Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan

Now, I’m not a teenaged boy, and I never will be. So my assessment of what a “valid” or “true-to-life” male teenager’s voice sounds like might not be one hundred percent accurate. But Blake’s voice in Flash Burnout is convincing enough for me.

The whole sarcastic/funny teenager can be overdone in YA literature. And writing from an adolescent male’s voice is undoubtedly tricky (click here to read the simultaneously scathing and encouraging gauntlet author Hannah Moskowitz throws down on writing books geared toward YA males). Blake’s voice is humorous and poignant, and not in the way that sounds like the author is breathing “look how funny I am” from the white space between the words.

I enjoyed this book. The humor worked, the male point-of-view worked, and without Blake appealing to me-as-a-woman because he was so unbelievably romantic and tragic and sparkly, but instead because he sounds like a real guy experiencing real problems. There wasn’t anything sparkly about the romance here…I don’t even think I want to call it romance, at least not in the traditional way everyone might think of it in literature.

Another interesting point in Flash Burnout: the parents are both present, and they are awesome. A few months ago Julie Just wrote an essay for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, discussing what’s going on with all the absentee/horrible parents in young adult literature. Madigan gives us something refreshing in Flash Burnout: I fell in love with both of Blake’s quirky, fun, and ultimately there and loving mom and dad. In fact, Blake’s family serves as a foil for the families of the two love interests, making the family excellence a double-whammy.

But really, the humor is what did it for me. I love funny books. This was effective, and still had a meaningful story. I’m very sorry to say it, but Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson books are a bit lacking in the poignant, life-changing drama department (click here to read my review of those lovely tomes). Georgia is hilariously funny, but a well-curved character arc is not something she can boast about.

Blake, in Flash Burnout, isn’t a heart-throb. He’s a normal guy, and a funny one at that. His story is worth your time.

To read more about L. K. Madigan and her fiction, you can visit her website by clicking here.

Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson

Every now and then it’s healthy to go to the library and grab a random book off the shelf.

Okay, my search wasn’t entirely random. I desperately wanted something with no supernatural elements (yes, you read that right). Quick explanation: I’m tired of paranormal books, mostly because I’ve been revising my own for far too long.

So after a brief jacket check to make sure Saving Maddie had no vampires or were-amoebas in it, I brought it home and, one afternoon, I read it. The story is told in first-person point of view by Joshua Wynn, the seventeen-year-old son of a preacher. His childhood best friend, Maddie, returns to town and she’s no longer the young, innocent(ish) girl he’d known. Not only does Joshua battle with conflicting directives from his parents (help Maddie/stay away from that girl), but he’s also battling conflicting desires (be a good boy/have fun).

Joshua’s conflict was well-written. The pacing and tension alone kept me going, as well as the mystery as to why Maddie turned out to be such a “bad girl.” The prose itself, though, was sensual and sensuous. This paragraph illustrates this nicely:

She closed her eyes and I closed mine. I took in her scent again – I didn’t think I’d ever eat another scoop of vanilla ice cream without dreaming about her.

I’m a huge fan of sensory description, and Johnson does this all over the place (honestly, I just picked a page at random and found that paragraph).

Another interesting point: Johnson took a young adult male protagonist and added tons of girl appeal (a phrase I read in Mary Kole’s blog entry Boy Protagonists in YA). The “girl appeal” reminded me a lot of Beautiful Creatures (which I reviewed awhile ago), and strangely enough, The Virgin Suicides (which I read a long time ago). Which brings me to a total sideways thought: does “girl appeal” mean that the male protagonist has to be totally smitten with a girl character, in order to appeal to female readers? Based on Kole’s post, and my own reading, this might be the case.

But now it’s time to wrap up my review.

Saving Maddie was a refreshing trip back into a time when the end of the world seemed to balance on adolescent moral dilemmas, and everything felt so real, so crucial, and so brand-new.

You can visit Varian Johnson’s website here.