A delightful, funny, and sweet story about transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, falling in love, and finding yourself. Highly recommended to aA delightful, funny, and sweet story about transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, falling in love, and finding yourself. Highly recommended to anyone who likes a coming-of-age books, Harry Potter fanfiction, or gay vampires (really)....more
I want to talk about If I Stay, the young adult book by Gayle Forman. All 231 pages rest on one questioOriginally posted on my blog, Misprinted Pages:
I want to talk about If I Stay, the young adult book by Gayle Forman. All 231 pages rest on one question: What would you do if you had to choose?
As in, if you found yourself looking down on your comatose body after surviving a terrible car crash that kills your parents and only brother, would you want to stick around for all the ensuing pain or hightail it out of there?
When I saw a commercial for If I Stay (out Aug. 22) and Chloë Grace Moretz’s (one of my favorite young actresses) character got all weepy saying, “He wrote me a song,” my heart didn’t flutter. I thought it looked dumb and badly acted:
But maybe the book is good, I thought. OK. Nope. Not any better.
If I Stay has the potential to be good, but it's a hugely overrated book. While wandering the hospital all corporeal and watching her loved ones talk to her broken body, the character Mia debates whether she wants to stay (and live without her family) or let herself die. You figure the author isn't going to write a book where the message is "life isn't that worth living," so you know she'll probably choose to live -- but the point is more to explore the decision and all its implications. After all, who really gets to choose? Probably doesn't happen all that often.
So she does a lot of thinking, mostly about music and her boyfriend. Her parents were rockers in their day, and her boyfriend has his own band that's gaining popularity, but she plays the cello. Lame -- or at least she thinks so. Most of her recollections deal with her doubts, not about whether her boyfriend Adam loves her but why he loves her. She can't believe someone so cool would care about someone as plain as her. She doesn't feel like she even belongs in her own family.
Then Adam shows up at the hospital (back to real time now), and she's a mess. Seeing him makes her want to live, and that complicates her decision to call it quits. Because romance.
If I Stay is a pretty easy read -- and it ends so abruptly you'll be disappointed (I didn't realize the 100 pages at the end of my version was all authory, previewy stuff). I wanted Forman to dig deeper into the question of why someone would stay (and what it means not to), but she never did. She never ventured beyond the obvious or connected all the stuff Mia thought about -- music, love, family belonging, friendship -- back to her final decision in a way that felt like it actually meant something.
And what about the movie line where Moretz's character cries and smiles and says, "He wrote me a song"? Yeah, that never even happens.
So I don't know about you, but I'm chalking this one up as another overrated YA book and skipping the theaters....more
I knew people had complaints about Mockingjay, the third and final Hunger Games book, but wow. What a(Originally posted on my blog, Misprinted Pages.)
I knew people had complaints about Mockingjay, the third and final Hunger Games book, but wow. What a way to let down your readers.
Recently, when I reviewed the previous book, Catching Fire, I discussed who I wanted Katniss to end up with. Well, I got my wish, but it wasn’t the story that I hoped for.
Catching Fire was all about gathering the strength to fight back against the Capitol. The rebellion, for Katniss at least, began as soon as she heard that District 12 had been destroyed. But that energy and hope is washed away in Mockingjay, in which author Suzanne Collins reduces Katniss to a shadow of her former self — with no chance of repair.
I feel like Collins kept writing horrible things until she reached a point where she didn’t know how to stop — how to save her main character from the total destruction of her soul and ideals. Katniss, for most of the book, is traumatized. Peeta’s in the Capitol’s grasp, and her home is gone. And District 13 is no heaven. Things get worse from there.
Let me take a minute to talk about what I did like. Katniss forges new, closer friendships with Finnick, once so abrasive and now so sensitive and caring and lost without his Annie, and even Johanna, who was tortured in President Snow’s care, finds understanding and strength in Katniss, who receives the same from her. Mockingjay isn’t about rebellion as much as it’s about recovery — hanging on even when the present and future are dire, and you’re not sure how to survive.
What bothers me about Mockingjay isn’t the countless deaths or (view spoiler)[the unfortunate turn of events involving Peeta (at first I thought Collins was going to use that twist as a way to push him out of the picture and force Gale on Katniss, but thankfully, she didn’t stoop to that). (hide spoiler)] This is war. Horrible things happen. No, what upsets me is that Katniss is never given a true chance to recover: She’s broken at the beginning of the book and even more damaged by the end.
But — and I’m about to reveal a huge spoiler here — what really irks me is (view spoiler)[how hypocritical it was of Katniss to agree to another Games played by the Capitol’s children. In Prim’s name. Prim would never want that. She’s a healer. And I can’t believe that Katniss, who blames herself for every life lost because of what she did with those berries, would want more death after everything that’s happened. After she chewed out Gale for devising what she saw as heartless traps and plans that blurred the difference between them and the Capitol. And for believing that Peeta was right: that humans are horrible because we use children to settle our differences. Isn’t that what she’s doing?
I believed Snow, too, when he said that it wasn’t his bomb that killed the children and ended the war — that took Prim away from Katniss. And Gale’s admission afterward all but confirmed it. But still, Katniss chose to punish more children, more families, for no reason but revenge against those who didn’t ever deserve it. (hide spoiler)]
That’s the only moment where I felt Katniss did something out of character, or that what happened shouldn’t have. (view spoiler)[Because even Prim’s death made a strange sort of sense: Protecting her is what set everything in motion, and losing her is what stopped it. In a way, that was the end of Katniss’s world. For everyone else, it was the beginning of a new era. But Katniss isn’t part of it.
