**spoiler alert** I've wanted to read this for a couple years and now that I have, it just rubbed me the wrong way. First of all, it was hard for me t...more**spoiler alert** I've wanted to read this for a couple years and now that I have, it just rubbed me the wrong way. First of all, it was hard for me to believe that an 18-year-old could really be so naive. Yes, that was the way she was depicted, with her sheltered, religious family life and her romance novels (ick), but she did go to public school in present day and her best friend was the wild child type. Second, were we even supposed to like Michael??? Because I hated him from the start and I really thought he was cheating the whole time, although I guess we'll never really know for sure. The way MacLean described him at first though, how he was focused on her legs and her body. And some of the lines he fed her were just so cheesy; I really couldn't believe he was an English professor. THEN, he's all like "oh, pulling out totally works, don't worry about it," and Grace was like, "Oh okay, you have so much more experience with sex so I'll just believe you," and I was like, WTF? Is he blatantly lying to her or is he just an idiot? I could see that he wasn't supposed to be bad character, but there wasn't enough balance; so many things about him bothered me. And how old was he anyway? Grace says something thinking he's 26, but how many 26-year-old professors are there out there, especially who act like that and have the respect of their colleagues?
The only character I really loved was Liv (hate her name though) and I wanted to see more of her, a lot more. Her story was interesting and one that reminds me of people I know in real life, the need to get out of her house and away from her abusive parents, and using writing to get there. But they never resolved that at all and I wanted them to, I even wanted more of what her writing is like since they kept saying how she was a much better writer than Grace. (My reaction: why is Liv not telling this story then??? Might be interesting!) I also liked Will and wanted more of him. I also liked the whole museum bit with the fetuses.
I think MacLean tried too hard to write a coming-of-age novel, and one that seems to have a "message" except that I couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be. A lot of conflicting ideas in this. The religion parts were interesting though because I'd just watched Bee Season before I read this so it was a lot to think about. Two discussion questions at the end were thought-provoking: 1) What does the "it" in the title refer to? 2) Who is the villain in this novel?
For the record, I think both the title and the cover are very generic and pointless. In fact, the cover doesn't make much sense.
**spoiler alert** I'm sorry, I try to avoid saying it when I can, but this book was terrible. Completely disappointing because at the beginning I thou...more**spoiler alert** I'm sorry, I try to avoid saying it when I can, but this book was terrible. Completely disappointing because at the beginning I thought it had a lot of potential, but it was completely rushed and unbelievable and at the end, completely crazy.
Points of interest: 1. The writing style from the beginning was odd. It felt very unfinished and even frantic, when what we needed was some sort of clarity. I'm not sure it was smart to start in the middle of the affair and not explain anything until later. 2. I did not like that his name was Mr. Mann. I'm not sure what she was trying to say about men with that name. I also thought Carolina's nickname, Nine, was more distracting than helpful to understanding her character. Though I did like how she felt like she was just a number to him. 3. Why was the whole thing with Alicia treated like such a mystery and almost like it was something horribly bizarre? I pretty much figured she was pregnant but the way they were going on about it I thought there must be something else. 4. The last half of the book is completely absurd. I almost thought maybe it was supposed to be satire except we really had no warning of that. I thought it was supposed to be serious and clearly the publisher thought that too (did they even read this before they decided to publish it?). 5. The paintball-pistol-OMG-shocker! scene. Seriously, WTF? That was cheap. I don't mind that Carolina was trying to shock the people at the poetry reading, but the fact that Nelson was clearly trying to shock the reader? That was just bad. 6. Carolina was completely off her rocker. Now, I don't have a problem with crazy characters; in fact, I like them. But her insanity seemed to come from nowhere. And sometimes she really acted 12 instead of 17/18. 7. I didn't believe her relationship with Mr. Mann either, especially at the beginning. The pacing was way off. Even if "in real life" it was that fast, we need to believe that. I didn't. I kept wondering why they were together, and all Mr. Mann kept saying was, "I've never done this before, but you're just so different!!!" Which told me nothing. Also the details were kind of fuzzy at the beginning. I couldn't really tell if they were sleeping together or not, but then on her 18th birthday it was clearly their first time together and from what I understood of Carolina she was a virgin before but they didn't linger in that moment at all, and Nelson treated it like it was no big deal. This was handled even worse here than in How It's Done. 8. I don't even remember the ending anymore but I think it was abrupt. 9. I did kind of like Schuyler. He was the best part. I think some of his scenes near the end with Carolina were bravely written and emotionally honest, and I like that. But at the same time they didn't completely work in the context of the story in my opinion. 10. The person who designed the book did not give enough thought to the subheadings. The font was too light and hard to read, and because they were right-justified I just ignored them and never read them.
