I'm really growing to love Lucy Knisley. Her ability to the elevate ordinary experiences into the meaningful, without seeming pretentious or terriblyI'm really growing to love Lucy Knisley. Her ability to the elevate ordinary experiences into the meaningful, without seeming pretentious or terribly overarching, should not be undercut. I really liked her most recent work Relish, but I must say I prefer this work, written five years earlier, about her brief residency in Paris with her mother on the eve of her college graduation. Knisley depicts her explorations succinctly and brightly but not trivially. It is her ability to paint pictures of simple experiences, such as buying the perfect jacket or trying new food for the first time, that make her stand out among other writers, let alone other graphic novelists.
This is a travelogue culled from Knisley's actual illustrated journal that she kept while living in Paris. The entire book is done in black and white outlines, which I first found disappointing. But, the intimate and brisk nature of this method actually gave the story a nice of sense of friendly intimacy. I also loved how Knisley included photographs from her trip throughout. I especially love the author's ability to paint a traveler's wonder amidst a foreign landscape without treating the locale as caricatured or terribly exotic. Everyone is essentially ordinary everywhere, and Knisley is able to effortlessly capture that in the best sense. I look forward to what else she might come up with in the future....more
Fascinating. Zadie Smith is the like the Lou Reed of modern fiction. She finds a way to communicate something incredibly profound using colloquial meaFascinating. Zadie Smith is the like the Lou Reed of modern fiction. She finds a way to communicate something incredibly profound using colloquial means. I love how her writing is simultaneously sophisticated and subtle and yet totally banal in its use of slang and pop culture references. More people should write like that. This book is very similar to her most recent novel NW, though in some ways it's totally different. Both novels are about the search for identity, the nature of randomness and how it can also seem like fate, and also the search for the meaning of existence. This story came together with a sort of inevitability that was fairly concrete and easy on the psyche in terms of its ultimate outcomes, despite the insidious nature of the story as a whole. I was way more shocked by the events of NW, which is far less coherent, but much darker. Zadie Smith really bears re-reading, as her work has so many levels it's hard to fully glean all of the nuances....more
Even better than the first book. Less self-conscious and much more confident in its execution. This book was really just a lot of talking between peopEven better than the first book. Less self-conscious and much more confident in its execution. This book was really just a lot of talking between people, which is my favorite. Mind-bending in its level of surrealism, this book combined the profundity of the scientific, with some crazy world building. The anticipatory nature of the story was perhaps its best quality, maybe even better than when actual resolutions took place. The characters were nicely developed, and while there are mystery elements to this story, I wasn't as focused on those things as I was on the character relationships. Some of the characters from the first book faded into the background in this story, but new characters were introduced who were just as interesting as the pre-existing people. Unfortunately this story ended on kind of a cliffhanger, but not a terribly dramatic one. I tended to live in the moment in each scene anyway, because I found individual scenes and single sentences to be delightful in and of themselves. Super awesome!...more
First contemporary story I've read in a very long time (possibly ever) that was a real jolt to read. This book was brilliant. I loved the characters,First contemporary story I've read in a very long time (possibly ever) that was a real jolt to read. This book was brilliant. I loved the characters, the cadence of the writing, the sentence-level quality of how the story was structured, word by word. At times, I felt smacked in the face from one sentence to the next. This is a story told from multiple points of view about life during a certain time in a particular sector of London - NW. The story focuses primarily on the friendship between Leah Hanwell and Natalie Blake - two girls who have been linked since childhood due to "a dramatic event." Their lives have taken divergent paths, but they have remained friends in spite of it for better or worse.
There is a third point of view that seems unrelated, and it is in a sense, but everything in this book comes together - sometimes at random and sometimes step by step. Zadie Smith portrayed the lives of these people in a fairly experimental style that strongly resembled stream of consciousness. There were gaps in the storytelling, and seemingly pointless details later returned with great meaning and effect. Other things had little bearing on the whole of the story (on the surface level anyway). At first glance, this book seems like it's about nothing, or it's at least a story with no point. Leah and Natalie also come off as extremely self-involved, short-sighted people of very negligible character. However, I loved them both for all of their faults and their more positive traits.
