Kirkus on Dare Me

Kirkus Book Reviews

Kirkus reviewed Tap Out last year and I was astounded that they felt my violent and vulgar examination of poverty was “bound to have huge appeal to kids whose lives are being mirrored, and it may prompt luckier readers to take some positive action.” Of course, they were right, and I have been so moved by the readers who have contacted me with stories of how my work struck a nerve, began a conversation, provided solace by demonstrating that this fight is universal.

Well, now Kirkus has reviewed Dare Me. The review will be available on their site to paying customers today or tomorrow, to all in September. My publisher may have the full review up as well, and I’ll be sure to link to the entirety when I can. In the meantime, I can give you snippets, enough for you to know that Kirkus, again, gave me praise. I can only hope that they are again correct in their assertions. Enjoy:

“Fully attuned to the adrenaline-fueled appeal of dares, Devine deftly conveys the dire consequences that can ensue once the first step is taken.”

“Devine’s examination of the teenage boy’s need for adrenaline is admirably complex…”

“Ben [protagonist] reflects, ‘This is larger than us, and we’re already in motion and gaining speed. The natural course is to let this run take us where it’s going. There are no brakes in freefall.'”

And, my favorite…

“Astute and riveting.”

TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox: Careening with our youth culture: the daring nature of Dare Me (a guest post by Eric Devine and GIVEAWAY)

I was invited to write a guest post on “Why Dare Me“? It’s an excellent question. Those of you who know me may have a clue. However, for those who don’t, here’s some insight:

TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox: Careening with our youth culture: the daring nature of Dare Me (a guest post by Eric Devine and GIVEAWAY).

I spent a lot of time as a teenager risking my life. And not in some symbolic sense. I put myself in harm’s way on so many occasions that when I tell stories of my youth, someone always says, “I cannot believe you’re still alive.”

Neither can I. And I blame the Internet.

Really, the lack of it. When I was a senior in high school (’96) our library got its first computer with Internet. At home, the same happened. But in its infancy, PCs with Internet connection weren’t that alluring, so I had to find entertainment elsewhere.

The problems my friends and I faced were classic: boundless energy, lack of supervision, devil-may-care attitudes and “stupid creativity”. I use that term because had we channeled our energy into anything positive, who knows what we could have achieved? Instead, we were all fortunate to simply maintain our lives, but not without scars and not without stories.

Like the one time we jumped off the ledges at this local abandoned quarry:

(this is not us, but the location).

My friend jumped, but for some reason believed in cartoon physics–that if she just stepped back she’d defy gravity. Instead, she belly flopped from that height, came up, gasped for air, and went right back under.

I was a lifeguard, so I swam under and rescued her, dragging her to the ledge where she vomited a gallon of water.

We kept jumping.

Read the rest of the post here.

Them Crazy Kids Dancing with “Molly”

Confession: I crank Miley Cyrus’s new song “We Can’t Stop”, and I’ve been known to sing along with Ke$ha’s “Crazy Kids”.

I don’t actually enjoy either song. I think Ke$ha is wildly overrated and I miss the days of “The Climb” when I didn’t have to tell my eight and five-year-old to turn away from YouTube. Or as my eldest says, “Back when Miley wasn’t crazy.” Exactly.

The issue for me when I hear these artists, is the emulation factor. I work with teens, and as much as they may publically sound like my eight year old decrying Miley’s transformation, privately they take note. Same with Ke$ha’s party-hearty appeal. There is no substance beyond the message that crazy is perfectly fine, admirable, really.

What?

That is why I listen and I watch and I take notes. The culture that plays out on iPhones and computer screens across the globe eventually becomes a filtered version within high schools and the surrounding communities. Sometimes not so filtered. Locally, on the heels of Cory Monteith’s death, we have a heroin problem, and I’ve talked to many educators whose students have been in trouble for “dancing with Molly.”

This is nothing inherently new. Tweens and teens have been copying the age group above them for decades. What is different is the boundaries being pushed, the messages sent, and the risk involved. Then again, possibly I’m wrong and it has always been this way. But I don’t really buy that. We all knew those handful of crazy kids in high school–some may say I was one of them. They don’t exist anymore. Their numbers have swollen as the fringe is being swallowed by the mainstream.

So what does this have to do with YA fiction?

Everything. Especially as it has been under attack for supposedly pimping wild times, as if YA authors are secretly attempting to undermine youth culture. Some believe that kids turn to YA literature as a way to get educated about these topics.

Pause. Think about that for a second. When is the last time you saw a teen reading a book to figure out how to be a bad-ass?

And…Play. Teens do read YA for information, but not in the way being posited. Teens are awash in these images and they turn to YA as a reference for how to handle them, not emulate them.

In a brilliant post by Kelly Jensen, she asks the parallel question to this debate, “Do adults read Gone Girl as a prescription for how to ruin a marriage?” Of course not, you can log on or tune in to almost anything to find an easy answer to that. It doesn’t take much thought.

