Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ruined (and the not so ruined Helen Hayes nominations)

Rebecca Brown, the fifteen-year-old protagonist of Ruined, a young adult novel by Paula Morris, finds herself at the beginning of the book shuttled off to live in the pre-Katerina city of New Orleans while her father is on an assignment in China. Her mother is dead, and there is only her Aunt Claudia, who isn't actually her aunt, to take care of her for an entire school year. Upon arriving in New Orleans, Rebecca learns she will be attending the prestigious Temple Mead School for girls, a school that has a rigid system of hierarchy that Rebecca, being an outsider, will never be able to crack.

The story really starts to move when Rebecca disobeys her aunt and sneaks into the cemetery (rule 1 - do not go into the cemetery) to spy on a group of "Them" girls from the Temple Mead School and their boy followers (rule 2 - do not associated at all with that group of kids). Of course, Rebecca makes a noise while spying on them, and has to flee through the cemetery. Except she gets lost. And meets a girl who points the way out. A girl who turns out to be a ghost.

Ruined took me back to the good old fashioned ghost stories of my own youth. A time where there were no zombies and vampires to interupt a good haunting. I could see the plot twists coming, but I still had fun getting there. Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the story for me was learning more about New Orleans historically and pre-Katrina. I think that the ghost, Lisette, had the most fleshed out character (yes, even as a ghost) of anyone in the book including Rebecca. I wish I could have learned more about Helena and what made her tick, though I guess every teen book needs that randomly awful for no apparent reason mean girl. And the romance aspect of it, I don't think it really needed it because to me it was more Lisette's story than Rebecca's.

Overall, while it had some weaknesses, I did enjoy Paula Morris's Ruined.

Next up: The dreaded "To Be Continued..." (a.k.a. two books I have recently read that featured those words at the end of the book)

And can I just get my theatre dorkiness squee out? I was so excited to see that both David Turner and Miriam Silverman were nominated for this year's Helen Hayes Awards (it is Washington, D.C.'s yearly theatre awards). And both for their performances as Tristan and Marcela in Shakespeare Theatre's Dog In the Manger, one of my favorite productions of last year (and currently in my top list of plays). Also Arcadia was nominated for several awards and other shows I liked. I can get more into the Helen Hayes Awards than the Tony Awards because I see a greater portion of the shows, so I do actually have my favorites!

And who could resist a play that has such lines as, "Late again, missing all the fun, like a virgin at an orgy." My friend actually made a t-shirt for me with that line on it as a birthday present. Though, however much fun Tristan was, my heart and sympathies went out to Marcela. "You don't throw stones at a window to test the quality of the glass."

However, I also have to love Arcadia just because of the archival dorkiness and Tom Stoppard love. I can't believe I went this long without knowing about the awesomeness of this play of his (though to be honest, the only other one I've seen by Stoppard is Rock 'n' Roll both in NYC and at Studio Theatre here in D.C.). I only wish that Thomasina (and Septimus) had a happier ending. Still, who could resist loving the opening line, "Septimus, what is carnal embrace?"..

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