Grace sidled up beside me and whispered, 'This was huge, Echo. If Luke's into you again, life will change. Who he talks to and dates changes everyone'...moreGrace sidled up beside me and whispered, 'This was huge, Echo. If Luke's into you again, life will change. Who he talks to and dates changes everyone's opinion. Maybe things will finally get back to normal.' ... 'Luke may love me, but he's not exactly thoughtful.' [...] 'True. He's self-absorbed and has a one-track mind [...]. But you have feelings for him.'
As a small girl I used to love the few stanzas I snapped up of a tragic, traditional ballad about a prince and a princess in love who were first divided by an uncrossable river and then by the death of the boy who braved the waters to be united with his beloved. Stories of bitter-sweet love blossoming against the odds have always held a certain appeal to me. And when I read and enjoyed i.e. Perfect Chemistry, I found that I didn't even mind the occasional extra layer of exaggeration and fluffy drama that accompanies them. But there is a line. I need some flimsy anchor to reality at least, more or less realistic characters with realistic, consistent traits, feelings and reactions, mostly. I have to out myself as someone who has never trodden on American High School grounds. That means I usually stretch my imagination pretty far from what I have experienced during my own teenage years on the old continent and make allowances for all the things completely foreign to me - proms, home rooms, purity issues, the fixation on sports and athletic superiority, the hierarchies, the groups, the unwritten lunch room rules, the rich and mighty who more or less glow in the dark. Yet, here I cannot refrain from pointing out the eerily plastic figurines that make up the horrible cast of the soapless soap called "Pushing the Limits" and their unbelievably strange demeanor. This story is pushing my limits indeed.
It begins already with the premises. For the sake of her own psychological healing heroine Echo is denied the "truth" about what happened to her the night that left her with horribly scarred underarms by both her father and her school therapist. She lost her memory but knows that somehow her mentally ill mother must have been involved, for she has been forbidden to contact her since. Not knowing anything means for Echo that she has no ground on which to deflect the accusatory or morbidly interested stares and whispers of her classmates, who also had not been briefed by anyone before Echo's return to school and consequently assume "failed suicide attempt". In order to completely sever her connection to her artist mother - who is her mother after all - Echo's father, who pushes his daughter to better and better results at school because he wants her to study economics, has forbidden her to attend her beloved art class. Apart from hard-core meddling with her life-defining choices, Daddy isn't really interested. He is busy fondling the pregnant belly of his second wife, Echo's former full-time babysitter, and responding to his Blackberry's beeps. The therapist, who is otherwise described as being of the caring, experienced, no-nonsense sort, doesn't get it at all that her squirming patient is not free to answer freely in the presence of her parents. What kind of therapist is that? What kind of therapy waits for a patient's memory to come back on its own, but removes all anchors to it? At that point I was already silently screaming along with Echo, who narrates her part with an overly snarky, sassy, judgemental voice that doesn't fit her passive, submissive actions in the least.
Noah's case is similarly strange. His parents died in a burning house, which made him and his brothers orphans. In contrast to him, who plays the survival game against abusive, violent adults fostering kids for monetary reasons, the younger boys were lucky enough to be placed into the hands of a loving couple. A couple, who selfishly presses for an adoption and for the termination of Noah's visiting rights - because of his obvious bad influence. Nobody believes Mother-Theresa-Robin-Hood-crossbreed Noah, that he had attacked his brutal foster father only to save another kid. In order to tarnish the intelligent, athletic saint with a proper, shady sheen, the author selected a pot habit and a reputation of sleeping around as persona add-ons. Having occasional sex with willing females in this book automatically equals not being able to love (view spoiler)['You don't love people. You have sex with them. So how could you want to be with me?'(hide spoiler)]. Which in turn is labeled as "not normal". Since "normal" is the goal glove-wearing Echo has to achieve to call her friends friends again, Noah is a big no-no-no (view spoiler)['Yes ... no ... I don't know. I want normal, Noah. Can you give me normal?'(hide spoiler)].
This leads us to the weirdest portrayal in this limitless young adult wonder: Echo's friends and the life-or-death-question of belonging to the High School caste that counts. Grace, who has tentatively resumed connections to part-time leper Echo, urges her to give-in to Luke's (re)advances (see quote on top). We are speaking here of ultra-jerk Luke, Echo's cast-off, popular-for-no-valid-reason boyfriend, who had pressured her for sex, who 'had' to satisfy his boyish needs elsewhere because of her ongoing reluctance, who is pressuring her now again - which seems to be perfectly acceptable because of his professed "love" for her - and who takes her to watch a contemporary war movie, although it is no secret that her brother died in action. All of Echo's so-called friends are mean, devoid of compassion, hierarchy-obsessed and offer their friendship bound to conditions. That Echo takes their childish stance and their suggestions seriously destroys the picture of above-average intelligence and witty insight the author tries to sell so hard of her. Echo is dense beyond belief. And the "real" good guy is too easy to spot.
