Friday, June 10, 2011

Notes from the Blender and Stupid Fast on a(nother) cold, wet day

Sunrise was at 5:11, sunset will be at 9:11. Cloudy, wet, and cool. Our blackberries somehow edged up over a tree branch and have blocked out the view of any of the houses across the street. Lots of blossoms, not so easy to reach, though, when they are ready to pick; they're right out over the cliffside.

I got my hair cut last Friday.

Loan, my stylist, said, "Let's just get rid of this, we don't need to work with this much extra", and grabbed the end of my hair in her fist, shut the blades across it and, snick!, it was gone. She had maybe 10 inches of hair in her hand, held like a fish in her fist. Now, I can reach over my shoulder and touch the bottom of my hair! I used to reach around to my belt line and play with the ends, twirling them into little curls. I am missing almost 2 feet of hair.

Those of you who know me know I don't have very many social skills. I have such a hard time talking to people like stylists or people I only know slightly, and, thankfully, they often spend their time telling me about themselves or asking very simple questions about what I do.

As uncomfortable as I am talking to people, I love listening to their stories; I love the connections that are uncovered when stories are shared, the stories that people need to share with others they don't know. But there's something specifically seductive about the bubble of a salon. Is it because you are looking at each other in the mirror, hands on your body, lips close to ears, that things you would never tell an almost stranger come slipping out from between your teeth?

Notes from the Blender and Stupid Fast are two great and funny new books for young adults that would be great reads for boys.

Notes from the Blender is told in two voices, the girl part is by Trish Cook, the boy part by Brendan Halpin, in alternating chapters. Declan is a death metal music fan, loves violent video games, and Neilly Foster. Neilly is beautiful and popular, the child of parents who love her very much, divorced when her dad realized he was gay. And now Declan's dad and Neilly's mom have found each other and fallen in love (and gotten pregnant). This is especially uncomfortable because now Declan will be living in the same house with Neilly, and her underpants, and he is having enough trouble with being an adolescent. Neilly, as secure as she seems to be in her social metier, is still a teenager and worries about her boyfriend, her place in the world, and how the people she knows are going to react to her dad's upcoming marriage.

I found this book to be absolutely charming and hysterically funny. Neilly and Declan don't really know much about each other, just the surface things you know about people you are in school in. As they deal with parents who are acting like teenagers themselves, moving in together, sharing bathrooms, they find out how much they have in common and how deeply you can feel for someone else.

There are the attendant problems that come with two teenagers living together, especially one who has such a huge crush on the other. There may be a little too much penis talk for some but it feels very real to me. One of the lines that Declan has is something like, "This is what adolescence is: I have a boner and I want to cry." True enough.

Stupid Fast, by Geoff Herback was also hysterically funny and absolutely heartbreaking. Felton has grown up over the summer-his voice dropped, he got tall, hairy and stupid fast. All of a sudden, he is on the football team and can run really fast. He finally feels that school can be salvaged because he can run which gives him a little more recognition, not all of which is good. Unfortunately, everything seems to conspire against him: his mother has become horribly depressed, his brother won't get out of his pirate outfit, his best friend's moved out of the country, and he's falling for the girl who's moved into his friend's house. It's a summer of revelations and secrets and revelations of secrets.

Felton is as awkward as a teenaged boy can be. He has outgrown himself in bits and pieces and, just as he becomes accustomed to one thing, something else needs a work-around. He is funny and deeply caring about his family, wants to find a place where he belongs, and, in trying to keep his family together begins to fray at the ages.

Stupid Fast is good. Readers will find themselves cheering for Fenton and his little brother, hoping that things will get better. Readers will also find themselves mired in Fenton's life; how do you make things right and just keep going on? I loved how we also see how Fenton's little brother deals with his anxieties, what happens to Fenton as the main character doesn't just happen to him. And I really appreciate that when things get really awful, the kids realize that they are just kids! They need an adult! These kinds of problems aren't something they have the experience to even begin to solve or work through.

Absolutely wonderful reads for a summer day (I'm sure we'll have one, eventually). A little laughter (on the bus snorting and chortling), some teary moments, some AARRGGHH shaking of the book moments when people do stupid things- No sentimentality in these books. Just a good story, well-told.

Notes from the Blender: Age 14 (for the sexual talk). Egmont. Hardcover, $16.99.
Stupid Fast: Age 12 and up. Sourcebooks. Paperback, $9.99.


  1. Great recommendations! And I can't wait to see your new look! I used to have very long hair, too, and it was quite a shock when I first cut it; I kept trying to lather it like phantom hair. And I have to say, I love your social skills! Maybe there's something about all being in the cozy book world that helps us get out of our shells when we're together. (Some people who only know me through the store are surprised that I'm actually really, really shy.) I think you're such a discerning reader in part because you are such a good listener.

  2. Thank you, Tegan- It really is like living two separate lives, isn't it? The book one and everything else. I have been known to change supermarket aisles when I've seen our customers shopping in the same store, people whose lives I've been a part of for years. Silly, but there it is. I have no small talk in me!

  3. Gosh, I've probably told you a million stories, mostly to cover my own awkward/anti-socialness... ^_^ I also used to have really long hair. It was quite a shock when I went to having super long hair to none at all. Now, I don't know what I would do with any hair at all. I don't even own shampoo!