I first discovered this series back in the 7th grade. It was like my generation's Twilight. I'm unbelievably excited about the TV series...which willI first discovered this series back in the 7th grade. It was like my generation's Twilight. I'm unbelievably excited about the TV series...which will probably suck....more
Loved, loved, LOVED this collection. I found the majority of the poems I used in my thesis within these pages. Favorites include: "White Cotton T-ShirtLoved, loved, LOVED this collection. I found the majority of the poems I used in my thesis within these pages. Favorites include: "White Cotton T-Shirt" "Poetry Reading" "War Photo" (My favorite of the entire collection...so perfectly encapsulates what my thesis is about!) "They Give Evidence" (haunting -- look for the actual exhibit, it's amazing too!)...more
I'm having a difficult time figuring out how I feel about this memoir. I picked it up on impulse at Barnes and Noble a few months ago, and sat down toI'm having a difficult time figuring out how I feel about this memoir. I picked it up on impulse at Barnes and Noble a few months ago, and sat down today and read it in one sitting (about 3 hours). I have mixed feelings overall -- it was engaging enough that I was able to read it in one sitting, and never really felt the urge to put it down and go do something else. But at the same time, I feel like if I'd *had* to put it down for a few hours, I probably wouldn't have felt any strong pull to pick it back up and finish it. I think I was turned off by the way the "letter to the reader" at the beginning of the book ended: "To find out what happened with the cute guy at my high school reunion, buy my new book!" Look, lady, I haven't even finished your first book yet, and you're already trying to get me to buy the next one? For some reason, that left a bad taste in my mouth.
That being said, I applaud Blanco for telling her story, and continuing her activism, because bullying is certainly a topic that gets pushed under the proverbial rug far too often. And while the book resonated with me a bit as a teacher, and while I'm certainly happy for her that she got the high school reunion of her dreams (or so it seems...I'm probably not going to buy that second book!), the whole thing just sort of fell flat for me. I can't really explain why, which is frustrating, as this was a book that I really *wanted* to like. And although I didn't hate it, it's not something I would go out of my way to read again....more
This is one of those books I've always felt that I should like, but for whatever reason I just can't jump on the love train.Read in: The Gothic Novel
This is one of those books I've always felt that I should like, but for whatever reason I just can't jump on the love train. I think it's because I've read it twice (maybe even 3 times) now, and wrote a research paper on it back in the day, and I'm still not entirely sure the story makes sense to me. Not that every story MUST be linear, but this one's a bit too cyclical for my tastes....more
**spoiler alert** So I had written a really long, almost-finished review. Then I got distracted and walked away from the computer. By the time I came**spoiler alert** So I had written a really long, almost-finished review. Then I got distracted and walked away from the computer. By the time I came back, the bugger had decided to restart itself, and my review was gone. So this might not be quite so thoughtful as the original!
I have to start by saying that, in spite of a few issues, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I'd definitely place it in the realm of speculative rather than science fiction, because a great deal of the science seems eerily plausible. But I'm getting ahead of myself; plot first!
Shusterman employs multiple perspectives in a way I really liked. Rather than shifting to various first-person narrators, he simply alters the perspective of each chapter. The primary perspectives here are Connor, a trouble-maker whose parents have chosen to have him unwound; Risa, a ward of the state who is simply not "special" enough to warrant a longer life span; and Lev, a tithe who has been raised from birth specifically for the purpose of unwinding. The logic behind the whole idea of unwinding is pretty horrific. Essentially, after the Second Civil War over reproductive rights, abortion was officially outlawed -- life is considered sacred from conception until the child's 13th birthday. From that point until the child's 18th birthday, his or her parents (or state-appointed guardians in Risa's case) can choose to have their child "unwound," which is not technically a death sentence. The child becomes an organ donor, and every single piece of their body is donated to someone else, so they are technically still living, just in another form. It raises all sorts of interesting questions about the nature of life and consciousness. You read stories all the time about organ transplant recipients somehow taking on characteristics of their donors. The chapters about Cyrus and Lev's interactions with him were probably my favorites for that very reason. Even though brain transplants aren't a real thing (yet), I thought it was an interesting angle. (The party at the end, however, I had a harder time getting behind...I can buy that the people with the son's brain parts had his memories, but I find it hard to believe that every single party guest had some sort of collective memory experience by being in the same room together. It was a little too cheesy for my tastes)
In short, this is the book I assumed Never Let Me Go would be. That story is far more character-driven, and a great example of an "emotions as plot" book that actually works. Granted, the characters in that story have more in common with Lev than Connor or Risa, given that (being clones) they were also raised from birth to be used for their organs, with no true expectations of a life of their own. But the dystopian world of that novel is not explored to the extent that Shusterman does in Unwind. Never Let Me Go is about the characters, first and foremost, and their reactions to the situation in which they've found themselves. How the world got to this point is unimportant (and it's a mark of how well-written that novel is that the lack of world-building never really bothered me).