Apart from the bad image the book conveys of clueless social workers and psychologists, there is definitely something off in the medication department: Echo is not only supposed to heal herself without working things out with her institutionalized mother, she is also forced to beg her dad for her prescription pills which are unnecessary in his opinion and therefore safely hidden away. A well-placed complaint to her therapist would have been probably sufficient to change the situation. But I wondered why the pills weren't in Echo's own hands in the first place. She is no toddler. She is no prisoner. In addition there is that bizarre scene in which Lila and Echo persuade her self-centered, vapid stepmother to put her on birth control (Lila's idea, by the way). Why doesn't Echo just visit a family planning center or a gynaecologist? In my country - same as in many others - the pill is free of charge for minors. And no doctor or social worker is allowed to disclose to a girl's parents her decision to take it. I refuse to accept that there are no ways in the US to elude parental consent.
Well. There are 60% of plot left that I, as a thinking owner of my life time, declare as being better off in the abandoned e-books folder of my reading device. I do not think that there will be summaries of books to come by this book's author which will lure me into having a try.
I close my case with a conversation Echo has with the ever-loving Luke, the Cute: 'Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine you'd want me back after I became the freak.' [ ...] 'I want you in again and I think the best way for you to fall is to jump. I think we should pick up where we left off. I think we should have sex.' [...] 'What?' 'Not now, but soon. I bet if we do, you'll be in again.' [...] Odd, I'd gotten my wish - I could have sex with someone who loved me - but I'd forgotten to add that I wanted to love him back. 'I don't know.' He simply smiled. 'Sleep on it.' ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Brenna's story and the matching character set annoyed the hell out of me. I would have to poke my inner me to elaborate.
Fact is, I had to abandon it...moreBrenna's story and the matching character set annoyed the hell out of me. I would have to poke my inner me to elaborate.
Fact is, I had to abandon it after just reading 11% although I applauded her choice to use her bike as her main means of transport. But in different light ... what is so special about it and why was everybody so concerned about the weather and the bad, bad people wanting to mug school girls pedalling homewards? Never heard of mittens and mufflers?(less)
Pennsylvania was a strange state. No one knew who Ruby was. Should you - like me - love beautiful, dream-like writing and glittering, complex character...morePennsylvania was a strange state. No one knew who Ruby was. Should you - like me - love beautiful, dream-like writing and glittering, complex characters who constantly hover just outside your grasp in a gray area between evil, half-good and plain crazy, yet do not mind not getting solid answers at all, there is a serious chance for you to fall for 'Imaginary Girls' by Nova Ren Suma.
I read the eerie, eerie debut novel featuring a tight, strange bond between two sisters, a siren-like femme fatale clutching a whole small-town in her fickle fingers, an alcoholic, hippie mother, some sexual awakening, some painful growing up and growing a conscience, a caring father, deaths, ghosts and hot, lazy summers with a Goodreads group of 'German Girls Reading English Books' - thank you, girls, for voting for this gem as our January group read; without you it would be still gathering dust on my Kindle - and I was delighted by the rich multitude of explanation possibilies the plot offered as our order-seeking minds tried to press the book into a fitting genre corner and to make sense of heroine Chloe's subjective narration. Although only a dozen readers went into discussion, a colorful palette of constructions presented itself - and almost all ideas sounded quite sound: Drugs, dreams, traumata, split personality disorders, deal-offering monsters, paranormal gifts that are limited geographically, even painfully staged pretenses of paranormal gifts to mislead and mind-control the heroine.
... To me, personally, Ruby came across like a twisted and dangerous, yet somehow caring variation of Mary Poppins. I am not exactly sure why. Probably because of her spontaneity, her cheerfulness, her firm reign, her randomly offered secret bits and pieces from her personal Knigge, or simply her magnetic personality?
The book which 'Imaginary Girls' reminded me the strongest of is my beloved 'Chime' - which is not for everyone either. Since Franny Billingsley is so slow in producing another masterpiece I can blissfully roll around in, I am happy when something remotely comparable in style turns up to entertain me in between.
