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)
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.
i loved, loved, loved Case Histories and was very excited to read the second installment. i admire atkinson...moreoh jackson brodie, where did we go wrong???
i loved, loved, loved Case Histories and was very excited to read the second installment. i admire atkinson for her ability to weave a complicated, intertwined web of a plot, but the beginning of this book just lagged for pages and pages.
first, there are too many characters. while following the dissolving relationship between jackson and julia, the reader has to contend with the milquetoasty martin whose writer alter ego is far more compelling than his real life counterpart, gloria the deranged wife of a dying charlatan who refuses to acknowledge his death and instead disassociates herself by living larger than she's ever done before, louise the cop/potential love interest (should this thing with julia just not work out) who assists jackson in his quest to find a dead girl, and the cast from favors!, a "cleaning" service that offers the immigrant experience anyway you want it.
i don't know. all the subplots and sideplots and going back and forth between voices left me feeling extremely detached from the story as a whole. it took 252 pages for me to get into the novel (i clocked it!) and by then, i just wanted it to be over. i really like the idea of jackson, but here, atkinson writes him almost as a woman (bemoaning his flailing relationship, looking for labels and definitions, feeling impotent because of his lack of work and status, etc.). i don't know...it took the bits i really loved about the first in the series and subverted them to the point where i didn't even recognize jackson as the man who dutifully solved the murder of julia's sister.
i'm optimistic for the next book - perhaps the sophomore slump can be salvaged by a triumphant third.(less)
have i mentioned lately how much i love jackson brodie? because i do.
and i can't believe i didn't read these all in rapid succession like i'd intended...morehave i mentioned lately how much i love jackson brodie? because i do.
and i can't believe i didn't read these all in rapid succession like i'd intended to (if only to save myself from unintentionally reading the first fifty pages of the second installment for a second time before realizing i'd read it before).
ah well, live and learn.
i also intended to write this review immediately reading the novel. that didn't happen either.
0 for 2, i guess.
this installment thrives largely because of atkinson's ability to pace and weave complicated threads of narrative in a way that doesn't feel clunky or convenient. she also creates likable characters - by which i mean more than just her protagonist. reggie is one of my favorite characters in recent literature. she's smart, she's funny, she's broken but not fundamentally. she could have come across as incredibly precocious, but, instead, she reads more as well-read salt-of-the-earth, an angel of life and death.
the only bit that felt a bit...i don't know...forced? to me was the subplot with jackson's newest wife. i read jackson as more clever than what happens and while his luck is perpetually what drives his inexplicable financial successes, it is his unflappable doggedness that leads him to be a good detective. he puts the pieces together remarkably slowly here (of course he is severely concussed), although his taste in women has been questionable since book one.
a solid installment, looking forward to the fourth. (less)
i've never read any kate atkinson before, but after this one, i'm a fan.
Case Histories is a compelling novel, split between three narratives centering...morei've never read any kate atkinson before, but after this one, i'm a fan.
Case Histories is a compelling novel, split between three narratives centering on missing, abused, or dead girls. while the core material is difficult (i'm a mother of daughters, and, after reading this, i'm never, ever letting them take the bus home by themselves or spend too much time alone in a study, or chop wood), atkinson writes with an easy - if not entirely - british/scottish humor that keeps the text from ever feeling morose. while the book's cover suggests the novel is funny, i found, especially towards the end, that the novel felt sad to me, and several passages had me near tears as i struggled with the characters' losses through my own lense. still, it is the fusion of tragicomedy which ultimately propels it into the realm of four stars. remnsicent of White Teeth in some ways, the humor feels "british" in scope. jackson's cat lady client, for example, with her eccentric and highly inappropriate epithets for cats is a true joy. the debacle over amelia's scarlet tights, another.
the strength of the novel lies on the fictional shoulders of its protagonist, jackson brodie. he's likable, if not fallible, and the reader roots for him. i particularly enjoyed seeing the world through both amelia's and jackson's eyes, a sort of literary he saw/she saw in which amelia's misinterpretations of jackson's assessments of her create both pathos and humor for the ugly duckling that never really did turn into a swan. some characters - like jackson's ex-wife josie, for example, feel hollow and two-dimensional, but, well, we can't have everything, now can we?
i gotta say, i'm such a fan of interconnectivity. i used to watch the tv show "LOST" obsessively, yes, partly because of the mystery, but moreso because of the relationships between characters. when worlds collide and the human experience feels more well-constructed than random, that's a real plus for me. if you don't go in for that sort of thing, well, sadly, this book probably isn't for you.
what kept me from a 5 star rating is the flimsy threads by which jackson gets involved with the michelle/tanya plotline. there didn't appear to be much in the way of resolution or even in terms of true connection between the jackson-driven plot and this "case history" and thus it felt the least successful. while it certainly provided the reader with one of the more surprising "ah ha!" moments, it fails to ultimately deliver true impact since we, through jackson, feel so utterly removed from it.
