I'm one of those people who likes to "read the book before seeing the movie", and two years ago, Starz cable network advertised they were turning thisI'm one of those people who likes to "read the book before seeing the movie", and two years ago, Starz cable network advertised they were turning this book into a miniseries "event" (as they put it). I remember being intrigued at the idea; I enjoy English history, and knew very little about the "Anarchy Period", and so was curious right away when I realized this series would cover that. But being the sort of person I am, I wanted to "read" the book first.
Well, I discovered that my local library had it on audiobook. In print, the book is over 900 pages. On audiobook, it's 32 discs--that's the BIGGEST audiobook I've ever encountered! But I had a big roadtrip ahead of me, so in many ways it was perfect for such an event.
Alright, I'll get to it. I have heard many good things about this story. The words "epic" kept popping up over and over in every review I encountered, which I would hope so since it's over 900 pages. But in my opinion...it could have been cut in half. I have never read anything by Ken Follett until this, and I understand this was one of his later works, so by the time he wrote it he was an established and popular author. Which can sadly mean, publishers and editors will do very little to..."reign in" said author.
My biggest criticism: it's too long. It's overwritten. There were *many* chapters that could have been edited down, heck where were scenes that could have been edited out altogether! It's established early on that certain characters are extremely villianous, so was it necessary to, once again, describe a brutal and grotesque rape scene? There were also some scenes that made no sense why the author went on and on in great detail (the bear bating scene for example) which had *nothing* to do with the story, other than to remind us readers that yes, life was very different during the middle ages. As a fan of romance novels, I'm used to reading love scenes that go across the board in "detail", but I found the love scenes in this book to be a bit on the creepy side. They didn't strike me as romantic, but more like voyeristic pornography, and I often skipped ahead.
The best thing I can say about the book is the main character, Prior Philip (I know it could be argued if he's the main character because there are *tons* of characters), but I did like the way Follett wrote this character; he wasn't perfect, he certainly was a man who made mistakes and yes, at times, fell short to pride and ambition, but he wasn't corrupt, he recognized his shortcomings and tried to learn from his mistakes. Follett claims he is not religious, but I am glad that he showed some respect to such a religious character as Prior Philip.
However, I did feel that there were certain characters we were "supposed" to like, and I just couldn't do it. I never cared for Ellen that much, I didn't sympathize with her although I felt I was supposed to, and oftentimes I found Jack and Aliena annoying as well. What's funny is that I liked there portrayals so much more in the film than in the book, but I leave that up to the actors rather than the printed script.
I give it 2 stars instead of 1 mainly because of Prior Philip, and because I did feel that I learned something about that period that I hadn't known before, however I would never say "read this to get an acurate understanding of medieval England"...noooooo, indeed, this is a work of fiction, set in a historical setting, but at the end of the day, it is still fiction, and not history....more
I know some would debate whether I truly "read" this book, because I actually listened to the audiobook, but I have to say I'm really glad that was thI know some would debate whether I truly "read" this book, because I actually listened to the audiobook, but I have to say I'm really glad that was the format to which I "read" it, because the audio really enhanced the story, in fact I may even go so far as to argue that it should only be available in an audio format since it deals with a girl leaving her suicide note via cassette tapes, vs. writing a letter. In some ways it would be all the more chilling if it were only available in cassette format. Anyway, that's my opinion; I would certainly recommend, whether you've read it or not, to pick up the audio addition wherever it's available, like your friendly neighborhood library which was where I found it.
I saw this book being showcased at a lot of bookstores and knew that it was popular, although I didn't know what it was about. I drive 40 minutes to work each way, so I like to get audiobooks to play in my car. While at my library, I saw this and, knowing it was popular, read the back and was immediately drawn in by the premise. The audio edition is told by two readers: Clay, the narrator, and Hannah, the girl who has recorded 7 cassette tapes, explaining 13 reasons why she has committed suicide. It was chilling, listening to both voices, and easy to imagine Clay hearing Hannah tell him her story.
