I wish I could write like David Levithan. This is a fantastic book of Y.A. short stories about love. Good, bad,ugly, indifferent, redemptive. Lesbian,I wish I could write like David Levithan. This is a fantastic book of Y.A. short stories about love. Good, bad,ugly, indifferent, redemptive. Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Queer, and straight. Most of the stories feature teenage or college protagonists, but one or two are about older couples.
The writing really captures the open-hearted, self-conscious, obsessive, un-selfaware, romantic yet cynical quality of the teenage voice. Most of the stories have a hopeful optimism to them in the end, but despite that there's bitter-sweet sadness to much of the writing. It infuses the interior space of the characters adults and teenagers alike, all aching to be whole, to be truly heard and felt and understood. And who cannot relate to that?
There are some repeating themes: proms, and unlikely cupids, first meetings, coincidences. Nearly all the stories are great, but Starbucks Boy, The Alumni Interview, and The Good Witch, stood out for me. And my absolute favourites, the two that made me cry big time, were: Princes and The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes. The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes in particular took a really startling and beautiful turn in the second half of what was already a great story.
Although I have read quite a few adult books with young trans protagonists I have never before seen a YA book with a trans lead, and so I was really iAlthough I have read quite a few adult books with young trans protagonists I have never before seen a YA book with a trans lead, and so I was really intrigued by The Art of Being Normal as it seemed to be, potentially, a totally unique book. Even more so after seeing the stunning cover artwork, reading the synopsis, and flicking through a few random excerpts.
I loved the opening hook of the book where David reveals that he has always wanted to be a girl. It’s funny and authentic, but also sad and marks him as an outsider, so really sets the tone for the rest of the story. The book has 2 narrators: David and Leo, whose POVs are distinguished by slightly different fonts - a great design idea - and their differing teenage voices, David, nervous but optimistic, Leo, hard nosed, with an edge of cynical humour. Both voices feel engaging and authentic from the outset. The first half of the book focuses more on Leo and the writing is characterful and intriguing. As the story moved into the world of teenage parties and romances I felt it might become a typical YA tale about outsiders who become friends, with less focus on the trans stuff. How wrong I was, near the middle, the story takes a suprising turn that made it much deeper and more interesting. And, as David and Leo’s characters get to know each other, it becomes a personal and heartfelt piece and our understanding of them really deepens. I found their conversation at the derelict swimming pool very moving and beautifully done, really erring on the side of subtlety in what could have been an overplayed moment. There were many scenes like this during the second half of the story, where I worried things could get too dramatic, but Lisa WIlliamson does a fantastic job, creating quiet intense moments with a light touch and mixing bittersweet or dark events with the lighter funnier YA material about friendship, so that everything feels balanced just right.
It is a brillaintly plotted book with lots of fun details and I enjoyed the little nods to Twelfth Night and Mermaids etc and loved the Cinderella elements of the ending. I really think young trans and queer readers need their share of these type of YA stories, and more of them, so this books is a brilliant and unique addition to that genre. ...more
A funny, frank, and straightforward guide for teenagers to everything LGBT. This is such a good idea for a book and I wish it had been around when I wA funny, frank, and straightforward guide for teenagers to everything LGBT. This is such a good idea for a book and I wish it had been around when I was growing up. It covers all sorts of issues from questioning your sexuality, to coming out, to school bullying, to the gay scene, to youth clubs etc, to gay sex, to trans issues, to notes to parents of LGBT teens.
Basically everything a teenager would have questions about when realizing your L G B or T and having no one to talk to about the nitty gritty of it all. And it does so in a witty and friendly voice, with loads of quotes and asides from all kinds of people about their lives and aspirations as LGBT folks.
It's straightforward and matter of fact, and it ends on a holistic note about not letting yourself become all about your LGBT identity or becoming ghettoised in that culture but also being who you are and blossoming in other areas of your life. But obviously in a much more kid-friendly and hip way than I've just expressed it!
