*Maybe* I am too old for this book. That is one possible explanation. The other possible explanation is that this book really is just kinda lame. And...more*Maybe* I am too old for this book. That is one possible explanation. The other possible explanation is that this book really is just kinda lame. And tame.
Since You've Been Gone tries to be a cutesy summer story about the friendship between two teenage girls. Which was exactly what I wanted. It also tries to be a tale about a girl learning to take chances, be a little rebellious and try new things. Misspent youth and all that jazz. And I can totally get into the excitement of a good-girl-gone-bad story of naughty youth days and craziness, but the problem is that none of the things Emily actually does are particularly exciting or dangerous or rebellious.
This is like the Sunday school version of rebellion.
Not that I expected (or wanted) these kids to start shooting drugs in their basements and holding orgies... but apple picking? Yes, apple-picking makes this very random list of adventurous stuff which Sloane sets for Emily to do. The main problem I encountered in this book was a complete lack of any tension, excitement or general reasons to care. This is likely partially due to the tasks set out for our protagonist - of which kissing a boy is like the be-all and end-all of human existence - but it also has something to do with the very dry narrative. I felt zero connection to Emily and zero interest in Sloane.
Also, did you know that naked bathing is so rebellious these days? Neither did I. I feel somewhat delighted to know that I throw caution to the wind every morning without even leaving the house. Okay, I'm joking. So Emily and some friends go skinny-dipping...
Now, actually standing in front of the water and contemplating swimming in it naked — with my friends — things were no longer seeming quite so simple.
Okay, so maybe it's me. But I just don't think swimming naked in some water with your close friends makes you a rebel. Call me a tramp. Maybe it's just because I have the kind of close friends who would (and do) crazy dance around my room in their birthday suits. Or maybe it's because Emily built it up to be such a HUGE thing, edging up to the water with a towel around her, freaking out constantly. Why should I care? You took your clothes off and got in the water - go you! I still don't care.
I don't feel the need to give you much more than the description when it comes to the plot - basically, Emily's friend (Sloane) disappears suddenly and stops answering Emily's calls and texts. All Emily has is a list that Sloane left behind, a list of tasks for Emily to complete. Which she does, one by one, hoping they'll lead her to Sloane. It was a quick read that I managed to get through but it was disappointing. The writing and characters felt flat to me and the attempts at rebellion were unexciting. Lastly, I thought the ending was rushed and made the whole thing seem even more pointless. The story felt wrapped up too neatly and nicely, when some of the final reveals warranted a more dramatic handling, in my opinion.
The Blurb: Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summe...moreThe Blurb: Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.
The Reality: Privileged, boring, 16-year-old girl (who's "voice" sounds closer to 12) feels sorry for herself because her sister's boyfriend doesn't want her. Until he does. Conclusion? There is none. Just a lot of faffing about, moronically pining, and an inconclusive non-ending.
2014 Contemporary YA sucks. So many books I've been looking forward to have let me down. Other books that I've taken a chance on have also let me down. Honestly, where are the sophisticated but no less realistic and dramatic voices of authors like Melina Marchetta or Courtney Summers? Why does every YA narrator have the same recycled, immature narrative voice? I am seriously starting to wonder if Young Adult has ran its course. My reading of the past few years has been defined by trends in YA; I've been propelled towards dystopias and fantasy novels with teen protagonists and I've loved, hated, laughed, cried and obsessed. Now I have to wonder: has the "genre" finally ran out of steam?
To All the Boys I've Loved Before is about a girl called Lara Jean who's been crushing on her sister's boyfriend since before they were together. Her sister, Margot, will soon be leaving for college so she breaks up with said boyfriend - Josh - leaving him behind and single and oh so heartbroken. Then there's the other part of this story: Lara Jean has written love letters to all her past crushes (5). Never sent them, of course, just written down the emotions and angst as a kind of release. Now a mysterious someone (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] has sent all her letters to the respective crushes, including Josh.
Obviously, Lara Jean is mortified and decides to deal with the embarrassment by pretending to be in a relationship with one of the recipients who has some issues of his own - Peter. Drama ensues. Josh changes his mind. Lara Jean starts to think that maybe she has feelings for Peter. But does Peter have feelings for her?
