Summary: 16-year-old Cameron doesn’t care much about anything. But being diagnosed with mad cow disease solves that problem.
Review: Utterly, positively funny. The wit and sarcasm drips off every single page of this book, so much so that I became immune to it after a while. I tend to prefer the brand of funny that hides around the next corner and startles a laugh out of me.
Maybe I would have felt differently if I had started out liking the main character. But he is so incredibly apathetic at the beginning that I didn’t feel compelled to care in return. Then about halfway through, I did start rooting for him.
Because guess what? When Cameron started to care about what was going on around him, I started to care too. And it didn’t hurt that the Don Quixote parallels meant I could relive my English major days.
I enjoyed this book, although it was just alright for me. Could be I wasn’t in the right mood when I read it. Here’s a taste so you can decide whether it’s right for you:
The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.
I’m sixteen now, so you can imagine that’s left me with quite a few days of major suckage.
Like Career Day? Really? Do we need to devote an entire six hours out of the high school year to having “life counselors” tell you all the jobs you could potentially blow at? Is there a reason for dodgeball? Pep rallies? Rad soda commercials featuring Parker Day’s smug, fake-tanned face? I ask you.
But back to the best day of my life, Disney, and my near-death experience.
I know what you’re thinking: WTF? Who dies at Disney World? It’s full of spinning teacups and magical princesses and big-assed chipmunks walking around waving like it’s absolutely normal for jumbo-sized stuffed animals to come to life and post for photo ops. Like, seriously.(less)
Summary: Most people think Terra is beautiful, until they see the port-wine birthmark on her cheek. Surgery won’t remove it, makeup can’t cover it up all the way, and her father certainly won’t let her forget it’s there.
Review: From the first sentence, this story firmly planted me in Terra’s shoes. Terra’s experience will make you realize how focused we are on a single definition of beauty—who has it and who doesn’t. When I was a good ways into the book, I was out at a coffee shop and standing in line. I caught a kid staring at me, and immediately my hand flew to my cheek. There’s no birthmark on my cheek, but the book made me feel for Terra’s situation so completely that for a split second I thought otherwise.
As if dealing with stares and nasty comments from strangers weren’t enough, Terra’s home situation will break your heart. Her dad is verbally abusive and controlling, almost beyond belief. Terra copes well enough by writing him off, but her mom copes by overeating. This subplot, while powerful, felt a little over-the-top at times. In some scenes, Terra’s mom was just a little too pitiful, and I didn’t believe she was really that weak.
The other reason I didn’t connect 100% with this book is the amount of internal dialogue where Terra explains what she’s feeling. When it comes to internal dialogue, I’m in the camp of less is more. Terra would explain the same emotional struggles over and over again, and I found myself skipping over those parts to get to the action.
But the harsh reality of Terra’s struggles kept me grounded in the story, and the romance felt genuine. This was a good read, just not a favorite for me.(less)
Summary: High school senior Nora and her best friend are lab partners in biology, but for some reason their teacher makes a new seating chart with only weeks left in the year. Nora gets stuck with the new guy who she feels simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by.
Review: This book was lucky to get even a 1-star rating from me. The star it did earn is based purely on the writing—which I thought was good for the most part save for some repetitive internal dialogue—and nothing to do with the actual story.
Because I hated the actual story.
Nora’s love interest, Patch, is downright abusive to her, but she keeps coming back for more. It’d be one thing if through the relationship, she learned to assert herself or learned that she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way or learned anything about herself, actually. Nope.
Nora can tell he wants to hurt her, at least emotionally if not also physically. And it seems to make her want Patch all the more.
Maybe I just need to get over it. After all, it’s just a story. A bit of candy in book form. At least it gets kids to turn off the TV and read.
But…is it “just a story”? Here’s a quick snippet from a book called Influencer, which looks at behavioral science research to determine what motivates people to change their behavior.
Entertainment education helps people change how they view the world through the telling of vibrant and credible stories. Told well, these vicariously created events approximate the gold standard of change—real experiences… We can use words to persuade others to come around to our way of thinking by telling a story rather than firing of a lecture… A well-told narrative…changes people’s view of how the world works because it presents a plausible, touching, and memorable flow of cause and effect that can alter people’s view of the consequences of various actions or beliefs.
Meaning? Stories matter. Lectures from parents and teachers, not so much. Stories—and the messages they carry—break through where nagging doesn’t and make a real impact.
The impact books like this and Twilight will make—are making—scares me. Not because I imagine girls will finish the book, set it down, and think to themselves “Golly gee, I’d sure like to find me an emotionally abusive boy.” The problem is they won’t think about it. They’ll get caught up in the story, which will leave an imprint on their sensibilities.
I wish this were just an irrational fear of mine. Unfortunately, research has proven this is exactly what happens. Again, from Influencer:
Concrete and vivid stories exert extraordinary influence because they transport people out of the role of critic and into the role of participant. The more poignant, vibrant, and relevant the story, the more the listener moves from thinking about the inherent arguments to experiencing every element of the tale itself. Stories don’t merely trump verbal persuasion by disproving counterarguments; stories keep the listener from offering counterarguments in the first place.
So why did this book get my dander up? Because this is the message it mainlines to girls: A boy who abuses you is hot. The reason he abuses you is he truly loves you. If you put up with the abuse long enough, he’ll prove his love to you and it will all be worth it.(less)