While I think Dr. Ravitch makes some good points about the arrogance of some wealthy supporters of reform, who have been known to run rough shod overWhile I think Dr. Ravitch makes some good points about the arrogance of some wealthy supporters of reform, who have been known to run rough shod over educators they should have consulted before plowing ahead, I ultimately was disturbed that she makes very little mention of the really lamentable state of the public schools, particularly in underserved neighborhoods, and what needs to be done to fix them. Where are the kids whose lives are blighted by their lack of education in these pages? We hear a lot about teachers having nervous breakdowns over testing, or being ignored or dissed, but after all, the bottom line is the kids. More balance in this regard would have given me a lot more respect for her.
I also can't ignore that from the time when she wrote the book, she has become increasingly shrill, bitter, and one note. I had hoped I could find a clear, persuasive rationale for why she veered from a thoughtful educator to an unquestioning apologist for the Union, but I'm afraid I didn't. It seems to boil down to: Gates, Broad, Bloomberg are billionaires who have been disrespectful of the teaching community. They are arrogant. and I don't want them to tell us what to do. Thus, since they are the greatest threat I will support any group that stands against them, a.k.a. the teachers' unions. I will ignore all the negative aspects of the union in order to take down the greater enemy.
Except that that perspective leaves out the most important thing -- the kids who are not being served. Shouldn't they be at least part of the conversation? ...more
**spoiler alert** When I finished this book I felt extremely annoyed, because it was such a rip-off of "We were liars." (I notice that E. Lockart prai**spoiler alert** When I finished this book I felt extremely annoyed, because it was such a rip-off of "We were liars." (I notice that E. Lockart praised the book, which amazed me. If someone had lifted my surprise ending, I would not be so generous.)
How can such a talented, well-regarded author like Lauren Oliver simply copy a twist in a recent best seller? It feels brazen.
I also tired of her unending flow of similes, as well as her endless descriptions of people's breath (Lauren Oliver must have an incredibly acute olfactory sense, because unless someone has outright bad breath or has recently swigged mouthwash, I don't give this matter a second thought.) It got to the point that when Nick was physically close to someone, I would wonder: "I wonder what his/her breath will smell like to her?"
The metaphors, similes, descriptions and memories (constant flashbacks to experiences Dara, Nick and Parker shared) are all effective, but their sheer quantity lessen their power.
But here's MY twist, after all these complaints: I still loved this novel.
First of all, Lauren Oliver is an incredibly gifted creator of characters. (Having read many YA's, and having waded through endless shallow, wooden, clichéd, and just plain inconsistent protagonists, I can attest to how many writers are not.) She knows her stuff. She is a master at plumbing the human psyche and the human heart. Even when there are apparent inconsistencies in her characters, you soon realize these inconsistencies make sense given who the characters are.
She is also a terrific wordsmith. I know, I know, I complained that she overdoes it, and she does, but each individual simile or comparison works works individually.
And even though the ending -- which despite having read "We were Liars" I didn't expect, because who would have the chutzpah to use the same twist so soon? -- annoyed me for its imitativeness, it still WORKED. It was psychologically apt. I'll now probably feel compelled to go back and revisit all the inconsistent narrator clues and hints, but my bet is that Oliver will have done her homework and I wont be able to trip her up.
So on the whole, I was gripped and compelled all the way through, particularly the second half, and I found Nick and Parker poignant protagonists that I wanted to follow, rooting for a positive ending. Which, despite the sad aspects of the book, it was.