It amazes me how little Lara Jean seems to realise that it's kinda weird for her to seriously pursue a relationship with her sister's ex. But whatever, it's not like that's my main problem with this book. My main problem is Lara Jean herself. She is immature, naive, silly, spoiled and behaves (and thinks) a lot younger than she actually is. I guess there's a fine line between innocence and annoying, upper middle class ignorance, but I find that Lara Jean is heading towards the latter. I know teenagers tend to have a silly obsession with boys (or girls, whatever) but her narrative voice is so childish, whiny and uninteresting that it's hard to sympathise with her at any point.
And she never learns, never develops, never grows. Time and life experiences have come and gone by the time this novel ends, but LJ is the same old girl. Forever lacking in charisma.
You are so cool. My name is Laurel and I go to High School but I am still going to talk to you in the passive, immature voice of a...moreDear Famous Person,
You are so cool. My name is Laurel and I go to High School but I am still going to talk to you in the passive, immature voice of a 10 year old and then occasionally break out into beautiful metaphors about the sparkles in Sky's eyes and how just one glance from him makes fireflies dance in my stomach (or something equally nauseating beautiful).
"There is something fragile like moths inside of him, something fluttering. Something trying desperately to crowd toward a light. May was a real moon who everyone flocked to. But even if I am only Sky’s street lamp, I don’t mind."
That's right. Sky is great! And Sky is awesome! And fuck everything else because, looky there, it's Sky!
p.s. This book is actually all about the deep grief I feel after my sister's death. I know that may be surprising when all I actually do is pull the petals off flowers and wonder if Sky loves me. ____________________________________________
You know, this book is actually almost exactly like the diaries I wrote when I was about 10/11 years old. I didn't write to famous people, I wrote the entries to a made up name so it was like I was talking to someone who was there just for me. Because, well, Anne Frank did it and I thought it was totally cool! Honestly, it's a mystery why I wasn't one of the popular kids in school.
I would write in fragmented sentences that walked the unfortunate reader through my day, until I would suddenly get a burst of inspiration and philosophize about life in that all-knowing way which only young teens who know absolutely nothing about life can manage.
Here's the thing, though. There's a real good reason why most people don't publish their diaries: because who wants to hear about your boring-ass high school day or how freaking hot that dude called Sky is? If this book was attempting to be a realistic portrait of an annoying teen without a personality - mission accomplished.
Frankly - here comes the controversial statement - this has to be the most emotionally manipulative book since The Fault in Our Stars. Laurel's sister has died so she deals with all her thoughts and feelings by writing letters to different dead people - inc. Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Judy Garland. Guess who the last dead person letter is to? Go on, guess.
And Laurel's personality is nowhere to be seen. Her letters are written in short, disjointed sentences with no sense of emotion coming through at any point. No sadness for her sister. No actual chemistry between her and Sky. It's just words, and not great words at that. She, like me, pauses in the middle of the childish narrative to wax poetic about something (probably to do with Sky). She is constantly defined by other people - what she thinks of Sky, her friends and the famous people. Who is this girl that everyone seems to fall in love with? Not a clue. ________________________________________________
Dear wasted time,
I apologise for not reading something less trite, immature and manipulative.
The more I consider every note I made for this book, the more I wonder if three stars is too generous. But I will stick to my initial instinct because there were things to really LOVE about this book. In fact, I was completely falling in love for at least the first quarter and I kept making excuses for it in my head even when everything started to go downhill. This was *almost* the wonderful Summer read I've been seeking, complete with friendship, romance and humour. Almost, though, doesn't quite cut it.
What are your reading pet peeves? You know what I mean - I think we all have them. Maybe it's love triangles. Maybe it's cliffhangers. Maybe it's instalove. For me, though, my number one hate is girls slut-shaming other girls. Girls who insult other women for having a sexuality, for liking the boys that they also like, for dressing in a provocative way or for just being physically attractive. It's so backward, unnecessary and often hypocritical (as is the case in this novel). It turns me off the protagonist - or whoever's doing it - almost instantly. And there's only so much bitchiness I can attribute to the perpetrator's personal issues before I just start to hate them.
This book started so well I thought it might get five stars. That's how strongly the opening chapters lured me in. The key things I liked about this book were: the central friendship between Reagan and Dee, the romantic interest - Matt, and the multitude of beautiful settings in this road trip. I felt like I could hear the opening chords of Keith Urban's Long Hot Summer as Reagan and Dee set out on the road after being introduced to the reader in a way that made me curious and instantly sympathetic towards the narrator. This book would have hardly revolutionized the YA Contemporary market, but it did seem to promise an enjoyable and memorable read.