The story begins with a teenage boy in a post office, mailing a package to a girl who we haven't met. We do know, however, that the package he is sending to her will forever change her life, as well as haunt her. We also know that the boy, Clay, has no pity for this girl. So why does he feel that way? Why is he so haunted? What is the package? The story goes back to the day before, when Clay comes home from school and finds a mysterious package waiting for him with no return address. Inside the package are 7 cassette tapes, each side labeled 1-13. Clay finds an old boombox and plays the first tape, and is shocked at hearing the voice of Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide two weeks prior. Hannah explains that the tapes tell her story as to why she chose to end her life, and the 13 people who more or less led her to make this decision. Only the people on the tapes will be receiving them, and if they choose not to a listen, a second batch of tapes will then be publically exposed, bringing all their "dirty laundry" out into the light. Immediatly, we the reader (or listener) are wondering, along with Clay, what it is that *he* has done, to be a part of this list? Clay spends the rest of the day, and long into the night, listening to Hannah's tapes, and retracing her steps over the years by visiting several places she's marked on a map, places that are connected to the 13 reasons why she killed herself.
***** SPOILER ALERT *****
The reasons range all over the place, and begin the summer before Hannah started high school, ending sometime during her junior year. At first I assumed Hannah was the victim of bullying and cruel teasing in the same manner that a person who is labeled a "nerd" or "overweight" or "physically unattractive" is bullied. Instead, Hannah was bullied and teased, but in a more "subtle" manner, in other words, she was accused of having a "slutty" reputation as the years passed. When I say subtle, what I mean is that on the surface, she doesn't appear to be someone who would be labeled as a social outcast. Rather, she is bullied through false rumors, while still being invited to parties or having her appearance admired. In other words, people pretend they like her and say she's pretty, but then whisper behind her back that she's a total slut. The boy who gives her her first kiss tells all his guy friends that it was more than just a kiss, and thus a snowball effect takes place. Soon, her body is being rated against the bodies of other girls, and various other boys through the years attempt to sexually molest and abuse her, whether it's by peeking through her window at night, or feeling her up in a dark corner. Many of the girls on the tapes are girls that instead of seeing what was really happening, that she was being objectified and abused by these boys, were upset and jealous that she was getting attention, and thus retaliated by either adding to the rumors, or completely turning their backs on her when she needed someone to confide to. All the stories, in their varying degrees are bad, some worse than others. Some stories result in rape and death. Clay's story is different, more of an apology by Hannah than an accusation, yet at the same time I felt Clay did have some guilt; he claims that he did notice the drastic changes and knew something was wrong, but he himself was confused about how to handle the situation, and therefore is guilty by omission. But at the same time, I understand his anger at Hannah, anger that she chose to kill herself instead of accepting his help when he attempted to reach out.
***** BIG SPOILER(S) *****
The part that affected me the most was Hannah's final tape, the one where she goes to a teacher to seek help, her last grip on trying to save her life. As someone who works with teenagers, I listened with rapt attention at how Mr. Porter handles the situation. Like Clay, I too was upset when I felt that Mr. Porter wasn't truly "listening" or at least not picking up that she was clearly hanging on by a thread in a desperate attempt to find help and stop what she was planning on doing. But the thing that made me so upset was how Mr. Porter handled the news when Hannah revealed that she had been raped by a boy at a party. Now, Hannah herself says "I didn't say no, I didn't try to push him away", (she had more or less resolved to kill herself at this point) but I don't care how many textbook definitions Hannah uses to try and say she wasn't raped...she *was*, because even though she didn't say "no" or physically do anything to stop him, the point of the fact is that his touch, his advances were *not* welcome...so it *was* rape. Now Hannah doesn't come right out and say that a boy had sex with her, but through her hints and his own questions, Mr. Porter is able to deduce that some kind of sexual abuse did take place. Hannah asks him for help, and asks what she should do. He asks her if she's gone to the police, or is considering to file charges. She says no, and then he gives her 2 other options: 1) she confronts the boy in Mr. Porter's office with him present as mediator, or 2) she moves on. I was screaming, "THERE IS NO SECOND OPTION!" You *NEVER* tell anyone who has been abused, especially a rape victim to "just move on". In fact, there really is only one option: file charges! While it may not, sadly, garurantee that the kid will be arrested and charged, at the very least it will put his crime out in the open and ruin his life. Mr. Porter's "wonderful" guidence seals Hannah's decision, which we already know has taken place.