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)
teaching Hamlet is perhaps one of my greatest joys as an educator.
for years, i have loved this play. hamlet's inappropriate fascination with his mothe...moreteaching Hamlet is perhaps one of my greatest joys as an educator.
for years, i have loved this play. hamlet's inappropriate fascination with his mother's sex life, his cruel treatment of his former lover, his reluctance to act, his decision to put on an antic disposition...i love it all.
this fall, my students are gravitating toward the complexity with which hamlet approaches his madness. this week, as we read over hamlet's "love letter" to ophelia, my students were amused by the danish prince's decision to focus on ophelia's "white bosom" as one of his first talking points. when faced with the reality that hamlet, perhaps, has seen too much lust, they were entertained by the possibility that hamlet's intended audience was never his ladylove but always her father (and more importantly his uncle). while they fail, perhaps, to connect to some of the more philosophical notions embedded in the text, the idea that hamlet would, from afar, enjoy the notion of his uncle being read a dirty letter by the foolish father of his former flame gains him a modicum if respect.
i think i've also managed to convince them that horatio is perhaps a fragment of his imagination, the rationally-charged tyler durden of the play.
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 have this thing. i cannot in good conscience give more than one star to a book that i could not finish. and i could not finish this one. it star...moreso, i have this thing. i cannot in good conscience give more than one star to a book that i could not finish. and i could not finish this one. it started off strongly enough and the premise was interesting, but it felt severely overwritten. the second half dragged so desperately that i had to return it to the library before i could muster the interest to complete it. and, when i can't be bothered to even renew it, well, that's saying something.
i definitely acknowledge that i am in the clear minority here, but i really just didn't love this book.(less)
i'm pretty sure i read every crappy teen book equivalent of an afterschool special when i was in elementary. for some reason this book and The Prettie...morei'm pretty sure i read every crappy teen book equivalent of an afterschool special when i was in elementary. for some reason this book and The Prettiest Girl in the World stand out among the rest.
i LOVED these books, which is odd considering i was a chubby little preteen with a huge buddah belly, gobbling up some fairly graphic accounts of adolescent anorexia.
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)
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)
this novel is one of those curious "not-really-young-adult" YA novels - the subject matter is intense, graphic, and sexually-charged. i absolut...moreoh.man.
this novel is one of those curious "not-really-young-adult" YA novels - the subject matter is intense, graphic, and sexually-charged. i absolutely do not believe in book censorship, but, as a mother of two young girls, i also can't say that i'd be running to the local bookstore to grab them a copy before the age of 17 either.
this novel is horrible. not in the sense that the writing is bad - it's actually quite beautifully constructed - but its content is simply far beyond the traditional YA scope of love gone bad.
this is the story of alice, who isn't really alice, a 15-year-old girl, kidnapped at the age of 10 and forced to live the life of mother-daughter-wife to ray, a disturbed man whose soul, it seems, has been molested out of him by an equally disgusting mother. alice is a broken ghost of a girl; she knows how to do things no teenager should know how to do. her life consists of stealing food, receiving punishment, and playing the most demented version of house ever.
this is not a happy book. it's one of those instances where i really wished goodreads had the illustrious half star because for me it's firmly 3.5 stars.
you will compulsively read it to the end because you need to know what happens. i wanted desperately for there to be a happy ending, while realizing the whole time that this girl is so fundamentally destroyed that there really can't be one.
the end feels...humane...and heartbreaking, a hauntingly gentle liberation from the violent entrapment proceeding it.(less)
about 32 pages into this badboy, i got very excited because i was going to be able to use my "what a bunch of assholes" shelf.
that's probably not a go...moreabout 32 pages into this badboy, i got very excited because i was going to be able to use my "what a bunch of assholes" shelf.
that's probably not a good sign, right?
this be the story of sisters, and that special bond only sisters share. there's lauren (no relation), the gorgeous flake who's in so much debt that she contemplates declaring bankruptcy before she quits her job in new york and moves home to mooch. she's the PRETTY one. and there's ava, the spinster-esque lawyer who dresses like a forty-year-old power lesbian. she's the SMART one.
