To be honest, 3 stars is a pretty overly generous rating. Looking at it more objectively, 1.5 or 2 or something would probably be more apt, but I can'...moreTo be honest, 3 stars is a pretty overly generous rating. Looking at it more objectively, 1.5 or 2 or something would probably be more apt, but I can't help it...this series is a terrible guilty pleasure for me even though by this point the TV show (a guilty pleasure in its own right) has far surpassed it in quality and it's fairly obvious they're just throwing random plots up now to continue the book series and milk it while it's hot. But it's compulsively readable and scratches my itch for 'silly rich girls do zany/scandalous things' literary consumption so 3 stars it is.
It's also funny since the characterizations between the TV show and books are fairly diverged at this point, particularly Spencer, who continues to be an OTT ridiculously crazy person in the book series (let's see, she's been a plagiarizer, aider and abetter of murder, adulteress with her sister's beaus, drug addict who had a friend plant pills in another friend's dorm room so she wouldn't go to jail for possession, and was scammed by some lady claiming to be her real mother and thus on a whim decided to move away from the family she'd known all her life to live in Glamorous Etc NYC). So it was a massive laugh out loud moment for me when the guy she's in the school play with tells her she needs to let go of her Good Girl image. But at least she's consistently the one in both the TV series and books who is quick to accuse anyone and everyone of being the latest "A."
Anyhoo, my guess for the latest "A" would be that dude whom Spencer accidentally outed, causing him to be sent off to military school in the last book. No particular reason why, but his decided lack of presence in this one means he's bound to come back at some point and have an effect on the plot.(less)
2.5 Stars... Interesting concept for a YA novel and the writing feels authentic, Kelly does a convincing enough job with the indie industrial scene. H...more2.5 Stars... Interesting concept for a YA novel and the writing feels authentic, Kelly does a convincing enough job with the indie industrial scene. However, far too many characters aren't really fleshed out at all and a few serve as typical tropes - the heartthrob from the cool established band who only wants sex, angry ex-girlfriend, the gay best friend, etc etc. Also, some of the lyrics of the songs were quite... I don't know exactly what to say, corny? But she does make a reference at one point that the words of one song would sound ridiculous without the singer's voice, so I suppose it's lamp-shaded a bit.(less)
Unfortunately, I think this is strike two for me when it comes to Jay Asher's books (this is the first I've read by Mackler, though). While the concep...moreUnfortunately, I think this is strike two for me when it comes to Jay Asher's books (this is the first I've read by Mackler, though). While the concept is fascinating: two teens in the mid-90s get a glimpse 15 years into their future when an America Online CD somehow generates the Facebook profiles of their early 30-something selves, rampant one-dimensional characterization and a misfired usage of first person present narration among other issues kept this from being successful for me.
I do appreciate some of the take-away of it, though. Many older teens have become so consumed by the college application rat race and making sure they have perfect grades while also participating in a large handful of extracurricular activities they lose sight of the present. One clear message of The Future of Us is that our future is so variable, one shouldn't put all his/her eggs in one basket or micromanage how every little thing done now might affect the future.
The delivery of this message, however, leaves a lot to desire. The first chapter made me cringe with a dearth of "Look! It's the 90s!!!!!!" references. There's a good way to be nostalgic and another that feels clunky and keeps slamming the reader upside the head, pulling them out of the story (for example, Ready Player One does it a way that makes sense). Thankfully it wasn't quite as bad after that, but some of the dialogue to shoehorn references or context felt unnatural.
I wasn't a fan of the first person present tense, either. I'm not the kind of reader who is particularly against that point of view, but if I actively notice it, it usually means it isn't working for me and that was the case here. Also, most of the characters are one-dimensional. To be honest, Emma seemed to be the only character who shows any significant amount of growth, (view spoiler)[finally realizing that she needs to be with someone who actually cares about her interests and wants to know more about her yada yada. Which of course leads her to the boy she has been friends with all along etc etc. Cliche ending. Kinda dickish ending, actually. I would have preferred Josh to stand up for himself and not date Emma just because she finally came around a bit after rejecting him for so long. Also, the dropping of her Facebook access seemed abrupt, only because the story needed to end so *poof* (hide spoiler)].
Finally, do people really openly complain about people in their lives on Facebook the way future-Emma does in this? I can't imagine blathering on about a spouse with such negativity so publicly, and I've never seen anything like that on my own Facebook feed. Surely there was a better way to show her dissatisfaction?
So in the end, a good idea, but a below-par execution.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'm not going to deviate from most of the norm here - Ready Player One is a pretty fun read, even though many of the gaming references and a good port...moreI'm not going to deviate from most of the norm here - Ready Player One is a pretty fun read, even though many of the gaming references and a good portion of the less ultra-mainstream 80s references were beyond my appreciation (I entered teenagerdom in 2000, so much of my cultural upbringing derives from the late 90s through the 00s).