There are so many great mentions of LGBT heroes and role models or iconic LGBT texts and films etc scattered throughout the book, that I hoped at the end there would be a list of them all, and there was, which was great. I think it's so important for young people to know about these famous and successful figures and their work, artists and creatives and scientists and politicians and sports people who were or are gay - because that part is always the part that people omit in bios etc. or at school in history of social studies. And when you're young and LGBT its so important to see those flourishing figures. My one issue was the list was very contemporary and British and it would've been nice to add a few figures from history and few more international folks to the list. Also Tilda, but no Derek jarman? But it is a great book and I think any young person who read it would find all the asides and the information an incentive to investigate whatever they found interesting further....more
In the freezing cold ocean a boy struggles to keep his head above water, but the sea is strong and pulls him under. He drowns. Then wakes, alone, in aIn the freezing cold ocean a boy struggles to keep his head above water, but the sea is strong and pulls him under. He drowns. Then wakes, alone, in an empty street in a derelict town in England, the only human left on Earth. How can this be? Is he in the after life, or limbo? Or is this somehow a figment of his dying imagination? And what’s even odder, he knows this street from before. . .
Structure-wise, More Than This is very similar to The Knife of Never Letting Go - a teenage boy discovering secrets about his past in a world which is entirely alien to him, meeting allies, and being pursued by a dark figure. In fact, it has the same chase-and-catch structure of Knife, the same concrete real-time adrenaline pumping storyline that gradually doles out secret pieces of the past.
There are also thematic similarities to Knife: an exploration of interior thoughts vs exterior world through science fiction; the same interest in the way thoughts and the world bleed together and interact. In More Than This, however, these ideas seem to work much more directly than in Knife. In Knife it’s like thoughts are a magic ESP that characters possess, whereas in More Than This there is the hint that thoughts (or consciousness) is what the world is made of, and perhaps the story you create from your random experience is all there is. Is the ‘more than this’.
I love the directness of Patrick Ness’s writing, his urgent cinematic style where we are over the shoulder of our lead character - Seth - and stay with him only. It is the perfect way to tell the story of a character questioning the nature of reality; lost in a world he doesn’t understand. To stay close to Seth and his thoughts is probably the only way that you can tell this tale because the most important thing is that we do not know more than he does. We are learning with him, and have no concrete answers to the question of whether there’s an external reality at all or whether this is a dream taking place in his mind.
Patrick Ness is brilliant at having Seth think his way through problems, reason and consider both sides of an issue, and even when his friends, Tomasz and Regine, give him answers or help him out he questions the nature of their advice, even questions whether they and the driver (the villain of the piece) exist. This is a great post-modern way to undercut the problem of some of the scifi cliches that come up in a chase and catch plot, that at points is in danger of becoming Terminator meets The Matrix, and also keep things on an unsteady keel.
I love the depiction of Seth’s relationship with Gudmund in ‘the past’. The fact he is a gay hero in a scifi-ish novel, but also that that is only a part of his loneliness and his self, a fragment of it, and not what the story is solely about.
I also love it when a character like Seth, who feels alive, thinking and autonomous, suddenly questions the nature of their reality, and you, the reader, feel they are conscious of you and at any moment may work out that they are in a novel.
When Seth first questions the convenience of certain things in the story and whether Regine and Thomas are really real, I thought this was what he meant. And perhaps there is a playful hint of this all the way through, although maybe I am reading that wrong? Seth only exists, in that stream of words, while he’s telling himself the story, or is that the story being read? Just as you only exist when your brain is telling your story to you, and perhaps the ambiguous ending hints at these things too?...more
Thom is a boy who has to come out to his ex-superhero, now hero hating dad, Hal as both a superhero and gay. Can he find love and his place in the worThom is a boy who has to come out to his ex-superhero, now hero hating dad, Hal as both a superhero and gay. Can he find love and his place in the world and master his healing superpowers?
