I loved the sound of Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff the first time I read the blurb, but I've finOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I loved the sound of Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff the first time I read the blurb, but I've finished it feeling disappointed.
Hayden has taken his life. There's no explanation why, just a USB stick he left with a note for his best mate Sam to listen and he'll understand. Except Sam has listened to the playlist over and over, and he's as clueless as he was the first time he listened to it. All he knows is that the last time he saw Hayden, they argued, and he's burdened with his guilt and anger. When Hayden's bullies are slowly taken down one by one, Sam starts to worry that perhaps he's doing it without realising, and with other strange goings on, like getting messages from Hayden's avatar on Gchat, Sam starts to worry about his mind. But he needs to know what led to Hayden taking his own life, and he's determined to find out.
I had several problems with Playlist for the Dead. Firstly, there's the fact that we don't really get to know much about Hayden. He's Sam's best friends, he's a geek, he likes to play Mage Warfare, but he doesn't like socialising with other people. That's all I know about him as a person. He was bullied, one of the bullies being his older brother, and his parents didn't really care about him. Despite what Sam says about these things, and what he saw, I never felt like I knew where Hayden's head was. There were flashbacks of conversations Sam and Hayden had, but there was nothing major about how he felt. As the story goes on, we find out about the events that led up to Hayden taking his life, and there were some awful things happening, but I didn't understand why he took his life. Not that it didn't make sense, but that there should have been more about how he was feeling, because I simply didn't get it. Perhaps Sam was the wrong narrator, because he didn't seem to know anything about what was happening with Hayden, so it makes it difficult. And the playlist... I really didn't get that at all. No idea what Hayden was thinking when he left it for Sam, no idea how it was supposed to help.
Then there's the fact that it was really slow. It took ages for the book to really get going, and when it did, trying to figure things out but getting nowhere until the end. I was so frustrated with the pace, I kept putting it down. I just wasn't really interested. And I simply didn't like Sam. I didn't warm to him, he annoyed me more often than not, and he was ridiculously obtuse. How he only started figuring certain things out towards the end that were obvious from the middle of the book, I don't know. There would be a whole realisation moment for him, and a face-palm moment for me.
And when we have all the details, I was left feeling... that's it? But as I said above, I think that's more to do with not know what was going through Hayden's head. It doesn't necessarily take much to push someone over the edge. I really think we needed to see that. And, despite his crappy life, there was no sign that he was depressed. It's important to me that we see that. We should see that. Depression shouldn't be hidden, and if he was depressed, then he hid it pretty damn well. That doesn't sit comfortably with me. Not even his best friend seeing something wasn't right - even I, as the reader, could see that something wasn't right. It bothers me, it really does, because it's scary. People with depression shouldn't hide it, they should seek help, and there's nothing covering that in this book. And if he didn't have depression, then I'm at a complete loss as to what I think about this book, I really am. Because then I don't get it at all.
Really not my cup of tea, unfortunately. This book just wasn't for me....more
I'd not read anything by Tamara Ireland Stone before reading Every Last Word, so I didn't know what to expecOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I'd not read anything by Tamara Ireland Stone before reading Every Last Word, so I didn't know what to expect. Every Last Word is a fantastic story, with a beautiful romance, of a girl dealing with her OCD and learning to accept herself.
Sam and her friends have been popular for as long as she can remember. However, as time has gone on, being popular has come be difficult, with all the expectations. Look good all the time, say the right thing, keep your place at the top of the social ladder at all costs, or lose everything. This is even harder for Sam who suffers with Purely-Obsessional OCD, so being and perfect is on her mind all the time. Then she meets Caroline, with whom the expectations just fall away. With Caroline, she can just be herself without fear of judgement. When Caroline brings her along to Poet's Corner, a secret group of students who write and read out poetry, Sam finds a place she feels she belongs, and she slowly starts to feel better, more normal. But then Sam makes a discovery that turns everything she knows on it's head, and Sam ends up fearing her mind even more.
Every Last Word is brilliant! Sam is such an amazing character, and through her, I got to see a side of OCD I haven't before. She has Purely-Obsessional OCD, which means, for her, it's mostly internal, having obsessed thoughts that she can't let go of; a spiral of thoughts that she can't control and can't stop, which can cause her to have anxiety attacks as she's so scared she might act on her thoughts, or they simply just freak her out. Some of her thoughts aren't that unfamiliar - I'm sure everyone has had the fear of not fitting in, or what their friends might think of them - but where we might push the thoughts aside and try to think of something else, Sam can't do that. They go on and on and on, and they're all-consuming. It scares her, and she hates it; hates the way she thinks, how theirs a glitch in her brain, how she's not "normal".
