It seems silly that I have to say this, but I've seen many a negative review of this book met with backlash from John's nerdfighter fans, so I want t...more It seems silly that I have to say this, but I've seen many a negative review of this book met with backlash from John's nerdfighter fans, so I want to make one thing clear: I like John Green. You'll find plenty who worship him as a god amongst men and many who are highly critical of him, I fall into neither of these categories but I do like him and I enjoy watching his videos. I find him funny and I agree with a lot of what he stands for; I also appreciate the amount of charity work he does and the way he helps the "nerds" feel better about themselves and make it out of high school a little less scarred than they might have been. I like John Green.
But I do not particularly like this book.
There are plenty of people raving about this book on goodreads, on Kirkus, in various magazines and newspapers... so I realise I am in a tiny minority. I will also admit that I might not have felt the same if I hadn't already subjected myself to numerous "cancer books" but, as it is, I do not feel anything that unique or interesting has been brought to the table here. For the first half (approx), despite my lack of enthusiasm, I expected to give it three stars because I didn't consider it to be a bad book and it was well-written enough; however, as the book wore on, I began to realise that I was growing more and more bored and found myself struggling to read on. This was something I hadn't anticipated. I'd prepared myself for many different possibilities: heartbreak, a changed perspective on life and death, disdain, annoyance... but not bored indifference. Hence the lower rating.
One of the first problems I encountered was that the kids were wise beyond their years. And I don't mean intelligent, I mean wise. They came out with things that really only suit people who've been alive a few centuries - like Dumbledore or Gandalf - or at the very least people who are sat comfortably in middle age. I like that Green doesn't patronise his readers by oversimplifying things or dumbing down characters in a condescending effort to appeal to teenagers, but these characters behave in a way that is unnatural to the point where sometimes it is verging on ridiculous. It's not completely unbelievable that some kids exist who are actually like this, but they definitely don't all speak and behave in this way.
The characters are all, in one way or another, John Green. They all have his quirkiness, his sense of humour; I was picturing several John Greens sat around having a conversation while I was reading The Fault in Our Stars. In fact, reading this book was a little bit like watching one of Green's vlogs, which might have worked well if JG hadn't dampened the humour with philosophical musings. As it was, I had a book that was trying so very hard to be both funny and sad at the same time and ended up failing to deliver either one as successfully as I would have liked. The dialogue felt false and scripted because of the teens' tendency to showcase their depth and intelligence. Natural conversation between anyone of any age doesn't work like this and I couldn't shake the feeling that there should be a laughter track playing in the background.
The Fault in Our Stars, in my opinion, would have been far better if Green had stuck to humour like Andrews did in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I believe that the exaggerated characters and their unrealistic conversations would have been fine in a straight-up humour book because that's not supposed to portray something real and deep and moving. But Green loses it by trying to be philosophical and, in the end, I think he has produced a book that is as melodramatic and message-driven as any other on this issue. And his attempt to balance humour and sadness left me somewhat devoid of emotion throughout and provided fewer laughs than I'd hoped.
Ultimately, I feel that JG sacrificed humour in order to be deep and philosophical - perhaps this book tried to be too many things, perhaps JG tried to be too clever. But Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a much better book, in my opinion, because it did the whole serious illness + humour thing but didn't over-complicate things by being philosophical. Like I said near the beginning, perhaps I am just tired of these books and The Fault in Our Stars needs to be appreciated by someone who has not already exhausted themselves on similar efforts.
"Don't be special." That's what I would say to my younger self if I could pinpoint the moment when I went astray. But there was no one moment. I was a...more"Don't be special." That's what I would say to my younger self if I could pinpoint the moment when I went astray. But there was no one moment. I was always astray.
Uh oh. Brace yourself, fellow fiction lovers, I'm about to tell you a true story. My own, in fact.
^So, I was kind of a weird kid. And I had one hell of a bad time in school. I'm talking particularly about when I was aged 11-16. I was that special breed of socially clueless where I simply just didn't get it. I didn't know how to not be weird, I didn't know what the right thing was to say, I didn't understand why it wasn't okay to put my hand up and tell the teacher I'd finished the work twenty minutes before the lesson ended. So I walked around that school with a sign around my neck that said "victim" and I didn't know how to get rid of it. They called me fat, they hated my hair, they called me frigid one minute and a slut the next, they walked into me on purpose, they knocked my things on the floor, they dared boys to ask me out just to see if I would believe them. And every time I would change. I kept thinking there was some unwritten rule that I just had to figure out and then I would be the person they wanted me to be. What I didn't understand until a long time after is that everything I did broke the one social rule above all others - I cared too much.
People latch onto things so quickly in high school. Sometimes it was a twisted version of the truth about something I'd said or done; other times I couldn't even imagine where the rumour came from, it was a complete lie that was complete truth by lunchtime. I wonder if Ms Sales has experienced this herself because Elise's story so closely resembles the reality. It's so... honest. It says the things that uplifting books about bullying never say. People are always saying that you have to tell someone, that's supposed to be the first crucial step. But the reality is that no amount of phone calls from your parents or meetings with teachers can change the way people see you or change the person you are. This book shows that. And, in reality, the bullied kid doesn't turn up in the end dressed like Sandy from Grease with the winning lottery ticket in their hand, laughing at all the people who made fun of them. In real life, there is no revenge... but not only that, and this is the thing every bullied kid doesn't like to admit, but there's no desire for revenge. When you play out that scenario in your head of the mean kids changing their mind and deciding to ask you to join their little clique, you don't imagine yourself saying no and laughing in their faces. The sad awful thing about it is that you would be grateful. Fucking grateful that someone actually thinks you're alright.
The parallels I drew between this book and my life left me in awe. If you replaced music with books, then Sales could very well be telling the story of my life for 90% of the novel. I recognised every single character, I related to every single emotion Elise had. It was a painful journey but strangely incredible as well, to see the way you felt shared by someone else - even a fictional person. This is a raw, moving, fantastic book that still manages to drop in some humour despite being much darker than readers will expect from the author. This is something I have to stress: it's completely unlike Past Perfect and Mostly Good Girls. If you're wanting more like that, you're going to be disappointed.
There was another aspect of this book that hit close to home and it happens early enough that I don't consider it a spoiler to talk about it. During my time in school, I had one last thing that I clung to: my grades. They were good. And in my head they were my ticket away from all the crap of school - I would get a good job and never have to worry about this shit again. But this one afternoon, I went into class and we got our grades back from our coursework. And I got a B. I know what you're thinking, haha, a B. A B... big fucking deal, right? And it should have been nothing. It would have been nothing, a minuscule drop in the ocean of life. Except no, because that drop landed in an ocean that was on the brink of overflowing. And I walked out of the classroom that day, just got up and walked out and walked (I noticed) the exact same number of miles that Elise walked (5) until I got home. One difference between the two of us was that she got a razor and I got pills. The other difference is that she didn't go through with it. I did.
There's a lot I regret about that day, about how selfish I was and how, in that moment, I didn't think about a single other human being. Most of all, I regret that my ten year old sister was the one to find me. I regret that she had to be the one to call my mum at work and tell her that her daughter had tried to do something unthinkable. I remember the looks on their faces afterwards when they heard of that B, the question hung in the air "who does something like this because they got a B?" I didn't know how to tell them that it wasn't the B. It wasn't a thing or a person or a moment that I could point to. It was everything. And I think This Song Will Save Your Life captures that feeling perfectly. The feeling of many small things building over time until the weight of them becomes too much. On their own, they're nothing. It's pathetic to even make a big deal about any single one of them... but together, they're suffocating.
I'm sorry if you're not a fan of very personal reviews but this was a very personal read for me, it was inevitable. I've thought about this rating really hard and I've pulled apart my decision to give it five stars because I've always given out the full rating sparingly. But I think, looking back, this book was really special for me. And not just for me. Looking at it as objectively as is humanly possible, I think this book managed to be a lot of things: emotional, sad, funny, honest and inspiring. I noticed how well-drawn each character was, even the secondary characters. Each relationship was important in its own way and wasn't neglected, this book actually had several small stories going on that together made up the whole. And the conclusion didn't try to convince me that everything changes and people walk off into the sunset holding hands and smiling. Many people didn't change and the bad guys didn't learn their lesson, but I appreciated that touch of realism a lot more.
I've rarely felt so relieved that a character got where they needed to be despite everything bad that had happened to them. Elise has a special place in my heart, as does this book. In case you were wondering, I got to where I needed to be too. And my ten year old sister and I talked a lot about what happened; she's now a beautiful and talented sixteen year old and my closest friend.
Feb 3rd 2014 - Extra things you should know: 1) This is a negative review. If you are looking for reviews that confirm what you are already certain of...moreFeb 3rd 2014 - Extra things you should know: 1) This is a negative review. If you are looking for reviews that confirm what you are already certain of (that JKR can do no wrong) here are some examples of positive reviews for you - 1, 2, 3. 2) I used some Mary Poppins gifs to make my point in this review. It seemed funny at the time. If you find MP gifs stupid/annoying/beneath you, then please feel free to go to the reviews I linked before. 3) I will no longer reply to comments saying I am stupid or didn't get it. I will no longer reply to insults of any kind or condescending suggestions that I read the book again. If you're tempted to write something like this, save both of us some time and read the previous comments for my answers to people like you. I have way too many unwatched episodes of Law & Order to entertain trolls any longer. 4) I'm sorry to all the people who have been kind and respectful, whether they agreed with me or not. You can just ignore these points. ____________________________
Things you should know: 1) Ms Rowling filled my childhood and early teen years with magic. I love Harry Potter and I confess to only adding this book after I found out she was the author. 2) I did not go into this with the intention to compare it to Harry Potter. I did not expect magic or wizards and I fully anticipated this being very different to the HP books. 3) I have read and enjoyed many mystery/crime novels in the past. My favourites being by Tana French and Gillian Flynn. So, there was no reason why I couldn't have enjoyed this book simply because it wasn't magical Potterland. But I didn't and, after putting a lot of thought into this, I think I finally understand why.
Here's the sad truth: I can't stand Rowling's writing when she writes for adults. I actually find it painful to read. Let's be clear from the beginning, I started and never finished The Casual Vacancy because the opening didn't grab me and there was something about it - something which I couldn't put my finger on - that made it an effort to get through. A certain style to the writing which didn't agree with me. I thought perhaps it was a one-off because I'd read all her other works and never had a problem with her writing style. That's why I jumped at the chance to try another adult book by Rowling and sort out what was evidently a bout of silliness on my part. What this book did give me was an answer to why neither of Rowling's adult books worked for me.
Rowling writes in an unusual manner. It's not unique to her work for adults, Harry Potter has it too, but the effect had on both is very different. Rowling's style of writing, including the dialogue between characters, is formal to the point of being old-fashioned. Part of me wants to compare it to Austen but I'm cautious of doing so because of the amount of people (usually including myself) who might read that as a compliment. Rowling's formal style doesn't work, for me, when using it in an adult mystery and pairing it with profanity and grisly murders. It feels out of place and weighs down each page with tedious descriptions that use too many awkward similes, metaphors and adjectives.
"...face the colour of corned beef..."
"...the snow fell with soft fingertip plunks..."
Her descriptions all felt a bit off to me. And I particularly didn't like the unsophisticated use of big words. It's like when inexperienced indie authors go crazy with thesaurus.com, using clunky words like "exacerbated" and "exorbitant" in casual sentences that don't benefit from it. The characters in this book never check the time or look at their watches, they "consult" their watches. Think I'm being picky? Try reading whole pages where every sentence replaces the obvious words with complex ones and see how far you get without your brain starting to scream. And it felt like every single noun had at least one adjective before it. Not only that, but Rowling repeats similar adjectives when referring to the objects again. In one sentence, we are told she climbed the "steel stairs" and in the next she's continuing up the "metal stairs". WHY???? And also WHYYYYYY???
Another example of Rowling's old-fashioned style is her frequent use of expressions like "oh my!" and "goodness!", expressions I'm sure some of you will recognise from Harry Potter characters. What is this? It's like Mary Poppins or Little Women or, I don't know, Little House on the Prairie. And maybe it works fine in all of those, same as it works fine in Harry Potter, but none of those also had a side-helping of profanity and very adult themes. They do all, however, share the formal language style.
And while I think people were silly to say things about The Casual Vacancy like "ohmigod this had, like, noooooo magic and even fewer dark lords" when Rowling clearly said it was an adult mystery book and I wanted to say to those silly people:
I still think it's entirely relevant to compare the two when looking at Rowling's writing style and the reason why sometimes it works and sometimes it really doesn't. The formal tone with simplistic language - like in Harry Potter - is okay, but dense descriptions and over-complicated sentences made it hard work and tedious in this book. It's like a very formal letter with the occasional random swear word thrown in. And it doesn't work. Not for me, anyway. The style simply doesn't fit the content; there's swearing and murders and people rescuing others by grabbing their breasts...