Hard to explain this story. It's very serious and yet very funny. It's also got a recitative quality about it - at times poetic and other times like a rapid-fire machine gun. This is the kind of writing that echoes the past and yet manages to break new ground. Brilliant....more
Not sure why I never added this until about 600 books later. This is one of the few books that I sat back and thought - this is amazing, this author uNot sure why I never added this until about 600 books later. This is one of the few books that I sat back and thought - this is amazing, this author understands, everything has aligned....more
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Was I ever late to the party on this one! However, in this case, it's better to be late than misCheck 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.
An interesting way to consider the concept of infinity. Lovely illustrations that harken back to the 1920s, and an approach to life that works well wiAn interesting way to consider the concept of infinity. Lovely illustrations that harken back to the 1920s, and an approach to life that works well within the confines of an 8-year-old's comprehension. A look at the value of impermanence....more
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How lovely! Ellen Obed's set of vignettes about her family's winter experiences in rural Maine sCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
How lovely! Ellen Obed's set of vignettes about her family's winter experiences in rural Maine strikes a sense of nostalgia perhaps not quite owned by all readers. I didn't have this childhood, not exactly. I didn't grow up on a farm, and I couldn't skate. I also am quite a bit younger than the author. But, there is a timeless quality about enjoying the seasons as a family. You learn so much about Obed's life and the joy of childhood from these little vignettes. I didn't build an ice rink in my backyard, but I did spend hours in the snow with my sister and brothers when I was a kid. Adults will love the out-of-time feel of this book, which builds a world without cell phones and computers; instead showcasing long-gone relics like record players and wooden hockey sticks. The illustrations are dated-looking, but I suspect that was done deliberately to evoke this sense of childhood past. They are simple black and white pen and ink. What at first seems bland in the early vignettes gradually builds into whole swaths of imagination, as readers are taken through all the kinds of ice, ending with dream ice - the ice the children long for in their heads all through the rest of the year.
This brought me back to a place that I can't rightly call my own, though in a sense I can - the simple world of childhood as depicted in the enjoyment of a winter season is something we all know no matter how old we are or what kind of civilization builds up around us. The vignettes start simple, reflecting simple kinds of ice, gradually building, with the illustrations complementing the growing worlds of ice. I was swept up in this clear, bright, winter time and place. I now wish it was December....more
Excellent book that stands the test of time! This is the sequel to Over Sea, Under Stone and it was a great second installment. While this book only cExcellent book that stands the test of time! This is the sequel to Over Sea, Under Stone and it was a great second installment. While this book only carries over one character from the previous story, the new cast is excellent. Will Stanton has traits with universal appeal for children and reminds me quite a bit of Harry Potter. This series actually shares many qualities with that one, and you can see that J.K. Rowling was probably inspired by and influenced by this series. Brilliant use of setting and great writing that foreshadows what's to come without coming off as over the top. A perfect quest story without the quest - in the traditional sense anyway; Will never leaves his neighborhood! I loved how Susan Cooper used aspects of traditional folklore and mythology to build her own story. The language is descriptive but appropriate for its intended age group. Lots of room for discussion in a classroom setting, and a perfect pairing for those interesting in reading something similar after finishing Harry Potter....more
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This book is a love story, though not in the usual way. It's a brilliant narrative about the unbCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This book is a love story, though not in the usual way. It's a brilliant narrative about the unbreakable friendship between two girls. Their friendship runs so deep that their lives seem fused. The cover art for this book is incredibly accurate. Two identical hands tied together: it's perfect. By the end of this story, you can't tell where one girl ends and the other begins. I don't know how to accurately summarize this book. All I can say is that many things aren't as they seem, and that others are exactly as they appear. In a world populated by Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and their ilk, this book dares girls to be friends. But the word friend seems flimsy when describing the relationship between this pilot and spy during World War II. They are on a mission, flying over occupied France. The spy bails out of the plane when something goes wrong and is captured by the Nazis. She is separated from the pilot. To stave off her execution, the spy agrees to tell the Nazis everything she knows. But, what exactly is the truth here? What does the reader actually know in this story?
