you want to know why there are so few historical fiction novels featuring henry viii as a first person protagonist?
because, on paper, he was kind of a...moreyou want to know why there are so few historical fiction novels featuring henry viii as a first person protagonist?
because, on paper, he was kind of a dick.
look, when you know the punchline - that he was married more times than a kardashian and that he offed two of his exes (at least), cast away two others, and was faithful to none - you have an impossible problem ahead of you.
how do you make the character charming enough to buy that six women would risk their lives to be his lover?
this book doesn't even come close.
here, henry is a spoiled brat, imbued with a hefty dose of egotism after overhearing his mom and her confessor discuss local prophecies. he, being young and fairly stupid, overhears that "york will be king", and, of course, since he is york, clearly that means he is destined for greatness.
GREATNESS, I SAY.
and he does try to say it only to get slapped pretty fucking hard by his mother.
which is, sadly, not the last time henry's overcharged ego gets him beaten by someone he shares blood ties with.
all the parental abuse and neglect doesn't take. he was born a spare that becomes the heir. and since he thinks that HE IS A KING ORDAINED BY GOD, he intends to take over the world.
or bankrupt england trying.
things do not improve as he moves through wives, children, and religion like they're pieces of a puzzle he's putting together horribly wrong.
also, he's haunted.
no, literally, by a straw-haired ghost boy who plagues him at sad moments (deaths, usually).
it all boils down to a cruel feminist joke that henry, who only takes his father's advice regarding sons, has misjudged his legacy to the wrong child.
don't bother. it rests too greatly on an unworthy protagonist who is spoiled and entitled, not clever or impressive in any other why other than his wife count. (less)
it's okay to want to date your dead boyfriend's brother isn't it?
according to this novel the best way to deal with grief is to fall in love with the decease...moreit's okay to want to date your dead boyfriend's brother isn't it?
according to this novel the best way to deal with grief is to fall in love with the deceased's kin.
and, if you make a promise, and can't keep it in life keep it in death. i will haunt you.
look, i went back and forth on this one. at the beginning, the poems were grating and amateurish but then the story picked up and i was like oh i see i can do this then. then...oh, then, gabe happened.
when gabe was a scary undead mo-fo i was pretty excited to keep reading. dead moths! creepy roses! the smell of rot and decay! hellooooooooo, gorgeous! in the back of my mind, i couldn't quite figure out how they were going to reconcile the storyline, though. gabe was friends with both nico and brooklyn. he liked lucca. why was he now haunting the crap out of lucca's former flame?
but the undead are fickle beings, right? i figured they would spin up some sort of lame but satisfactory explanation regarding lucca's death or an unfulfilled crush on brooklyn (since who doesn't have one of those in this novel), but, no, no, it was far worse.
warning: i'm going to spoil the shit out of this.
after several weeks of poor sleep, cold fingers creeping up her back, and that one time with the dead moth, brooklyn finally tires of running (figuratively, subconsciously) and confronts gabe who turns from a rotting, lesion-addled corpse-man back to...
nice, sweet, normal-looking gabe!
who tells brooklyn that...WAIT FOR IT...he promised her he would get her through lucca's death and failed in life so is now finishing the job in death.
i cannot make this up.
i'm sure the moral here is meant to be something like: we are our own worst demons...or...living is important! don't stop living! no matter how sad you are! and the parts where nico and brooklyn try to come back to life through training and banter really are very sweet.
but then you look at the bigger picture and you think "does that mean gabe killed himself to help brooklyn?" because that transcends the novel to the beyond the screwed up. especially considering lucca had the power to send his brother messages. it makes you wonder if he sent gabe some messages, too. and suddenly everything gets a real ugly spin on it.
also, you need to think about lucca. what brother in the world (or, you know, afterworld) hopes to set his living brother up with his former girlfriend? i mean...it's a bizarre spin on keeping it in the family and one that i felt made little to no sense. i understand wanting to make your family happy, but this seems a bit...excessive.
you hear that, tim and jen? I WILL HAUNT YOU.
so, there you have it. uneven, strangely written, and too-open-ended as to leave uncomfortable undertones strewn about.
i almost didn't get this book out of the library. i feel like i need to confess this, for some reason. i was embarrassed to check it out. the older, c...morei almost didn't get this book out of the library. i feel like i need to confess this, for some reason. i was embarrassed to check it out. the older, christian gentleman checking out books didn't seem exactly off-put by the title, but he wasn't recommending it wholeheartedly either, if you catch my drift (and, please, i mean no disrespect to christians, many of whom live with nothing but love and compassion in their hearts. he just happened to mention church services to me as i was waiting for him to scan my stash). i usually consider myself a liberal gal and i certainly support the cause, but i was stll embarrassed and i feel a little bit guilty about that. we may have come a long way in the last few years in terms of equality, but it doesn't make anyone immune to sensing perceived difference.
of course, i'm not the target audience for this novel in any way, shape, or form. this is a novel for teenagers. probably, more accurately, gay teenagers, but i think any teenager could learn something here, so i won't pathetically attempt to pigeonhole the text into one label.
it's written from the POV of a greek chorus of gay men, ghosts of the generation of gay man who died at the height of the AIDS epidemic. they don't chastise the reader for being of a later generation (the tony kushner gay character generation), but they do acknowledge the differences. the entire novel has the vibe of an extended "it gets better" video. these men want us to see the world for what it will be, not for what it is. to know that our lives and our actions matter, just as they hope their lives and actions did. even people like skylar. even the boys who beat up tariq. they don't apologize for those men, but they don't want tariq or ryan to wallow in anger or fear either.
the book itself is a little shaky for me. the greek chorus is a voice that often frequents tragedy and this novel works exceedingly hard to be optimistic, to impress upon the reader that the life of a young gay man matters. it matters a great deal. the decision to end the novel on that note feels a little forced, in the grand scheme of things. no life is easy, certainly not the life of a young gay man in a small town. but ending on a good moment instead of a bad one isn't the worst thing. the chorus itself is also at times incredibly powerful as a tool and then incredibly cheesy. when they're on, they will make you cry. when they're off, you notice.
still, the novel ends on a bittersweet note. a reminder that for all the steps forward we make there are many more battles to be won and lost before people like me stop feeling awkward when checking out a book about boys kissing from the public library.
until that time, i'll just end by saying that i'm very happy books like this one exist and that they're readily available for people to access. i hope that someone who needs to read this book much more than i do finds it. i hope they don't feel disgust or shame when they see the title or the cover. that they read it in good faith, even if it isn't their story.
that's about the best thing you can hope for a book, isn't it?(less)
oh, i see, when you were writing about beth with her crummy mommy and history of abuse you weren't trying to create drama or develop character. no, no....moreoh, i see, when you were writing about beth with her crummy mommy and history of abuse you weren't trying to create drama or develop character. no, no.
you were setting up a sequel.
i get that now.
i feel bad. katie mcgarry can write a decent (albeit hackneyed) story, but i feel like she is falling victim to some pretty classic blunders. 1. she is abusing dual narration like it is the only way to write a novel 2. she is trying to set up a series but in order to do so she is exploiting all the minor characters from the first novel (because EVERYONE'S life is magic and ponies and rainbows after years of struggling with drugs and abuse. and, of course, we are all the protagonists of our own special love stories).
this one is even harder to swallow if only because of beth's tragic past. i get wanting to write stories of redemption and hope for a brighter future. but kids like beth don't get these chances - convenient appearances of wealthy uncles who sweep in and rescue them. and it seems almost cruel to perpetuate the hope. to me, this novel read like "what beth would imagine for her life while serving time in prison" not "how beth learned to push down all the emotional walls she has built up in her own life and love/trust again!"
i don't know. maybe i think about these things too much.
