Seems like all the cool kids are graphic-novelizing their best-sellers, and Patricia Briggs is no exception.
Warning: contains series spoilers.
I buddy read the first couple books in the Mercy Thompson series with Louisa a while back. I liked them, but I didn't like-like them. I think the problem is that so many paranormal books seem derivative because it's really hard to deviate from the acceptable canon of vampires, werewolves, and witches; they're so popular that information about them is readily available, even to the laziest researchers possible, so it becomes a self-feeding hype train.
Mercy Thompson is better than most, and I liked the books, even though they had their flaws. The graphic-novel takes place later in the series--much later than I'd managed to read through. Mercy Thompson is now Mercy Hauptman--she and Adam finally managed to tie the knot--and Jesse, Adam's daughter, is now her beloved stepdaughter.
The plot is this. Mercy and the wolves find some dead bodies that are missing their fingers and toes. She suspects it is the work of fae, and this actually ends up tying into some interesting folklore which I'm not sure the author made up or not. (I looked it up, hoping to find some of the mythology she used, but my search garnered no results. Still, it's a cool idea--especially if she did make it up.)
When I found out Jesse was pretty much the main character in this graphic-novel, I got my side-eye ready and rearing to go, because as soon as you introduce children into a series (Jackie Chan's Adventures, Indiana Jones, I'm side-eying you), it becomes super, uber annoying.
But Jesse was actually a good (heh) character. I liked her punk look (even though making someone punk or goth is a pretty cheap and cliche way to mark them as an outcast), I liked her relationship with her father and Mercy, I liked the struggle she had with dealing with her father being an alpha werewolf and all, and the stigma that this caused with her classmates.
I suppose my one beef with this book is that the ending was a little convenient, which kind of ties into the whole "children are annoying" thing I have going on; when children are involved, the series usually becomes less dark, because nobody wants to see children die. (Warning: children die in this graphic-novel. In very unpleasant ways. Also, a cat. D:) But since the story has the feel of a Brothers Grimm fairytale, I guess it's only fair that it gets resolved like one too.
DOPPLEGANGER is a weird, Tim Burtony book about two twins named Saskia and Sadie Dopple living in a grim little orphanage in England. One day a woman named Muzz Something-Or-Other decides that she'll adopt Saskia because she has good teeth, but not Sadie because she has a "weak smile." The two girls are devastated, but there's not much they can do.
There's a lot of really weird stuff in here--twins, dopplegangers, secret paintings, conspiracies, creepy butlers, creepy teachers, and all this other stuff. I didn't really like the art style or the storyline and I spent a big portion of this book giving it the side-eye because I just couldn't get into it.
I should also point out that this book is probably intended for a much younger audience than me. It was less a a graphic novel than a picture book.
I got Sakura Taisen off a library discard table. I mean, it was free. And free manga is practically unheard of. (Seriously, that shit's more expensive than a heroine addiction.)
...It's really weird.
The book starts out with a war simulation. Then Ensign Ogami happily graduates with his naval academy. After a night of celebration, he is drafted to a very special assignment...
Ticket master at an old theater in Tokyo.
He must have pissed someone off.
Several girls have the run of the theater, and all of them have very different personalities. Sakura is the first we meet, and she's the bubbly, feminine archetype of female heroines in Japanese manga: the perfect girl. Sumire is the spoiled princess, who is loud, and arrogant, and all too used to getting her way. Iris looks like a little doll, and she's spoiled and has psychic powers. Maria dresses in drag all the time. She's half-Japanese, half-French, and extremely icy and reserved.
While Ogami has these women running all over him (sometimes literally), demons are wandering around in Japan and so, oddly enough, are these little steam-powered robots. They don't really appear until the very end, and yes, there is a cliffhanger ending that suggests that in spite of the humiliating appearance of his new job, Ogami's new situation might not as be as deprecating as it seems.
I couldn't really get into Sakura Taisen. Firstly, I don't really like the more rounded style of faces in shounen style manga. I grew up with shoujo and that's what I tend to prefer. I'll make an exception for really good storylines, but this wasn't a really good storyline. The world-building was flat. I get that in the first book, the artist and writer have to take the time to set up the story, but that literally took up the whole book. And like I said, manga is expensive. If I'd paid money for this shit, I'd have been very angry that my money had basically gone up in smoke. I don't want to have to read an entire series to wait for something interesting to happen.
