Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

December Defies Definition 
One of my favorite things about YA lit: its flexibility and willingness to think outside the box. This month I'm focusing on titles that are written in a non-traditional way. One plays with typography and space. One crosses out text to show thought, but not speech. One is written entirely in verse style. Technology continues to provide us with new ways of telling stories, and these are just a few. What is your favorite? 

Everything is different without you. It's been a year, your birthday again...I'm not thinking of you again. I'm not. Walking to school, and I find an envelope just sitting there in the woods. Inside was a picture...of the same woods. Where was it from? Who left it here? I want to show it to you.

The next day, there's another picture. This time it surprised me. It was of me. I never let anyone take my picture. Except you. I showed it to Jack. He said it was freaky. Freaky. Another after school, nailed to a telephone pole. A picture of a bridge. So I went there, and I found another one. A picture of someone taking a picture. Someone else was there that day...

In my locker, another picture: this time of you. Not shoved between the cracks, but taped up; someone broke in to put this here. But I had never seen this picture. "I have never seen this photo before. I have never seen this photo before," (Levithan pg. 52, 2011). How? I knew you better than anyone. Me and Jack. But he doesn't know either. Weren't you the one who said, "He'll never know me like you do," (pg. 61)?

The next photograph showed up in Jack's locker. A picture of a grave. Your first kiss with Jack. Are you punishing us? It had to be someone who knew you, someone with whom you shared a connection...but who? And why don't I know? And why?

More pictures appear holding images of you and someone else. "Sparrow" it says on the back. I'm starting to lose it, I've been losing it ever since you disappeared. Jack doesn't want to talk about it, he wants to 'move on' and he accuses me of being the one who is doing this. He just wants to turn it off, all the hurt and pain and forget you...but I can't.

Evan and Jack tried to be everything for Ariel. Evan was her undyingly loyal best friend, and Jack was her boyfriend. The three of them...until Ariel started getting sucked under by mental illness. Can Evan and Jack discover who is playing this sick game on them? Will they ever forgive themselves for their choices?

Written as a series of pictures and words, this novel is a new take on incorporating mixed media. The photographs are powerful, and the style Levithan choses to express emotion and inner voice are too. Highly recommended, a great story for high schoolers about doing the right thing and forgiving yourself.
I knew you were at the center of it.
This should not have surprised me, since you had always been at the center of things. Nobody would have put you anywhere else. Especially me.
Even now, you refused to be pixelated, forgotten, silenced, erased. Not that I wanted to erase you. The opposite. I wanted the opposite," (Levithan pg. 42, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

Levithan, David, & Farmer, Jonathan. (2011). Every You, Every Me. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

The Geography of Girlhood by Kirsten Smith

Penny is just a girl. Fourteen, no mom, no boyfriend, two pretty good friends...and dread for the fall: the start of high school. Her one best friend is going a little wacko. Her other best friend is starting to push for popular. She's just stuck in between.

The Jenny's run the school. She should know, since Jenny Arnold has threatened to end her life for flirting with her boyfriend. Penny didn't mean to, but who would turn down attention from a hottie like that? It was strictly hands off.

Besides, Randall Faber has a crush on her. Elaine encourages this match, almost more for the normalcy than mutual attraction. Your first kiss has to be someone, right? It feels too controlled, he even picks out her lip gloss flavor.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

There are advantages to having a dad who buys you guilt gifts...like getting a new computer when your dad has his first baby with his new wife! It's 1996, and Emma decides it could definitely be worse. When her next-door neighbor, and childhood best friend, Josh brings by a new AOL disk with a free trial on it, she can't wait to get started! Something weird happens when she signs on though, a site she's never heard of pops up: Facebook. There's a picture of a woman whose name is Emma Jones...and she looks alarmingly like an older version of herself. Whoa, they have the same birthday too.

Weirded out, Emma enlists Josh's help. He's on it too, and he's married to Sydney? One of the hottest girls in school? Wait a minute, what kind of sick joke is this? It isn't until they look through some of the pictures posted as "The Good Old Days," and find a picture that hasn't even been developed yet (they rush to the one hour photo to confirm), that they start to accept the truth: this Facebook thing is a portal 15 years into their future!