2.5 stars. not as easily digestible as the first but still a quick read, if you're into this sort of thing.(less)
WHERE WERE ALL THESE SMOKING HOT TATTOOED BADBOYS WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL?!?!
oh, right, prison.
seriously, y'all need to calm down about this book.
lo...moreWHERE WERE ALL THESE SMOKING HOT TATTOOED BADBOYS WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL?!?!
oh, right, prison.
seriously, y'all need to calm down about this book.
look, i don't usually go in for this sort of thing, so that'll probably bias my opinion a tad here. i understand if you don't want to read this. i won't take it personally.
i didn't hate this book. i didn't love it enough to tattoo it to my back, either. so there we go. a solid 3 star effort in the realm of teen love.
let's talk about some of my problems, because i'm feeling ranty tonight.
1. dueling narrators - i just don't get this. does it offer the reader a more holistic picture? does it give the writer an additional viewpoint to play around with? make the story feel truer? i just don't understand why EVERY BOOK I READ NOW has this format. if i always wanted to be in everyone's head, i would read a play or something written in third person omniscient. YOU ARE GOING TO WEAR THIS FORMAT OUT, PEOPLE! TRUST ME!
2. "baby" - every time noah called echo "baby", i wanted to take a drink. it chafed me. bad. i'm not entirely sure why.
3. reading this reminded me a little bit of jane eyre, but not in the sense that it was a classic work of british literature. more, like, it was "okay" for echo to end up with noah because he "used" to be cool and on the side of the right, popular, and middle classed. and echo is a little "freaktastic" because of the scars that now mar her otherwise perfect body. it was very reminiscent of the end of JE when rochester and jane can finally get together because jane actually has money (and rochester has been blinded and publicly shamed by his now-dead crazy pyromaniac wife in the attic). i know they're similar yet different pasts were supposed to make their love believable but it felt creepy to me.
4. echo's "friends" are terrible. and echo is sort of horribly impressionable. "you think i'm shallow? you hide your arms still!" next day? arms uncovered! what? if my mom's murder attempt resulted in me getting cut up, i'd show or not show my arms whenever i felt like it! not because some witchy girl i was never really friends with called me out like she had any business pretending to know my life.
5. luke. oh, sweet, horny, stupid, jock luke. actually, i think he gave the truest sentence in the whole book (except he wouldn't have said it out loud, of course) when he said he could never look or touch echo's scars without flinching. that felt pretty real to me, bro.
6. i HATE parents in these things. why are they always so one-dimensional and ALWAYS a huge part of the problem? echo's dad is just horrible. and i feel for the guy, but he gets introduced as this beyond-disinterested, angry, all-business hardass and it's really hard to buy his transformation at the end. breakthrough or not.
i don't know. i don't want teens to get the idea that romantic love will save them from their bad lives. it cheapens the idea of what real love is and what real loves feels like. that said, i'll probably read at least one of the sequels.
ok, so this four star rating is based on the fact that i'm a not-so-secret sarah dessen junkie. she writes quick-paced, thoughtful yet optimistic glim...moreok, so this four star rating is based on the fact that i'm a not-so-secret sarah dessen junkie. she writes quick-paced, thoughtful yet optimistic glimpses of life at transitional moments, and i respect that. yes, she tends to be slightly formulaic but i've forgiven her for that because her books are generally enjoyable.
here, it's the story of emaline. this happens to be the second novel i've read about teen pregnancy in 24 hours. completely unintentional, i assure you. not emaline's, her mother's. what i've learned from literature? fictional daughters of teen mothers have it really rough.
first, emaline is a townie. she gets into columbia, which her father (not dad) encourages her to apply to, but later cannot finance the expensive education he promised. ok, if we don't think about this too much, it works. emaline suggests that her father comes from money, that his elderly aunt has died and left him beachfront property. i'm not entirely convinced a divorce is enough to crush that promise but, whatever, i'll allow it.
if dessen has one failing, it is in the villainy department. emaline's father is a bit...one-dimensional, which i suspect is intentional as emaline never really knows him beyond their email correspondence. but in depicting the father as a man of ego and self-centeredness, she doesn't really give the reader any more insight other than "he's going through a divorce" or "he's spoiled because he's SOOOOO rich but not really because he can't afford to send his biological kid to college". he's totally unlikable and, consequently, the character you end up feeling the most sympathy for in 10-year-old benji.
that's a problem when emaline is the shining star here.
and, really, i'm just kind of tired of parents being the bad guys because teens just don't understand, yo.
i also really didn't love rebound-man theo at all. from his "girl jeans" to his hipster sneakers (which i thought meant converse, but probably not), he just never was appealing to me. and i didn't get why emaline liked him, other than she was "going through some big things" and he became an easy distraction. his insistence on giving everything a superlative was just ridiculous and he made quasi-philandering luke seem to much better by comparison.
although, to give luke credit, if i caught my SO out late at night with another man after she ignored my texts all day, i'd be pretty cranky, too.
i don't know.
the end also felt VERY fast (after 350 pages or so). all of a sudden emaline is friends with ivy! and helping put together the world's quickest party/art show! and luckily she has all these amazing connections/friends to help! but then benji goes missing! and she puts her dad in his place! and luke helps!
i don't know. it was enjoyable, but felt a bit...rushed. like dessen realized what page she was at and oh-fucked her way to the finish line.
still, 3.5 stars. a really nice beach read full of just enough drama to make me fully appreciate my break from high school.(less)
but i could also just tell you that ed is a star CO-captain of the basketball team who likes generic po...morei can tell you EXACTLY why ed and min broke up.
but i could also just tell you that ed is a star CO-captain of the basketball team who likes generic popular music and bad beer and min is a nice jewish girl who loves old movies, fine liqueur, and ironic holidays and you could probably make a safe enough prediction on your own.
look, i'm all for star-crossed teenaged love and whatnot but i hate a cheesy gimmick. and this book is one giant gimmick.
it's "Thirteen Reasons Why" without the suicide.
rather than struggle with difficult emotional content, it has cartoony pictures. because soured love is like a bad gouache painting. that much they got right.