You see, I am rather reluctant to issue a general recommendation, but I also do not want to leave my positive rating uncommented and my praise unuttered. You might be disappointed or frustrated, but you might also miss something unusual and great.(less)
"'I told you that love sucks. But is anyone listening to me? No. England could fall off the map and you’d just smile and keep playing soccer.' JANE IR...more"'I told you that love sucks. But is anyone listening to me? No. England could fall off the map and you’d just smile and keep playing soccer.' JANE IRANIAN"
Oh, yes, in this sandwiched volume soccer-playing Gracie Faltrain takes control – of lots of things and unfortunately not in a good way at all. When I closed my copy of The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain, Gracie had finally learned the lesson that soccer is a team sport and that winning takes the combined efforts of all players, but when I delved into the sequel I quickly understood that there is plenty of important stuff Gracie is very far from understanding. Apart from the fact that Gracie needs to become less self-centered and explosive, the most important mantras that have to be forced into her skull are “Winning at all costs might be quite costly” and “Helping others starts with respecting them.” To exchange the second hand-stitched proverb for a simile I could also say that Gracie barrels through people’s lives like a highly-motivated bulldozer driver, who deliberately mistakes rare wildflowers for weeds while keeping his earplugs in to drown out the noise of the tree huggers. Or, if I wanted to express Gracie’s problem without a trace of pomp, I would say: Because Gracie thinks she knows what is best for everybody, she meddles without restraint and without looking back whenever she can:
- For months Gracie is convinced that her best friend calling from overseas will unquestionably be grateful to be interrupted, because it is obvious that Gracie’s problems are more urgent, more severe and much more interesting than the ones she was about to elaborate on. - Gracie pulls all possible strings to “rescue” her quiet, brilliant, library-affine and moderately contented replacement friend Alyce from staying unpopular and - in her unwavable point of view – unhappy forever. (view spoiler)[She forces Alyce to attend parties, to buy different clothes, to flatten her frizzy hair, to tutor a nice, but simple-minded jock for romantic purposes; she ignores her outspoken protest and signs Alyce up for a speech competition; she brazenly avenges every bad word class queen bee Annabelle shoots into her friend's direction - not noticing that crashing into a personal defensive protector actually triggers the inner bully in her arch enemy -, and she makes one of her soccer mates ask the poor girl out to the ball and then brags so loudly about Alyce having scored a date that the embarrassed guy can only save his face by rescinding his invitation. (hide spoiler)] - Although Gracie’s dearest wish is for her parents to mend their relationship, she ruthlessly ruins the first tender moment between them, because she immediately needs them to act on her behalf. - Gracie decides to ignore both her mother’s and her boyfriend’s plea not to do anything and calmly destroys the fine layer of scrab that had recently formed on the festering wound that had been inflicted when Martin’s mother left her family years ago (view spoiler)[by putting an ad into the local paper (hide spoiler)]. - Gracie tries to pressure her boyfriend into ending his friendship with her nemensis by resorting to childish name-calling and popcorn blitzes at the movies. - In order to build up some victory feeling among her team mates Gracie humilitates other soccer teams on the field and then makes sure that they know that they have been bested by someone smaller, quicker and fitter. ”’We’re the only team everyone hates. What does that tell you, Faltrain?’ I ask. 'It tells me we’re better than everyone else, Martin,’ she answers. ‘Faltrain, they should measure your head for science. I reckon it’s the biggest I’ve seen.’ MARTIN KNIGHT”.
Even though I have to admit, that I saw a little something of my younger, impulsive self in Gracie, because I grew up in a family that did not snub shouting, dumping the contents of water bottles and sugar pots on people’s heads or asserting one’s opinion by force as part of the daily war, and because “Live and let live” was a motto that did not come naturally to my parents, Gracie’s enthusiastic hole-digging, which lasted almost 200 of the beautifully worded pages and – regardless of several intervention attempts by her mother - got her in deeper and deeper, was a pretty painful process to behold.
If I had not had the chance to get to know and treasure Gracie so much in the multi-angled first installment, I would probably have lost patience with her antics and rated the story, which is mostly told from Gracie’s one deluded point of view, down quite a bit.
But since it is a middle book, I suffered, but I suffered in hope. ”'Boy meets girl. Girl meets ground.' LOCAL NEWS WEEKLY” writes about a game of Gracie’s team. And so I never really doubted that once Gracie hit the bottom hard she would wake up, come to her senses and finally get it right.
”‘I’ve lost him, haven’t I?’ Love’s like an egg. Break it, and you might still have almost every bit of yolk and white, but there’s no way you’re getting that back in the shell. And even if you could, there’d be still all the cracks. It’s why Mum and Dad are taking all winter to grow the smallest bit of green. It’s why Mrs. Knight never came back. ‘Yes, Gracie, love.’ Mum doesn’t bother lying. ‘I think you’ve lost him for now.’” ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Oh, this book has exhausted me. During the second half I cried so much that I was getting concerned about dehydration. I think I have to drink two lit...moreOh, this book has exhausted me. During the second half I cried so much that I was getting concerned about dehydration. I think I have to drink two liters of water or juice now to compensate for all the tears I've shed. I am not sure why Bindy has moved me so much. She has this kind of different view of the world and she is so supersmart. She wants her worthless father and her busy mom to take the time to respond to her mails to help her decide and she is so very lonely. It felt like watching someone through his own opera glass and thus understanding basically what makes that someone tick, yet seeing what that someone cannot see: That she is living her life, apart from the rest of humanity, in a parallel universe. For example when Bindy, in her own focused strange way cooks up ways to help her school-mates to gain better grades and to get on with their lives (aka fighting their inner "teenage monsters"), but nobody is able to grasp what she is doing and why. So Bindy's attempts at being charitable and good disintegrate into smoke and make her appear even freakier in the eyes of the student body. And this inability to communicate, to connect with the world around her - even with her loving aunt and uncle and cute cousin Bella - is responsible for Bindy's mental abilities and physical health going slowly down the drain without anybody going farther than making check-up appointments for her, which are repeatedly ignored by her. All the pointless struggle, all the sadness and the crucial turning point when Bindy spontaneously opens up messed with my heart thoroughly and turned me into this sobbing, snot-dripping wreck. I know this is not really a review, but I am not functioning correctly again yet. When you glimpse at my rating you can see that I actually liked this book although usually I resent books that make me cry. And I liked it - and especially Bindy - although it was completely lacking Moriarty's trademark humor, the healthy dose of romance I normaly crave in each and every young adult book, and - with the exception from the end and a few letter responses from teachers, parents and officials - the use of multiple points of view, which you quickly start taking for granted after having read one or two of Jaclyn Moriarty's funnily gleaming literary gems.