As you might have predicted, my dislike of girl/girl hate is interlinked with the complete opposite - my absolute love for close female friendships. Which is what Reagan and Dee have. Dee is a rising star on the Country music scene, writing music to deal with her emotions whilst simultaneously smiling for the crowds and cameras. She's hurting inside and Reagan may be the only one who truly understands:
The fans scream for her, but they don’t really know the girl on the magazine covers - the girl with the guitar and the easy smile. Her given name is Delilah, and they think she goes by Lilah. But anyone who really knows my best friend calls her Dee. They think she’s seventeen, and she is. But she never acts seventeen. She acts either thirty years old, like a composed professional, in record-label meetings and interviews, or twelve years old, with me - giggling like we did back when she still had braces, back when our summer plans were nothing more than sleepovers and swimming at the pool. They think she wrote the songs on this album while getting over a breakup. But they’re wrong. She’s not over it. Not even close.
It takes a really skilled author to make you feel sympathetic towards a rich, successful and beautiful starlet from a loving family, but somehow I felt totally caught up in the claustrophobia of Dee's life. I felt the pain she experienced at having her personal life publicly dissected. And I liked her character a lot.
I also liked Matt - the love interest of this novel. He was balanced between realistic, sweet and sexy. The author could have made him a douchey bad boy - something which is so typical of this genre - but she instead gave me a character I could love. Despite my criticisms of this novel, I understand where the blogger hype stems from. But I could not like Reagan and, after a while, I didn't even have the energy to care about her. And no matter how good a book is, if you don't care about the protagonist, it will never be a complete hit.
To start with, I did like Reagan. Or I felt sympathy towards her situation. Her mum left her when she was really young, her dad turned to alcohol to comfort himself, she was bullied in school, and she ended up going further and further down a path to destruction. I get why she has issues and I used them to excuse a lot of her actions and thoughts for the first half of the book. I just don't think those issues justified her hating every single girl except Dee. Some of her inner dialogue really pissed me off:
I can’t deny that she’s beautiful—but it’s such an uninteresting beautiful. Medium height, slender, with no features that particularly stand out. Beautiful but forgettable. Besides, based on the fact that she sold their breakup story to the tabloids, I assume she has the personality of a trash bag.
Each time she would say/think something like this, I would try and play it down as being because her mum left or because she's had a tough time. The truth: Reagan became just like the majority of Contemporary Romance MCs - a girl with issues hates all other girls because she's so superior. And she almost always hates them for doing the stuff she also did, like obsessing over Matt and wearing revealing shirts.
But it is true that this book was a compelling, well-written read that I devoured in no time at all, so I cannot be wholly negative. In short: I feel majorly conflicted.
This is like The Parent Trap, if it was set in the Middle East and had a nice big side order of instalove.
And let me tell you, I tried so bloody hard...moreThis is like The Parent Trap, if it was set in the Middle East and had a nice big side order of instalove.
And let me tell you, I tried so bloody hard to love this book. I was hoping The Fire Wish would make waves in Young Adult and perhaps - if we were really lucky - pave the way for an influx of exciting, non-western, non-white, YA fantasy. I mean, this is set in the Middle East. I don't even know any other fantasies that are set in the Middle East. The potential for this book was huge - a brand new setting to explore different kinds of mythology and culture; the ability to use a setting which will be incredibly foreign to most of the book's readers - and the power to use this untapped landscape to tell a very different kind of story. This book could have been so unique.
It started well, hence the extra star in the rating. Lough sets the scene beautifully and had me staring at the pages like the glittery-eyed tourist I so totally am.
A cavern, as huge as a mountain turned inside out, curved up around me. A waterfall fell from a gap in the Cavern wall and poured into a canal that ended at a bubbling, flashing lake. Fire twisted in the air above the dark water. In every direction, thousands of tiny homes dotted the cavern’s sides, each lit with lamps. The jinni kingdom glittered.
Are you captivated? So was I.
My knowledge of Jinni mythology is virtually non-existent so I was hooked and ready to discover more about this exciting world. To tell you a bit about the story, it is set between two worlds - that of the "real" world in Baghdad and that of the Jinni kingdom. In this story, the Jinni are at war with the humans and things are becoming increasingly heated. The humans believe the Jinni are evil, soulless creatures and the Jinni have been terrorized by humans for centuries. Into this world, come our protagonists - Najwa and Zayele. The former is a Jinni spy, sent to observe Prince Kamal. The latter is a sixteen-year-old human girl who is being forced into an arranged marriage with the Prince. In a chance encounter, Zayele is able to touch Najwa and demand a wish - a wish that sees the two girls switching places and experiencing the other's life.