Of course, I've gotten into some of 80s retromania, particularly music, but the depths Cline runs through is admirable. In fact, those sort of info dumps is what keeps me from pushing this to 4 stars. A good portion of the nostalgia is just the listing of items. If I could appreciate it, I'm sure I wouldn't mind the "telling" of it all, but without that knowledge base it was hard not to skim some of those parts (I did enjoy some of the exploration of text-based computer games though. I remember playing some of those when I was 10 on some CD of my dad's which had all sorts of random- quite basic by today's standard -games).
Don't let that bog you down, though. Wade's adventure to find legendary software developer Halliday's 3 keys and open the 3 gates to find his famed easter egg and inherit his empire is otherwise quick-paced. I'm a sucker for lists and competitions and standings and such, so the constant updating of the scoreboard and seeing who was on the "Top 10" list of players kept me readily engaged through the plot.
As with this sort of thing, a bit of disbelief suspension is needed. Many of the main characters are yet to reach 20 years and we're supposed to believe that they've had the time to memorize all of the dialogue of many movies, read countless novels, watch the entire runs of numerous television shows, played many video games, and listened to all sorts of albums, all while attending school full-time. I mean, I get that the all-encompassing OASIS system has reached a point where most people don't do much outside of spending all of their time online, but that would be a hell of a lot to actually accomplish in a relatively limited span of time.
I have the feeling most Ender's Game fans are/would be all over this. Outsider teen wonder with special skills and lots of nerdy/technological passions overcomes all to rise to the top. (less)
In Chime, author Franny Billingsley builds a fantastical world in early 20th century England. Reeling from the death of her beloved Stepmother, Briony...moreIn Chime, author Franny Billingsley builds a fantastical world in early 20th century England. Reeling from the death of her beloved Stepmother, Briony Larkin admits to her murder and witchery and demands to be hanged. Following this death, Briony lives with her reverend father and a twin sister, Rose, who suffers from mentally-related issues in Swampsea, a town consumed by the nearby swamp and creatures contained within. She begins to question her closed front upon the arrival of Eldric, a University student who has been brought to Swampsea at the bequest of his father to receive the proper education from which he has weaseled out while away. Over the course of the novel, Briony faces the demons of her past and how everything might not be quite as she remembers.
Sometimes, quirky novels can be too twee, but Billingsley is a pro, and builds her world with a unique twist. Briony is a terrifically unreliable narrator, assuredly clever and seemingly self-aware, though also quite self-hating (which, as she admits, provides its own degree of comfort). The prose provides lush imagery, yet still maintains a believable 17 year-old girl's voice.
The mythology here is terrific and original. Instead of merely all being "witches," the "Old Ones" consist of all sorts of supernatural beings, from the water spirit "Mucky Face" to the "Dark Muses" whose alluring presences place a determined mark under their spell.
I have to admit, I was really beginning to write myself off on all "teen paranormal" literature after the likes of even the well-acclaimed Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Scorpio Races missed the mark for me. However, as I shouldn't let myself forget, it often comes down to the quality of the writing, which can make any ordinary story shine.
My only real criticism would be of the setting. Nothing really feels unique to turn-of-the-century England. If this had been instead set in Salem Witch Trial-era Massachusetts, I wouldn't have batted an eye even if most of the detail was left intact. Still, though, that's not enough to blemish an otherwise highly successful novel, one that will be deserving of its acclaim should it find itself in the Printz round-up next January.
Every so often when I'm reading novels, I'll stumble over 2 or 3 in near succession to each other that have thematic overlaps by total coincidence. Re...moreEvery so often when I'm reading novels, I'll stumble over 2 or 3 in near succession to each other that have thematic overlaps by total coincidence. Recently, I read Julian Barnes' Booker-prize winning The Sense of an Ending, which revolves around a man entering his older years and questioning his grasp of memory and history while recounting his youth and younger adulthood. At roughly the same time, I also delved into Myla Goldberg's The False Friend, in which a 30-something woman questions an incident from her childhood regarding a disappearing friend and whether her recollection of the event was indeed accurate, leading to her questioning perceptions of much of her childhood.
Past Perfect tackles a similar theme of how we remember and interpret our history and own memories, though from a more lighthearted place. I have not yet read Leila Sales' debut novel, Mostly Good Girls, though if Perfect is any indication of its quality, I shall be bringing it home on my next trip to the library. Filled with realistic, fleshed-out characters, witty dialogue, and a Jellicoe Road-esque battle between warring American history reenactment villages, this was a great read when I was looking for something that had a brain behind it, but was still a more laid-back affair.