I can tell you that the reader can know with unflinching certainty that these girls are best friends. They get each other in a way nobody else does. They share everything. They don't have a lot in common, and their personalities are quite different, but they just understand one another. This book acutely describes what it's like to be best friends with someone. The connection is often instant and perfect. The best quote in the book is this: It's like falling in love, meeting your best friend for the first time.
I couldn't have said that better. The narrative is spare and eloquent, but also descriptive in the right spots. The settings don't need a lot of detail. You can imagine everything all too well. I love the voices of Verity and Maddie. They are authentic to the place and time and the ages of the girls but also feel timeless. I can't decide who I love more, though you're not meant to choose. These girls have it exactly right when they say: We are a sensational team....more
This book is about revolutionary spelling methods, the false map of the human tongue, naming yourself, a French post-impressionist painter and Mr. X.This book is about revolutionary spelling methods, the false map of the human tongue, naming yourself, a French post-impressionist painter and Mr. X. Seriously. I should also mention that Scrabble as a communication method (not as a game) is featured heavily. Great book by Rebecca Stead, author of the amazing Newbery Medal Winner When You Reach Me. This is a new genre for her - realistic - though it bears all the same hallmarks of the other book. It's philosophical, mysterious, quirky, authentic and daring.
Georges (the S is silent) has just moved to a new apartment with his parents in Brooklyn, New York, and it is there that he meets an unusual boy named Safer. Georges becomes the first and only other member of Safer's top-secret spy club, and they begin their first mission without ever having to leave the building. Safer is convinced there is something going on with the man who lives below Safer but above Georges. He wears all black and frequently comes and goes at mysterious times; people enter his apartment but no one ever seems to leave. With the help of Safer's younger sister Candy, Georges gets roped into an adventure he's not particularly sure he wants to take.
Meanwhile, Georges' mom is never home. She works constantly at a hospital, and she and Georges leave each other messages with Scrabble tiles on the kitchen table. Georges also must contend with the school bully and the threat of being the only person in his science class who fails the Science Unit of Destiny. This involves NOT tasting anything when placing a taste test strip with special solution in your mouth.
Anxiety is high for Georges in this story about making your own rules, lying, spying and more. This is a great book for middle-graders. There are numerous opportunities for extension activities (hint-hint, the taste test!), plenty of room for discussion and allusions to the many aspects of our daily lives that mean more than you think. I love Rebecca Stead. She gets kids, by understanding what's important to them and how they think. But, she doesn't pander and encourages children to think deeper than the average book for an 11-year-old. She reminds me of E.L. Konigsburg whether she is influenced that by author or not. I hope she keeps writing great literature for children for a long time....more
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The glass ceiling as seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl living in rural Texas at the dCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
The glass ceiling as seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl living in rural Texas at the dawn of the 20th Century. Seriously. This book is a quiet delight that perfectly showcases how Calpurnia Virginia Tate discovers the natural world around her one summer while also realizing that society has plans in store for her that don't match up with her own.
I love this book's cover, which nicely evokes the time in which this story is set while also looking stylish enough for the contemporary reader. What a great name for this girl, too - Calpurnia Virginia Tate; doesn't that name just sound great when you say it out loud?
This is a rather odd topic for a book at first glance - a girl comes into her own one Texas summer in 1899 after becoming interested in naturalism and Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species; meanwhile forging a close relationship with her grandfather. This is my kind of premise, though. Not a plot-filled read by any means in the traditional sense, but coming upon each little piece of the world around this girl in the way she sees it is revelatory. You gain a new appreciation for the subtle as Calpurnia describes the grasshoppers, hares and birds living right outside of her door. She also comes to some profound conclusions about human relationships and family dynamics in the same way she observes the natural world - piece by piece.
Calpurnia has a large family, and each member really shines. I loved her neighbors and the people who help run her family's farm. Calpurnia is the only girl in a family of seven children, but there is no question that she's the star. Bright, creative and resourceful, Calpurnia is destined for great things. However, it is unlikely that she will be able to use these talents to the best of her ability at this time in history. As a woman living in 1899, few went to college, had jobs or remained unmarried and childless. While Calpurnia feels her prospects for the future are grim, the reader retains a sense of hope for this young girl's future all the same.