Owls became a hipster icon a few years ago--owl shirts, purses, accessories, plushies...you couldn't go anywhere without seeing something with an owl printed on it. Even now, they remain a popular motif among certain brands.
When I saw OWLS on Netgalley, I knew it was special. Quirky, artsy books like these hold a special place in my heart. They are like the book equivalent of junk food; usually, you want something meatier, something filling, but sometimes you also want something light and fluffy, like a cupcake. Coffee table books are like the cupcakes of the literary world.
OWLS is an illustrated book about owls. Self-explanatory. The watercolor illustrations are surprisingly gorgeous, and I liked how the artist managed to capture the "personality" of each owl. Accompanying the drawings are brief descriptions of each owl (think a few paragraphs) and then some facts.
I enjoyed reading OWLS. It was a cute, light read.
MAGONIA is like several books crammed into one, and unfortunately for this book, none of them really fit together.
MAGONIA starts out like an overly precious "sick kid book" like ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES (a book I would happily toss into a bonfire) and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Yeah, she's probably dying, of a mysterious disease that has no cure, but that doesn't stop her from being twee as fuck, or from falling in luuurve.
Then one day, Aza realizes something that changes her entire life--her illness, her family, her very world are not what they seem. For the first time in her life, she might be able to be well. But at what cost? (There's always a cost.)
For the fantasy element, I went in here expecting one thing and was presented with another, so props to the author for that. As others have said, the world-building truly is unique and she should be lauded for not relying on the more typical vampires, werewolves, and demons (oh my) tropes.
However...I felt slammed with all the fantasy, and this, paired with Aza's truly horrendous narrative, made it really hard to sink into the story. There was just so much, and being introduced to it all through Aza's eyes was unbearable. (Seriously, Aza is annoying--so freaking annoying--and it never stops.) It was like reading Hayao Miyazaki fanfiction with someone's self-insertion Sue. Oh, don't mind me, I'm just Aza Ray, the real heir to Laputa: Castle in the Sky! Yeah-fucking-right.
Another problem is that, when you take away the fantasy elements, this is a pretty cliche young adult story. There's the special girl who doesn't know she's special (and she doesn't know she's beautiful, either). There's the mandatory love triangle. There's the brooding love interest who alternates between elaborate, magical displays of love and extreme acts of condescension. There's the manic pixie dreamboy love interest who's just a little too nice and too quirky to be believable.
I'm a little surprised at how many of my friends gave this book such high ratings because, to me, it was a very unpolished, erratic mess. I suppose that we're all jut so saturated in cliche YA paranormals that anything remotely unique would get a high rating out of a feeling of respite, because apart from the world-building and some decent passages of writing, I don't see anything about this book that warrants such a high rating. It's a debut, and it reads like one. Make of that what you will.
When I finished this book, I wanted to clap my hands together like Mr. Burns and go, "Eeeexcellent."
As a lifetime Rowling fan, I'm super curious and enthusiastic about Rowling's post-Potter work. Don't get me wrong. I grew up with Harry & the gang, and was convinced--convinced--when I heard that they were making a movie of the book, all the way back in fifth grade, that when they were casting children, somehow a producer would come to America, see me, and even though I've got the most ridiculously Californian accent ever and have blue eyes instead of brown, they would see me and say, "That's our Hermione!" And somehow this would give me magic powers, as well... (I was ten, okay? Ten, and deluded, and possibly crazy.)
ANYWAY, I'm an adult now, and a bit more realistic about my future (I say that, and yet I am a writer--hahahahaha I'm still just as deluded and crazy as I was before, but now I get paid for it). And as an adult, I am very, extremely happy that Rowling has started writing adult fiction. I am one of the few people who actually enjoyed THE CASUAL VACANCY. I go into the reasons why in my review, but basically it's because Rowling is a genius when it comes to developing characters.
However, VACANCY was an exclusively character-driven novel, and besides a bunch of middle-class (and lower-class) British people fucking each other over in inventively cruel and interesting ways, not a whole lot happens. I will concede this. There is not much in the way of plot. It is a case study written by a literary Jane Goodall who's all like, "LOL LOOK AT HOW TERRIBLE THESE PEOPLE ARE? LET'S FOLLOW THEM AND SEE WHAT THEY DO NEXT, WOT."
