Now, you probably know by now that YA contemp is totally not my thing. It's just too...real. I also don't believe that a boy and a girl can be friends...moreNow, you probably know by now that YA contemp is totally not my thing. It's just too...real. I also don't believe that a boy and a girl can be friends without one or both of them wanting more, but that's more of a personal moral/family background than mere taste. But I was reading Atlantic Wire's list of summer reads based off YA authors' recommendations, and of course, being the Maggie Stiefvater fangirl I am, I instantly zoned in on what she had listed. In particular, I was caught by the pretty pink cover of How to Say Goodbye in Robot (seriously, this is the main reason why Scholastic is tied for top of my dream publisher list - gorgeous cover work), and Maggie enthusiastically endorses it as one of those books that can be totally seen in your mind as a movie.
Just another piece of evidence to prove that Maggie is awesome.
You should know that already.
So, as our heroine, we have Bea. She's just moved to a new town with her 'rents (both of whom are strange and broken in their own right, in my honest opinion). The thing that caught my attention about Bea straight away was the way she reacts to her mother calling her heartless and a robot. I don't know about you, but I think most teenagers go through this constant second-guessing of themselves - if they're feeling the right way, reacting the right way, thinking the right things as everyone else. Bea's really considering herself as a robot girl really touched a chord somehow, somewhere.
Of course, a true-to-life teenage girl like Bea can't just wind up with a cliche friend who crushes on Zac Efron and paints her toenails Sunset Passion. So, we are introduced to Ghost Boy - a.k.a. Jonah, who is pretty much ignored by the rest of the student body, but has some hidden skeletons in his family closet and a mutual passion that pulls Bea into his small, isolated world.
A radio station.
And not just any radio station. A quirky, local station, run by a man that calls himself Herb. A station where it isn't unusual for callers to ring in for an evening ride on "the magic carpet", or read poems they wrote themselves, or obsess over Elvis Presley. It's a little family of its own, united by being outsiders, for embracing their quirks whether others would rather hide it away and be part of the norm.
Yes. You really want to read this now, don't you?
Even in a novel, though, friendship doesn't run smoothly. The world doesn't stop turning for happy little moments of mutual radio-station listens or ditching prom or art contests. The ways that Bea and Jonah get pulled in opposite directions are depicted so accurately, it can't help but make your heart ache. In particular, Jonah's struggle with his father over his brain-dead twin, Matthew, really made me wish that it would all work out, because it's fiction and it's just got to have a happy ending...right?
I won't tell you whether it does or doesn't, but I will tell you that it is a bit sad. Definite hanky warning for this one.
The one thing I must return to in this novel, again and again, is how the author keeps it real. Of course, I did wish she'd avoided the cliche underage drinking party, where the protagonist wanders about bemoaning his/her existence and wondering why he/she even came and seeing the guy/girl he/she is/was interested in macking on another person. But besides that little snag, the rest of it pretty much is authentic. Bea and Jonah could be that quiet pair in the cafeteria you don't say hi to, or idling away their time on the lawn of some closed appliance store, speaking to themselves in voices that don't carry to your curious ears.
It's the beauty of being a YA writer when you can actually see these things come to life, on a sheet of white paper. Maggie is right. How to Say Goodbye in Robot would make a wonderful movie.
Just, again, I feel the need to warn you: it's not all rainbows and butterflies. I felt the need to smack one or both of Bea's parents at different intervals while I read. Jonah's dad isn't much better, and the high school kids...well, I think after reading YA for a while, you know how some of them can behave. And don't expect all the i's to be dotted and t's crossed and everyone to drift away on a breeze of soft, scented air and bright smiles as the credits roll across the screen.
This is not a Disney Channel Original movie sort of wonderful.
I think you have to read it for yourself to see what I mean. I can't think of how else to explain it.
I still wish she'd made Jonah a girl, though.
Warnings (or, stuff that makes me cringe into my popcorn bucket at the movies): Language. Of course. And then there's a character death, a parent indulges in infidelity, some flaunting of authority and lying and changing names, and, of course, underage debauchery. (less)
First of all, I have a small confession. You know that saying "Don't judge a book by its cover"? That totally doesn't adhere to me - at least, with re...moreFirst of all, I have a small confession. You know that saying "Don't judge a book by its cover"? That totally doesn't adhere to me - at least, with real books. (Don't worry, guys, I don't stick stereotypes on new people I meet or any of that nonsense.) As a rule, I'm not fond of models on covers - they just look so...fake and unlike real teens that it's hard to attach myself to the storyline or the character inside, because that image is already stuck in my mind.
Clarity's cover is digitally created, which is just as bad because it's...just bad. At least to me. I currently have the book next to me, face down, because I can't stand the girl on the cover staring at me. Paranoid much? I don't think so.
The book covers...they always watch you. *cue creepy music*
Alright. Clarity is one of those reads I wish I had more good things to say about, because I was really looking forward to it. The first chapter starts out well enough. We meet Clarity "Clare" Fern. She, her brother and her mom are psychics by trade. Unlike most night crawlers with neon signs and crystal balls, however, they really do have special abilities. Mommy Fern can read minds; Perry can conjure up spirits; and the heroine herself can read the memories left behind on objects.
Convenient, right? Especially when a killer strikes, leaving a young tourist dead in a motel room with a lack of evidence and too many questions. To me, this was the part when the novel started to make its descent into "Kaye does not approve" territory. Perry is a total womanizer. His own sister makes it clear from the moment that he enters the novel. Unfortunately for him - and the reader - it isn't the last we hear of it. The woman who died was his last fling, and he's the number one suspect. The author tries to drum up sympathy for him throughout the plot, but really...I cannot tolerate a guy with a lack of morals. Call me old-fashioned, but isn't there still a guy out there who believes in monogamy and fidelity and all that good stuff?
