I guess it’s not the best thing when you get to the end of a series and think, “Well, okay. Now I don’t have to read these any more!” So… three stars?I guess it’s not the best thing when you get to the end of a series and think, “Well, okay. Now I don’t have to read these any more!” So… three stars?
It’s fine. But the thing clunked around the way all these books have clunked around, and after having us read fffffffoooouuuurr not especially shortish novels, I wanted to feel like there was more to the package than a bucket with some magicky idea soup in it.
But hey some bits of this book are really, really well done. The other books often have scenes where the author builds up this fantastic atmosphere but, when pressed for specifics, deflates the thing. Here, though, we get some sincerely scary and lovely sections. I especially loved the scenes with Blue’s possessed house, and Mr Gray in the supermarket, and Gansey’s ultimate flock of ravens. A hat needs to be tipped to Henry Cheng, too, a super-welcome character this group of friends has needed all along.
Look, though. This book is meant to be wrapping up a whole tangle of mythical business, and to me its plot just confirmed how weak that business really always was. In particular, (view spoiler)[Glendower (hide spoiler)] was an enormous letdown; it felt like the wrong choice to have him come to nothing. What was the point of using that story? I’ve been curious for four books to find out, but in the end: the author deflates the thing. (view spoiler)[Artemus (hide spoiler)] also disappointed, having been picked up at the end of book three only to sit around and talk to almost no one despite being hugely fascinating and relevant to everything in the plot. (view spoiler)[And Blue is part tree? (hide spoiler)] Or something? Why? Okay.
Ronan, at least, is more important than he was in the last book, so yay Ronan. He gets enough depth even to make Adam feel somewhat interesting and that guy is a drag. But I’m sorry to say that Ronan’s dream magic still does nothing for me, it just doesn’t make sense, and upping the drama and carnage and danger around it — essentially the whole stakes for this final story — consequently doesn’t land because it never felt very right to begin with. At the very climax of the book, Blue says it herself: “I always knew it was going to end like this, but it still doesn’t feel right. Would this ever feel right?” Well! I mean… we’d all been hoping it was going to, guys! Oh well.
So why did I read it then? It’s all about the other moments, the ones that have nothing to do with structure and continuity and world-building, which are not the strong points here. It’s the lives and the destinies of these characters. Destiny is strong with this one. Worrying about Gansey, prophesied to die since the opening of book one, carries a lot of emotional heft. It’s so touching the way everyone is afraid and sad the realer it seems. (Let’s not talk about how this all plays out; I’m afraid the author is going to ring my doorbell right now and hand me a piece of paper that mentions his “rain-spattered shoulders” one more time.) The relationship between him and Blue, also prophesied since the first, brings lovely little swells of emotion too. The other relationship, a satisfying new discovery here, does the same.
That’s where the realness of these characters is, and the hearts of this knotty story: it’s Blue’s family sitting clothed in the bathtub doing a weird ritual and telling her there’s life after high school, and it’s Ronan in his house, his element, hoping high school will just stop existing. It’s Adam’s mother: “At some point she had released him, and she didn’t want him back. She just wanted to see what happened.” There are times these folks all make sense, on their own and together, and those moments are (and have been) a pleasure to read. Even if I don’t really believe in magic, it’s nice that they’ve existed for us anyway....more
Wow. This was just fantastic! I could hardly stand to put it down, and read the whole thing looking something like: :D
This felt so original, and everyWow. This was just fantastic! I could hardly stand to put it down, and read the whole thing looking something like: :D
This felt so original, and everything just clicked right away. From the beginning, our man Aspen’s narrative voice is dark and glittersome; he’s not entirely right, and that edge just works at you until everything starts to unfold. Which way is this guy going to go?
I love the story, I love the backstory, I loved getting to the bottom of the mysterious bits, I loved not being able to predict how these relationships would end up. I love that people get surprised, not everyone gets what they want, and they have to figure it out. The supernatural bits are explained with just the right levels of detail and magic, without too much boggy chat. The plot pacing is perfect.