Emma starts to notice that little things change, and she decides to experiment. She's going to change her future. She's going to make it better. This guy she's married to now seems like a real jerk. She's not sure what an iPad is, but she's pretty sure her husband shouldn't be using her money to buy one! Goodbye, Mr. Jones; hello, Mr. Right...or so she thinks.

Josh on the other hand can't believe his future good fortune! He wants nothing to do with any actions that could negatively influence his happy union with Sydney. Not to mention, ever since last summer when he kissed Emma, things have been weird. This latest adventure bringing them together doesn't change the fact that things can never be the same between them.

When Emma starts acting recklessly, pushing boundaries that a friend shouldn't push, Josh isn't sure what to do. He's trying to move on, and build a future with Sydney. Why is Emma pulling her old tricks? Is she really so selfish? Josh is having his own doubts: could perfect, future wife Sydney be not as perfect as everyone thinks? Now, future Emma is threatening to cancel her Facebook account!

This paired narrative is told in alternating chapters, Asher writes Josh, Mackler writes Emma. Relive the spot on 90s references, along with this sci-fi tinged coming of age story. I related to so much of this story, having been a sophomore in high school in 1996. Some of the references will be lost on this generation, which makes this a great crossover title for adults.

If you liked this, check out:
Asher, Jay and Mackler, Carolyn. (2011). The Future of Us. New York: Razorbill.

My Name is Mina (and I Love the Night.) by David Almond

Mina loves the night. She loves birds and moonlight. She loves black cats named Whisper and weird creatures, like herself. She's writing a journal with all her thoughts and whims. Sometimes she leaves pages blank, just to leave them. Sometimes she reiterates, to let us know something is important. Sometimes she fills the whole page with words that she likes. If she wants, she can write a story in 3rd person. The mind is a place of wonder! It is!

There was a time when she couldn't be so free with her words. When she used to go to St. Bede's, her teacher Mrs. Scullery told her to plan everything she would write. Mrs. Scullery didn't understand why Mina's story did not follow her original plan, or Mina's explanation of "I don't want it to," (Almond pg. 15, 2011). Mina likes being nonsensical!

So she doesn't go to St. Bede's anymore. Schools are cages. She is homeschooled, and Mina and her mom do wonderful things. They eat bananas and make clay models and read encyclopedias and learn about archaeopteryx and talk about Heaven. That's where Mina's dad lives. Once, Mina thought she would go down to the Underworld to steal him back from Pluto and Persephone...but she got scared by Cerebrus, so she decided to go back home.

"Perfection is BORING! Perfection is EMPTY! Perfection is NOTHINGNESS!" (pg. 31). Speaking of imperfection: Mr. Myers' house is far from perfect. Since he died, they have put the house on the market. Mina and her mother are hoping for people who are Interesting! Mina's mom thinks it will be someone who wants a fixer-upper.

Did you know that most dust is made up of tiny fragments of human skin? "EXTRAORDINARY ACTIVITY: Stare at Dust that Dances in the Light" (pg. 73).

Two things happened that led to being homeschooled: SATS Day, and Corinthian Avenue Pupil Referral Unit. Those stories have to be told in 3rd person. The good news is that Mina created some very lovely words like claminosity! and blippistrakor! She also made some friends at Corinthian, but I'll let her tell you the rest.

This prequel to the Prinz Honor award-winning Skellig, is delightful in its whimsical look at early adolescence. Every girl should have a journal filled with just as much fun and honesty, and the publishers did a lovely job with typography. Highly recommended for middle school, and anyone who needs more joy in their everyday. Mina doesn't fit in, but she shows us that it's ok to be different.
"I look into the night. I see owls and bats
that fly and flicker across the moon.
Somewhere out there, Whisper the cat
is slipping through the shadows.
I close my eyes and it's like those creatures are moving inside me,
almost like I'm a kind of weird creature myself,
a girl whose name is Mina
but more than just a girl whose name is Mina," (pg. 10).

If you liked this, check out:
Skellig by David Almond
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous-Life by Rachel Renee Russell (Dork Diaries, Book 1)
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford 

Almond, David. (2011). My Name is Mina (and I love the night. Anything seems possible at night when the rest of the world has gone to sleep). New York: Delacorte Press.