"why we broke up" starts with a thunk. a box of relationship shrapnel thrown symbolically on the frontstep of the heartbroken ex-hero of min's ex-dreams.
the novel's biggest problem, aside from its characters' inability to emotionally connect with its premise, is that its lead isn't particularly likable.
min is precocious. she's obsessed with pretentious old films and oscillates between being described as "arty" and "different."
i really didn't like her.
she's oblivious - she misses the fact that her BFF is totes in love with her, a fact not lost on her otherwise oblivious but still oh so amazing new boyfriend ed.
can we just agree that if any normal woman was going to write a several hundred paged opus to our exboyfriends about why we hate them so much now that we would try to fit our characterization as "smart" or "arty" or "different" and not use the phrase "and whatnot" even ironically?
can we please just all agree on that?
and, yes, i realize that i've already used it in this review, but, can we all just acknowledge that perhaps i really understand irony and was doing it to make a point?
she also describes her heartache in grandiose poetic terms that feel so entirely disingenuous they're laughable. shit like "this was the snowflake on the frozen eyelid of a frost giant whose broken heart left ice shards of pain that pierced the soul of the rose that was our love". i'm being hyperbolic here for dramatic purpose. but you get the point.
also, the things min keeps in her tragic reliquary of her unanointed love are just...weird. there, i said it. a towel from the time ed's broken sister made onion rings for her jerk brother and then kicked min out so that joan could have a serious talk about the relationship she didn't approve of for whatever reason? ok. that box must smell good. some things i got. like ticket stubs or letters. but condom wrappers? that's just gross.
although, i suppose less gross than keeping the condom, if i want to be fair about it.
look, min is naive and romantic and living in a world where she is the director of her own life. again, it's like madame bovary, without the suicide.
and ed...ed is a teenaged boy. like most pubescent boys of the athletic persuasion, he dabbles in homophobia. he also abuses the phrase "no offense" and has terrible taste in jewelry. that's probably the most authentic feeling stuff in the whole book.
there's a whole subplot with ed's exes (of which, well, there are many). but here's a general good rule of thumb that predominantly applies to murder mysteries but certainly can be applied in other genres as well: if someone is generally "too helpful" - by which i mean they seem overly nice or generous with time, sympathy, advice, or help - they're trouble.
someone who watches as many old movies as min purports to would DEFINITELY be aware of that trope.
two stars - it wasn't life-changing or emotionally effective, more cutesy and gimmicky. no one is particularly likable, but mostly because they're too static to really explode into anything other than the realm of the blah.
it really, really frustrates me when books feel dated and therefore ineffectual.
originally published in 1982, [The Secret Window] needed some heavy l...moreit really, really frustrates me when books feel dated and therefore ineffectual.
originally published in 1982, [The Secret Window] needed some heavy lovin' for its latest printing in the 90s. but sadly here is no way that betty ren wright edited this book in 1991. i'm sorry, it's just not possible. at a very pivotal moment, the teen protagonist attends a boy-girl party and smells something sweet in the air. she, bewildered and upset, queries, "is that grass???"
no wonder this girl doesn't go to the cool kid parties more often.
look, i'm not into drugs and i am deeply opposed to our nation's youths partying like cast-offs from "dazed and confused" BUT if you are going to write about drug-addled teenagers, please, please, please get the slang right. i had this violent flashback to high school when i asked my father if i could go to a club with some of my friends. he said i could on the condition that if any of them were "smoking dope" that i needed to call him for a ride.
yeah, he lost me at "dope"...
of course, this is only a small part of the failings of this book. the protagonist meg is a mousy little do-gooder wrapped up in a bottle of precocious second sight. she has dreams, dreams that come true! her horrible friend gracie is constantly trying to be one of the "cool kids" but she stinks. she mocks her teacher and gets meggiepants in trouble. at the aforementioned boy-girl-grass .party, she freaks out thinking that meg blew the proverbial whistle and called the cops. she doesn't seem to realize that meg, for some inexplicable reason, refuses to get her friend in any kind of trouble at all.
even though she's AWFUL.
the end culminates predictably in meg using her gift to save her awful friend even though her friend barely acknowledges it and their friendship is severed forever by their lack of commonalities.
it's an okay book; betty ren wright is good at creating broken and dysfunctional families, but she writes them with such venom and anger that you feel like 1. either she herself is badly broken and angry or 2. she only writes in cartoon extremes.
you know, as happy as a book about sexual abuse can be.
sexual abuse is not an easy subject to write about, nor is it easy easy to read about. it's compounded when the abuse is perpetrated by a parent of the victim, as it is here.
i feel weird reading these novels - i understand that the point of literature isn't always to be easy, breezy, and readily digestible. heck, it doesn't even have to be enjoyable. but it should have a point.
i can't imagine this book provides consolation to those who suffer from the same issues - the aforementioned happy conclusion isn't particularly realistic. while it might be a fantasy for some, it seems cruel to champion the self-imposed heroism of the underaged protagonist here.
the point also doesn't seem to be to expose the failings of the american judicial system in persecuting sex offenders, since the indictment is really on merideth's parents here, not the courts who failed her second.
so, then, what's left? it's not to share her story, nor is it to raise awareness. instead, it makes the reader angry and uncomfortable and then ties it all up nice and neatly with a cute, happy little bow as if to say "we're on our way to healing now."
that seemed to be the cruelest blow of all.
still, it's an engrossing, difficult read. good, but not exceptional.(less)
oh, mary downing hahn. i think you're going to try to scare me, but really, you're in your groove best when you're sad.
and this, my friends, is sad.
pr...moreoh, mary downing hahn. i think you're going to try to scare me, but really, you're in your groove best when you're sad.
and this, my friends, is sad.
protagonist: ashley, age 10 going on 11, lost her father recently to cancer, mom is a phd candidate with little income setting: creepy miss cooper's apartment of horrors, replete with decrepit garden, ghost cats, and the dulcet tones of a dead little girl's weeping bff: kristi, obnoxious seven-year-old sidekick with doll-separation anxiety plot: ashley attempts to get over the loss of her father by seeking to reunite a dead girl with her long-lost doll, purloined by the evil miss cooper only days before her death. hijinx ensue.
while this book certainly lacks in the grand scheme of little kid horror, it makes up for providing kids with an outlet for grief and explaining to them that nothing they did was wrong or caused the person to suffer. got me a little misty around the edges, if i do say so myself. (less)
it appears, sadly, that jay asher is cursed with truly fascinating ideas but shitty follow through.
the premise here is sort of spectacular: two teens...moreit appears, sadly, that jay asher is cursed with truly fascinating ideas but shitty follow through.
the premise here is sort of spectacular: two teens in 1996 are miraculously granted access to their Facebook pages fifteen years in the future for one crazy week at the end of their junior year in high school.
that's got potential.
but instead of it being a compelling study about learning how to be better people who don't necessarily post everything about their lives on the net ("Emma is wondering where her husband is - he's been gone for three days!") to learning how to date the people they want to be dating.
it takes these crazy boy-girl next door-ers 16+ years (and one very, very long week) to figure out that they're, like, so totally meant to be. actually, scratch that. it takes emma, like, one week and one totally hot senior with big breasts to hit on josh for her to figure out that josh is all the man she could ever possibly want or need.
for right now.
the universe opens up a mystical portal of information that permits its viewer a glimpse into the future and it is solely for the purpose of getting two high schoolers together?
look, i get it. it's "deeper" than that. it's about emma learning to open up that frigid little heart of hers and let people in. it's about josh not doing what his mom and dad tell him to. or his brother. and finding out what he really, really, super-especially wants out of life.
because at 16/17 that's a completely realistic expectation.
i guess it doesn't particularly surprise me that the teenaged characters gravitate to the superficial drivel in their lives - "oh, look, babies!" "hey! i'm married to the hottest girl in the world! score!" - what surprises me is that this is all the book seems to be about.