It’s fitting, then, that I felt like the whole world abandoned her and Peeta and Haymitch after the war. That they thanked their Mockingjay and their heroes by sending them into exile — into the graveyard of District 12, where their nightmares live. The old world. It was wrong of them. Even Haymitch and Katniss’s mother seemed to abandon her in the end. Only Peeta came back. And together, they did the only thing there was to: rebuild. Try to survive. Because life goes on.
So I got the ending I wanted, in a sense: Katniss and Peeta together. She knew she couldn’t survive without him because of the gift he gave her every day. Of joy. Of optimism. Of believing things can be better. (hide spoiler)]
Collins is, as always, the master of cliffhangers and gripping prose. But I think she failed Katniss — and, ultimately, failed us. Katniss deserved better. We deserved more.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I’m already well into reading Mockingjay, but I wanted to stop and discuss Catching Fire (spoilers!),(Originally posted on my blog, Misprinted Pages.)
I’m already well into reading Mockingjay, but I wanted to stop and discuss Catching Fire (spoilers!), the middle novel of The Hunger Games, which came to movie theaters this winter.
(view spoiler)[I always expect second books in trilogies to be the weakest. In Catching Fire, author Suzanne Collins turns the story in a predictable direction: a budding rebellion against the Capitol. The plot lacks as much substance as the first book, but Collins manages to surprise me by throwing main character Katniss Everdeen back in the Hunger Games with a bunch of old people and young, lethal victors from the past annual “celebrations.”
Katniss will always have a place in the Games now, but I didn’t expect to see her back in costume so soon. It’s a good twist, but not everyone will approve: The Games segment of the book is short and too similar to events we’ve already seen, and the first half to two-thirds are plodding. (hide spoiler)] The romance, fake or otherwise, between Katniss and Peeta — the boy with the bread and her star-crossed “lover” — and Katniss and Gale — her childhood friend and fellow hunter — is more prominent in this novel (that’s good or bad, depending on what you were hoping for) although Collins thankfully grounds it in the grim reality of their situation. In the Games or in District 12, every move Katniss makes still puts her life and the lives of others in jeopardy.
So Catching Fire is lighter on content than the first book. There are some beautiful or dramatic moments involving a (view spoiler)[wedding gown (hide spoiler)], Katniss’s lead stylist (Cinna), and her competitors — and supposed allies — in the Games. I found the story absorbing though maybe that was because the romance was so juicy, but I also liked Katniss’s opponents more this time around. They’re a lot more striking: Johanna, who strips and trains naked (the actress for her in the movie, Jena Malone, is perfect); Finnick, charming and arrogant and deadly in the water and on land, who becomes one of my favorite new characters; and the intelligent and weird “Nuts” and “Volts,” to name a few. I also liked all the environmental traps in the arena even if they felt contrived (view spoiler)[(monkeys, blood rain, etc.) (hide spoiler)], like Collins was just dropping obstacles in there to pad out the Games (not that the wall of fire from book one was ever particularly clever or original). The characters’ interactions are what make the battle royale interesting, not anything the Gamemakers throw at them — although I did think the jungle and clock theme were fun.
I spent a good amount of time during my read-through thinking about Peeta and Gale and whom, if either, Katniss is better off with. I don’t think it’s fair that she should be forced into a romance when marriage and kids and love are the last things on her mind. But for her, these relationships are still happening — unwillingly and as much out of necessity as natural desire. Her survival in the Games depends on how well she and Peeta can put on a “show” for the audience, but they’re also thrust together privately through their mutual situation. (view spoiler)[They comfort each other when they’re tormented by nightmares; (hide spoiler)] their trust in each other is strong because of the Games — and that bond, formed through the preservation of their own mortality, is much more intense than that between her and Gale. Those two only tasted a small measure of danger in the woods outside District 12. Their reading of each other’s body language is much more intimate as hunters, and perhaps their world view is more similar, but Katniss never expressed a love for Gale whereas with Peeta, she feels gratitude and admiration — for the eloquence of his words, for his optimism. For saving her life time and again. For understanding what it’s like to survive the Games because he was there with her.
I don’t know how the trilogy will end, but I’m hoping Katniss gets to be with Peeta. (view spoiler)[What started as distrust and confusion and a sickly sweet performance has morphed into genuine affection, friendship, and more. They sleep soundly next to one another. She notices his hands as they work on a painting or drawing, like a lover would. (hide spoiler)] And that’s all because of the nightmare they went through in their first Hunger Games. Sometimes, life is funny that way.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I didn’t enjoy Divergent as much as I thought I would. I don’t even like the main character, Beatrice(Originally posted on my blog, Misprinted Pages.)
I didn’t enjoy Divergent as much as I thought I would. I don’t even like the main character, Beatrice, all that much. But I do like how author Veronica Roth plays around with themes such as bravery, cowardice, and honesty.
Divergent splits its world into factions and forces everyone, at a young age, to choose which one they want to spend the rest of their lives a part of. That sometimes means joining a completely different group of people and never seeing your family again because you’re supposed to obey the mantra “faction before blood.” It sucks.