THE CUCKOO'S CALLING is the next step. Not only does this book have the brilliant characterization of VACANCY, it has the brilliant plotting and foreshadowing that made Harry Potter such a joy to read. One of the things that fascinated me about the Potter series was how effortless the world-building seemed. Rowling was really good at bringing you up to date about what happened in the previous books without the heavy-handed, LET'S WRITE A COPY-PASTE RECAP INTO THE SECOND PAGE OF EVERY BOOK deal that was so popular in the 90s and early 2000s (Animorphs and Baby-Sitters' Club were especially devout about following this rule).
These subtle nuances are perfect--perfect--for murder mysteries, apparently. When I got to the brilliant grand reveal at the end, I sat there, wide-eyed, as everything fell neatly into place and thought, "My God, this woman is a genius." And then, "Oh God, I'm glad she's not a murderer."
The book opens with a biracial supermodel's death. Lula Landry falls from her apartment window and because she had a clinical history the cops immediately write it off as a suicide. Case open, case shut. But Lula's sister, John Bristow, is not convinced that her death was self-inflicted, so he decides to hire the reluctant PI, Cormoran Strike, at double-pay, to help discover what really happened to his sister.
With the help of a very lovely, wonderful woman named Robin, Cormoran interviews Lula's friends, family, and coworkers, gradually weaving a tapestry of lies, lurid acts, and treachery. We never see Lula alive, but gradually we understand her personality and her motives through the literary equivalent of negative space, something that was done equally well in THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SOPHIE STARK. As we learn more and more, we wonder: is this a woman who would want to die?
Strike's personality is really well done. As an Afghan vet who both lost his leg and still suffers from PTSD, his life is full of suck already. But add to that a horrible ex-girlfriend who is psychotic and also a compulsive liar, and the fact that he's a few bounced checks from losing his business, and you find yourself with a down-in-the-dumps character who is pretty hard not to root for. His relationship with Robin is really charming, and I found it so refreshing to see a deep relationship between a man and a woman that remains entirely platonic throughout the story. It was wonderful.
When Rowling's Galbraith penname was leaked to the public, I was very sad for her, because I had strongly suspected that the negative reception VACANCY received was part of her motive for adopting a pseudonym. There are some very powerful (and negative) statements about fame, and the effects of fame, and how fans can sometimes back the very figures they idolize into a corner in this book, and at times the bitterness and the frustration are extremely uncomfortable because they seem so personal. The sordid controversy surrounding this book seems even more ironic when you take all that into account. However, if her name hadn't been leaked, I probably wouldn't have picked this book up--and I'm sure lots of others are probably in the same boat of cognitive dissonance.
Personally, I thought THE CUCKOO'S CALLING was great. It's kind of like what you would get if you took Meg Cabot's SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT mystery and had Gillian Flynn rewrite it, and then had Stephen Fry narrate it. It's good, and it's unexpectedly funny, and it's also dark and gritty, as well.
But don't take my word for it. Read this book! It's--
This book was originally published in Italian but was recently translated into English, so Netgalley was offering the newly translated English edition on the site, for review. Since I am only the second English review for this book, this is going to be a very comprehensive analysis of the storyline and that means spoilers.
Lots, and lots, and lots of spoilers.
The title makes LEMONADE sound like it's going to be a light-hearted book. It isn't. Anna Champion is an ill-tempered girl who is all too used to being referred to as an ugly duckling. Her friend, Lucy, however, is very beautiful and quite social and insists on dragging Anna to all the local parties and soirees.
Christopher grew up in a brothel with a whore mother who later committed suicide. For a while, he continued to live there out of pity until the madam decided to sell him to a pedophile. He escaped, but at a terrible cost. Now he is a socialite with ice in his veins and revenge in his heart.
When they are at the same party, Christopher spills lemonade on Anna's dress and doesn't apologize. She decides to embarrass him in turn. Christopher escalates things. Anna refuses to back down. So Christopher decides to completely humiliate her, insinuating himself into every possible facet of her life, while at the same time using her as an instrument through which he can carry out his revenge.