both sisters are candidates for therapy. lauren has a shopping fetish and honestly believes her clothes give her mystical powers to succeed with men on dates (or something). she is emotionally immature and likes to have sex with almost strangers. ava thinks if she wears makeup and makes herself look pretty that people will not take her seriously because the only thing people should notice about her is her mind. she is a frigid prude who pushes men away faster than you can say "habeas corpus".
while this is all obnoxious, it's not particularly disgusting. what is disgusting is: ava starts dating russell, a clothes' horse who works for a woman's clothing line and who fancies himself 'enry 'iggins to her eliza doolittle. lauren starts dating a very serious man who works exhausting hours at a high-paying job and who doesn't seem to care what he wears.
wait a second...that sounds familiar...
oh, right. that's because they're dating their sisters. just in male form.
and that's when i threw up a little in my mouth.
there's a subplot involving contracts (it's an obnoxious contrivance meant to set up the primary plot of ava getting some) and one about cancer but both feel shamefully hollow.
two stars for some light moments, quick pacing, and a plot that picked up after the initial lagging clunkiness. lord help the mister who comes between these sisters. that's all i got to say about that.(less)
this book moves slower than molasses on a chilly day.
besides the initial conflicts of 1. not having read the first two books in the series and 2...morethis book moves slower than molasses on a chilly day.
besides the initial conflicts of 1. not having read the first two books in the series and 2. not really knowing what a nursing sister is (and thus imagining some sort of sally fields-esque flying nun with a stethoscope),i was initially suckered into this story by the sheer strength of the syntax.
A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery begins strongly enough - rain, an abused woman, an invitation. i don't know. i just never connected to the plot the way i'd hoped to. by the time i got to the whole murder-thang (with bess becoming suspect number one), i began to feel trapped in a WWI edition of "Murder She Wrote." you know, the one where jessica finally gets suspected of being the murderer while the kaiser continues his plans for dominance.
yeah, that episode kind of sucked, too.
point of fact: i had to muster the enthusiasm to finish the novel - which, considering i managed to get through all four Twilight books is REALLY saying something.
this is the second recommendation i've taken from goodreads (based off some list or another) and i'm not really feeling the love yet.
i picked this up, hoping, oddly, for something suki-kim-esque and instead found a bizarrely intricate little novel, remnisc...morewhat a curious little book.
i picked this up, hoping, oddly, for something suki-kim-esque and instead found a bizarrely intricate little novel, remniscent of some amalgamation of stephen king's non-horror stories and The 19th Wife.
i'm generally wary of books where one must actively study a family tree (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I'm lookin' at you!} but, since we're with Willie on her quest to discover the identity of her father through the seamy couplings of the town's founding families, the progress is slow and easy to digest.
groff deftly handles alternating between myriad character voices and perspectives to the degree that i feel she must suffer from some brand of fictionally-charged schizophrenia. the monsters and ghosts, perhaps most strangely, never feel unbelievable or gimmicky. they just...are. because willie accepts them, we do, too.
i do wish that i had the opportunity to really savor this book - reading while entertaining small children comes at the sacrifice of small details. i could see myself rereading this novel at some point, just to get a better sense of the family histories and timelines, which sadly became too complicated to fully process as i rushed to the end.
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)
let's just face it. an unger novel is perfect for those pre-bedtime creepouts. she weaves convo...morei know. i promised myself i'd never unger again.
let's just face it. an unger novel is perfect for those pre-bedtime creepouts. she weaves convoluted plots that feel simultaneously unbelievable and close-to-home. here, it's the tale of two dead girls, separated by decades, and the question of what would you do to protect the ones you love.
1. for once, unger's multi-perspective drama didn't feel uber-contrived to me. i got into the rhythm of the novel easily and it was addictive. 2. tone: it's creepy. i wanted to double check the locks on all my windows and doors after reading. it's not something about which i would say, "YES! I need to read more books like this so that i can live in abject terror for the rest of my life!" but i think she was successful in creating the intended atmosphere. and i respect that. 3. story: of all the ungers i've read, this one i liked the most. there's something harrowing about a missing girl that makes me think of the 80s in the worst kind of nostalgic way. i flipped the pages the same way i glued myself to the television, looking for updated news of missing children, fearing the worst, hoping for the best. whatever the best may be.
