Friday, August 3, 2007

Reviews: City of Bones & The P.L.A.I.N Janes

Tansy here - it's a while since I've done some YA reviews on this blog, so I thought I'd catch you up.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare was one of the major YA hardback releases of the year. Clare already has a large internet following thanks to her major involvement in Harry Potter fanfic several years back (though her fic is no longer available on the web), so there was plenty of buzz about this book before it came out.

Clary is a smart, arty everygirl character who is thrust Buffy-like into a weird world of demons, magic and dispossessed teenagers. The more she finds out about the magical side of life, the more worried she gets about her own dark family history... and while she's busy trying to save her mother, her own neck, and to survive the bitchiness and betrayals of her new world, she also has two cute boys competing for her affections.

I enjoyed City of Bones (once I wrested it back from my 60+ mother who stole it and adored it) as a fun, non-insulting addition to the subgenre of YA supernatural fiction. I did feel that it slotted in neatly with books such as Westerfeld's Midnighters series, Holly Black's faerie books and Larbalestier's Magic or Madness, but without adding anything overly new to the subgenre. City of Bones is vivid and compulsively readable, though, and while it is a dreaded first book of a series, it ends on an interesting enough note that I felt satisfied rather than frustrated.


The P.L.A.I.N. Janes, by Cecil Castelluci, was another high profile YA release of this year, as a graphic novel in DC Comics' new Minx line. It was Castelluci's name, though, that made me go to the trouble of ordering this in from the US, as I have absolutely no trust in DC's ability to gauge what female readers want from comics.

I can't fault their publishing of The P.L.A.I.N. Janes, though. This is a fantastic story about girl misfits, beautifully balancing a darker story thread about terrorism with the natural humour and flawed life of teenagers. The art is awesome, with girls who look like individual people, not just the same bodies with different hairstyles.

Jane's life is changed forever when she is caught near a bomb blast in her big city. She reacts to her near death experience by cutting off her hair, obsessing about a coma victim of the attack, and becoming an artist. Her parents react by whisking her away from the city to Safeville, Suburbia.

Constantly frustrated by her parents' attempts to wrap her in cotton wool, Jane is determined to make a fresh start in this school. She evades the cool kids, who want her to join them, preferring to hang out with the Janes, a disparate group of girls who only sit together because none of them fit in to the clubs they want to join. Together, they embark on the P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art in Neighbourhoods) project, a form of guerrilla street art, which is interpreted by the authoties as a form of terrorism.

Basically, The P.L.A.I.N. Janes is a funny, cool story about girls trying to find their identity through art. It ends a little abruptly, and I was glad to know there's going to be a sequel, as I could happily read volume after volume of this series. Excellent stuff.

Shiny Interview

Eugie Foster has interviewed Tansy about Shiny over here: