Some New Trend

Chapter Ten :: June by Carrie Rollwagen



STEPHANIE AND I ARE IN LINE at Cinnabon—why is there ALWAYS a long line at Cinnabon?—and she’s playing with my new iPod Touch.

My parents bought me an iPod Touch for my birthday. That was, like, really cool of them and everything, except that I can already tell I’m going to break it in about five minutes, and I don’t really know what the point of it is. Why not just get me an iPhone? It’s so like them to get close to the mark while still missing it completely.

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Hoverboards Will Save Humanity :: Extras by Scott Westerfeld by Carrie Rollwagen

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Extras is Scott Westerfeld’s story of Aya Fuse, a teenager living in post-Pretties Japan. In this addition to Westerfeld’s series, mind-altering surgeries that had made the global community safe but stupid have been abolished, and the city infrastructure has adapted into a reputation-based society. There’s no such thing as money—the currency of this society is popularity.

Citizens achieve popularity—or try to, anyway—by creating feeds. The feeds can detail the minutia of everyday life, or they can mock others, or they can be more like straight-up journalism. They’re basically a hybrid of blogs and YouTube.

In Aya’s Japan, when lots of people follow your feed, or even mention your name, you get famous. Then you get rich. Sound familiar? In a world where a famous—even notorious—face can get you anything from a starring role in a TV show to a million dollar book deal, I think we can relate.

Aya is a kicker, which is sort of like a blogger, who’s looking for her big story. She finds it in a group of X Games style hoverboarders, but the path to popularity isn’t as smooth as Aya had hoped. She has to choose between kicking the story and betraying her friends, between lying to her boyfriend and losing him, between saving face and saving the world. It’s all set against a backdrop of terrorist conservationists, honesty cults, elective neurosurgery, and zero gravity. Oh, and there’s a love story, too.

Extras is marketed as the fourth book in a trilogy (that’s not a typo), but these characters are brand-new, so following the story is easy, even without reading the rest of the series. The other books are certainly worth reading, though: I loved Pretties and Uglies (although I didn’t get into Specials quite as much).

Westerfeld’s grasp on the motivations that drive our society (beauty and popularity, in this series) is impressive. He explores the possible implications and exploitations of desires that are particularly attractive to a YA audience, but that apply to everyone in our youth/looks/fame-obsessed culture, but he’s far from judgmental.

He rejects black-and-white morality and writes about the gray area, but he paints it in vivid, neon colors that catch our interest and force us to pay attention, both to the moral dilemmas in Aya’s world, and to those in our own.

All About Nose Jobs :: Penelope and Uglies by Carrie Rollwagen

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BOOK REVIEW (& MOVIE REVIEW) :: Carrie Rollwagen

Uglies, by Scott Westerfield, is set in a future that worships beauty, pledges allegiance to conformity, and champions plastic surgery as a basic human right. I loved the book, and I’m halfway through Westerfield’s third (Specials), so I wanted to write about Uglies today … I really did. But I can’t stop thinking about my latest Netflix rental, Penelope.

In this modern fairytale, sort of a reverse Beauty and the Beast, Christina Ricci plays the “beast” — a blue-blooded girl who is born the victim of a family curse. The old magic that gave her the nose of a pig won’t be lifted until she’s completely accepted by one of “her own,” i.e. married to a rich boy from a good family. Penelope’s mother dedicates both of their lives to finding a suitable husband so her daughter can have a suitable nose.

I’ll admit, Penelope is no Academy Award winner. But I loved the costuming (very Anthropologie meets storybook meets craft fair) and the set design (it reminded me of Amelie), and the tights (I heart tights). Plus, I watched it on a lonely Saturday when I was feeling sentimental. But I think its sometimes cheesy moments and a few not-so-believable characters (I like Reese Witherspoon, but not as a spiky-haired, Vespa-driving, one-woman messenger service) are more than offset by a funny, sarcastic, and deceptively simple story.

Penelope’s defining moment comes, not at the hands of a Wicked Witch or a Prince Charming, but as she finally makes her own way in the world. She’s a damsel who’s capable of handling her own distress.

In that way, Penelope isn’t such a departure from Uglies, not really. Sure, the movie puts a fairy-tale twist on the present day, and the book takes us into a surgery-obsessed future, but the moral of both stories is the same: Accepting uniqueness is far more important than striving for some abstract, idealized concept of beauty, whether it’s obtainable or not.

A solid message can often seem preachy and naïve, but not here. Penelope sings its moral into your ear instead of beating it over your head, and Pretties intoxicates the reader into following on a rollercoaster ride (quite literally — and on a hoverboard).

If you’ve ever wanted to be prettier, or you’ve ever felt like a pig (and who hasn’t), you’ll be able to relate to Penelope and Uglies. Fantasy worlds can be fun, but they’re also a looking glass into our own lives. And that’s why , I think, we like them.