1. the names. blech. jones cooper? two last names is hardly effective at conjuring anything other than a downeaster in a flannel jacket. sorry. 2. female author in a male brain. or male author in a female brain. i don't like it. it has to be done carefully and cautiously, with respect to the gender. but here unger's internal conflict reads like the stereotype. ricky has all the predictable angst worthy of a teenage male goth ("It's Rick, Mom!"), jones is doughy, passive, and broken, and charlie is...well, charlie is number 3. 3. charlie: okay, i've said it before and i'll say it again. i really don't like it when authors create a fictional author self. here, it's charlie, the writer-cum-exterminator. his story is probably the weakest and obviously he is, in all ways but the penis, supposed to function as the counterpart for unger (who tells us in the epilogue about how she was personally haunted by a missing girl when she was in her teens and how she wanted to write about it but couldn't find the words). blahblahblah. charlie had potential, but it was squandered when he became a literal representation of the author herself. 4. maggie: maggie is ricky's mom, jones's wife, marshall's therapist, melody's high school buddy, elizabeth's daughter...she's connected to almost all of them (not charlie, though, i guess it bears mentioning). i hated her. she's very condescending her role of therapist and she plays only to the stereotype. plus, she pimps therapy on EVERYONE, and, i'm not saying they don't need it, but it felt a little cheap and a little hollow. 5. marshall, travis, and the chief - this unholy trinity of abusive/abused males permeates the text in a way that feels altogether overplayed. they're 2-d representations of a sensitive subject matter worthy of some deeper consideration. oddly, while reading, i totally imagined christopher plummer in the role of the chief. off-putting, that.
3 star effort here - a good story mildly undone by the cardboard rigidity of its characters.(less)
i mean, i named my babies (my literal ones, not my fictional ones) fiona...morei just have to get this off my chest:
haven is a stupid name for a protagonist.
i mean, i named my babies (my literal ones, not my fictional ones) fiona and regan, so i probably shouldn't be throwing stones at authors while we're all playing in the old naming pool. but still, i really hated the name "haven"
no offense to anyone named haven. or sanctuary. or sanctum. or whatever.
apparently this little book is dessen's first published effort in YA fiction. it certainly shows, particularly compared to some of her more recent efforts which are almost double in length and complexity.
this is the story of haven, a 15-going-on-16-year-old, whose dad is marrying the impregnated weather pet lorna queen (actual name in story) and whose sister is marrying lewis, the skinny tie-wearing milquetoast. her mother is going on a figurative voyage of self discovery with the help of her new, widowed neighbor (and possible lesbian love interest - it's very vague) in conjunction with planning a physical voyage of self discovery to europe. she'll be going for a month after haven's sister ashley gets married, leaving a 15-year-old alone with her thoughts. because that's responsible parenting. haven's bff is a chain-smoking nutjob who has just returned from 4H camp with a new boyfriend. haven is too tall, too unsure of herself, and too upset at all the immediate changes in her life to process or cope with them appropriately. as a result she glorifies her past, particularly "that summer" when her sister was dating the awesome sumner.
gee, i wonder whatever happened to that boy.
so then, predictably, there's sumner. the pepper and cheese boy at a local restaurant. the magnetic, awkwardly named boy who comes into haven's life. well, technically, he was once in her life in the form of ashley's boyfriend but now he's back and haven is sure it's some kind of sign from the universe.
i don't know. i liked that dessen wasn't necessarily trying to give us the whole "sumner and haven love affair of the century" thing - mostly because not only is the five year age difference is creepy but also he dated her sister. that sort of sister-hopping is a huge relationship no-no in my book.
there just wasn't much else going on. haven comes across as almost pathetically naive and angsty (girlfriend has some serious adolescent pms here which culminates in throwing a shoe at a belligerent customer and then running away the day before her sister's wedding). the gwendolyn rogers subplot only highlights how screwed up everyone is (she feels like some sort of visual warning to haven to not try to grow up too fast or become a model or something). but it, like most of the novel, just ends up feeling incredibly shallow.
like lorna queen's crying at her wedding. or the close proximity of the name sumner to the word summer in the title.