Also, we really need to just acknowledge that we’ve got the best title and cover ever here. Love them so much! Aces to the publisher for going with the grim humor of it all. It fits the book so well.
It’s additionally worth saying how immensely, brilliantly different this is from the author’s previous books in the Wishing duology, which do dig into some extremely unique identity questions but also follow a pretty familiar paranormal romance trajectory. I didn’t find anything about Rocks Fall familiar, at all. This author’s turned the uniqueness up to 1100. I cannot wait to see how far she keeps going....more
I love YA books, but I do have to admit, sadly, that “kissing” is not my best genre as a reader these days. Although saying so simultaneously brings tI love YA books, but I do have to admit, sadly, that “kissing” is not my best genre as a reader these days. Although saying so simultaneously brings to mind both “the golden gates of childhood had forever closed behind them,” and Fred Savage:
Yes, kind of! This is a kissing book, and it’s funny and there’s good characters, and a culture war to boot. Perfect fun.
Jules, the most dedicated editor of a high school paper one has ever seen outside of Paris Geller, gets blindsided in senior year by an upstart video news project of which she does not approve. Worse, her boyfriend starts working with them, a punishable offense, and pretty soon the news teams are at war.
I liked this because not only is it a cute beat-down of new media/old media’s real-world rivalry, but a prank war also brings back whiffs of Frankie Landau-Banks, which is a thing 100% of us want at all times from all books. I presume. If that’s hyperbole, let’s not speak for a little while. Particularly, I liked here that it gets escalated by both sides, that both Jules and Alex needle each other in their competition for scoops. Jules might be acting ridiculously quite often, and blowing things out of proportion from the get-go, but soon enough it’s much more than a misunderstanding driving them apart. It is war.
However, a helpful lesson learnable from multiple Amy Spalding books: do not date somebody without telling your best friend! Your best friend will be sad. Here, at least, Jules insists on a “secret relationship” due to the war! but, although she’s our narrator, we see everyone telling her: Jules! No one takes this “war” as seriously as you do. Rein it in, Jules. But Jules doesn’t. She keeps going until it blows up big time.
But that’s where Jules’s vulnerability lies, and if you care about her character you’ll care about her wacked sense of judgment where her responsibilities are concerned. We get a bit of backstory that assists us in piecing this girl together; her parents (two moms) went to lots of what she assumes was trouble in order to have and raise her, something Jules feels guilt about. She over-commits to perfection. In particular, there is a good slice of senior year college application angst, which is my #1 favorite.
Side note: this author’s books always have the very best parents in YA. Both the adult and teen characters are always great. It’s a nice touch, for this old fart who’s too lame for lots of kissing books. <3...more
Ohhhkay, well. It doesn't matter how long I'd looked forward to reading it; this didn't turn out to be a good book to me. I've read most of this authoOhhhkay, well. It doesn't matter how long I'd looked forward to reading it; this didn't turn out to be a good book to me. I've read most of this author's YA novels, and I was reading her blog back in the days she was working on this one, and it just sounded so exciting. You can read the flap copy now, and it does sound so exciting! But this book just does not work at all, and it's too bad.
I don't want to be mean to it, but. Structurally there's just a lot wrong. Action doesn't make logistical sense, and drags. Unfortunately, this is a book about danger and gangsters, so there are lots of action scenes. Things will happen like, some people need to hide and someone is considering whether to hide them. A suspenseful moment, in the middle of a chase… but the action grinds to a halt while the situation is stated three or four times before it’s resolved, amongst pages and pages of other thoughts, completely unnecessary repetition to communicate something that probably should be implied anyway.
That repetitiveness is probably the hardest to take — this happens frequently, and characters repeat themselves interminably. Everything is over-explained, hardly anything left to our imaginations or sense of suspense. Every few chapters, Palmer says “Doesn’t she know she needs to be getting out of town!" Yes. I thought she would. And once Dymphna learns (view spoiler)[that Kelpie is the same age she is (hide spoiler)] (I cannot believe that is a spoiler but the way it is treated as a big reveal, it is?) it is restated constantly, but all that’s said is "I cannot believe it."
