“An evil librarian is taking over the school. He appears to be making my best friend his special evil library monitor.”
Come on. You HAVE to continue“An evil librarian is taking over the school. He appears to be making my best friend his special evil library monitor.”
Come on. You HAVE to continue reading after that, right? Especially if you are a book nerd with a penchant for hot librarians
Yes, this does have that Buffy feel to it. Sorta. But Cyn is no Buffy, not really. She is just an average girl who really really loves her best friend and would save her from becoming a demon child bride---who wouldn't do that for their BFF? Of course in this situation I would most likely be the BFF who would totally fall for the aforementioned evil librarian than the one doing all the ass kicking and I guess I'm okay with that. I'm kind of lazy.
What was also endearing was Cyn's crush on the high school musical star, Ryan.
“He said my name. He knows what my name is. He spoke it out loud and used it in a sentence.”
Oh, and yes... I have been there. I remember the loins calling out and the secret stalking and the wow. Especially the wow.
The story is clever in its writing but not earth shattering, it was a cute quick read and made me miss my Buffy days. Or, my Willow days because I was more like that (until she became that bad ass witch--hello??!! corsets!!!!).
I say give it a shot. GMBA gave it a finalist spot and they are usually pretty good at catching worthy YA reads.
"Everything popular is wrong” so writes Oscar Wilde, and why wouldn’t he? The snarky bastard. He was in a mood, of course. He wanted to be adored, rig "Everything popular is wrong” so writes Oscar Wilde, and why wouldn’t he? The snarky bastard. He was in a mood, of course. He wanted to be adored, right? Who doesn’t really? Isn’t that the angst of it all? Who hates me? Will I be the freak du jour today? Oh shit, the head cheerleader is talking to me, what the hell?
High school was not the best time for me… believe it or not. I was shy and therefore considered a bitch because I stared at the ground, hiding behind my 7 inch bangs and never making eye contact. I wore black, spoke softly and read a lot of books. I had a group of friends and we were the outcasts, listening to Joy Division and Minor Threat and The Smiths and The Dead Kennedys…our view was skewed, yes.. but after getting spit on at pep rallies or tripped in hallways we needed to be skewed… whatever.. it’s high school.. get over it. (I can say this 25 odd years later but now I have two kids in middle school and my stomach turns every day at the thought of what they have to endure… kids are fucking mean).
This book is no different than other coming of age stories. There is a protagonist who has to find out who he truly wants to be. There are peer pressure issues; there are judgments and misconstrued intentions. Except in this story it’s not Cinderelly getting her slipper on, it’s Charming wanting to be Quasimodo.
Liam is the son of Cindy Crawford and Bill Gates… or the fictionalized versions of them. He lives in Westchester… he looks like his mom… he grew up on Paris runways and New York Fashion weeks… We should hate him, right? He’s beautiful, he’s rich, he’s… beautiful and rich. Um… and popular. Yes, he is popular. But, remember…this book is called King of the Screwups… there’s some meat in here.
Liam considers himself the ultimate fuck up. He can’t say the right thing, he barely squeaks by in his classes, he is constantly finding himself in exactly the wrong spot (like lying on your father’s desk with the president of the national honor society half naked on top of you and being so drunk that you hurl all over his office). Yes, Liam is to blame.. he doesn’t get off that easy… he made these choices… he accepts that he’s a screw up and therefore he feels worthless.
I think that this is where we can all relate. Who doesn’t ever feel worthless? I mean how many of us are THAT well adjusted to say that they have never had that feeling? If you’ve listened to The Smiths, that automatically disqualifies you… put your hand down now.
Liam gets shipped off to live with his cross dressing Auncle Pete in a trailer park in buttfuck county. He feels lucky to be here, this or with his militant grandparents, well.. take the plastic flamingos any day, right? Here he decides that he will not screw up… He will be UNpopular. Yeah, that’s an insult to all us freaks, right? C’mon… like we haven’t already judged this hot, well coiffed rich boy..and now he wants to be LIKE U S? Riiiiight… keep walkin’ boy…
I would have thought that, except this kid is so damn SINCERE. I mean… there are times I just want to slap his perfectly sculpted cheekbones and un-tousle his bronze copper colored hair (yeah, that’s a 50 shades reference right there).