This is a great middle-grade read, with lots of places to begin serious discussions. Several topics immediately come to mind - the plight of African Americans following the Emancipation Proclamation; the opportunities women had then vs. what they have now, along with what has changed and what has remained the same; living in a multi-generational household; and using the principles of science to draw conclusions about your own life....more
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This book had a rough first chapter. Doug is 13 and his family moves suddenly one summer after hCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This book had a rough first chapter. Doug is 13 and his family moves suddenly one summer after his pissy, abusive, blowhard dad mouths off one too many times at work, gets fired and then finds another job in Upstate New York. Doug abruptly leaves his friends and heads to a rural town with nothing to do. He has one older brother living with him who is a huge bully and another older brother who got drafted and sent to Vietnam. Doug's mother is sweet, but ultimately powerless to defend Doug. This book takes place in the late '60s and is definitely of its time without feeling dated. That's what good historical fiction does. It explores the issues of its day without coming off as something you can't relate to.
As Doug is forced to kill time during the summer, he discovers the local library, the drawings of John J. Audubon, new friends and a new job. He also meets the people of this new town and reluctantly begins to find his place there. Doug is just perfect - his voicing that is. I was never struck with the idea that he was anyone other than a 13-year-old boy. Unsure of who he is for the much of the novel, he finds support from teachers, friends, other willing adults and most importantly comes to believe in himself. The supporting characters were also vivid, and just when you didn't think the book could get any better, it would wallop you.
Ending is hanging, in a good way. It's the ending the readers deserve. Excellent symbolism that's appropriate for the target audience, and the setting and time period create a great backdrop for the story (not the other way around). The pacing is also great. You are filled with just the right level of dread for Doug as he too often waits for the other shoe to drop in the roller coaster that has been his life up to this point. This is the kind of book I remember reading at this age, and that's said in the best sense. We need more authors like this one in the world of children's literature today....more
This book is a more sociopolitical and also existential version of a Jane Austen novel - a comedy of manners on the surface that in fact explores deepThis book is a more sociopolitical and also existential version of a Jane Austen novel - a comedy of manners on the surface that in fact explores deeper issues about human relationships and existence. Things are changing during this period in English history, and the old and the new are seen in direct conflict not just between separate individuals but also within singular individuals themselves. Katharine Hilbery is among the latter. She's practical and cynical, but also dreamy and bored and hopeful of living a life that matches the one she wants to lead in her head. Throughout much of the book, she tries to come to grips with how she can obtain it and whether such a thing even exists.
Opposing Katharine's frame of mind and circumstances is Mary Datchet - a working suffragist who lives on her own. She spends about half of the book in love with close friend Ralph Denham, but rapidly becomes disillusioned with this state when she realizes Ralph is first, in love with Katharine, and second, only proposing marriage to her because he thinks she would like for him to do so. Representing a feminine ideal for Virginia Woolf, Mary acts sensibly about this situation and realizes a new consciousness in which she understands that she has lost something irrevocably but at least experiences a true life.
Chapter 16 is when the style that Woolfe became known for later in her career starts to show itself. Katharine stands alone outside of her relatives' home while visiting them during Christmas, contemplating the peace and quiet. Rather than socialize or go about the expected conventions of a holiday gathering, Katharine does what Woolfe herself seemed fascinated with for the rest of her life and career - she looks the void in the face, entering into a staring contest with existence that never produces a clear winner no matter who or what is involved.
This story veers between styles, which gives it a slightly shaky story arc, but nevertheless, this book is a great look at the author early in her career. Her best work is yet to come, but her language, tone, subtle characterization and use of setting are all here in this book, though in a less refined state in some cases. Once you find this author, I don't think there's anyone who can surpass her....more
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The moments that can't be articulated. Virginia Woolf is the only writer I have ever encounteredCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
The moments that can't be articulated. Virginia Woolf is the only writer I have ever encountered who can describe those moments - the surreal nature of existence and the blur between the conscious and unconscious - and have them make perfect sense. These memoirs are just a non-fiction extension of the writing she pioneered throughout her life.
Much of this work concerns her childhood, with particular focus on her mother and the issues that arose in her family following her mother's death. Woolf describes her life unflinchingly and without much ceremony. Though everything is still conveyed lyrically, it was what it was. Reading about the sexual abuse she suffered from her older half-brothers is hard to take. It's by no means graphic, and one is unsure exactly how far it went, but you can't help but feel terrible for her no matter what the extent.