Chelsea Glaser has worked during the summer at Essex Historical Colonial Village for almost as long as she can remember. With a mother and PhD-history obsessed father who also work at the village, Chelsea begins to feel burned out from her annual vocation and ponders whether to spend the summer working at the mall until her best friend Fiona, who won't be attending her usual drama summer camp, insists they spend the summer together at Essex.
Chelsea's summer takes an unexpected turn when she learns her ex-boyfriend, Ezra, will also be working at the village. Though she tries to believe she has moved beyond him, inside she knows that she would take him back in a heartbeat, intensifying complications when Ezra begins dating one of their fellow reenacters. Further, Chelsea begins to wonder if she's falling for one of her warring enemies at the Civil War reenactment village down the street (with the charmingly clunky name of Reenactmentland).
Throughout the narrative, Chelsea develops as she learns about herself and how sometimes we gloss over the bad times to maintain positive memories of relationships.
One point of contention I do have is that Perfect seems to reinforce the age-old statement that history is written by the victors and we must remember that these retellings are colored by this perception as well as pushing aside the more negative aspects. An aspect of The Sense of an Ending I really like is when Barnes writes (from the point of view of his first-person narrator) that history is the view of the survivors rather than the winners or losers per se and where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation. Though Chelsea's father is correct that the victors' views certainly color the documentation, other factors come into play.
Overall, Past Perfect is charming, witty, and a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.(less)
Near the beginning of Trevor Cole's black comedic novel, the narrator describes Jean Vale Horemarsh during her younger years:
Her differentness bewild
...moreNear the beginning of Trevor Cole's black comedic novel, the narrator describes Jean Vale Horemarsh during her younger years:
Her differentness bewildered her fathers and brothers, but it frustrated her mother deeply. So much so that whenever Jean, growing up, did or said something that was out of the sensible family norm-glued hundreds of Swarovski crystals to her fingertips, say, or married a substitute high school English teacher named Milt-Marjorie would sigh and exclaim "Little girl..." or "Young woman...how can you possibly be a Horemarsh? You don't have a practical gene in your body!"
When she was young, Jean didn't know about genes, so she thought her mother was ruing the lack of another sort of girl inside the body of her daughter. Another Jean... a practical Jean
Years later, after Jean's mother has passed away due to cancer, another Jean does spring forth. Berating herself over seeing her mother's suffering while caring for her without intervening further, Jean decides she should end the lives of her closest friends at a happy moment so they don't have to face the downward spiral of health as they become older. A screwball dark comedy follows wherein Jean plans out moments to bring her friends great pleasure, only to abruptly end their lives.
A great character study in addition, the novel considers the bonds of friendship and the strain it can sometimes be to form and maintain relationships, as well as the bumps along the road. A certain irony is contained within, as we learn that Jean is really eminently practical and always has been. Indeed, when one of Jean's friends betrays her deeply, she does her the dishonor (in her mind) of -not- killing her.
I also enjoyed observing the small town of Kotemee, a town in the outlying glow of an unnamed large city that is losing its identity and taking on more that of a typical suburb.
There are a few scenes that more squeamish readers may need to skim through, but overall Practical Jean provides biting dark humor with an underlying edge of social exploration. (less)
This was a solid 4.5 star read for me and I'm quite shocked to see the overall low score for this novel as well as the glut of bad reviews on the firs...moreThis was a solid 4.5 star read for me and I'm quite shocked to see the overall low score for this novel as well as the glut of bad reviews on the first page.
Celia Durst has returned to her childhood home after 20-odd years when "the sight of a vintage VW bug dredged Djuna Pearson from memory." She and Djuna were intense best frenemies whose relationship served as the centerpiece of a 5-girl clique. One day while walking in the woods, Djuna disappears. At the time, Celia claims she stepped into an unknown car. In the present, Celia, now working as a city employee miles away in Chicago, questions her memory and is convinced she saw Djuna fall into a hole and did nothing to help her. Upon her return to Jensenville, Celia attempts to confess her new "truth" to her family and tries to track down her old friends.
Other reviews cite dull or thin characters, meandering plot, and a confusing conclusion. In my reading, I found a great study of how perceptions influence our memories, coming to terms with our past selves, and the role parents play in upbringing wrapped in a mystery to perk up the package even more (a mystery to which the "actual happenings" are alluded to quite clearly twice in the final 2 pages). Many of the characters are well fleshed out, most wonderfully and heartbreakingly Leanne, the odd girl out who literally almost drove herself to death to please Djuna and Celia.
Celia may not be "likeable," but many parts of her are easy to relate. I know I thought back to my own childhood when reading and wondered if there were times I acted horribly without knowing better (or, conversely, worked to please those I wouldn't care about if I did know better). A worthwhile read. (less)