Note on the series: I have not read the Ashbury books in the chronological order and I don't think you have to. I recommend to take the chance and read any of these books should you stumble upon one of the installments randomly.
A lot of creepy suspense, an interesting heroine - who I in spite of the first-person-narration never really got to know - and a certain Veronica-Mars...moreA lot of creepy suspense, an interesting heroine - who I in spite of the first-person-narration never really got to know - and a certain Veronica-Mars-in-Private-School feel, but a not so very unexpected mystery, a lot of repetitive scenes, a half-hearted boy-girl friendship, a half-hearted romance and a half-hearted, truly deflatingly unsatisfactory ending, which I really didn't like. (less)
Such an interesting concept ... and yet I stopped reading at page 90. The trail of unfinished books I've left behind me since the beginning of this ye...moreSuch an interesting concept ... and yet I stopped reading at page 90. The trail of unfinished books I've left behind me since the beginning of this year starts to become alarmingly long. Still I refuse to read on when processing the scenes becomes an effort instead of fun. Although I can understand the heroine's motivations - forming a stance, an opinion on something, coming to terms with personal calamities, growing really fond of someone takes time, and therefore it is natural that somebody who has to restart at a later point in life with an earlier set of experiences takes different turns and comes to different conclusions than her first alter ego - I simply cannot get warm with her. I am not sure, but I partly explain this by her strange lack of interaction skills. For instance she yawns in the middle - smack in the middle - of a telephone conversation with her best friend, who is in the process of patiently answering one of her questions, says "Night, Will" and puts down the receiver immediately. A bit rude, don't you think? Naomi must have mastered the rules of politely ending a phone call when she was twelve. So, in my opinion losing her memory is no excuse for cutting someone off this way. This situation is only one of many equally irritating. (less)
"Please Ignore Vera Dietz" is a well written problem-oriented book.
It tells the story of 18-years-old Vera who recently lost her best and probably on...more"Please Ignore Vera Dietz" is a well written problem-oriented book.
It tells the story of 18-years-old Vera who recently lost her best and probably only friend Charlie Kahn twice: First a few months ago when the a group of up-to-no-goods called The Detentionsheads, led by notorious liar and exaggerator Jenny Flick, decided to assimilate Charlie into their group and reached their goal by systematically alienating Charlie from Vera (lies, rumours, ridicule), and last and finally when some prank or coup involving cruel abuse of animal center pets and The Detentionheads caused Charlie's sudden death. Vera admits to the reader that - in contrast to the police - she knows the exact circumstances of her former friends demise and that someone - who is not Charlie as everybody presumes - is to blame. Because of this exclusive knowledge and her refusal to act on it Vera feels haunted by Charlie - whom she loves and hates - and by their shared past as neighbors and playmates. Vera had a harmonious childhood, which is rather surprising since her parents, both high-school drop-outs had her at 18, and her father, a teenaged alcoholic, stopped drinking only when he recognized that this baby daughter’s life was endangered because of his problem. After her mom left the family to become a Las Vegas dancer, her father’s only concern became to keep Vera from fatefully following her parents’ steps. His motto: „Fight you destiny and ignore everybody else’s problems“. Vera isn’t good at either: She always resented not being allowed to get help when noise errupted next door and lately she has to stock up her secret stash of Vodka coolers under her driver’s seat pretty often. Charlie’s life seemed to be much more normal to the outsider, but Vera knew – without having to talk to Charlie about it – that behind closed doors violence and abused ruled the house, which resulted in Charlie acting aloof and cool, rebelling against his weak mom, dressing in dirty and torn rags, keeping her and everybody else at distance and having trust issues even with his oldest friend.