Beatrice grew up in Abnegation (which means “self-denial”), a faction that teaches selflessness above all else. But the problem with the factions, which were created to prevent war and violence by adhering to a set of ideals, is that if you commit yourself to the qualities that you think would guard against those things, you end up leading an extremist lifestyle. Most of us find it OK to be selfish sometimes, or dishonest, or reckless, or smart, but no one in Divergent gets that luxury.
That’s why people change factions — a chance at freedom, at identity. But those words don’t mean much when you’re simply trading one rigid way of life for another. It’s a flawed system that leads to a lot of political problems that boil over later in the book.
So Beatrice leaves her faction of total strictness and charity (people call the Abnegation “Stiffs”) and chooses its very opposite: the Dauntless. They’re everything the Abnegation are not supposed to be. But before initiation, even before you choose, you take a test that’s meant to guide you. Beatrice’s results, which are supposed to reveal the faction where she best belongs, are inconclusive. They are wrong. Divergent.
For most of the novel, Beatrice — or “Tris,” as she chooses to be called — has no idea what that means. She just tries her best to survive initiation, which with the Dauntless means jumping onto moving trains and onto rooftops, climbing to ridiculous heights, getting tattoos, showing skin, shooting guns, and fighting. It’s supposed to teach her to be brave, but not everyone has the same idea of what that is. She has to figure that out for herself, and that’s what I loved most about Divergent. The concept of bravery (or any of the other faction ideals) becomes confusing when you’re trying to define it — when you apply it to different situations the same way or try to live by its compass alone. A lot of what bravery means to Tris depends on how she connects to whatever she’s feeling. Brave one moments means a gun in her hand and the next, stepping away, being vulnerable.
That also makes her unlikable in a lot of ways. Tris can be completely selfless when she follows old habits or protects her friends, but inside, she can be petty. She can be angry. Selfish. And it’s hard to admire someone who listens to a fellow initiate sob during the night and ignores him because it disgusts her.
None of us is perfect, though, and maybe Tris’s character is just an honest one. Heroes don’t always have to be good. I’m not sure Tris is. She’s smart and moral, and she feels guilt or pain when others are wronged, but she’s not above committing cruel deeds herself.
Maybe that’s why Divergent gets more interesting later on because for the first half or so, the pace is kind of slow. I wasn’t even sure I cared about any of the characters. It took awhile for me to warm up to or feel convinced by them. And a lot of that had to do with betrayal, friendship, and romance — and most importantly, the thing that makes Tris an outcast from the world: not that she’s Dauntless but that she’s Divergent.
She’s stubborn and a little crazy. When others call her weak or small or a “Stiff,” she fights back. She tries harder. And as much as I don’t know that she’s the best model for anyone to look up to, I do think that’s worth something. We can be anything we want to be in a world where we’re supposed to think and act like everyone else. We can be Divergent; we can be nameless.
Ahem. That outburst accurately sums up my feelings about Su(Originally posted on my blog, Misprinted Pages.)
WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO READ THIS BOOK?!
Ahem. That outburst accurately sums up my feelings about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and I ought to leave it at that. But because this is a review, let me explain my enthusiasm.
The eponymous Hunger Games is a Battle Royale for children — a televised sporting tournament that throws the rich and the poor, the untrained and the athletic, together in an open arena where they must survive against the elements and each other in a fight to the death. It’s also the biggest reminder of the Capitol’s power and how much control it wields over the twelve districts of Panem.
The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen (yes, it’s a weird name, but there’s a reason for it), comes from an incredibly poor area called the Seam. Through memories and recollections that feel organic to the story (they’re woven in), Collins shows us how capable and battle-hardened the character is before she even enters the arena. Katniss watched her father die, cared for her innocent little sister when her mother’s mind and body succumbed to depression, and started hunting outside the district limits, beyond the fence — a pursuit that’s forbidden but so essential to the simplest human survival in Panem. Hunger is their oppression.
Life is a little easier when Katniss meets with her hunting partner, Gale, but their relationship is strictly business and friendship. At least, it was. A trace of romance seeps into their talks in the woods just as the next annual Hunger Games are about to begin, and not Katniss or Gale but her little sister Prim is chosen, with a single odd against her. That’s when Katniss volunteers to take her place and her entire perspective on life changes — mainly, that she won’t have one for much longer.
That’s the most fascinating part about The Hunger Games to me: the meanings of words. Survival, romance, killing, mercy. At first, survival is making it through another day of gnawing hunger in the Seam, and then it’s outsmarting your enemies and the ravages of nature in the Games. It’s owing someone and living for them, or being owed.
Romance is thinking of love in terms of practicality — raising a child in a world where hunger is law — or putting on a show to give the citizens of Panem, the “audience,” the drama and excitement they crave, all to better ensure survival (popularity means sponsorship, which means more gifts during the Games). Murder (dare she use the word when the Capitol treats the Games as national celebrations) is the difference between killing an animal and killing a person, someone who could easily be a friend, and sometimes is. Or it’s ending a life when a quick death is preferable.
Collins plays with these dualities and more, and she does it in a way that’s natural and perfectly paced, that’s ever urgent and deeply affecting, with a protagonist who’s both likeable for her strength and moral values yet hopelessly graceless in times of social need. For once of such talent and intelligence, Katniss is clumsy with words, clueless near boys, and faithless about her own abilities. But these flaws only make her more impressive — more real. Every time I was on the verge of tears (which was pretty often), I held them back because I knew Katniss would do the same. She had to. Perceived weakness is death in the Games.