Liam tries so hard to be uncool… he wants to be considered studious and most of all he wants to impress his dad.. which is what the whole gist of this story is… the nature vs nurture argument… Liam is a product of his mother… he gets fashion, he gets how to get your point across by just looking a certain way. His dad thinks he is useless and doesn’t mince words telling him so. As we get to know Liam, we see that everything that drives this poor kid is only to please his bastard of a father.
Been there, tried that. Except, my dad was nowhere near anything that should be impressible. I was a fool and Liam is too. He is scarred by this overwhelming need to be something he’s not. Man, that sucks. I feel for the kid.
“You can’t create love, you just have to take it where you can find it.”
It’s 7:55am. I’m at the light at Susie Wilson Road. (Local folklore states that Susie Wilson was the town Madam. Bit of trivia for you there…) I wokeIt’s 7:55am. I’m at the light at Susie Wilson Road. (Local folklore states that Susie Wilson was the town Madam. Bit of trivia for you there…) I woke up 10 minutes ago, showered, dropped my kid off at school and here I wait. I hate this light. I hate driving. Most of all, I hate vanity plates. ‘GOTHAM1’ is in front of me. A blue mid 2000s Durango. I’m sure that Batman would be honored. I wonder if other superhero fans nod or finger pistol the driver like there is some sort of unspoken clubhouse sign that shows solidarity. You know, like when bus drivers or bikers wave to each other? Maybe he has the bat symbol on his headlights or a set of wonder twin rings in the glove box. ‘GOTHAM1’ is not like its namesake. It takes a good 20 seconds for it to ease up on the gas at the light. I wonder if there is a ‘GOTHAM2’ somewhere and if their avatars bunk together.
I chastise myself for being so hackneyed in my reveries. Who am I to judge? I read vampire books and watch the CW (on occasion).
Still… I was never a full out geek. When I say ‘geek’, I’m talking physics geeks, mathematics geeks, engineering geeks, sci-fi geeks, computer geeks, various science geeks, movie and film geeks (cinephile), comic book geeks, theater geeks, music geeks (including band geeks), art geeks, philosophy geeks, literature geeks, historical reenactment geeks, video game geeks, roleplay geeks. Whovians, cyberpunk geeks, steampunk geeks, Trekkies, Jedis, D&D, BSG, TMNT, HPRP, LARP, MMORPG, GED/J d-- s:++>: a--C++(++++) ULU++ P+ L++E---- W+(-) N+++ o+ K+++ w--- O-M+ V--PS++>$ PE++>$Y++ PGP++ t-5+++ X++ R+++>$tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G+++++ e++ h r--y++**,LOTR, Buffys, Wesleys, RHPS, "bright young man (or woman) turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his(her) own planet that he (she) routinely traveled to the ones invented by his(her) favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his(her)computer took him (her) to as cyberspace—somewhere exciting, a place more real than his(her) own life, a land he(she) could conquer, not a drab teenager's room in his(her)parents' house." (as defined by Julie Smith (not sure if they meant the soft core porn actress or the mystery novelist)).
Okay, now that I’ve offended a great deal of people who are furiously hunting down my IP address and inserting many a virus to my account, I will get to the point. (yes, there is one)
I am a booknerd. A proud one. I haven’t given into the ‘man’ yet and bought a Kindle or a Nook or Ipad or whatever. I still haul around 2-3 books and notebooks everywhere I go. I juggle coffee and hardcovers on shuttle buses and never (NEVER) pass a bookshop without checking it out. I feel a kinship with the geeks. (“Ohhh. Great warrior. Wars not make one great.”) I really do.
Geektastic is the neutral zone for booknerds and geeks (yes, there are many that are one in the same and kudos to you if you are, you will long rule middle earth or something.) 15 stories about teen angst written in the geek narrative. There is the classic Romeo and Juliet (Jedi Apprentice and Klingon-respectively)tale where ComiCon is the new Verona.
There is a raver of a Role Playing party hosted by a polyamorous middle aged Xena at her lakeside condo where Catherine Earnshaw hopes to meet Heathcliff but instead falls for Mr. Kool-Aid who really turns out to be Heathcliff without all the asshole traits (Cyrano De Bergerac)
There is the Buffy Sing Along (ala Rocky Horror) where our hero, Dawn, stands up to all the Buffys and speaks for all the ‘previously unknown, never-mentioned, pseudo-sibling who appears suddenly out of nowhere’ gaining the admiration of her peers (sort of) (Cinderella?)
There is the online relationship twist where a young girl (Enchantress Magic Eightball) travels to New York to meet her first love (the master thief Boggle) and to tell him that she is really just a 15 year old girl from Keokuk, Illinois and hopes that his 34yr old non-profit tech self won’t really mind. (‘To Catch A Predator’??)
There is the story of Dino Girl, a freshman who has only ever had eyes for the Jurassic type..always ‘a Compsognathus among Carcharodontosaurs’ until she meets Jamie Terravozza. The junior baseball player in her science class and suddenly hormones make the scene and the cropolite hits the fan. (Any teen movie in the last 25 years)
What I’m saying is that you need not be a geek to enjoy these stories. Yes, I haven’t done them justice with my flip little paragraphs, but they are as precious as Eärendil. Some of my favorite YA authors contributed to this anthology, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, M.T. Anderson, Garth Nix, John Green and so on...Pure ‘Please, Captain, not in front of the Klingons’ young adult nirvana. This may be the best book that I’ve read this year. ...more
Colin Singleton is not a vampire or a werewolf or a sorcerer or a punning Austin zombie. He doesn’t live in a dystopian society, he hasn’t slept withColin Singleton is not a vampire or a werewolf or a sorcerer or a punning Austin zombie. He doesn’t live in a dystopian society, he hasn’t slept with his teacher. He doesn’t do drugs, his parents aren’t divorced, and he’s suffered no traumas unless you count being dumped by a slew (okay, nineteen) of girls named Katherine.
So, why am I reading this? I have been programmed to only care about supernatural cute boys. I call this my mid life crisis. If I give in and self analyze, I would say that I’m avoiding real life. I’m letting myself get caught up in situations that I would have daydreamed about at maybe age 12. Being the ‘damsel in distress’, being unconditionally loved for qualities that I have not yet discovered in myself. Feeling safe, always protected by really cute guys… the bad guys always get caught, and everyone lives happily ever after.
What I’m avoiding is that memory of that… drive… that happens somewhere around age 16... Where you feel like you have the ability to change the world. That you will go off and do amazing things and that your whole life is waiting for you. It’s a rush. I remember sitting in the Boston Commons on summer night in 1988, I was 17, freshly graduated waiting to start college… we had just moved into an apartment in East Boston and Jimmy Cliff was playing a concert in the park. I didn’t have to tell anyone where I was going or when I would be back. I remember sitting on this hill, staring at the sky through the trees, listening to that reggae beat and thinking ‘I am free. I am young and I can do anything.’
THAT is what I’m running from. So, when I finished AAOK, I almost resented Green for reminding me of that. Then, I had this selfless epiphany. This is not for me. This was written for that generation. Those kids that are getting ready to change the world. They want to ‘matter’, they want to be remembered. I really envy them. Not in that self piteous way… just in that youthful energetic way. I get this way each fall when I watch the kids slumping off to UVM. They look so hopeful and serious. Why does that have to fade?
This is a road trip book. I’ve seen it listed as such. I would expand on that ‘road trip’ theme and make it not just a literal one. Colin wants to get away from being the dumpee of all girls named Katherine. But, it’s than that. Colin has always been considered a ‘child prodigy’ and he’s thinking that maybe that isn’t enough to ‘matter’ or to make a mark on the world. After all, a prodigy isn’t a genius… A prodigy regurgitates. A genius creates. Colin’s road trip is much more mental than led on.
I like that Colin doesn’t sparkle or have telling scars. I picture him as a cooler Napoleon Dynamite. He has a sidekick. A pudgy Horatio. He has a talent for anagramming. And he likes math. Okay, I was all for it except for the math part. Ugh. I admit, I skimmed a lot of the theorems and graphs and algebraic equations. Lost me there.