It is frustrating; it will make you feel sad for Hannah and it will probably make you despise her at times...all of which are natural reactions to someone who has committed suicide. When I first described this book to some people, they were first upset that the girl had spent so much time making these tapes instead putting that kind of energy in seeking help, that her tapes were a cruel way of making people feel guilty instead of thinking how her death was going to affect the people around her after she was gone. Those reactions are natural, because the people left behind are upset and feel that they weren't considered when the victim chose to kill themselves. But suicide victims don't think like that, and even though we, like Clay, are left saying, "but I was there, I offered to help, I tried, I wanted to help, why didn't she turn to me?" in order to truly reach out and help someone feeling suicidal, *we* have to purposefully reach out and remind them and help them and continue to do that because they do feel completely, utterly alone despite various people around them saying, "but I'm available to help!" As someone who lost a cousin to suicide and helped stop a friend from committing it, I felt that the author had a very good understanding of the emotions felt by those who are victims and those who suffer behind. The premise is interesting which I think is important, because if anything, it will hopefully draw young readers in and make them look around for the signs of possible suicide victims. I also feel that the book ends on a positive note, with Clay purposefully reaching out to a girl who *may* go down the same road Hannah has gone, but this time he is going beyond where he went with Hannah.
Good book; I really think teen book groups and classrooms should consider it and have discussions on it. And as I said before, if you can, get the audioformat!...more
Gosh, where does one begin? I picked this book up because I thought the cover was beautiful and when I read the premise, I found it intriguing. In somGosh, where does one begin? I picked this book up because I thought the cover was beautiful and when I read the premise, I found it intriguing. In some ways it's amazing we haven't had more "werewolf-themed" novels in young adult literature, and that so many years after the paranormal romance boom took off with "Twilight", a popular werewolf romance has only come about. I hate to compare "Shiver" with "Twilight", it's not exactly fair to either novel, but people do that constantly; if it's fantasy based, it's compared to "Harry Potter" and if it deals with paranormal elements, it's compared to "Twilight"; I guess that's the price one pays for being big and starting a craze, no matter what genre you're involved with. Anyway, I digress; as I said, I picked "Shiver" up because I was intrigued by the premise, but I was smart and decided to check it out of my local library vs. buying a copy on impulse. I remember being wait-listed for this book all summer, and it wasn't until mid August that I finally got a hold of it. I was excited, I thought it was going to be one of those books where once you started, you couldn't put it down and I would finish it in a matter of days. Plus, the book had been nominated by Illinois high school students for the "Lincoln Award" (Illinois School Library Association's state honor for young adult literature). So with all these assumptions, I settled down, prepared to love this book and want to go out and buy it plus all the sequels, upon finishing it.
Well, I was wrong. It took me several weeks to finish it, and that was due to my will power forcing me. I did not love this book; I don't think I would say I hated it, but I certainly will not be adding it to my collection. I'm very thankful I didn't waste money on it and just checked it out of my library. The sad thing is I was more happy with myself for coming through and finishing the darn thing than for the actual experience of reading it. I'm glad in a way that I did force myself to finish it, because in my opinion, the book's better parts were near the end. But that's the main problem, the beginning and massive chuck of the middle are just...boring.