Some vulnerability is okay — that of love. Much of the Games veers toward Katniss’s fabricated romance with the boy tribute from her district, Peeta. To win the favor of the audience, they play the roles of star-crossed lovers, partners and teammates all while knowing one of their fates must be cut short, possibly by the other’s hand. There can only be one victor. Their relationship is always reminiscent of this pull and tug: enemies or friends, lovers or actors, Katniss is never quite sure. And at home, watching them onscreen, is Gale.
Our curiosity about what Gale, her loyal and trusted friend, must be thinking is never answered. That awkwardness is tangible with each kiss or smile Katniss and Peeta share, but at times, when the moment is right, it vanishes completely. They experience a whole lifetime in that arena, and that’s something Gale can never match. But he and the Seam promise normalcy, or close enough to it, and Peeta is everything but.
The second book, Catching Fire, should parse the truth from the fabrication, the genuine feelings from the ones born out of the instinct to survive. And I can’t wait to read it....more
Time travel is cool, but it’s even better when you don’t have to worry about pesky anachronisms.
Maybe I watched too many episodes of X-Men as a kid, but I’ve always hated time-travel plotlines. Every time a character thought it was a good idea to visit the past or the future and change something, I groaned. It never worked out well for anyone, and they messed up more than they fixed.
Now, if I could zip back in time, I would tell myself a lot of things. Much of my advice to my younger self would consist of “this isn’t as important as you think it is,” “stay in touch with that person,” and “just try it” — but if I returned to my freshman year of high school and happened upon the very month that I was reading Artemis Fowl, I would casually mention that maybe I should give Eoin Colfer more of a chance because hey, this one book he’s going to write is pretty grand.
Yep. I borrowed Artemis Fowl from the library years ago, and I didn’t like it. Maybe the first book was just lousy or something, but I feel like I should have spent more time exploring author Eoin Colfer’s works. His latest, The Reluctant Assassin — the first entry in his new W.A.R.P. series — is well written and thoroughly enjoyable.
W.A.R.P. stands for Witness Anonymous Relocation Program, which is a nifty way both to refer to the story’s central theme of time-traveling and explain the reason for it: W.A.R.P. agents protect important witnesses by sending them to the past, but some agents want to use the technology for black ops and eliminate terrorists and other unwanted figures before they can do real damage later on.
Chevron “Chevie” Savano is a teenager, but she’s already a kick-butt FBI agent who attended high school undercover before the whole mission to spy on her fellow students went kablooey. Now she’s in London, biding her time until she can grow up and be an FBI agent for realz.
She gets her chance one day, when the weird hunk of junk she’s monitoring for any long-awaited trickle of activity stirs to life and ejects a man and some boy named Riley. From the past. It’s called a W.A.R.P. pod, and it’s a time machine — one of many. All fell out of use when their inventor disappeared into the past because certain conspiring agents wanted to use them for the aforementioned sneaky time travel stuff. He took all the Timekeys used to activate the machines with him.
The man who emerges from the pod doesn’t survive — too many nasty mutations and wounds — but the boy does, and his appearance creates trouble for Chevie and ultimately forces them to flee into the past. They become an unlikely duo — he an apprentice to a crazy murdering psycho illusionist, and she a spunky FBI agent who doesn’t exactly fit in well with Victorian times. While she catches him up on modern conveniences like cars and the adventures of Harry Potter in the present, he shows her around London circa 1898.
There they must shake the trail of Riley’s master, Garrick, who absorbed the knowledge and attributes of a modern man when he came through the time machine after Riley. So now he’s a deadly assassin who not only knows how to perform illusions and stage tricks but can understand modern science and technology and happens to bring a laser-sighted gun with him. Dandy.
Colfer actually gives Garrick an impressive amount of depth. The magician has this weird obsession with family, and he considers Riley a son. He’s bent on making him a killer like he is. He also craves real magic, like the power of the Timekey that moved him through time. The other characters are equally memorable. Riley is probably my favorite — his old-timey lexicon makes him entertaining to both adults and kids.
The pacing is excellent as well. Colfer dedicates fair shares of the writing to each character, and he’s adept at facilitating emotional investment between reader and character. When I came across a new one, I connected almost immediately.
What I also love is how the story doesn’t tread all over the idea of dangerous anachromisms: that going to the past is a sure way to mess everything up. The book just kind of goes with it, and while the characters definitely don’t want Garrick to use what he knows of present-day London to rise in society, these hiccups work themselves out through their presence and actions. Even another time-hopper, who we meet later in the book and has for years exploited his knowledge of the future for personal gain, gets what’s coming to him. He kind of interferes with history big time, but not for good.
Lesson learned? Time travel is generally bad to abuse, but at least you can have fun without worrying about majorly screwing up the timeline. I look forward to the next adventure. Maybe I’ll get to read more about the terrible mutations that time-traveling can cause? (I want there to be a live person with a dinosaur head, dammit.)...more
I went into Zombie Blondes (2010) by Brian James hoping for a fun spin on high school drama. All those oh-so-per(Posted on my blog, Misprinted Pages.)