She has an absolutely wonderful relationship with the psychologist, Sue, who is just brilliant, and really helps Sam get on top of her mental illness. She really tries to get Sam to change the way she sees her OCD, so instead of seeing it as something to despise, it's something that's special, because she sees things differently to others. These moments come a little later on in the book, but I just loved them, because throughout this novel, with Sam's opinion of her OCD, I was reminded of the first half of this post on Hello Giggles, An Open Letter to My Anxiety-Riddled Brain - although Sam suffers with anxiety as well, her negativity on her mental illness is more towards her OCD, but there is a similarity in her feeling towards her mind and her brain. But with Sue's efforts to change how Sam sees it, I was reminded of the second half. The post is amazing for understanding what people who suffer with anxiety go through, and helped me to understand where Sam was coming from better. As someone who doesn't have OCD, Every Last Word seems to be an amazing book for promoting understanding.
As well as being a brilliant book on OCD, it's also a really great story. Sam's friends are simply awful, so I was so happy when she met Caroline, who is so laid back and care-free. She has had her own issues in the past, and so is able to help Sam with her own, without judgement - the first person Sam has ever told about her illness outside her family. To be understood, able to trust, and just be is so freeing to Sam, she and Caroline form a close friendship very quickly. And when she's introduced to Poet's Corner, Sam finds an outlet for her thoughts through writing, and more people who just accept her for her. She doesn't confide in them about her illness, but they don't pile expectations on her to be perfect, and she feels at home amongst them, which she has only felt before during the summer holidays, when she's competing in swimming competitions. And there's also AJ, and the sweet, sweet romance that develops between them. I loved the Poet's Corner, seeing these people reading out very different poems and the sense of belonging they all felt there. I loved it so much, I've been inspired to start writing my own crappy poetry again!
There was a part of the book I did, for a while, feel kind of annoyed about. As I was reading, I was thinking, "I must talk about this in my review." I felt let down by a certain aspect of the story. But then we had the twist. There is a big, major twist that I did not see coming at all, and completely explained and made sense of the aspect I had a problem with. The twist is just brilliant, it completely wowed me! At times in the story, it felt that Sam's mental illness wasn't as focal as Sam's time with those in Poet's Corner and Caroline. But then you get the twist, and realise it flows throughout. It's just so, so clever, and I felt all kinds of things; shock, sadness, sympathy. I know I've said it already, but it's just brilliant!
Every Last Word is an incredible story, one I highly recommend! I am now so eager to read the rest of Stone's novels; she's not an author to miss.
Thank you to Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley for the eProof....more
Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz is a novel about Etta - a black bisexual girl with an eating disOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz is a novel about Etta - a black bisexual girl with an eating disorder. So intersectionality, I just had to read it! And it was an even better read than I hoped it would be.
Etta recently split up with her boyfriend, but despite that, the Disco Dykes, the group she was formerly apart of, still don't want to know her, and treat her appallingly for stooping so low as to go out with a guy. She's also recovering from an eating disorder - though not one she can be medically diagnosed for, even though she used to starve herself and throw up whatever she did it, because her weight isn't low enough. And because of her curves, she was told by her ballet coach she wasn't quite right for ballet, despite being an incredible dancer. Etta isn't gay enough, not sick enough, not skinny or white enough for anything it seems. But when she's encouraged to try out for Brentwood, a theatre school in New York that could be Etta's ticket out of Nebraska, she meets Bianca, a girl who is also in her recovery group. Bianca is everything Etta isn't, but the two bond over trying to get into Brentwood and over the shared experience of eating disorders. Bianca is the one person accepting Etta as she is, but Bianca is so very sick; can she really lean on someone who can only just hold herself up?
Not Otherwise Specified is an incredible book about body image, sexuality, bullying, going for your dreams, and, most of all, friendship. The relationship between Etta and Bianca is beautiful! Despite the age difference - Bianca is 14 and Etta is 17 - the two get really close. Theirs is a really close friendship, not a romantic relationship, and Bianca brings Etta into the fold with her brother James and their friend Mason. Finally people Etta can just be herself around - whether it's talking about health or getting nervous over auditions.
