“Maybe we only tell our scary secrets when we have no choice.”
Piddy Sanchez lives with her mother, in a broken-down apartment in Queens. She’s happy w...more“Maybe we only tell our scary secrets when we have no choice.”
Piddy Sanchez lives with her mother, in a broken-down apartment in Queens. She’s happy with her school, but once her mother decides to finally move them to another building in town, her life takes a turn for the worse. At Daniel Jones High School, she doesn’t know anyone, and through no fault of her own, one of the roughest kids in the school, Yaqui Delgado, decides she doesn’t like Piddy. When Yaqui and her friends jump and beat Piddy on her street, not only is Piddy battered and scarred, but video of the beating appears online. Piddy begins to skip school, hoping to not only avoid Yaqui, but to avoid any semblance of her old life. It’s only when she is forced to open up to an old family friend, that she can begin to make any changes to her situation.
This is certainly a powerful book about bullying, but it’s also a tale of family and friendship. We learn much about Piddy’s mother, her past with Piddy’s absent father, and Piddy’s relationships with friends from both her old and new schools. For me, though, the emotional investment wasn’t quite there, although the depiction of school culture is perfectly drawn. Good book for younger readers as well as older. (less)
If I wasn't packing for a conference, I'd write a more thorough review - this will have to hold its place for now:
I read a lot, and I read a lot of YA...moreIf I wasn't packing for a conference, I'd write a more thorough review - this will have to hold its place for now:
I read a lot, and I read a lot of YA. Not only is this probably the best book I've read all year, it's one of the best I've ever read. To label it only as "YA," though, is to miss the point of the book. This is a coming-of-age story that is going to be on award lists next year, and I hope will be widely read for years to come. Andrew Smith has always written strong books that impact readers, but he hits it out of the park with this novel, and he absolutely nails the adolescent male mindset (think lots of sexual thoughts, like, a ton). I want to go back and read it all again, and I read this one slowly, because I wanted to savor it.
Read it. Read it. Read it. You will not be disappointed.(less)
"One of the last times I spoke with my father, we were talking about...I don't know, the state of the world, something...and he said, 'You know, this...more"One of the last times I spoke with my father, we were talking about...I don't know, the state of the world, something...and he said, 'You know, this country was always pretty much a whorehouse, but at least it used to have some promise. Now it's just a shithole.' And I think now maybe he was talking about something else, something more specific, something more personal to him...this house? This family? His marriage? Himself? I don't know. But there was something sad in his voice - or no, not sad, he always sounded sad - something more hopeless than that. As if it had already happened. As if whatever was disappearing had already disappeared. As if it was too late. As if it was already over. And no one saw it go. This country, this experiment, America, this hubris: what a lament, if no one saw it go. Here today, gone tomorrow. Dissipation is actually much worse than cataclysm."
The Weston house in Pawhuska, OK, has seen more tragedy and sadness, and hidden more secrets, than any structure should have a right to. The Weston family is dysfunctional with a capital "D," led by Violet, the family matriarch, a woman addicted to pain pills and mourning the loss of her husband (who appears then disappears early in the play). As Violet's three daughters gather at the house, along with other family members, all manner of hideous, long-buried secrets come bubbling to the surface.
Like all the best plays, this one gets better with each reading. Having just read Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, I think I've completed an effective Horrible American Family text pair. While Albee confines his characters' destructive forces to a single married couple, Letts shows how lies, secrets, and unfulfilled dreams can filter through generations, without losing any of their poisonous impact. That Letts mixes such tragedy with incredible humor is a testament to his amazing writing talents. This play is easily one of the most powerful and important pieces of American drama in the last generation, and can easily stand alongside the best work of O'Neill, Williams and Miller. The Westons, like the Tyrones and the Compsons, show us the worst that families can come to, while still allowing us to see the truths that exist in all homes. (less)
"Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time i...more"Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death."
At this point (2014), I'm not even providing a recap. You know the plot. If not, ask a teenager sitting nearby, or watch the film trailers.
To begin, I loved this book. After reading and teaching Looking for Alaska many times, I didn’t think I would find another John Green book that I liked more than that one. I do still prefer LfA, but this one comes in a close second. I admire Green’s writing tremendously; I think this book is one of the best-written books I’ve read recently. Hazel's voice is immediately strong and resonates and the first person POV lends towards high emotional impact. There is literary language throughout and high vocabulary. Green is also one of those authors, like Chris Crutcher, who seamlessly and skillfully weaves tragedy and humor together, no more so than in this book.
There is no question that this one probably has enjoyed the widest appeal of any other YA book in 2012, or in very recent memory. In fact, I think except in the cases of books taking place in Hogwarts or Forks, no other was anticipated with more hype and excitement. I know the wait lists for the book may still be long in some libraries, and I’ve loved seeing students passing it around and talking about the book in every school I’ve been in.
However . . . while I enjoyed the book a lot, there wasn’t anything in it that surprised me, or made me really sit up and take notice. I went back and read passages again because they were so well-phrased, but not because of anything to do with the plot. There’s a general formula to JG novels, and those who have read him can spot them easily: smart (and wise beyond their years) main characters, comic relief/somewhat pathetic sidekicks, mysterious girls, and some sort of journey/road trip. And it’s not like other tremendous YA authors don’t have their own trademark characters/situations. All authors do, to some degree. Green uses his elements to great effect – he’s a master at them; but to me they still felt too familiar, too much like what I had read before.
I’ve discussed this book endlessly with students in my YA classes, who were ready to rip my lungs out over my initial 4-star Goodreads rating. I’ve come around, and I realize that when I first read it, I was reacting to and pushing against, in some part, the (over)hype of the novel. This is an exceptionally strong book. Cancer is obviously a tricky subject to write about, and as much as Green wanted to move away from, or subvert, clichéd emotions and overly sentimental scenes, he still did those things at times. The premise of the novel is a ready-made tearjerker, and everything builds towards eliciting those emotions. I’ve cried at many books, but not this one.
Still, there is no denying that this is a zeitgeist-type of YA book, one that pretty much every teen has read, or wants to read. And I’m sure, like with my initial reading, there are still many who conflate the quality of this novel with the hoopla surrounding it – particularly with a film version only months away from release. But it is highly readable, highly teachable (the sex scene may be tricky in some contexts), and definitely worthy of the high praise it’s received. (less)