I caught up on the website and noticed the second part of this series was published online (along with the first, which I read in hard copy). I was bu...moreI caught up on the website and noticed the second part of this series was published online (along with the first, which I read in hard copy). I was bummed when I learned that this was only a two-part series — it's a really rich part of the Gunnerkrigg story, but I guess the author's treating it a little differently than I expected, keeping it light. I want some big thing with FEEEEELINGS and he's written some cute thing with fairies. Oh well. Who the heck can argue with that?
So this wraps up Annie's getting acclimated to the forest people when she spends the summer there. Basically in the first issue she feels awkward and shy (and Ysengrin says, deal with your own problems!) and in the second issue she starts to make friends. They uh, get her drunk sort of? And she makes fireworks? I guess basically this could be called Annie Goes to Magic Summer Camp.
She shows a momentof pain, in her hangover sleep. I was glad for a little touch on what this is all about, with her. It's good she's having fun this summer, while she's processing a bunch of sad stuff in her past.
Just, how great is it when they ask her if she has a "love" back home and she says Kat? This is the best comic ever.(less)
This is one of those novels that lists out its ingredients without cooking anything. I wish it didn't feel like an experiment.
It wears a lot of itself...moreThis is one of those novels that lists out its ingredients without cooking anything. I wish it didn't feel like an experiment.
It wears a lot of itself on its sleeve. It is dreamy and hazy; you can tell by all the line breaks in the middle of sentences. Fairy tales, King Lear, Wuthering Heights are all used explicitly, but essentially just by making the comparisons. It's about liars because that's what the title says; you learn in the first couple of pages not to take the narrator literally, and the characters lie to each other, and I think it is meant to feel like a twisty mass of lies! lies!, but it doesn't feel that way. Only one lie matters. It's the one you read to the end to find out.
But, let's talk about how amazing it is when writers write about idyllic summer vacation time. Ugh, it is candy to me, I love this. I love the summer vacation as a cultural phenomenon that is stultifying and magical at the same time; we don't care if it makes sense as long as it's ours. And I always want to read stories about special summers, because as a kid my summers were never like this, as mostly I just sat in bed all summer reading books about summer (and I loved it).
This book is like a theme park called Summer Vacation Land, with this private family island of summer homes and domestic staff and motorboating to get to town and the big beach and the little beach and the maple tree tire swing and the books and the knickknacks and the dogs. Purposefully, the summers here cast a spell, contained in the bounds of the island and the vacation; the cousins never see or even speak to each other during the rest of the year, but on-island, they're a seamless unit. Should we know more about their lives than just what happens in the summer? Don't think that far!
Because… basically this book is the summer vacation of E. Lockhart's novels. It is takin' a little break. It is a thriller! That's all fine. But it is off-brand. Sometimes, you see what you look for in a thing, but other times you kind of ruin what you're looking at by looking for something else. I kept squinting through this, trying to get those warm, billowy, gauzy curtains out of my face and see if there was anything really going on in there.
E. Lockhart's previous books are some of the most intelligent novels about gender roles and related interpersonal politics that I've gotten to read, and they are meant for young people, and that makes them even better. And I love saying that because when I first heard about her I was like, "Well, that book is pink and has the word 'Boyfriend' in it so I think I will not." Because she does both! She does both: it's YA, it's boys, it's girls, it's fun but true feelings and mental health and it is grounded in so much thoughtful reality I want to bite my finger or something. It's a great way to write, and up to now everything of this author's that I've read has been like this, and I am doing everything I can to avoid saying "I am disappointed she tried something different" because that's not really what I believe.
The problem, I guess, is for fans of hers like me who might be looking for that insight to transcend genre again, for the talent that in the past turned YA romance books into feminist masterpieces to do the same thing with a suspenseful, twisty story with amnesia and secrets and mysterious illnesses and horrible truths. Instead, it's just what it says on the tin. Who can complain about that?
There is a little bit more. A little bit: mainly, the cultural challenges raised by Gat (who I consistently misread as "Gats" because this whole setting is so Gatsby-esque), who is the only non-white person of import in our character's life. He's smart as heck and has reasonably well-stated political insight about privilege (both white and other), and his feelings are heard and are… not insignificant. But neither were they deeply significant. This subject was more like a thing that got pointed at occasionally and then left alone, having assumedly spoken for itself. Cady is alternately shamed and moved by Gat's feelings of otherness, but the book doesn't really weight them enough. Supposedly they are also the whole catalyst for the big plot point, but it doesn't feel — er — true.