A friend of mine said he couldn’t comprehend why Vera had been friends with Charlie in the first place and what she admired in him. I did not ask myself these questions, although I did not like Charlie. First, because if you admire someone from early childhood on it sticks. My brother did not stop hanging around a slightly older kid from our neighborhood even after that thug almost suffocated him by stuffing grass down his throat to amuse his entroutage. Second, because broken kids sometime develop some addictive or interesting traits: They manage to repaint their reality in brighter colors because they have to cope. Others naturally get sucked in easily. Charlie used to pray to the Great Hunter and he built his tree house – his means of escape – with unmatched enthusiasm.
So, you see: I think this book deals with serious problems (domestic violence, bullies, alcoholism, repeating the past, finding your way ...) and it depicts them in a realistic way. I even liked Vera and her dad, even her mom. But when I noticed I was flicking the pages quicker and quicker not because I was so excited, but because I hoped the story would end soon, I decided to call it quits at page 139.
For me, personally, it is absolutely necessary that a book offers me enjoyment. I like to ponder about a story and I admire stories that delve under the surface, but I need hope throughout the book and I need a little fun. I was never able to connect to those young adult books that solely dealt with teenage drinking or drugs or rape or unemployment or mental deseases in order to cause awareness. (= No Christiane F. for me, please). Consequently I was looking for the secenes that made Ellen Hopkins publish the blurb „Brilliant. Funny. Really special.“ to no avail and I was severely disappointed. Others have different expectations when reading a problem-focused story and these expectations are obiously met (see average rating). So do not be put off because of my taste in YA. But if you are rather like me, I recommend Sweethearts by Sarah Zarr or Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson. Both do not paint pink, but offer a certain something, too. (less)
*** Beware! This comment-turned-into-review contains a spoiler *** I can imagine how 'The Vanishing Moment' would appeal to readers who are less wimpy...more*** Beware! This comment-turned-into-review contains a spoiler *** I can imagine how 'The Vanishing Moment' would appeal to readers who are less wimpy than I am, considering the beautiful writing, the multiple POVs and the crafty way those three stories run into one.
But, as I am concerned, the story is too realistic and thus much too bleak and dark. My heart doesn't survive an overdose of shitty parents.
And in this particular case the shittiness in the parental department came in 3D (no, 4D, actually) and in colour - even though there were differences: Bob and Fergus had it worst. They practically lived in hell without anybody noticing.
In addition, no magically realistic candy solution can lure me into feeling cushioned when one of the main characters I've come to respect or care for is wiped out and makes my poor heart drop. (view spoiler)[ To me a dead person remains a dead person even if another self of him or her lives a better life in a parallel universe/existence. I don't feel the consolation - at all. (hide spoiler)]
'The Vanishing Moment' belongs to the good-but-too-hopeless-and-too-depressing category. I was certainly invested, but I did not enjoy being the recipient of this multifoldedly sad tale. Even to upset to shed a tear, I guess.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Although "Psych Major Syndome" serves the reader a cute romance as the main course and some rather heart-melting bonding moments between the heroine,...moreAlthough "Psych Major Syndome" serves the reader a cute romance as the main course and some rather heart-melting bonding moments between the heroine, a first year student of psychology, and her hard-shelled and streetwise middle school project partner as the dessert, in my personal opinion both story and character developement turned out to be of the highly predictable and pretty much forgettable kind. After two chapters I could have outlined the rest of the plot by myself withought steering off too far from the author's chosen path: A typical, but enjoyable three star young adult chicklit novel. What made me go for four stars instead is the accute and funny style the first-person-narrator uses to describe the people around her, herself and her own behavior, her family, her college, her society and the world. For example ...
"Andrew just shrugged, and I fiddled with the napkin in my lap while glancing idly around the restaurant. The obligatory mirrors hung on the walls, and there was one of those fountains with fake lily pads in the entryway. The restaurant was also lit like a mine shaft. I've never understood why dim lighting is supposed to be so romantic. Night vision belongs into a Paris Hilton sex tape - not in a restaurant that could potentially poison me with peanut sauce."
I simply loved the sharp perceptiveness, the sarcastic, but cheeky side-remarks, the defeated but unbitter musings of the heroine, who I would have liked to scold polka-dotted most of the time for patiently playing doormat for her arrogant loser boyfriend and creating endlessly pseudo-psychological excuses for keeping him in good moods. I haven't checked her CV, but I do imagine that the author's "real life occupation" could easily be something like being the successful writer of a super hilarious women's mag's social column. I hope she runs a blog that I can visit for a healthy dose of witty truth about everyday life.
Rating edited on 09/22/2011: When I compare this to other books I've read this year and think about how much I can remember, I have to go down to three stars in spite of the enjoyable style.(less)
I've finally read the almost unobtainable young adult novel Fury by the wonderful Australian author Shirley Marr (You see what I mean when you encount...moreI've finally read the almost unobtainable young adult novel Fury by the wonderful Australian author Shirley Marr (You see what I mean when you encounter her in one of the discussions here on Goodreads. Shirley is one of thoses authors who also dare to stay readers with their own opinions on books and the world, which means - like you might have noticed - being among the very last of an almost extinct species.)
