Ode to Zenon: Part Two

While Googling Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, I came across this article on Medium.com that shared some shocking information. It turns out that the film is really an adaptation of “a lesser-known book” published in 1996. This was news to me. I had no idea that the movie was based off a book. The original book, also titled Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, is a science fiction children’s book written by Marilyn Sadler and illustrated by Roger Bollen. Zenon was originally a hardcover picture book, and then the Disney Channel produced a live-action film version in January 1999. The Disney movie was such a success that they also made Zenon: The Zequel and Zenon: Z3. Sadler and Bollen followed up with four more Zenon books, including Bobo Crazy: Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century; Zenon Kar, Spaceball Star; The Trouble with Fun; and Stuck on Earth: Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. 

Well, obviously after learning this news, I had to find out if the books were any good! I started my search with my local library, but it didn’t carry any of Sadler’s books. One of the books was at a library in another town, but I felt it was a little excessive to drive an hour and a half round trip for a children’s book! Luckily, I found three of the five books listed on OverDrive, and they were available so I could check them out and read them right away. The books have ten short chapters and are under 100 pages. There are small black line illustrations on every page or two (I read the books on my kindle, so I’m not sure exactly how the printed book is laid out). These pictures help show what life is like on the space station, and even though the pictures are kind of cartoony, they’re great at showing Zenon’s emotions.  

OverDrive didn’t have the first book in the series, so I started with Zenon Kar, Spaceball Star. In this book, Zenon has always enjoyed spaceball – a sport played on the space station that is sort of like soccer or volleyball, but requires players to fly around the arena with jetpacks – even though her friends aren’t interested in it. When the team is looking for new recruits, Zenon knows this is her chance to play. But she’s not as big as the other players. Will she be able to keep up with the team?

The book was adorable. Zenon feels a bit younger than her film counterpart, but that was okay. She’s more of a middle schooler than a teenager. What made the movies so much fun was the quirky vocabulary the kids used. I was pleased to see that Zenon Kar talks like this in the books, too. 

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“What’s so stellar about that? I thought. But what I saw next was thermo.”

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There is even a glossary in the back of the book to help readers understand the slang terminology. I was worried that my five year old would lose interest while listening to this book because of all the new words, but they didn’t seem to bother her at all. The words may be different from what she’s used to, but they’re used in such a way that they make sense in context. And, Zenon repeats them a lot, giving you time to understand what she’s trying to say. There were lots of little moments in the book that reminded me of things that happened in the movie. For instance, Zenon and her friend Nebula are crazy about the band Microbe – which reminded me of the girls screaming for the band Proto Zoa in the movie.

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“Zee!” she shouted as she came up on my maxi-screen. “I got tickets for the Microbe concert tomorrow night!” 

“Ceedus-Lupeedus!” I cried. “I thought they were sold out!”

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I think I liked the next Zenon book even better. Published in 2011, The Trouble with Fun starts with the arrival of a scientist and his daughter. The scientist is going to help Zenon’s dad with his frisson work, and Zenon is supposed to show his daughter, Teena, around the space station. Teena seems really cool at first. She has an awesome video camera necklace, grown-ups are impressed by her, and she takes exciting risks. Teena can smooth-talk her way out of situations, and she breaks the rules, like getting Zenon and her friends to accompany her on a dangerous spacewalk. But Zenon soon finds out that Teena is trouble when Zenon gets blamed for an accident that wasn’t her fault. 

This book reminded me of Zenon: The Zequel when Zenon has to look after General Hammond’s daughter, Margie, who does her best to make Zenon’s life miserable. Overall, the Zenon books were enjoyable for me as a movie fan and for my daughter. I might even say they were a stellar middle grade read. 

Ode to Zenon: Part One

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. You know, the 1999 movie about a girl who lives on a space station and uses stellar vocabulary like “going supernova” and “Ceedus-Lupeedus”? 

“What an odd thing to be thinking about,” you might be saying to yourself.

Well, after years of enduring only 3D animated movies at our house, my daughter has finally moved up into the realm of real people movies – specifically, Disney Channel Original Movies. We’ve watched all three Descendants movies (multiple times) as well as Zombies. This has me thinking about my favorite DCOMs from back in the late ’90s, early ‘00s: Zenon, Gotta Kick It Up, Cheetah Girls, and of course, the High School Musical franchise. I’m wondering if these movies will hold up 20 years later, and whether my kid will like them as much as I did. 