In one of my status updates for LEMONADE, I said that this was like a Victorian version of the Japanese manga, HANA YORI DANGO. And it is, at least in the first 25-30%. Anna is in love with her sweet, gentle childhood friend, Daniel, and is conflicted and disturbed by how she reacts to Christopher. And Christopher is a lot like Doumyouji--violent, impulsive, ruthless, and tortured.
Christopher is a really terrible love interest. I almost hesitate to call him that, because he is so awful. In his single-minded determination to kill Daniel's father, he thinks nothing of casually threatening his cousin, Matthew, with violence, threatening Anna's family, impoverishing local farmers, evicting a widow from her husband's land, or even committing acts of rape.
After near-raping Anna at a party (which he blames her for, of course), he resolves to stay away from her because of how she tests his self-control. But then he finds out that Daniel proposed to her, and decides, in a fit of "if I can't have her, no one can", tracks her down, rapes and beats her, and then kind of sighs and shakes his head and says, "Well, now we have to be married!"
He blackmails her into marrying him, threatens her with more rape, threatens her family, beats her some more, rapes her, threatens her childhood friend, beats Daniel about twice to a bloody pulp, and just basically acts like a total whirlwind of violence and misogynistic bullcrap. Of course he tells Anna that she was asking for it, that she pushes him too far, and it's really sad how she internalizes this abuse. She starts out as this very spirited, stubborn girl, but she breaks so early on that all interactions between them after her rape are painful to read. She's just...empty.
I think this was meant to be written in the style of bodice-rippers and gothic novels from the 70s and 80s and I think it succeeds in that quite well. (I also wonder if cultural differences might explain the content, as well.) However, I didn't like the attempts to make Christopher a sympathetic character. I didn't want to feel sorry for him: I wanted to hate him, and I wanted the female MC to hate him too. At the end of the book he pretty much tells her that he raped her because he loved her so much he just couldn't help himself, and even though the main character tells him that this is in no way an excuse, it's pretty obvious that they are going to end up together.
Even the revenge plot kind of petered out to nothing in the end, which made me angry, because I was expecting an exciting COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO revenge scheme and ended up with a puppy peeing on the rug and then slinking away in shame. After reading over four hundred pages of this story, I became quite invested in it, and was hoping for a much bigger payoff.
LEMONADE is a shocking and scandalous read that I know will upset lots of people. Thus the basis of its appeal, I imagine. Shocking and scandalous things sell. If you are a fan of Philippa Greggory's Wideacre trilogy, you will probably enjoy this. It is just as lurid and sensational--
Warning: do not read this book on an empty stomach.
SLICE HARVESTER is a stunt memoir. What's a stunt memoir? It's a memoir someone decides to write after doing something wacky, dangerous, or weird for the sheer sake of writing about it.FAKEBOOK is abut a man who decided he was going to lie--exclusively and extensively--on his Facebook. JULIE & JULIA is about a woman who decided she was going to cook one Julia Child recipe every day (and also proselytize--more than every day). GARLIC AND SAPPHIRES is about a food critic who decides to go to various restaurants in various disguises in order to see how she would be treated differently. SLICE HARVESTER is about a guy who drunkenly suggests that he ought to eat all the pizza in New York City. His friend says, "Yeah, man, let's do it." And then he does.
He eats all the pizza in New York City.
I can't help but think that this memoir would have been a little more impressive before the days of Yelp. Really active Yelpers have a lot of leisure time, and some of them seem to do nothing but eat, club, and drink. Hagendorf writes this with the implicit assumption that most of the people reading this book will have already heard of his blog (I haven't), so most of the book isn't about his blogging. It's about the circumstances that surrounded his visits to each pizza place, how the idea came to inception, his relationships with his friends, his alcoholism, and his girlfriend, Christine.
Hagendorf has a very distinctive style of writing that I know will irritate a lot of people. He injects the vernacular into his prose with the same enthusiasm of a child who gets to frost his own cake. "Hella" is used a lot (which is weird, because that's a So-Cal thing). "Corndoggin'" is used once. In one of his review excerpts, he refers to a bad slice of pizza as a floppy dick. This guy is crude and doesn't care who knows it, and also, he's really, really fond of punk culture. If you don't care about punk culture at all, don't worry. It's only lurking in every other page. UP DA PUNX.
