“We’ve got at least seven hours to get what we want before the sun comes up.”
Taking place over the course of one hot Melbourne night, Graffiti Moon is...more“We’ve got at least seven hours to get what we want before the sun comes up.”
Taking place over the course of one hot Melbourne night, Graffiti Moon is basically a chick flick in book form: Girl is in love with Mystery Man. Girl and her friends go out one night and the Guy She’d Never Date walks in and offers to help her find Mystery Man. Girl goes out into the night with Guy She’d Never Date, not knowing that he is in fact Mystery Man, and the two of them both secretly dig each other and there’s a comedy of errors, etc. “Will they end up together?” we are supposed to be asking, even though we all know the answer.
Because this is such a well-worn plot, I was impressed with Cath Crowley’s ability to tweak it and make it fresh and her own. It would be easy for things to get boring and clichéd and for the characters to be one-dimensional, but that never happened. Ed and Lucy and their friends are quirky and witty; even the few predictable plot points never felt contrived. The characters’ musings on art are woven skillfully through the story—opinions on Vermeer, on Rothko and Magritte—and even though I know next to nothing about most of the artists and art forms they mentioned (a glassblowing aficionado I am not), I never felt lost; only swept away.
Even though Ed and Lucy are both technically MCs, I really thought this was more Ed’s story than Lucy’s. He was more complex, with a harder life and a secret identity and more problems to overcome. His moral dilemmas and the loss of his father figure were more engaging for me than anything Lucy had going on, although I really enjoyed her dialogue. And Leo, who is technically a fringe character, is bumped up to MC status since his works as Poet are placed between chapters. So much is told about Leo in those few lines that I felt like I knew him as well as Ed does.
Though I liked A Little Wanting Song better than Graffiti Moon, GM is still a great book. Everything is so silly and sad in this one night, with everyone going after what they want and finding hope and happiness in unexpected places. There’s enough meat to it to keep it from being brain candy, but overall it is a warm-fuzzy sort of book.
[Note for my Aussie friends: Seriously, what kind of hills does Melbourne have? Is it common to bike off them and need police assistance? I really need an answer to this; it's been bugging me for 24 hours.](less)
“I want things, too,” Luke says. “Like what?” I ask, even though I get the feeling he’s not talking to me. “I don’t know what. But that doesn’t mean I...more“I want things, too,” Luke says. “Like what?” I ask, even though I get the feeling he’s not talking to me. “I don’t know what. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want them.”
Charlie Duskin loves music, and she is good at it—although she’s also painfully shy, so it isn’t a well-known fact. Her best and only friend, Dahlia, is hanging out with bitchy Louise Spatula now. Her mum’s been dead for seven years and her father’s been ignoring her just as long. Her gran recently died, and Charlie and her father are about to spend their first summer with only Grandpa in a town where Charlie is known as Charlie Dorkin. She is lonely, talented, and afraid to live out loud even as she wants nothing more than to be noticed.
Rose Butler lives next door to Charlie’s grandfather and all she wants is to escape her small town. She’s incredibly smart, although her boyfriend frequently does boneheaded things and she gets in trouble trying to get him out of it. With the help of a teacher who believes in her (and a couple forged signatures), Rose gets a scholarship to a school in the city with an outstanding science program. Rose’s parents are hesitant to let her go anywhere and so Rose hatches a foolproof plan: befriend the desperately lonely Charlie, whom the Butlers love, get invited to stay with the Duskins in the city, and get the hell out of dodge.
The story is told through the girls’ alternating points of view, with Charlie’s song lyrics placed throughout. Of the two, I preferred Charlie’s voice; there is something about how lonely and vulnerable she is, spending her life talking to ghosts, that made me want to hug her and promise everything would be okay. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of writing a sad character as pathetic and whiny, but Charlie is plucky enough to trip up big bads and write songs like “Where the fuck is Dad?” while cracking a few jokes, and I kept cheering her on. Though I could identify with Rose’s strong need to escape while not wanting to leave her life behind, for me Charlie Duskin is where it’s at.
Cath Crowley writes very lyrically. The major themes in this book—first loves, loss, friendship, that desperate wanting feeling of adolescence—aren’t exactly new territory, but the way Crowley describes everything is just so beautiful. Her prose gives me that achy, longing feeling and a need to hug all the characters (especially Dave), which is just what I love in my realistic fiction. I like characters and prose that get under my skin and give me all of the feelings, and Crowley definitely delivers with A Little Wanting Song, giving me quirk and pluck and joy and sorrow and lines like, “We were the only three people awake in a world half asleep and the air felt heavy with maybe.” A little reminiscent of Cummings, that is.
