When I saw that this book was on the goodreads "unpopular" shelve, I decided to write a review on why I liked this book. I have a thing about stickingWhen I saw that this book was on the goodreads "unpopular" shelve, I decided to write a review on why I liked this book. I have a thing about sticking up for an underdog.
Probably the most stated reason that this book is unpopular is because readers compare and contrast it to the author's previous award winning work, The Secret Life of Bees. I think that people who loved the Secret Life must have anticipated that Monk Kidd's follow up would somehow cater to the same audience, and then they were disappointed.
I have not yet completely read the Secret Life, but my English Department is picking it up as a contemporary novel for the curriculum. The decision to make this book required reading for YA's alone tells me that these two books are in totally separate interest categories.
So, why did I like this book? Probably because I loved the setting and could identify with the main character Jesse. If you hold at least four of the six following qualifications you may well like this book:
1 - 30 to 40 something female 2 - Raised Catholic 3 - Love stories about east coast U.S. and old island settlements 4 - Been married for 10+ years 5 - Have a least one child within a few years of of leaving the nest
And this one is not necessary, but it helps...
6 - Have a family story about a kinswoman being involved with an ex Benedictine priest (no, this is not me, but there is a story in my family tree).
I can well understand that many readers don't fit more than two or three of these descriptions, but I happen to be that reader and the Mermaid Chair just happens to be a book for someone like me. ...more
If you are interested in reading novels with vibrant descriptions of the southeastern US, Conroy is a good bet.
I gave it three stars mostly because oIf you are interested in reading novels with vibrant descriptions of the southeastern US, Conroy is a good bet.
I gave it three stars mostly because of the wrap up of the plot and the ending. It fell flat and was depressing. Although the protagonist Tom represented a complex and thoughtful narrator in the beginning of his tale, I was unhappy with his adult self, the decisions he made, his attitude towards life, and the consequences of his decisions.
At the onset of the story, the author begins by expertly winding Tom's narrative around his psychotic sister's "final" break down and the start of her rehabilitation. However, as the story unfolds, this angle gets lost in Tom's own mid-life crisis affair with the not very convincing character of Dr. Susan Lowenstein. This supposedly brilliant doctor, who initially bullies Tom and tries to keep him from his sister for her own good, turns out to be an idiotically subservient wife to her cheating husband and an overindulgent mother to her spoiled rotten teenage son. Tom's becomes involved in Susan’s marriage and the “taming” of her son and eventually is faced with a life altering decision that has nothing to do with the original plot and epic story. At the resolution, I was left depressed and uninspired.
I think the most interesting character was Tom's mother. Their relationship was complex, but she was believable and memorable. ...more
Winner of the 2008-2009 Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award
This story moved so quickly, that I finished in one sitting. After giving the fiWinner of the 2008-2009 Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award
This story moved so quickly, that I finished in one sitting. After giving the first three chapters a chance, I was rewarded by being sucked in, losing quality sleep time, and learning a little bit more about teen life in suburbia.
This story is about a year in the life of Tyler Miller, high school senior. Tyler's life is quickly going to hell in a hand basket, but he is admirably fighting through the normal and not so normal adolescent pressures. He is on the cusp of being last year's social misfit and this year's new hottie bad-boy. He is in love with a girl who is way out of his league, and she is actually paying attention to him. He is failing AP classes he didn't want to take in the first place, but was forced to by his agonizingly offensive father. On top of that, he is trying to "keep his nose clean" (as the adults keep telling him to do) by boringly serving out his probation for getting caught doing a really stupid stunt at the end of his Junior year. Unfortunately, life has other plans for Tyler.
As Tyler is struggling to redefine himself, his decisions and actions are heavily influenced by the recent pain-filled memories of being the self conscious class nerd; picked on and terrorized for years by jocks, jerks, and his own father.
Many of my regular readers will give this book four or five stars. Many of them will relate to Gray Wilton, the main character, who is relentlessly toMany of my regular readers will give this book four or five stars. Many of them will relate to Gray Wilton, the main character, who is relentlessly tourtured by bullies and who feels like he needs to solve all of his problems alone. The will connect to the feeling that no one in the adult world is really there for them, and that events in their life might just be hopeless. I hurt for him, and as I was reading, I hoped that these things did not happen in my school.
Although my students won't like the ending, I think the conclusion served the purpose and audience of the story. They can relate, but they won't like it. As much of my younger students don't want to admit this, I think it is a common characteristic of teens to hope and believe that someone or something will always come along to save them from a bad situation and make everything OK. They don't quite understand that consequences for bad decisions can be severe in the adult world and that not everything can be made to "go away".
What I couldn't quite believe was Gray's family and the events that brought him to a new school. The story boasts a horribly narrow minded, unsupportive, and abusive father, a weak, sympathetic, but not helpful mother, and a perfect yet compassionate but certainly not protective older brother. Blah.
Much of the early suspense was built around a incident that happened at Gray's other school and the underlying cause of why the family moved to a new town. The reader spends many chapters waiting to know exactly what that incident was, and how it will shed light on why the family acts like they do towards the protagonist. We also expect it to be a precursor to the ending, which we know from the first chapter will land the main character in a juvenile detention center awaiting a trial. But no, the discovery is very anti climatic.
But the character is real. His confused mind is real. And his reaction to abuse is real. I think it is a good book to recommend to anyone in high school. Hopefully they will have the same reaction as I did. They will pay more attention to what goes on in the halls of their schools.
This YA story is about three life-long friends who break away from their usual routine for a few months and learn what many teens secretly fear: A sumThis YA story is about three life-long friends who break away from their usual routine for a few months and learn what many teens secretly fear: A summer can absolutely change your life forever.