Similarly, there is a bit of handling of mental health issues as Cady deals with her confusing (and mysterious!) post-traumatic disorder of an unknown type — is it psychosomatic? a brain injury? — where she deals both with chronic pain and with a nagging grief she doesn't know the cause of. But we see her trigger a bunch of warning signs: she compulsively gives away her possessions, she drastically changes her appearance, she loses her ties to friends and relatives, she may be addicted to narcotics, she risks her safety in reckless activities, she speaks of wanting to die to escape her unmanaged pain. The author, I think, lobbed as many signals off the suicide-risk checklist as she could, and it does build up dread and concern for our protagonist. I wish it had been done more elegantly, or with a deeper purpose than to just telegraph that Cady is down in a deep dark hole, and then pull an amnesia trick on us. But again… that's what it says on the flap. That's what you get. Quit complaining. Okay.
Sorta 2.5 stars. But I'm rounding up because until the full bluntness of the ending rung out, I enjoyed myself and looked forward to what else we would learn. This author is a brand-loyalty for me, so I don't regret reading it (how could I, barely even spending a day on it) and I'm looking forward to more from her, whatever it's like.
The completist in me is glad I read this, but if I wasn't still coasting on the interest built up from reading Every Day recently, this wouldn't hold...moreThe completist in me is glad I read this, but if I wasn't still coasting on the interest built up from reading Every Day recently, this wouldn't hold much interest. The stories are real short and simple, and although the purpose is meant to be to show another varied handful of days out of A's life, the ones here feel a lot like the ones in the book, and they even repeat each other a little.
I was curious what they would be like, before I read this, so I'll explain for the sake of those who feel that way. Just in case anyone cares, I'll put the premises behind spoilers.
(view spoiler)[1. A's best 10th birthday, with some good big-sister bonding. 2. A at 7, a neglected child with a sullen, strict parent. 3. A is about 15 (extrapolating from the "day" number) and spends the day chatting with the girl's best friend over the internet. It's unclear if there is something more to their relationship. 4. A is 16 and an athlete. 5. A is 16 and a boy who spends all day with his best friend, who asks for something more from their relationship. 6. A is 16 and a boy who spends all day with his best friend, who asks for something more from their relationship. (hide spoiler)]
Nope, that's right -- two of these stories sound exactly the same! And they're not, you know, the same, but no denying they are out of the same aisle of the grocery store. But both of them are good, and #6 especially brings a lot of depth to the collection and makes it worth reading.
The others are far less substantial: A pontificates on being an athlete and having a strong body; A pontificates on having long-distance friends (and disappoints me yet again by dismissing internet friends as an impossible option).
#2 was the most interesting premise by far, but it was short and not a lot happened in the story. In general I'd have welcomed reading a lot more about A's childhood. The questions and pathos of it interests me a lot. They stand out sort of oddly here -- they are written in A's current voice, almost like a journal entry about the memory, in retrospect for our benefit, rather than the voice or perspective of an actual child. It reads okay, but it makes me think that Levithan is not very interested in A's experience as a kid, which is too bad because I am.
I want to believe that Levithan is an author who knows more than he writes into the story, but I don't exactly believe that's true here. I suspect there's a lot he isn't sure of, and that it's one reason the scope of the stories is so narrow. Maybe in time he will explore a bit more.
Anyway, I'm really glad I could check this out from the library! Hurray.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Fiiiiiive stars? Yeah, okay. This is partly because… I just want more people to pay attention to this book...moreThis was recommended by Sara. VERY STRONGLY!
Fiiiiiive stars? Yeah, okay. This is partly because… I just want more people to pay attention to this book, and this writer. Please.
I will also say this right off the bat, to get a few people's attention, which is, RIYL: Lynda Barry. These girls, they are Lynda Barry's spiritual children, they are full-flesh neighbors of Arna and Marlys and everyone. Wrong and awkward and hurting and mistaken, and silly. Carrying on with their stuff while the hard and dark world of the adults goes on indoors. And dogs.
The thing is, in this book, nothing… happens? It isn't about action but feeling. It really is just about 14-year-old girls, one in particular, whose name is Jo (like the author), though no one calls her this. She's just our narrator, and we're in her head, floating on the fluff that is having a best friend to think everything up with and ignore everything bad with. They live in a grubby Illinois town in the 1970s, and don't have much to go on, and there are some serious family problems. But the magic of the book is in the very real depiction of the weird netherworld that children inhabit underneath, or above, their family problems. They have to endure them, and they are stressed by them, but also they are still children, wanting children things. Playing with toy soldiers in their room, getting emotionally invested in the clothes they want to buy off layaway with babysitting money. All of it genuine, all of it top priority.
