This Week in Mormon Literature, February 9, 2013

The Whitney Awards Finalists were announced. I made late discoveries of 2012 YA novels by Martine Leavitt and Lana Krumwiede that were well reviewed. Martine Leavitt in particular received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and School Library Journal. Two Mormon-authored plays about Mormons and homosexuality are appearing in Utah: Matthew Greene’s play Adam and Steve and the Empty Sea is finishing a sold-out run, with very strong reviews, and Melisa Leilani Larson’s Little Happy Secrets is opening this weekend.  LTUE starts next week. Please send any additions or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and Awards

The Whitney Awards Finalists were announced February 7. Thank you to all of the judges who did the work making the decisions. The last day to vote for your award choices is April 29, and the Whitney Awards Gala will be held at the Provo Marriott Hotel on May 11. A new category of Middle Grade was added, so there are now 8 categories and 40 total nominated books. They also split the Best Novel category into two awards, Best Novel of the Year, chosen from the Adult categories (Mystery, Historical, General, Romance, Speculative), and Best Novel in Youth Fiction, from the Youth categories (Middle Grade, YA General, YA Speculative). So one just has to read 25 or 15 books to vote for the Best Novels, not all 40 books. 9 authors are eligible for Best Novel by New Author.

Anne Perry will be the Keynote Speaker at the 2013 LDStorymakers Writers Conference, in Provo, on May 10, 2013.

The Teen Writers conference will be held at Weber State University on June 22, 2013. The Keynote speaker will be Robison Wells, author of VARIANT & FEEDBACK, with other great presenters.

Life, the Universe, and Everything 31”, the Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy, will be held February 14-16 at the Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. Special guests will be Larry Correia, David Farland, Tracy and Laura Hickman, L. E. Modesitt Jr., James A. Owen, Eric James Stone, and Brad R. Torgersen. Check out the schedule, they are doing an amazing number of panels.

Feb. 20, paper proposals for the Association for Mormon Letters are due. The keynote speaker is artist J. Kirk Richards.

The America Library Association had their Midwinter Meeting in January, where the Newbery, Caldecott, and lots of other awards were announced.

YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list was announced. 102 books, recommended for ages 12-18. They included Martine Leavitt, My Book of Life by Angel, Kate Kae Myers, The Vanishing Game, and Jennifer Nielsen,The False Prince.

YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults.  The 2013 list has 90 titles, including: Shannon Hale, Princess Academy.  Bloomsbury.  2010, ShannonHale, Calamity Jack. Illus. Nathan Hale.  Bloomsbury.  2010. Jessica Martinez, Virtuosity.  Simon Pulse.  2012. LindseyLeavitt, Sean Griswold’s Head.  Bloomsbury.  2012.

Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers list, for books teens ages 12-18, will pick up on their own and read for pleasure; it is geared to the teenager who, for whatever reason, does not like to read. It included Lindsey Leavitt, Sean Griswold’s Head. 

My Book of Life by Angel; by Martine Leavitt, was chosen as one of 10 books in Horn Books’ Fanfare 2012, Horn Book’s choices for the best children’s and YA books of the year.

LDS Publisher’s 2012 Book Cover contest ended with The Epic Tales of a Misfit Hero by Matt Peterson as the Readers’ Choice Best Book Cover winner. Everneath by Brodi Ashton was the winner of the LDS Publisher’s Choice. The Readers’ Choice Genre Winners were’ Athena by Heather B. Moore (General/Women’s Finalist), Carnival Girl by Sonja Herbert (Historical Finalist), Deadly Undertakings by Gregg Luke (Mystery/Suspense Finalist), Banana Split by Josi S. Kilpack (Cozy Mystery/Romantic Suspense Finalist), For What It’s Worth by Karey White (Traditional Romance Finalist), Family By Design by Heather Justesen (Light/Comedic Romance Finalist), Dispirited by Luisa M. Perkins, (Speculative Finalist), Witch Born by Amber Argyle (YA Speculative: Character Finalist), Everneath by Brodi Ashton (YA Speculative: Other Finalist), After Hello by Lisa Mangum (YA General Finalist), The Epic Tales of a Misfit Hero by Matt Peterson (Children’s/Middle Grade Finalist).