I’ve also been thinking about Zenon for another reason – I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels set in space. I’ve read 4 volumes of Stephen McCranie’s Space Boy, which is a series of graphic novels that follows a girl named Amy who starts out living on a space station, but has to move back to Earth when her father loses his job. Her family gets cryogenically frozen and “sleeps” through 30 years on board a spacecraft. When they get to Earth, they have to adjust to gravity and catch up on years of news and technology. Plus, her best friend is now a grown-up, and she has to navigate life on a different planet on her own. The graphic novels are superb in both content and artwork. I gush about the first volume in a post here. In the Disney movie Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, Zenon also lives on a space station and gets sent back to Earth after she gets blamed for some trouble up on the space station. She is sent to live with her aunt, and finds it difficult to fit in with the new kids in her class. 

Another graphic novel that brings back Zenon nostalgia is Sanity & Tallulah, by Molly Brooks. Sanity & Tallulah is a cute, middle grade graphic novel about two girls who live on a space station and constantly find themselves in trouble. Sanity is uber smart – so smart, in fact, that she creates a three-headed kitten! But making new life forms on board a space station is a big no-no. The kitten escapes and things on the station go haywire. The mutant kitty is blamed for the destruction, but Sanity doesn’t believe it. Together, Sanity and Tallulah search for the kitten and the reason for the station’s troublesome malfunctions. Zenon would absolutely get along with the girls in this book! She’d be like the cool, older girl with awesome fashion they look up to. And like Sanity and Tallulah, Zenon has her own mystery to solve. When she learns that the suspicious Parker Wyndham is going to unleash a computer virus on board the space station that would cause it to crash, Zenon has to convince her parents and the ship’s captain to take her seriously. 

I think I’m a bit of a sucker for stories set in space. And I can’t be the only one, because even though Zenon: Girl of the 20th Century turned 20 years old this year, it seems like science fiction remains a popular genre and we’re still imagining what life will be like when we’re living in space. Zenon is set in the year 2049 – which is only 30 years away! Could my daughter be living and working on a space station by then?! Will she have kids who wear cool, futuristic clothes and have slang inspired by their galactic surroundings? I’m not sure, but I do know that I’ve got to watch this movie again soon!

 

Illuminae and a Letter

illuminaeletterA Reading Update:

Last night (or rather very early this morning, as my child doesn’t understand or appreciate sleep), I finished up Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I was intrigued by this book when I saw it in the library because instead of standard prose, the book is written in a series of documents, transcripts, and instant messages. I was also intrigued because I enjoyed Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s novel These Broken Stars. I had high hopes for the novel, and while I might have been a little bored during the pre-middle-ish part of the book, I was hooked at the end and felt very invested in the characters and the plot. I would recommend this book to people who enjoyed the These Broken Stars series, Under the Never Sky series, and Across the Universe series. So, Young Adult science-fiction readers!    

The book takes place in the future, where a company has an illegal mining facility in space. When a rival company finds out about it, they decide to launch an attack on the facility and the civilians. After a bloody battle between warships, several spaceships are able to flee with refugees. This is just the beginning of the story though. The main aircraft is equipped with an operating system that was injured during the attack and has gone a bit crazy. In fact, it launches an attack on one of the airships it is supposed to be protecting when it learns that there is a deadly virus infecting everyone on the ship. Some people from the ship survive, but that means they also carry the virus. Now, the people aboard the spacecraft have to deal with an enemy aircraft looking to kill them, as well as a virus that turns people into psychotic murderers, and an operating system that can destroy them at any minute. Meanwhile, readers follow the story of two teens who had just broken up at the start of the story. Needless to say, the traumatic events that occur pull them back together.

While I really liked the last 50 pages of the novel, I didn’t love it enough to rush out and get the second book in the series, Gemina. Then again, I might be tempted to read it if I happen to catch it at the library or find it on sale! I did, however, like Illuminae more than Across the Universe.

Be warned: if you read Illuminae as a Kindle ebook, you will miss out on several pages of the story. The pages aren’t missing, but the teeny, tiny text and artwork on a few of the documents are too small to view. Increasing the text size did not help and I could not zoom in to the images either.  

A Writing Update:

Yesterday, I finally wrote a letter that I had been drafting in my head for weeks. Now, I just have to put it in an envelope and mail it! We’ll see how long it takes me to do that. For now anyway, it feels good to have the words on the page. Isn’t it a relief to get the thoughts out of your head, sometimes?