I'm not even going to talk about the story beyond saying I found it a standard mystery that could have been good if I'd not had these other reasons for not liking it. The killer is not hard to guess for anyone familiar with crime mysteries but that isn't usually what I care about most in crime mysteries anyway. Plus, in this case, I'm just too blinded by my dislike for the writing. *sigh* I think it's fair to say that I'm finally done trying to enjoy Rowling's adult books.
P.S. Yes, I did get a little overexcited when I googled Mary Poppins gifs.
I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I...more I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I can weed out the crap and hopefully find some surprising gems. Here's hoping!
Just a quick warning: this book has a fair bit of sex in it and so I will be talking about sex in this review. Maybe don't read this if sex talk makes you clutch your crucifix in horror or, you know, combust.
I've been reading quite a few indie novels lately; some were good and some not so good. But I've remained safe from anything outrageously bad until now. The Edge of Never is one of those books which has a crazily high average rating, it is a "New York Times, USA Today, and Wallstreet Journal bestselling blockbuster" and it managed to offend me at least once in every single chapter. I found it to be a mere step away from Beautiful Disaster in the misogyny department and what it lacked in that area was made up for in the extremely bad writing. Honestly, it was so bad it was kind of hilarious.
I finally feel that I have read enough to safely make the claim that this "new adult" genre thing we've got going on now basically, well, sucks. It seems to be a combination of all the annoying, cliche elements of the young adult genre and a bunch of sex scenes and/or coarse language. In terms of the writing, this book is pretty awful. The author seems to favour certain words for a short period of time to the extent that they appear in every other sentence and then switch to a new favourite and the pattern repeats. Some writers have that annoying habit of telling rather than showing but Redmerski does something that I found much worse - she shows, then tells. She uses body language to express certain emotions but insults the reader's intelligence by adding the tells afterwards. I opened the book again just now to find an example and came across one on the second page; this is by no means the worst but hopefully it will help express what I mean: "Cam," she says, cocking her head to one side to appear thoughtful.
But there's no need for me to get nitpicky about language. This book provides much more glaring problems.
Like the fact that every girl/young woman in this book is called a slut except the protagonist. If you wanted to play a drinking game with this book, you would only need the word "slut" to get completely trashed. "Slut" is even used twice in chapter one. In fact, I wish I'd counted how many chapters didn't use the word slut; I can certainly guarantee it would be fewer than how many did. Camryn (MC) talks about her ex as "the jerk who cheated on me with some red-haired slut" and her best friend (lol jk) is constantly called "slutty" and is only there so Camryn can compare the two of them. Natalie is promiscuous where Camryn is a good girl, Natalie wears revealing clothing where Camryn likes her pastel cardigans, Natalie thinks about sex where Camryn muses about life, the universe and everything.
And what a lot of it comes down to: I hated Camryn. Absolutely hated her. I put this quote in my status update but here it is again so we can all marvel at the stupidity:
Instead of sitting around dreaming up new sex positions, as Natalie often does about Damon, I dream about things that really matter. What the air in other countries feels like on my skin, how the ocean smells, why the sound of rain makes me gasp.
When I read that, I did some weird combination of eye-rolling, cackling laughter and general despairing that so many people are happy to buy into Camryn's philosophical bullshit. Camryn, you're not deep, you're a fucking moron. A misogynistic, holier-than-thou moron.
And then, of course, we have the real reason this book is a bestseller. Andrew. I get it, actually, I really do. He's gorgeous, he's sexy, he likes to talk all naughty, he loves to go down on you and doesn't ask for anything in return, in fact, his mission in life is nothing more or less than to make you come. I know why you ladies all love this and at least he's not Travis screw-loose Maddox. But he comes with his own set of problems too and, even if he didn't, he still wouldn't be anywhere near hot enough to make up for the rest of this mess. One thing that I suppose comes down to my personal taste in guys and how they speak to me is lines like this:
"if you were to let me fuck you, you would have to let me own you."
I mean, is this hot to you? For me, it's somewhere halfway between gross and hilarious. But each to their own, I guess. To be honest, a lot of the sex scenes that I assume are supposed to be knicker-twistingly hot just made me laugh. Camryn faces deep moral struggles with the P-word, which she later hilariously overcomes (view spoiler)["lick my pussy, Andrew; goddammit, lick my fucking pussy!" (hide spoiler)] This is apparently a word that she associates with porn stars, something which leads into an interesting conversation where women are split into two groups - the slutty kind that are only good enough to give a guy head, and the unslutty kind that are worth more. Here's the quote:
"Well, when... Dominique Starla," he picks the name from the air, "does it, it's just to some random guy lookin' to get off behind a keyboard." His green eyes fall on me. "that guy's not dreaming about anything with her except her face in his lap." Then he looks back at the road. "But when someone... I dunno... like a sweet, sexy, completely un-slutty girl does it, the guy is thinking about a lot more than her face in his lap."
Ugh. No more words on that. I just... can't.
I think I've had enough of talking about this book. But one more thing I will say is that part of the reason I kept reading was because so many reviews promised a big heart-breaking twist towards the end. Well, maybe I've been watching Sherlock too much, but I saw it coming a mile off. Just sayin'.
There is something deeply unhealthy about this book; it's in the characters, in the story, in the relationships, in the sex, and just in the general...more There is something deeply unhealthy about this book; it's in the characters, in the story, in the relationships, in the sex, and just in the general mood of the novel. Reading this made me feel a little unwell, both physically and mentally, but I am glad I did. If you know me, you'll know I love complex characters with issues that feel raw and real rather than melodramatic. The people in this novel are majorly fucked up, no one is without a dark past and everyone, it seems, has a horror story.
The protagonist - Camille Preaker - was just thirteen when her sister died and fuelled by grief (amongst other things) Camille spent her teen years carving words into her flesh, covering almost every inch of her body with the marks of her pain. This could have brought the angst meter off the scale but Flynn handled it expertly, with just the right amount of sadness, frustration and gore. Ten years later, Camille Preaker is now a journalist who returns to the small town of her youth to report on the murders of two young girls - the girls showed no signs of sexual abuse, but all their teeth had been removed.
Camille is soon caught up in the town once again, she tries to get along with the mother who never loved her and establish a relationship with the troublesome half sister she hardly knows. It seems that once again small towns hold the biggest secrets and Camille finds herself getting dragged deeper and deeper into the investigation, her fragile state of mind constantly threatening to tip her over the edge.
This is one mean and nasty book. I knew I was getting a dark, psychological thriller, but I expected something on par with In The Woods. In Tana French's novels everyone has a deeply explored personality, but it seems that in Gillian Flynn's novels everyone has a deeply explored problem and Flynn never shies away from the details. You're not going to find anything pleasant in this story; sex, for example, is never simply for physical pleasure, it's an escape or a bargain or a catharsis. Everything else is similar.
In a world where women are victims - both in their media representation as "damsels in distress" and in statistics - this is a very interesting look at "evil" women. We are always less surprised when a man is arrested for raping/torturing/killing, it's programmed into us to believe that women are safer, kinder, built with an instinct that makes it difficult for them to be cruel and cause pain without reason. Upon interviewing the parents of Moors murders victims before the culprits were caught, they said they couldn't understand it because they'd always told their kids not to go off with men they didn't know. But they never warned them not to go off with women they didn't know, the idea was unthinkable. Times are changing, but a lot of the old ideas still linger: surely a woman wouldn't hurt a child? Surely a mother would never harm her children?
Yet, Flynn does an excellent job of challenging this idea. She shows how women can be cold, calculating and cruel. And I'm sure it will displease a lot of readers, but it fascinated me.
The size of my disappointment probably has something to do with why I can't bring myself to award this two stars. I know Divergent isn't really a gre...more The size of my disappointment probably has something to do with why I can't bring myself to award this two stars. I know Divergent isn't really a great book, the dystopia makes no sense, the Dauntless are ridiculous people who jump off trains to prove themselves... but, for me, it was still a wildly entertaining read. It was fast-paced, full of action, Tris was delightfully kickass, and the romance between her and Four complemented the main story without overtaking it. Insurgent failed on all of those.
Normally, I might put it down to middle book syndrome and carry on with book three anyway, but not this time. Even though no time passes between the end of the first book and the start of this one, Tris and Tobias/Four feel like completely different characters and this is an inconsistency I can't forgive. Whatever happened to tough Tris who made difficult decisions and put survival above all else? She has disappeared and in her place is a "heroine" quite like the majority of other young adult romantic heroines. Tris is now solely concerned with Tobias and their relationship angst, I lost count of how many pages were filled with their make-out sessions and melodrama.
Tobias also seems to have changed a lot more than his name. I really liked his character in Divergent, I found him to be sweet, kind and a little mysterious (indeed, in this book he was the only mystery). However, he has been replaced by someone who is aggressive, always frowning and frequently yells at Tris. He used to be so cool, even in a crisis - so what the hell happened? I couldn't even begin to believe in a story where the characters had changed so dramatically without logical reason.
Plus, there's also the whopping great fact that nothing actually happens. Okay, so let me be honest, I read the first 300 pages and then I skim-read the rest. So I suppose that it's entirely possible that I missed something really good, it couldn't have saved the novel for me anyway, but I'm just saying that it is possible. In those first 300 pages, though, nothing happens. People sit around talking about their problems and what they should do, Tris repeatedly remembers her parents (I know she's upset, but can't we move on to the current drama?), Tris thinks about Tobias, obsesses about Tobias, worries about Tobias, tries to solve the mystery that is Tobias...
Basically, the first 100 pages go something like: - Tris and Tobias make out - Tris thinks about where they should go from here - Tris and Tobias make out - Tris and Tobias talk about where they should go from here - Tris and Tobias make out - Tris thinks about her parents' deaths - Tris and Tobias make out
I honestly don't care about their relationship. Maybe I did when I liked their characters, but now I don't even recognise them. It's not even that I doubt Roth has some brilliant ending planned for the third book, it's more that I no longer give a single damn about Tris or Tobias. I didn't even care enough to read this book properly and find out what happens at the end. I think it's clear that this series just died out for me.(less)
This is not a dystopia, it is a romance. This is not a novel, it is a collection of similes and metaphors, most of which do not make sense. I origina...more
This is not a dystopia, it is a romance. This is not a novel, it is a collection of similes and metaphors, most of which do not make sense. I originally gave Shatter Me two stars because that's my sort of kneejerk reaction to books I don't like, but after thinking it over for a while, I can't recall anything positive about it that would justify a rating of more than one star.
You're probably assuming - correctly - that I went into this book with low expectations. This is completely true. Any so-called "dystopia" with a runway model on the front cover leaves me feeling sceptical. However, I was also prepared to allow myself to be surprised; a lot of my friends loved this and one of the biggest criticisms didn't actually bother me - purple prose. I think there's a fine line in writing between the pretty and the purplish and different readers will define it in their own way. For example, some reviewers thought that Lips Touch: Three Times was just a mess of bloated purple prose, whereas I thought it was one of the most beautiful books I read last year. I have a high tolerance level for flowery writing. But...
Shatter Me's numerous metaphors, similes, and endless descriptions just didn't make sense. What is this?:
"Hate looks like everybody else until it smiles. Until it spins around and lies with lips and teeth carved into semblance of something too passive to punch."
I just... WHAT??? This is one example floating around in there, but every second sentence is like this! That's not even mentioning the annoying strike-outs. Trust me, no really, trust me, I thought people were being overly picky when they said the crossed out sentences were annoying. I actually thought it sounded interesting, unusual, especially because the whole thing is meant to be written in a notebook and I cross stuff out in mine all the time. But you have no idea how bloody annoying this is to read. All the effin' time. People didn't exaggerate: it will most likely drive you crazy.
However, there was one thing that for me was even more annoying than the descriptions, the similes, the strikes, and that was the stupid repetition thing: "and then and then and then..." Again, if it had been used once, or sparingly even, then it wouldn't be so bad. I may have thought it was an interesting literary technique. But Shatter Me had way way way too much of everything (see what I did there?).
And story? What story? *sigh* It's about time we just opened up an entirely new genre called "Dystopian Romance" or alternatively "Romantic Dystopia", though I don't wish to be pessimistic, I'm pretty sure half the new releases of 2012 will make it into that category. If there was a story then it drowned amidst the waves of overenthusiastic and flowery prose. This reminded me of Article 5 in that the dystopia was there to make the romance interesting. One was certainly there to complement the other, but it was the wrong way around.
Also... kissing when you are fleeing for your lives?? I'm sure this is not the correct way of things, right? And yet it occurs in way too many young adult books. I'm like: "run, run, run!" but the characters are too busy swapping saliva. I must be old-fashioned in my thinking that staying alive is kinda important.