This is one I’ll definitely be buying and reading again.(less)
The yawning six-year chasm between my age and Chris’s is not the only fly in the proverbial ointment of this “loving Chris” business. I’m not even sur...moreThe yawning six-year chasm between my age and Chris’s is not the only fly in the proverbial ointment of this “loving Chris” business. I’m not even sure what “getting” Chris would involve; all I know is I want him. I want to be enfolded by him and to possess him. To have unfettered and exclusive access to him all the time. To feel how I feel around him all the time. To know that he loves being around me too. To feel more of his skin on my skin.
I know there’s a hit-or-miss element with any book, but on the whole I think the Australians really have the whole YA thing down. I don’t know if they have a keener grasp on the young adult psyche there, or if it’s somehow cultural, or if maybe the Powers That Be just dumped a huge batch of great YA writers in Oceania: “Here, you already have kangaroos and dingoes and wallabies and prehensile-tailed skinks, which is all really cool and everyone is going to be mad jealous of you—and now I am going to give you the Gift of Good YA Fiction to really rub it in their faces. Oh, and because of things like copyright laws and so on, it’s going to be really hard for people to get your books in the US. Have fun!”
Truly, God gives with both hands.
Anyway. As luck would have it, Laura Buzo’s Good Oil was published here as Love and Other Perishable Items. And as further luck would have it, my library just got a copy. My review may differ from those of Good Oil because they seem to have changed things when bringing it across the world; the grocery store Amelia and Chris work in is called Coles here, for some reason. And the line which lent the book its title was rewritten. (I really, really hate when publishers do that. Is it because they think we’re too stupid to understand other versions of English?)
Fifteen-year-old Amelia works in a grocery store which seems to employee only youfs, including twenty-one-year-old Chris. As the staff trainer and resident nice guy, he shows Amelia the ropes and is the only one who really treats her as an equal, despite their age gap. Pretty soon she has a crush on him, and quite honestly it was only a matter of time, because he is hilarious and flawed and I kind of love him myself. Even when he is being an ass.
Amelia is charming, all precocious and loveable despite/because of her mad, obsessive, unrequited love. She’s into feminism and Great Littrature and she loses her rag over the ending of Great Expectations. I read Great Expectations when I was around her age and I had the same reaction: “If I want a happy ending I’ll watch Pretty Woman. Bloody Pip!” But in spite of all her smarts, Amelia is still fifteen. She is dissatisfied with her home life. She can be petulant and moody and she lashes out at her family and her best friend. Unrequited love at fifteen is hard, yo:
I am acutely aware of Chris’s movements at work. I see him approaching even when I’m studying a bag of beans to distinguish whether they’re pinto beans or lima. I know which girls he’s talked to throughout the shift. I know when he’s preoccupied or playful by the way he moves. I know when he’s pissed off that Kathy has been talking to Stuart Green from Canned Goods. I know it all. Sometimes I mutter his name under my breath like a madwoman.
As for Chris—being twenty-one isn’t so hot, either. He’s still at uni, still lives with his parents, has a dead-end job at a supermarket, his heart has been broken, and now he’s on a fruitless quest for the Perfect Woman. He’s in stasis, financially trapped in a life he doesn’t want, and so he turns to drugs, drink, and journal-writing to make sense of it all. At one point he writes, “I can’t run my own race. I’m constantly checking what’s happening in the other lanes.” I’m twenty-five and I’m still doing that.
It’s so hard to be objective about this book because it’s so bloody relatable. It makes me think of being fifteen and having unattainable crushes on older boys, or of loving someone who loves someone else and wanting them to be happy even while you’re positively dying for them to want you too. Of being so young and having dreams as big as the sky. It makes me think of crushlets on coworkers and trying to be cool around them so they don’t get weirded out. It reminds me of being twenty-one and of going out and getting smashed because it’s better than thinking about your problems. Of losing people to distance and experience and being left behind someplace where you’ve outstayed your welcome but have no ability to leave. Of wanting to still have those big dreams for yourself but realizing it may be time you settle for less.
This is a good book for a more mature YA reader, I think, because even though the parts written from Amelia’s point of view are very fifteen, Chris’s journal entries will be harder to understand if you don’t have that experience yet. This isn’t to say it’s impossible for a young teen to enjoy; just that I think having been fifteen and twenty-one and having had all those experiences myself made this book more enjoyable for me than it would’ve been if I were younger.(less)
This book has a neat premise—John Lennon meets Destiny McCartney, signs all over the place that they’re MFEO, etc. etc.—but it just didn’t do it fo...moreEh.
This book has a neat premise—John Lennon meets Destiny McCartney, signs all over the place that they’re MFEO, etc. etc.—but it just didn’t do it for me. It’s a very superficial book, a fun idea and fun characters but everything feels more like an outline than a fleshed-out novel and no one is remotely profound. The characters are quirky, which I like, but so much of the quirkiness just seemed... forced. I felt zero connection to any of the characters. I would’ve liked to know more about them and what makes them tick.
