Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nerds Heart YA Discussion: The World is Mine by Lyah B. LeFlore

Today's the big day, the first day results are being posted for the first round of the Nerds Heart YA tournament, all about underrepresented, diverse YA books. I had the pleasure of judging this round with Lorin of Arch Thinking, pitting The World is Mine against Donut Days by Laura Zielin. Continue reading for our discussion about The World is Mine, then continue on to Arch Thinking for our Donut Days discussion. At noon Eastern time we'll post our comparison of the two books and declare a final winner!
The World Is Mine (Come Up)

Let's start by talking about The World is Mine. I liked the variety of characters in the book and how we got to spend a little bit of time in everyone's head and see what was important to them and why they were in on Blue's venture. I also really, really liked seeing a book where the majority of the characters are non-white, but they aren't all down-on-their-luck drug dealers or anything. There's a variety of socio-economic statuses, a variety of academic success, etc.  

However, I have to admit that the slang really, really irritated me. Not the presence of it, but the way the author had to *explain* it to us. I lost track of how many times a slang word was followed by "which in our world means..." And while I liked the inclusion of the rap/hip hop lyrics at the beginning of the chapters, they were integrated awkwardly into the text: "Like Kanye's famous line, Mo' money mo' problems." The grammar felt really artificial there. Overall it felt like the book wasn't written for teens who are living lives like Blue and his friends, but for the kids in the suburbs who want to mimic the "urban lifestyle."
I was also totally frustrated by the cliffhanger ending. I felt like there was absolutely no resolution for any of the plot threads.
The ending! I was so annoyed when I read the last page. It really bugs me when books don't even pretend to be anything more than a way to make you buy the next book.
I think you hit the nail on the head regarding the audience for this book. And I think this made the dialogue feel stilted. Which was too bad because I really liked most of the characters. It helped that we spent time with many of them, which I agree that I liked. But I was also charmed by some of the other characters, like Blue's dad and Whiteboy's landlady. They came across as really genuine people whose problems I care about. Which brings me back to the ending - I guess it's a good thing that I want to know what happens next, but I think the author has lost my trust. If every book is a cliffhanger, I'm going to get jaded and stop caring.
I kept comparing the cliffhanger ending to the endings of Hunger Games and Catching Fire in my head, only because those are the two biggest cliffhangers I've seen recently. Those worked because something major was resolved - IE, the titular Hunger Games, but in the last few pages, a *new* twist was added, so you not only felt one story was completed, but there was another one to look forward to. I wanted something resolved - a truly successful party, the issue of  Mamie's track - so I had a complete story to reflect on before building anticipation for the next story.
The thing I thought about a lot when I read this book was how most of Blue's problems were of his own making. Some weren't (like the issue about college) but the problems with Collin and Mamie were. I get that it's a personality flaw but I did want to scold the boy half the time. I just wish he had been a little more self-aware.  

Blue...I kinda wanted to kick him in the face sometimes. He was totally dismissive of and just a little bit sexist towards Mamie. The sexism came in for me because he seemed unable to refer to her without labeling her as the *girl* DJ. It was irritating because while I can handle a flawed protagonist (in fact, the best ones are far from perfect), he had some glaring personality flaws that made him downright unlikeable sometimes. His problems with Collin seemed to mostly stem from an inability to listen - which I totally bought because Blue was caught up in his big dreams and who wants to listen to reality then?! But he was rather vile about Mamie, and was creeping me out a bit towards the end when he was wondering how long Jade was "gonna make a brother wait." Independently, that bit with Jade would just be typical male posturing, but combined with the Mamie issues it was clear Blue's got some messed up issues with women.  

I hadn't really picked up on Blue's women issues until you pointed it out, but I definitely see what you mean. (Interestingly, his mom isn't really a developed character in the book - Collin's off-screen mom is more fully developed. I wonder if the author will make more of this in her next installment.) Mostly though, I just thought his ego was bigger than he was - and from what I've heard of his favorite role model, Diddy, that's probably pretty accurate.

-     Good variety of characters
-     Interesting structure
-     Unsympathetic main character (but sympathetic supporting characters)
-     Annoying cliffhanger ending

Remember: check out Arch Thinking for our Donut Days thoughts, then come back at noon for our comparison and final decision!


Lorin said...

It was fun working with you, Angela. And the new design looks great! Love the colors.

MissAttitude said...

Firstly, I love the new layout! Very nice.

I really like reading review discussions/conversations. I haven't read this book yet but based on the lines you've shared, it does sound like the author is too busy explaining the slang. I don't think I've ever heard anyone even say "in our world that means..." (at least not when talking about slang). It sounds artifical and definitely like it's being written for suburban kids who want to imitate without really understanding.

And I can barely handle sexist characters unless they change, so I may end up passing on this book.

Great discussion!

Angela Craft said...

Lorin - I had lots of fun working with you, too!

Ari - The book definitely had some weird things going on. Any individual issue I might have been able to overlook (save the sexism, since that's obviously my pet issue), but all together they really weakened the book. It's not one that I'd be recommending to pass on, but I'd definitely love to hear from, say, someone who nominated it for the tournament and hear what drew them to the book!

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