The descriptions of pizza are easily the best part of this book. Easily. I found myself craving pizza at 2 A.M. last night because I'd made the mistake of reading this book before bed. Pizza is one of those childhood foods that never really loses its luster, so closely entwined is it with nostalgia.
One thing I wish had been touched upon more was the actual experience of what it is like to be a blogger. He mentioned trolls briefly, but the one example he gave was positive in the end (the troll, who wasn't even that big of a troll, felt bad, and ended up leaving his site a donation of $100). I wondered if any of the trolls had ever left retorts like those of us in the book blogging community see: "Oh, you're probably just a failed, bitter chef." "Why don't you try cooking a pizza before shooting off your mouth?" "You're going to destroy this person's livelihood." "Sorry this place wasn't enough like a Pizza Lunchable for you. Why don't you try going to Safeway with your mommy?" I regularly get comments like that once a week or more--it's something all bloggers have to face--and it seemed odd to me that this memoir glossed over that when blogging was such a focus.
SLICE HARVESTER was an interesting read. Not really for me, but interesting nonetheless. I think this book will only really appeal to a certain niche, but the people in that niche will probably embrace it wholeheartedly. It is what it is: a thirty-something punk rocker talking about how he got to blog about pizza for money while kicking the booze habit. If that doesn't appeal to you, stay away.
This book has a very similar cover and premise to SOME BOYS, by Patty Blount. However, unlike SOME BOYS, ALL THE RAGE really captures the trauma and the social consequences of rape. SOME BOYS used rape as a gimmick, and the main character's trauma was essentially healed by romance. In ALL THE RAGE, rape isn't a gimmick, it's the cross she's been forced to bear by her community. Rape is a fucking assault.
I think comparisons to SPEAK are going to be inevitable because both books deal with weighty subjects with raw, uncushioned bluntness. Each word is like a blow.
SPEAK resonated with me when I read it the first time, because it was the first accurate portrayal of a depressed teenager that I'd ever read. As a book about rape, though, I think it fails on several crucial points: it fails to explore society's reactions to rape as a whole and the rape myths that propagate these reactions.
Romy was one of the popular girls until one night, at a party, she is raped by the sheriff's son. She talks, he's expelled, and nobody has ever forgiven her for it. The children--and adults--in her town do cruel, unspeakable things. They tell her that she deserved it. That she was asking for it. That she's a slut. Did you wear a short skirt? What did you think would happen? A button-down shirt? You're just asking for it to be unbuttoned. Red lipstick? Why not go all out, and take a scarlet letter, too?
The only people who aren't jumping on the rape-train are Romy's step-father and mother, her coworkers, and, surprisingly, one of her ex-best-friends, a girl named Penny.
Then, one day, Penny disappears, and everything heads down in a tailspin.
I've only read one of Courtney Summers's books before--her first, actually--and it's amazing how much she has improved as a writer.
I really liked that the focus of this story was on Romy. I even liked that her rapist barely makes an appearance in this book. Everything takes second stage to Romy and her dealing with her rape and the abuse of her classmates and the adults who should be in her corner, but aren't. The romance was done in a really great way, and it's clear that in this case love will not heal all wounds.
You know all the ways you can kill a girl?
God, there are so many.
I really liked the way Summers portrays high school dynamics and relationships. She gets it. It felt authentic. Twitter is used. So is Facebook. The cruel pranks her classmates play on her seem like things particularly mean-spirited teens would do.
This book is written in an artsy, quirky-girl-lit style that didn't appeal to me, but my god, the writing--the story--the message. It's difficult to talk about how this book affected me, how frustrated and angry and helpless it made me feel. We've come a long way in women's rights in this decade (my state recently enacted the "Yes means Yes law, for example), but you still hear people pleading, "Won't somebody please think of these poor boys' futures?" whenever a man or a group of men are accused of committing acts of rape.
One thing that this book does, which really surprises me, is that it shows that girls can also be rapists, too. Men can be victims. Unfortunately, this was only briefly touched upon, and you have to read carefully to see what really happened, but it was only the second time I'd ever encountered the subject of female-to-male rape in YA, and it was really striking how shocking this was, because we don't often see that, do we? There's an implicit assumption in our culture that men want sex, all the time. They are incapable of saying no to it. And when you take away that ability to say no, you are not only extricating them from any burdens of responsibility, you're also robbing them of consent.