BYU Today article about fantasy author and BYU English instructor Brandon Sanderson.

Michael R. Collings. Milton’s Century: A Timeline of the Literary, Political, Religious, and Social Context of John Milton’s Life. Borgo Press, Feb. 4. Blurb: “No artist creates his works in a vacuum. Beyond the conscious influence of books read, artwork seen, minds probed (through conversation or exchange of letters), writers are in no small part products of everything that surrounds them–people, places, things, events. MILTON’S CENTURY is designed to place one particular genius–John Milton, arguably the finest poet the English nation (perhaps even Western civilization) has produced–in the context of his time. And what a remarkable time it was–a century of revolutions, of discoveries, of literary and artistic efflorescence, of religious turmoil and political turbulence, of plagues and fires and ultimate rebuilding…and of the first adumbrations of the Modern Age. MILTON’S CENTURY becomes vital and alive for twenty-first-century readers through the vast network of connections and interconnections that Professor Collings articulates.”

Eric W. Jepson’s story “The Legend of Boitown” was republished in a new anthology, After the Apocalypse.

2012 Books I Missed

Joni Hilton. Pinholes into Heaven. Self, Nov. 11. General. Blurb’ “In this his literary novel we meet Gavin, who grows up in the Midwest during the 40s, 50s and 60s . . .  Hopetown is both a place and a time of innocence– or is it? Gavin sees his home through the gauzy lens of boyhood dreams until poverty, racism, pride, betrayal, and murder shatter its image forever. But Gavin fulfills a promise and finds that honor and love lead to triumph.”

Jennie Hansen: 5 stars. “Hilton usually writes humorous stories, but this one is serious and I like it better than her funny ones . . . It deals mostly with a man’s memories which can be difficult to write, but Hilton handles this well telling the story of a man growing up in the sixties, the child of a World War II widow. It touches on the issues of the sixties and so much more.”

Lana Krumwiede. Freakling. Candlewick Press, July 4, 2012. Middle grade fantasy. Everyone in a town has psychic ability to move things with their minds. One boy does not, is exiled. Discovers something dangerous. Candlewick is a national children’s press. Whitney nominated. Her work has appeared in Highlights, High Five, Spider, Babybug, The Friend, and Chicken Soup for the Child’s Soul. Freakling is her first novel.  Lives in Richmond, Virginia.

PW: “Debut novelist Krumwiede offers a fast-paced dystopian novel that ably explores the corrupting influ-ence of power. In the future, people with “psi” (abilities that typically manifest as a type of telekinesis) have segregated themselves into a mountainous region, and those few without such powers are ban-ished from the main city . . . Krumwiede’s combination of conspiracy and corruption among the ruling class is familiar, with nefarious villains sometimes crossing into cartoonish territory. Still, readers who are not yet ready for The Hunger Games should be attracted to resourceful Taemon, as he learns that real strength comes in many different forms.”

Kirkus: “An uneven plot and predictable showdown between the two brothers is partially saved by the surprise ending. Krumwiede facilitates worldbuilding with a psi-centered religion, jargon and slang, as well as caste divisions. At first penned as the stable, sensitive brother, Taemon seems oddly unaffected by his exile. In contrast, Yens, rather than being complicated or interesting, comes across as simply psychotic. Supporting characters are similarly flat. Readers will be drawn to the unique premise, but the many obvious flaws will leave them wanting more. Ultimately unsatisfying.”

VOYA: “This is the debut novel by Krumwiede, and the writing is fairly simplistic, but it is a strong story, thanks to the intriguing idea of a society full of people with psychokinesis. Taemon is a character who is pure good, which is a nice example of heroism and strong moral conviction for young readers. There is never a sense of real danger because you know that Taemon will prevail, but the characters are engaging and the book is fast paced.”

Martine Leavitt. My Book of Life by Angel.Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept. 4, 2012.  YA general. A 16-year old homeless girl is lured into prostitution in Vancouver, Canada. Written in verse. A triple crown of starred reviews.