I just want to comment that I am not one of those people who thinks student-teacher relationships are "wrong" or "disturbing." That is unless the student is a minor (obviously) or if the student is, at that time, in the teacher's class (mostly because it's unfair to those students who are not sleeping with the teacher). I just wish someone would write a straight-up serious story with such a relationship that isn't borderline ridiculous. I love Blue Angel, but that one is clearly a satire and the rest have been either unbelievable or presented as a "message" story, in my opinion. (less)
**spoiler alert** From the review for the ARC I wrote in 2005:
"You can't love someone and hurt them too, not on purpose," Katie O'Connor argues in Cir...more**spoiler alert** From the review for the ARC I wrote in 2005:
"You can't love someone and hurt them too, not on purpose," Katie O'Connor argues in Circle the Soul Softly. Her stepfather then replies, "Happens all the time." When I first read that exchange, I couldn't help thinking how true it is, on so many levels, not just in Katie's situation. And now that I'm writing this review, I can't help thinking how true it must be for a critic. Sometimes you have to write reviews that you don't want to. This is one of those times for me.
In her above statement, Katie is talking about how her father sexually abused her when she was a child, the big revelation that this novel is centered on. However, Hurwin doesn't really bring anything new to the table. This story has been told many times before and fore the most part, more effectively. I got the impression that the past was supposed to unfold for us while it was finally unfolding for Katie, but by the time we got to Stacey's story, I pretty much knew it all.
Maybe I went into this novel with too many expectations. To my relief, Circle the Soul Softly has the same unstilted dialogue of A Time for Dancing. But without Hurwin's very real and obviously heartfelt passages depicting the girls' love of dance and most of all, their amazing friendship, even the dialogue falls flat. To Hurwin's credit, the title fits perfectly. The end of book brings closure and in many ways, the characters come full circle. The last few chapters of the novel are especially wonderful -- insightful and well-written without being too cliched. I just wish Hurwin had found a more unique and novel way of getting us there.(less)
"But the words of the quarrel were still in our hearts, and when we said goodbye, the laughter disappeared...moreFrom the review I wrote for the ARC in 2005:
"But the words of the quarrel were still in our hearts, and when we said goodbye, the laughter disappeared altogether. I went away wondering if the dream I had chosen would make me as happy as the dream I was abandoning." -- from page 152 of The Turning by Gloria Whelan.
This is essentially what The Turning is about. The dreams we have, the choices we make, the stories that change our lives. This story may not have changed mine, but my guess is that it'll change someone's, somewhere. The title is appropriate in so many ways. As in her novel Homeless Bird, Gloria Whelan is at her best when writing about a turning point, whether it be in a nation, in a girl's life, or in a girl's dance. She deftly explores parallels between all three and more. Dance, history, art, politics, domestic abuse, love, family -- she throws it all in there, mixes well. Even with all of those elements, the gem of the novel comes in the form of Natalia, the little girl with a passion for dance that defies all boundaries and becomes her escape. I loved her most of all, and there Whelan gets it just right. The perfect turning.
Yet somewhere something is missing. The book is targetted toward young girls when it really could've been more serious and intense. Seeing as how Tatiana is seventeen years old, it seems older teens would connect with her on a deeper level, if they were given the chance. And while Whelan's simple writing style is admirable and works for this type of story, I couldn't help but wish for a more emotionally-fueled narrative, something that would not be interrupted with bland explanations of history and politics and geography. Something that would've made us really care about Tatiana and would've made the ending, her homecoming, even more powerful than it already is.(less)