But, anagramming… swoon I am an anagramming nerd. (Regard naming man, Drain Merman Gang, Ragged Man Arm Inn)
Colin and his Horatio, Hassan, end up leaving Chicago and turning up in Gutshot, Tennessee. THAT is a horror story --‘dead end’ turn-- of events. I went all Ned Beatty and shuddered and almost stopped reading. But, I’m learning to fight my biases… it’s one of those mid life crisis goals. The south is NOT scary… not always. (Gutshot? Really? That was hard to swallow, I’m sure there are towns named that and all, but I’m taking baby steps here) Colin has many Eureka moments in Gutshot and each one makes me love him more. He’s a sweet kid who just wants to be loved, to not be left behind. Who can fault that?
Colin quotes Democritus “Everywhere man blames nature and fate, yet his fate is mostly but the echo of his character and passions, his mistakes and weaknesses.”
What a great quote to pass on to Generation Z or whatever they are now. I wish that I had that when I was young. I might not have set myself up for failure… I hope that these kids carry this with them because I feel a kinship with them. I was a Reagan kid, they are Bush 34 kids… we know…
This book really does give hope if not understanding the need for hope. (if that makes sense) I hear that there is a movie in the works. I’m sure they’ll pretty up Colin and make him seem quirky and all that, but I hope that they delve into that next level and give props to that insecurity, because that’s what we need. To see that it’s okay if you only matter to yourself. Ned Vizzini’s It's Kind of a Funny Story had that same sort of message and I am saddened that that movie didn’t do well, that teens care more about zombies or jackasses.
My next Eureka moment: to pass this lesson on to my kids.
Post Script: Oh, and I want to mention that there are footnotes in this book. And it’s okay. It’s more like the DFW type footnotes where you feel like you have an extra character that you can turn to and say ‘I know, right?’… It’s all good. ...more
He did it again. That M***F***ker did it to me again. (I’m being nice because it’s the first line of a Young Adult book review, don’t think that I’m n
He did it again. That M***F***ker did it to me again. (I’m being nice because it’s the first line of a Young Adult book review, don’t think that I’m not ranting and raving like Christian Bale ala Terminator)
I’m 40 years old. Yes, 40 years old (go on, snicker… point… do your best) and I’m all waxing nostalgic for those last few days of High School. WTF? (<--- See? I’m completely regressing here…) I hate mid life crisises.
John Green has this thing. This.. Way about Him. His writing… his characters… damn, I’m so jealous I could spit. I’m also angry… because my memory of high school… my personal ‘window’ of what occurred is garbled. I remember hating most of the kids… I remember having a handful of people that I could trust… I remember counting days until I could be free of that narrow minded, juvenile, asinine lifestyle.
What Green does is make me remember the nightly trips that a few of us would make to Nubble Light in Maine. It was about an hour away and the last few months of high school we’d spend HOURS there talking about what we would become. It was that kind of conversation that you can only really have at that time in your life… when you’re about to leave childhood behind. We’d sit on the rocks and the waves would soak our jeans and we’d talk about Milan Kundera and Joe Jackson and Philip Glass and know when I think back I’m a bit embarrassed by how pretentious we sounded and also a lot sad that I’ve lost that ability.
Green’s characters are bright, clever, endearing. Everything you want in a friend. They are profound and almost unbelievable if you weren’t lucky enough to know people like this. I am blessed in believing that I am.
Paper Towns are fictitious towns that are added to maps by cartographers. “Copyright traps (also known as key traps, paper streets and paper towns) have been featured in mapmaking for centuries. Cartographers create fictional landmarks, streets, and municipalities and place them obscurely into their maps. If the fictional entry is found on another cartographers map, it becomes clear a map has been plagiarized.”
Green led me to believe that he was speaking of Orlando (the city in which this book is based) as a Paper Town. Full of paper people, people with no depth, people who could easily be duplicated like paper dolls. He uses the metaphor so well. “ Before I had a chance to say anything, her eyes went back to the view and she started talking. “Here’s what’s not beautiful about it: from here, you can’t see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You see how fake it all is. It’s not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It’s a paper town. I mean look at it, Q; look at all those cul-de-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking beer some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning thing. All the thing paper-thin and paper-frail. And all the people, too.”