Kirkus (starred): “The tragedy of discarded children is skillfully explored in this stunning novel in verse. Angel, 16, pretends she lives at the mall, helping herself to shoes on display. She falls prey to a pimp named Call, who watches her shoplift, buys her meals and gives her “candy” (crack). Knowing that “it’s the ones from good homes / who follow orders best,” Call persuades Angel to do him a favor with chilling ease. Turning tricks on a street corner in Vancouver, she meets Serena, who teaches her to fend for herself with “dates” and encourages her to write her life. When Serena goes missing, Angel vows to clean up her act. Dope sick, she slowly wakes up to Call’s evil, weathering the torments of her captive life with courage. The deliberate use of spacing emphasizes the grim choice confronting Angel when Call brings home a new girl, 11-year-old Melli.. Leavitt’s mastery of form builds on the subtle interplay between plot and theme. “John the john” is a divorced professor who makes Angel read Book 9 from Milton’s Paradise Lost, inadvertently teaching her the power that words, expression and creativity have to effect change. Passages from Milton frame the chapters, as Angel, in her own writing, grasps her future. Based on the factual disappearance of dozens of Vancouver women, this novel of innocence compromised is bleak, but not without hope or humor. An astonishing, wrenching achievement.”

PW (starred): This exquisite novel in verse tells the story of 16-year-old Angel, who has been working as a prostitute in Vancouver for nine months after her father throws her out. After Angel’s friend Serena disappears, Angel decides to give up her pimp Call’s “candy” (the drugs he feeds her) and try to return home. Angel’s withdrawal is severe (“I threw up in Call’s bathroom sink/ so hard I thought bits of stomach/ slid out of my mouth”) but it’s nothing compared to the pain she feels when Call brings home an 11-year-old girl, Melli, to follow in Angel’s footsteps. Angel is determined to keep Melli safe, even while other women continue to disappear. National Book Award finalist Leavitt (Keturah and Lord Death) makes good use of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which a john has Angel read aloud to him “while he does his thing,” but the triumph of this story is in Angel’s painfully real voice. Her matter-of-fact descriptions of her time with the johns are searing, and the casual brutality of her life will haunt readers.

Children’s Literature: “A National Book Award Finalist, the book, told in lyrical prose, unearths the relatively untouched topic of exploitation of young girls. Since Leavitt tells the story with compassion and sensitivity, the reader cannot help but be caught up in the horror that is Angel’s life. While the subject matter is shockingly ugly, the truth behind it may well cause the book to become required reading in high school classes everywhere.”

School Library Journal (starred): “A 16-year-old caught up in a life of drugs and prostitution finds the strength to protect a younger girl in this lyrical novel in verse . . . Reluctant readers looking for a gritty story that is also a quick read will be swept up in this one, as will anyone who appreciates novels in verse. This is a powerful book that will leave readers wishing they could hear more of Angel’s gripping story.”

School Library Blog post. “Leavitt’s latest is nothing like Keturah and Lord Death, with its mythopoeic elements and historical/fantastical setting. My Book of Life by Angel is a gritty free verse tale of a teen prostitute looking for a way out. It’s Ellen Hopkins with a dash of Paradise Lost; So what do you get when you mix literary concepts with street grit?  Free verse is a complex thing. It can be what I once heard David Levithan describe as “prose with line breaks,” it can be an utter disaster, and it can be poetry. Here, it’s poetry. Occasionally, it’s transcendent:

So Melli and I
went out again where the girls are hungry
while they hunt,
prowling, silent, looking for Mr. Steak Dinner,
Mr. Baked Potato and Butter,
where the girls say, all nice as can be,
I’ll have mine rare,
just a little blood in the middle–
they lick the bones, suck out the marrow.
They can’t waste any of it.
It’s always cold at night by the sea.

The free verse also provides a great vehicle for a story about so much ugliness — Angel has been forced into prostitution, she has been beaten, Call threatens her and plays games with her that demoralize her, and girls are disappearing from the streets, possibly thanks to a serial killer (the afterword addresses the historical inspiration of this subplot in detail). Also, Angel has, as of the novels start, voluntarily stopped taking Call’s “candy” and is suffering some fairly extreme withdrawal symptoms. So many of these things would be difficult to impossible to convey with any grace or delicacy in prose — these are terrible things, but what is left unsaid or glossed around because of the free verse allows the emotion and meaning to come through in ways that are as palatable as they can be. More graphic language might have made this painful to the point of unreadable.

