This book isn't bad. There are a couple of bright moments, moments that I said, "Aha! THAT'S what this book is going to be about!" But...moreI don't get it.
This book isn't bad. There are a couple of bright moments, moments that I said, "Aha! THAT'S what this book is going to be about!" But, alas, those never came to fruition.
I put an all call out on Twitter, asking what people loved about this book, why it is considered so great, and I got a lot of responses. Some said they felt the book's popularity was only a logical reaction to the controversy it caused upon its release- which sounds reasonable, it wouldn't be the first time it had happened. Others flat out admitted to not liking it, while several who said they loved it gave reasons that just aren't true (flowery language? this is as straightforward as it gets, folks). Those who did love it, admitted that it's out of nostalgia at this point. It seems to be pretty unanimous (among those who actually have read it) that this book is fantastic if you are/were an angry teenager. Otherwise, not so much.
I am not a teenager, nor am I angry. Even when I was a teenager, I was not an angry one. I've been happy and mentally healthy my entire life, and as such, I guess I just don't fit the mold for the target audience of this book.
Holden is one of the least likeable protagonist/narrators I've ever read. I hate this kid. He's an idiot/screw up/loser of a kid who doesn't want to take responsibility for his actions. He gets kicked out of school because of the teachers, because of the other students, because the books were dumb, because they're all phonies. He hasn't had sex with a girl because the girls are all uptight. He doesn't have friends because all the other guys are jerks. And on and on it goes. Nothing is ever his fault, and everybody around him is always doing wrong, he's always right.
This kid is the epitome of what is wrong with so many youth in our society (I would say nation, but I am pretty sure this is a widespread epidemic, not localized to the US): he thinks he knows everything, he feels he can do no wrong and believes the world owes him a big favor just for living. He's selfish, rude, misogynistic, immature and prone to lashing out violently at those around him. He cusses to prove he's an adult, only to have nearly every single person he ever interacts with tell him they don't like hearing it.
The overuse of "really" "very" "quite" and "frequently" were annoying. The way he said so many things twice, as though he had a writing-stutter was also frustrating.
There are a couple of good monologues by adult characters, and I can see how this captured a moment in time- the birth of the "teenager" as it were, and the character voice was completely, 100% spot on. I *know* this kid. He's real. I can't stand him, and don't identify with him at all, but, oh yes, he's real.
I don't know. I just don't get it.
PARENTAL ADVISORIES Language 4/5: The entire book is peppered with hell and damn, plus hundreds of instances of using the Lord's name in vain. A couple of f-bombs right at the very end. Several derogatory names for women.
Violence 3/5: Several fist fights, though I guess they aren't really fights: more like our main character picks a fight and then gets beat up. Two or three imaginary instances of getting shot and dying a bloody death (he's a bit of an attention-whore). One description of a suicide. The main character is pretty disturbed, and has a bunch of violent thoughts towards those he dislikes.
Sex 3/5: A boy tries to have sex with a prostitute, but feels too ashamed when he actually sees her, so he backs out. Several conversations with immature young men talking about "giving a girl the time" and "getting all sexy" and having intercourse (yes, he calls it intercourse). Never graphic, and you never really believe that any of it happens, it comes across as locker-room talk.
Substance Abuses 3/5: Lots and lots of drinking, and the main character is only 16. Everyone in the story smokes- this was 1951- even a 10 year old gets only a brief reprimand for saying she smoked a cigarette. (less)
Really liked the writing itself, but the story seemed... lame, I guess. What counted for destruction of one's life in the mid-nineteenth century just...moreReally liked the writing itself, but the story seemed... lame, I guess. What counted for destruction of one's life in the mid-nineteenth century just doesn't seem to cut it today. I found myself saying over and over again, "That's it? THAT is your big plan for revenge?!" Although, being able to write such long-standing love without anybody actually touching anybody else is pretty impressive. Goosebumps. Liked the author so much that I will read his other stuff, but I will stick to the movie on this one. (less)
I've loved the musical for so long, that I felt like a hypocrite for never having read the book. But then somebody told me the book is really long and...moreI've loved the musical for so long, that I felt like a hypocrite for never having read the book. But then somebody told me the book is really long and boring, so I put it off. Now I'm sorry I did. The book is wonderful. It's touching, but not sappy. It's tense without being overwhelmingly so. It's political without being in-your-face.
Yes. It is long. And parts of it (7 chapters on the history of a particular sect of nuns, for starters) are boring. But the depth of the characters more than make up for anything you might find lacking in the story.