I went into Zombie Blondes (2010) by Brian James hoping for a fun spin on high school drama. All those oh-so-perfect popular kids … what if they’re really zombies? What poetic justice that would be. It sounded like a light read and a good break for the winter. But what I ended up with was a lot more brainless than I expected.
The book is all about Hannah — Hannah, Hannah, Hannah. She’s just about the most selfish and unsympathetic teenage character you can happen upon. She’s moody to her father, rude to her friends (and might-be friends), and self-pitying even when things are going her way. I know the author was probably trying to make these qualities endearing — a grumpy but lovable misfit who just wants to fit in — but on Hannah, they’re ugly colors.
She’s the new girl in school, and the closest person she has to a friend is Lukas. She flips back and forth from liking him (and calling him cute) to badmouthing him in private and calling him crazy and a freak. Her mixed signals are confusing and annoying. Poor Lukas puts up with all her crap, and even when he gets mad at her and keeps his distance, he winds up forgiving her and suffering more of her insults.
Hannah acts this way because she wants so desperately to be normal, but Lukas is never good enough for her. She’d rather be friends with the popular girls who treat her like dirt. And her self-esteem is so low that when they finally stop humiliating her and inviting her little by little to “become” one of them (quite literally, as they’re a zombie recruitment death squad), she falls for it. Completely. As long as their words and actions seem genuine, she’s more than happy to join them even when it means shrugging off everything that makes her unique.
Every cheerleader on the team is alike — unnaturally so, and that’s what Lukas tries to convince Hannah of all throughout the book. But she’s too naive or too in denial to recognize the countless signs (two plus two equals ZOMBIES), and she doesn’t trust her gut until she sees the most gruesome evidence laid out before her. I have a hard time empathizing with a character who lies to herself so much and treats good people so poorly.
The climax — the big reveal — doesn’t happen until very late in the book, and then it plays out like a bad horror movie action scene. Before this, Lukas constantly refers to comic book zombie stories as a cliché way of explaining what’s happening at their school, and he continues to use them here. Author Brian James doesn’t take advantage of the larger metaphor at work, either — that people can be flat-out undead zombies but also the figural kind. He does establish a few connections, but they’re so minor that you barely notice. He misses out on a lot of potential.
James’s writing is a letdown. I’m not fond of how often he resorts to fragments. I know they’re done stylistically, but it just feels lazy.
He also leaves some gaping plot holes, and it’s not a very long book — only 232 pages in the hardcover version. Most of my questions are about the last few chapters, so I won’t spoil it for you. The final scene packs a nice twist, but the ending is terse and kind of disappointing....more
I’ve been a fan of John Green ever since I started watching the Vlogbrothers videos on YouTube. LReview taken from my personal blog, Misprinted Pages.
I’ve been a fan of John Green ever since I started watching the Vlogbrothers videos on YouTube. Looking for Alaska is my favorite out of the three (and counting) that I’ve read, including Paper Towns and most recently An Abundance of Katherines. It might not rank first with me, but An Abundance of Katherines possesses merits that are undeniably strong. This is a young adult book with a surprising amount of depth but one that reads lightly.
For the most part, anyway. Green tries his best not to bog the book down with the equations that his protagonist, Colin Singleton, devises in his attempt to calculate the future outcome of all romantic relationships—specifically his chances with the many Katherines he’s dated and hopes to continue to date. You see, Colin Singleton is a borderline genius—a prodigy who knows more languages than he has fingers, loves to anagram, finds everything and anything fascinating, and above all is terrified of not mattering.
After Katherine XIX dumps him, his friend Hassan takes him on a road trip that leads them to Gutshot, Tennessee, the resting place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand—who was shot in the middle (a word that Green cleverly uses given the book’s context), leaving the same kind of gaping, empty hole that Colin feels he has without a Katherine in his life. Their adventure introduces them to a strange girl named Lindsey Lee Wells, who adapts her demeanor to whomever she’s with but who’s smarter than she lets on, and together they come unwittingly into a summer job, seating them across from the elderly of Gutshot in an effort to record their lives and memories of working for the town’s only factory.
As always, Green has a knack for crafting dialogue and a story that feels genuine to his audience. But the real worth here is found in Colin Singleton and his unmistakable need to matter—to be a genius, not just a prodigy. The novel beautifully unravels why he’s so obsessed with being the best, speaking more greatly to the human condition of loneliness. Colin might be a super intelligent nerd who’s painfully awkward in social situations, but he grapples with many of the same issues that the rest of us do.
More importantly, I think, is what Green is trying to say not only about the fear of relationships, and letting someone get close, but relationships in general: that we can’t go through life expecting to date only Katherines or Colins. When we put stipulations on who the right person is, we never find the right person at all because we’re looking for someone of unreasonable expectations—a kind of expectations that prevent people from truly falling in love with another human being. Some people say we find love when we stop looking, and for me, at least, that’s held absolutely true. My boyfriend doesn’t have striking blue eyes and a body like a Calvin Klein model, but he does make me happy (and he’s very handsome).
An Abundance of Katherines is also about letting yourself make mistakes, an act many of us never do out of anxiety for what might happen. Sound silly? It is.
The book is also about storytelling—mostly because Colin lacks proper foresight. For all his intelligence, he can’t understand why he’s fallen into the same disastrous pattern and why he’s intent to stay in it. Green establishes a noteworthy literary framework here, connecting the parts together at the end, when things finally make sense for the characters.