Etta has a fair number of issues, but there are two things about her that inspired me so much! As mentioned, because of her weight, she's not giving a specific eating disorder, but also because of her weight, there were those, including her mother, who didn't think she had a problem. Doesn't matter that she was starving herself or binging and throwing it back up, because she wasn't skin and bone, some people failed to noticed. The reason she's in recovery? Because she herself decided to get help. Other people may not have seen it, but Etta knew she had a problem, and she got herself the help she needed. That's just amazing. It's hard and it's difficult, and she still struggles with food or with what people say about her eating or her weight, but she decided to try and get better, and I can't help but be in awe of her.
Also, when her lesbian friends dumped her when she got a boyfriend, she knew the problem was theirs. Even though she missed them, even though she still wanted to hang out with them, she knew she had done nothing wrong, and voiced that. She has always been bisexual, she never hid that and pretended to just be lesbian, the girls knew that. And that was ok, until she actually starts dating a boy. The way they behave is atrocious, the bullying - the violence and the names and the taunts, it's disgusting. But Etta knows who she is, and won't apologise for being bisexual. It's not about being a part-time lesbian and straight when it suits her. The girl likes both guys and girls, at the same time. Bisexuality exists, and she owns it! And I love her for it, even if she doesn't completely pull them up on their crap, and still, some of the time, wants to get back into that crowd. But it's like the girls really don't get it:
'"This is hard enough as it is, and then you have to go and completely piss on everything we stand for. Did you miss the part where the heteros make our life shit? And now here you are slutting around with the first guy who's nice to you, and what do you think that does besides make us all look like we're just doing the lesbian thing for attention?"' (p9)
I really think Etta's relationship with Rachel - who was her best friend before she got a boyfriend - is really screwed up. Those two do not have boundaries, which can be fine, but theirs is a relationship that needs them, because things get way to blurry. Rachel has this idea of who Etta is and who she should be, and if Etta does something that doesn't quite fit Rachel's image, Rachel will talk her back into her image, and Etta will follow almost without thinking. Who cares if ballet is her passion? Rachel thinks it's not right for her, is causing her too much pain, so she should stop. Rachel actually gets hurt by Etta getting a boyfriend. No worries when it's a girlfriend she has, but a boyfriend, and Rachel acts like Etta has done something terrible to her personally. Because Etta isn't who she thought she was - go figure. And Etta actually feels bad about that, that she hurt her best friend, because she's her whole world, even if she doesn't regret what she did. Their relationship is really toxic, in my opinion. But this isn't a criticism of the book, sometimes people do have toxic friends, and this was shown brilliantly. Rachel isn't necessarily mean, exactly, she does care about Etta, she just wants to control her, and it's really awful to read about.
Something I absolutely loved about this book was the look into sexuality and religion. Bianca is religious. She goes to Church, but her faith is less about organised religion and more about her relationship with god. Her faith tells her homosexuality is bad. And yet Etta, and other people in this book, aren't bad. She really struggles with this, and I love how Etta - who is an atheist as well as bisexual, comes to her defence. (Some names are removed below to avoid spoilers.)
'She's not in this to hate gay people. She doesn't hate gay people. She's just a girl who really loves her God and doesn't want to do anything to pull herself away from that... probably just as much as she doesn't want to be pulled away from [redacted]. And yeah, we can ask her to deal with [redacted] being gay, we can ask her to accept it, but I don't think we can just say that something she believes, something that she fundamentally wants to not hurt anyone, is something she can, or should, just get over.' (p126)
'"Hey. I'm the queer one here and I'm saying leave her alone. She's... fourteen. She doesn't hate anyone. She isn't running around telling people they're going to Hell. She's struggling because her damn God told her something she's questioning and that's really scary for her and she's fourteen. Leave her alone."' (p128)
Isn't that awesome?! This is the first time I've read a book where the actual queer character is defending someone's beliefs. Granted, Bianca isn't telling anyone that who they are is wrong, she is really struggling with what she believes, but Etta isn't saying her beliefs are screwed up either. Whatever your personal beliefs on what religion says about homosexuality, you've got to admit Etta is pretty awesome here? She loves her friend, and so understands her struggle, and doesn't want her to be so upset by it, or get so much grief. It's wonderful.