2 stars. perhaps i'm spoiled by dessen's later efforts, but this one was just not so good.(less)
there is something quite alarming about a protagonist named "mclean"...i know, in the novel, she's named after a basketball coach blahblahblah. sure....morethere is something quite alarming about a protagonist named "mclean"...i know, in the novel, she's named after a basketball coach blahblahblah. sure. right. whatever. i grew up in massachusetts reading sylvia plath and listening to james taylor. there's only one thing i think of when i hear "mclean" and it ain't basketball.
that said...this was another of dessen's formulaic romps through young adult. oddly named female character struggles with her mother-dearest, is forced to leave the place she calls home only to travel to a place where a quasi-freaky boy meets and woos her. and together, they learn about life and love together - you know, after she pulls away, running off to some hotel, and stumbling across random sprinklings of former dessen characters as she goes.
that old chestnut.
still, there's something familiar and welcoming about dessen's work. it's not pretentious or preachy. she creates characters who are believable in their unbelievability, if that makes any sense at all. i do not like that roderick keeps finding his way into her novels - as if he is still haunting her after all this time. blech. luckily, he doesn't take to the forefront at all, and, for that, i'm completely grateful.
i don't know - dessen is like the female john green only her dialogue is a little more cliched and a little less funny. still, her ability to tug at the old heartstrings (and not make me feel like a total creep for reading young adult fiction) has to be commended.
3 stars for another solid effort with a likeable if not too easily rectified protagonist and her charming prince freak.
what sort of screwed up childhood did jennifer mcmahon have?
mcmahon, like so many contemporary authors, has her formula. starting off with a creep...morewhat sort of screwed up childhood did jennifer mcmahon have?
mcmahon, like so many contemporary authors, has her formula. starting off with a creepy, large-eyed, underfed female adolescent on the cover, the story unfolds in a predictable manner. there is a multi-voiced narration with the story's plot emerging through various voices (here, mostly phoebe and lisa). there's the looming suggestion of something vaguely and yet potently supernatural, and, yet, in the end, the truth is never really supernatural. it's something far more sinister, far more human, and far more fucked up. at some point, you will have nearly enough pieces to string together something that feels almost tangible as an explanation, and you'll be on the right track, but it will still not be nearly psychotic enough.
her character pool is always an exercise in psychoanalysis, a trip to the mclean's of yesteryear. her crazies are smart in their insanity, and that makes them terrifying. people are neither who they claim to be nor who they think they really are. her endings are never happy, just finite in their hint of a future that looks bleak for the protagonist.
yup, it's fun times.
in this installment, mcmahon explores themes like incest, abandonment, fecundity, and the dangers of believing one's lies / legends. phoebe is a sad case - a 35-year-old woman whose life has been shaped by her mother's terrible choices (her mother, a dead drunk, once tells her that she should have drowned her at birth. that should sort of set tone for you). she finally finds love with an outdoorsy sort - sam - who is trying to evade his own demons (in the form of his little sister who disappeared one summer and his father who committed suicide roughly the same time).
sam's remaining family is comprised of a trinity of unholy, ruined women all caught in their twisted allegiances to their own mythos.
oh, and there's a "shadow man" who pops up. like, all the time.
that said, sam and phoebe are fundamentally broken people, who, almost manage to become unbroken in their happy togetherness until 1. creepy people start messing with them and 2. phoebe becomes accidentally impregnated.
maybe not in that order.
it's all a huge jumble after that, with bits and pieces of the past emerging, revealing a terrifying picture of family.
this is not the book for new mothers to read, i'll tell you that. i found myself inexplicably angered by phoebe's decision to eat at mcdonald's after finding out she's pregnant. not because i think fast food is the devil, but because she ordered a milkshake and that shit is not good for fetuses. listeria, people! it's a concern!
of course, it's the last section that really condemns it. if you are maternal at all in nature, you might find that the end is just a bit...too much. i know i did.
and so it's 3 stars. very creepy (not a night-time cuddle up in bed book), but without any hope of positive resolution it feels like a rip-off of some 70s horror film.
this novel represents the culmination of days of trying to be a goodreads giveaway winner. thank you, goodreads!
of course, as such, the aura of myste...morethis novel represents the culmination of days of trying to be a goodreads giveaway winner. thank you, goodreads!
of course, as such, the aura of mystery and anticipation surrounding its arrival unfortunately built-up the potential majesty of said-prize.
warning, here there be spoilers.
the bangers: 1. the names - sure, it's a bit gimmicky, but the highly literary names were pretty spectacular. jem, ralph, blake, and scarlett - it was a veritable feast of characters and authors. plus, using preexisting heroes from literature past forced the feeling that i already knew the characters (I had not previously read the first one of these about Ralph and his party). 2. the setting - i'm a total sucker for brit-lit. if it's set in london, i'll read it. i don't know - it's like by the mere shift in location can take a book about the crumble and reaffirmation of love and make it seem more interesting, more fun, more sophisticated.