It’s about having confidence in ourselves—being okay with who we are and understanding that being “special” is not nearly as important as being present in the world. We have to live, really live, in it....more
(Review taken from personal blog at misprintedpages.wordpress.com)
Joe the Barbarian crosses children’s playtime with an epic fantasy of adult peril an(Review taken from personal blog at misprintedpages.wordpress.com)
Joe the Barbarian crosses children’s playtime with an epic fantasy of adult peril and consequences. When the boy Joe Mansion forgets his daily intake of glucose, his empty house becomes a gateway to a rabbit-hole realm that puts Wonderland to shame. His pet rat fights as a warrior, and each hypoglycemic step he takes in his house converts to miles in the land of Hypogea. As his imagination takes hold, casting him into a kingdom fraught with war and toy armies, one threat remains consistent in either reality: death.
Death himself shakes the foundations of Hearth Castle and the regions beyond, and Joe grows weaker as he stumbles downstairs and into the kitchen—an effort that stretches across the entire book’s length, as every staircase, room, and hallway brings new enemies and challenges. His quest for soda—a necessity that gains comedic effect as the comic goes on—leads him through the bloodied fields and towns of Hypogea, to cliffs on high and sewers down low. Each change in his house reflects back into the otherworld (eg., letting the bathwater run and overflow creates a waterfall in his hallucination), and as a perfect parallel to life, he makes new friends and learns to stand as tall as a giant. Grant Morrison bridges these two worlds with a lot of storytelling depth—each mountain and forest is aptly named, each person and legend translatable to Joe’s home dimension—and Sean Murphy builds it from the bottom up with awe and color and breathless wonder.
In one adventure, Joe must grow up—he’s the Dying Boy, fabled defeater of Death. But to save the kingdom means inching closer to his own mortality. The only thing more beautiful than the intricate, believable story is its ending: Readers watch as Joe matures from page to page, but it’s the last moments of the book that really cement his growth and identity. Joe the Barbarian not only comes full circle in small measurements; it comes full circle in a final, big way—the most important one of all for Joe and his widowed mother....more
(Review originally posted on my blog, misprintedpages.wordpress.com)
Pharmacology is an interesting breed of book. In one big pot it melts together mus(Review originally posted on my blog, misprintedpages.wordpress.com)
Pharmacology is an interesting breed of book. In one big pot it melts together music, gay and lesbianism, joblessness, and biggest of all, drugs and the world we live in—how it’s changed and continues to change, carried as we are on the currents of life.
The novel follows Sarah Striker, a girl who’s anything but brittle and knows the value of money and will do anything she can to get her hands on it. Her cause isn’t a selfish one, though. Her father is diagnosed with cancer, likely an adverse effect from his depression medication, and the insurance won’t cover what was warned about in the fine print. As the bills begin to pile, Sarah leaves home for San Francisco, rooming with heroin addicts who steal her socks, eat her cereal, and sell her belongings as they try to drag her down into their dark and seedy world of vampire fetishes and sex dungeons.
Sarah won’t have any of it. She survives on Ramen noodles and sends money home each month to “Moms” and “Pops,” taking odd jobs to make ends meet. Pharmacology is half a coming-of-age story and half a larger commentary on the corrupt pharmaceutical industry and the submergence of drugs in our culture. When Sarah finally accepts an insidious invite to create ads and design strategies to convince people that disorders like ADD are real and morbidly profitable, she’s sucked into the very world she abhors and criticizes in her underground zine, Luddite. She struggles to expose the truth in the name of her dying father and a dwindling society that’s being overturned from print into the digital information age, but she’s also rocked by the throes of soul-searching and identity—as the money gets better, her Dad gets sicker, and drugs pin her (and the reader) down from all sides, from the California streets to the big companies staffed with confused kids turned corporate zombies.
Author Christopher Herz realizes Sarah through a distinctive voice and well-written prose that, in its many attempts at communicating wisdom about the ups and downs of life, fails and succeeds in alternation. Sometimes what Herz writes rings painfully true, while other times his words seem to miss their mark by an inch. Lines like these were only weakly manifested in the text and failed to feel wholly graspable:
"You need to be careful of people who tell you that adventure exists at the next turn—because it turns out that they are not really walking into a story, but running away from a history that chases them throughout time."
While ones like these could be felt down to the very bones of the book:
"It’s like that, I think. Only a few stick with you down the entire way because on that path, there are so many missteps and falls that cause deep wounds and lasting scars, most people shy away when the pain starts. It’s the ones who walk with you through it all that allow you to understand love."
There’s no doubt that Herz has a lovely handle on imagery when he wants to, shaping it into something psychedelic …
"Stars (or birds) were flash-bulbs from the photographers."
… or something authentic:
"Dishes slapping down on the tables are rattling like the train that used to come through Kansas City before moving across the rest of the country."
I have to wonder about the deeper implications, though. The novel ends beautifully but feels ironic throughout: Sarah not only contributes to the industry she hopes to topple, but she sells drugs to junkies and experiments with them herself. Is one less destructive than the other? Or are drugs merely inescapable—one form moving into the space of another’s absence?
Pharmacology puts up a good fight but just doesn’t reach its nirvana, and its sub-cultural idiosyncrasies may prove difficult for many readers to penetrate.