Well, I agree, it's weird. This is a book about two (view spoiler)[sixteen-year-old (hide spoiler)] girls who can see ghosts. It takes forever for us to learn that first point, and forever for them to reveal that second point to each other. One is a high-class prostitute, one is an urchin who's lived in such deprivation she doesn't seem to have basic intelligence about human life. Weirdly, I think this is kind of a thing for this author? Her Magic or Madness series has a similar premise that I recall finding hard to swallow. She likes a feral child.
Hey, wait. Didn’t I say that some of the characters see dead people? Unfortunately it wasn’t as wonderful as it sounds. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I began imagining a daring twist that I’d hoped might come, that (view spoiler)[one of the girls would die and turn into a ghost that only the other could see (hide spoiler)] (otherwise why have the two of them together?), but it didn’t materialize, so to speak.
This author is so creative! And though nothing is perfect, I’ve enjoyed her other books. So I still respect it, because people don’t have ideas like hers all that often....more
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 buI 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....more
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 itselfThis 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.
Goodreads, we’re friends, so I’m going to tell you the truth about this: I spent my very last few minutes at home, before going to the hospital to givGoodreads, we’re friends, so I’m going to tell you the truth about this: I spent my very last few minutes at home, before going to the hospital to give birth, downloading this book from the library. Because… it seemed important at the time. Because! Every reader knows, always take a book!
Okay, so I didn’t start reading it until I was home again, but still I made a good choice because it’s so easy to have a good time reading this series. It has been so long since I read the other two that I barely remember a thing, but that’s fine.
Blue is especially enjoyable in this one. Her funky little attitude stitches together a bunch of the awkward and unpersuasive details of the story. Who could mind it? The jokes about eating her greens, the way she grows closer to her destiny with Gansey, all of it I really really liked. She gets the best moments at the end, too, such as it is.
One of the things I do always feel with this series is that it’s a little bit of a mess. It’s one of those things I decide I can live with. But nothing about the characters is particularly plausible, there’s always a thread or two I don’t enjoy much, and the magic doesn’t really gel into any kind of interesting or sensible thing. I really don’t care for Ronan’s dream stuff and the treatment of Adam’s hardships rings really false. (But I like Ronan! So I wish he had a bit of something else to do. Adam on the other hand, I’m sorry, is a bummer. I would rather hang out with the actual ghost.)
In this one, a new character arrives from England ostensibly to assist Gansey, but then disappears after several scenes in which his cultural discomfort is comical, ultimately being of no consequence whatsoever. Shrug! Additionally, each of these books always has a villain, though I’m not sure why one is ever necessary. At least this one is the most fun to read: here we get a snooty, wine-sipping James Bond-y baddie with a snooty, toy-dog-buying Bond-y wife, each with a touch of the “I’m evil” crazies and a loose trigger finger. Not super important, but, super entertaining.
Anyway, the final turns of the plot feel a bit artless, but I give a huge thumbs up to a major, ground-shaking event in the middle of the book that totally surprised me. When they actually (view spoiler)[find Glendower’s daughter alive, entombed by magic for 600 years, (hide spoiler)] it is terrifying and exciting and ballsy. A crow (raven?) cawed outside my window in the middle of the night, also. I couldn’t believe the author was really doing it, and I think she knew that, because the text itself calls it out as one of the characters agrees:
“Disbelief shouldn’t have been an option after all of the things that had happened … His final scepticism had been taken from him.”
Though this quest is the driving arc of the whole series, all along the idea of it has felt sort of like something junky rolling around in the backseat of Gansey’s crappy car. It’s what they say they’re doing while they’re really doing three novels’ worth of other things. But now — are we going there? Really? Well, I’m excited....more
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 holThe 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....more
Fiiiiiive stars? Yeah, okay. This is partly because… I just want more people to pay attention to this bookThis 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....more
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 chronEven 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....more
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 subjeI 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....more
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 libraThis 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?...more
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 perfectI 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....more