Well, I don't need to wonder why this landed on the frequently challenged books list anymore. Any book that deals with puberty and sexual development...moreWell, I don't need to wonder why this landed on the frequently challenged books list anymore. Any book that deals with puberty and sexual development is well-nigh doomed to find a place in Banned Books Week.
What I find so ironic about this book is that I question how broad an audience it would have found in this country in the first place if it weren't for the outcry. I certainly wouldn't have picked it up. (Oh, book banners. The stuff you get me to read.) While a lot of the illustrations are truly beautiful, I didn't really connect with the story. It could be a cultural thing, or it could just be that I no longer find young people learning about all the puberty stuff all that compelling. Or even really all that interesting. It was an awkward thing to live through - I don't need to read about other people's awkward too.
At any rate. Because of the book banners' outcry I'm sure this will have a place on the shelf much longer than it might have. Congrats, guys! Way to find a book new readers!(less)
Now, having read this, I'm of the opinion that the rampant success of this book is primarily due to its fan-fiction status. The writing itself is util...moreNow, having read this, I'm of the opinion that the rampant success of this book is primarily due to its fan-fiction status. The writing itself is utilitarian at best, the dialogue was not great, and it quickly becomes evident that the author is British-writing-American. (Americans aren't widely known for using words like pram and keen.) The plotting holds up ok, but that's because Stephenie Meyer had the benefit of a professional editor, which this book could really have used. It has a component of BDSM, but i don't believe that's what draws the audience, either. (Regular readers of that kind of erotica would, I imagine, be looking for more. Or so I suspect.) But none of that is responsible for its success.
No, I firmly believe that this book is popular because adult readers of Twilight connected very strongly with its characters, and felt a strong desire to re-read the story with some adult content, and what better non-fantasy equivalent to the dangerous vampire than a man who practices BDSM? This book is a way for readers to reconnect with a book they loved in a new and, for many, shocking context. But if you weren't a fan of Twilight the first time around, I don't think there's anything here for you. But hey, you'll probably read it anyway. Everyone else seems to be.(less)
This installment in the Alice series deals with neo-Nazis and molestation by a teacher. If you're a fan of the Alice books, you'll enjoy this, althoug...moreThis installment in the Alice series deals with neo-Nazis and molestation by a teacher. If you're a fan of the Alice books, you'll enjoy this, although the ending felt a bit abrupt.(less)
Fair warning: This is not my usual type of book. I only read it because it's frequently challenged in libraries (also - why?? I don't see it.), and my...moreFair warning: This is not my usual type of book. I only read it because it's frequently challenged in libraries (also - why?? I don't see it.), and my review will reflect that. Also be aware that there may be mild SPOILERS in my review. I won't say what does or does not happen in the book, but I will discuss the author's general strategy, character development, tone, etc. Think of it like a road trip - I'll tell you there's an unexpected hairpin turn that could have your car tumbling down a mountainside, but I won't tell you where it is. So make your own decision whether or not to read on.
I can see why people like this book. It's kind of designed to evoke an emotional response. Picoult gives us a scenario with no clear answer where someone will lose, and lose badly, and there's no guarantee that anyone will win. There is much gnashing of teeth. But the shifting tides of the issue at the center of this book, and the conflicting interests involved, mean that it's very difficult to find any character all that sympathetic. There were only two characters that I was mainly cool with (the father and the guardian ad litem), which in a book with this many points of view is not a lot. I read for character and plot, so this mattered to me, but if connecting with your characters is not so important to you, that won't matter. So yeah. I see what people like.
What was a solid three star reading experience for me (not amazing, but not a waste of time either) was ruined by the twist of the ending. This twist obviously doesn't bother many people. The book is carrying a four star average on GoodReads, after all. But to me, it felt like Picoult was in charge of her story until that twist. She was making a point. Making us consider her story the way she wanted us to. And then, rather than forcing the issue and coming to the hard decision placed so deliberately in front of us, there's a giant deus ex machina moment. Rather than coming across as a statement about the surprises in life, it came off like a pulled punch. She spent so much time creating this giant situation of ethics and emotion and morals and relationships, and then she refused to force the issue. There was a giant "god" moment that made everything an obvious choice, and ended the book. So what was a solid three star read became a disappointed two star read.
But at least I have one more book off the list of frequently challenged books. And I really need to look up why this book gets challenged. Because it's a complex ethical question? What do people think stories are for??(less)
When people talk about this book, they often end up drawing comparisons between it and one of my favorite books of all time, Catcher in the Rye. It's...moreWhen people talk about this book, they often end up drawing comparisons between it and one of my favorite books of all time, Catcher in the Rye. It's a comparison that had me both interested to read Perks, and a little hesitant. It's possible I could hold Perks to a higher standard than I normally would, dooming it to be less satisfying than I'd hoped. It's also possible that I could neglect to give it a fair chance, forgetting to judge it on its own merits rather than as a long-lost relative to one of my favorite books. So I'm really relieved to report that neither, evidently, was true.