It's a nice idea for a story and it did have a few good moments, but the writing is terrible. No description of anything, including the flat characters, especially the superheroes and villains who feel made up on the spot at the moment they arrive in the story. Plot holes. Massive chunks of exposition as Thom remembers his past, aided by photos or just on seeing someone or for no reason at all. Massive chunks of exposition as all the secondary characters sit down with Thom one by one and explain their backstories and what their issues are. Action scenes that read like a movie script, all ADD and hyperbole. We're supposed to care about Thom's parents and Goran, his love interest, despite the fact that their characters are barely developed in the story. Ruth, Thom's mentor, is the only character I thought was interestingly drawn and even she isn't given much detail. And yet, despite all this, I did care about Thom, he is a sympathetic character really trying hard to understand himself and be understood by those around him. It's jut that everyone else in the story is, insane, violent and macho, and everyone's value is graded on these things.
The ending and the themes of the story made me sad, especially after reading a little about the author. Because of his super power Thom has to basically suck up everyone else's pain and deal with it, while they either behave like assholes towards him or like homophobic assholes, and the moral is he must try to fit in to this world and 'understand' all these spandex fascist nut-bars, basically assimilate and play their game to get on rather than look after and stand up for himself. After all that happens, after the terribly written conclusion, Thom finds love in the end, but I didn't really buy that either as the main point of the book as, like everything that happens, it is given such little development up until the point it occurs....more
The life of Achilles told from the point of view of his lover Patroclus and focusing on the love between them. The book takes in some episodes of AchiThe life of Achilles told from the point of view of his lover Patroclus and focusing on the love between them. The book takes in some episodes of Achilles childhood and youth, as well as creating a story for Patroclus, and then goes on to the siege of Troy and the events of the Iliad.
The dialogue and some of the scenes are a bit cheesy. The scenes between Achille's mother and Patroclus in particular, feel like they're from a modern soap or gay character drama, as well as a few other scenes with modern analogies -such as the celebrity scene where Achilles arrives to meet the Greek army.
I really enjoyed the early chapters, about Patroclus's past and his developing love with Achilles. Later when it gets to the Trojan war and there is some overlap with the Iliad, I wasn't quite so into it, the Iliad is not one of my favourite stories. Though Madeleine Miller give a great slant to the events with Patroclus's anti-war sentiment and attempts to save people vs Achilles sudden blood lust and moody teenage behaviour, I didn't feel that Achilles character really developed into more than the movie-star-hero object of affection and the relationship with Patroclus didn't deepen as much as I hoped. Having said that, the way that both characters change is done well and is also in keeping with the stories of the iliad, which have to be accommodated. There were also some great scenes with Odysseus and I hope that after this she writes an update of the Odyssey too....more
I really enjoyed this book. The tale of Grayson Perry - the artist and transexual potter - growing up in suburban Essex. His childhood and teenage stoI really enjoyed this book. The tale of Grayson Perry - the artist and transexual potter - growing up in suburban Essex. His childhood and teenage story is pretty interesting and I often wished that the book had gone into more detail about parts of that, especially the feel of the places, but it gave great detail to the family characters. The book ended soon after his graduation from art school and I wish it had carried on a bit longer, taking us through the early years of his career as a working artist. I thought he was a character of quirky and opposing interests, dressing up, cross-dressing, mechanical repairs, pottery, imaginary worlds, S&M. It was interesting also to see connections with Boy George and Marilyn - he lived in some of the same squats as them in London. All in all it was a quick, easy read and I got through it in a day. It reminded me a little of Toast by Nigel Slater and he even used the same metaphor at one point - how love is making warm buttered toast for someone....more
The book is about love, myth and stories. Interactive stories written between Ali, the writer, and her lover, a married lady who she meets online everThe book is about love, myth and stories. Interactive stories written between Ali, the writer, and her lover, a married lady who she meets online every night. Together they are writing the story of their courtship, or is it mostly Ali?
I loved this book. The prose is sparse but it's beautifully written, like poetry, and the descriptions of Paris, Capri and London are almost like walking in these places on a summer's evening. There is the stylised dialogue and sparring wordplay between the lovers, I guess meant to symbolise online conversations, at least the ones a clever writer might have. And as usual there is something about Jeanette's childhood and once again a few great Mrs Winterson-type scenes with her mother. There are also fairytales and myths about love, all retold to feature elements of Ali and her lover's story. But, in the end, the book is as much about love itself, love of life and stories and places, as it is about the nebulous relationship around which it centres....more