I found the premise of this book really interesting: the war between the humans and the Jinni, the way each girl would have to adapt to the life they'd been thrown into, the fear that they may be found out... but the reality was quite different.
There is no excitement, no tension, surrounding the possibility of a devastating war between the humans and Jinni. There is no mystery, no suspense, no reveals I couldn't guess a hundred pages before. I was never scared that they might be discovered. I was, however, annoyed at Najwa's weakness and stupidity, irritated by Zayele being a complete bitch to almost every other girl she meets - frankly, I would call her behaviour at some parts of the book nothing short of bullying - and so uninterested in the instaromance that I almost fell asleep halfway through.
Once the excitement of the new kind of setting and the Jinni wears off, this book becomes about Najwa and Zayele both falling for the men the other was supposed to be with. The literal instalove of Zayele and Atish's relationship was the most nauseating - even though Zayele looks the same as Najwa, Atish suddenly looks at her with love for the first time (on the first day that they meet). Najwa's romance with Kamal is slightly less annoying, but it still becomes the focus of Najwa's chapters. She constantly wonders about Mr Hot Stuff, then is annoyed at herself for thinking about it. She gets deep inner knowledge from looking into his eyes when they've known each other less than a week. It's not just that this book became all about romance, it became all about two crappy romances that I didn't care about.
It got to a point where I ran out of excuses for this book. I kept trying to tell myself that I liked it more than I did because, damn, I wanted to! It was just about a month ago that I was sat in my college class called "The Making of Modern South Asia" and I said to my friend: "Wouldn't it be cool if someone wrote a really good fantasy and set it in the Middle East or India?"... It would be cool. I'm still waiting for it.
It's only in hindsight that we can point, as easily as finding a town on a map, to the moments that shaped us - the moments when choices between yeses and nos determined the people we became.
I have no illusions. Even knowing everything, I would have chosen the same.
This is very Gatsby-ish. I think this is also exactly what I wanted from Breakfast Served Anytime - a book that recently disappointed me. Because this book is all wistfulness and nostalgia. It's about growing up and changing, and those times in your life that you remember with a combination of warmth and sadness. I'm not sure if this book will appeal to the masses because there's a certain... meaninglessness to the main story. It's about a time in the protagonist's life that is over now, that came and went and left an impression on her for maybe reasons she can't really explain. It's about not regretting having something at a certain time, even if you knew you were going to lose it eventually.
I love well-executed past tense. I think it can be used in such a way to create a kind of sad inevitability to the story's events. You might think that it would drain some of the tension out, but there's something pulse-poundingly engaging about witnessing the inevitable happen in a story. There's nothing you can do about it, it's set in stone and completely unchangeable, and that fact elicits a powerful emotional response from me. If you liked the past tense storytelling of books like Unteachable, you might just love this one too.
"I don't belong here, Sebastian. I'm just a visitor who stayed too long."
The Gatsby element works wonderfully. Charlotte is a normal girl with a scholarship, playing in the strange twinkly world of the rich. One night, she helps out one of the wealthy, popular girls at her boarding school - Julia Buchanan - and she finds herself dragged into an entirely different life. She sees how the other half lives. She gets roped into the complex family drama and history of the Buchanans... it's an intoxicating whirlwind for both Charlotte and the reader. It has all the feverish intensity of misspent youth... lust, love, anxiety, yearning and uncertainty.
I liked how all the characters are just a little complicated, fucked up and *almost* unlikable. As Charlotte notes:
I was becoming that girl. The one who drops all her old friends when a new, exciting one comes around. I knew what I was doing and I couldn't help myself. I didn't want to.
I should hate a character like Charlotte. But it was so easy to get caught up in the atmosphere of the novel, to be seduced by Julia Buchanan and the exciting world she promised. Even if I didn't agree with what Charlotte did, I could understand. Maybe when I was younger and stupid even I would have done the same. The tragic inevitability of this story is like that of Gatsby's. And this book's musical pairing has to be The Moth by Aimee Mann: "The Moth don't care when he sees the flame, he might get burned but he's in the game." Charlotte knew her days with the Buchanans were numbered and that she never really belonged in their world. We are told it didn't work out from the start. I already knew that it was going to come to an end. But for me, like for Charlotte, that didn't matter; I fell in love anyway.
This book is one crazy, intoxicating whirlwind of sadness. I loved it.