Enjoyable, but could have been better. The concept was amazing, with Cinderella recast as a cyborg mechanic living in a hyper-mechanized, but utterly...moreEnjoyable, but could have been better. The concept was amazing, with Cinderella recast as a cyborg mechanic living in a hyper-mechanized, but utterly decrepit, future Asia. However, the story fell short of its potential, merely scratching the surface of such issues as what it means to be human, a just ruler and a family. I found the characters fairly shallow and too archetypal to be truly unique and individuated. Still, one managed to root for them all the same, and I found the writing brisk enough to get me to the end, even if at times certain passages seemed pointless. I think I would have liked this better if it wasn't a riff on the Cinderella story, which is a good enough fairytale, but not my favorite. I expect this author would be able to do more with Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, the characters upon which her next two books focus.(less)
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
One of the more interesting examinations of gender I've read in young adult literature. Highly r...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
One of the more interesting examinations of gender I've read in young adult literature. Highly referential and often quite funny, this book forces readers to think about perception by making use of pop culture and fairytales in an unusual way. Bennett Madison creates a heightened reality in this story about 17-year-old Sam's summer vacation with his father and brother; their trip is more like a summer escape, as it transpires suddenly at the whim of their father, who has abruptly quit his job following the departure of Sam's mother for the "Land of Women."
At first what seems misogynistic gives way to a smart and layered examination of how men and other women often perceive what Simone De Beauvoir referred to quite adroitly as the second sex. Those familiar with that philosophy will love this book, which dissects the male gaze and other patriarchal constructs in a way that readers may not even realize at first.
The story is told from the point of view of Sam and also a collective narrative from the Girls, who inhabit the vacation town where Sam is staying. Sam is bewildered, bitchy and depressed following his mother's departure. And, his father and brother aren't dealing well with it either. When they arrive on an island off the cost of North Carolina, Sam immediately picks up on the fact that these Girls, who all seem to look eerily alike, are also all eerily interested in him.
Perception is the point form which this story pivots. That in itself is the force behind the male gaze, so readers should not be surprised that Sam (and his brother and father) still grapples with what he doesn't understand until the last pages, even if his feelings and views originate from a place of benevolence. I like that the author did this. It's worthwhile to leave things open ended in most cases.
Last thing: I loved the setting in this book. By "love" I mean I loved how it was described but didn't actually want to visit this fake beach town. Bennett Madison likely hung around the same shore towns I did growing up, because the way he constructed this place reminded me far too much of the way I felt while visiting the beach as a kid: listless, bored, repelled, disgusted, depressed, filthy, but also sort of at peace in quiet moments. The sense of dread and impermanence and also deflation was all there on these pages. A really interesting read that should justifiably generate a lot of discussion.(less)
This is a good book for having kids "act" it out in a sense. There are a lot of comparisons between different animals' bones and those bones contraste...moreThis is a good book for having kids "act" it out in a sense. There are a lot of comparisons between different animals' bones and those bones contrasted with the bones of a human. Make size charts on pieces of paper (the kind that come on rolls) and have kids see these things in life size form.(less)
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
Was I ever late to the party on this one! However, in this case, it's better to be late than mis...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
Was I ever late to the party on this one! However, in this case, it's better to be late than miss this book altogether. It's brilliant. It's a smart book for the smart set, and will fulfill the right reader entirely. Frankie Landau-Banks has begun her sophomore year a physically different person, but little does she know that she will end this school year a different person altogether. When faced with the view of the glass ceiling, rather than find more pleasant scenery elsewhere, she attempts to put her fist through it. The reader will have to decide whether or not she succeeds.
There are numerous levels to this book. It's the kind of book avid fans of literature and literary discussion will eat up. On a personal note, I really enjoyed the myriad references to Foucault's Panopticon. Read that essay in college, and it applies to this story in many ways. It's all about how people behave when they believe they're being watched, and this book is all about watching. Boys watch girls, girls watch boys and boys and girls watch themselves. This book is also about the dynamics of social interaction. Frankie volleys with multiple characters, though her most notable games of social tennis involve Alpha, a character with as much to prove as Frankie.
I spent a lot of time considering and analyzing this book, and I have yet to really process all of its facets. With all due respect to the author, I'm not sure she knew what she had here. I feel like more is going on than she possibly intended. On a superficial level, this is a fun read about high school kids pulling off pranks, but that's not what this story is really about. It's a book about feminism. Should that word scare off gentle readers, I would consider grabbing something innocuous like a Sarah Dessen book or perhaps some other story about a basic meet-cute with predictable results. However, I believe in the reading population, and I think this book will delight many people.