I can see why people would read the abridged version, and I would never judge somebody for doing so. Really, honestly, truly, the history that gets cut out is entirely superfluous. Reading the full version, I could see five, six, seven chapters at a time that had absolutely nothing to do with the actual story and could have been cut without affecting anything.
I'm glad I finally read it, and I'm proud of myself for plowing through the "real" version, but you could read the abridged and get everything out of it.
Also, it's shocking to me how much from this enormous book actually made it into the play/musical. Astounding, really.
Sex 2/5: One character in particular has a checkered history; a child out of wedlock, and eventually turns to prostitution for money. This was written in a simpler time, though, so it's all very discreet, if you can believe that.
Language 1/5: Some "damns" and "hells" and maybe a "bitch" or two, but I don't remember anything beyond that. Considering it's over 1400 pages, that's pretty good.
Violence 3/5: Most of the story takes place on the fringe of the French Revolution. There are extended battle scenes, and more than one hand-to-hand type of scene. Again, it's not graphic, it's just part of the story.
The main character is a convict- his entire life calls into question the morality of the penal code and justice system. If you're a strict "letter of the law" abiding type of citizen, this may not be your cup of tea. (less)
After the mid-point, it is completely different from the movie. Not better, not worse, just different.
People who live in the movie die in the book, an...moreAfter the mid-point, it is completely different from the movie. Not better, not worse, just different.
People who live in the movie die in the book, and vice versa. There are a few more run ins with the big bad carnivores, and a little adventure that left it open for the sequels to come (I have heard Crichton fans say he "never" writes sequels and didn't plan the sequel to this book... bullocks, I say, it was definitely planned).
This was my first time reading a book by this author and I liked it. Super action packed (even a little too much, it was like "come on, can't they catch a break??!?!?!?!") But it made me feel smart to read all the science-y stuff. (less)
One of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. It managed to be both highly entertaining while rattling of pages and pages of statistic...moreOne of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. It managed to be both highly entertaining while rattling of pages and pages of statistics- quite a feat, if you think about it.
The "correlation without causation" is immensely fascinating to read about. The book isn't trying to be political, even though it touches on political subjects, they are very careful not to be influential with their data.
I believe there is a second book by the same authors, and I will be ordering it from the library immediately. (less)
I know that there are some 15,000 reviews of this (and each of the others in the series), and if you haven't read this yet, you're not likely to do so...moreI know that there are some 15,000 reviews of this (and each of the others in the series), and if you haven't read this yet, you're not likely to do so now, and it's likely that you've made up your opinion one way or the other already.
But I have to say that I love these books.
This first book is much more obviously aimed at a younger audience. I would guess that the target audience of this book is about eleven or twelve years old. It's written very simply, it's pretty short and there's not a lot of story outside of Harry discovering he's a wizard, attending school and attempting to save the Sorcerer's Stone.
JK Rowling used every tool in a writer's arsenal to create a completely immersive world. Every name of every character was chosen very carefully to be reflective of their personality and contribution to the story. Every character has a backstory, she didn't leave anybody as a single-dimensional character. Every main character has pieces of hidden, supportive information (for instance, the type of wood used for Harry, Hermione, and Ron's wands are all associated with their zodiac signs, and the wood used for Voldemort's wand has poisonous sap and is from a tree that can grow to be over 2,000 years old). Every character and story line supports the overall story, and nothing is left behind.
That's not to say that every word is part of the overarching plot; Rowling does a fantastic job of creating small, non-critical scenes that do little more than remind the reader that we are "not in Kansas anymore" (so to speak). Snippets of lessons, Quidditch matches, silly names for things are all used sparingly and deftly to remind the reader that the hidden wizarding world is quite different from ours.
This first book is not very different from the movie, and it's pretty straightforward and simple. However, if you plan to read the whole series (and I highly recommend you do), you really do need to read these early books as well, as they focus on some secondary characters much more than the films do, and these secondary characters become more important in the later storylines.
Language 1/5: A couple of "damns"
Violence 2/5: A three headed dog bites a teacher, a story is told of a wizard killing Harry's parents, a ghost-type character is killing unicorns and draining them of blood, the villain causes a wizard great pain vicariously and leaves him for dead, though the main character is unconscious for most of this and we don't actually see it happen.
Sex 0/5: Nothing
Substance Abuses 0/5: Nothing
There's some bullying and some mild-mannered defiance of school rules. (less)