There are a lot of things that, had they been there, could have convinced me to up this to two stars. One star ratings make me feel sucky. But I'm sorry guys, I wasn't even entertained. The beginning was intriguing but there was so little plot beyond the romance that it quickly became tedious. I hated the prose, I felt nothing either way for the characters, this series ends here for me.(less)
Phew, I am so glad that's over. I can't believe I actually made it through all those pages, I'm sure I wouldn't have done if I hadn't set myself the...more Phew, I am so glad that's over. I can't believe I actually made it through all those pages, I'm sure I wouldn't have done if I hadn't set myself the challenge of reading every monthly book club read chosen by one of my groups. Ugh. Seriously, just ugh. I have read some dismal books in the young adult paranormal genre, books that have been boring or annoying or have offended me, but I think I can honestly say this is up there with some of the worst books I've ever read. Everything about this book aggravated me in one way or another, from the ridiculous length of it to the male protagonist who's about as convincingly male as estrogen pills. I couldn't even concentrate on the story for the most part because I kept picturing Ethan as a thirty-something woman.
There are some things I'm going to rant about that may not have bothered me several years ago before Twilight came along, waving its cliche banners, and I appreciate that some people might find this slightly unfair seeing as this novel was released four years before the saga*. Well, unfortunately, I can only tell you what I thought of this book now, not speculate on what I might have thought if I'd read it a few years earlier. And, this fact aside, other things have nothing to do with when it was written or its similarities with other novels that have since been released from this genre. Like the fact that Ethan pisses me off and is a terrible attempt at writing a teenage male voice.
So, let's get the whole "this is like every other paranormal young adult book" thing out of the way. There were one or two additions to the witchy aspect of it that felt somewhat original but the general pattern of this novel with the romance and the carbon copy characters was predictable and, therefore, boring. No one likes a boring read and it's especially annoying when the book is nearly 600 pages long. Shall I check the usual paranormal YA criteria off for you? Small town... check. New girl... check. Boring holier-than-thou protagonist... check. Everlasting love after a very small amount of time... check. I don't know if this counts as instalove but it certainly counts as instaweirdobsession, full of laughable musings like "there's just something about her that makes me know it's meant to be" (hopefully, it's obvious that this is not a direct quote).
I thought that this book might be a little more original because of the uncommon choice to have a male protagonist, but everything is still exactly the same. Now, though, instead of a girl-next-door type, you have a boy-next-door type who sails along in his faultlessness, constantly comparing himself to the less intelligent and morally-questionable beings he must interact with every day. Ethan even treats us to a rare bout of what I can only call male slut-shaming; he criticises his male peers for having one-track minds and wanting to get off with girls when he is looking for something more meaningful... good for him, but why does that make him any better than the rest? He is actually an exact male version of many paranormal YA protagonists who criticise the popular girls for being more relaxed with their sexuality.
Not only that, but he also insults the other members of his Southern US town. The novel plays heavily on Southern stereotypes and portrays almost everyone but Ethan as being incredibly stupid. Ethan sneers at everyone, he is obviously smarter, has his morals in the right place and is just downright awesome in comparison. He makes it no secret from the very first chapter that he considers himself above them and it made me hate him before the story had even started going anywhere. He even goes so far as to announce that he doesn't have an accent because he was raised by intelligent people... I have two words for him: HATEFUL SNOB. Or FUCK YOU. Either works.
And predictable. This was Predictable with a capital P. We don't even need to meet Lena or even hear her name to realise that she is the one Ethan will end up with. As soon as one of Ethan's classmates asks "have you seen the new girl?" and Ethan begins to wonder if she'll be hot, we know from that point where the whole thing is heading. Sometimes, I'll admit, there's some fun to be had watching a couple angst it out together, even though you know they'll be together eventually, but before we even knew her name? I can't even say that I stopped caring because, truthfully, I never even started. This whole book was just... not good. Not good at all.(less)
Edit 09/13: I said a while ago when I read this book that it wasn't exactly my thing. But I really need to say something about the pathetic and narrow...moreEdit 09/13: I said a while ago when I read this book that it wasn't exactly my thing. But I really need to say something about the pathetic and narrow-minded people who caused so much trouble for the author (and others) and completely misrepresented this book. And I also want to say that I love everything Ms Rowell says in response to what has happened (that you can read in the link above). I suddenly want to tell everyone I know to read Eleanor & Park. And I fucking hate censorship.
............................................................................................ Three stars is not a wholly negative rating but I have to admit that I'm rather disappointed in this one. I'm not sure why, but I felt this would be the rule-breaker for my "no contemporary young adult romance" stance. Apparently not. This has enjoyable parts but the only real difference I can see between this and Pushing the Limits is that the characters in the latter are meant to be hot. Which could have been interesting because I've always preferred reading about the so-called freaks and losers - the outsiders, in other words - than I have the hot people, but these two books follow the same generic pattern of teen love stories with a whole ton of behind-the-scenes angsty issues. Though this one was, in my opinion, less entertaining.
It's 1986. Eleanor is the new girl and she is not only genetically made to look like a victim but she does herself no favours by pairing her looks with a bizarre fashion sense. Having nowhere to sit on the school bus, she takes a seat next to the clearly reluctant Park. Park is half-Korean in an extremely white school, but he is given enough respect by the popular kids to help him get by. His home life, unlike Eleanor's, is pretty much perfect apart from a bit of badgering by his dad. Slowly over time, these two individuals develop a relationship that is formed around stuff like reading comics together and exchanging mix tapes. And other totally cool nerd things like Star Wars and Shakespeare - which I could easily relate to. I think one of the major problems I had with this book is that I failed to get a sense of the attraction between them, their relationship to me seemed more suited to friendship than love. The progression from reluctant bus partners to friendship was natural in the story, but I then felt that the jump from that to boyfriend/girlfriend feelings was too immediate and unbelievable.
Not only that, but where I felt the start of their relationship avoided the usual cliches and did something a bit different (like the way their relationship begins without them speaking to one another), I felt that once they were "together" or whatever you want to call it, it quickly dissolved into the usual sweet nothings and thoughts like "I'll die if I never see him again" after knowing each other for a few weeks. This isn't insta-love, but it's silliness. Or perhaps I really am just a cold-hearted, unromantic person?
I did like the well-rounded feel of both characters, though. The author gave them many different levels, making them experience a range of emotions in a realistic way. I also thought the darker element of this novel was mostly handled well, Eleanor's home life is told gradually in a frightening way that is suitable for such situations. But it does just heighten my ability to make comparisons between this and Pushing the Limits, and I don't like serious issues such as domestic violence being used to fuel the love angst and create a Romeo and Juliet kind of forbidden love scenario. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
This book will be great (hopefully) for fans of quirky, nerdy romance stories with an underlying dark angsty side, and for those who love typical nerdy references. If you don't usually like young adult romance and were eying this up as possibly being the book to change all that... you'll probably be disappointed. It has good parts, but it's not that different from anything else out there. (less)
As we all should know, reading and enjoying a book is largely about interpretation. People are not the...moreNow, this is going to be embarrassing to admit.
As we all should know, reading and enjoying a book is largely about interpretation. People are not the same and we all view things differently, one individual might see a relationship in a book as "passionate" while another could see it as "damaging". When characters make bad decisions, some will view it as stupidity and others will view it as an accurate representation of humanity's imperfections. Not only that, but time often changes the way one person sees things. A teenager does not usually have the same outlook on life and relationships that someone of thirty does, and neither of them have the same outlook as someone of seventy does.
So it's time that I admit, when reading this at thirteen, my younger brain actually romanticised Humbert's depravity and saw the relationship between him and Lolita as some tragic love affair that could never work out for the obvious reasons. It was (surprise, surprise) Tatiana's review that made me wonder if I'd had a screw loose when reading this years ago, her interpretation was so far from what I remembered that I simply had to find time for a re-read. This summer, I did just that. I am going to point my shameful finger of blame at my age when I first read it, I was as fooled by Humbert as the young Lolita was.
Humbert is not a reliable narrator, his declaration that Lolita was responsible for seducing him is repulsive and wrong. Because, in the end, an adult has no excuse for having sex with a child, even if they're walking around half-naked and offering it up - adults have a responsibility not to take advantage of children, and I now realise how this case is no exception. This is not some tragic romantic tale about forbidden love, it is the story of how a grown man repeatedly raped a young girl. The fact that it is so easy to be taken in by him either says something about how brilliant a writer Nabokov is (which he is), or how much society still loves to blame the victim.
I don't know whether to feel better about my original feelings or be horrified that even the description for the audiobook describes the novel as: "a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness." And I also know that I have no right to criticise other people who saw it in such a way, but I would ask you to read it again, to look beyond Humbert's snivelling and self-pity, to see the man who considers murdering a woman so he can be free to have sex with her twelve year old daughter, the man who feels sorry for himself when a pubescent girl doesn't want to have sex with him because she's still hurt from the last time. Is that love? Maybe it was for a thirteen year old looking through Humbert's perverted eyes, but I'm glad I understand it better now.
Nabokov has written a brilliant and disturbing novel, my opinion of it hasn't changed in that respect. I found it surprisingly easy to read and became absorbed quickly - even all those years ago. His portrayal of Humbert's perverted mind is scarily good, perhaps even too good if people can so easily be convinced to side with a paedophile - which is often regarded as the ultimate crime of all, isn't it? Even cold-blooded murderers go after prisoners who've messed with kids. And, as much as I feel ashamed for being so taken in by Humbert, I know that it's not just me who was fooled. Hell, even the GR description proves it. But, believe me, Lolita is a victim and no amount of saddening flashbacks to Humbert's past can change that.
My whole life, I've never had a problem finding books to read and love. Of all kinds. Of all genres....more I have never had a problem finding books to read.
My whole life, I've never had a problem finding books to read and love. Of all kinds. Of all genres. I would seek them out, one way or another; they couldn't hide from me. From the Goosebumps books I found lying around on the shared shelves in the classrooms of my first school, to my pretentious swanning around my local library in search of those books called "classics" which meant you were totally smart if you read them (oh yes, I was a real delight as a child). I remember being about seven years old and asking my mum to get me a library card - I checked out the maximum of twelve each time, even though I could only read about one and a half back then before it was time to return them. Once, I even came to my mum in floods of tears because I'd let my books become overdue and thought I was going to prison.
I would even find the books which people had gone to great lengths to hide from me. It's an odd memory that I doubt I'll ever forget. I must have been about eight or nine years old and my family were staying with friends in Holland. The house was beautiful. Huge. And most likely hiding a door that would lead me straight into another world if only I could find it. I stumbled through unused rooms on the third floor like a kid discovering Narnia until I found a box of books. I gravitated towards them. I can't quite tell you why, but goodreads is the sort of place where I might have a chance of finding someone who understands. I've just always read. I honestly can't remember a time before reading, when books weren't in my life. I don't know if I read as an escape or because of an interest in learning about other people or just to say I could and did. I read everything I could get my hands on. Including the books in this box, which were, shall we say, enlightening. I was appalled - appalled, I tell you! - at the things people are willing to put in their mouths. Needless to say, I read all of the book in question and instinctively never mentioned it to my parents. I'm sure some would like to think of me as a poor wee cherub whose innocence was stolen by evil books - maybe so, but I would put my money on Stine's chicken people being the real culprit rather than a bit of fellatio.
No, I have never had a problem finding books to read.
But I have had a problem finding people who understand what it's like to really LOVE reading. Maybe even need it. People who associate periods of their life with the kinds of things they were reading then, whether in school or in dusty old rooms of a house in Holland. The kind of people who take personal journeys into books and write responses that are part review, part stories in themselves. This is what goodreads has always given me. It's given me people who've loved a book so much that they've had to tell a story about a specific part of their life - that was the only way they could express the strength of their feeling. It's given me people who write poems for reviews or just post pictures because words aren't enough for what they want to say. A lot of these "reviews" don't help me decide whether I'll like a book or not. Many could be considered off-topic, not really about the book in question. And it amuses me how little the Goodreads moderators/managers/whoever actually understand: the books don't really matter.
What Goodreads doesn't seem to understand is that the vast majority of their inactive members who created accounts, rated Lord of the Flies, and then quickly left - they came here because they like books. The others, the minority, who provide thousands of reviews, check the site religiously for friend updates, and are under direct attack by the new policies - they came here for the community. For the friends. For the memes. For the poems. For the rants. For the pointlessness. For the off-topic stories. For the ability to express themselves freely.
Goodreads has done a truly fantastic job of not getting it. Of not getting why this site is successful. Goodreads thinks people come to this site for the books; they think they've reinvented the art of finding your next read. Oh, who are they kidding? There are a thousand other books like this and services and unused rooms in Holland that have been helping people find something to read for years. Most of them are quicker and more reliable, and all of them have fewer trolls. No. Goodreads is a long-forgotten URL in the internet history of millions of people but it means something important to only a few. I came to a site called "Goodreads" because I like books, but it was the people, the wonderful, off-topic people that gave me a reason to stay. You know why I'm still here after all this time? It's not the fucking books. It's the heartfelt expressions of utter delight and rage in the "reviews" of the friends I've made. Or it's the funny memes they post and the pictures of their cats. Or it's that teenage girl who emailed me after reading my pretty damn off-topic review of This Song Will Save Your Life and said she was going through the same thing but my review gave her encouragement to make it through each day.