However, Woolf does not seem to look back on these incidents as things that paralyzed her. She is in fact much more preoccupied with the deaths of her mother, father and older half-sister. I always get a sense when reading her writing that she spent her life, not merely gaping, but boldly and unflinchingly staring existence in the face, so to speak. I think Woolf felt it was her duty as a human being, not even simply as a writer. Unfortunately, I don't think her mind was capable of overcoming what she saw. These memoirs, though, present the author's struggle with this task that she set for herself. And I can't help but admire her for it. For me, I know there won't be any other writer, as in, no one else can equal her. I haven't seen any other artist (in any medium) so profoundly convey back to me the way I have always felt about perception, existence, human relationships...
Getting to my tags now... I think conscientious teens could read this book. It's very much about grief over the loss of parents, siblings, coming into one's own on the eve of adulthood. It's also much easier to follow than her fictional work. The cover, too, provokes a lot of speculation. I think this photo was taken of Woolf as a teenager, or a very young adult, and I found myself looking at it repeatedly as I read this book - wondering what was going through her mind as she sat for this portrait. Perhaps she was experiencing a moment of being? Or maybe she was incredibly bored and thinking of what else she could be doing. Either scenario is intriguing.
The pieces done for the Memoir Club are much lighter and easier to take (despite the chilling side of "22 Hyde Park Gate"), and these will be of particular interest to teens. "Old Bloomsbury" is perfect in its portrayal of a family previously caught in the cross hairs of a stifling, patriarchal upbringing now coming into their own with abandon once Virginia and Vanessa in particular crept out from under the rule of their father and older brother. I could picture their faces as I read, "running wild" for the first time without a care. ...more
Holy crap. This book was intense. Like of all of the works by Woolf I've read so far, things end as you start racing toward a different (or new) levelHoly crap. This book was intense. Like of all of the works by Woolf I've read so far, things end as you start racing toward a different (or new) level of consciousness - right on the cusp, and you are left gasping as things don't come to a definitive resolution. How can anything really be resolved though when life is always in context and always on the verge of new beginnings?
I loved the shifting points of view and also toward the end the way characters uttered the same or similar phrases without actually speaking them aloud to each other. Major shifts in character relations or plot lines were uttered (as is typical with Woolf) without preamble and anticlimactically so as to in fact amplify their significance.
This book is about death, but it's also about reconciling yourself to how life changes - some things stay the same and others fall away unforgivingly. There is also the comfort of shared experiences. Not my favorite of Woolf's books but definitely the most far-reaching in terms of impact....more
This is called Mrs. Dalloway, but most of the book is experienced through the eyes of others. Virginia Woolf very cunningly depicts how the profound cThis is called Mrs. Dalloway, but most of the book is experienced through the eyes of others. Virginia Woolf very cunningly depicts how the profound can take place within the minutiae of a single day. This book isn't so much about Mrs. Dalloway herself as it is about the life Mrs. Dalloway leads (and this is shown even when experiencing the world through the eyes of people she has never met). You still get a sense of the world she inhabits. Virginia Woolf's prose is excellent. Some passages you can't help but read aloud because of how descriptive and eloquent they are. Big Ben sounds hours throughout the course of the novel to orient the reader to how much (or in fact how little) time has passed. Time passing has a two-fold effect on the novel. These characters are grappling with the fact that for most of them the happiest moments of their lives are long since over. Woolf demonstrates that life is intense and wonderful moment by moment. However, when these moments of joy pass, Woolf asserts that the loss of them sometimes cannot be remedied. In light of her own suicide, she succeeds and fails in seeing the joy we are capable of experiencing each day....more
This is a story within a story (or maybe I should say stories within a story). A monster visits 13-year-old Conor O'Malley one night after he has wokeThis is a story within a story (or maybe I should say stories within a story). A monster visits 13-year-old Conor O'Malley one night after he has woken up from another nightmare in which he has been visited by a different and unnamed monster. The monster who does visit is embodied in a yew tree that he can see from his kitchen window. This monster is going to tell him some hard truths about life, and Conor is going to have to tell the monster some truths by the end of their time together.