So, why the four stars rather than the psycho-enthusiastic five I gave Salinger? I'm not entirely sure, but I think it comes down to timing. I read Salinger for the first time at the perfect age. I was the perfectly unique adolescent snowflake that no one understood, and Holden Caulfield was the smart, funny, cool rebel-kid who taught me about real life. Then I grew up a bit and read it again, and just as I was a different person, so was Holden. Each time I read Catcher in the Rye I see it through the lens not only of who I am today, but of who I was each and every time I read it in the past. And it's a richer book for that. Sadly, although Perks was available for me to read when I was at the special snowflake age, I just missed it. I was a rural kid with no car, and the library in town would never have stocked Chbosky. So I never found it. And as a result, I can only enjoy it through my grown-up eyes and imagine what special-snowflake me would have gotten out of it. It doesn't diminish the quality of the book, just the quality of my enjoyment of it.
Finally, I feel like I need to confess that this book made me sad. Not in a superficial, "oh, that poor kitten was all by itself in a cardboard box until someone rescued it and loved it forever" way. More in a way where I look at life and think that it's shit and really nice people never, never seem to have it easy or get the good things they deserve. In the way that makes you feel lonely. But that could just be because I'm having a bad day. I'll read it again in the future to see how it changes. Start to build up those new lenses of appreciation that make you truly love a book. Start making Chbosky's book "Catcher: The Next Generation."(less)
This is the third installation in the "Alice" series, and once again I was thoroughly entertained. Like the rest of the series so far, it was poignant...moreThis is the third installation in the "Alice" series, and once again I was thoroughly entertained. Like the rest of the series so far, it was poignant, sweet and funny. Rather than rehash my feelings about the series, I'd like to share a favorite passage, which occurs as Alice researches the human body at the public library:
"A librarian came by to get a book from the shelf, and she couldn't help but see what I was looking at; she didn't even blink. Like it was okay to be curious. I felt almost the way I did at the grade school the other day. Safe. Protected.
When I picked out four books for Elizabeth, the man at the checkout desk didn't stare at me or anything, either. He checked out my books on bodies as casually as if I were reading up on the Civil War or photosynthesis or how to build a bird feeder. I had to know if this was just an act or if librarians were always glad to have you read stuff. So just before we left the library, I went over to a woman at the reference desk and asked where I would find a list of nudist camps.
It wasn't just an act, it was real." -p. 90
As a librarian, I realize I'm biased, but to me Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has shown exactly how great libraries can be.(less)
TTYL is yet another of those titles that I decided to read primarily because it has been frequently challenged in libraries. From what I can see the c...moreTTYL is yet another of those titles that I decided to read primarily because it has been frequently challenged in libraries. From what I can see the challenges are likely based on some sexual discussion and maybe a few bad words. The story is told entirely in instant messages, with all the lingo and abbreviation that entails. The characters are three best friends in high school, each with their own distinct personalities and issues. The book covers obsessive high school crushing, inappropriate teacher interaction, religious searching, and the old standby of betrayal by fickle friends. It all boils down to a fast and trendy book with a true-blue friends-til-the-end message that will likely draw in reluctant readers who find books written in traditional prose too time-consuming. Not my favorite book, but it has its place.(less)
Alice in Rapture, Sort Of is the second of the Alice books, and picks up just after the end of the first. It takes place in the summer between sixth a...moreAlice in Rapture, Sort Of is the second of the Alice books, and picks up just after the end of the first. It takes place in the summer between sixth and seventh grades, where Alice and her friends Pamela and Elizabeth have discovered that the most important thing a seventh-grade girl can have is a boyfriend. Luckily for Alice, she's already "going with" Patrick. She still struggles with everything that means, and even begins to wonder if it's something she even wants yet. Not as completely strong as the first book, but thumbs-up nonetheless.(less)
This is one of those series that, somehow, I completely missed when I was growing up. I was totally unaware of Alice's existence until library school,...moreThis is one of those series that, somehow, I completely missed when I was growing up. I was totally unaware of Alice's existence until library school, when I learned that specific titles in the series are frequently challenged. Suffice it to say that there's nothing like a good challenge to make me want to read a book, which is what led me to Alice in the first place. I'm pleased to report that, once again, hyper-protective overly vigilant book challengers have led me to to another favorite. Alice has an authentic voice, is very funny, and has completely charmed me.
The Agony of Alice begins the series as Alice starts the sixth grade in a new school. She's about to become a teenager and, since her mother died when she was very little, she's decided that she needs a mother-role-model. She hopes against hope that the slim and elegant Miss Cole will be her teacher and role model, but instead is placed in the class of the robust and older Mrs. Plotkin, whose very name may give you an idea of her appearance. Alice's journey toward recognizing what's really valuable in a person is lovely and perfectly enjoyable, even if it was written more than 20 years ago.(less)