This review is already a lot longer than I planned, and I haven't even touched on the body image/eating disorders side of things yet. I'm not going to go on, but this is dealt with beautifully; Etta's issues, Bianca's, how Etta feels about Bianca's issues - how she worries about her being so sick, yet also struggles with feeling like she's a failure in comparison... it's heartbreaking to read, but feels so real and honest to me.
And despite the seriousness of the mental illnesses of eating disorders, it's wonderful to read a book that deals with this - and all the other serious elements too, like the bullying - in a way that doesn't make the book feel too heavy, too depressing. I absolutely loved Etta's voice, she's a fantastic character who I'd love to hang out with, and even with everything going on, she keeps things fun, mostly. And you've just got to love all the theatre school auditions/ballet practising. It's just good!
Not Otherwise Specified is a truly beautiful, amazing book, and I would force this book into your hands now if I could. This is my first Moskowitz book, but I'll definitely be picking up her others. Please, read this book....more
Panther by David Owen, a book focusing on the experience of living with someone with depression, had me gripOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
Panther by David Owen, a book focusing on the experience of living with someone with depression, had me gripped from the very first page. An amazing, realistic portrayal.
Derrick's older sister, Charlotte, has depression, and it's affecting everyone. To Derrick, home is no longer a place of comfort, but a place of walking on eggshells around Charlotte, so as not to upset. Three months ago, Charlotte attempted to commit suicide, and his life has gone from bad to worse. His best friend has ditched him, he stands no chance of ending up with the girl he fancies, Hadley, and he's put on a huge amount of weight - and it's all Charlotte's fault. When there are rumours of a panther roaming his town, Derrick puts two and two together; the panther appeared around the same time as Charlotte's incident, and is sure this can't be a coincidence. If he can catch the panther, everything will be ok - Charlotte will get better, and his life will go back to normal. But how do you go about catching a panther?
This is a really fantastic story of living with someone who has depression. There are quite a few books out with protagonists suffering with depression, but they focus mainly on the central character. However, depression affects more than just the person who is suffering with it, but also those around them, and with Panther, David Owen brilliantly shows just what this can be like.
Derrick is having a really hard time dealing with Charlotte's depression. He blames for everything that's going wrong in his life, and is just so angry with her. And also guilty, that he can't seem to be able to help her. As someone who has been in Derrick's position of living with someone with depression, I found his anger really callous. He doesn't really understand what depression is, but for most of the story. As far as he's concerned, if you're having a crap time, you don't throw huge crying and screaming fits and throw things about the room like a child having a tantrum, you just get on with it like everyone else. He's so angry and so frustrated, and can't stand being in that house. He doesn't seem to try to understand, either. He's too busy blaming Charlotte for everything - not just everything that's changed, but his bad decisions and the consequences of them, too. It's all her fault. Despite my personal reactions to how Derrick handles things, none of this is a criticism of the story. Derrick doesn't get it, and his reaction is pretty realistic of a young guy who's a little selfish, and just wants his life back. Saying all this, he does genuinely care about his sister and wants her to get better, wants to help her, he just doesn't know how. Which is where hunting the panther comes in. He gets it into his head that this is something he can do, something that will fix everything, and he fixates on it.
Derrick has his own issues, too. The book opens with Derrick in an alley, rooting through bin bags for cookies. He's put on a lot of weight because he binges. His need to binge is a physical pain in his stomach, a need he has to fill. He knows it's a bad idea, he hates the way it's changing his body, but it's a compulsion he struggles to fight. With everything that's going wrong around him being out of his control, binging, even though it's bad for him, is a bad thing that he has control over. His binging is happening because he has made a choice, because he puts the food in his mouth. He's punishing himself for not being able to fix anything else, but temporarily feels better for having some kind of control over something. It's really upsetting to read, and I just felt so sorry for him. He also makes some bad choices and does things that are also worrying and disturbing; Derrick is quite clearly not a guy who is coping well. It would have been nice to have seen him get some kind of help, to have someone to talk to maybe. However, if he did, we would have a completely different story, and I think it's important to see why help might be needed in the first place.
The panther. This was a really interesting part of the story. There is a panther roaming in Derrick's town; everyone's talking about it and it's in the news. However, for most of the book, I was never entirely sure whether Derrick ever actually saw the panther, or whether he was imagining things. Derrick's mind definitely played tricks on him whenever these confrontations took place, emphasising further just how bad Derrick is getting, but whether the panther was ever actually there, I'm not sure. It's possible that it might be a complete coincidence, but I like the idea that Charlotte was suffering with depression, which can be known as the black dog, and Derrick is out trying to catch a black cat to make it all right again. For Derrick, the panther did become intrinsically linked with Charlotte's depression, and was almost a physical representation of it - trap the panther, and depression can no longer trap them. I really like this extra layer to the story, even if it's just my interpretation of it.