Since crime-focused fiction is usually not my cup of tea, my rating (3.5 stars altogether) means that I do recommend the book to readers who spend their time in the the criminal thriller corner more often than I do.
And that is because Fury is very dark and excellently structured. Marr uses the a story-within-story concept (if you have read the adult thriller The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones you know what I mean): The outer layer has the stubbornly evasive heroine sitting in a police questioning room with an officer - or in Eliza Roberta Boans' case a youngish, attractive humane psychologist employed by the police - who tries to pry out of her what really happened prior to her arrest under suspicion of murder by knife, the inner layer tells the heroine's story in her own pace, meaning that she withholds the information which interests patient Dr. Fadden and the reader most (how many were murdered, who was murdered, what are the reasons for the deed and is the heroine really responsible or even sane enough to receive a punishment) for a long, long time, feeds choppy bits and hints along with random episodes of her school life, of her childhood and of her ueber-rich and sheltered neighborhood in the ditch-lined suburb East Rivermoor. This choice of narration keeps up the reader's attention without fail - it had even me turning the pages with only a dinner-break in between - and makes us hunt frantically from clue to clue. I wondered who much calculation and how many burned brain-synapses were necessary to sprinkle just the right facts into the story in the right places and in the right order.
What forces me to rate the reading experience lower is the almost complete lack of connection between most of the characters and myself. I did not mind Eliza to be a spoiled teen who has it all and expect it all. I did not mind Eliza to be probably a murderess who might or even might have not a good reason for having wielded a knife. But I did mind Eliza to fail at winning me over to her side although the potential was there: Absent father, indifferent and perpetually traveling high-society mother, utter loneliness, the feeling to be unimportant and overlooked in spite of many efforts to get attention in school by smart and not so smart means. No, Eliza and I simply did not click. But at least I was able to puzzle together a vague picture of Eliza’s personality during the second half of the story, to anticipate what she would feel or do; and I admired her sassiness in the interrogation room. As the rest of the cast, Eliza’s friends, her parents, teachers, classmates, neighbors and the authorities of East Rivermoor, were concerned, I simply found no familiar handle to grasp. Half of the time I did not understand at all what they were doing and saying or why. Yet I guess the complete intransparency of the character set has been assembled intentionally to create a certain eerie atmosphere. The reader is supposed to be at unease, to enter unknown territory, to feel the need to constantly turn uncomfortably around in nervous circles.
Unfortunately in order to thorougly enjoy and adore a book of any genre I, personally, need solid, life-like and likable characters who also show the notable promise of some development. While reading Fury I felt like I was trying to sift plancton out of a vast ocean using my own clumsy hands. I felt that I kind of hated Ella Dashwood, the new and newly-rich girl, right after she was introduced, but I could not pinpoint why. Something about her just did not add up properly. With Eliza’s other friends I could not even say if they were really friends or only a pupose-focused group with Eliza as the self-declared leader, if they actually liked Eliza or if they descpised her. Although I have experienced a friendship with a manipulative control-freak in primary school myself, I had no chance to understand the dynamics of Eliza’s triangle. Lexi and Marianne are beautiful. Lexi is obsessed with weight and is maybe kind of kind, Marianne is gifted and obsessed with school and is sometimes a bit mean or spontaneous or snarky. One of them is blond, I forgot who. Sometimes two or three of them bonded, sometimes they did not. They were friends or enemies with some boys at school and some girls, too. The principal of the private school had zero interest in really changing his students’ behavior for good, the school councelor turned out to be a mischief and gossip lover without an ounce of work ethics, the teachers declared openly which students they prefered or spent their lessons watching the clock with propped up feet. In addition there was Eliza’s childhood-friend Neil, an intelligent trouble-maker, whose relationship to Eliza and Marianne was also undefinable and who I would not be able to describe properly. And finally the unfamiliarity of East Rivermoor itself: The suburb had a fantasy-like sheen to it. Eliza hints at the difficulty to leave, at the ditch and the wall surrounding it, at disappearing girls and a strict curfew on work days. The only “normal” person in my opinion was Dr. Fadden, although I did not understand why he would risk his job by letting his criminal charge out of the questioning room.