Current Read: Across the Universe

imageWould you willingly press pause on your life in order to be frozen and re-awoken three hundred years later? If so, you might think twice about it once you read Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship —tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming. image

So far, I’m enjoying the book, but it does keep reminding me of other science-fiction books and shows (Ender in Exile, These Broken Stars, Ray Bradbury’s short stories, The Giver, to name a few). Despite this, it’s fresh enough to keep me interested. One of the reasons for this is the author’s use of short chapters that switch between two characters. You want to find out what happens to the character next, but you’re interrupted by a chapter about another character, so you have to just keep reading. The beginning of the book was gripping and had my stomach on edge as the author described how to cryogenically freeze people. The pain the characters felt was palpable and I’m appreciating the author’s ability to describe the setting and events using all of the senses.

My hopes for the rest of the book are that it continues to surprise me, despite its sci-fi tropes, and that the characters will be people I care about and root for.

What are you currently reading?

A Wrap-Up of Recent Reads #2

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thegood

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card:

This sci-fi classic has been on my TBR pile for a long time. I knew that many people were required to read Ender’s Game in school, but I apparently didn’t end up in that class! When the movie version came out in November of 2013, I decided I wanted to read the book before I saw the film. I finally got around to borrowing the book from my local library this summer and was pleasantly surprised by it.

In case you weren’t required to read this book in school either, Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel that follows the life of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. Ender is an exceptionally smart and articulate six-year-old. He is recruited by the International Fleet (IF), an organization that protects Earth from their enemy: the buggers. Many, many years ago, the buggers (giant insect-like creatures) attacked Earth. Humanity was saved due to the quick thinking of a commander. The IF is now looking for a commander who can save the Earth from a future attack by the buggers. They recruit, train, and test young children in a battle school in the attempts of locating a great commander. Ender Wiggin is their last hope. Ender’s cunning and quick problem solving abilities set him apart from the other students and he quickly rises through the ranks.

This was the first book I ever selected from the science fiction section of the library, and I was skeptical about it at first. I thought the book was going to be slow moving and too “spacey” for my tastes. However, I enjoyed the novel and am eager to read the next book in Ender’s story: Speaker for the Dead. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available the last time I was at my library, but I’ll work on tracking down a copy! Ender’s character was dynamic and unusual. He was a child, but was wise beyond his years. The novel also had other characters who were interesting and diverse. The diversity surprised me, considering the novel was published in 1985 (although, some people may see this diversity as mere stereotypes). I can see why English teachers might want to use this novel in their classrooms. There’s a lot of action, suspense, and plot twists. It’s a book I think boys would actually enjoy because it’s not sappy or romantic. Overall, Ender’s Game was worth the wait for me.

Have you read Ender’s Game? What did you think of it? Should I bother with the film version?

andthecute

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins:

Last year, I listened to an audio book by Stephanie Perkins called Lola and the Boy Next Door. When I first started listening to the book, I thought, “Goodness, this is cheesy!” But as I continued listening to the story, I began to enjoy it more and more. When I saw bloggers praising another book by Stephanie Perkins called Anna and the French Kiss, I decided to check this Young Adult novel out. While this book also had a cheese-factor to it, I have to admit that I really enjoyed it!

The book’s main character is a high school senior named Anna. Anna’s father has decided to send her off to a boarding school in Paris to impress his friends. At first, Anna is not happy about this decision. Luckily, shortly after settling into her new room, Anna makes friends with the girl across the hall. Anna now has friends to eat with and sit with in class, but she doesn’t make an effort to explore the city of Paris. Her friends take it upon themselves to introduce her to the city—especially a super-cute boy with a British accent named Etienne St. Clair. Anna quickly finds herself drawn to St. Clair, but she puts up a wall since he has a girlfriend. Anna and St. Clair’s friendship hovers and sometimes tips over the line into something more, but St. Clair always returns to his girlfriend. Anna learns a lot about friendship and being true to herself.

For me, the cheese-factor was the premise of an American girl being sent to this idealistic boarding school in Paris where she falls in love with a cute boy with an accent. I mean, that’s like every girl’s fantasy, isn’t it?! The book was pretty much a romantic-comedy movie. However, despite the cheesy premise….I loved it! It was just so darn cute. I got sucked into the book and Anna and St. Clair’s evolving relationship. If you’re looking for a cutesy, girly, easy read, this is the book for you!

What books have you read lately?