienced a battlefield promotion: I had to trust them to go
to school and come home with friends. All that lip service about me trusting them to make the right choices would now be tested. For all of us. I was terrified. But I knew (because I watch Dr. Phil) that I had to let them make their own choices. Here is one choice I met this morning:
6:46 a.m. -- My front door opens after a rapid knock. In my foyer stands an obese teenager in big boy shorts that reveal a good deal of his skull and crossbone boxers. My nine year old daughter, still in her nightgown, opens her eyes very wide and takes her cereal bowl into another room. "Phil home?" the teenager asks. I say I'll get him.
6:47 a.m. -- Philip explains that Josh is "amazing" because he can eat an entire pizza. "And they give that award through the Kennedy Center, right?" I ask. "No, Mom, you don't understand." I know I have to be quiet. I nod and go back down to tell Josh that Philip will be right down. I know I should be quiet, accepting, all that Zen mother stuff, but I can't help it. "So," I say casually, "how did you meet Philip?" Josh explains that they met while taking the late bus home. "Oh," I say happily, "you're in band, too?" "Nah, I was in detention."
6:49 a.m. -- We both look up as Philip opens his bedroom door. "Hey, Josh, show my Mom that
thing you have on your tongue." He obliges and I mumble something polite about his piercing. "He's going to get his tongue split when he turns 14, " Philip says enthusiastically. "Split?"
"Yeah," Josh says, "it's kind of an inside joke. See," Josh says, grinning, "me and Satan," and he
crosses his middle finger over his index finger, "we're like this."
"Wait, Mom," Philip says, "it's kind of a song he's writing. I'll explain it to you later." Philip and Josh turn to the door. Josh goes a little ahead. "Mom, listen," Philip whispers, "we can talk about it when I get home, ok? That thing about's just a joke with him. It's what he does."
"Right," I whisper, "because that's the only problem."
Philip starts laughing and turns to look at me one last time before running to catch up with his new friend. I watch them until the bus disappears around the corner, remembering that like all YA themes, there is a quieter adult parallel.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Something About Teens

I am, quite openly, not much of a movie fan. I've never had the same quality of experience while watching a movie as I've had while reading. I endure most movies, but I cannot abide romantic comedy of any sort. Ever. So last night, after a really scattered week, I wanted to spend time with my two boys."Let's rent that movie, Something About Dan," they suggested. They had previewed a scene where Dan gets a couple of tickets, they said as I winced, and I should be open to new experiences. I shouldn't pre-judge. My own words coming back to me. A browsing Blockbuster customer told us the movied had gotten excellent reviews. The boys smiled smugly.
So fine.
A third into the movie, as the Disneyesque tribe of family gathered and played board games, ate amicably at a Viking-sized table, and openly discussed their emotions, my oldest son started laughing. "There's like nothing wrong with these people," he said, "all they do is get angry then frolic. It's a fury and frolic movie."
Thinking I had missed this genre, I asked him to explain.
"Watch. They get mad, then they go and put on a talent show or hop around on the lawn. No family is like this. No one gets drunk or stays mad or is really fat and weird. I never met a family like this. It's like a family made up by camp counselors."
"I think it's a lake house," I pointed out, "they all gather there."
"Right. And everyone gets along the whole time. No one messes up," my middle guy added.
"I think he likes his brother's girlfriend," I pointed out, "that's the conflict."
"So? That's the whole conflict cause like nothing else is going on. Right about right now, I'd like to see a bear come along or someone take out a gun and do something crazy," my oldest guy said, "you know he's going to get together with that girl in the end because nothing happens in this movie like it happens in real life."
"So what? Did you want him to kill his brother or something?" I asked. "Maybe take the grandma hostage?"
"Nah," Philip, my middle guy said, "just like mess him up or fight or insult him. And how come all of those kids get along so well? They do what the adults say almost every time. And they're all dorks."
"Yes," I said eagerly, "that's not at all like you two. They're so wonderfully obedient."
They both laughed. "Pull this crap," they agreed, "put something on that's realistic."
We ended up watching the last hour of To Kill A Mockingbird, the old black and white version where Tom Robinson's undeniable innocence falls victim to racism. The boys had no comments while watching this except to say it was pretty good.
Pretty good.
Perhaps that's the lure of YA literature: the audience has such a low b.s. threshhold that romantic comedy would never be a possible genre...