That being said, with a story so heavily plot driven, I did have some issues with characterization. I felt like a great deal was told but not shown. We're told Connor is this awful trouble-maker, and although he thinks a lot about his anger issues, it's never clear where those came from (since it seems like he was already a pretty angry kid even before his parents decided to unwind him). We're told about Lev deciding to join the extremist movement, but we never see him go through the dramatic transformation it would have to take for him to want to become a Clapper (basically a suicide bomber). Yes, his experience with Cyrus definitely opened his eyes, but there is a great deal of time missing between his encounter with "Cy-Ty" and his reappearance at the Admiral's camp. Risa is a bit more well-developed, but it's hard to figure out what she and Connor see in each other. There's no real build-up of romance, and neither of them seem terribly invested in the relationship. It felt like an unnecessary element.
Finally, some of the logic with the timing of unwinding was confusing. In the real world, when someone needs a transplant, they're placed on a list and have to wait until the correct donor comes along. This universe seemingly eliminates all that -- the cure for any sort of problem is an automatic transplant. A doctor even comments on the fact that the hospital has a whole freezer full of "healthy young hearts" for the Admiral. Now maybe years of watching ER have given me unrealistic expectations, but I was given to understand that there was something of a time crunch with transplantation. Like, say someone dies in a car accident and he's an organ donor -- once the doctors remove his heart, lungs, etc., don't they need to be transplanted into the recipients fairly quickly? Maybe it just makes for better TV to have transplant teams rushing to the hospital against a ticking clock, but logic dictates that, the longer a vital organ is outside the body, the less...effective?...it would be inside a new body. Maybe there's some sort of other technology at work in Shusterman's world that keeps those organs viable until they are needed, but it just seems like a lot of kids would be unwound only to have most of their parts on ice forever. Wouldn't some of those organs eventually go bad if they were never used? This sounds horrible, but...meat eventually goes bad, even if it's frozen. It just seems like, based on what we see at the harvesting camp, that there would be a surplus of organs (some more than others, perhaps) that would end up going unused. And then what's the point of this "humane" procedure?
But overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the story. One of the better dystopias I've read recently -- I might even put it on par with Oryx and Crake in terms of scientific believability! I'm looking forward to eventually reading the sequel too.
Calling this book "read," is sort of a misnomer, as it's actually one of the few books I didn't make it through this semester. Couldn't get into the sCalling this book "read," is sort of a misnomer, as it's actually one of the few books I didn't make it through this semester. Couldn't get into the story, and also couldn't bring myself to care about Rabbit or any of his problems. I mostly wanted him to just keep running and not come back!...more
**spoiler alert** I actually enjoyed this more than I expected to. Like I said in my status update, it's like a less vapid Gossip Girl with vampires!**spoiler alert** I actually enjoyed this more than I expected to. Like I said in my status update, it's like a less vapid Gossip Girl with vampires! That's pretty much the most fitting description.
A few things that bothered me: the actual explanation of "where vampires come from". Fallen angels? I mean, points for originality I guess, but I'm not sure the whole concept totally makes sense. So it's basically the same 400 originals coming back over and over? What about the ones who are killed? We keep hearing about how many there are, but 400 is a relatively small number when you think about it. Are they only in Manhattan? How does the whole rebirthing process work? And why on earth do people who are supposed to be "life mates" keep getting reborn as twins? That's just an unnecessary level of creepy.
And I know I compare everything to Spoiled lately, but that's become sort of the gold standard for me in the "ridiculous YA" department. As I've said a million times, it knows exactly how ridiculous it is. And while Blue Bloods has its own share of the ridiculous, I still feel like it wants to be taken seriously. Which is hard when you have main characters named Jack and Mimi Force.
Not that it's impossible to take YA fiction seriously. I've read plenty of excellent YA since I started teaching. And really, the same comment can be made about "adult" fiction as well. Some ideas are hard to take seriously. ...more
Wow. This was incredibly pointless. It feels like it was trying to capitalize on the success of thrillers like DaVinci Code, but there's no *there* heWow. This was incredibly pointless. It feels like it was trying to capitalize on the success of thrillers like DaVinci Code, but there's no *there* here. What's the point of finding the Codex, other than simply having it? There's no urgency to the search, especially since Edward doesn't understand anything about the text. Does it reveal a forgotten piece of history? Is it a map to untold riches? Does it contain the secret to immortality? There needs to be a purpose for finding the book (beyond "some rich lady wants it and I'm bored").
Also, the video game was an entirely unnecessary digression. If nothing else, it seems like it was a partial inspiration for the Narnia-like worlds in The Magicians books, but again, there's nothing to the game. It's clues for the sake of clues, puzzles for the sake of puzzles. Blah. I've never been into video games in general - I'm easily frustrated when I suck at stuff like Mario Cart, and I would rather read a well-written narrative than play through one (like...Tomb Raider? I don't even know). It seems like nothing so much as an enormous time suck, and little else. And Edward's experience of getting sucked into the game and staying up all night and sleeping until 2 didn't really dispel that notion.
I couldn't get behind Edward as a protagonist. I was marginally intrigued by Margaret, and I think telling the story from her perspective would have been an improvement. Edward was just so blah. He just falls into these tasks because he's bored. He doesn't seem to be passionate about anything (or have any real interests for that matter). I had a hard time rooting for him, since he could never articulate why he wanted to find the book, outside of some vague sense of accomplishment. He just isn't a compelling character. There's nothing complex or multifaceted about him. He exists. That's about it.
I almost didn't finish this, but I kept holding out hope that it would all come together in some sort of spectacular reveal. No dice. I kept thinking I should like this more, since I would love to be an archival librarian and discover forgotten texts. But although this book purports to be about a fascination with forgotten texts, it really isn't. It's about some dudes who liked puzzles, who created puzzles, and then some other dude tried to solve those puzzles. That's really all there is. And I don't have a ton of patience for actual, physical puzzles, I have even less interest in *reading* about someone solving puzzles. It's like if someone wrote a book all about trying to finish the Sunday Times crossword. Thrilling, right?...more
This one came as a parent gift in this year's book fair. It's one I've intended to read for a long time, and I'm a little embarrassed it took me so loThis one came as a parent gift in this year's book fair. It's one I've intended to read for a long time, and I'm a little embarrassed it took me so long to finally read it!
Couldn't put this down. I absolutely loved it, in spite of being a little wary of the style at first (the bolded interjections and illustrations threw me off). I'm so glad I finally gave it a chance....more
**spoiler alert** I initially bought this for my classroom library, but I think it's a little mature for 8th graders (although there are a few I might**spoiler alert** I initially bought this for my classroom library, but I think it's a little mature for 8th graders (although there are a few I might recommend it to). I really, really liked this book. It's a great way to start off a new year!
I did have a couple of odd misconceptions going in, however. I swear I had read somewhere that the "before" and "after" referred not to Alaska's accident but to the huge prank with the progress reports. Perhaps that was intentional misdirection to preserve the surprise, because that definitely caught me unaware. I also just have this idea in my head that all boarding school books are set somewhere in the early 1900s. So any reference to cell phones or video games was oddly jarring. That's really just a personal quirk, and one of the great things about this story is that it isn't specifically tied to the year in which it was written. In another 10 years, it won't feel stale and out of date.
Overall, I loved the story and the characters, even though they suffered from the standard problem of teenage characters -- a little *too* witty and clever. But as I said, the book as a whole felt realistic and timeless. I know I definitely would have connected with this if I'd read it as a high school student. It reminds me a bit of Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I did love as a high schooler.
I don't give away 5 stars lightly, and while I'm not sure I love this quite as much as The Book Thief (my last 5 star outing), I think it deserves more than 4. Maybe 4.8?...more
**spoiler alert** I find it ironic that I picked this up after I decided I couldn’t handle all of the violence I knew would be forthcoming in The Girl**spoiler alert** I find it ironic that I picked this up after I decided I couldn’t handle all of the violence I knew would be forthcoming in The Girl Who Played with Fire. Although, with a title like Bodily Harm, I suppose it’d be naive of me to expect a book with NO violence. Atwood really pulls no punches here.