and what about the supporting cast? we get flimsy glimpses into the home lives of these kids, and those dynamics could have been far more engaging, you know, had they not been so one-noted. emma's mom is a marital nightmare, latching herself onto man after man after her divorce. emma's dad has a new wife, a new baby, and, presumably, a new life in florida, away from his daughter and her baggage. josh's brother is, apparently, gay, but denying it. at least in the present. in the future he's out and proud. of course, he's the one that tells josh that he needs to figure out what he wants and go after it, everyone else be damned. coming from a closeted man, the advice fails to deliver quite a punch.
and, also, if josh is a "go with the flow" type of guy, when his brother tells him to do this thing, isn't he just going with his brother's flow, so to speak? blech.
josh's parents are the most awful of the group, monitoring his life like some weird parental KGB. they won't let him have internet, he has to give his AOL CD to emma in order for them to use it. when he shows up late to school, they call school and have a message delivered to him that he must stop by after classes so that they can lecture him appropriately about his slacker attitude.
it seemingly has nothing to do with his affection for tony hawk and everything to do with their neurotic need to control him.
and that's it. there's no real resolution there at all. they're just terrible people who crush their sons' spirits. great.
but the biggest affront, fictionally speaking, is the kellan subplot. at some point, early in the week, emma gets it into her head that Facebook allows her to stalk everyone, not just herself, and she catches the fact that her bff gets pregnant in high school. there's no real confirmation either way as far as the text goes, just emma's blatant attempts at teaching her friend good birth control in the hopes she doesn't get knocked up in the back of someone's truck at the big senior bonfire.
yeah, that's really where this thing culminates.
i could also write a novel about the gratuitous cultural references that permeate the text. anyone who quotes DMB is not a friend of mine. and "crash into me" is nausea-inducing. the fact that emma salivates for "dave" makes me hate her even more.
although, admittedly, it does explain a lot about her personal failings, in some ways.
i don't know.
it's really not a bad book, it's just not a very good book either. i expected more from asher, whose 13 Reasons Why was poignant if a little imperfect.
this novel feels as hollow as a facebook status, a glimpse into a future that speaks more of the shallowness of humanity than the reality of the present, text that lacks both sufficient backstory and conclusion and one that forbids its reader to fully engage with its reader in any truly meaningful way. (less)
you know what's awkward? reading a book having no clue what the premise is, getting to chapter two and finding yourself temporarily baffled until you...moreyou know what's awkward? reading a book having no clue what the premise is, getting to chapter two and finding yourself temporarily baffled until you read the inside flap.
1. tiny cooper - ultimately, this book succeeds (in the grand scale of "good" vs. "crap") because of tiny cooper and his vision of a fantabulous musical ("tiny dancer", then "hold me closer"). i loved tiny. he was huge, and totally unbelievable. sort of like a more athletic damien from "mean girls" - a leviathan gay teen, trapped being too valuable as a jock to suffer the slings and arrows of gay teen fortune and being too large and in charge to enjoy the fruits of being an adorable gay teen. he's amazing, particularly his last moments and you realize the novel isn't about will grayson or the other will grayson. it's about tiny. oh, is it ever about tiny. 2. split-narrative: i like this ploy in theory, although feel it didn't quite come to fruition as neatly as i wanted it to. there were times when i really wanted one story, not the other to be in the forefront and it would irk me to no end when it was the other will's turn. blech. but still, it's a cute concept.
the other will grayson: 1. the other will grayson: i love tiny and i love his bf will, but the other will grayson was prickly and standoffish and not my favorite person. particularly since he slams teachers like he knows what the hell he's talking about. and, yeah, he's deliberately crafted to sound, act, and think like a teen (which, i guess, is effective), but nothing he does feels authentic to me. 2. inability to suspend disbelief - there are far too moments here that feel less than genuine. the musical is a great example - even though i enjoyed it (particularly the unscripted scripted moment at the end with a certain figure in certain silver pants), it's impossible to swallow as plausible in the grand scheme of things. 3. maura - what. a. bitch. 4. rush, rush, hurry, hurry, love a-come-to-me: paula abdul had a song about this crap. and it sucked, too. the love stories here feel rushed to get all the pieces in place for the whole tiny cooper musical palooza thing and it just felt hollow. i thought it was supposed to be about the love story, no? and maybe it is, but in a different sense of the word? regardless, i just didn't feel like they did due diligence to establishing the relationships enough to make anyone feel human enough to care about.
i love mary downing hahn for creating my most favorite childhood book wait till helen comes and was hoping to begin gathering some of her other effort...morei love mary downing hahn for creating my most favorite childhood book wait till helen comes and was hoping to begin gathering some of her other efforts for fiona's library, but this one is just disappointing.
there is nothing new under the sun, but there is at least some effort, usually, in masking it. here, we have the story of florence, an orphan, saved from her tedious fate at mrs. medleycoate's school for unfortunate children by a long-lost uncle. she, predictably, comes from wealth, goes to live in a huge estate in the country, with her aunt, her uncle, her pale and sickly cousin who spends all of his time lying in bed, not to be visited by the more actively living, and the ghost of her other cousin sophia.
this novel is not nearly as creepy as it needs to be, nor is it as engaging. flo-rida is about as charming as a pair of white socks. she's precocious, mrs. medleycoate's orphanage seemingly stocked to the brim with most of the time's most potent classics (including Pride and Prejudice and Great Expectations which Flo has read several times each).
i'll say it again...
for someone who reads as much as she claims to, flo lacks imagination and drive, finding herself a willing participant in sophia's evil post-death schemes to kill her brother and live again.
the end just sort of...ends...i can't explain it. the evil aunt moves off to live in another place, away from the painful memories of the sophia who never really existed but on whom she endlessly doted and away from the living child she can't bear to look at in sophia's stead. blech. sophia lingers on, not really showing herself for the last 20 pages, leaving the reader with the vague impression (particularly in the last scene) that she's biding her time, regrouping for her next all out assault on the duo of flo and jamie.
you know what sucks? when you're about 150 pages into a novel and you get that funky deja-vu-y sort of vibe about it. or, more specifically, when you'...moreyou know what sucks? when you're about 150 pages into a novel and you get that funky deja-vu-y sort of vibe about it. or, more specifically, when you've had that deja-vu vibe for 150 pages or so and then you realize you've read it before.
yeah, that old chestnut.
you know what's worse? when you remember actively making the decision to stop reading a book, but then, upon accidentally rereading it, realize you've gone past the point of no return and now you have no choice but to see how this badboy plays out.
just so you know, i'm most likely going to spoil this one.
right, so Catalyst begins like most other laurie halse anderson novels - with a girl, angsty, and prone to teenaged histrionics. our heroine is kate, the preacher's daughter, a science nerd bent on getting into MIT. so bent that she's decided to ONLY apply to MIT.
apparently, the mathematical side of science is not the compelling part for kate; those odds are terrible.
anyways, kate hasn't heard and she's stressed - like half-crazed, running at night, insomnia stressed. she is overcompensating for losing her mother at a young age by trying to become her mother (who did go to and graduate from MIT). she views life as a series of chemical reactions and equations and monitors her little brother's cough as if he's one of her on-going lab experiments. her father, a man of god, seems like a foreign entity to her, a girl who has actively chosen to define her life in terms of the rational and explainable. and, predictably, she hasn't clued him into her plan of only applying to one school.