Goodreads, I don't need your help finding books to read.
I can feel this site losing its value bit by bit. With every creative, talented and interesting person that leaves, goodreads loses more of my interest. I can honestly feel my interest waning each day. I used to keep goodreads open in a permanent tab that I would refresh a ridiculous number of times so I didn't miss anything. Now? I'm bored. This site now has more books than ever before and I'm bored. Because it was everything off-topic about Goodreads that gave the site its worth. I can find books elsewhere. Easily. Without issue. I've been doing it my whole life.
This is not a protest review. For one thing, that would imply that I expect or hope it to have some kind of effect - I don't. This is not a review at all, actually. This is just a post of my thoughts for people to take as they wish. As I've always done on Goodreads and as I will continue to do. I'd say I don't care if someone deletes this, but that would be a lie. Because every deleted "review" is another piece of something I love being chipped away.
Oh my goodness, I think this book might have just ruined the entire urban fantasy - and possibly dystopian too - genre for me. Because, where can I g...more
Oh my goodness, I think this book might have just ruined the entire urban fantasy - and possibly dystopian too - genre for me. Because, where can I go from here? Does it ever get better than this? Please be warned right now that this review is going to be nothing less than gushing. I loved everything about this book, so much so that I may need to keep writing in italics.
I can't believe I nearly didn't read this book. I've looked at the other rave reviews for it so many times and I kept coming back and re-reading the goodreads description, trying to talk myself into a book with angels. Because, well, I think angels are actually rather lame. I also can't help but discriminate against books that are only published as ebooks, especially when it's becoming more and more apparent that anyone can stick their books on kindle and sell them at a ridiculously cheap price. I find myself thinking: "if books like Tempest and Article 5 can make it into bookstores, this must be really bad". This theory has been metaphorically kicked, flattened and destroyed by Angelfall.
Let's start with the key ingredient: an addictive quality. I was utterly captivated by the story from the very beginning, it pulled me in and didn't let go until the very last page. So many books don't have this, that special something that makes it absolutely necessary that you read on, no matter what time it is and whether or not you need to get up early in the morning. The story isn't the most unique idea I've ever heard - a future world that has been torn apart by angels. The kind that are cold, cruel and merciless, that see humans has little more than ants, no Halo-type storylines here. Penryn is a seventeen-year-old girl who must look after both her disabled sister and her mentally unstable mother who talks to "demons". In one eventful day, Penryn rescues an angel who is being attacked by five others, which results in her sister getting captured by one of the five. With only the angel - an enemy - who can help, Penryn sets out to rescue her sister.
Now Penryn may actually be my new favourite heroine of all time. In every way. She kicks ass, but at the same time she is a normal teenage girl who just wants to keep her family safe. There's a hint, or perhaps I should say a suggestion of romance, but Penryn has much more important things to worry about and she knows where her priorities lie (thank you! thank you! thank you!). The dialogue between Penryn and Raffe (the angel) is fantastic, it's so witty, funny and sometimes touching. Good grief, I love this book!
The pace never slows, the excitement never runs dry, and the ending is the perfect mixture of closure and a temptation for more. The second installment simply cannot come fast enough.
There are some people who view the line between consent and non-consent, between sex and rape, as blurry. There a...moreWarning: this review is not censored.
There are some people who view the line between consent and non-consent, between sex and rape, as blurry. There are some people who would gladly place blame for rape on that drunk girl in the short skirt who was "asking for it". There are some people who would view flirting and dancing suggestively as an invitation that should be followed through no matter what, it's not the other person's fault for holding the suggestive dancer down and raping them, afterall, it's not really rape if they were flirting first. There are some people who think rape is erotic. And there are some people who think serial killers are sexy.
I am not one of those people.
I'm sure people will start to make assumptions about the kind of person I am as soon as they see my negative rating. I'm sure I can't do anything to change most people's minds. But I am going to tell you a few things about me. For one, I am not a prude. I like reading books about sex. Sometimes I like reading books about kinky sex. I don't mind reading books that push the boundaries with kinky sex into just plain old weird sex. People have their odd kinks and who am I to judge? You want to go home, tie each other up and urinate on one another? You have my full blessing. But there is a line. And that line is drawn, for me, at consent. It isn't a blurry line, it's a straight, permanent marker type line. No non-consensual sex. No sex with those who are not in a position to give consent which, in case you were wondering, includes the mentally unstable, children and animals.
This book isn't a love story. This book is about a rape victim and a rapist. This book is not sexy. This book is not BDSM. This book is not okay. This book is abuse. This book makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like My Little Pony. This book makes Story of O look romantic. This book is rape. The actions in it are inexcusable. It makes me sick.
Now, people do bad things. No argument there. And I don't mind when authors show that. Even when they show it graphically, sometimes I think you need to be graphic about it to emphasise the seriousness of the bad that people do. And Stockholm Syndrome is a serious thing that many people have suffered from. I'm not disputing any of this. The issue I take is with the portrayal of this bad as maybe not being so bad, as maybe even being erotic and sexy. My problem is not with the idea that abuse begets abuse (as this story tells us). My problem is when said abuse is used as wank material. Because Olivia is a victim of rape and severe abuse. There are no blurred lines of consent here. She is kidnapped, raped, beaten, humiliated and dehumanised and we are supposed to find it sexy. When even Reage's nameless "O" participates of her own free will.
I'm sure there will be readers ready to point out the sexual responsiveness of Olivia in this book. Well, to that I only wish I still had the link to an article I once read about rape. Rape is, for me, possibly the vilest thing a person can do to another. Because it takes something that on a physical level can be good (sex) and uses it as a weapon by turning it into something completely monstrous. This article I read talked about the embarrassment some rape victims face because their bodies respond to the stimuli that they are biologically programmed to. Some can even experience orgasm from rape. This doesn't make it any less serious or any more consensual. It does not make me feel better in this book when Olivia's body responds to the sexual abuse. I felt like I was watching a dancing bear being tortured into a humiliating performance. It doesn't dance because it wants to.
Caleb is supposed to gain our pity because of his abusive past. And maybe I could have pitied him on some level, maybe I would have found it in my heart to see him like I see Heathcliff - the abused abuser. Maybe I could offer understanding, if not forgiveness. But I cannot offer acknowledgement of his supposed sexiness. A man who does this is not hot:
- he beats her with a belt - he washes her and hits her when she won't open her legs so he can clean her genitals. - he thoroughly enjoys beating her into submission and humiliating her - he gets aroused by her fear and distress
There is also a disturbing link being made here between gender and roles of dominance and submission. This doesn't exist in BDSM. BDSM relationships can be M/F, F/M, M/M, F/F and anything in between. Captive in the Dark suggests that the dominance and submission between Olivia and Caleb is natural because she's a woman and he's a man.
"He was a man, and I? I was nothing but a girl, not even a woman. I was meant to fall at his feet and worship at the alter of his masculinity, grateful that he'd deigned to acknowledge me."
"Male and female, masculine and feminine, hard and soft, predator and prey."
It made me nauseous.
I'm sure someone will be willing to tell me I didn't get it. That I'm too narrow-minded to appreciate the complexity of what's going on here. Well, yes, fine. If you think it makes me narrow-minded to find the kidnapping, beating and raping of a girl unacceptable and not remotely erotic... then yes, I am narrow-minded. I'll drink to that.
Warning: this review contains flashing gifs and foul language.
I've spent two years avoiding this book. I remember in 2011 when I stumbled across that...moreWarning: this review contains flashing gifs and foul language.
I've spent two years avoiding this book. I remember in 2011 when I stumbled across that exciting GR description and pretty - if slightly creepy and discomfiting - cover, but my initial curiosity was quickly dampened by the reviews from my trusted goodreads friends. And for nearly two years, I have listened. My intentions were to never give this book/series another thought, until I recently came across this interesting page: 15 Young Adult Books Every Adult Should Read. And I noticed authors like Laurie Halse Anderson on the list. That's when something inside me rose up to meet the promise of a challenge - plus, who knows, sometimes my favourite books of all time have been those I'd taken a chance on against the odds.
But this book was just bad. The exciting premise is wasted on a novel that eats at the same lunch table as Twilight, Hush, Hush and Fallen. The mysterious paranormal aspect opens up many avenues for the author to have explored and yet she chooses instead to pick the dullest one - a cliched romance. And damn if this book isn't one huge glowing neon cliche. One where a boring heroine with a severe lack of personality meets a ridiculously good-looking, sexy, British bad boy - who could have anyone he wants - and he somehow finds himself madly in love with her. Why? Well, that remains the biggest mystery of all.
Two words come to mind when I think back over this book: wish fulfillment. But yes, the other two words spring to mind a lot too. This novel is a very fine example of a certain brand of book that contains mediocre-at-best writing, unbelievably hot male love interests and is an empty, easy sell for young teen girls. Noah really is quite laughably perfect (if you like controlling jerks, but I'll get to that in a second) with his perfect face, hair, body, smile (etc.), his massive fortune, his intelligence which includes knowledge of six languages and large quotes from various classic novels. He is so flawless, I felt like he'd just rolled off the factory production line, spritzed, polished and raring to go.
Ah yes, and about that controlling thing I mentioned. There's really no need to explain it in detail, I'll just pull up some quotes for you:
Noah placed his forefinger above my upper lip and his thumb below my bottom lip, and applied the slightest pressure, cutting me off. "Shut up," he said quietly.
What is Mara's response to his rudeness? I nodded feebly. o_O You nodded... feebly? What is wrong with you? I can't understand why you aren't all like:
Then: The waiter appeared then, and Noah plucked the menu from my hands and handed it over, rushing off our order in Spanish. The waiter departed for the kitchen. I shot him a dark look. "I hadn't decided yet." "Trust me."
This also happens in Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian orders for Ana without even asking what she'd like or if she's vegetarian or has any allergies. For one thing, it's flawed. But beyond that it's just goddamn rude. What exactly is sexy about a guy not giving a damn what you want? When you look past the pretty description we are given of Noah's perfection, I find him incredibly unattractive, pretentious and annoying. If I wasn't British myself, I think this book would give me a really bad opinion of British people; almost as bad as Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap remake when she tells her American twin "I have claaasss and you don't." *shudders*
This quote - "Because I'm European, and therefore more cultured than you" - might have been funny as an isolated incident but Noah's repetition of similar declarations of cultural superiority (with books, music, etc.) just made me think...
I also think Mara is in desperate need of a new girlfriend because the girls in this book are ALL her enemies. Even her two friends at the beginning get separated into best friend and evil girl who's trying to steal best friend away. The word "slut" naturally appears several times in this novel and usually when the characters are talking about mean girl Anna who immediately decided to make Mara's life hell because Noah showed some interest in her. This beautiful quote sums up Anna's characterisation:
"The list of what you're missing, Anna, is longer than the South Beach Free Clinic's walk-in list," Jamie said, and I was surprised to hear his voice. "Though I'm sure your hookup resume includes the same names."
Cue group laughter as good triumphs over the evil slut who doesn't deserve feelings. This always amazes me in these kind of books - that we're supposed to be sympathetic towards the MC and believe she is the victim and much more interesting because of her lack of sluttiness. I don't think I'll ever understand why that stuff matters.
I've been picking out all these quotes throughout this review but I've saved the best for last. If I had been drinking whilst reading this bit, I would have sprayed the contents of my mouth everywhere. I just... can't. This is in response to Mara finding out about how Noah slept with a girl who was in love with him just to prove a point to the girl's brother:
I should haul back and smack him, strike a blow for feminism or something or at the very least, get out of the car. But then his thumb traced my skin and without quite realizing it, I leaned toward him and rested my forehead against his.
... to hell with feminism! Hot jerk is touching my face!!
I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I...more I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I can weed out the crap and hopefully find some surprising gems. Here's hoping!
I was ready to like this book. I was ready to be forgiving of the small negatives. I was ready to make excuses for it, try and justify the bad and pretend the good overshadowed it. I don't even remember the last time I wanted to like a book this much. Despite what you may think from my reactions to most books in the NA experiment, I don't just spend my time looking for things to bitch and moan about in these books. I'm looking for the NA books which are different and actually tell a good story, even if it is a romance. This book's description didn't sound like the others that are all virtually identical. So, I wanted to love it. I really tried. But I couldn't. There were too many things. The negatives were flying at me on every page and, after a while, I couldn't ignore them. Which is sad.