Though at times a difficult read, Panther is a really incredible, important and powerful story; moving and very real. A brilliant debut I highly recommend.
FYI: My review will spoil what Darren's dad reveals to him. We find out about this revelat**spoiler alert** Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
FYI: My review will spoil what Darren's dad reveals to him. We find out about this revelation really early on in the story, so I don't feel it's really that much of a spoiler, and considering it's a focus of the majority of the story, I have no idea how I can review this book without talking about it. If you don't want this spoilt for you, though, do not read any further.
As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. A story told entirely through lists, that's as long as it is - 656 pages, about what sounds to be quite a complicated story? I am sold! This book is really amazing, but the ending has left me totally confused.
Darren isn't doing so great. His parents are divorced, his brother has left for college, and his best friend has moved away. Dealing with the divorce has been hard, but he doesn't really have anyone to talk to. And then one morning, his dad drops a bombshell on him; he's gay. Darren doesn't know how to deal with this sudden declaration, or how to work out what it means. Not being able to cope with all that's going on in his head, or with having to spend a several hour journey with his dad later to visit his brother, he decides to skip school and visit his brother early. But Zoey, a quiet and seemingly strange girl from school Darren has always had a thing for, adds further complications; she turns up mid-journey, and spends the day with him. And then disappears.
I felt quite sorry for Darren. He has really struggled with his parents' divorce. He understands that now they're apart they seem happier than they were together, but that's not what he wants. He wants his family whole; his parents together, and happy about it, and possibly his brother back home. Even now, there is still tension between his parents, and flitting between the two homes is difficult. It doesn't help that his mother isn't really around as much, as for her job she has to travel to and from California quite a lot, so Darren is forced to stay with his dad who just wants to talk about everything. And then his dad throws another spanner in the works by revealing he's gay.
I really like the way this was handled. Darren isn't homophobic, he doesn't have a problem with gay people... but this is not something you expect to be told from your dad. He's gay? He's always been gay? So what does that mean for his mum and dad's relationship? Was it all a lie? Had his whole childhood been a lie? Darren really isn't happy, and doesn't know how to deal with it. Also, although being gay isn't a problem, having a gay dad kind of maybe is, because of how he's going to be seen - he's always going to be the guy with the gay dad, he's a little worried what people will think of him. But mostly, his struggle is with accepting it himself. His dad is not who he thought he was, he never has been, and although he doesn't have a problem with gay people, it's a complete shock. And with his mother not always there, and his best friend nowhere near by, he's lonely, and doesn't really have anyone to talk to. Hence him deciding to go visit his brother on his own.
The voices of the various characters in this book were brilliant! So distinctive! I especially loved Nate's, even though he frustrated the hell out of me. It was Darren's, Nate's and Zoey's that stood out for me. In fact, it was Darren's relationship with Zoey that was the highlight of the book for me. In the end, it turns out to be only one part of a book with many parts, so not as much of a focus as I would have liked. But hey, Darren has a lot going on, and does spend a lot of time thinking about her and questioning things, even if there isn't much page-time of them together. And Me Being Me isn't so much a book about Darren's relationship with any one particular person, but with all of them. It's a book about him.
However, this book had one major flaw for me; the ending. I have no idea if I missed something, or if that is just how it ended. There are so many questions left unanswered! Maybe there will be a sequel, from someone else's point of view, where we find out the answers to these questions. But if not, and that is just it, with me having not missed anything... then that is one hell of an infuriating ending, to the point where I'm quite angry. To get so invested in a story, in a character, and wanting them to work out everything, and then to have... things end like that?! I'm really trying not to spoil it, but it just felt cruel. I want to know what was going on too, how comes I don't get to hear? I really do hope there's a sequel, but if not, I'm really not happy. Has anybody else read this yet? Please talk to me about the ending in case I have completely missed something! Because there are just no words really.
Overall, though, a really amazing book, apart from those last four pages. I'd still really recommending this book despite the ending, because it's just so, so good otherwise! And the format is so interesting and works so well! Definitely something to check out!...more
I have sat here for a few minutes trying to work out how to start this review, because I'm simply still aweOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I have sat here for a few minutes trying to work out how to start this review, because I'm simply still awe at how beautiful The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt is, and I can't think of any better introduction than: Wow.