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This book was a real surprise for me. I don't normally like books about "issues." They're usuall...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This book was a real surprise for me. I don't normally like books about "issues." They're usually so overdone and often sacrifice basic storytelling elements in favor of preaching. However, when done well, the story as a whole shines. In this case, Wonder is a book about a lot of great things: friendship, family, bullying, acceptance (of yourself and others) and finding your way. Auggie was born with a rare genetic issue that has left much of his facial features highly altered. He has undergone numerous surgeries to correct some of these issues, primarily to make it easier for him to eat and other medical issues like that. This kid isn't getting plastic surgery to look the way he would like - it's about quite a bit more than that.
At the start of this story, Auggie is 10 years old and is entering the fifth grade at a new school. He has been home schooled up to this point largely for health reasons. However, his parents are aware of the fact that he might encounter difficulties with other children who would not be so nice to a child who looks different. Auggie's parents are split on the decision to send him to school, though Auggie agrees to give it a try. While the story includes many serious moments, most of which relate to bullying and acceptance, the tone is light and inspiring. This story really has a lot of hope.
One of the best devices this author used included narrating the story from various points of view. It's not just Auggie relating the events here. We get perspectives from his sister, his sister's boyfriend and also her best friend and two friends of Auggie. This gives a much richer texture to Auggie's experiences and the world he deals with. I loved each character's voice. Even though each section was narrated in the first person, each point of view had a distinct identity.
There were a lot of things going on with this book, and some of those things were just little nuances that created a larger picture. I liked the song lyrics quoted throughout the story, references to David Bowie and Star Wars, the shifting tenses relative to the different narrators, Mr. Browne's precepts and the very human actions and feelings these characters demonstrated. Via was one of my favorite characters, thought it was hard to choose my favorite. Everyone brought something viable to the table. Hope this wins some kind of award in 2013!(less)
Anya is a 16-year-old girl who was born in Russia but raised in America. She lives there with her mother and little brother and goes to a private scho...moreAnya is a 16-year-old girl who was born in Russia but raised in America. She lives there with her mother and little brother and goes to a private school. Anya is a bit of a misfit who likes to cut class and smoke in the bathroom and generally feel alienated from the more compartmentalized identities at her school. She also tries hard not to show the fact that she's more or less a Russian immigrant.
One day while cutting school, Anya falls down a well and meets the ghost of a girl who fell in there herself and died 90 years ago while fleeing someone who was trying to kill her. This ghost takes up with Anya (who is rescued from the well that day) and at first helps her with her social hiccups and school work.
However, this ghost starts to become a bit of a freaky, codependent nuisance who seems to want to live vicariously through Anya and never let her alone. There's kind of a single white female thing happening here. Fun and creepy illustrations done in shades of gray that lend well to the title and concept. A quick read that will appeal to the bored, disaffected and pissed off teenager!(less)
This was good - a solid and realistic read. I felt the ending was a little rushed and the book just didn't seem quite finished, but I enjoyed it. Comp...moreThis was good - a solid and realistic read. I felt the ending was a little rushed and the book just didn't seem quite finished, but I enjoyed it. Compared to Speak it doesn't hit you the way that book did, but the situation depicted here is different. One of the really strong YA writers out there.(less)
Let your freak flag fly.... Hyper-intelligent and hyper-independent 12-year-old Emma Freke feels just like her namesake. She's 6 feet tall and has red...moreLet your freak flag fly.... Hyper-intelligent and hyper-independent 12-year-old Emma Freke feels just like her namesake. She's 6 feet tall and has red hair as ripe as a tomato. Her new-age mom runs a jewelry store and seems to worry more about reading tarot cards and going on dates than raising her daughter. Emma's only friend is an 8-year-old girl who is always encouraging Emma to branch out and make new friends. Emma doesn't know her father but thinks she'll finally come close when she gets invited to the Freke Family Reunion one weekend. Will she be able to relate to these people? Or will she find some sort of middle ground as her own person?(less)
Great book and I finally finished it after a stalled first attempt and almost putting it aside again due to once again reading too many things. Excell...moreGreat book and I finally finished it after a stalled first attempt and almost putting it aside again due to once again reading too many things. Excellent portrayal of the emotional fallout that occurs from being raped. Great voice for the main character. This is a great book. (less)