I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from the book, aside from the one at the top:
"‘But I don’t write what’s happening. I am what’s happening. Besides, you already have what you need. You’ve been watching it all. That’s the kind of person you are. That’s your drug. Intake.’"...more
Monstrumology is the science of dissecting truth from superstition — or debunking myths altogether. I(Originally posted on my blog, Misprinted Pages.)
Monstrumology is the science of dissecting truth from superstition — or debunking myths altogether. In The Curse of the Wendigo, it specifically involves understanding and maintaining humanity in a world of monsters.
I really liked The Monstrumologist, Rick Yancey’s first book in the series, when I read it last year, and I’m ashamed it took me this long to pick up the sequel. It was, most assuredly, well worth the wait. I’m only saddened to learn that after the next book, The Isle of Blood, there’s just one more (The Final Descent releases in September). Of course, a fourth book almost didn’t happen at all.
These novels follow the life of young Will Henry, an orphan and apprentice (and often caretaker) to the eccentric, brilliant, and occasionally unstable monstrumologist Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. I admired Yancey’s talent for the grotesque in the first book, in which the pair hunted the Anthropophagi, but The Curse of the Wendigo‘s particular accomplishment comes from how it manages to instill fear and trepidation without confirming the existence of a monster at all.
Whether the Wendigo — a being that always hungers, that kills until it’s killed and calls your name on the high wind, marking you as its victim with its penetrating yellow eye and irresistible lure of desire — is real or myth, Yancey never answers. The question alone is what forces the characters to look deep within themselves and determine whether man is capable of becoming such a horrible monster or whether we make up stories about evil creatures to comfort and shield ourselves from the truth. When we cannot say for certain, is it easier to save a madman or destroy a beast?
The Curse of the Wendigo is equally as horrifying in its descriptions as its implications. Yancey tells of watchful eyes among dark trees; of bodies impaled high up, their rib cages and hearts torn open; skin peeled off and faces removed; mounds and mires of defecation and stink; and of wordless death cries from the old and young and newborn. He also shows us human beauty — of love and devotion, both romantic and that of a parent and child, and of great sacrifice to save another.
It’s a much more internal story than The Monstrumologist was, and darker, too. But it’s less action-packed. Half takes place in the wilderness, far from home, and the rest — largely the tale of the deteriorating state of a sick man, Warthrop’s best friend and also the person who stole away the woman he loved — returns the travelers to their residence in New York.
The future of Will Henry and Warthrop is much more uncertain by the end; the book more closely explores their relationship and interdependency and what consequences that has. I’m curious to see what happens next.
I think I’ll be reading the next book a lot sooner....more
Cancer is a disease that most of us bumble through the world caring little about until we encounter i(Originally posted on my blog, Misprinted Pages.)
Cancer is a disease that most of us bumble through the world caring little about until we encounter it for the first time. I don’t mean in textbooks or television commercials but in a fellow human being. Once it affects someone you love, you see it everywhere, an unseen force that Won’t Stop Taking Lives.
I was lucky. My family’s experience with cancer, which has been quite personal, was tame compared to what it could have been, to what I know it can do and how quickly and unfairly it can kill. I’ve seen it reduce people to shells in a matter of months, robbing wives of husbands and sons of mothers. Not that something else, like a car accident, makes any sort of sense either, but cancer is a cruel sickness: what’s ruining a person’s life is life itself — cells that grow in a way they shouldn’t.
So first, The Fault in Our Stars is a coming-of-age novel. Secondly, it’s about cancer. And also love. Someone’s going to die, and you’re probably going to cry.
John Green’s book does, for much of its story, impress happiness and sadness in equal measure. Hazel is 16-years-old and dying, but dying happens in degrees of extremes. One cancer kid is not dying in the same way or with the same severity as another, or even at the moment. It’s not doom and gloom all the time. She may be one day, month, year, or decade away from self-destruction.
So when Hazel, the teenage girl with crap lungs, meets Augustus, who has beaten cancer and lost a leg to it, and they fall in love, her feelings are conflicted. She’s a vegetarian for a reason. If you know your time on Earth is short, then perhaps the best course of action is to tread as lightly as possible. Minimize the damage. Spare another person from the grief you’ll cause.
Yet The Fault in Our Stars reminds us that love is worth knowing, doing, and sharing, however fleeting it may be. That little infinity is a huge gift.
The last third of the book is much grimmer than the early pages; it’s depressing and hard to stomach. Green takes care to make a book about cancer not-100-percent-about-cancer, so there’s humor and the whole mystery of Hazel’s favorite book and why it’s written the way it is, which she and Gus investigate. They focus on what brings them together, aside from the obvious.
But the book is very much about cancer and how people are affected by it, both strangers and sufferers. The fear of it can pervade every thought, and it’s awful when those worries finally manifest in resurgence or someone gets sick who wasn’t before. These are our star-crossed lives — our wonderfully tragic path through existence.
For portraying this ugliness the way it does, The Fault in Our Stars is only more beautiful. It never lets up. Grief is not the end; we’re always searching for more. For hope. For another chapter. Because we go on even when someone we love doesn’t....more
(Taken from personal blog at misprintedpages.wordpress.com)
I finished reading The Monstrumologist, and I have to say: Bravo, Mr. Yancey, for turning t(Taken from personal blog at misprintedpages.wordpress.com)
I finished reading The Monstrumologist, and I have to say: Bravo, Mr. Yancey, for turning the bones-old premise of monsters under the bed and grave-digging and other such haunts into something I want to read in the modern day—with the lights off.