Men have the ability to choose. And the very thing that enables them to say, "No, I don't want sex," can also cause them to say, "Yes, I am going to have sex with this girl--even though she said no." The same goes for women. Rape myths hurt everyone.
I have decided that I just do not have enough fucks to get me through this book. I have officially run out of fucks.
The summary for this book sounded amazing and this was a hugely anticipated read for me. But the moment I picked it up and encountered whiny narrator #1, Laia, I knew I was in for an unpleasant surprise.
I didn't like either of the two narrators.
I didn't like how casually the rape and violence were introduced, or that they were completely unframed by emotional contexts.
I didn't like how boring this book was, particularly the crawling pace that did nothing but make me skim, looking for the (nonexistent) action. Ridiculous in a book that's supposed to be about gladiators.
I didn't like that the author decided to write a fucking love square into the plot. As if love triangles weren't messy and dramatic enough. No, we need more stupid, silly teen wangst.
I didn't like how stupid the narrators were, and how poorly-thought-out their schemes for betrayal and revenge were.
I didn't like that the resistance movement in this book is actually called The Resistance.
I didn't like all the terminology, especially since this, coupled with the shoddy world-building, made it very difficult to understand what the hell was going on.
I didn't like that this book was marketed as "Rome-inspired" when it really had nothing to do with Rome apart from gladiators and Latin-sounding names. With a bit of extra research, this could have been a pretty cool AU or historical-fantasy novel. But no, now it's lame and hackneyed.
I didn't like how weak the female protagonist is, especially when compared to Helene, her rival for one of her two love interests. She is lame and stupid and derpy.
I didn't like how misleading the summary was. It made me think that things were going to happen, but in the first third of this book that I managed to read, nothing did.
I didn't like how the suckiness of this book contributed to my growing list of disappointments for the 2015 releases I was looking forward to.
I didn't like reading this book. At all. Thank God I didn't pay money for it. (I love libraries.)
Molly applies for a very odd job listing that seems inoffensive until she sees the Dickensian manor he lives in and realizes that her employer is a relic of the 19th century--he uses words that wouldn't be out of place in Jane Eyre, wears cravats, and has the same insufferable primness as most Victorians of that era...
...or does he?
One of my friends said that this book was like a cross between JANE EYRE and The Secretary, and now that I've read the book I can sort of see it. Sort of. Stein imbues the female MC with enthusiastic kinkiness, and both characters use sex as an allegory for and as an ultimate solution to their problems.
Which I did not like.
I've actually written an entire mini essay on why using sex or love as a cure for your emotional or psychological problems is not beneficial, but basically, I believe that this trope trivializes the actual sufferers of mental health problems.
And to be honest, I was a little puzzled by why Cyrian was the way he was. Why did he demand control in all things? Why didn't he like being touched? Why did he read as though someone made a valiant but not entirely successful venture to combine Edward Rochester and Christian Grey in a blender? I was hoping that there would be a back story to explain why Cyrian was the way he was, but there wasn't. Which I guess makes sense, because sometimes people are the way they are and they don't need tragic back stories to make them this way, but it was still...odd.
If this was, indeed, the way he was, he got over his ailments remarkably quickly.
The beginning of this book was definitely my favorite part. I loved how saucy Molly was, and cheered for her when she got the job because of her mouth (not like that...perverts). The back and forths were great, and I was even okay with the first spanking scene because of the way it was done. The problem was that in the middle of the book the sex became more messy than sexy and some of their lines to each other started to cross over into wince-worthy territory. The book stopped being sexy and starting being more, well, weird.
I know this author can do better because I read and loved TELLING TALES, which was just as kinky but also had better dialogue and more in the way of back story and plot. In comparison, SWEET AGONY was a definite step-down.
I saw this on Netgalley and was immediately drawn to the giant teddybear-like creature in the sailor suit on the cover. "This looks adorable," I thought to myself. "I must have it!"
It wasn't until I put together the name of the manga--Shibainuko-san--that I realized that the fluffy protagonist in this book wasn't a teddybear.
It's a shiba inu.
The main character of this manga is a doge.
Cuteness aside, I actually found SHIBAINUKO-SAN to be a pretty disappointing read. And part of that may be because I don't really like dogs, so a lot of the jokes in this book meant to appeal to dog lovers just had me rolling my eyes.