because that's totally healthy.
around this point, i'm thinking: huh? this whole book can't be all about how this girl didn't get into MIT and goes more crazy, right? because that would be kind of lame.
teri is a beefy senior girl who is sort of depicted as a cross between a lumberjack, a biker babe, and cletus the slack-jawed yokel. we learn her pathetic backstory: teri got really fat in 9th grade, then she got thin (or thinner, muscular, like a female boxer). now she beats up football players and steals watches. or something.
ok, so teri is important.
long story short, teri's house burns down and teri and her two-year-old brother come to stay at the preacher's house, as teri's mom has a weak heart and her father went to prison and died (maybe in that order?). can you see where this is going?
teri and kate have what can best be described as a fond mutual loathing for one another. kate uses teri's tragedy to deflect her father's questioning about her post-high school career when she does, in fact, get rejected from MIT. kate also starts to tolerate teri by attaching herself to the adorable little brother mikey and working on rebuilding teri's charred home. things are looking up (we even get a nifty little glimpse of that melinda girl from that other laurie halse anderson book - she's still hangin' with mr. freeman, working on her art therapy, getting down with her good self, if anyone's curious).
then, we get halse andersoned.
mikey goes missing! terror sets in! people start searching desperately. and i remember why i stopped reading.
(REALLY BIG SPOILER)
mikey dies. he gets electrocuted. i think i was pregnant at the time i was reading this and that's why i put it down way back when. i wish i had remembered that.
the rest of the story is just...awkward. mikey isn't teri's brother; he's her son. and her criminal dad was the father. absolutely no surprises there, of course. what is truly uncomfortable is how the motherless kate and the childless teri leach onto one another on their individual paths of self-destruction.
with about twenty pages left, i was wondering how the hell we were going to sordino ourselves out of this janitor's closet of a mess.
it isn't pretty. and it isn't particularly satisfactory. there is no real closure, just promises made in moments of severe vulnerability.
i am very torn between 2 and 3 stars here - it's been a long time since i've felt this emotionally manipulated by a book and i'm attempting to determi...morei am very torn between 2 and 3 stars here - it's been a long time since i've felt this emotionally manipulated by a book and i'm attempting to determine whether or not i like the concept enough to forgive it for that.
heavenly: 1. the afterlife - i'm prone to bouts of morbid rumination and i oft like to imagine the possibility of an afterlife that ends in reincarnation (a second chance! woot!) of course, with all the hate and violence in the world, maybe one life isn't so bad after all...this version is an interesting concept - death is a pleasure cruise to the isle of elsewhere, where people get younger until they are swaddled up and rebirthed. it's a lot of coming to grips with one's death and grieving life while preparing for another go at it in another body (sort of like a reincarnation-themed the lovely bones...without the pedophilia). it was interesting, but i'm not sure if it was entirely necessary. 2. liz - the book ultimately succeeds because you want to see liz heal. of course, her treatment can be highly superficial at times, but ultimately you're affected because you care about her. 3. aldous - hands down my favorite character in this thing. liz's afterlife advisor aldous ghent is by far the most lovable character. he was a former teacher, he likes shakespeare, and he cries. loved him.
infernal: 1. inconsistencies in the afterlife - okay, i get that it is difficult to create your own version of what happens when we die, particularly if you want to give a new world version. but things in elsewhere don't really make sense - first, there's the younging. at some point, you revert to your more infantile states, lose teeth and hair and all that jazz. that's cool. except, who takes care of all these meandering babies? why is dolly always the one to ship them off to the earth? how come they're sent off like moses to float on the waves until they reach the earth? and while we're on the subject of earth, we hear endlessly about aclimation and how crucial it is for the recently deceased to move on from their life and to immerse themselves in the afterlife. great, so why the hell do they have the poorly named OD (observation desk), the place where newbies often get addicted to watching their old lives progress without them. and what about the well? huh? so whoever designs elsewhere but then ALSO creates a well where they can talk to the living BUT they're discouraged highly from using it??? i just don't get it. the worst (and most uncomfortable) has to be the idea of finding true love in elsewhere. because you get younger. so if you fall in love, you become babies with the person you love. um...what??? that's not weird at all. noooo. the fact that owen is physically close in age to liz helps hide the fact that he's like 10-15 years her senior mentally, but it still doesn't feel entirely kosher. particularly when she's nine. 2. the names - oh my good christ. okay, the names are mostly just terrible. there's the overtly cutesy "owen welles" (o. welles! or the vague similarity to orson welles, i suppose) and curtis jest (i kept saying "jesus christ" - he's a kurt cobain-esque musician, from what i could glean). bllleeeccccchhhh. don't even get me started on the stereotypical thandie, shot dead in the head on the same day as liz. 3. the pbs animal kingdom narration vibe - this device worked in the film version of little children but here it's just off-putting and forces a sense of detachment. it's like we're studying/following liz as she traverses the scary road to the afterlife (which really just seems like a tropical paradise where you can wear pajamas, take showers, and celebrate thanksgiving). i don't know if the intention was to make it less personal so that when the book rushes to its ultimate conclusion you're like oh, okay, i see what you did there, or what - but it makes it difficult to feel connected to the characters in any way that feels meaningful. i felt like i was supposed to be studying them or something. odd, that. 4. rushin', rushin', rushin' to the end - so we spend pages developing (sort of) the love between owen and liz only to spend like 37 pages with the next 15.5 years or so. what? it's like zevin realized how awkward it would be to spell out a love affair between someone who is not even 16 and someone who is physically 17 or 18 but mentally in his 26. particularly when they are getting younger. so instead, she switches focus to the process of younging and rebirth, but it doesn't seem to flow with the predominant narrative. while the book wants to be about grieving and coming to terms with death, it also wants to be a love story and a life story (or death story) and it just can't handle both gracefully. 5. talking dogs - seriously, wtf?
i'm sticking with three for now, but barely.(less)
this book is terrible AND i loved it. so there, world!
let's start with the obvious: the title.
it's dumb. like stupid-dumb. and the girl on the cover...morethis book is terrible AND i loved it. so there, world!
let's start with the obvious: the title.
it's dumb. like stupid-dumb. and the girl on the cover, veiled mysteriously in a curtain, making her look like a demented bride or elaborate victorian doily, isn't doing the book any favors. other than this: when you see it, you need to pick it up and say, "what's this about then?" and then you read it. because it looks awful.
does that make any sense at all?
of course, then there is the plot, which, at its best, is like a rip-off of every teen flick, ghost flick, and ro-co flick out there. we've got alexis, with her pink hair and devil may care approach to education, friendships, and boys. she, of course, is a photographer (artistic, not pretentious), she is in constant trouble with school admin for skipping what she perceives to be unnecessary classes in school spirit, and she hates the cheerleaders. she's got a pesky, socially awkward little sister kasey who collects dolls, a love interest with formerly suicidal tendencies and the amazing physical similarity to a lanky cherubin, oh, and an evil spirit haunting her mishmashed gothic house of terror.
you know, that old chestnut.