Thematically, there is a lot to recommend this — Angel’s struggle to be her own person, to come to terms with and fight her way out of the life she has found herself in, is a poignant, even heart-breaking tale. And the use of Paradise Lost, both in the bizarre relationship with John the John and in the way phrases from Paradise Lost are used to frame sections and provide a larger context — this is a story about falling from grace and struggling to regain it, about normal life being a kind of paradise — it’s a literary gloss that works. Angel as a character becomes deeper through her relationship to Milton’s words and My Book of Life by Angel as a novel similarly gains depth through that connection. By and large, this is a rich and compassionate portrait of girls who are often overlooked by society, and their humanity is on sharp display here. Readers may feel uncomfortable at times. And they should. To generalize wildly, we are probably all safely removed from the harsh realities that are life for so many teens. Leavitt sensitively and often beautifully evokes their world.

But it’s cluttered. The serial killer subplot is distracting. Call’s business plan doesn’t entirely make sense. It struck me as inconceivable that Angel’s father has moved in the scant 8 months since Angel ran away, because the brief glimpse we have of him is not that able to act, much less act to let go of his daughter. Given that Call has Jeremy’s picture and his rhino, it’s also a logistical issue; how did Call find Jeremy? And then there’s the scene with Tattoo, who thinks Call won’t suspect him when he tattoos Angel. (Also, he is guided by some mysterious force to ink a wing on Angel’s back; see below for how I feel about magic in this way.) And then Call wrecks his shop but Tattoo doesn’t call the cops, which doesn’t seem to compute; either Call is a two-bit thug with grandiose ideas, as Angel’s portrayal of him seems to indicate, or he wields real power, enough to control other neighborhood figures, in which case Angel’s power struggles with Call don’t make sense. Lots of small cracks, each on its own relatively quite minor, add up to deeply flawed.

More than that, though, the question of how far this book goes is going to come down to Angel’s angel at the end — an actual angel, apparently, who, pure and literal deus ex machina-style, appears, solves the one problem Angel couldn’t solve for herself, and disappears.

For me, this was the death of the book — it changed it, and made it sort of magic realism, and diminished the powerful taking the power back that is Angel’s journey and story. Once an actual angel appears, all of the moments that could be read as random coincidence or as evidence of a higher power (the twins right after Angel says she needs to earn double) are altered — it’s not chance, and it’s not Angel’s faith that gives her strength, it’s, you know, an angel.

In the end, there is so much to recommend this book, but it doesn’t stand up to deeper scrutiny; the more deeply I read (and I’ve read it twice), the more I appreciate the writing — and the more questions I have about plausibility and characterization. In the pile we have this year, it just doesn’t measure up.”

School Library Journal interview with Leavitt.

Taming the Book Shelf. 2 stars. “I read this in one sitting. It took me about 45 minutes to read it straight through, perhaps slightly longer. It was compelling enough to make me stay up late to find out what happens to our heroine . . . Overall, VAGUE. I wanted more details, more grittiness. The book could have easily used an extra hundred pages to really explore Angel’s character, her friends disappearance and her recovery from her addiction. The sad thing about this book is that even though it isn’t exactly a “true story”,  there are young girls being taken advantage of and just “disappearing” all over the world. While this wasn’t my favorite story, spreading awareness about this “hush-hush” issue of drug abuse and prostitution among young teens does take guts to write about (Hello, banned books list!) and really doesn’t get talked about that much, especially in YA literature.”

News Books and their Reviews

A Timeless Romance Anthology: Spring Vacation Collection. Mirror Press, Jan. 31. Romance short story anthology. The group’s second collection. This time featuring spring stories by Heather B. Moore, Aubrey Mace, Heather Justesen, Sarah M. Eden, Josi S. Kilpack, and Annette Lyon.

Annie Laurie Cechini. Liberty. Rhemelda Publishing, Feb. 1. YA Science Fiction. A miracle drug allows people to travel deep into space, and others want to get it. First novel.