We started on reasonably good terms. I really liked the idea of the book for two reasons: 1) I wanted to see how the author handled the subject of bullying and 2) I was intrigued by the promise of a bully being turned into someone we could love. The book didn't really deliver on either of those. For the former, the book started by using a chapter to give us an example of the way Tate had been bullied for several years by a guy who used to be her best friend but turned on her. It was sad, it was awful and I felt sorry for her. Objective achieved. Then we cut to a year later when she comes back from a year studying in France, determined not to let him win this time around. What this book then became was a showdown between two beautiful people who clearly wanted to shag but decided the best kind of foreplay is that where they antagonize the hell out of each other. It wasn't really a story about bullying, it was just about them each trying to get one up on the other.
As for the second reason I was attracted to this book, Jared (the guy) did win me over to some extent. I feel a bit strange about it because, on the one hand, I can see why he behaved like he did and I can find some level of forgiveness for him. But I'm not really able see a) why Tate forgave him so easily and b) why he changed back so abruptly (I don't think Tate's class monologue was a convincing enough reason). The reasons for his behaviour make sense, but his progression back to how he was before and the HEA don't. The main problem - and I shouldn't be surprised by this - is that the author doesn't attempt to humanize him first. That would have made it a better book and a more believable story. But instead of being humanized, Jared is sexualized first. And using his hot body as an excuse for forgiveness didn't work because that's not a good enough reason and I don't find this an attractive description of a man: "I doubt you even wait until the condom's off before forgetting their names." There must be something wrong with me.
But anyway. This stuff wouldn't have been enough for a one star rating on its own. With just this, I would have given at least two stars, maybe even three on a good day. The problem I had, the HUGE fucking problem I had with this book was the protagonist. God, she was the very meaning of insufferable. And her best friend wasn't far behind. On that subject, this seems to be incredibly common in NA books: BBF (Bad Best Friend) Syndrome. It's like a requirement for the protagonist's best friend to encourage them to forget about all the bad stuff a guy has done, just forget that he's a total jerk because he is SO HOT. Jared harassed Tate for years and yet her best friend advises her to get together with him and, when she doesn't, decides to have a go herself!
Forget the best friend, let's get back to the high-and-mighty queen of preciousness herself. Tate views everyone but herself, her parents and Jared with utter disdain. Being inside her head was like waging a war against every other female because of the things they wore, the things they said, and the guys they were with. For one, I feel it is always best to avoid stupid phrases like "queen bee of the mean girls", but it was when she referred to everyone Jared was with as being "slutty" because they were all over him that I felt like someone had really lit my fuse. She walks onto every scene, describing the others as "slutty looking girls". If they weren't sluts, they were bitches or "twits", every woman is an enemy to Tate in this book - even her "best friend" isn't immune. Piper, the girl Jared uses and casts aside, gets the worst of it: "Piper had her face buried in his neck. She looked trashy in her short, tight black dress and heels. Who wore heels to the beach?"
Look, I go to a University that used to be an all female institution. It's not anymore, but there are still currently around two women to every one guy. I know women. Smart women, stupid women, extroverted women, shy women, ambitious women, funny women, geeky women, sporty women, straight women, gay women... and I don't believe that I have ever seen a single woman as vapid, shallow and senseless as all the ones who exist in this novel. They walk around with their breasts bulging out, drooling over men who only love the marvellous Tate (who is, naturally, above all this breast-bulging, drooling business). I guess it's bad that I find myself siding with the antagonist in all this. And don't even get me started on that ridiculous fight in the school corridor between Tate and Piper.
There is so much slut-shaming, woman-shaming and obsessing over virginity in this book. For Tate, her virginity is a gift-wrapped present to be given to the one most deserving, while having sex with multiple guys is shameful. This quote is a particular favourite of mine: "I'd been called a bitch before, and it didn't hurt the way being called a slut did. Being a bitch could be a survival technique. They get respect. There was no honor in people thinking you were a slut." Reading that was a bit like dying a painful, anti-feminist death.
But wait! Just when you thought the guys got to escape Tate's judgement because of their penises, she casts a withering glance over them and their stupid ways. Honestly, she is the most annoying character ever. "The girls had no other interests beside shopping and makeup and the guys here gave me the urge to sanitize my eyeballs after seeing the way they looked at me." For godsake, Ms Precious, go sanitize your eyeballs somewhere we don't have to hear you whining, here you go, use this acid.
Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath r...moreAdults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.
This book is childhood.
Are all Neil Gaiman books like this? So beautifully, hauntingly nostalgic? I confess, this is my first; but right now I am logging into amazon to make sure it isn't my last. I have one criticism, which is that this book isn't really an adult book. The few adult scenes felt added as an afterthought to try and convince us little people that this is actually a very grown-up kinda story. But, take out that dodgy sex scene, and I would have been mesmerised and terrified by this book as a kid, perhaps even more than I was reading it today. It has everything that we could possibly ask for in childhood: magic, adventure, overcoming fears, those things that children know and adults no longer understand or remember, and it's all wrapped up in a tidy 180 pages.
There's an almost dreamlike quality to the story and there are many reasons it's hard to know what's real and what is not. The book opens with a middle-aged man revisiting the place where he used to live with his parents and sister when he was a young boy of seven. He visits his old house before wandering down to the farm at the end of the lane, a place that starts to bring back a strange sequence of memories as seen through the eyes of a young boy. How real are the magic and monsters of our childhood? When we look back and see ignorant youths believing in the impossible, are we enlightened adults? Or are we the ignorant ones, blinded by years dedicated to being sensible and not believing? Are the villains we remember monsters from another world? Or is that just how children make sense of the people who brought upheaval into their lives?
I found it truly fascinating.
The creepy yet beautiful setting in the English countryside was fantastic. A little lonely, somewhat isolated... like a world entirely of its own in which anything could be possible. This book held all the charm and beauty of the world portrayed in Cider With Rosie, but was ten times more compelling and addictive. And there were the characters, of course. Lettie Hempstock, an eleven year old who might just have been eleven for a very long time, and her quirky mother and grandmother. Also, the narrator had my sympathy throughout; his seven year old lack of understanding and fear of the adult world that he saw as separate from his own was easily believable, for me. I think we do create a world of our own when we're kids, one that adults aren't a part of, that's how we're able to believe in things like magic and wizards and Santa.
To put it plainly, I really enjoyed my first trip into the world of Gaiman. The ending is perfect. A little sad. But mostly perfect.
I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I...more I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I can weed out the crap and hopefully find some surprising gems. Here's hoping!
When I started this experiment with the New Adult genre, I knew I was going to have to face a lot of things that I wouldn't like. This genre has become known, during it's short lifetime, for its sexism, its slut-shaming, its poor writing, its eyeroll worthy characters and its creepy portrayal of young male/female relationships. But I think Hopeless disappointed me a lot more because it started well and it could have been good. Yes, it goes with the usual "girl with issues" plotline and the "reformed bad boy" love interest, but Hoover writes in a way that's engaging, she weaves humour into every conversation to make you warm to the story and characters almost instantly. And then she ruins it.
Let's meet Sky Davis. She has all these issues to tell you about. She's never attracted to guys. Never gets butterflies. Never feels swept off her feet by emotions. She makes out with all these guys because she enjoys the numb feeling she experiences during the makeout sessions.The boys sneak in her window, make out with her, then she kicks them out without feeling a single thing. She doesn't sleep with them, though, because that would validate the rumours that she's a slut. And she is NOT A SLUT.
Please bear with me while I try to care.
There is a confusing mix of messages being sent out here about being a "slut", what that means, and how we're supposed to react to it. I get the feeling that the author wanted to treat us to an atypical protagonist who is somewhat sexually promiscuous, as opposed to the usual blushing virgin (well done! mix it up a bit, I say) but she seems afraid of her reader's inability to like a "slut", so she had to make up for it by getting the heroine to frequently and adamantly state "I am not a slut" and simultaneously drew parallels between a mean personality and revealing clothing on other girls. If the author had just been brave enough to challenge the stereotype, to steer clear of the assumed negative correlation between sexuality and morality, then this could have been a very different and a much better book.
Another thing that bothers me is the shallow obsession with looks in this novel. Everything is excused, every act of violence and stalkery forgotten because the love interest is a glowing ball of hotness. Litchick addressed this issue wonderfully. Dean Holder is a creep. If he looked any different, Sky would have not believed his behaviour to be remotely okay, she would have ran screaming in the opposite direction. He sees her ID for two seconds and then suddenly remembers her full name, home address, date of birth, height and donor status. He knows detailed information about her that she never told him. Sky pauses for all of five seconds to think it's weird that he knows these things, but then she gets distracted by his beautiful eyes or perfect muscles.
No, literally, she faints. She faints because he's so hot.
More than that, Sky is immediately cured of her numb, lack-of-butterflies affliction as soon as she sees Mr Beautiful. I'm calling it instalove, you can call it what you will, but whatever it is... it's fucking weird. She is immune to all guys except Dean Holder, and why? Because he is perfectly beautifully gorgeous. No other reason. He's a violent, creepy stalker but: "He's beautiful. Not too big, not too small. Not too rough, not too perfect." And they are such empty, shallow adjectives that say nothing. He could be a chocolate eclair based on that description.
I'm genuinely worried about what these books are teaching young women about relationships with men. They say everything is okay as long as he has a pretty face. Stalking? Of course. Violence? Perfectly natural. Grabbing your chin the second time you meet him? A small price to pay for that level of hotness on your arm. No. No. And also NO. Who does that? For one, who grabs your face the second time they meet you? For another, who stands there and thinks that's okay? Why are these books telling you to ignore your basic instincts of self-preservation. Like this quote:
"My instinct is telling me to run and scream, but my body wants to wrap itself around his glistening, sweaty arms." Stupid.
"Normally I wouldn't take water from strangers. I would especially not take water from people I know are bad news, but I'm thirsty." And stupid.
This book tells girls and women to ignore the valuable advice their parents gave them when they were young about what to do if approached by a strange man who offers you a drink and appears to know everything about your life, including where you live. It tells them to ignore all of this because he has a pretty face. Well, I've got two words for you to google: "Ted Bundy". Or "Young Stalin".(less)
I highly recommend reading this whilst sitting in the sun with plenty of happy people around you (as I did) - that way you can avoid contracting some...more I highly recommend reading this whilst sitting in the sun with plenty of happy people around you (as I did) - that way you can avoid contracting something evil and nasty from its pages, and also avoid losing any hope you had for humanity. Okay, sorry, I make it sound so negative when actually this book is pretty fantastic if you can stomach the horrors within. I ate this up in a couple of days, finding every opportunity to read that I could... Flynn certainly has a talent for dragging you into her stories and having them take you over until you find out just what the hell is going on.
As much as I enjoyed its dark predecessor - Sharp Objects - I think Dark Places was, for me, a more complex and well-developed mystery. I had many theories as to what was going on and all of them were wrong. You know, I honestly think that writing a mystery story must be the most difficult of all, because the reader is your enemy. Most readers of mystery stories will analyse the information they're given, pull it apart, and try desperately to solve the mystery before the characters do - and yet, if they are successful, they feel disappointed. For an author to manage to pull out something both surprising and convincingly real at the end of all this, they have to have a talent for it.
Dark Places alternates between the present day and 1985 when Ben Day allegedly massacred three members of his family, his sister - Libby - being the only one to escape and testify as a witness, sending Ben to a life in prison. Now, after years of living on the donations made by concerned members of the public, Libby Day has finally run out of money and is forced to earn some cash by making an appearance at a group meeting where the members believe Ben is innocent. At first, Libby is willing to write them off as crazy fanatics with a grisly obsession... but as more information is presented to her, she starts to question what really happened all those years ago.
The story is told from three main points of view and, to say I'm not a fan of multiple perspectives, I thought it was done excellently. Patty Day is an exhausted mother-of-four who starts to fear her son is becoming involved in satanic rituals; torn between wanting to protect him and being a little afraid of what his behaviour means, we begin to question through her eyes whether the heavy metal-loving loner could really have it in him to become a murderer. Then we have Ben Day's point of view, being inside his mind is a little frightening, we see how his thoughts become increasingly dark, how just wanting to have something normal can lead to the most abnormal behaviour... but does that mean he would really murder his family?
And, of course, there is Libby Day. Libby Day is the reason I think I enjoy Flynn's novels so much, she is so imperfect, complex, selfish, violent... but somehow you manage to stay on her side. I have no idea how the author manages this, but I've always loved a protagonist with issues, the kind of issues that make them lash out in ways that would make you hate them if you weren't inside their head, understanding them. She does some horrible things and, though you don't necessarily forgive her for them, you are able to see why.
If you're okay reading about filth, gore, and underage sex, then you should dive into this mystery straight away and immerse yourself in the disturbing but awesome mental workings of Gillian Flynn.(less)
Edit 04/04/2013: I read this almost a year ago now and it still haunts me in the best possible way. So I just wanted to share this song with you beca...more Edit 04/04/2013: I read this almost a year ago now and it still haunts me in the best possible way. So I just wanted to share this song with you because it reminds me of this book so much.
"Sometimes I think that maybe we are just stories. Like we may as well just be words on a page, because we're only what we've done and what we are going to do."