Limpet has just had to bury her mum. She is so full of grief and guilt, and her dad is having a hard time coping, so when her best friend Steffan suggests she go on road trip with him and their other friend Jared, she jumps at the chance to get away from it all for a while. What follows are several days of highs and lows, laughs and sadness, and the realisation of how important these two guys are to her. But things are changing. Not only has her mum died, but Steffan will soon be leaving. And underneath it all there are things no-one is saying, secrets that if brought out from hiding could destroy the one thing keeping Limpet going right now; their friendship.
The Last Summer of Us is such a beautiful novel. I don't want to say too much about it, because it's some things you should discover for yourself and enjoy as you read. There are plenty of things happening throughout the road trip, but it's more of a reflective novel, of Limpet's internal struggles. It's about Limpet (a nickname the boys call her), if not working her way through her grief, and the sadness over the way her whole life is now going to change, then accepting that this is what her life is now. That she no longer has a mother, that her best mate will be leaving, that the ground she's standing on isn't as solid as it once was, but that she can deal with that, eventually.
The relationship between the three friends is amazing. Theirs has got to be one of the best friendships I have read in YA. I loved both cheeky-chappy Steffan, and reserved, watchful Jared. They're all dealing with their own problems in this book, and it's just brilliant how they are all their for each other throughout. I loved them! I want to hang out with them all. It was so upsetting to know this awesome friendship would soon be changing, with Steffan leaving. And the sweet, sweet changes between Limpet and one of the guys as they start to see each other differently are just perfect. Sometimes, slow and careful can be really beautiful.
The writing is wonderful. There is such brilliant dialogue; the snappy banter between the three friends as they continually take the mick out of each other always had me smiling. But there are also some really beautiful moments where they actually talk, and wonderful phrasing when Limpet works things out for herself, when a key is turned and a lock clicks and she comes to realise things. And the descriptions! You can feel the heat of the hot summer sun, smell the musty dry grass, see the beautiful landscape. Harcourt really has a fantastic way of painting a brilliant picture for you with her writing, and it's just beautiful.
I had a personal reaction to this book, too. As I write this in February, I am dealing with my Nan's imminent death. I found Limpet's story and her getting herself to the point where she feels she'll be able to cope with the grief and the changes in her life really helpful and comforting. I know I'll soon be feeling like she does in certain parts of the novel, but she gets to the point where she knows there's a light at the end of the tunnel, even if she's not quite reached it yet, and it was such a relief to read it. Despite her story being very different from what I'm going through, this book came into my hands at exactly the right time, and I'm really grateful for this beautiful story.
The Last Summer of Us is a beautiful story of grief, friendship and hope, and one that has left me in complete awe. I will definitely read whatever Harcourt writes in future, and I want my own collection of snow globe moments.
Seeing as I absolutely loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan, I absolutely had to read Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story, Levithan's companion novel, this time featuring Tiny Cooper - but with a difference. This is the script for the play Tiny performs in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, where he gets to be the star. Sadly, I didn't love this as much.
Despite being a musical novel, through the directions, Tiny gives a more in-depth look into how he was feeling at each moment. However, it wasn't in-depth enough for me. I didn't feel I got to know Tiny any better than I did in WG, WG. I know it's a musical novel, but being a novel, even if in script form, I thought we'd still go deeper. But I guess the style doesn't really allow for that. Levithan's awesome writing style, with his beautiful way with words, doesn't get to shine as much, except in the stage directions.
We do get some really quirky songs, and on occasion some of the lyrics are quite touching, but in all they felt kind of cheesy - but seeing as this is Tiny's story, it was always going to be cheesy. Big and bold and in your face with a lot of glitter and sparkles. I'm a huge fan of musical theatre, and I loved some of the references made, and some of the songs I could actually almost hear as I was reading along. They didn't sound the same, but "Dude, You Couldn't Be Gayer", which is sun by Phil Wrayson and Tiny, really reminded me of "Thank Goodness" from Wicked, where Glinda sings about how she "couldn't be happier".
Despite not going as deep as I would like, and as funny as it could be with it's big, boldness, there were moments when Hold Me Closer was really quite moving. Towards the end, there are moments that overlap with WG, WG, and seeing those moments from Tiny's point of view, through the medium of song, it was really poignant. The songs get a little less cheesy, and a little more serious, and Tiny can be really quite emotional. It's really sweet, and yeah, I was moved.