It’s literal, it’s functional, it’s like a fairy tale. His characters are average high school seniors…except that they’re not. (I know, that’s a cheap way out… sorry, read the book)
Quentin (Q) is our hero. Margo is our heroine. They have known each other since they were two. The girl and boy next door. They started off as best friends but as it often happens, labels are created and they are separated by the personas that they’ve taken on. Margo is popular, Quentin is a band geek. Until one night when Margo shows up at Quentin’s window and leads on a night of breakings and entering and revenge filled debauchery. Then, she disappears.
Quentin is convinced that Margo has left clues for him to find her. He finds a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass that she has mucked up and it leads him on this journey… a methodical and allegorical journey. He becomes obsessed with finding her. Which, of course, means finding himself. This could easily be an Afterschool Special type book, but we are spared that. Because Green is that good of a writer.
And, that’s why I am so friggin’ mad at him. He makes me miss that time. He makes me remember what it felt like. He makes me feel like a voyeur, like I’m cheating…. I had this time already, this is for the young… he fooled me before in AAOK and he did it again.
“It is so hard to leave--until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”
I wish I could afford that thought. I wish there were no ramifications attached.
I wish I could afford to tear apart Whitman line by line and discover something about myself. I wish I weren’t so tired and uninspired to not do it. “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another. I stop some where waiting for you.”
So, grudgingly, I thank you, once again, Mr. Green. I laughed, I cried, I missed Nubble Light with all of my being.
Another story about some horrific teen episode (and I don't mean to sound jaded, because there's enough horrific crap out there happening to teens andAnother story about some horrific teen episode (and I don't mean to sound jaded, because there's enough horrific crap out there happening to teens and everyone else.)
Usually I feel like I've been blessed by GMBA nominees... this one was a skimmer. The best part being the last 4 or 5 pages (and I'm not being snide, really.)
Damn. This book just about broke my heart. It wormed its way in and split me three ways---three different identities rubbernecking in the lives of JulDamn. This book just about broke my heart. It wormed its way in and split me three ways---three different identities rubbernecking in the lives of Jules and Baby.
The story is seen through the eyes of Baby, a 12 yr old who lives with her Dad in Montreal. Her Mom died when she was one and Jules, well… bless him, but he’s not the most responsible guy on the planet.
Jules is the first rip in my identity crisis: He is still a child himself, having had Baby at 15 and deciding to take her out of the backwoods of Canada to the gritty side of Montreal. He’s a junkie with get-rich-quick dreams and an undiagnosed mental illness. I love Jules. I can’t help it. I know too many people like this, I’ve been where he is. I know, intimately, what he’s going through. He’s still a kid but loves his daughter enough that he keeps trying to pull it together to keep her with him. Baby’s love for Jules is unconditional. He is her best friend and they watch out for each other only as fucked up kids can.
As I was walking home, I spotted Jules on the street corner. He was craning his neck all over the place, looking around for someone. He started gesticulating in a way that made it seem as if he was having an imaginary argument in his head. He kept putting his hand, palm up, in front of him, as if he was asking the universe, “What? What? What?” His hat was down over his eyes, and when I called out his name he had to tilt his head way up to get a look at me. I knew it wasn’t me that he had been looking for, but when he saw me, he shouted out happily anyhow.”
So, Jules and Baby go from crappy apartment to crappy apartment living off what Jules can sell from the garbage he collects and soup kitchen handouts. Baby is aware that she is different from other kids but instead of this depressing her, she feels special. She feels that her life is much more exciting and since she has nothing, then she’s better off than the kids that do and end up wanting more. Pretty astute for such a young kid. Baby’s definitely an old soul.
Here is the next rip: Baby. I think back to being 12 and there is no way that I can even compare her life to mine. I had the suburban white girl upbringing. Baby befriends pimps and junkies and moves to foster homes and detention centers when her Dad is not well enough to take care of her. But, she does all of this with the strongest will. She is amazing. I can’t say that enough. Her insights are beautiful:
Suddenly I realized that I wanted everything to be as it was when I was younger. When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of crack in the sidewalk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your parent was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer you.
Me? I wanted to make sure that my new painter’s cap matched my ten speed.