Everything about the appearance and description of this book it seems is geared towards the wrong audience. If it hadn't been for Crowinator's review I would have written this off as another cheesy romance that's okay when you're eight years old and watching a disney film but should otherwise be avoided. There are a number of readers I can see picking this up: romance enthusiasts, those who enjoy novels that are like disney films, or those who've read Anderson's other books (girl scouts and teen troubles). They will probably be disappointed.
How best can I put this? I know, I'll use TV shows! Let's take 90210 first of all. This is a show about rich people, celebrities, first world problems and a lifestyle with glitter on it. It's about life in Los Angeles. You know what else is about life in LA? Angel (Buffy spin-off). But Angel tells a different story, one of dingy backstreets, prostitutes, drug addicts and criminals. It's the same city but it's the story of lives that don't sparkle. If you're wondering how this is at all relevant, well, Peter Pan is 90210, and Tiger Lily is Angel.
This novel tells the tale of the dark underbelly of Neverland where the good guys don't always win and love doesn't always triumph. It's so much darker and sadder than I could have possibly imagined. Even though we are told from the start that this is a love story, it is more than that. It's about loss and loneliness and fear of change. Because who would fear change more than those who'd never had to experience growing up and dying?
Tiger Lily is one of the loneliest characters ever. Her other tribe members believe her to be cursed and she has long battled against the torment of not quite being accepted. After one misstep too many, she is told she must marry Giant - a violent oaf of a man who mistreats her whenever the chance presents itself. It is only natural that when she discovers a boy out in the forest who's almost as lonely as she is that she would fall in love with him.
By telling the story from Tinkerbell's point of view, we are able to hear it on a very personal level and get a close look at all the characters individually whilst having a wider scope than normal 1st person allows. The story itself is cleverly woven with elements of the one we know from disney and the original book. Did you ever wonder how a crocodile came to be hanging around with a ticking clock down his throat? Well, now I know.
The villains in this story are as complex as everyone else and Anderson offers new and interesting traits for familiar characters. James Hook is a sad, old man who came to Neverland on dreams of staying young forever - but his mission failed. He has since then lost himself to drink and his obsession with Peter Pan; Hook's hatred for himself and the world around him is all channelled into his hatred for Peter. Also, Smee (remember him?) is a strange case who murders those he admires for their strength and beauty but then mourns their deaths.
I don't know how deliberate it was, but I found myself comparing the "Englanders" in this book with the settlers in North America that made every effort to change the religion and culture of the natives. Tiger Lily's tribe rescue an injured Englander and nurse him back to full health, but once he is back on his feet he begins "educating" the tribe in the rules of God and what is appropriate dress and how those who don't fulfill their purpose will not go to heaven. You can see how easily it would be to change people through fear of eternal punishment, how to easily put what-ifs in their mind and make them question what they've always believed.
So, this is not the story I expected to read. But it's beautiful, I loved the writing style and the characters. The people in this book have their strengths and they have their weaknesses, and sometimes those weaknesses are too much for them to handle. The ending is both happy and sad, it isn't the one you wanted but I guess that's life for you.
03/2014: Looky at the beautiful new cover! I love that they kept all the vibrant colours of the original because they really captured the intoxicating...more03/2014: Looky at the beautiful new cover! I love that they kept all the vibrant colours of the original because they really captured the intoxicating feel of the novel. Also, every time I think of this book I can't believe I didn't give it 5 stars... so I'm upping my rating :)
I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I can weed out the crap and hopefully find some surprising gems. Here's hoping!
I've had several comments on my reviews of the NA experiment books asking why I insist on putting myself through all this torture. The simple answer: to find books like this one. Unteachable isn't a perfect book. It sits comfortably within the contemporary romance genre that we've come to expect from New Adult and - plot-wise - it cannot be considered groundbreaking. But the writing, the mood, and the characters made this a book I couldn't put down. You want to get some idea what this book is like? Look at that cover. Look at the explosion of bright colours winding off into a neon portrait of a young woman. That might give you some idea. A gif to represent this book? Here you go:
But really, what is Unteachable? I'll tell you. It's a lyrical, intoxicating novel that creates an atmosphere of such feverish intensity you feel a little high, a little out of control, just by reading it. I fell into this story and got lost amongst the lights of the carnival, the smell of beer and sweat, and the MC's apprehension. I felt the pull of this story from the very beginning when Maise takes a ride on that fateful rollercoaster at the carnival and her life starts to change forever. Because this book is a romance and the romantic aspect is the foundation of the story, but it's also about something else. I suppose it is really a coming-of-age tale. Of being a young woman balanced between childhood and the scary world of adults. It asks what it means to grow up. And if any of us ever really do.
Maise O'Malley is the star of this show and I loved her instantly. I didn't expect her to be so funny. She's wickedly sarcastic, she's shamelessly rebellious, she's not afraid of being more than a little crude at times. But, of course, she's so much more than all of that too. Maise is a fascinating combination of:
And a bitter, sad fragility. She feels more real that any of the NA protagonists I've met with recently, there's something genuine about the way she boxes her troubles up and locks them away behind doors with sexy, devil-may-care smiles. I feel like there's something known about pain here. All these NA novels I've read about girls with issues, girls running from dark pasts, girls who were abused... and none of them seem to capture that darkness, that melancholy of being fucked up for a very long time. There's something sadder about the way Maise brushes it off with a shrug and a joke about Freud, it affected me more than the melodrama of other novels. I don't know the author's story, but she certainly writes with a convincing flair that suggests some level of firsthand experience with the thoughts and emotions swirling away behind Maise's closed doors. I love it when an author writes something, a thought or a feeling, that you never realised was exactly how you felt at a certain time or in a certain situation until it was laid out before you in a book. Inexplicable sensations are suddenly explained and it's hard not to smile or laugh or cry along with the characters.
Raeder's writing was, for me, perfect. Atmospheric, pretty without quite hitting the purple end of the scale, just beautiful. Like this:
I biked up to the water tower on the hill overlooking the prairie. Climbed the rust-eaten struts up to a crow's nest some stoners had hammered together out of Mississippi driftwood. It wasn't as hot tonight, and a restless wind raked through the grass, smelling of loam and barley. From here the carnival lights looked like fireflies swirling madly in place, trapped under an invisible jar. Just like me.
I especially love the use of past tense in this book, the way Maise tells the story from a present the reader is far away from reaching. She keeps talking about how "I didn't know back then" and "I wonder what would have been different had I made another choice that day" and I actually loved it. The hindsight makes the whole thing seem somehow tragically inevitable. It works. You know certain things are coming and, rather than dampen the tension, it heightens it an incredible amount. I was sat there with a pounding heart, knowing what was coming, and sometimes wanting to hide behind my hands and not watch what I knew would happen. This, combined with the film metaphors woven throughout, made for a stunning, exciting novel.
Images and words flash past too fast to parse, like the cliche dying moment in film, when life flashes before someone's eyes. Except that isn't what happens when you die - it's what happens when you live. It all flashes past. You barely have time to feel it before it's gone.
Now for the relationship. Teacher and student. All kinds of wrong. All kinds of room for a really hot mess. But I think this relationship is used well here, not just to feed the reader's forbidden fantasies. For one, it's legal (phew) and they "hooked up" before the awkward classroom encounter and she had lied about her age. For another, he is so adorable I do not have words. I've got used to expecting a certain type of love interest from these NA novels. Arrogant, self-obsessed, controlling, annoying... Evan is none of those things. He is sweet, kind, considerate, he puts her first (which adds up to more than letting her come first) and he still manages to be totally sexy. His character development extends beyond his looks, he has faults and he has his own past that isn't so peachy - I think if I could write an ideal NA male love interest, it would be exactly like him. I find it amazing that the NA relationship that is technically most inappropriate is the one that has felt most real and honest to me.
And because I liked Maise and I liked Evan... I loved them both together. And that made the sex scenes really hot. Just sayin'.
Now to get a couple of negatives out of the way. The most notable blemish to this novel's perfection occurs around the middle where there is a slow chunk made up of nothing but sex. I know, I know, I'm such a spoilsport. But there were one or two sex scenes too many if you ask me. Your sex shouldn't get tedious and there was a point somewhere between orgasms when I was hoping it would just move along a bit. Don't worry, though, it picks up again. My other issue was with the handling of Hiyam's character. I would have liked her to have been more well-rounded rather than just a mindless villain used as a tool to threaten the novel's harmony. I also wish Maise had used a different term to describe insecure teenage girls than "bulimic", it didn't sit well with me and seemed to trivialize a serious illness. I understand it was Maise's skewed view of them, but I 'd just rather it wasn't in there.
Now, let's get back to the good! I haven't mentioned the cast of secondary characters that I feel were extremely well-developed for a romance novel. Wesley, Siobhan... and I personally think Maise's mum deserves a novel of her own because we barely scratched the surface with her. She is one of the worst mothers ever, but I'd love to get her story. The strength of all of them, I felt, was in the witty dialogue zipping back and forth. You could almost take out everything but the dialogue and it would still be a four star novel. I recall what I said in my recent review of Hopeless about how I wished the author had the guts to write a typically unlikeable "slutty" protagonist and make us love her. I got that here. I also got the closest thing to a feminist I'm probably ever going to find in these NA books. I imagined myself and Maise as partners in crime when I read this:
I looked at my desk. Someone had carved RIHANNA = SLUT. I thought about adding CHRIS BROWN = DOMESTIC ABUSER, but Mr Wilke probably would've caught me before I finished.
I really did like this book. A LOT. A lot more than I thought I was going to. It does the one thing I really wanted the NA genre to do from the start: capture that feeling of loneliness and desperation that occurs when you have no idea where you're going next or who you're going to be when it comes time to "grow up". It's about how teens grow up, and it's about how sometimes adults never did. I don't even care that the ending had more than a touch of cheese. I was ready for it. I was like an empty toasted sandwich, waiting to be cheesed <<<<<< Don't judge me, I will likely never again have chance to use that sentence.
One last quote, Emily? Well, if you insist:
That's all life is. Breathing in, breathing out. The space between two breaths. (less)
This is going to be a hard review to write because I feel so conflicted about my final rating and just how much I actually liked this boo...more 3 1/2 stars.
This is going to be a hard review to write because I feel so conflicted about my final rating and just how much I actually liked this book. For one thing, I think the second half is a big improvement on the first half and, though this is my least favourite book by Ms Flynn, I can see in some ways why other reviewers see this as her strongest work.
Let me ask this question: is it possible to be objective when writing a book review? Can a book ever be objectively "good", even though some people might not enjoy it so much? To use quite an extreme example, I really struggled to read Proust's Swann's Way and can't say I enjoyed it - but that doesn't make it a bad book. Surely I cannot begin to claim that Proust is anything other than a literary genius? I wouldn't want to try.
I don't think I need to tell you that Flynn is not quite Proust. But some of the same old ideas kept popping into my head while I was reading Gone Girl because I think this is the book that most showcases Flynn's talent for writing. And for exploring the dark depths of psychology. Sharp Objects and Dark Places are wild, gritty, nasty books that pull you in, engage you and poison your mind. You don't devour them, they devour you. I read both of Flynn's previous novels in a day or two. Unlike Gone Girl, which I tried to read about five times and gave up, then when I finally came back to it, I took a week to get through it. To put it in perspective, I read War and Peace in the same time it took me to read Flynn's latest work.
But it's good, isn't it? How can I not praise a book that so cleverly pulls apart the minds of a husband and wife? In terms of writing, creativity, originality... this is her best work to date. In terms of enjoyment... I struggled a lot. Gone Girl is much slower than Flynn's first two novels, which is both a strength and a weakness. It allows for a slow, cleverly-painted picture to build up of this marriage and its many secrets, of Amy and Nick's state of mind. It is intense and brilliant. But I think it all comes down to the fact that I didn't care much about the background story of the couple's financial hardship. I think this is why I found the parts where they whine about how awful their life is - moving from a huge house in New York to a slightly smaller one in Missouri* - quite tedious.
I am used to Ms Flynn giving me the dregs of society, the lowlifes and the majorly-troubled, giving me characters with genuine reasons to complain about life. Spoilt, rich people do not pull at my heartstrings. But, objectively, this is a really great book.
*The trolls have started descending on this review because I got the house sizes mixed up - apparently the house in Missouri was bigger (how this makes a difference other than to further prove my point, I do not know). I'm very sorry if I have influenced you to read/not read this book with false house size information.(less)
I have finally made a decision about Fifty Shades of Grey. I know, I know, my review of this isn't really needed, everybody's talking about this book,...more I have finally made a decision about Fifty Shades of Grey. I know, I know, my review of this isn't really needed, everybody's talking about this book, everybody's got the general gist of what it's about. But I've spent quite a long time thinking about this novel, the characters, and the relationship portrayed. I've been thinking about all the reasons people hate this so much and love it so much. I need to confess - for those who missed it - that I originally reviewed this first book immediately after finishing it and before I started (and finished) the other two books in the trilogy. I gave it three stars, I expressed all that Fifty Shades of Grey had made me feel: annoyed, frustrated, confused, and also entertained. I have since then felt like I have much more to add.