there's a whole lot of action as the ghost possesses the weak-willed kasey and proceeds to use her body to steal genealogy projects (which are surprisingly thorough for middle schoolers), cut wires in cars, and make things go bump in the night. or the day. or whenever. there are good spirits, bad ones, charms, and avenging cheerleaders. there's also the prom, pyrotechnics, and psychotherapy...oh, and a girl named pepper.
did i mention this book was awesome?
so, here's the deal. in terms of its utter ridiculousness, of its willingness to embrace how cliched and awful it is, of its ability to be entertaining regardless of its content, i'd give this book 5 stars easily. i would. but because it's trite, and jam-packed with too many plot points (photos, teenaged rebellion, the doom squad, the repressed town culture/forbidden library books, the awkward sister, the bad mother who works so much that she is never around to actually mother, the father who spends most of the book in the hospital after a car accident, the cheerleaders, the boyfriend's sordid past, the ghost herself, the other ghost, megan's backstory, megan's grandmother, the fact that the novel is pretty much a ghost-themed ripoff of "footloose," etc. etc. etc) that never get appropriately resolved, and reeks of regurgitated ideas, the english teacher in me would give it one.
so, let's split the difference. totally a guilty pleasure and totally reading the second one!(less)
ok, can we all agree on one crucial point before i commence: proms suck. they do. they're a lot of build up and hype and flash and glitter, but there'...moreok, can we all agree on one crucial point before i commence: proms suck. they do. they're a lot of build up and hype and flash and glitter, but there's always puke or some girl crying her eyes out in the bathroom or some kid who gets wasted or brings drugs or breaks up with his girlfriend for a freshman. it's the acme of high school drama. with high heels. so, should we really expect that much from a book of the same name?
prom is the story of "ash" - a "normal" kid. you know, normal, right? it means "no extras poor", a perennially pregnant mom, an astronomic number of detentions to make up, a class cut or six a week, a math teacher who steals all your prom funds, a lot of "yo"-ing, a dad who bastardizes the story of cinderella for his little boy at bedtime, a loser boyfriend who reeks of wannabe felon and who wants you to move into a hovel with him and work at a "chuck e. cheese" ripoff full-time to help support his pot habit...oh, and a couple of bffs who are, like, totally obsessed with prom.
this is not my normal.
my normal consisted of honors and AP classes, of playing designated driver, of collecting a weird assortment of friends with mixed feelings about prom, of working at a video store, of having one older sister who is smarter than me, and of living in "camelot" (a collection of streets named after the who's who of arthurian legend). when i drop a "yo" people look at me funny.
and you know what? when "ash" does it? i looked at her funny, too.
i don't know. i wanted to like this one. it's cute, in a "cinderella loathes school/prom/her future but uses her prom management skills as a catalyst for changing her life and getting more than just knocked up and welfare out of it" kinda way. but it's a bit...i don't know...hokey?
when i think laurie halse anderson, i think tortured adolescence, sordid secrets, anger, emotional distress, turkey bone sculptures, anorexia, and pain.
not pink gossamer gowns and sparkly shoes.
that cinderella shit just isn't her.
what we have here is if the marthas (from Speak were like younger, post-prison versions of martha stewart. they're hyper-organized, hyper-stressed, and hyper-prom-centric. and they're not afraid to cut a bitch.
you know what i mean?
3 stars - let's just say it lives up to its namesake.(less)
what i learned from this book / promises to my daughters, who are far too young to read this review and far too smart to ever misread ethan frome:
1. r...morewhat i learned from this book / promises to my daughters, who are far too young to read this review and far too smart to ever misread ethan frome:
1. repression is not the answer. i will not move to idaho and sell vitamin-infused drinks. i will not marry a man who is as weak-spirited as i am and i will not let either one of us convince the other that accepting a blond jesus as our personal lord and savior is the answer to loving and fulfilling life. i will not accept self-help gurus as my personal lord and savior. i will not put the responsibility of my personal happiness on anyone else and i will not selfishly cast aside the ones i love in order to find myself. oh hell to the no.
2. i will not read a book written by aforementioned self-help guru, move to utah, learn how to rock climb, abandon my daughter(s) in her junior year, just as she begins the most important romantic relationship of her still-young life.
3. if my best friend ever calls me and informs me that she plans on blowing up a poodle, i will act quickly and decisively.
4. i will never let my daughters date anyone whose last name is also a holiday.
5. i will let my mother buy the girls proper underwear and shoes that fit, if i feel that i am somehow incapable of handling such a task myself.
6. if my daughter tells me that she is planning on spending the day working on a research paper about an obscure explorer who drowned for the third time in one year, i will ground her ass, knowing full well this is code for "i'm off to lose my virginity."
7. i will not let my daughters misinterpret any great work of literature as "this is a sign from above that i should have sex! now!" because that, i'm sorry, is just stupid.
8. when having "the talk" with my girls, i will reiterate that solid relationships cannot be founded on lies. and that there's nothing shameful about drinking apple juice and being a total spazz.
9. i will get trained on how to deal with both aggressive and defensive bears in the wilderness. just in case.
10. i will not be a crazy bitch. i will NEVER suggest that we "blow up" someone who has hurt our feelings/blown up our stuffed poodle with a firecracker and then spell out the word PRETEND so that the other people in the room don't think i'm homicidal. i will not push my kids down a hill in a sled so that they are forced to come to grips with their bad decision making and confront literally their mistaken metaphoric reading of "Ethan Frome". i will not leave my girls home alone on any major holidays and i will not confuse playing "Password" as foreplay.
11. if i ever write a book, i will not leave it open-ended and inconclusive so that the reader can choose the ending they see fit. in their heads. because that shit will not fly. no, no, it will not fly.
a non-scary r.l. stine? (by which, of course, i mean non-horror; it's actually sort of terrifying that stine is capable of drivel like this book)...morewhoa.
a non-scary r.l. stine? (by which, of course, i mean non-horror; it's actually sort of terrifying that stine is capable of drivel like this book)
the premise here is fairly banal: typical bored teenaged girl gets marciabrady eyes for another boy who is not her boyfriend (the titular ernie), she decides to break up with the super-obnoxious ernie to date said-beau, ernie follows her around like a diseased puppy, she cringes internally and externally, ernie gets a new galpal, suddenly ernie seems super-compelling and dreamboat-fantastic again.
seriously, that's the plot.
it's a lot of angst, whining, and stereotyping for one book. stine should stick to the goosebumping.(less)
I do not like John Smith, or Four. I do not like James Frey as Lore. I do not want to read his fiction. I've no respect for his diction. I won't watch him...moreI do not like John Smith, or Four. I do not like James Frey as Lore. I do not want to read his fiction. I've no respect for his diction. I won't watch him on Oprah's show I won't buy his books, oh, no, no!
Glowing gams, pendants, charms Circular scars on legs, not arms Super strength, endurance, and speed What color do Loriens bleed? Telekinesis and lumen? That Johnny Smith is no human! Mogadorians, stupid stuff. Plot development...kind of rough. Loric chests full of salty rock Overplayed side-plot with a jock Bernie Kosar is no beagle. Hart and Smith are barely legal.
Are you Number Four or not? Scouts on John's trail are getting hot. Hart and Goode are pathetic names. This novel is no "Hunger Games." Fall from Paradise? Tritely done. Battle for Lorics? Hardly won.