Baby endures so much in such a short time. And I know that I’m talking like Baby is real and that this is true, so I know that I need to credit the writing. I can feel the seedy alleys off St. Catherine Street. I can smell the wood smoke coming out of the pimp’s dreads. I am there with Baby the first time she shoots heroin or loses her virginity. It’s all so real and the writing is still fairy tale like in its delivery.
”Come here, Baby,” she said. She threw her cigarette into the grass and spread her arms to me. “I want to give you a hug. You don’t get enough hugs, I can see that. I’ll give you one of my special teddy bear hugs.”
I stepped closer to her to receive my hug and get it over with. She squeezed my cheeks and smelled my hair. She put my head between her two palms. Then she pulled my whole body to her and hugged me. I waited for her to let go of me, but she didn’t. At first I thought I was going to die of claustrophobia, but then I noticed that she smelled like cocoa butter. I liked her smell. It reminded me of postcards and pictures of brown palm trees…. Then I decided to just enjoy it. She had fat arms, the type of arms that held sailors and soldiers and thieves. The kind of arms that held someone who was going away to jail for ten years. They were the arms of a woman who had eaten a hundred delicious cakes and pastries to get them this comfortable. I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed her tighter. I wanted to feel every part of my body touched by her. We stood like that, just hugging, for a long while.
Normally, I would skim a hug scene like this, but I was right there, smelling cocoa butter and seeing sailors. I love this book.
The final rip was the one that broke me. This was the Mom in me. The need to take Baby and to shelter her even though she’d probably fight me (and herself) at every curve. To ward off the fiends that are waiting so eagerly to corrupt. I felt for Jules and his fight to stay sober and his fear for Baby. I felt for every one of the street kids that Baby encounters until I was spent. I gave too much. I had to follow Baby’s advice:
You see only the beautiful things when you stand still. You only see things that you don’t ordinarily notice. The birds are the prettiest things, I imagine.
What happened to the Halcyon days of youth? ...more
Wow. This is the first time that I'm not blown away by a Green Mountain Book Award. Huh. I'm kinda um... yeah.
They tout this book as "an uproariouslyWow. This is the first time that I'm not blown away by a Green Mountain Book Award. Huh. I'm kinda um... yeah.
They tout this book as "an uproariously fast-paced, James Bond-like spy chase through upscale Paris. All seen through the eyes of a quick-thinking, smart-mouthed ne'er-do-well who shoot for the ridiculously impossible and completely succeeds-well, almost."
1. Maybe James Bond like in that one guy that played him waaay back. But he's no Daniel Craig.
2. Uproariously fast-paced? Really? It read fast, thank god. Um... clever? Hardly. Predictable and making we want to slap the kid and put him to bed early? I can see that. Likeable? Eh. Tolerable
3. 'Quick-thinking, smart-mouthed ne'er-do-well'? Did we have fun with Thesaurus.com? Hmmm??? Maybe I'm just showing my age. (shut up)
4. I'm going to have to actually read the backs of GMBA selected books now, huh? That blows.
Thing is, he's making a sequel. I want to sit this overpriviledged kid down and tell him that he'd have faired better in the days of The Scarecrow and Mrs. King.
Young Adult books seem to have a few formulas: divorce, unrequited love, death of a parent, self-transformation, and as of late... vampires. Oh... andYoung Adult books seem to have a few formulas: divorce, unrequited love, death of a parent, self-transformation, and as of late... vampires. Oh... and angst. Usually always angst. Sometimes these can be written quite loverly. As with the few that have been jostled around GR lately,Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Book Thief ,I Am the Messenger ... These authors will come along and break, twist, switch it up...make.you.think. And manage to rise above the whole stigma of what it means to be reading YA.
I think I found another one. Ned Vizzini.... I knew nothing of you prior to finding you on the GMBA (Green Mountain Book Award) list. And, well... that introduced me to Zusak, Foer, Vowell... So, I jumped in all willy nilly.