the mash: 1. i didn't need to read the first one to understand this one. i thought about whether this was a negative or a positive...it would have been a positive except for the fact that jewell constantly references the parts of the first book that i would have found imperative to read. yes, ralph is a snooper! jem kept a diary that he read! (um, this is the basis of a healthy relationship???) they had some lovin' after a party! jem used to date ralph's best friend! did i mention they got together after a party?!? it gets mentioned. a lot. so, while it was good to have the backstory, it was not good to have the backstory like 15 times. 2. is this supposed to be chicklit? - i couldn't really tell exactly what genre jewell was hoping for here. i would have guessed chick-lit except that the character of jem is sort of fecklessly irritable. she fantasizes about a neighborhood dad, leads him on, cuts him off cold, judges him, and then freaks out when he calls her on it? oh, yeah, and she sleeps with his 24 year-old son. WHAT?!? and this is our heroine? she also seems to have forced her not-hubby into having their two children (always a recipe for success)...i wanted her to be more likable then she was. but she never quite got there. (oh, and anyone who would win a vivienne westwood anything on ebay would totally know what a fascinator is. just sayin'.) 3. the funky bunch - ralph is a commitment-phobic father (he's sold on jem, the kid's, not so much), smith is a reiki-spiritualistic weirdo, rosey is a faux-christian rocker with cheap jewelry, lulu is exactly how you'd picture someone named lulu, karl is a cheap sideplot, the kids are tragic casualties in a plot device gone horribly astray, joel is a creepy-addict-stalker, lucas is a hot 24-year-old with some mild stalker habits learned from watching his crack addicted father...do i need to go on? overall, i was left wondering who exactly i was supposed to like here. 4. jewell has never met a plot device she didn't like. - seriously, what DOESN'T happen here. crumbling relationships, unplanned pregnancies, planned pregnancies, planned abortions, spontaneous abortions, stalkers, drug addiction, infidelity (emotional and physical), trips to california, revenge sex, celebrities,quasi-religious conversions/cults, etc. TOO MUCH! it was like the last hour of armageddon (the movie) where you're pretty sure they're going to get out of this whole "end of the world" mess but first the drill has to jam and steve buscemi has to ricochet off a meteor. towards the end, if one more thing happened, i would have been forced to close the book prematurely. 5. the end, for the length of it, was very rushed. at a certain point, the narrative gets truncated; time passes with just emails - it's like jewell realized that if she didn't expediate the process a bit, we'd be there for 800 pages. 6. the overall message - okay, here is my biggest gripe with the book. it glorifies marriage. now, you'll probably wonder how i jumped to that bold conclusion considering most of the novel is about the dissolution of this couple's perfect romance. well! here you go: jem and ralph never married. that's right. never. they had two kids together, bought a house together, and agreed upon some sort of coexistence. but no marriage. so, while they're busy screwing up their relationship with hot australians and creepy dads from the park, they're technically not married. because in novels, what comes after marriage is "happily ever after". appropriately, the novel ends with the reunited couple's wedding, thus restoring our shattered faith that the perfect couple can once more be perfect together. this pissed me off to no uncertain end. for a couple plagued by so many problems, marriage seemed like a quick, if not inevitable, surface fix. it didn't feel romantic - it just felt wrong.
honestly, i'm not sold on this novel. i wanted desperately to love it, because i won it! and winning is made of awesome! but i couldn't get past all the bullshit and pretense. no one comes across as particularly likable or vulnerable. the writing at times feels stilted (more so at the end when jewell seems to cave to the pressure of the happy ending and needs her characters to find forgiveness - i can't imagine EVER being okay with my fake-hubby disappearing for three weeks to paint pictures of my family so we can start anew. but i am most definitely not jem).
it's compelling enough to finish but not to love.(less)
i need to write this now, when the book is still raw, before i forget the minutiae and the emotion as i get suckered into another text. there will pro...morei need to write this now, when the book is still raw, before i forget the minutiae and the emotion as i get suckered into another text. there will probably be spoilers, i fear. i've never been good at self-censoring, particularly in book reviews. read at your own risk.
first, in full disclosure: i was a little disappointed in the pre-ordering of this novel. yes, i dreamt of yetis and hanklerfishes, but moreover, i dreamt that i'd actually get to read the book on its release date. or thereabouts. instead, three days later, the book arrived, to the wrong address, and with no additional signatures to ease the blow of such a monumental disappointment.