Shannon Guymon. Do Over. Cedar Fort, Feb. 12. Contemporary romance. A man and a woman are both reeling from broken hearts, should they take a chance with each other?

Heather B. Moore. The Daisy Chain. Mirror Press (self), Jan. 31. Romance. “An Aliso Creek novella”. Moore’s second novella in the series this year.

Mindy, LDSWBR: 5 stars. “I am loving this series from Heather B. Moore. Her writing is so strong and I am immediately taken into the story. Her characters are always likable and I care about what happens to them.”

Brenda Novak. When Summer Comes. Harlequin MIRA, Jan. 29. Romance. Whisky Creek #4.

Mandi Tucker Slack. Tide Ever Rising. Cedar Fort, Feb. 12. Romantic suspense. A woman finds a journal of a missing woman, tries to solve the mystery. Are ghosts haunting her? Second novel.

Jennie Hansen (Meridian Magazine). 4 stars. “This story begins slowly and doesn’t hit its stride until the sisters are in Washington. It could stand tighter editing, but it’s a fun read. The possible ghost is intriguing and the scenes that take place in the forest are particularly well written. Kadie is likable, but I was disappointed in some of the sisters’ inconsiderate behavior toward each other. For a prominent attorney who has handled a number of big cases, I found Logan a little too impulsive. I would have expected him to think more before he acts and to behave in a more mature manner. Though the author spends a little too much time setting up both the mystery and the romance, once they begin they keep the reader turning pages. The Ephraim to Pacific Northwest contrast in settings is well done. The “ghost” aspect is handled tastefully and doesn’t distract from the story’s believability. Bringing in a touch of genealogy provides a great tie in between the past and present and is a nice touch connecting two mysteries. The author shows great promise in this novel and is an author worth watching.”

Reviews of older books

Morris and Jepsen, eds. Monsters and Mormons (The Nexxus). “Monsters and Mormons is brave. For the reasons stated above and by virtue of being an indy publication of such size. Editors Wm Morris and Theric Jepson have pulled off a fine collection here, and Jepson make an compelling argument in favor of mormon fantasy. (Although I feel compelled to add that the book could have used three more editing passes. It had a more than usual population of typos and such.) As with any anthology Monsters and Mormons is a mixed bag. The order of the day is usually diversity so you can reach as broad an audience as you can. When it comes to anthologies there is nothing wrong with digging through a little dirt to find gems. Some of the stories were exceptional and have given me much to think about and emulate. Some of them fall flat for me and will probably end up forgotten. In some places I found myself offended. “You can’t do that,” I said to the book in front of me. But that’s all right, getting offended isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact I think it’s pretty great if dealt with properly.”

Erik Olsen. Raggleroot. (Sharon Haddock, Deseret News). “Perhaps one has to be a middle-school age reader to really enjoy the Erik Olsen series . . . For the adult reader looking for a real story and believable plot line, it’s frustrating. It’s also somewhat of a wannabe Harry Potter book with magical, mean-spirited plants that threaten to destroy . . . There’s a little bit of everything is this tale, “Snazzards,” prisons, sand tunnels, fairies, leprechauns, magic jewels and rings with powers, turtles in the sky, a time-stopping hourglass. Around every corner, behind every door, inside every old box and almost at the beginning of each paragraph is a surprise and usually a nasty one. For middle-school readers who don’t mind an absence of depth and reality, go for it. For kids who just love constant action with no parents, no teachers or guardians around, this is the book.”

Sheralyn Pratt. Unpleasant Grove (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). 4 stars. “Rhea is an interesting character. She adheres to a strong set of personal ethics, but easily tosses aside any ethical questions that interfere with getting the job done. She’s highly offended by the syndicate using any and all means to obtain their goals, but does the same in obtaining hers. She’s quirky, tough, brilliant, physically strong, loyal, yet has a softer feminine side. Ty is a good match for her. He’s a physical fitness instructor and is almost as devious as she is when it comes to achieving what he believes is right. Pratt keeps the tension high through all of the Rhea Jensen books, but there are a couple of slow spots in this one where Rhea is doing more thinking than doing and where the romance elements take a stronger position than the mystery. She is a stronger mystery/action writer than romance writer, but these few slowdowns aren’t really detrimental to the story. The author uses a large amount of technological gadgetry that may leave readers thinking, “Wow! Is that really possible?” The overall plot arc in Unpleasant Grove builds effectively and makes for a more than satisfactory read.”

