Winding Down 2009

I’ve been preoccupied with academic job market stuff and wrapping up a dissertation chapter on Hawthorne’s children and allegory, so the blog has gotten dusty. Here are a few year end tidbits.

First:  Here’s a link to NPR’s Best YA fiction of 2009 list. I’ll be honest – I haven’t read any of these, but they sound great.

Second: Here are my three favorite YA books this year. Predictably, it’s all genre fiction.

1. Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan
2. Holly Black and Ted Naifeh, Kith (Good Neighbors series No. 2)
3. Cassandra Clare, City of Glass (the whole trilogy is fantastic!) 

Third: In cinema, two adaptations of children’s books really stood out. The first, the stop-action animation version of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline was spellbinding. There were a few departures from the novel that irked me on first viewing, but a second viewing with the book less fresh in my mind proved quite enchanting. Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are was a magnificent expansion of the book. Max Records, as Max, was a revelation, delivering a performance that was simultaneously anxious and free. His dawning awareness of his own cruelty and selfishness, and his dependence on his mother’s love, made the end of the film heart-wrenching and lovely all at once. I don’t know how kids reacted to the film, but every 30-something post-hipster that I know who dwelt in the book as a child loved the film. In a Facebook status post after seeing it I declared that there would have to be something missing from the soul of anyone who didn’t love the film. I’ve backed off from that (a little), but I think that those who did love the film are a special club of which I’m pleased to be a member. Oh, yeah, there was a new (and disappointing) Harry Potter movie. And that New Moon thing. *yawn*

Pixar’s Up was a joyful and poignant celebration of what it means to be young, young at heart, and what it means to live life as an adventure. And it made me cry like a new widow, which is something. Pixar continues to monopolize the best use of computer animation as a vehicle for storytelling. Eschewing contemporary pop-culture references and gratuitous popsongs (unlike the execrable and sublimely unfunny Madagascar films), Pixar’s films have a timelessness and heart that recalls the golden age of cinema while continuously pushing the bounds of the media’s potential to communicate and captivate.

In another vein entirely, Diablo Cody’s Jennifer’s Body provided a wicked post-feminist interpretation of the high-school slasher flick. The film, which I think it’s important to remember is a silly teen slasher flick, deftly deconstructed the high-school types that populate the genre (adding pouty emo boy to the pantheon of jock, sensitive geek, hot chick, and dweeb girl). It’s probably a mistake to overthink this one, but I found it to be a fun and refreshing antidote to the torture porn that’s been passing as horror these days. And the soundtrack is a true guilty pleasure.

Next year promises to be busy indeed. I’m looking forward to new releases from Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. November will bring the beginning of the end of the Harry Potter film series. I’m going to Hulu my way through Glee, and am waiting for season 2 of Gossip Girl to go on sale at Target.

I’ll leave you with a song from my personal pick for album of the year, the eponymous Fever Ray.


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