alas, there's an old adage about beggars and choosers that i'm conveniently forgetting here.
still, i decided not to let that pepper my review negatively. it is, after all, not john green's novel's fault that it couldn't arrive in a timely fashion with multiple autographs.
i pre-ordered TFiOS solely based on the simple precept that i happen to enjoy the way john green crafts intelligent teenagers. yes, i find him formulaic, or, more specifically, that, like shakespeare he has types and blueprints that he constantly reimagines for his own purposes (eclectically named teenager - usually male, but here, finally, like pixar, female, road trip in search of some deep-rooted universal truth, highly literary in scope and reference, crude humor at times usually involving urine, the all-encompassing power of teen love, girl with weird colored nail polish, etc, etc) but i also find him enjoyable. he writes the way i wish people talked. his characters love the way i wish love felt.
so, to say that i was surprised to be reading a book about terminal cancer within the opening pages is a bit of an understatement.
maybe i should have been tipped off by the praise from jodi piccoult that this book wasn't necessarily going to be light and fluffy.
not that green favors fluff, but that, generally, there's hope and happiness somewhere towards the end of it all.
death lingers here, a bad feeling you can never quite shake off. it's everywhere. in your face. behind each word, each action. it's both imminent and remote, which gives a sort of claustrophobic and tragic aura, even in the funny moments.
and there are funny moments here. most of the cancer perks, particularly ones involving augustus's driver's license, are incredibly funny. it's all the typical quick-witted snark and banter of a john green novel, just with the omnipresent threat that these could be the last words this character says.
in terms of dealing with life and death, the philosophical bent of the text works well; these aren't kids to pity but to fall in love with. and that's pretty special. my chief complaints are this:
1. i saw very easily where we were headed here and it pissed me off immensely. i'm not sure what the intended purpose of the finality of the story was, but, to me, it spoke to the inherent unfairness of life and to the simple fact that one man's oblivion is another man's infinity. it's beautiful in theory but in reality it sucks as a bitter pill to have to swallow.
2. the fake epigraph. this immediately bristled. i'm a recent convert to the altar of gatsby and i felt that the made-up epigraph spoke to a much more subtle and subversive motif in that text. here, when one of the characters inevitably brings up gatsby, i sort of wanted to groan, sigh disgustedly, and spit out, "what a load of horse crap, eh, kid?"
3. and, while we're on that subject, let's talk about peter van houten, the pickled author of said fake quote. we had potential here for salinger-esque greatness, but what we got was sad, hollowed out banality. of course he has a tragic connection to his own staggering work of genius, of course he can't give the children what they need/want from him, and of course he cannot possibly make better a situation that is only, by its inherent definition, getting worse. so what's the point? his addition felt extraneous and incomplete, and, worse, it only served to point out the cruelness of both hazel's and gus's lives. and maybe life in general. he wasn't a beacon of hope. he wasn't even a beacon of inspiration. he was a mediocre man posing as this literary genius but nothing about him seemed to merit such acclaim. i just didn't get him.
4. the weak understanding of the term "hamartia" - look, i get it. john green is very smart. and he writes characters that are also very smart (it's one of the reasons i read him - for, as improbable as they are, i hope for a future filled with more kids who memorize william carlos williams for fun). so it's incredibly disappointing to see them espouse a definition of hamartia that is far more over-simplified than it should be (and echoed later by the superfluous peter van houten in the same simplistic vein). hamartia, in the classic aristotelian understanding, is meant to be more than merely "fatal flaw" as it gets defined here. it is a mistake or wrongdoing brought about in some capacity by said flaw (i.e. when hamlet, in an out-of-character act of rashness, stabs a decorative wall hanging and murders polonius). yes, it is a minor complaint, but, if green is going to insist on creating such preciously insightful teenagers, please make sure they are thorough in their understanding of literary terminology.
for me, this is solidly 3.5 stars. i laughed, i cried, i would have cried a little harder but the children were watching. and maybe there's something beautifully morose about confronting the tragic fragility of life once in awhile to actually remind yourself how to live.
there is nothing like a two hour power outage to inspire some quality book-readin'
first off, john green might be my new "go-to" guy for quick, addicti...morethere is nothing like a two hour power outage to inspire some quality book-readin'
first off, john green might be my new "go-to" guy for quick, addicting YA fiction. he's like the male sarah dessen in the sense that he tends to favor stock characters and similar plotlines (at least in the two novels of his that i've read). or maybe teenagers are just all so stereotypical; i grew up in a different generation so the whole thing with "pranks" and "dousing people with urine" doesn't feel so universally "teen" to me. i don't know.