The reason I personally think that opinions differ so greatly on these novels is not because people have different sexual tastes. For some, yeah, this will come into play. However, I think the main reason is that this book and the characters send out a confusing mix of messages. When I finished Fifty Shades of Grey, I had no idea what kind of book I'd just read. Was it BDSM erotica? Or the tale of a man's childhood abuse and how this impacted on his sex life later on? Were Christian Grey's sexual tastes supposed to be erotic or wrong? Let me tell those of you who haven't read this: it isn't clear.
This book appears to be an erotic BDSM romance at face value. But Ana makes it clear early on that she doesn't want that kind of relationship, that Christian is "fifty shades of fucked up", that the way he behaves isn't right, but is actually the result of an abusive upbringing. Ana later contradicts her early decision and gets all pouty when Christian won't play kinky with her... and yet the previous time he'd done it she spent the evening crying and feeling sorry for herself. Some people seem to see Christian as the big bad man who abuses a weak young woman. This is not the case. There is nothing, I repeat nothing, that happens between the two of them that Ana doesn't give consent to. Sure, she may whine about it afterwards, or use the excuse that she doesn't want to lose him, but she makes the choices, she holds the power.
Here's what I think is the ultimate problem with Fifty Shades of Grey: Ms James' terrible writing. It's nothing new, she even admitted it herself, but that is why we all can't figure out what it is about this book that makes it some parts entertaining, some parts annoying as fuck. Because I'm trying to categorise this so I can begin to understand it, so that I can form my opinion and write my review accordingly. But we cannot understand what doesn't make sense. And James' characterisation does not make any sense at all. She writes Ana as a naive student at the mercy of Christian's abusive past, then she writes Ana as a sexual manipulator who actually likes BDSM. Is Christian sexy or a victim? I'll tell you: he's both and neither, because James cannot create characters and relationships to save her life. She contradicts herself, she changes her mind without logical reason. This is why it is pointless analysing the relationship between Ana and Christian. One minute it's sexy, the next minute it's fucked up. One minute it's BDSM, the next minute it's abuse. How do you accurately review a book that changes its mind every two minutes?
I also feel I need to say something about BDSM. Any more than a small amount of kinky doesn't really interest me, but it doesn't bother me either if it is between consenting adults. However, there are two things I can say about this matter in Fifty Shades of Grey: 1) it really isn't that kinky, and 2) for the most part, this isn't really a BDSM relationship (I don't think the author actually understands what one is). I can't say that I'm experienced in visiting those kind of clubs down the dark allies of Soho, but I've done not a small amount of reading on the psychological aspect of BDSM relationships. I have a keen interest in feminism and I have often wondered if something like this is nothing but a hindrance to the progress of women and equality. I would conclude from my reading that it is not.
Firstly, BDSM relationships are about give and take. The dom and the sub each give one another what they want/need. It isn't about abuse, it isn't about selfishly taking what you want, and because these relationships involve relinquishing control to another person, there is a deep amount of trust required. Also, it is important to note that the power of the dom is an illusion, the sub holds all the power, they say how far it goes, when it stops, what is too much. The key thing is that both of them get something out of it. Which is why the relationship in Fifty Shades of Grey can only be called BDSM when Ana does an abrupt u-turn on her opinions and decides she wants a bit of spankiness. The parts where she is upset about the relationship Christian wants - that is not BDSM. The parts where she reluctantly allows him to get his way - that is not BDSM.
I think there is nothing wrong with BDSM erotica. I think there is nothing wrong with doms, subs, sex slaves, whatever... if that is what the person wants. But Fifty Shades of Grey is about 10% BDSM relationship and 90% bad writing that just fucks with your head until you're not sure what the hell you're reading. Ms James has created one mess of a book, whether you'll look at her mess and see something entertaining or horrific, well that's kinda just like looking at this picture and asking whether you see a rabbit or a duck.
I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I...more I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I can weed out the crap and hopefully find some surprising gems. Here's hoping!
I'm almost tempted to just give Wait for You 5 stars because I haven't laughed this much at a book since I don't even remember when. I'm laughing while writing this review (there's no one else in the house, so that's kinda creepy I guess) and it's really not funny, to be honest. I just... can't. This book. And this author. It's too much. On every level. It makes all the usual cheesy mistakes that a NA contemporary romance tends to do, it uses characters I've seen too many times to count - good girl, reformed bad boy, gay best friend, evil slut who wants reformed bad boy - but it also does something that I don't see too often. Something that brought back memories of a book I read a couple of years ago. A book called Half-Blood. So when I discovered that Ms Lynn is actually the same author using a new name, I couldn't help letting out something halfway between a laugh and a choking sound at the sheer lack of originality in her books.
Half-Blood is, I don't feel unfair in saying, a complete rip-off of Vampire Academy. Please, be my guest, read it if you don't believe me. Tell me that you can't spot all the main characters and scenes being regurgitated with different names. Tell me that the whole pure bloods and half bloods thing isn't taken straight out of Mead's work and planted in another. I would not make this claim lightly because it's a serious thing to accuse someone of, more or less, plagiarism. But I believe that's what it is. And plagiarism is not okay. I don't think quite as serious a claim can be laid against Wait for You, but yet again I see evidence of recycled scenes and characters that tells me on some level, originality has failed to surface in her work once more.
Avery Morgenstern is a new arrival at a college in a town far away from her home. She enters on her first day and walks (literally) into the hottest guy in school. The reformed badboy/playboy/whatever. Everyone wants him. He could have any girl in their college. And yet, for some reason I have been unable to fathom, he only has eyes for Ms clutzy new girl. They naturally find themselves paired together for a class project (astronomy class - which offers much in the way of star-gazing material). He wants her. She says no because she has issues. She's "not like other girls". Needs saving constantly. Blah-de-blah. I've seen this all in a million different things. I don't think I need to point out the glaringly obvious one...
Oh yeah, and did I mention that she meets him and starts going loopy over his muscles on page 2? And I really wish she wouldn't blush so much. What's with so many YA/NA heroines being so prudish? I'm not talking about Avery's personal issues with sex here (I'll get to those later), it doesn't take anywhere near "sex" to make her blush. I understand it when she walks into Cam (hot dude), I would have blushed in school if I'd walked into the hottest guy there. But I don't understand it when she's talking to her friends and they ask her if she thinks a guy's hot. I would have talked shamelessly with my girlfriends about the hotness of guys at twelve years old, never mind nineteen.
Some of the things being thought/said in this novel are ridiculous. Hilarious for a while, but ultimately ridiculous. Cam lays it all out straight away with "I'm used to having girls throw themselves at me" and Jacob (flamboyant gay friend) bursts onto the scene with lines like this "I don't want my fine ass to be tainted by sitting on that floor". They're all like caricatures and I can't take a single one of them seriously. I also wish someone would inform romance authors that petnames suck. I don't care if it's sweetheart or sunshine or baby or kitten *vomits* - they all suck and infantilise women in a way that just irritates me.
"Blood drained from my face and rushed to other parts of my body in a really odd and confusing way."
What exactly is odd or confusing about that? Are you twelve?
Why is this hot: "I'm a lot to handle, but I can assure you, you'll have fun handling me." I've met drunk perverts in bars with better lines than that.
There's some crazy wish fulfillment thing going on here with Cam. He's one of those obscenely beautiful male figures with an arrogant personality that I assume we're supposed to find sexy (and clearly, from the ratings, many people do). But I just found the lines he came out with either cringy or hilarious. Or both. He walks around shirtless most of the time with his perfect muscles rippling (oh my god, I will not miss the endless descriptions of his perfect muscles). A beautiful woman called Steph spends her time hanging all over him with her breasts bursting out of her clothes, and yet he never notices(!). He says things like "Avery Morgansten, we meet again." *eye roll* "We have to stop meeting like this." *eye roll* And I don't know whether this was, for me, the best or worst bit of the novel:
Cam took a bite of his cookie and closed his eyes. A deep sound emanated from his throat - a growl of pleasure. My heart jumped and my cheeks heated even more as I stared at him. He made the sound again, and my mouth dropped open. A row down, a girl turned in her seat, her eyes clouded over.
I laughed so much. It's a cookie! It's a fucking cookie! *Can't. Breathe. For. Laughing.*
Most of what I've said so far has been on the funny side of bad but now I'm going to move onto a couple of things that really bugged me. One was the treatment of Steph's character. I know I sound like a broken record and that fact makes me very sad, but I think it's important to keep pointing out the way women are categorised by their sexuality in so many books. The way flirtatious and sexual women who wear revealing clothes are automatically evil and given no further character development. Steph is that character here. She's the one who Cam hooked up with before Avery ever came on the scene, and she's also the one that gets brushed aside like an old rag who can't possibly have any feelings when Cam decides Avery is a special kind of girl who's worth more than being screwed and dumped. It's okay to screw and dump Steph because she's "that kind of girl". This is Avery telling Cam how she's different from Steph:
"I'm not like that." "Like what?" he asked. So he was going to make me spell it out. Of course. Why not? "I'm not like her." "I don't just hook up with guys for fun, okay?" Thankfully, Cam calls her out on it. Well, he calls her out on the fact that she doesn't even know the girl she's talking about and so she shouldn't jump to hasty conclusions. Fair point. But then there's also that bit where she shouldn't place girls into categories based on how sexually active they like to be (whether she knows them or not).
The other thing that really bugged me was when Jacob asked Avery "are you gay?" because she didn't want to have sex with Cam. It really bothered me that someone was made to feel like they had to be attracted to a certain type of guy because he was soooo pretty. And the only other explanation was that she must be gay? Stupid.
I have one last comment and it's about the dark secret of Avery's past... are we really not supposed to know what's going on? We know she's running away from something. Something a guy called Blaine did to her. Something that makes her have issues with sex and physical contact. Something that made people call her a "whore" and a "liar". Oh, what could it possibly be? Er, no. I can't be the only one who had her "dark secret" pinned from the start, right?
• It's a gorgeously written blend of Beauty and the Beast retelling and Greek mythology. • It's at once a powerful, wonderful, heart-breaking love story and so so much more than that. • It's a dark tale that stabs you in the heart at every turn and constantly throws all new levels of craziness into the mix. • And it's the latest addition to my favourite YA of all time shelf.
Cruel Beauty shouldn't work. But somehow it does. It managed to have me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. It shocked me. It creeped me out. I laughed. I cried. I'm still not sure I understand the ending but I am sure that it doesn't really matter. In short, I loved it. It was one of those rare books that literally glued my eyes to the page, had me devouring each sentence in a mad need to find out what the hell was going on and what would happen. It was a bizarrely beautiful little addiction and I only hope this signifies the start of a great year for young adult (after the last was so disappointing).
So... Nyx. The best books are held aloft by a great protagonist and Cruel Beauty is no exception. Nyx is exactly the kind of character I love. She's strong-willed, witty and brave. She's also angry, bitter and ferocious. She's lived her whole life being prepared as a weapon; and as a sacrifice. Her father made a deal with the Gentle Lord - the evil ruler of their kingdom - before Nyx and her twin sister were born. Their mother had been unable to conceive a child, so their father foolishly asked that the Lord grant them children and promised one of his daughters to the Lord in exchange. But he also lost his wife to childbirth in the bargain. The Gentle Lord's habit of cashing in double on his deals is well-known. Nyx, as the child her father loved less, has long-known her destiny to be the wife of the Gentle Lord. When the times comes, she goes with determination, fear and anger. She does not play by the Lord's rules. She is defiant. She tests his patience. I liked her instantly.
Then there is Ignifex, of course. The Lord that has terrorized their kingdom for centuries. The one who carries the blood of countless innocents on his hands. But, unsurprisingly, things are never quite that simple. What I liked best about Ignifex was his wicked sense of humour. There's nothing quite like a villain who is constantly witty and hilarious. The complex layers of each character in this book just blew my mind, no one is ever simple or cliche. The heroine does plenty of bad things and the evil villain... well, be careful you don't fall in love.
Cruel Beauty was just so unexpected. I thought I knew exactly what it was as soon as I glimpsed the cover, title and GR description. I thought I understood perfectly and I thought I'd probably read countless versions of the same book. How wrong I was. This is honestly quite unlike anything I've ever read before. I liked how everything about the book, the setting, the story and the characters was a bit like one of those Russian dolls. Something else within something else within something else. Then there's that whole haunting bittersweet tone that permeates this entire novel. I swear Ms Hodge has perfected the art of raising goosebumps with a perfectly-spun twist on an old Greek myth. And it just got better and better.
I think this review is more of an incoherent mess of feelings, so I'll stop now before the drooling starts. What I want to know is this: when is the author releasing another book?