The Monstrumologist, part one in an ongoing YA series that escaped cancellation thanks to fan intervention, is fantastically gripping. Yancey has a natural knack for writing characters and forming meaningful connections between them, even if he does fall trap to spelling everything out for you (at least in the beginning) through the diary-recorded narration of the young Will James Henry, the monstrumologist’s assistant. But Yancey is quite clever at coming up with these psychological observations in the first place, and the sheer number of them makes the book rich and rewarding.
Also enjoyable is Yancey’s talent for describing the grotesque. It’s something to marvel at. The first chapter snares your attention for the rest of the book because the author takes his time in painting a very disgusting picture that gets increasingly impressive as more is revealed. In fact, while Yancey has undoubtedly learned from the old masters (H.P. Lovecraft, most notably), he certainly has a tenacious grasp of gross imagery that’s completely his own dark invention.
In the book, Will Henry and his mentor, the monstrumologist Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, investigate the emergence of man-eating Anthropophagi in New England. The early parts of the story are slow to develop, but the flavorful language is more than repayment, and the last third of the book peaks in pace and suspense. Yancey knows how to keep a reign on the easily overplayed nature of horror.
For me, the bane of books with sequels is that I know that I either want to continue on (either soon or someday) or never will. With The Monstrumologist series, it’s only a matter of time before I’m back solving gruesome mysteries alongside Will Henry and the doctor....more
John Green makes writing look as easy and simple as everyday thought, but underneath this high school coming-of-age story is a much deeper acknowledgmJohn Green makes writing look as easy and simple as everyday thought, but underneath this high school coming-of-age story is a much deeper acknowledgment of human nature. The chapters are perfectly paced, and by the end of the book, you'll find yourself as transfixed with the idea of a perfect ending as Quentin is with Margo....more
I didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as the first two. Pullman calmed the story down in the last third, but most of the time there was too much goiI didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as the first two. Pullman calmed the story down in the last third, but most of the time there was too much going on and it just wasn't as consistent.
The ending (view spoiler)[is, by most people's standards, depressing, but it's not necessarily uncalled for. If you think about Pullman's message of how joyous being one with the universe is, you'll understand that even though Lyra and Will are forced to live apart, they'll be rejoined one day, and sitting on the same bench in their different Oxfords holds a certain power, as well. That spiritual connection, something we could all do well to learn from, is more powerful and real to Pullman than a belief in God. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>...more
The second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy starts out slower, but when it picks up, it's just as good as the first. And the subtle knife is anThe second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy starts out slower, but when it picks up, it's just as good as the first. And the subtle knife is an awesome fantasy tool....more
Pullman's grasp on language is intimidating. The Golden Compass is just the right dose of fantasy, without excess or indulgence. Pullman draws you intPullman's grasp on language is intimidating. The Golden Compass is just the right dose of fantasy, without excess or indulgence. Pullman draws you into the world one gyptian, witch, and foreign land at a time....more
First of all, this book clearly has one of the best covers ever. Second, Eating the Cheshire Cat is an odd teen novel. Fun, but remarkably teen and reFirst of all, this book clearly has one of the best covers ever. Second, Eating the Cheshire Cat is an odd teen novel. Fun, but remarkably teen and really weird....more
I really liked Eragon, but Eldest was a major blow to quality for me. I understand that middle books are often slow to develop (at the time, Paolini wI really liked Eragon, but Eldest was a major blow to quality for me. I understand that middle books are often slow to develop (at the time, Paolini was planning Inheritance as a trilogy), but it took well into the final quarter of the book before I felt the same excitement over Eldest as I did with Eragon (Book One)....more
I was younger when I read the first several books in this series, and I loved it. I didn't finish only because these teen books are like candy---sugarI was younger when I read the first several books in this series, and I loved it. I didn't finish only because these teen books are like candy---sugar quick with what you get, and not substantial enough to cover the price of all of them. Like the Baby-sitter's Club or Sweet Valley High of the early 2000s (actually, Pascal wrote Sweet Valley High, so you know). This is an excellent pick for young girls, but it does contain some suggestive themes (buyers take note).
Every time I eat roasted almonds, I think of Gaia. And it's awesome.
I was surprised how good this book was. It's a young adult novel, but its themes and relationships affect all of us, regardless of age. The writing isI was surprised how good this book was. It's a young adult novel, but its themes and relationships affect all of us, regardless of age. The writing is beautifully crafted, and the twist will hit you hard....more
One of the best but most depressing books I've ever read. Getting through this was a struggle emotionally. I highly recommend The Perks of Being a WalOne of the best but most depressing books I've ever read. Getting through this was a struggle emotionally. I highly recommend The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I'll never read it more than once....more
Paolini is an accomplished writer for how young he was when his first book, Eragon, came to print, but his work is typical fantasy. I've read both EraPaolini is an accomplished writer for how young he was when his first book, Eragon, came to print, but his work is typical fantasy. I've read both Eragon and its sequel, and I just haven't got around to picking the third book, Brisingr, off my shelf. Eragon is an entertaining read, but the quality dipped with the arrival of Book Two....more