Ok, I'll first mention the good things about this book (sadly that list is shorter). The "side characters" I found very interesting; Isabel, Olivia, Beck, even Jack, the newly crazed werewolf. Even the evil Shelby, heck, even Grace's parents! I wanted to know more about them than about our main couple. Perhaps Stiefvater's following novels "Linger" and "Forever" provide some backstory into Sam's history and the history of the Mercy Falls wolf pack; I hope so because it was driving me crazy, not having any of that information. The action, once it finally came along, was good; Shelby attempting to kill Grace, Sam's fight with Jack, Jack "kidnapping" Grace, the whole scene at the clinic...those were good scenes! But it took far too long to get to them, and I was bored most of the time. The last "good thing" I think I can say about the book is that I do applaud Stiefvater's creativity with having the wolves change due to cold weather, vs. the phases of the moon. I hadn't read anything like that before, so it struck me as original. And I will give her credit for her detailed descriptions on the wolves themselves. However, I wish I could have had more of that detail when the people actually transformed into wolves; while one could argue it's left for the imagination, it came across to me as not having a clue as to how to write such a description.
Now onto the bad things, which I've already started touching on. The big one: GRACE AND SAM. I'm sorry, I could not 100% get behind this couple. I grew to tolerate Grace's character more as the book went along, but I can't say I ever really liked her. I don't know if I would criticize her as much as other people have, but she is somewhat self-centered; it drove me crazy when she had that "fight" with Olivia, and didn't even pause to think why Olivia may be upset with her, just assumed it was all Olivia's fault. And when Olivia does offer an apology, Grace contemplates being petty and refusing! First of all, I don't think Olivia really had anything to apologize for, because what she said is true: Grace is dangerously obsessed with the wolves, to the point where she needs some serious counseling. Sam...I don't really understand how he's meant to be a hunky dreamboat. Other than the fact that he has yellow eyes and dark hair...I never really understood what he looked like. Was he tall? Medium height? Musclar? Lean and slender? Was his voice deep? Other than his eyes, there's very little description to Sam's looks, so I had a hard time envisioning this boy that Grace was madly in love with. Plus, how old is he? 17? 18? 21? I was so confused with his character. It didn't help the fact that Sam was..."too sensitive". Yes, many girls and women talk about an ideal man being caring and sensitive, but at the same time they don't want him to lose his masculinity. This is a complaint I've read over and over on this site: Sam is too feminine...and I'm sorry to say, I agree. Hate to make the comparison, but Edward Cullen from "Twilight" is sensitive, but still masculine. I would think Sam would be even more masculine, being so in touch with his wolf-side. But I had a hard time envisioning a young man saying or thinking some of things he says and thinks (talking about how fat he looks in Grace's bathrobe, for example). And the song lyrics! YUCK!!! Grace makes a comment at the end of the book that she's finally starting to get poetry because of Sam. If that's true, then I feel very sorry for her. Every time Sam began spouting off song lyrics I wanted to gag; forget the over-sentimentality...they were just plain bad!
"Shiver's" biggest problem is its pacing. I'm sorry, but it's a boring book. The action takes place far too late, and the romance starts far too early. The characters are together as a couple, deeply in love, before you get to page 100, and there are 390 pages total. With so little conflict or action, you're just along for the ride, "the third wheel", condemned to witness these characters snuggle in bed, talk and fantasize about being wolves, and listen to Grace whine about her parents while Sam creates mind-numbing song lyrics. I put this book down so many times to do something else, and there were several days in a row where I didn't pick it up at all. I was extremely tempted to just turn it back in without finishing it, but then *finally*, something "good" happened (I think it had to do with Shelby attacking Grace) that I chose to stick with it, and finally found the action I was looking for, and no longer forced to endure another mindless day of the Sam n' Grace soap opera, because Isabel and Olivia were enduring it alongside me.
Yes, there will be many people out there who will love this book. They will love the endless pages of just Sam and Grace together, they will love the sensitive song lyrics, and they will probably tear up when they think all hope is lost between the two. Maybe if I were a preteen I would think differently; but the truth is there are much better Young Adult books out there, and there are much better Young Adult books that deal with romance and the paranormal. So if you want to read it, do so; but don't compare the entire genre to this one book. And save your money; borrow a friend's copy, or check it out from the library....more