I read this book within 24 hours though, which is quite a feat considering how long it’s been taking me to read some other books lately. I get pretty excited about Aussie YA fiction, so maybe part of the problem was just how high my expectations were.(less)
This was my first Marchetta book, which is fitting since it is also the first Marchetta book. From what I’ve read in other reviews, Melina Marchetta d...moreThis was my first Marchetta book, which is fitting since it is also the first Marchetta book. From what I’ve read in other reviews, Melina Marchetta develops from a good YA author to an amazing YA author in her subsequent books, so I’m very excited to read them. If I like them half as much as I did Looking for Alibrandi, reading them will be well worth my time.
I saw a lot of my teenage self in Josephine. I wasn’t particularly rebellious, but I was (I say in past tense like I am now mature and delightful) moody and argumentative as hell. I went to Catholic schools growing up and while we weren’t poor, I definitely wasn’t as rich as some of the other kids at my high school, so I can sympathize with how Josie felt being on scholarship and feeling looked down upon. And coming from Italian stock, lines like “Italians are so used to bitching about people that they tend to whisper a lot even when the person is one thousand miles away or even dead” made me laugh out loud because oh, I have lived it.
The adults don’t necessarily behave badly but they certainly aren’t ideal. Josephine’s father doesn’t want to be part of her life and is very forthcoming about it. Her grandmother is a nitpicky nightmare (although I really enjoyed her stories about her youth) and smothers her daughter and granddaughter. Josie’s mom tries to reconcile her role as Josephine Alibrandi’s mother with her own personal needs, much to her daughter’s chagrin. And the nuns catch everything, as nuns do.
Josie’s female friends were the only fly in the ointment of this book. In such a female-oriented book they seemed like weak characters. For instance, Sera seemed like someone Josie was only friends with because it was more convenient than not being friends with her. Anna and Lee were all right but they still seemed like a “yes, my main character has friends” filler than anything else until nearly the end of the book.
This is one of those books I read and loved and then went right on to the next book in my pile before writing my review, so I can’t remember everything I wanted to say. Basically, I strongly urge you to read it. What are you waiting for? GO!(less)
I feel like this review is a bit sloppy and doesn't adequately convey how much I loved Preloved. It's more like a high 4.5 stars than a full 5, though...moreI feel like this review is a bit sloppy and doesn't adequately convey how much I loved Preloved. It's more like a high 4.5 stars than a full 5, though, and I'll get to why eventually. But first I'd like to share with you the Mr Matey commercial that plays such a pivotal part in this novel. I'll wait.
Did you see it? I feel very cheated for being an American with only Mr. Bubble to remember from my youth. I mean, this is all we got here. What is with all the singing? Why is no one yelling that they want their pants off?
Anyway, now that's out of the way--the review! I found out about Shirley Marr through some good reviews from peopleItrust of her first book, Fury. When I went to buy it on Fishpond, I found out Shirley had a newer, shinier book just come out, so I ordered that one first. And waited impatiently for two weeks for it to arrive. When it did finally get here, my mother buried it under a huge stack of other, less important mail, so I had to wait a whole 'nother day until it resurfaced. And now here we are.
First, the bad: I initially found the plot very confusing. For the first two chapters or so, I felt like I'd jumped in at the middle of the beginning. I was a bit disappointed because I had been anticipating reading this book for so long and was worried it was a bust, but soon I got caught up in the story and all was right with my world again.
Now for the good: Everything else. There are BSC (Babysitters Club, for those of you not in know) references, a sweetly romantic prom night, "you remind me of the babe" and "as you wish" exchanges, and homages to John Hughes. There is a solid mother-daughter relationship that made me want to hug my own mum and have girly movie nights with her, even though she made me have to wait an extra 24 hours to read Preloved. There's reincarnation, superstitious warnings about ghosts, awkward high school moments, and friends who make it hard to love them. I appreciated how realistic Amy and her life were (how her parents' divorce plays out and the hangups it gives her, making new friends, keeping old ones) while also being magical (ghosts, exorcisms, reincarnations). And I loved, loved, loved Logan. He is very high up on my Leading Men I Have Loved list, let me tell you.
Oh, and there are lines like this:
"You know, if I was Andie from Pretty in Pink, I would never have chosen Blane. I would have without a doubt chosen Duckie, my best friend who had always loved me."
I am a big softy and it doesn't take much to make me tear up. Once I read that, I was gone. I started sniffling and pretending I had something in my eye and didn't stop until ten minutes after I read the last page.