So... I realise this might be quite odd, lol, but me and my sister write songs and she sings them. And we wrote a song that was inspired by this book...moreSo... I realise this might be quite odd, lol, but me and my sister write songs and she sings them. And we wrote a song that was inspired by this book and we just uploaded it to youtube if anyone would like to listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saRGQk... We would appreciate any feedback you can give :)
.................................................................................................. “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans.” - Stephen Hawking
The 5th Wave is my first read by Rick Yancey but it certainly won't be my last. This book is an example of what I define as really good science fiction. The sci-fi genre has produced books that I have loved and books that I have hated; I love it in theory, but I am sceptical about it because there is a tendency for the genre to be somewhat... distant. And cold. I don't know how well I can explain this, but sci-fi offers so many exciting things: new technology, aliens, intergalactic battles, etc. but I need something more than that. Perhaps a greater connection with the characters in order for me to be sympathetic towards their situation. Or a touch of some other element like humour or romance. While a novel doesn't always have to be deep and complex for me to enjoy it, I think sci-fi needs to go deeper than simply an alien invasion.
And The 5th Wave does that perfectly. Yancey brings in many different characters - each with very distinct personalities - and explores their individual reactions and experiences after the aliens descend on earth. There's Cassie who has lost almost everything but clings to life with the hope of keeping the promise she made to find her brother. There's Ben Parish who is driven by a desire for revenge against those who murdered his sister, and his own guilt because he was unable to stop them. And there's Evan who may or may not be trustworthy. But there is also an incredible cast of secondary characters too. The emotionally-detached Ringer, Cassie's little brother and Cassie's father - there are no wasted characters here.
But I think the one thing above all else that makes this book so amazingly, nail-bitingly awesome is not the excellent action scenes, the well-developed characters or the moral dilemmas they face; no, it is the sense of never knowing who can be trusted. The author conveys this feeling so well that I became just as tense and suspicious of everyone as the characters were. The aliens can take human bodies, they can look, speak and act exactly like humans - how can the human race win in this situation? How can they form alliances when anyone could be the enemy? Cassie says at one point that it is this lack of trust that is the aliens ultimate weapon; it is that uncertainty which creeps into your mind and makes you wonder if the person sleeping next to you is even human.
Every aspect of this story is told incredibly well, from the action to the characters to the touch of romance. Yancey sets the creepy must-keep-looking-over-your-shoulder mood from the start and keeps it going throughout. His story-telling is superb, whether it's the big, fast-paced, life or death scenes, or the small but equally important events that shape how we view characters and relationships. This book is as mesmerizingly clever as it is addictive and unputdownable. I am so excited for the rest of this series.(less)
Cast your pitchforks aside, I'm going to try and explain. Explain why this book which is lauded by critics but generally hated by goodreads (and many...more Cast your pitchforks aside, I'm going to try and explain. Explain why this book which is lauded by critics but generally hated by goodreads (and many of my friends on the site), criticised as being misogynistic and disgusting and appalling and many other colourfully negative words... was a completely different experience for me. I'm sick of hearing the word but, in the end, it all comes down to interpretation. And I think this book more than most I've read depends on that interpretation. I'm not here to say anyone's wrong, some of my closest GR friends despised this book (you know I love you, Blythe) and hell, I'm the queen of seeing a book in strange ways (remember that awkward time I thought Lolita was a love story) but, for me, this book wasn't sexist at all. For me, it was the very opposite.
For one thing, I don't believe that showing something in a book or showing characters behaving in a certain way makes the book a positive message for such behaviour. I was one of the few who disagreed about League of Strays being homophobic just because some of the characters happened to be. There are people who are homophobic or racist or sexist and I think a book can show that without being a representation of the author's views. I certainly don't think Margaret Atwood believed that women should be treated the way they were in The Handmaid's Tale - in fact, that was the point, right? She was showing the consequences of radical Christianity and feminism in order to criticise it. Characters are not always their authors. Unless, of course, you're reading a John Green book.
Mr Madison seems to be of the exact same opinion as me in this case. His previous book - The Blonde of the Joke - was criticised for having homophobic characters and the author replied:
A writer’s job isn’t to create saintly characters as models of good behavior for readers. Characters without flaws– even, at times, ugly and discomfiting flaws– are bad characters, and bad characters make bad literature. In order to be interesting, characters must sometimes behave in ways we don’t approve of. (The ill-tempered murderer Raskolnikov, racist-mouthed Huck Finn and pill-addled/ego-crazed Neely O’Hara all spring instantly to mind.)
To which I find myself nodding my head. If you're curious about his full response, click the spoiler. (view spoiler)[
I’m the author of The Blonde of the Joke, and although I usually try to let reviews lie, I surely don’t want anyone getting the impression that I intended this book to be homophobic. In fact, I am an open and enthusiastic gay myself!
And although it’s certainly possible to be both gay and homophobic– just as it is of course possible for a novel to carry meaning outside and beyond the intentions of its author– I do think it’s a little unfair to label a book as homophobic simply because the characters use slurs. Characters are characters.
I’d rather not get into a discussion of why the Francie and Val behave the way they do and use the words they do, because I think that those deliberations should be left to the reader. It’s part of the process of reading the book.
But a few questions that I hope readers consider: Why are the girls using these words? What does it say about them and their own relative positions of power that they speak this way? Are Francie and Val homophobes? (Hint: the answers to these questions may be different for each girl!)
When Val reassures herself that her bathroom makeout with Francie is “not a lesbo thing,” what are the implications? Is it realistic that she would think this way?
When Francie dresses as a ho for the supposed benefit of Val’s gay brother, is it because she really thinks she can “turn” him? Either way, what does it say about Francie that she says this?
And let’s say that Francie and Val are indeed at least a little homophobic. Does this mean that they’re not suitable characters for fiction?
The last question is the one I can answer easily: no, it doesn’t. A writer’s job isn’t to create saintly characters as models of good behavior for readers. Characters without flaws– even, at times, ugly and discomfiting flaws– are bad characters, and bad characters make bad literature. In order to be interesting, characters must sometimes behave in ways we don’t approve of. (The ill-tempered murderer Raskolnikov, racist-mouthed Huck Finn and pill-addled/ego-crazed Neely O’Hara all spring instantly to mind.)
Many have suggested to me that a writer of books for young people bears an added responsibility when it comes to matters such as these. After all, mightn’t some impressionable youngster read my book and come away with the notion that it’s okay to go around calling people “fag”?
I mean, possibly, sure. But I give my audience more credit than that, even if it’s largely underage. I have no choice as a writer but to trust that my readers understand that I’m not endorsing any of the questionable behavior that the characters in my book engage in. There’s a lot of it. Besides the occasional homophobic slur, Val and Francie also perpetrate countless feats of extreme shoplifting, indulge in outrageously profligate cigarette-smoking, drink while underage, smoke a little weed, skip class and curse without remorse, and– worst of all in my mind– inflict several cruel and petty betrayals upon each other.
So am I telling teenagers to go out and act this way? Of course not. Am I telling teenagers not to? No, not that either. It’s not my intention as a writer to tell anyone what to do. Everyone can do as he or she pleases. All I ask of anyone who reads my work– teen or otherwise– is to think about it carefully and questions.(hide spoiler)]
Anyway, back to this book. I truly find myself seeing it as the very opposite of sexist/misogynistic. What I saw here was actually a challenge to the way society and other people teach boys to become men, the expectations they place upon them and the misogyny that is openly encouraged. I saw it as a challenge to social constructs of gender, masculinity and femininity. What does it mean to be a man and why? Can a woman be free and independent as well as being a wife and mother? Whilst reading this book, a Gloria Steinem quote came to mind:
“We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
It's this whole idea we have that traditional masculinity is superior and it's far easier to be a woman with masculine traits than it is to be a man with feminine traits. We've begun to accept the "manning up" of modern women, the rise of female ambition and their slow climb to higher paid jobs. It's not ridiculous for women to want a career anymore because that's a masculine - and therefore a positive - pursuit. But the way we treat men who act in a traditionally feminine way might be the biggest hindrance to equality. And Sam (this book's protagonist) is struggling with the expectations placed upon him to "be a man".
I, for one, thought Sam's character development was excellent. He starts off as someone who separates women into categories (e.g. sluts) because of the influence of the society he lives in and his brother, but over time he learns to accept DeeDee simply as herself and not as part of something a patriarchal society has defined, seeing women as individuals on a level that goes beyond physical appearance: "Starting to understand her was less like learning and more like forgetting the DeeDee I'd created in my mind. Now, outside Ursula's, in the grass by the highway, she was just DeeDee. She was only herself." Linking in to what I said about questioning the concept of masculinity, Sam experiences things that are not deemed typically masculine. When DeeDee comes onto him, he admits to being afraid and feeling less of a man for it. The idea of virginal women being scared and anxious is explored in many novels but it is taken for granted that men have no such qualms, that they are only interested in doing the deed. This book allows Sam to be more than a man, it allows him to be human.
I also, unlike many many others, absolutely loved Sam's mother and what her character seemed to be saying about women. Sam tells us how she became obsessed with Facebook and found a group of radical women online who live by the SCUM manifesto. I can see why this could be viewed as a brushing aside of feminism and placing it all under the SCUM umbrella, but that's not what I took from it. I saw it as the author looking at the other side too, the expectations placed on women and the way they are torn over who to be. It's about a woman struggling with what it means to be a woman today, wanting to be a good wife and mother but at the same time confused by radical feminist ideals that tell her she is being exploited in that position.
This is a paranormal book, but that just forms the background of a story which (I feel, anyway) is full of depth and complexity. In my opinion, this is one sophisticated piece of young adult fiction that is guaranteed to continue angering people. It does have very coarse language that may be off-putting for some, as well as graphic sexual content (or talk of it). But this doesn't really bother me.
I've always seen feminism as being the wrong word. My definition of it is about equality and freedom and choice; but the very word itself doesn't say equality, it says we're excluding half the population. For some, it even says "men are the enemy" and there's no wonder people often consider it a dirty word. Because, really, feminism is about both men and women. Patriarchy and sexism place restrictions and expectations on both sexes that are equally damaging. The concepts of masculinity and femininity create misogyny and I believe this book is primarily about the messages delivered to young men and how these men can easily become casually misogynistic through the masculine expectations of them. Evidence of it is everywhere. Groups of teenage boys trying to prove they're each more virile than the next by whistling and catcalling at girls. It's an attitude which is thrust upon them. But this book is also about how they can be more than that.
I've pretty much exhausted myself and I hope I don't get too hated for this review. I feel like finishing with this quote:
"Fuck it," I said. At a certain point, it's just time to be a man. Actually, no. Fuck that too. Being a man is bullshit; maybe trying to 'be a man' had been the problem all along. At a certain point you just have to trust someone. Even if it's only yourself.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This series has come a long, long way from where it started and has managed to shatter boundaries and exceed expectations where, in m...moreAnd... it's over.
This series has come a long, long way from where it started and has managed to shatter boundaries and exceed expectations where, in my opinion, other series like Divergent and Blood Red Road have failed. It started out like almost every other piece of dystopian fiction released in 2011. Some random political facts thrown about, set in a future United States that was torn apart by war, oppressive government in power and, of course, a nice little side order of romance that could *almost* be described as instalove. I confess that the first installment didn't impress me and it took some seriously positive reviews of the second book to make me try it. But I am so glad that I did.
This final book is brimming with action and suspense. The pacing doesn't slow down for a second and it suits the high-stakes plot. The previous book left us with some shocking information about Day that will surely be at the forefront of most readers' minds when picking up this conclusion - it doesn't disappoint. It's true that there were only a limited number of ways this could end but with Lu it doesn't seem to matter because she has your mind constantly running through the options and wondering where she'll take you next. The sense of constant uncertainty instilled in my brain throughout this book was terrifying and intoxicating. It's been a while since I read a book so completely unputdownable.
I also really like the way Lu has developed her characters. For me, June and Day have come a long way and matured so much since book one. This kind of natural growth is realistic, important and perhaps one of the main reasons I enjoy reading young adult so much - watching the characters flourish, become wiser and deal with all the different pressures of life in this difficult period of growing up (doubly so when your country relies on you). Looking back, I have a certain respect for the author in the way she portrayed their initial meeting and the start of their relationship. What seemed like lazy writing, in hindsight, actually seems like Lu deliberately showed the difference in maturity between the relationships of hormonal teens and young adults who've experienced a bit of life. Day and June were far more likeable as a couple in this book than I've ever noticed before.
The last two or three chapters of this book literally had me on the edge of my seat. I couldn't look away. It takes a skilled writer to have you questioning what will happen right up until the last page. And it takes an even more skilled writer to bring tears to my eyes. Sometimes I say books make me cry when I really mean they just get a sniffle and an "awww" out of me... because I'm a cold-hearted person. But this book made my eyes fill up at the end. An ending that I thought was perfectly ambiguous - full of both sadness and hope. Why? Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out.(less)