Our protagonist, Rennie, is recovering from a mastectomy, having recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Through flashback, we learn that she was in an open(ish) relationship with her boyfriend Jake, who was a little too into violent fantasies, and she fell in love with her (married) surgeon. There was an interesting dynamic at work in their relationship, and I almost wish Atwood would have explored that angle a little further. Basically, Daniel’s attracted to Rennie, but he’s also married and has children and is expecting another, and is too much of a wuss to leave his comfortable life. Ultimately, I think Rennie realizes that she’s not so much in love with Daniel as with the idea of being saved -- boyfriend Jake wasn’t much of the rescuer type. Essentially, Rennie’s life is falling apart, so she takes advantage of her position as freelance journalist and asks for a travel writing assignment. She just wants to escape from her life for a while. To me, Rennie presents as depressed -- she’s given up, and can’t imagine that things will ever get any better in her life, so why not pack up and take off for a while? It’s interesting that, rather than actually packing up and moving away for good, Rennie chooses a travel assignment. It’s like she’s testing the waters. Several times she expresses a desire to disappear, a wish to be anonymous, but she can never seem to pull the trigger on it.
Rennie’s assignment takes her to the tiny Caribbean island of St. Antoine, which is NOT the tropical paradise she’s hoping for (the magazine can’t afford a fancy, all-inclusive deal, plus she’s supposed to be writing about travel excursions off the beaten path). The experience is pretty terrible from the outset. The hotel is awful, it’s hot and muggy, the food is subpar at best, and somehow it’s exactly like being back in the small town where she grew up. Everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, and as the most recent tourist arrival, Rennie is an object of unparalleled curiosity. Turns out, everyone thought she was a CIA agent, since “travel reporter” is a pretty decent cover story. On the flight out to St. Antoine, she meets Dr. Minnow, who is running for political office, and keeps seeking her out to give her information for her story. At the beginning she mostly just humors him and doesn’t bother to make note of anything, but it’s clear he’s seeking her out for a reason -- he wants this story told.
Rennie is ultimately drawn into the political intrigue (such that it is) on St. Antoine when she falls in with Paul, a rich white man who makes his living running drugs on his boats, and Lora, Paul’s one time paramour who has taken up with Prince, another political fellow. I had a difficult time keeping track of the political machinations, and I’m not sure the specifics themselves are all that important. Suffice to say, being involved, however peripherally, gives Rennie a new sense of purpose. She leaves her hotel on St. Antoine to stay with Paul in his house on Ste. Agathe. Unfortunately it quickly becomes clear that Rennie is in over her head. The election is immediately followed by gunfire and revolution, forcing Rennie and Lora to flee into the night. They never make it back to Paul’s house and are instead arrested and tossed into every abroad journalist’s worst nightmare: foreign prison. It’s made worse by the fact that Rennie’s passport is back at her original hotel, where the proprietor is fairly certain she’s a spy. This was the portion I found most compelling, the last 50 or so pages. Atwood spares no details in the harshness of this experience, and both Rennie and the reader quickly lose track of how much time has passed since her arrival. It’s beautifully and hauntingly written, and given that it comprises the end of the novel, there’s never a sense that the characters will be safe.
Atwood is the master of multiple timelines. I’ve read so many books in the last year that failed at weaving together multiple timelines, narrators, or both, so it’s refreshing to return to one of the masters and remind myself that there are writers capable of this feat. Rennie’s remembrances of her life with Jake, or her ill-fated crush on her doctor, are triggered by her experiences on the islands -- a moment with Paul triggers a memory of Daniel. The stories are all woven together seamlessly, and although I do wish she’d focused more on the Daniel storyline, I get that it’s not meant to be the focus of the novel. I had a hard time liking or even relating to Rennie as a character, however. She feels disconnected, and she’s written disconnected. Especially on the islands, she never fights, but merely allows things to happen to her. She’s swept up with Paul and Lora and Dr. Minnow and all the rest because she allows herself to be. She can’t advocate for herself well enough to return to her original purpose (the travel article), and ends up in a far more harrowing situation than what she left behind at home. However, I feel like we aren’t necessarily supposed to root for her, but rather follow her journey.
Like so many of my favorites, I grade my girl Atwood on a curve (I feel like I can call her my girl, having spent two years of my life writing my thesis about her!). This is not my favorite of her novels -- it was originally published in 1980, and The Handmaid's Taleaside, I’m starting to realize that I prefer her more recent writing (poetry and prose). Held up against the rest of her work, I’d say this was okay. But I love Atwood’s writing, and I’ll choose it over just about anything else!