You didn't disappoint. In fact, you're one of those child prodigies---publishing your first book at 19. He began writing articles for The New York Times Press while still in school and continues to do so, getting an essay published in The New York Times Magazine….yeah, I hate you.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story centers on Craig Gilner, 15. Basic overachiever, two parent household, precocious little sister, privileged. Not someone that I usually bond with. But, the writing is so dead on… so unpretentious and raw. I loved it. Usually I’d be all ‘cry me a river, buddy’ but to watch this 15 yr old lose it. (Yes, I don’t put it quite so eloquently…deal)—You really get sucked in.
You get to think. How much pressure is there on kids to succeed? Did it start with my generation? I don’t remember the be all end all of my parents having to complete college. I come from a very blue collar situation, my father didn’t even finish junior high… Yet, it was ingrained in me to get into college and that if I didn’t, I’d be a nobody. A loser. Forget about making anything of yourself. Now it seems that even THAT is not enough. It has to be the right college, with the right grades (93s are average, my friend), you have to have the RIGHT extracurriculars… etc, etc.
Who wouldn’t break down? Craig’s disconnect reminds me of Oskar in Extremely Loud…he has his own terms… his own language. ‘Tentacles’ are the ‘evil tasks that invade life and then jut out into new tasks that lead to new ones that take him away from his original goal -‘Cycling’ is when his brain won’t shut down, it repeats each tentacle… which leads to the ultimate failure. A ‘fake shift’ is when you think that these issues are being resolved, but it’s only a front… a temporary reprieve. ‘Anchors’ are the items that hold him down… keep him safe. He finally decides that he’s going to take the big leap off the Brooklyn Bridge…that this is the ultimate anchor, but instead finds himself self admitting into a psychiatric ward in a local hospital.
Here is where Craig shines, finds his voice. And it’s not overtly formulaic. You see yourself in this fucked up kid…you see how he can relate to amphetamine heads and transvestites and how he can reach back and truly find his anchor…which happens to be making ‘brain maps’--- drawing the streets, highways, bridges, traffic circles, chaos, order, symmetry, beauty that’s in all of us, wrapped around firing neurons and SSRIs and warped brain cells.
It’s truly beautiful. It’s funny, typical teenage boy shit and a joy to read. Sounds strange, but---not. Because this is life and it can suck and it can hurt and it can overwhelm and make you feel minuscule and that’s okay. Because every now and then ‘okay’ can be your anchor and maybe there will be less days when it will suck. When we realize, like said in this book ‘life can’t be cured, but it can be managed.’ We hope.
Okay, I’m totally going to ruin this book for you---major spoiler alert coming up, folks. pssst… All the Presidents mentioned in the book, DIE. I knowOkay, I’m totally going to ruin this book for you---major spoiler alert coming up, folks. pssst… All the Presidents mentioned in the book, DIE. I know, right? You’re saying ‘Aww, cheese and rice! Kim! What’s the point in reading this book then?'
Well, lemme tell you….
This book has been quite an educational journey for me. In both that, I’ve learned all this great stuff about the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, but also in that I’ve learned that people think I’m a freak.
I’ve been carrying this around for the last few weeks, trying to read a page or two on the Shuttle between work campuses or while I scarf down my dressing free rabbit food… and of course people ask that dreadful question: ‘What are you reading?’ and of course I enthusiastically show them the cover and say ‘OMG! (okay, I actually say ‘Oh My God!’) it’s this great book about this woman who takes this pilgrimage to the sites of the assassinations of three presidents and the homes of their assassins!’ and then I get the look. You know the one, right? The ‘how come I know you?’ look or the ‘You are not what I thought you were’ look and I’m thinking, sometimes to myself and sometimes aloud ‘What did you expect of me? Am I really that soccer mom-ish that I wouldn’t be interested that Guiteau was involved in a sex cult in Upstate NY (that would later go on to design the gravy boat I inherited from my grandmother) but got so frustrated that none of the young girls would sleep with him that he later went and shot President Garfield? (okay, not really, but it’s out there). Am I so that boring that you wouldn’t think that I would find that absofuckinglutely fascinating?’ and then I hmpfh off and continue reading my book with a piece of sprout daintily sitting on my cleavage.
It’s all good.