Bleak and yet funny, this is a moving story about coming to terms with loss. The illustrations and spare prose amplify the chilling atmosphere, and toward the end, telling the truth feels like running the last leg of a race. This is a scary book, but it's also an important one and a necessary one for the right person to read. I'd give this whatever award it qualifies for....more
This is probably bad to admit, but this is the book that made me read what became my favorite book - To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. A reader comThis is probably bad to admit, but this is the book that made me read what became my favorite book - To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. A reader commented that this book was very much like Mrs. Dalloway in that it's more about the thoughts, perceptions and feelings of the main character than any kind of story in particular. That's true - Junonia is about expectation, perception, disappointment in the face of failed expectations and growing up. A girl has all of these hopes and ideas about what her annual family vacation will be like, but none of the things she always looks forward to really occur in the way she would like. Most importantly, will this be the year she finds the rare Junonia? This is perfect and includes some amazing illustrations. Much like To the Lighthouse, it's about expectation, disappointment, growing up, remaining true to yourself and facing change head on. I would encourage any child to pick up this book as a coping mechanism for getting through disappointment. Life might surprise you, and even the cliched shit family vacation has a silver lining....more
This book was wonderful. Virginia Woolf succeeded completely in capturing the quiet tumult of the mind in this work. The links and gaps between our inThis book was wonderful. Virginia Woolf succeeded completely in capturing the quiet tumult of the mind in this work. The links and gaps between our interior thoughts (and the exterior world's impressions and interruptions on them) were beautifully conveyed here. I put this book down in high school after 50 pages or something, but sticking with it the second time around (by now probably 12 or 13 years later?) was worth it. It's hard to describe this book, but the things we say and the things we don't say (and how we interact with each other under both sets of circumstances) is shown spectacularly in this. For a book with so little happening I began to be riveted as I read on. It is clear that the unrepentant passage of time and the changes that go with it were at once beautiful and rending to the author. Her characters feel concrete and ephemeral at once based on small details about their behavior. ...more
Great book about typical kids getting into typical kid trouble or fun. This book was written in the 50s, so there might be a couple of things in the bGreat book about typical kids getting into typical kid trouble or fun. This book was written in the 50s, so there might be a couple of things in the book children today don't understand, but you could easily use those moments to teach children about how things were when this book was new. Overall, though, it ages very well....more
An excellent book about Patti Smith's evolving relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Starting out as enthusiastic but perhaps unsure teeAn excellent book about Patti Smith's evolving relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Starting out as enthusiastic but perhaps unsure teens barely out of high school who become a couple shortly after a few chance meetings in New York, Smith and Mapplethorpe's relationship grows and changes as they become artistic collaborators, muses and friends. While Patti lived with Robert in every way for a number of years as they both discovered and honed their artistic voices throughout their 20s, you get the sense that Mapplethorpe was a ghost that haunted her throughout her life - always present but never attainable. Their romantic relationship (which seemed to develop more out of camaraderie in the early days) dissolved as they both developed their own art and of course Robert came to terms with his homosexuality. He and Patti went their own ways through the 80s, but their bond as friends remained strong up until his death....more
Excellent book about four children who gather after school for tea and debate team practice. Upon meeting, these children don't realize how connectedExcellent book about four children who gather after school for tea and debate team practice. Upon meeting, these children don't realize how connected they are in ways both literal and based on their mutual characters. ...more
Reread this in a marathon of just over two days because I'll be leading a book discussion group on this story shortly. While I remembered a lot of it,Reread this in a marathon of just over two days because I'll be leading a book discussion group on this story shortly. While I remembered a lot of it, I wanted to make sure I got the nuances down because it went back a little too far in my memory for me to safely say I still had the gist of it. I'm really glad I did reread Saving Francesca, because now on my third excursion through what amounts to a pretty short, tight story, I love it more than ever. It's one of the few novels that accomplishes a lot in a short number of pages, which I really love and respect. While I'm not against making a book as long as it needs to be, I tend to be of the opinion that what needs to be said shouldn't take all that long in any situation, let alone in a book.