I do not like "I am Number Four" I will not read them anymore. (less)
i couldn't ignore vera dietz. but i'm not sure whether i should have tried harder to.
the premise is incredibly compelling: vera, fresh off the death o...morei couldn't ignore vera dietz. but i'm not sure whether i should have tried harder to.
the premise is incredibly compelling: vera, fresh off the death of her former best friend, struggles to carry on her life and become a productive member of society.
pagodas and pizzas: 1. vera and charlie: i've said this before and i'll say it again. the strength of most YA fiction resides in the nature of the relationship between the protag and their closest counterpart (the peeta and katniss phenomenon). here, it's vera and charlie, whose formerly close relationship has been compromised by the unfortunately named jenny flick (rip off of Election? maybe her evil, drugged out little sister?). the tension here is palpable (even though charlie only appears in flashback or ghost-form and there is no cheesy "Far and Away"-esque resurrection to worry about). 2. father and daughters: too often, i think that parental relationships appear adversarial in YA fiction. yes, ken and vera have their issues (mom left for las vegas, didn't take either of them, has a new life, and is happier for it), but neither is so fundamentally broken and neither feels cartoonish in their depiction. these are people trying their best to unbreak themselves. when they finally start leaning on one another for real support, the novel thrives.
underaged drinking: 1. gimmicky: the four person split-narration was helpful in some aspects (and engaging), but then there was the voice of the seemingly omniscient pagoda. i just couldn't buy into it. and lord knows how i tried. 2. plot like an afterschool special. or six. what didn't happen to vera? teen bullying, teen drinking, alcoholism, sexual misadventures, pedophilia, skinheads, physical/domestic abuse, death, teen sex, drugs, and rock and roll. it was too much. life is full of drama, do we really have to augment that with all the sparkly excesses of degenerate living? 3. jenny: she is a vile antagonist who doesn't get nearly what's coming to her. the dissatisfaction the reader experiences as a result of that cannot be expressed in words. only in star power. 4. the end: it's a little too hokey. i don't know. i wanted more, i guess.(less)
Imaginary Girls feels both supernatural and contemporary, a fusion of magic and realism that haunts while it entice...moreoh man. what a weird little book...
Imaginary Girls feels both supernatural and contemporary, a fusion of magic and realism that haunts while it entices. i was hooked from the beginning - the images of chloe swimming into the murky waters, the cold fingers of the resevoir people gripping at her feet - propelling me forward. ruby lurks in the background then, a strong voice, full of promise and possession. as a younger sister myself, it was easy for me to see how chloe could idealize this enigmatic young woman who seems to create a new world for her sister, who seems to control those she meets, who seems to love her sister above anyone else. what i battled with was ruby herself whose motivations never felt entirely altruistic, who seemed to need her sister more than life itself for reasons that were never made clear. yes, their mother was useless and yes, their fathers were gone, but that felt like a hollow explanation for a connection that was meant to be much closer and darker.
i struggled with the rating on this one. the writing is excellent, like a convoluted and bad dream that never relents in its creepiness but fails to ever deliver any real scares. i don't know...i guess i just wanted more. more answers, more finality, more hope. chloe is a ghost of girl, possessed by a sister who feels, at times, simultaneously cruel and deluded in her machinations.
aside from the failure to ever fully develop the resevoir/olive people (aside from one scene involving backstory), the subplots involving chloe's adolecent attempts at adulthood via sexual exploration with unworthy men felt woefully underdeveloped. it never felt clear why chloe approached her behavior with such seeming detachment and it never resonated why ruby reacted so menacingly toward those suitors. yes, i know that owen's treatment of chloe was a bit harsh, but ruby's retribution makes her seem less magical and more maniacal.
but maybe that's the point. maybe that's what her involvement with the resevoir people has done to her. i'm not sure. and it's in those grey moments where the book ultimately succeeds the most. the reader is left to fill in the blanks between truth and reality, between magic and monster, between sister and sinner.
so, i did actually write a review of this one. and now...it's gone, slipped into the ether, a lost moment.
Hate List is a new take on an old tale...moreso, i did actually write a review of this one. and now...it's gone, slipped into the ether, a lost moment.
Hate List is a new take on an old tale (and by "old" i mean like my high school history teacher not like ovid). brown explores the issues of bullying and teen violence (as sensationalized by recent school shootings), but, rather than focus on either 1. the victims or 2. the shooter, brown aligns her story with valerie, the shooter's girlfriend who was shot herself when trying to save a fellow classmate.
there's a lot of grey area here. like Monster and After we see the too-adult struggle of a teen protag whose maturity and integrity is linked to their willingness to accept personal responsibility for their poor decisions. of the three novels, i think the question of guilt is most clear here. val feels guilty because she was too blinded by angsty teen love to see who nick (her school-shooting boyfriend) really was. maybe it's denial, maybe it's delusion. whatever. she didn't know what he was planning, but she has unresolved issues regarding his actions.
1. a new spin: this thing could have been a trite examination of the bullying phenomenon but instead it's thought-provoking and complicated. while val blames herself for her role in creating the titular "hate list", can we really blame her for channeling her emotions towards her tormentors into something visually concrete? she learns to do it in a more healthy way (via painting and art), but how can we fault her for a coping mechanism glorified in a lindsay lohan movie? 2. pacing: i couldn't put it down. once i got into the story, i wanted to see it through to the end. 3. characters that make you mad: once upon a time, i went to college and wrote in a personal reflection journal all about my deep-loathing of melville's "bartleby the scrivener"...i said bartleby's passivity made me so angry that i wanted to throw the book (or, you know, DID throw the book) and my aged jesuit professor pointed out that if melville could create a character worthy of such venom, isn't that something to consider and maybe even applaud? back then, i thought the guy was nuts. now, in my old age, i see what he was talking about. i HATED val's parents. but my hatred made me want to see the resolution of their plotlines. for me, that's a positive.
my hate list: 1. nick: i get it. he's the romeo to her juliet. but he was thinking literally and she wasn't. i don't know. i never understood what she saw in him. yes, he was smart, yes, he liked shakespeare. but he was also violent and flirted with other girls and wasn't always there. of course, there's so much about teen love i don't get, but he just never seemed worthy. human, yes. worthy, never. 2. guilt: i get it. val feels guilty, and that guilt makes her selfish and introverted. but people keep pointing it out. or forgetting that this girl took a bullet for someone on her list. for me, it was a bit heavy-handed. 3. val's leg: okay, so, i'm all for symbolism. i am. but the whole "leg is a symbol for guilt/isolation/resentment" thang bugged me. too obvious. also, i was about to create a drinking game where everytime val mentioned that her leg hurt i would, you know, take a drink. but then i realized i'd be drinking alone while reading YA fiction while everyone else in my house slept. and, well, you know, that was enough for me to kill the idea dead. 4. val's parents: why do so many YA novels feel the need to go the whole "my parents just don't get me/i hate my mom (dad, brother, sister, second cousin twice removed)!" route??? it feels so overdone. roald dahl created adult antagonists so that his children could outshine them with their creativity, ingenuity, and wit. nowadays, when teenager protags whine about how much their parents suck (and val's parents suck a lot), well, it just feels obnoxious and entitled. 5. closure like a lifetime movie: the end was sad (i actually almost cried, which i feel odd about confessing) but there was something a bit...cheesy... or hokey about it. i won't go into the details, but let's say it felt more ceremonial than sincere and leave it like that. 6. nickelback epigraph: when your protag is a self-proclaimed goth who is nicknamed "sister death" by her peers, a nickelback epigraph just really doesn't cut it. you know?
4 stars. overall, i really liked this debut work; i'm curious to see what brown will tackle next.(less)
there will always be a soft spot in my life for young adult fiction, but not crap like this.
Fat Cat is a fat girl's cinderella story - the incredibly...morethere will always be a soft spot in my life for young adult fiction, but not crap like this.
Fat Cat is a fat girl's cinderella story - the incredibly fictional account of how one science-oriented young woman lost a ton of weight, became incredibly hot, and dated half the swim team in her personal quest to get her one true love to admit he's a tool and fall in love with her.
i wanted to like cat. i think any female who's ever struggled with weight issues or felt uber-nerdy and unappreciated wants to like cat. but the reality is: cat just isn't that likeable. she's holding on to a grudge several years in the making. she's in complete denial about her feelings for most of the book, and she seems highly impressionable for someone the author wants us to look at as strong. and, since the premise is about cat wanting to be like the female homo erectus, feral.
my biggest gripe about the book is the heavy-handed treatment of cat's "diet"...this feels shameful to me. in the same way Twilight pimps vegetarianism to its audience, Fat Cat shoves the concept down our throats. instead of letting the reader, as cat does, come to their own conclusions about her diet, we hear about the dangers of pumping our bodies with chemicals and hormones. that coupled with cat's physical transformation and her ability to capture the attention of oh-so-cute boys, well, i'd expect a fair number of girls to adopt a similar paleo-veggie diet in their quests to lose weight and become hot.
this novel felt a little bit like Speak and Stephanie Daley had a baby.
oh, tastelessly unintentional pun there. my bad.
the premise: teen soccer queen...morethis novel felt a little bit like Speak and Stephanie Daley had a baby.
oh, tastelessly unintentional pun there. my bad.
the premise: teen soccer queen devon sky davenport finds herself locked in juvey after concealing her pregnancy and subsequently throwing away the product of said-pregnancy in the trash. it's an exhausting tale as the reader transports through devon's denial and learns to understand how a sophomore with just amazing potential came crashing down to earth so violently.
the sky: 1. a complete and well-constructed plot - efaw weaves several threads competently here without sacrificing the basic plotline. there is the danger in stories with multiple settings, characters, and timelines to feel, as the reader, that the narrative is being pulled in distinctly different directions. a sort of three-in-one narration, if you will. here, all aspects fuse into the conclusion in a way that worked. 2. devon - she's actually likable - well, as much as a teenager who tries to kill their baby can be likable. you want her to understand why she made the decision she did, and you want to know she'll be okay in the end. 3. idealism - finally, a YA novel where the teenager accepts personal responsibility for their actions! - having read Monster i was prepared for another novel where the protagonist narrates a heavily biased account of their actions and thus tries to persuade the reader and themselves of their inherent innocence. this isn't a novel about that. devon struggles to figure out what she did do, and, although it scares her, she needs to confront it and accept it.
the limit: 1. the XX factor - with a lot of female characters comes a lot of female drama. there's a reason i hung out with boys in high school. devon's mother is terrible, her fellow inmates are terrible, devon is terrible...the only female i actively respected was dom who ultimately does the right thing but wouldn't necessarily have gravitated to it without applied pressure from her client. 2. the end - while i fully support efaw's decision to have devon accept responsibility, the end felt incredibly forced. no teenager - let alone sophomore - thinks about their guilt or assumes personal responsibility as seamlessly as devon does here. i teach 10th graders. i know of what i speak. and, in the same vein... 3. the language - devon is either a genius or efaw doesn't quite know how to speak teenager. my money's on the latter (even though we get a nifty little flashback of devon's guidance counselor telling her she could hang with the juniors and seniors in AP history). furthermore, if one more character in juvey called someone "girl" i was going to blind myself, oedipus-styles. 4. the intended audience - there's a scene where devon is reading in prison (some horrible sounding teen sci-fi/fantasy book about cross-dressing knights who joust) and i couldn't help thinking, "wow, if i were in prison, i'd totally want to read this book" (by which i mean After not, you know, whatever crap devon was reading). that's probably not a good thing.
3 stars - quick, well-paced, compelling in a YA kind of way. had devon not accepted personal responsibility, it would have only been two. do with that what you will.(less)
i refuse to give this book fewer stars than i gave Twilight. so, for this 3.5 rating, it's a four. and that's that.
let's get down to brass tacks.
mocki...morei refuse to give this book fewer stars than i gave Twilight. so, for this 3.5 rating, it's a four. and that's that.
let's get down to brass tacks.
mockingbirds: 1. literary allusions - i love books that seem to appreciate other books. or maybe i'm just a fan of metatextuality. i'm not sure which. here, the major parallels are drawn between the adolescent inhabitants of jellicoe road and those pesky children of maycomb county. the mrs. dubose sideplot will be an immediate plot spoiler for those of you well-versed in your harper lee; it's not really a hindrance. 2. taylor markham - what is up with reticently stoic female protagonists with hard to get to but emotionally vulnerable nougatty centers? taylor is like scout, if scout grew up without jem and was abandoned by atticus on the side of the road by a 7-11. she will keep you at bay for the bulk of the book, but give her time. she does break down her walls slowly and surely. and you will love her by the end. 3. jonah griggs - the weight of the novel falls on the strength of the relationship between the two broken lovers. jonah is the romeo to taylor's juliet. the peeta to her katniss. the edward to her bella. but you know what else? he's not creepy codependent. nor is he a doormat. and, yeah, he's suicidal, but not because of her. so he wins by default. i actually felt like his story was the most human and his suffering the most potent. taylor's mysteries felt shallow compared to jonah's horrors.
sins: 1. literary allusions - wait! this was a positive, right? yes, and, well, sadly, no. there are so many references here that it feels a little bit like someone who LOVES books wants to make sure that the reader understands how well steeped in literature the text is. like my english class. the allusions didn't always fit with the flow of the narrative and felt out of place to me as a result. 2. the linus effect - okay, remember in the charlie brown christmas special when linus makes the speech at the end? when you're little, and you just want to get to the good stuff, that speech takes bloody FOREVER. well, that's the linus effect and that's how the first 100+ pages of this book felt to me. only here, it's compounded because you never know where you are, when you are, or who you are. which leads me number 3. 3. holy confusion, batman! - what is up with the beginning? i'm all for complex narratives but the beginning of this novel makes it virtually impossible to nail down time periods, characters, or plot. for an advanced reader, it's mildly confusing as you work to solve the enigmatic text, but for a young adult reader (who is used to the simplistic prose of Twilight), it's got to be damning. for at least 100 pages or so, i thought i was in some dystopian future. by the end, i'm pretty sure i wasn't. excessively complicated veers on the unnecessary here, methinks.
still, i can see why people buzz about this novel. i felt haunted (in the best way possible); i wanted to read more and finish taylor's story. in fact, i want more, and that's pretty high praise indeed.(less)