However, I do think I would have preferred this to be an actual novel, and got into Tiny's head a little better, but saying that, that wouldn't be Tiny's story, that would be fitting Tiny's story into a shape they want, rather than what was really him. A musical novel is so Tiny, and probably the only way to tell it. It just wasn't something I could get into as much as I would have liked. But still, a quick, fun read, and getting to see those characters we fell in love with in WG, WG again is just awesome!
From the moment I heard about We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, I new I had to read it. And just like I hopOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
From the moment I heard about We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, I new I had to read it. And just like I hoped, it's amazing!
It starts off just looking like a blue star in the sky - but soon it is announced that star is actually an asteroid, named Ardor, and there's a 66.6% chance it's going to collide with Earth, and wipe out the human race. Four ordinary high school seniors' lives are turned upside down by the news; Peter, an athlete, Eliza, a budding photographer outcast for being promiscuous, Andy, a skater who spends his time getting high, and Anita, a high achiever who's parents always expect more, find themselves thrown together in the events leading up to Ardor's impact, have their worldview changed, and discover what it really means to be alive.
This book! Oh my god, this book! We All Looked Up is such a genius idea, the premise is fantastic and is so, so promising, but Wallach takes the story so much further than I expected! It's so thought-provoking, and leads you through all these little epiphanies about how you live your life, and what you should be doing with it. I am so excited by this story, and think it's going to be such a hit!
I'm not going to go into too much detail about the plot and events of this book, because I feel it's the kind of story where you should discover everything as you read it. I was most interested in Eliza and Andy's narrations. That's not to say that Peter and Anita's narrations weren't interesting, they were. In fact one of the brilliant things about We All Looked Up is how well Wallach wrote the voices of these four very different teens and kept them so distinct and individual. I loved them all! I just found their stories to be more emotional in the case of Eliza and just so different to anything I have experienced in the case of Andy. I think Andy was probably my favourite of all the characters; he was flawed and he got up to some really questionable and unwise things, partly due to his relationship with his best mate Bobo who is such a loose cannon, but he's also pretty funny, and I found some of his emotional moments really endearing. He makes some bad choices, but I think if he was helped on to the right path, he would be such a great guy. I really loved him.
I loved how sex was looked at in this book, especially into relation to Eliza and her sleeping around. She is shunned for it, which is really awful, but she's just a girl taking back her power after one kiss seems to ruin her life, in a way that she enjoys. The girl likes having sex, and there's nothing wrong with that, and it's so wonderful to see that juxtaposed with the grief and reputation she gets for it. Andy at one points mentions the "slut shaming" Eliza is on the receiving end of, and I know that's a common term, but considering everything it says about Eliza and her sex life, I wish the term was addressed; the term is basically saying "shaming a slut", which just isn't great. That word should just not be used, in general, even in a term that's meant to be against it - but that's just my opinion on terminology, not a put down on the book.
Peter was a really great guy. I loved how, even before anyone knew about Ardor, he was starting to rethink his view on life, because of a question asked by a really awesome teacher in class. Is what he plans to do with his life really worthwhile? And once Ardor makes it's presence known, that questions becomes a lot bigger, more important to him. He doesn't want to waste his life, whether there's a collision or not, he wants his life to count for something, wants to do something that matters. Here's this ordinary guy who's pretty nice, pretty smart, and pretty awesome athlete, who then becomes this amazing guy who wants to make a difference, somehow. I admired him so much. Anita is also a wonderful character who finds freedom in the announcement of Ardor's possible imminent collision. Life is short, so why spend it under the rule of parents who continually put too much pressure on you, and completely giving up on your dreams because they disagree with them? This girl has some guts to do what she does when the end of the world is nigh, and I thought she was just so brave. I do wish we also got some of Peter's sister Misery's point of view, who goes out with drug dealer Bobo, because I think her story would have been amazing!
I could go on and on about how completely awe-inspiring this book is, but as I said, I think you should discover it all yourself, but this is definitely going to be one of those books that I'm going to be talking about for a while. The climax at the end is just unbelievable and totally unexpected, and really had me getting emotional. We All Looked Up is just such a fantastic novel, an absolutely stunning debut and you all have to read it!
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children's Books for the review copy....more