"paper towns" has the same wit of "looking for alaska" - there are some very amusing conversations that happen in here that keep the pacing fast and help move the story along when there really isn't anything else happening plot-wise. i liked Q and his ragtag group of strange cast-offs (ben, the kid who sounds like a reject from the movie "swingers" and radar, the kid with the parents who sport the largest collection of black santas). and green is adept at capturing that mercurial and nostalgic air of the last weeks of high school - when you love and hate everyone so desperately.
my concern for green is this: i hope that the success of "looking for alaska" does not turn him unintentionally into a one-trick pony. here, instead of alaska, we have margo, another girl with a penchant for maps and an unhappy homelife. oh, and she's also curvy and hot and troubled and moody. she is prone to running away and the mystery of the novel's plot is the quest which quentin undertakes in search of her. sound familiar? sure, the setting is different and the outcome is different, but there's an awful lot of alaska here.
the most problematic parallel to me is the struggle of "what happens once we find what we're looking for" that fails to resonate as profoundly as i want it to. sure, it's an important concept of growing up that the image we have of some people can never live up to the reality of that person. it's true in "alaska" and it's true here. i just hate the vague feeling of let-down that the reader (as well as the protag) experiences once they figure that out.
kudos for the very end, however. anything else would have been completely unrealistic, instead of just idealistic.
first off, i'm rating this book solely on rhetoric, not on practice. once i apply the "doll-treat-training pants-positive affirmation" techniques, i w...morefirst off, i'm rating this book solely on rhetoric, not on practice. once i apply the "doll-treat-training pants-positive affirmation" techniques, i will either up or downgrade my score.
this book was written in the 60s; the edition i read was a reprint from 1974. let's just say it hasn't aged well.
first off, the book encourages that one person - usually the mother - stays home all day with the special young child (according to the book, mostly boys, but a few rare, stubborn girls)and train them in less than 6 hours to pee in a pot in the kitchen, take their pisspot to the big toilet, and flush it. to parents, like myself, who have been struggling with obstinate toddlers, this whole charade sounds like a fucking miracle.
it's not the method itself that i found insulting (although i don't know anyone who uses colored toilet paper still. heck, do they even still make that stuff???) - i actually think getting a doll that wets and having the child teach the baby to use the potty is a solid plan. what i object to is the language. first off, apparently, i need to be a housewife. who wears aprons. so that i can put my special treats into the pocket of said-apron.
and what sorts of treats do they suggest i ply my children with? sugared cereal, corn chips, potato chips, and candy.
now, don't think me a snot here. my kid gets treats, too. the wee thing has a special penchant for m&ms. but i don't want to necessarily have her associate success and winning with sugar. you know?
but i can handle that treat. rewards are fine and i'm totally cool with bribery (albeit less cool with aprons). what i'm not on board with is the britney spears selection of drinks the book asks me to encourage my child to drink. milk (good), fruit punch (ok), cola (um), and orange soda (fail).so i will definitely be amending that.
and i get it - different time. different strokes for different folks. i just don't know anyone (personally) who would admit to giving carbonated, sugary soda to their babies, even as a special treat.
my favorite bit, besides the illustrations which include a pic of a toddler with a giant black x over his diaper region that made me feel momentarily as if i'd stepped into an anti-pedophilia manual, was the narrative of mrs. james training her delinquent son mickey. at the very end, after a long, hard day of negotiating potty usage, mr. james comes home, pets his wife on the hand, and says, "honey, you've done a fine job with our boy." or something like that.
i love this novel. it's predictable in its "romantic" plotline (except for the whole "bluebeard" thang with bertha in the attic) and yet intricate in...morei love this novel. it's predictable in its "romantic" plotline (except for the whole "bluebeard" thang with bertha in the attic) and yet intricate in its scope. i love the religious undertones (and not so subtle overtones - i.e. the name "helen burns"), the symbolism (fire! birds! animals! the forest!). i even love mr. rochester and all his mindgamery.
still, what resonates best for me are the glimpses into a long dead past. like, physiognomy! those crazy 19th century bastards and their need to dictate personality based on physical attributes! how quaint!
also, someone PLEASE tell me. what the hell is up with ending the novel with that letter from st. john??? it bugs me EVERY time i read this novel. EVERY time.
but seriously, someone should study the neurotic undercurrents in jane's artwork. that girl's got some sick shit she's trying to work through.