Of course, there is also the (rather weak, in my opinion) love triangle tossed in as well - Clare's ex-boyfriend Justin who cheated on her and realized he can't live without her, so he wants her to take him back (gag) and the new detective's "smoldering" son who apparently attracts her with his constant mysterious "I like you, but I can't because you're a phony and...my past...I just...I can't" (chokes up manfully).
As you can see, I don't go easy on male characters in novels. YOU CAN LIVE WITHOUT HIM, GIRLS. WAIT FOR THE ONE WHO HOLDS OPEN YOUR DOOR AND DOESN'T EYE THE WAITRESS OVER THE ENTREES. FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT!
Warnings: Perry and his womanizing ways. The mayoral candidate is equally bad. And Justin. I do not want to live in Clare's town. None of their relationships seem to be working out. And of course, seeing as this is a teen novel, there is some language involved as well. (less)
Except for the whole arriving in London just for the killing spree of the century, Rory's pretty much living the life any Anglophile would die for - l...moreExcept for the whole arriving in London just for the killing spree of the century, Rory's pretty much living the life any Anglophile would die for - living it up in a posh boarding school, a cool roommate, and the possibility of having her head chopped off by the Ripper himself.
Ahem. Yes, I'd take it all except for the last part.
Though I follow her religiously on Twitter, this was the first of Maureen Johnson's books I actually finished (started Suite Scarlett back in senior year, but you know how well that went) and I was absolutely hooked from start to finish. There was a bit of a lag during the whole information dumps about boarding school, but then again I know absolutely nothing about the British education system, so let's take that as a learning experience, shall we?
In any case, there's loads of cool accented words and slang (personal favorite: "I survived November 9th and All I Got was This Bloody T-Shirt"...I'm a future English major, I've got to love irony), rides on the Tube and, of course, Ripper-mania to keep the action going right up to the last page. And even after that, I went through the acknowledgments, admired the nice author photo on the flap, and drummed my fingers against the cover a few times waiting for a sequel to magically appear in my hands.
It didn't. Ah, well, you can't blame a girl for trying.
What I found particularly awesome about the book was how it followed along with the real Ripper's crimes...and believe me, I would know. (To make a long story short, some psychology classes seem to enjoy freaking their students out for life about venturing out at night...oh, and being a female in any major city? Watch out for your neck, my pretty.)
To sum it up for whoever didn't bother to read everything up there:
Anglophile + interested about serial killers (just as long as you're not one) = have a go with The Name of the Star. You won't regret it.
Warnings (because I can't close off this review without 'em): Death. Gory, historically accurate, heartbreaking deaths. Please consult a physician if you have any conditions that might leave you with your hands over your heart and a book conspicuously falling to the floor. The Name of the Star is a book about a murderer, not a murderer itself.
Also, there's quite a bit of macking, a little bit of profanity, and some other innuendo. This is a YA book, you know.
Final verdict: Yes. (I'm sparing you any more of my terrible British imitations. Just...yes.)(less)
(I took a star off because of some of the content.)
abruiseyou can't stop worrying
Reading Nova Ren's beautiful prose is like a sucker punch to your h...more(I took a star off because of some of the content.)
abruiseyou can't stop worrying
Reading Nova Ren's beautiful prose is like a sucker punch to your heart. The image of the flooded town, Olive, beneath the reservoir, haunted me in my dreams. The bond between the two sisters, so believable to me as an elder sister myself - that need to protect your siblings from things that are often out of your control - grows sickly-sweet with hidden secrets and, on Chloe's part, a seeming edge of denial that, despite the often sinister turn of her sister's manipulations, she is above all fault.
a piece ofmarzipan - delicious at the first bite, gradually too sweet to handle
Ruby. The type of character you aren't sure whether you should love or hate, sympathize with or condemn. She keeps men hanging, has nearly the entire town twisted around her finger, both adoring and resentful of her, and is obsessed with keeping her younger sister safe, even though her own dare in the very first chapter got her into that mess in the first place. Her life is exactly what a blurb on the back cover describes it to be: a surreal little nightmare, the type that freaks you out when you first have it and then, later when the sun shines through the curtains and you can see everything clearly, you struggle to remember why you were so afraid.
the word fin at the end of a horror movie - it always feels premature
The twists within this story will not please everyone. To me, it fit, but yet left me feeling a bit cheated. The aftermath is exactly as it should be. A small town moves on, regardless of who lives or dies or disappears in a mysterious way. Some mysteries are left unwound, for you to puzzle out for yourself.
In any case, if you do read it, here's my only warning: The ending matches the story. Take that as you will.
Good points: The writing. If you read it for anything, read it for the writing style and the choice of words. If Nova Ren Suma ever gives a writing class, I'm definitely going to go and take it from her. Because she knows what she's doing.
Bad points (or the warnings - didn't think I'd end the review without them, did you?): Quite a bit of teenage debauchery - drugs and the like. Ruby lives with her boyfriend Jonah. There are hints at some pre-marital...stuff. Just putting that out there.
Final verdict: I don't want to do the yes, no, maybe so thing any more. It's not fair to any author to be given a sharp, negative stamp. I've sometimes turned away from a book I later find I might enjoy because of the word choice a reviewer uses. In reference to this review, I'd say that yes, you should read it, if only to see how magical realism should be done. It's all up to you.(less)