The main character is a grim, miserable girl named Chako who has trouble making friends and always comes across as a bit of a Debbie-Downer. She's in middle school. One day she realizes one of her classmates is actually a shiba inu in a little dress--although nobody seems the wiser.
I don't know if you ever saw that Saturday Night Live skit about "Pat", but Shibainuko-san kind of reminded me of that. Chako becomes kind of obsessed with her dog classmate, and keeps accidentally making conversational missteps that make everyone--even Shibainuko-san herself--look at her in puzzlement. As Scooby-Doo would say, "Rog? Rare?"
The artwork in this manga was as cute as all get out, but it just wasn't for me.
You know those "independent films" that are constantly made fun of on TV? The black and white ones with the cheesy opera music and the Ayn Randian quotes of despair? Reading this book was like watching that, except without the parody.
Esther's mother was a vain dancer, beautiful in life, and when she dies, in death. Her death screws Esther up and for some reason she decides that she's going to faint--as much and in as many different ways as possible, from playing the fainting game in high school by hyperventilating to auto-erotic asphyxiation to drugs.
Esther's craziness escalates until she gets older and her father imparts a revelation about her mother that changes everything.
Honestly, this book was really boring. I was hoping for something like Megan Abbott--odd, but enlightening, with some interesting insights about the female psyche. Instead, we get lots of navel-gazing and whining and really idiotic behaviors that serve no purpose but to titillate the reader with these incredible displays of insanity (look! a crazy person! whatever will they do next?)
The revelation about Esther's mother was so obvious that I didn't even realize that we weren't suppose to have it figured out from the moment the issue was raised. Reading between the lines enabled me to figure it out immediately, and to take it as the status quo from the get-go.
I can't say anything positive about this work. It bored me and didn't contribute anything new or novel to the steadily growing genre of "crazy ladies acting crazy" lit that's starting to become so popular.
I'm using THE WHALE THAT FELL IN LOVE WITH A SUBMARINE for my 2015 Popsugar Challenge.The category it's meant to fulfill? A book that made you cry. It didn't actually made me cry, but it did depress me, and haunt me, and just in general put a darker, gloomy cast on my day that definitely wasn't present before.
There's this movie Studio Ghibli put out called Grave of the Fireflies (1988). It's about a boy and his little sister struggling to survive in Japan during WWII, and it's depressing as fuck. I literally cannot watch it because of how shitty it makes me feel. It is a movie without any hope, without any redemption; it takes a fatalistic and devastating look at war, and its casualties.
THE WHALE THAT FELL IN LOVE WITH A SUBMARINE is set in the same time period, with the same heavy-handed approach to the consequences of war. Which really surprised me, because this is being marketed as a children's book, and yet I'm really not sure it's appropriate for children because of the content of the stories. I'm all for darker YA and middle grade books, but not to the point of traumatizing kids.
How traumatic do you ask? OH BOY. LET ME TELL YA.
For example, in the first story, the main character is a sardine whale who is sad because he is too big (females only mate with males smaller than them). He ends up falling in love with a Japanese submarine heading out to battle the Americans. The Americans think the lovesick whale is the Japanese submarine on their sonar, and end up blasting him to pieces.
There's another story, called something like "The Boy Whose Mother Was a Kite." It's about a mother and her son who are caught in a burning building that was bombed by the Americans (don't you just feel like a total asshole right now? that's another thing--if you're an American, you're going to feel like the world's biggest douche while reading this book), and the air is getting hot and dry. To save her son, she pours her sweat on him. Then her tears. Then her breastmilk (there's this really uncomfortable passage describing her rubbing her nipples all over him when her breasts run dry D:). Then her blood. Finally, she withers away and ends up flying up towards the sky like a kite.
WHAT THE FUCK.
The writing in these stories is gorgeous and evocative, but I really don't think that stories about being burned alive, or about being a kamikaze pilot, or about being exploded into a bloody pulp by a torpedo are really appropriate for children. THE WHALE THAT FELL IN LOVE WITH A SUBMARINE makes it sound like it's going to be a hipster quirky story, but that is misleading. This book should be called EMOTIONALLY MANIPULATIVE CHILD AND ANIMAL DEATHS IN WWII JAPAN. Please don't read this to your children as a bedtime story. D: