It wasn’t that long ago that I thought I would be writing you a break-up letter. A terse, thanks-Why We Got Together by Reynje
Dear ‘Why We Broke Up’,
It wasn’t that long ago that I thought I would be writing you a break-up letter. A terse, thanks-but-no-thanks, it’s-not-me-it’s-you-now-kindly-get-lost note. I can be acerbic when I’m annoyed and there it is, the admission, the honest truth that I thought you would annoy me.
It makes me wonder why I buy books sometimes, whether it’s truthfully the book itself I want or the simple act of acquisition I crave. Is it the words I tell myself I need, or just the covetousness that accompanies a rush of cover-lust? There you were on the shelf, distinct and red and beautiful - a waxy-covered, solid weight in my gluttonous hands. I will have this book, I thought, and I took you home.
But the longer I left you on my shelf the more I resented your smug presence. If ever a book could be self-satisfied, I thought it would be you. Your illustrations, your thick paper, your heavily-blurbed back cover lush with accolades. Everything about you from your painfully hip cover typeface to your “novel-by and art-by” declarations started to grate on me. This book, I told myself, is trying to be something. This isn’t a book, it’s a pre-packaged hipster experience, it’s something to be seen with, it’s something that wants to tell you what’s cool and how you should feel about it. Well, excuse me. I see enough of that on the city streets, I don’t need your judgement on my bookshelves as well.
So, I ignored you. Pushed you to the bottom of the stack, threw you over for other books time and time again. Occasionally, as I ran a searching finger down the column of spines I’d pause at yours. I’d feel guilty for owning a book I didn’t want to read, then assuage it by telling myself it was just that I wasn’t in the mood to read about intellectualised misery or the painful disintegration of a relationship.
Until one day, I was.
That’s not to say that I liked you from the first page, because I didn’t. I was wilfully resistant to your efforts at charm. I didn’t like Min’s stream of consciousness narration. I didn’t like the way you interrupted the dialogue in awkward places with “is what she said” or “is what you said.” I didn’t like the contrived quirkiness of the characters and the quaint turns of phrase. I didn’t like your “witty” banter that sounded so pleased with itself. I didn’t like Min’s habit of constantly referencing films and directors and actors. Alright, I get it, okay, enough – Min is different, Min is cool, Min is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that doesn’t really exist. I just didn’t like you.
Until suddenly, I did.
You crept up on me, somewhere in between the pages of softly-coloured illustrations and vignettes that form Min’s letter. Item by item, with each relic dropped into the box, I fell for you. As Min and Ed’s story telescoped down to its fragile and bitter heart, I was drawn in. I found Min in those dashed down anecdotes and I knew her. I knew this person who wanted so desperately to be something but thought herself nothing. And I saw in her story another hurt, another bad decision, another break-up that ended in a pile of photographs and mementos on fire in the backyard, in a moment of youthful drama and heartbroken pyromania. I saw the thing that was cherished and coveted and cost nights of crying to sleep, the thing that wasn’t worth it, that didn’t work, but hurt all the same. All the moments that were never quite right, but were still precious; all the reasons it was prolonged and not put down, put behind, put out of its misery like it should have been. The thing you think you want with everything you have, until its too late and you lose more than you have to give.
And damn you page 335, for twisting up my chest until I cried ugly tears and felt all over again what it is to get hurt like a kick in the solar plexus. To feel so diminished and bereft and empty of everything worthwhile. To know that deep down you were right but that doesn’t make it hurt any less, doesn’t take away that some of it was good, some of it was special.
‘Why We Broke Up’, I admit that I judged you before I really knew you. I thought you were pretentious and insincere and I was determined to hold everything I possibly could against you. But I’ve read you now and I can’t. I can’t not like you, you stupid book, because I think of kind of love you even though you stomped on my freaking heart and made me cry in public.
This kind of review never fails to bring out my shifty, shyster side. (Yes, I certainly do have one).
I tend to think of my reviews for this genre asThis kind of review never fails to bring out my shifty, shyster side. (Yes, I certainly do have one).
I tend to think of my reviews for this genre as shoddily assembled, incoherent rambles. And I use the word “genre” there without a modifier because if you take a peek at my shelves for this book, you’ll see that I have absolutely no idea where to put it. That’s right, I probably couldn’t tell the difference between speculative and sci-fi if they walked up to me on the street and punched me in the face.
Let’s just say, I’m out of my comfort zone here. So I do my best to distract people from my complete lack of knowledge with a barrage of emotional response and long tangents.
Look, over there! Adverbs!!*runs away*
Whenever I get the chance to read an entire book in one sitting, I inevitably emerge from it feeling a little drunk and disoriented. (view spoiler)[Not drunk and disorderly, although that’s happened after some books. (hide spoiler)] Surfacing too quickly after being submerged in a foreign fictional world, I find myself in a bit of a daze, squinting at my flatmate like I can’t remember who she is and having to be reminded to “use my words”.
I loved the experience of being in the world Veronica Rossi has created in Under the Never Sky. She drops the reader in with little in the way of backstory or explanation, to an extent leaving them to stumble around blind and gradually get a feel for the place. But for me, this wasn’t a frustrating experience. It was intriguing - I needed to know more, to push on, to search out answers in the text. And the detail that Rossi does provide is fascinating. She’s taken some familiar concepts and put her own unique slant on them, pushing together two very different worlds to create a setting of extremes.
I’m poorly equipped to examine the technical strengths and weaknesses of Rossi’s worldbuilding, as I’ve already admitted upfront this genre is not exactly my strong point. However from a lay perspective (so to speak), the world of Under the Never Sky reminds me a little of Blood Red Road. Not in that the settings are strikingly similar, but in the sense that both are rich with atmosphere and a curious blend of familiar and strange. The Outside, or the Death Shop, is definitely better realised than Reverie, but that’s probably attributable to the simple fact that the majority of the story takes place there.
Possibly the greatest weakness I found with Under the Never Sky was its opening, and I fear that the first few chapters may struggle to hold the attention of some readers, if not lose them altogether. It wasn’t the loud, punchy, gripping opening I was expecting. The book gets going at more of a saunter than a sprint, and keeps this relatively sedate pace for some time. When the story really hits its stride, it’s good, but the slower build up isn’t going to win over everyone.
On the other hand, the characters are so well developed and carefully crafted that they’re more than up to the task of carrying this story. Both Aria and Perry have the substance that I’ve found lacking in some comparable novels. While I didn’t find both immediately compelling (read: it took me a while to like Aria), they are both strong characters and their interactions felt believable. However, I do want to mention that (view spoiler)[I wish the element of "rendering" had not been a part of this story. While I think I understand how this could work amongst the Scires, I disliked how it detracted from the element of choice and free will in Perry and Aria's relationship. (hide spoiler)]
Perry’s story and motivations in particular came across loud and clear, probably why I felt invested in him as a character almost straight away.
Add to this the fact there’s more on offer here subject-wise than romance-masquerading-as-dystopia, namely: loyalty, trust, respect, family and visits from “Aunt Irma”, and it’s an entertaining read with some depth.
This could be the read-a-thon high speaking, which I’m yet to come down from, but at the end of the day this book is just a lot of fun to read, and one of the stronger contenders in the recent field of YA sci-fi/post-apoc/dystop (view spoiler)[(just covering all bases) (hide spoiler)] that I’ve read. Although, having just made such a big song and dance (er, disclaimer) over how little I have to substantiate my opinion, take that as you will.
As for me, I regret nothing! ["br"]>["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 know that we are young, And I know that you may love me, But I just can’t be with you like this anymore, Alejandro..(view spoiler)[Okay, I co2.5 stars
I know that we are young, And I know that you may love me, But I just can’t be with you like this anymore, Alejandro..(view spoiler)[Okay, I couldn’t resist. Come on, it’s funny.. (hide spoiler)]
Dear Perfect Chemistry,
It was fun while it lasted. Tempestuous, occasionally hilarious, but fun. However, at the end of the day, I think you and I just want different things. We’re not right for each other. And I need to move on.
I’ve been known to make a song, dance and general fool out of myself over my love for contemporary YA novels – but I can’t muster that kind of enthusiasm for you, Perfect Chemistry. Your subject matter and the execution didn’t really resonate with me, and the hackneyed “perfect girl” and “boy from the wrong side of the tracks” falling for each other plot just felt too formulaic. I’ve seen it before and frankly, (sorry if this hurts your feelings) I’ve seen it done better.
It wasn’t all bad. I can see your appeal – I even fell for it briefly. You got me through a rough time, when I was housebound with the flu and verging on full tilt cabin fever. You were a welcome distraction, building the *ahem* chemistry (yes! Puns!) between the leads nicely, and the tension was addictive.
So I’ll admit it, I was entertained. I liked Alejandro and Brittany well enough, and was especially pleased with Brittany’s development and the fact there was some depth and substance to her character. I had a tougher time with Alex’s bandanas, but hey that’s my issue, not yours.
Unfortunately, I simply couldn’t take you seriously. The clichés were so.. cliché. The drama was so.. over the top and predictable. It just wasn’t really my style.
Also, it’s probably just better that we just don’t speak about the epilogue.
I’m sorry. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s over.
Yours honestly, Death-Before-Epilogues-Reynje
* * * * *
Pre-Review: I don't think I was supposed to laugh as much as I did while I read this. Except for the Epilogue, because that was a joke... right? Right? ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["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
Cupid wearing black Wants his true story written Do I smell clam juice?
Well this was… not really what IA Week in YA Kissing Books - Haiku Mini Review #3
Cupid wearing black Wants his true story written Do I smell clam juice?
Well this was… not really what I expected.
I’ll freely admit that I picked this up because I was looking for brain-sugar. A pick-me up / temporary high after a mentally and emotionally gruelling week. I mean, look at that cover. I know I’m not supposed to judge, but doesn’t it shout “I AM FAIRY FLOSS!”, as if it’s so sweet it could rot your teeth? It’s about a girl that meets cupid, for crying out loud.
Interestingly, it turned out to be the second book I read this week that dealt (albeit more lightly, in this case) with the relationship between mental illness and creativity.
That’s not to say it’s not a light-hearted book, because it is. It’s a romantic comedy of sorts, that takes some liberties with the story of Cupid and Psyche, though not in the way you might expect.
It’s a sweet, touching and ridiculous – and I mean that in the nicest possible way – story about romance novels and lovesickness and family. And clam juice.
I like Selfor’s writing – it’s engaging and witty and it balances the whimsical content (it’s a story about a girl who’s writing a novel with the assistance of Cupid, after all - suspension of belief is required). Despite some of the cheesier moments, it’s also genuinely funny (tell me you don’t want to read a novel about a homicidal kitty called Death Cat) and quirky without being irritating. ...more
I’ve just finished Bittersweet, and about three things I am absolutely positive. First, I really want a cupcake. Second, there’s a part of me3.5 stars
I’ve just finished Bittersweet, and about three things I am absolutely positive. First, I really want a cupcake. Second, there’s a part of me – and I’m not sure just how determined this part of me is – that wants to brave the cold outside just to go get a cupcake right now. And third, I am undeniably and absolutely using this cupcake craving to delay writing a review.
Bittersweet is a decidedly cupcakeish book – sweet and indulgent. Heck, it even has a frosted cover.
The thing is, I don’t think I have enough of a sweet tooth to fully appreciate this novel’s charms. Because contrary to the title, there is scant bitterness to be found tempering the pages. Sure, Hudson doesn’t lead a charmed life. She has issues of the home, heart and high school to contend with. A cheating, absentee father. An abandoned pro ice-skating career. A friendship hanging by a tenuous thread. The possibility of never getting out of Watonka. Not one, but two hot guys on the sidelines. Etcetera.
This is the second Sarah Ockler book I’ve read, and while I’ve enjoyed both and would recommend them, I can’t say I’ve fallen in love with either. Ockler has snappy, smooth writing, her characters are accessible and the plots realistic – I just haven’t found them particularly memorable. While Bittersweet was a lovely book to sink into for a few days, I’m not convinced it will leave a lasting impression.
Bittersweet is about figuring out what’s really important – the messes that get made in the process. For all Hudson’s actions could be seen as incredibly self-centred and blinkered, I felt that she read as an authentic teenager. Her tenacity, while perhaps misplaced, and pursuit of her goals felt like a logical response to her situation. I admired her determination to achieve something, even if it took her some time to work out exactly what that should be. Hudson’s struggle to balance her relationships with her ambition was realistically handled, and probably the element of her story that resonated with me most.
In both Fixing Delilah and Bittersweet, Ockler has written complicated mother-daughter relationships – women who seem to be at cross purposes due to a break down in communication. The unbalanced dynamic between Hudson and her mother is well-handled, and Ockler writes their interactions with a great deal of insight and subtlety.
On the other hand, the romantic subplot is not quite so understated. This is right-for-the-romantic-jugular stuff, with lots of pounding hearts, near kisses, shivering and gentle touches. The relationship between Hudson and her primary love interest is cute, even rather swoony – but I felt less of a connection with this part of the story. (The use of one of my least favourite plot devices – the miscommunication – might have had something to do with this.)
I’ve probably come down a little harder on this book than I intended – so I’ll reiterate that I really liked Bittersweet. Particularly Hudson’s self-deprecating humour, which really worked against the “my life sucks” elements of the story. The supporting characters, particularly Dani, Bug and Will, also felt vital and well-realised, giving the story dimension. Ockler has a lovely, conversational style that fits her protagonist.
Bittersweet is definitely some kind of delicious. It’s just not something I could have every day without getting a toothache. ...more
There comes a day in a reviewer’s life when s/he must write a review to the tune of an ELO song. My friends, that day has come.
(Or more accurately, fThere comes a day in a reviewer’s life when s/he must write a review to the tune of an ELO song. My friends, that day has come.
(Or more accurately, for some reason, this song kept popping into my head every time I read this book. I can’t explain it).
Thus, I give you: “Evil Woman Merman” as a placeholder until closer to the book’s release and a "proper" review. Here, you can sing along with my..er.. slightly altered lyrics cough.
"You made a pawn of me, but this plotting revenge has got to end.
Hey Calder, you got the blues, cos' you ain't got no need to own shoes. There's an open ocean that leads nowhere, but it’s time to put miles between here and there. There's a hole in your head where your sisters’ voices come in, They took your past and played to win, Ha Ha merman it's a crying shame, But now you gotta kill the person you blame
Rolled in to your old lake, Turned on the charm, went creepin’ around, But a fool and his ego soon go separate ways, And you found a poet girl lyin' in a daze, Ha Ha Merman what you gonna do, You want to destroy the plans your sisters gave you, It's so strange that you're feeling pain, But your siren sisters want you back on board their crazy train.
Evil merman you’ve done her wrong, And now you're tryin' to wail a different song, Ha Ha funny how you say you’re in love, she read you a poem and you can’t give her up, She came runnin' every time you spied, Thought she saw love smilin' in your eyes, Ha Ha very nice to know, but now it’s time for you to swim off and go..