The mystery element was decent but not exceptional and I wasn't satisfied with how it resolved, so I probably wouldn't recommend the book for its plot...moreThe mystery element was decent but not exceptional and I wasn't satisfied with how it resolved, so I probably wouldn't recommend the book for its plot, but I loved the thoughtfulness with which the story, and with which Bess, wrestled with the theme (as stated by the title) and with trying to do well by people whose voices are marginalized (by death, by PTSD, by mental illness, by family dynamics).
I was disappointed in a trope used by the book. Spoilers for the ending: (view spoiler)[the one character with a non-war related disability, and who is basically defined by the narrative by that disability, is a resentful, evil, cowardly murderer. How regressive and offensive. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Creative and compelling. I was wary of picking this up because I didn't want to read about the protagonist's early life (I didn't want to read about a...moreCreative and compelling. I was wary of picking this up because I didn't want to read about the protagonist's early life (I didn't want to read about a bunch of kids in a terrible situation being terrible to one another), but that took up all of a few pages, even counting flashbacks. I was also wary because there's been so much hype about this book (I mean, ffs, "A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master's Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today's greatest writers"?? I know I'm a born contrarian of the worst sort, and I also know my tastes aren't likely to align with anyone bestowing the label "towering literary achievement" upon books, but still!), and I also thought that I'd read enough non-fiction about North Korea that I wasn't going to be amazed by a fictionalized account.
I still picked up the book, expecting to put it back down quickly, but instead, I was glued to the pages for a couple days. It was an entertaining blend of a coming of age/noir/mystery story with a picaresque flavor, purposely zipping back between the unreal and the real in ways that only made it more fascinating. The story was generally well-told and well-constructed, and while the characters were often flat and some conventions were tritely deployed, I still wanted to read more. The thematic work being done with narratives, with biographies, with truths and lies, with stories, with storytelling, that was all integrated well throughout the story, and what I found most worthwhile about my reading experience.
My feelings about the whole "writing an outrageous story about North Korea even if does address the darkness and the terribleness" thing are still pretty ambivalent. I'm already pretty uncomfortable with jokes about North Korea, but I don't know what to do with that discomfort. These feelings are probably irrelevant to this review, but I did want to note them.(less)
Here's where I'm glad I read the later books in the series before this one, because despite my love for Annwyl, I think she's even more amazing of a c...moreHere's where I'm glad I read the later books in the series before this one, because despite my love for Annwyl, I think she's even more amazing of a character later on in the series, and this book hewed too closely to a typical paranormal romance setup & execution for my liking, especially at the beginning. The entire book, actually, felt too conventional compared to the more epic/political scope in the later books, and I really liked that aspect of the books I've already read. A few chapters in, I wasn't sure I was interested enough to continue, but I was drawn on by, y'know, Annwyl being fairly atypical for a heroine, Aiken's zigzag sense of humor, and the unabashed violence of the women and the lack of genderized violence concerns. I'm glad I pressed on, because I do really like Aiken's writing style and worldbuilding and how the women are the real draw of this series (okay, okay, the women and Gwenvael).(less)
Narratives about mental health have been on my mind lately, and I've had my eye out for stories that treat mental health with seriousness but aren't p...moreNarratives about mental health have been on my mind lately, and I've had my eye out for stories that treat mental health with seriousness but aren't primarily "issue" stories and that don't turn out to be "what beautiful angst!" sorts of treatment. The 10 PM Question was pretty much the epitome of this, where twelve-year-old Frankie's world is three-dimensional and fun to read, his voice and his perspective were vivid and so engaging to read, and the mental illnesses affecting him and his family are treated with realistic consideration and compassion, even as the silences around them create an orbit-tugging gravity. The book ends on a satisfying and positive note despite a lack of easy comfort on multiple issues.
Despite encountering lots of recommendations for this book, I avoided it for so long because the summaries always made it sound like it was a "Pixie Dream Girl" story, which I don't find appealing. I'm glad I read it despite my reservations, because while I can see how Sydney shakes up and changes Frankie's life, she doesn't exist for that primarily that function. It was the genuine, two-way friendship between her and Frankie that changed Frankie, not Sydney-as-a-plot-device. Neither Frankie nor the narrative objectified Sydney or treated her as a plot catalyst rather than a full, imperfect human being. So I hadn't anything to worry about, despite the surface similarities to a PDG story.
The structure of this book was sometimes frustrating, skipping around scenes I wanted to read and that I didn't understand why they weren't included, but some of the scenes that were included were so wonderful, I wasn't too disappointed: the story felt complete.(less)
Two cousins--who consider themselves sisters in spirit--grow up and grapple with the inheritance of family history, family secrets, and family guilt.
T...moreTwo cousins--who consider themselves sisters in spirit--grow up and grapple with the inheritance of family history, family secrets, and family guilt.
This book strikes a delicate balance, being intensely emotional and dramatic, but not often melodramatic and never too precious. Given the very sentimental title, I was not expecting to love this book as fiercely as I did, but I was swayed by Divakruni's lyrical prose and unflinchingly feminist awareness of power structures (and how to work from within said power structures). The dual narrative structure worked really well, too.(less)