About a third of the way through, there is a turn. So far we've been mostly talking about babysitting and shopping, and melting down into an emotional mess at the approach of a boy's potential glance. And then, Jo finds something in her house that she does not expect to see, and suddenly the book opens a new door in her mind through which we learn some new things that she had not been saying before, a lot of them. The darkish tone of teenagerdom that we've been coasting along with suddenly chills your gut.
What she sees means that something very bad may have happened, which — in perhaps the most realistic thing I've seen in YA book in a while — she cannot bring herself to deal with, and so goes about with her evening, just helping to make dinner, avoiding the closet in the basement, while she thinks of a way for the thing to not be true. That feeling (and the suspense) is one of the most horrifying and emotional that I've experienced as a reader in ages. And it highlights what makes the meandering of this book so much stronger in its realism than anything more tightly plotted would be — give this situation to almost any other strong-and-sassy YA heroine out there, and they would have opened the closet door on the first try. But Jo can't, she can't make it belong to her, she won't do it until her mother makes her.
I read the rest of the book in a fearful daze. It felt like the ring of a really loud bell that gets whacked with a mallet, like when something hits you in the head and you feel like you're ringing. Devastation could be lurking in anything, lurking behind every boy or every weird dark field they wander through, or amongst the cheerleaders who emerge two-thirds of the way to hold a slumber party of doom. (The award for People Most Unprepared to Be Invited to a Cheerleader's Slumber Party goes to our main characters. The candidates are running unopposed.)
I now need to read everything Jo Ann Beard has ever written, and I'll try. I can't believe she has published so little, conventionally at least, that I can go buy or check out from a library. This book is fascinating as a transitional work, the memoir-as-fiction, which is a type that can be either dubious or revelatory (more echoes of Lynda Barry). It's her first novel, let alone her first YA work, so this is a hopeful adventure. Extremely.(less)
Even though this is just a single-issue comic (until more follow), I had to add this because I was excited about it. It happens to fall into the chron...moreEven though this is just a single-issue comic (until more follow), I had to add this because I was excited about it. It happens to fall into the chronology exactly where I left off reading -- between the last trade, and the one that just came out. It's a side story, and not on the website (unlike all the other books), so in some ways it seems like a less-important, secondary thing. (EDIT: This issue and the sequel were added to the website.)
But, when Annie goes into the forest at the conclusion of the last book, it's actually a really huge moment for the series. The next book picks up once the summer is over and school is back -- not to gloss over it, I'm guessing, but to use it in a background way. Still, this is a story completely deserving of being told outright, so, good!
This issue of course takes just a few minutes to read, and not much happens yet. Coyote threatens Annie in the same move as he helps her, and then he introduces her to some new friends. So far, it's mostly humor, which is a change considering how deeply sad Annie is right now. But the cuteness in this series always comes right along with the heartbreak and the mythic beauty, so, it will balance out. (Best panel: "Dramatisation")
Hey, anyway, this is my 1000th book on Goodreads! Yay. Don't delete my "unencouraged" comic book, I'm celebrating.(less)
I remember finding this on the library shelf, so excited that there were more Ann M. Martin books to read. This one was serious-looking, and the subje...moreI remember finding this on the library shelf, so excited that there were more Ann M. Martin books to read. This one was serious-looking, and the subject matter was sort of above my age level (I was probably 9 or so), but I remember a good amount about it. Actually, it has a vivid description of (view spoiler)[suicide by wrist-cutting (hide spoiler)] that I've never forgotten, and always picture whenever the subject comes up somewhere.
It seems like this is out of print now, which is a little surprising considering the author's fame, but perhaps is even more unfortunate now that bullying is more of a mainstream issue than ever. I'm not sure whether this book's message is particularly better than that found in other YA novels about bullying, but it exists.["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book was passed around like contraband at my Catholic middle school. Every girl in my class read it. Someone brave had gotten it out of the libra...moreThis book was passed around like contraband at my Catholic middle school. Every girl in my class read it. Someone brave had gotten it out of the library, I think, and then we passed that library copy from person to person so we could all read it without having to go get it ourselves. I think we thought it was dirty? Does it even have dirty parts? I don't even remember them! I remember hiding it under my bed when my mom came in the room. Probably it was more fun to imagine our moms disapproving, and to read it in secret, than to just get your own copy like a normal person.
Being normal: a tall order for 13-year-olds, anyway.
I must have liked it. Who wouldn't like it, reading it that way?(less)
I love the concept behind this, and most of all, I love the Katherine Paterson piece in the beginning, which I've reread several times. It is perfect...moreI love the concept behind this, and most of all, I love the Katherine Paterson piece in the beginning, which I've reread several times. It is perfect that this is a thing.
I think I wasn't as invested in every single piece, overall? But that's okay. Maybe someday I will revisit them all.(less)