Nina Bermudez has mixed emotions about returning home from a college summer residence program in California for high school leaders. She is literally bursting with experiences to share with her friends while at the same time desperately missing her new found love Steve, the son of hippies who lives in Seattle. Instead of the bff support group Nina expects, she finds that she is standing on the outside of their once close group.
She soon stumbles onto the fact that her friends have moved into unfamiliar and uncomfortable waters while she was away. Mel and Avery, the other two points of the triangle, have become best friends with benefits. For Mel, the experience is of first love, of breaking out of her shell, and admitting to herself that she is gay. For Avery, it is a safe and secretly exciting experiment with someone she already loved. For Nina, it was pure hell.
Johnson's story provides an honest, thoughtful, and at times humorous view of teens exploring their sexual identity. Although it is a good addition to the GLBT YA collection for high school and public libraries, it is not necessarily just for this crowd. It is a way for any reader to contemplate the natural awkwardness one might experience upon discovering that a good friend of the same gender is gay.
In once scene, a nervous Nina approaches Mel right before she is scheduled to speak in front of the school. Nina starts to tell Mel that she is worried that her shirt is see-through, but then awkwardly hesitates, not wanting to say something uncomfortable. Mel wants to tell Nina that yes, in fact her shirt is see-through, but she doesn't want Nina to think she is staring at her breasts.
My favorite character in the story is Parker. He is the sarcastically funny "nice" boy who always seems to crush on the girls he can't have (including Mel). He becomes the new friend in the group, often a stand-in for the ever-absent Avery. He is the comic relief of the story, interjecting witty lines that made me chuckle out loud.
This is THE quintessential, coming of age, Midwestern YA crossover novel. I have never laughed out loud so often and so hard while reading! I am sureThis is THE quintessential, coming of age, Midwestern YA crossover novel. I have never laughed out loud so often and so hard while reading! I am sure my family was questioning my sanity at times. In this memoir-based story, Paulsen nails the “Indiana-like” rural description of the farming community in his characters and his setting. I recommend this book to anyone I know over the age of 30 who grew up or spent time in the rural Midwest. This is a case study in literary regionalism....more
This book was fantastic. The writing was unbelievably creative and impeccably told. Where does Green get these idea and how does he execute them so weThis book was fantastic. The writing was unbelievably creative and impeccably told. Where does Green get these idea and how does he execute them so well? An Abundance of Katherines is one of the funniest books I have read....more
(Lena, you are not allowed to read this until after the 17th)
Wait, how could I give this two stars? Everyone just loves it? Am I heartless? Don't I li(Lena, you are not allowed to read this until after the 17th)
Wait, how could I give this two stars? Everyone just loves it? Am I heartless? Don't I like dogs?
I do love dogs. I like my animals more than many people I know.
The Goodreads rating system and the definitions tied to the stars states: No stars, "why did I even try" (OK, I made that up) One star, "didn't like it" Two stars, "it was OK."
I read this "out of character for me" book for a book club. I am glad I read it. I am glad I can be part of the conversation. The writing is good, the viewpoint, been done, but still unique. Why two stars then?
Here is why. I cried through the entire book. I didn't laugh once. I didn't see anything even remotely redeeming to help me along. The kind of reader and person I am requires some uplifting moments that keep the doldrums away from time to time.
For example, if I am reading a crier, oh, like The Kite Runner, or Night, it is usually based on historical fiction -- I know how the holocaust turned out, as evil and heart wrenching as it was, or the violent crazy past of Afghanistan (even though that is far from over), or any other historical event. Many of the situations in these types of stories are metaphors for a historical/political era. I even teared up in some parts of Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings, but that is fantasy and I know somehow the hero will be triumphant, even if her/his life is in turmoil, and it will represent something huge, like saving all of Middle Earth or something...
When I read a novel like this where the main character is your recognizable, every day, really good guy, and he goes through hell on earth due to mostly circumstances he can't help (and some he could have), and the only redeeming moments are analogies and situations which I totally cannot relate too (in this case, car racing - even though I am an Indianapolis native) it leaves me with that "dark cloud over my head feeling that just won't go away." I didn't walk a way with a new philosophy of living, or a new perspective on humanity... If it was that deep, it was expressed in sports speak, of which I really don't understand.
This is probably why I do not prefer to read realistic fiction as a genre. When there are happy endings, and I mean "everything is rosy" endings, they often seem fake to me and I feel cheated. But, when they don't have that "it is all going to be OK darling, and the end was worth the means" endings, I get depressed. I can't win.
Basically, I am a easy crier. I don't like it when an author makes me cry through the entire book in order to finish it (if this wasn't a book club book, I would have skipped to the end after about chapter 20 and been done with it). To me, this novel is just too pointlessly heavy from the first page to the last.
So - That is why "I" am not crazy about this book, but that doesn't mean it won't be great for someone else. ...more
If you are putting together a reading advisory for teens on depression or mental illness, or with issues of teen suicide, don't leave out this book!
WrIf you are putting together a reading advisory for teens on depression or mental illness, or with issues of teen suicide, don't leave out this book!
Writing from experience as a teen with depression, Ned Vinzzini tells us a story of 15 year old Craig who is in a constant struggle with mixed anxiety and depression disorder. Vinzzini does a wonderful job of developing Craig's dialog so that the reader understand the feelings and thoughts of a normal, smart, teenager who suffers everyday with anxiety and depression. Craig's use of the terms "Cycling, Shift, Tentacles, Anchors, and Fake Shift" will strike a chord with readers who are close to those in similar circumstances and probably give hope to those who are searching for a way to articulate their own thoughts and feelings.
The ending is affirming and positive without, thankfully, giving the reader an artificial sense of closure with Craig being "cured". As Dr. Mahmoud says to Craig in the hospital, "Life is not cured... Life is managed."...more