Joseph M. Rinaldo. A Mormon Massacre. Oct. 12, 2012, Self. Paranoid thriller. Posits a LDS Church which is trying to hide its abuse of women and other atrocities.

Marilyn Brown, AML. “Like Benghazi, Manti’s gay (rumors), and Armstrong’s denials, this kind of half-truth is dangerous and unfair. He is using our culture to SELL a SPOOFMANIA PROFANIA. As one reviewer points out, if he had done the research of, say, a Dan Brown, we might be more respectful. In a review I wrote of David Ebershoff’s well-researched NINETEENTH WIFE, I was able to offer honest praise. I’ll admit, sometimes the SPOOF is very funny, and I just may be talking from a different generation. But to me it all tasted quite a bit like a ground hog.”

Brandon Sanderson, The Mistborn Trilogy (Forbes). “This is easily one of the finest fantasy stories I’ve ever read, and my only regret is that I read it so quickly . . . Sanderson is never content to rest on old fantasy tropes. The magic system in Mistborn is perhaps its most striking quality . . . this is fantasy filled with twists and turns that never feel forced. Every surprise has been planned from the beginning, and as each twist is revealed you realize that it had been foreshadowed chapters (or even books) earlier. Each “aha!” moment is deeply gratifying simply because you can see so clearly how Sanderson builds to these moments, how he was always one or two steps ahead of you the entire time. The narrative is crafted with such bloody precision, it’s nearly impossible to put the books down. While I did think the pacing hit some rough spots here and there, by and large the story races along, and the reader races along with it, driven by excitement and curiosity.”

Nathan Shumate, ed. Space Eldrich (Amazing Stories). “I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Having only read a few of the authors whose work the Space Eldritch contained, I had no feel when I started reading what the stories would be like. We’ve all encountered books, whether novels or anthologies, which have an interesting premise but whose content doesn’t live up to its potential, usually because the author’s reach exceeds his/her grasp. Not only is the writing professional level in every case, but several of the authors do some daring and innovative things. The range of story is quite diverse, with no two stories being very much alike in terms of plot. I was expecting to see a lot of H. P. Lovecraft in space. And while the shadow of the gentleman from Providence does loom over the contents of the book, this is far from outer space pastiche.  [Gives detailed reviews of each story, giving special praise to Michael R. Collings and Nathan Shumate]. Space Eldritch is a diverse, interesting, and most importantly, an entertaining anthology. I would read additional work by any of the contributors and am willing to read other things from Cold fusion Media.”

Dan Wells. The Hollow City (Shelah Books It). 3 stars. “I was fascinated by what I thought the premise of the book was– exploring the mind of a murder suspect with schizophrenia, much like Alice La Plante did with an Alzheimer’s patient in Turn of Mind. But this is a Dan Wells book, and I could tell early on that he wasn’t concerned with verisimilitude– with making the details of the story hold up in real life, so I was not surprised when it took a decidedly more supernatural turn. A little disappointed, yes, because I would have enjoyed the book I’d created in my mind more (one more along the lines of Memento than Invasion of the Body Snatchers), but it’s still well-written and well-paced, just not my kind of tale.”

Theater

Matthew Greene. Adam and Steve and the Empty Sea. Plan B Theatre Company, Rose Wagner Center, SLC, January 31-February 10. The run is sold out.

Barbara Bannon, Salt Lake Tribune. “An energized, insightful production that works more times than it misses . . . Greene has an accurate ear for the way young men talk to each other, and the characters of Adam and Steve are sharply drawn and distinguished. But the play falters at times from a lack of focus, as Adam and Steve’s patterns of behavior begin to spread out and repeat themselves. The flashbacks to childhood become more interesting when only one character goes there and the other remains in the present, visually intensifying the growing gap between them. Topher Rasmussen and Logan Tarantino’s dynamic performances minimize the occasional lapses in the writing and are consistently inventive and interesting. Each actor is totally tuned in to his character; Rasmussen’s Adam is the perennial peacemaker to Tarantino’s more volatile, emotional Steve. Ironically, in spite of the more black-and-white viewpoints of Adam’s religious beliefs, it is Steve’s attitudes that come across as more inflexible and unforgiving. Director Jason Bowcutt deftly orchestrates the pace so the momentum never lags. Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea” poignantly captures the divisions that result from conflicting principles and lifestyles, but it also affirms, in Greene’s words, “that faith is a basic human instinct, that love is a healing balm, and that it is often through each other that we glimpse divinity.”

Scott Renshaw, City Weekly: “It would be easy to expect Utah audiences on either end of the political spectrum to expect a play about the friendship between a Mormon and a gay man to be a diatribe. Instead, playwright Matthew Greene has opted for a dialogue—one that’s quietly engrossing in its thorny humanity . . . Director Jason Bowcutt oversees a minimalist production that focuses on the performances by Rasmussen and Tarantino, who effortlessly convey a decade-long friendship. Their interactions are complicated, just as much by Steve’s inability to fully accept Adam’s faith as by Adam’s inability to fully accept Steve’s sexuality. “Maybe you can’t support what you don’t understand,” Adam explains to Steve, wonderfully distilling the barrier that can rise between two people who still care about each other. While the 2008 Prop 8 controversy makes a cameo appearance in the plot, Greene doesn’t use it to score easy points, nor does he lean on the apparent hypocrisy of Adam’s teen alcohol abuse. He simply shows us two people doing their best to feel their way through the collision between their most profound beliefs and their deepest personal connections.”

Dave Mortensen, UTBA: “Topher Rasmussen and Logan Tarantino, while taking a few minutes to get warmed up, are an impressive duo on the stage. Both are relatively young actors to be carrying a show at Plan-B . . . Rasmussen and Tarantino aren’t afraid to embrace their roles. There is an immediacy that gives the heavy moments weight (Steve’s revelation of being gay and Adam’s choice to serve a mission), and the lighter moments a clear sense of play (when the script flashes back to their hide-and-seek youth). Greene’s text seems at times to reach towards the quick and syncopated dialogue of Aaron Sorkin or Amy Sherman-Palladino. It gives the story quite a bit of momentum and helps the audience invest in the relationship and not the get caught up in the plot points. It’s that focus that allows the political/religious themes to remain incredibly balanced. Potential audience members might fear a battle of beliefs between the socially-conscious Plan-B Theatre and its Mormon playwright Greene. The safety, however, lies in the fact that this isn’t the story about a political moment. It’s a story about the relationship between two, complete and honest individuals . . . Plan-B continues to stand as a hallmark for new play development in the state. If you’re looking for an introduction to the company, this is a great show to be your start.”

SLCene review: “Both actors do a fine job in drawing the audience to their characters’ corners, and Greene gives them some excellent scenes to work through, full of utterly believable dialogue and enough dramatic twists to keep the audience interested through the 90-minute running time.”   The Selective Echo review.

Eric Samuelsen. A Mess of Pottage. Orem Public Library staged reading, Feb. 6. Orem Public Library is doing readings by local playwrights monthly. The play follows three young married LDS couples living in adjacent apartments. They wrestle with balancing school and work obligations, differing expectations, professional aspirations and abuse. Intended for mature audiences. Eric blogs about the experience and the advantages of staged readings here. “It’s hardly a new play–I wrote the first draft something like eight years ago–but it’s had a checkered production history, I’d done a new draft, and I thought it might be a time to dust it off. Twice, local theatre companies have wanted to do the play, and both times, the company folded shortly thereafter; the play’s a little cursed. So maybe it was time for an exorcism. Mess of Pottage is about three young married couples, students at BYU, living in adjacent apartments. The Carmacks, Craig and Chandra are really young, newlyweds, both freshmen in college, and pregnant. The Alverareses, Mike and Greta, are a little older, married two years–he’s an English major, looking to Law School; she’s pre-med, and intends to become a cardiologist. Finally, the Hansons, Stuart and Melissa; the funniest, the cutest, with the amusing stories; the party couple, with a dark secret underneath. Davey and his wife Bianca set the whole reading up, at Orem Library, and help me cast it. We ended up with a cast of three BYU actors and three from UVU. I was glad for that–love it when the two local universities work together, as indeed we should. The UVU Theatre program is, in my opinion, the most exciting and innovative in the state.”