Then I get depressed that this woman is my age (okay, it’s a little better that she’s 11 months and six days older than me, but not by much) and that she’s done so much and can still readily admit that she loves Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows (umm..who doesn’t?)and that the most violent thing that she’s done is shove a guy who spilled a beer on her at a Sleater-Kinney concert. I want to be her BFF. (But, I want her to take voice lessons first because I would seriously rip her voice box out if I had to actually listen to her speak)
Other things that I Love About This Book
--Her obsessions with all historical plaques. Because who doesn’t slow down when they see one of those signs on the side of the road and go ‘ooh! Was there some sort of carnage committed here? Did someone important die?’ One of my jobs in college was working at one of those souvenier-y type carts in Boston and for a summer, we were set up right by the Boston Massacre site. I loved watching tourists come and gawk at this. (they had a neat red line painted on the ground to lead them around to all things historical) I can see Sarah (yep, first name basis with her, so what?) reading from her copy of The Townshend Acts.
--Her description of Emma Goldman (Or should I say Emma Goldman’s description) losing her virginity and I quote: ”For Example, in one breathtaking paragraph she is (I think) losing her virginity to Berkman (she had been married but to an impotent husband); meanwhile, what’s going through her head is the question, “Can idealists be cruel?” It’s thrilling, even though I did want to reach into the page and pat her head, breaking it to her that, Oh my dear, idealists are the cruelest monsters of them all.”
--Her admission that if she could, she would go back into history and rub out her great great grandfather who had joined up with Quantrill’s Bushwackers and was involved in the Lawrence Massacre of 1863 where at least 182 men and boys were killed. (read about it)
--The fact that I cried after reading her walk around the National Mall.
--And finally, that Sarah has made me drop everything to run to Google many, many times.
Then.. ahh.. my poor husband, who at first gave me the stink eye because I was ranting and raving about how great it is that an author can put this historical crap into a book that I would actually read and enjoy and learn from while he stares at the Dos Passos and Gore Vidal books that I’ve hidden so inconspicuously under the coffee table all the while saying ‘I’ll get to it, honest!’. And now that he’s also interested in reading it well, since I started talking about how she compares McKinley’s dealings with the Spanish American War and Bush’s dealings with Operation Iraqi Oil, I take every stoplight opportunity to tell him about the part that I just read involving how cute she and scientist who works at the Funeral Museum find John Wilkes Booth and the conversation that they have about him.
I’m sorry, honey. I’ll shut up now, but let me just tell you this ONE more thing, okay?’ ...more
I really had no idea what this book would be about. I had been hearing good things about Barry Lyga's other book, 'Boy Toy' and when I was at the librI really had no idea what this book would be about. I had been hearing good things about Barry Lyga's other book, 'Boy Toy' and when I was at the library, this stood out as well. When I find an author that I like, I tend, like most people, to want to read everything by them, so, I grabbed it in the hopes that I liked his writing enough to want more... and I'm glad that I did.
That being said, The AAOFBAGG is truly well written, I don't know what I expected because I never read the back of the book but it wasn't a story about bullying with undertones similar to that Columbine genre that seems to be emerging. But, from the start I had this sort of dark pit forming in my stomach that had me wanting to put the book down in fear of a school shooting scenario. The writing is that good . The main character, Fan Boy, tells the story in his voice and I really had the feeling that I could understand the workings of an extremely intelligent, mostly ignored and/or bullied sophomore boy.
I think that dark pit opened when I was introduced to his security blanket, a stray bullet he found on his step dad's workbench, that he carries around with him at all times.
I'm not one to retell the story in a review, but more the feeling that I get when I read it. I was steadily sucked into this world of Fan Boy's, feeling the despair, anxiety and confusion that becomes his life in the span of the two weeks the story covers.
I would give this 4 1/2 stars, if I could, and it only falls short of 5 stars because I felt that the last chapter was just a bit too formulaic... almost like Lyga had to wrap up the story in a somewhat tidy package and I really don't feel that life works that way.
A great first novel though and I'm really looking forward to Boy Toy. ...more
First book I read that dealt with the World Trade Center attacks, I thought it was interesting that this has now become a YA subject and a bit troubleFirst book I read that dealt with the World Trade Center attacks, I thought it was interesting that this has now become a YA subject and a bit troubled that this will be something that my kids and I will have different memories and views about. A good book, I'd go 3 1/2 stars if I could. ...more