However, literature does. Reading is hard work, and to fully comprehend the messages, it takes a critical mind and intelligence. The exact opposite of the passivity involved with staring at a screen.

So the next time you find a teen rocking out to whatever the latest craze is, ask what he or she makes of the message. If a response isn’t articulated, take that child to the library or the bookstore and help find something on the YA shelf that will serve as a guide. Because if we don’t, it’s “Always gonna be a uphill battle…” You know how the rest of it goes.

P.S. As I was writing this I came across an article posted yesterday about Miley discussing how her song IS about drugs. Enjoy.

P.P.S. These are the videos for the songs mentioned above. NSFW

I’m not here

I have a challenge for you. Go tell a story. For six hours straight. Feel free to pause as needed to collect your thoughts on how you want to phrase your tale. But commit to those six hours of storytelling. Now, do this for five days a week, for two months.

This is exactly what I did last summer (and what countless full-time authors do every day). When I returned from my vacation in July, I set to work, and by Labor Day had finished the first draft. That story is what I am currently working on, currently retelling for hours on end, tweaking, altering, deleting and staring some Portions over. I am trying desperately to finish up, and you might wonder what the rush is. There isn’t one, except for the fact that because of this story, I’m not here.

I began revising in June, but school was still in, and I had consulting work, and so it was very part-time. I knew the summer was around the corner.

My school year finished and I began revising more heavily. My wife was away for five days, and so the work was still light, two to three hours, tops. But once she returned and my daughters went to camp for the morning, the revision cranked up.

And now, with most likely the rest of this week and the next to go, full bore, I’m lost. Not in the story. No, that’s the only place I can actually see. I’m useless everywhere else.

My parents were over last night, asking questions about trips we have planned and other topics I should have ready answers to. Nothing. It’s as if they were speaking about someone else’s life.

I have a project list for the summer that’s virtually untouched, because I have little energy for anything else. *Disclaimer* I also hope my wife reads this post and takes pity, hence that last admission. She probably won’t.

This isn’t complaint, but commentary. I am amazed at the energy-draining quality of this project. And it’s not that the story is a mess and I have extensive work to do. It’s as good and as bad as my previous drafts. What I believe it boils down to is focus. I am at the point of no return, where nothing else matters besides the story. Not food, not sleep, not health. Just sitting and writing.

Delilah Dawson, author extraordinaire, recently wrote a post, “On Writing: WE’RE CLOSED.” It resonated with me on so many levels, even the showering. Go on, read it. She nails it.

Therefore, if you see me, or another author you know working like this, stuffed into an office, losing it slowly, be gentle. Speak clearly and directly, but don’t be offended if the glaze of storytelling doesn’t leave the eyes. We’re elsewhere.

And when we do return, there’ll be another story to consider.

Summer Blunders in Parenting

Man's arm sticking out of window of moving car

In case you haven’t been drenched in sweat or rain recently, or rain and then sweat, followed by more rain, guess what? It’s summer. June was very dour, but July, my God, July is pissed off. And so here we are in the throes of this unpredictable season and I realize just how much I mess up the little things that make it enjoyable.

Mind you, I mess them up for my daughters.

Take, for instance, the pool, and the need to keep your eye to the sky. We have been in it constantly when there haven’t been ominous clouds. Yet I managed to mess that up by telling my daughters how lightning affects the air around you, especially your hair, right before it strikes (see pic below):

lightning

And so both of my daughters sat around a covered table during a recent storm with towels wrapped around their heads saying, “Is my hair standing up?” “Am I next?”

Good thing I didn’t mention how shoes could help if you were struck, or they’d be wearing sneakers at all times, even while sleeping.

Then there’s the classic drive with the arm out the window, letting your hand become a bird, or a plane, or whatever you imagine it to be 🙂 The other night, after picking up my daughters at my in-law’s, after my wife and I had been out to dinner, after I’d had an adult beverage or two, I sat in the passenger seat, letting my hand take flight. From the backseat my eldest said, “Your hand’s like an eagle.”

I laughed and then spied the take-home Styrofoam container with my wife’s pasta. I grabbed it and held it out the window, saying, “Check out this eagle.” I shook it as if in flight, until my daughter yelled, “Ahhh! What is all over me?”

Somehow my wife managed to keep the car on the road while I checked. Yeah, that Styrofoam “eagle” must have fallen apart mid-flight, spilling his innards into the air, only to have them sucked into my daughter’s window and onto her lap. Sorry, Grace.

Farmers’ markets are everywhere here in Upstate, NY. Our town is no exception, setting up shop along the river every Sunday. Recently I wanted to make smoothies and thought it would be a great opportunity to support local and get excellent produce. I convinced the girls to come with me one sweltering Sunday, and we perused the stands and found perfect strawberries and blueberries. The girls stared in mild awe at the farmer behind his crops as I went to pay. Their awe turned into embarrassment when I had no cash. They kept their heads low as we slunk away, my eldest saying, “We’re going to the grocery store, aren’t we?”

Yes, yes we were, and for their own benefit, because those storm clouds, they were rolling in.