The ending wasn't what I expected, perhaps because I'm used to paranormal romances where the authors drag the relationships on forever, highlighting all the complexities and reasons the couple can never be together, only to magically resolve everything in the fifth or tenth book in the series. Shirley Marr doesn't do that, not quite. The ending of Preloved was bittersweet, light but deeply moving in the same way the rest of the story was.
This an amazing book. You can't get it in the US yet (hint, hint, publishers!) but it is totally worth the wait to have it shipped from the other side of the world. Due to financial constraints, I rarely buy books anymore without having flipped through them first or knowing I already like the author. I got this one completely blind and I am so glad I did. Fury is shipping out to me soon. I can't wait to read it!(less)
This is an EXTREMELY BRIEF and VERY DISORGANIZED review because I have to get back to reading the third book now or I'll do something dramatic, like d...moreThis is an EXTREMELY BRIEF and VERY DISORGANIZED review because I have to get back to reading the third book now or I'll do something dramatic, like die. And I'm dashing it out on my phone, which makes for clumsy typing.
I felt like the start of the book was a bit slow, as with the first, but once the action picked up? Wow. Book Two picks up shortly after Tomorrow left off, and I finished it in about a day and a half--and that is with working all weekend. Ellie was more likable to me, though still flawed and a bit annoying at times, which is okay. It's good, even. It makes everything feel that much more real. I don't know any teenagers who would step up in this situation and be paragons of virtue and the ideal friend and never whine or have a periodic breakdown.
The most upsetting (and therefore gripping) thing about this series is the feeling I have that this situation could easily happen here in the near future. And I feel we'd be in much the same position as the Aussies in the Tomorrow series, with no one willing to step up and help us.(less)
This is the story of eight friends, forced to hide in the Australian bush, work together to survive, and blow things up. To find out what happens when...moreThis is the story of eight friends, forced to hide in the Australian bush, work together to survive, and blow things up. To find out what happens when the world as you know it ends... and shit starts getting real.
Two nights ago at dinner, we were discussing my college transfer options and since I hate cold weather my dad suggested Australia. Since EVERYTHING ABOUT AUSTRALIA IS CONSPIRING TO KILL YOU (yes, you!), I declined. And after reading this book, I'm even more confident that I made the right decision.
I learned a lot reading this. That my survival instincts pale in comparison to those of Aussie farm kids, for example, or even the Aussie townies. Also that chickens are chooks, New Zealanders are sheepshaggers, the Outback is the GAFA, and figjam is a great nickname to use for smug people. And that Australian teens are Hard. Core.
In the fictional Australian town of Wirrawee, Ellie and six of her friends (they pick up a seventh later) go for a five-day camping trip in the bush, in an isolated place the locals call Hell. One night, Ellie and some of her friends notice a bunch of planes flying overhead without their lights. Thinking it's part of the town's annual festival, they shrug it off and finish out the camping trip. But once they get back home, they discover an enemy army has invaded their town and placed all their family and friends in a prison camp. Deciding the best course of action is to go bush again, the kids return to Hell and begin the (very subtle) transformation from regular Aussie teens to guerrillas.
I really liked this book, though it only gets 4/5 stars because the start was a bit slow and it didn't completely knock my socks off. But I've been on a huge teenage dystopia/survival kick lately, and Tomorrow delivers. I've never felt like such a wuss. These teenagers are clever and resourceful. They know how to survive off the land and take bullets like champs. They can make hard choices about 100,000,000 times faster than I can--we're talking choices like what and who to leave behind, what and who they can afford to sacrifice for the greater good. I can barely even decide what I want for lunch most days. Among other things, they just... go into mysterious, shady bodies of water, legs and feet completely exposed to only god knows what, and they're all, "Hopefully I won't run into too many snakes!" Not any snakes, but too many. Like there's such a thing as just enough poisonous, well-hidden water snakes. There are also some philosophical moments in which Ellie muses about humans versus animals and how we are the only species with a concept of evil, because we created it. "L'enfer, c'est les autres" and all that. There's a bit where she's thinking about how suddenly she grew up that really struck a chord with me, because I can remember the exact same feeling of playing with Barbies one day and then the next it wasn't magical anymore.
Basically, this book has a bit of everything: War! Survival! Confusing teenage emotions! Hookups! And! There's not only six more books in the Tomorrow series, but also a spinoff trilogy! And my library has all of those books!
On second thought, maybe this is a 4.5 star review.(less)
I really wanted to read this. I kept putting it off and reading other books instead, knowing this would be heavy and a difficult read. Once I finally...moreI really wanted to read this. I kept putting it off and reading other books instead, knowing this would be heavy and a difficult read. Once I finally got started on it, I just couldn't handle it. Maybe I'll come back to it later.(less)