Sooo... If you like dark crime-stories involving strange places that play with your mind and make you thoroughly uncomfortable - and if you do not mind that the quirky characters are nothing like you and the people you know -, do try to get hold of a copy of Fury. For those of you who speak and read German: The soon available translation might be easier to obtain than the Australian original. (less)
FAIL!!!! This was supposed to be a read-along AND my copy had been given to me by my reading buddy Nomes as a present. But this morning I simply swall...moreFAIL!!!! This was supposed to be a read-along AND my copy had been given to me by my reading buddy Nomes as a present. But this morning I simply swallowed the thing whole, paper, cover, spine and story. I even forgot to mind my Skype appointment with my sister and her daughter. Luckily my sister is as much addicted to books as I am - so I suppose there will be a kind of grudgy absolution coming from her end. But, Nomes and Simcsa: I am so sorry. And I look forward very much to discussing everything with you soon and in detail.(less)
"He looks again towards the door, expecting Mum to walk in and remind him of something he's forgotten. He smiles awkwardly. 'Is that it, Dad? I've got...more"He looks again towards the door, expecting Mum to walk in and remind him of something he's forgotten. He smiles awkwardly. 'Is that it, Dad? I've got to go.' 'Your Mum said I should mention ... um ... satisfaction.' 'What!' 'She said young men should know things, should be told things so that the girl won't be ...' his eyes plead for understanding, '... disappointed.' [...] 'No worries, Dad. My biology teacher said I was a natural.' Dad looks confused. 'I'm kidding, Dad.' [...] Poor bloke, having to do the dirty work while Mum's off with her gang. 'Dad? What did Grandpa tell you about sex?' 'He said if I got a girl pregnant, he'd kill me.'"
The phrases "Darcy means what he says. He just shouldn’t say it aloud. [...] He’s a teenage boy, he can deal with it. If only he’d learn to keep his mouth shut." make him sound like someone who perpetuously says annoying things or is generally misunderstood by his peers. This is not the case. Sixteen-years-old Darcy Pele Franz Walker just occasionally succumbs to the dangerous urge to say what’s on his mind. So do I - because sometimes watching people’s jaws drop is totally worth the price. Just yesterday I managed to keep myself from saying to the train conductor sucking frantically on his cigarette in the middle of the platform that "This is a non-smoking station. Please show respect to non-smokers, Sir." in the mechanical voice of the loudspeaker lady. And I only barely got away on my bike after remarking to a young guy waiting for his two friends, who were urinating onto the pavement, that it must be quite embarrassing for his poor mates to have such weak muscles in the groin area. Darcy has that sassy streak among his character traits, too. Plus there is always something Shakespearean waiting on his tongue. Popping out witty comments doesn’t make Darcy an ousider, it just interferes with his intention to better stay off the radar of class thug Tim and his brainless but mischief-loving side-kick Braith.
Also the thing about being friends with nerdy and obnoxious chess-lover Noah oversimplifies the plot. For becoming friends with Noah - appreciating his unwavering attempts at spending time together, at sharing jokes and sad secrets and even a hug (I loved that moment. Talking about it makes me want to keep the book.) -, is one of the key story lines in my opinion. The others are finally bonding with his Dad in spite of not sharing his addiction to playing soccer, finding a balance between cowering and standing his ground in the vicinity of Tim and Braith and – certainly – getting the girl of his dreams.
I enjoyed the whole book, but maybe I liked the getting-the-girl part best. Well, yes, I generally have a thing for romantic subplots, but in Slice the romance turned out to be the sweet, tender and smile-inducing story of how-I-was gotten-by-the-girl, for all the female characters including the love interest, the English teacher and Darcy’s Mum are strong-willed and cool and confident and absolutely wonderful. I loved the short interaction between Darcy’s parents, I understood Darcy’s admiration for his T-shirts-with-a-message-collecting teacher and I even liked Stacey and Miranda of the weekly brandy-and-pink-grapefruit-soaked class-parties, which are responsible for Darcy’s first experiences with the opposite sex.
When I was reading Slice and laughing aloud in irregular intervalls it reminded me of two books. One is the equally Australian, romantic and funny Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood, which is also narrated in an extremely likable male voice. The other one is the French children’s classic “The Little Nick” (Le petit Nicolas) by René Goscinny, because although Slice comes to tell a story with a noticable timeline, it is also a collection of memorable bits and pieces – seemingly unrelated juicy moments from Darcy’s childhood at home and his teenage years with his classmates at school.
Another aspect that makes Slice so very recommendable in my eyes is the believability amongst all the juiciness. Have you watched or read some of these supposedly hilarious stories that show how a awkward hero stumbles clumsily from one mental pothole into the next because he tries to hide or gloss over an embarrassing step he’s made, and in the end he stands in front of a shitload of self-made problems that could easily have been avoided? Slice does - praised be the author - not make use of this common domino-effect-element, not once. There is embarrassment and there is awkwardness, but both in bearable doses and life-like proportions.
Yet Slice has pushed at a stone in my personal domino game called the "greed to read": It has made me want to read the other novel by Steven Herrick that has been lurking around my wishlist for some time: Black Painted Fingernails. If anyone feels like starting a tour or hosting an international giveaway, please give me a shout
**spoiler alert** 3.5 personal stars, but deserving more. I honestly do not know how you could deal with the subject - a group rape, which the victim...more**spoiler alert** 3.5 personal stars, but deserving more. I honestly do not know how you could deal with the subject - a group rape, which the victim has kept entirely to herself, and its repercussions on her struggle to pretend to live a "normal" life - better than Kristy Eagar does in "Raw Blue". Everything feels so honest, so real, everybody is painted with intrinsical, well-set strokes. There is a lot of old and new pain and hurt and fear and shame and brokenness. Hope glimpses through temporarily like a ray of sunshine in murky water: Mainly in the shape of people who care fo Carly inspite of her prickly exterior - Danny, Hannah and Ryan - and in the form of Carly's contentment when the surf is good.