I'm redoing my review on here because I feel like I owe this book a little more than just "I really like this and it's great for teens." It is great for teens, but adults will love this too. I was telling a coworker during my rereading that I noticed most of the pop culture references in the book (there are many) actually draw from the past. Very few mention current TV shows, music, etc., and I think that just reflects on one of the major aspects of this book: the past informs the present, and how we define ourselves is a constantly evolving process.
I actually shied away from reading this book for a while. I had heard the author of the Printz Award winning Jellicoe Road had written other novels, but I was leery of the subject matter: depression in the family and alienation. I was thinking this was either an after-school special kind of book or something dramatic; it's neither. It is true that Francesca's mother one day cannot get out of bed to an acute case of depression, and it's also true that Francesca is having trouble adjusting to life in her new school (she previously went to an all-girls school and now goes to a recently co-ed boys school where she and her peers are largely outnumbered). But, the author treats both of these issues with precision, accuracy, apt concision, humor and a brilliant sense of continuity. The sentence-level writing in this book matters. There's no filler. Francesca is the narrator, and her view of her mother, her family situation, her friends and herself evolves perfectly throughout the book. This is an authentic teen voice, and the voices of the adults are great too. I could see myself appreciating this story as a teen, but I also appreciate it as an accurate look back at high school from an adult perspective.
The way Marchetta portrays the family unit and how the problems of one member drastically affect the rest is so spot-on it's scary. Francesca's descriptions of what her mother's illness has inadvertently done to them all really ring true, though she describes this aspect of the book and her dealings with the boys at her new school with a lot of sarcasm and zing. For someone with such a skewed perception of herself, she has a very accurate perception of the world around her.
What's so nice about this book is that it's appropriate for its audience (maybe 8th/9th grade and up) while still not talking down to them. As a reader, you are rewarded for paying attention to the subtleties of the story. They come back to haunt you later in the best way. The continuity of the narrative is amazing. To remember all of the minor details throughout and knit them together (without writing a mystery) must have taken some care. I don't mean to say this is a deeply sophisticated book or that its issues are deeply philosophical - they're not really, but the author makes use of her subject matter really brilliantly. Makes me want to reread the sequel The Piper's Son now too....more
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. ExcellGreat 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. ...more
I had to read this book for a YA graduate class. I chose it from the Printz award list not knowing what it was about exactly. It was available at my lI had to read this book for a YA graduate class. I chose it from the Printz award list not knowing what it was about exactly. It was available at my library and that was good enough at the moment. I read the jacket and though the book could have gone in a lot of directions: mystery, romance, teenage boarding school adventures... I started it and was immediately confused by the dual plots of what happened 20 years ago between five teenagers and the present story about main character Taylor Markham. But, the narrative and characterization drew me in despite the confusion and I kept reading, figuring everything would sort itself out in the end. Sticking with it paid off and after finishing the story up a few days ago I still feel the effects of this great story. Taylor is an authentic voice and her friends are perfect complements to this girl who is trying her best to sort through the aftermath of being abandoned by her drug-addicted mother when she was 11. Far too coincidentally, Taylor is picked up on the side of Jellicoe Road (where her mother left her) by a woman named Hannah. Hannah shows up and quietly becomes her caretaker. In the present, Taylor is now 17 and still trying to figure out why her mother left, why Hannah has recently disappeared, why she has no memory of her father and who these five teenagers are from the past that Hannah has been writing a story about.
These developments actually are almost more of a side plot to territory war Taylor's school is having with local teens and visiting military school cadets. The war seems serious and intense without being overdone. Taylor is a paradox in a number of ways, constantly on guard and suspicious of the motives of others, independent and like a rock in many cases. But on the other hand she is desperate for connection and often loses control of herself easily. You can't help being riveted by where everything will go and how it will all end up. I can't say enough about this book and yet it's hard to really talk about it. The book is wonderful, leaves you feeling gutted....more
Are you willing to destroy the world because you believe communism can't coexist with capitalism... oops.. I mean because people who spread their buttAre you willing to destroy the world because you believe communism can't coexist with capitalism... oops.. I mean because people who spread their butter on the bread side down can't get along with those who spread it on top. Every child should read this book....more