Melisa Leilani Larson. Little Happy Secrets. Echo Theater, Provo, Feb. 7-23. Directed by Brighton Sloan. The AML award-winning story of a Mormon woman coming to terms with her sexuality without compromising her faith.

Ted Bushman. Fontanelle. Covey Center For the Arts, Provo. March 7-9. Written and Produced by BYU students.

Film

The 2013 LDS Film Festival was held Jan. 23-26 in Orem. The winner of the Short Film Competition was Mr. Bellpond, directed by A. Todd Smith. The winner of the 24 Hour Filmmaking Marathon was Warm Case, by a group led by Alan Seawright.

The 2nd Annual Filmed in Utah Award Show will be held at The Grand Theatre at the Salt Lake Community College Salt Lake City campus February 16 at 6:00 pm. The FIU Awards Show audience will honor Utah’s top actors and filmmakers.

The Maze Runner movie will be released Feb. 14, 2014. Wes Ball, director.

Best Sellers

New York Times Bestseller Lists, Feb. 10, 17

Hardcover Fiction

#2, #3 A MEMORY OF LIGHT, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (4th week). Down from two weeks at #1, but still going strong. #2 and #5 on the Combined Hardcover and Paperback Fiction list, down from two weeks at #1. #18 and #30 on the Combined Print and Ebook list, even though there is no ebook version yet. #25 and #50 on the USA Today list.

Mass Market Fiction Paperback

#31, #23 ENDER’S GAME, by Orson Scott Card (23rd week).

#14, x THE HOST, by Stephanie Meyer (3rd week). New edition released before the upcoming March film, it is took an unusual rising trajectory, then it disappeared. Odd. #99 and #131 on the USA Today list.

Children’s Series

#9, x MATCHED TRILOGY, by Ally Condie (11th week).Dropped off.

x, #10 THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephenie Meyer (216th week).

THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, by James Dashner fell off the list after 46 weeks.

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5 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, February 9, 2013

  1. Th. says:

    .

    A trio of reviews of the new edition of Little Happy Secrets:

    http://frontrowreviewersutah.com/?p=932
    http://utahtheaterbloggers.com/14555/little-happy-secrets-a-simple-and-honest-play
    http://youngmormonfeminists.org/2013/02/09/review-of-little-happy-secrets/

    Also, just learned that Ben Abbot just did a staging of “Questions of the Heart” at Bloomington Playwrights Project. I understand it’s part of a reworking of the script for future performance.

  2. Jonathan Langford says:

    Great work as usual, Andrew.

    Just a brief addition about LTUE: In addition to the special guests you mentioned, the GoH is Megan Whelan Turner, author of The Thief (a Newbery Honor Book).

  3. Martine Leavitt says:

    I just discovered this website by accident. I was thrilled to see a review of my book from my own people! Then I was surprised to learn that the only bad review I received of My Book of Life by Angel was from my own people. Hmm…

  4. Andrew Hall says:

    Martine, welcome! I’m a big fan.
    Actually, none of the reviews of My Book of Life by Angel that I posted here are by Mormons (that I know of). They were just general reviews I found. Feel free to send me links so any others.

  5. Martine Leavitt says:

    Hey Andrew!
    So, I don’t read my reviews when I’m in a project. I just finished a middle-grade novel, so my editor sent me the big reviews – SLJ, Kirkus, PW, etc.
    I found this website and thought they were by an LDS someone.
    Then I’m scooting around the internet and found the two negative ones you’ve quoted here. I realized you were quoting non-LDS people.
    So embarrassing. I wish there was an atonement for online comments you wish you didn’t make.
    Thanks for being nice about it, Andrew. You must be a Latter-day Saint.

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