The writing style is superb, too.
But - and that goes with the topic - it is a difficult book. The pain the reader experiences alongside the heroine is indeed very raw and the anger that boils up occasionally (Don't you hate her Dad and Marty and Shane and Adam and ...?) could melt iron. The feel-good moments that registered on my radar were rather like a small candle-flame in comparison. Therefore, to me, reading "Raw Blue" provided only a limited amount of pleasure.
Thank you, fellow Bookers for recommending this book. I would never have tried to read it without you making contantly admiring noises about it and bringing it up at every possibly and impossible occasion.
Highly recommended to readers who are willing to stomach something raw and blue. (less)
"That puke was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen. It was green and a little red. Technicolor, really, the color puke is supposed to be. It defini...more"That puke was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen. It was green and a little red. Technicolor, really, the color puke is supposed to be. It definitely wasn't black, and it didn't smell like toasty poop. This was a good sign."
I breezed through this book in one day. And let me tell you: I had an awfully good time, although I was very relieved that my commuter train compartment did not emanate the penetrating stink of stale sweat, geasy hair, beer and hamburgers gone bad like it usually does at rush hour in late August. I might have not been able to reign in my activated imagination otherwise and would have stared down the nose-offending passengers with a zombie-alert x-ray-expression disorting my face.
"Bad Taste in Boys" combines a wacky, deliciously hilarious story about "the world's worst football team" getting infected with a vampire virus instead of getting enhanced muscle-power thanks to being injected with the untested "Playwell" fluid and the female, geeky student coach assistent who saves the small town from being digested by them with a cute, wobbly-footed romance reminiscent of earlier Cabot books. A definite plus is the relationship between heroine Kate and her fifteen-year-old brother Jonah, a scifi-nerd who has recently joined the cheerleading team in order to impress a girl:
"Jonah squealed, jumping up and down and shaking his pom-poms. His skirt swished around his scrawny yellow knees. 'Jonah, can I give you a piece of sisterly advice?' 'Yeah' 'If you ever want to lose your virginity, don't do that again. Ever.' He dropped the pom-poms. It wasn't much of an improvement."
The best, however, is all that fun-dipped, unaffected goryness and the way aspiring future doctor Kate relates her experiences with gnawed-on ankles, ripped-off feet and black-putrid goo drizzling on the homecoming pancake grill. It felt like a trip down memory lane back to those times when a friend and I tried to outdo each other with nauseating stories from the make-belief "sanatorium" we both were stuck as the patients "Rrroberto and Alberrtina". (If you are shocked don't ask what other games I used to invent).
Since I had started with a quote, I will close with one as well:
"'Excuse me if I feel skeptical,' I said. 'Coach's foot fell off. How exactly do you propose to cure that? Superglue?'"(less)
This fulfilling story of friendship, loneliness, loyalty and love has two important ingredients going for it:
1. Awfully sweet, but realistic character...moreThis fulfilling story of friendship, loneliness, loyalty and love has two important ingredients going for it:
1. Awfully sweet, but realistic characters (There is no need to emphasize his unquestionably cute infatuation with his next door neighbor Estelle, because I loved 15-years-old hero Dan for caring so much about his inherited and footsore dog Harold and for trying to pull his freshly divorced and impoverished mom out of her misery and her imagined talks to her idol Thom Yorke anyway. Said mom gets over her ex-husband's confession to be broke and gay by unintentionally talking all the bridal customers of her recently started wedding cake business "I Do Cakes" out of wanting to marry at all. A whole army of exceptional minor characters - sweet, funny, excentric, true-to-life - compose the wholesome filling.) 2. On-the-spot, humorous, crafty and perceptive language that melts on your tongue but is still not unlikely for a nerdy, funny and considerate teenaged boy. Before I hand this book over to the next in line I have to save a few quotes, like for instance: "Stress level: extreme. It's like she was a jar with the lid screwed on too tight, and inside the jar were pickles, angry pickles, and they were fermenting, and about to explode." or "Fred is staying with his mother these holidays. She's living in London for six months, in Chelsea, studying Georgian underwear at the National Art Library. It's a thesis, not a fetish." or "'... you cow,' Estelle added. 'I heard that.' 'Give the woman the geriatric audiology medal,' Estelle said. 'I heard that, too', her mother said, from the other side of the door."
I really enjoyed "Six Impossible Things" (it grew on me from chapter to chapter) and I hope I have been making that sufficiently clear, but I think you have to wait for my friend Janina's (I'm counting on you, Janina!) review to put her finger onto the exact spot which makes this book just right.
Thank you so much, lovely Nic, for being our Corner's Australian Book Angel!