this is the second Ali Smith that I read, and while I liked it better than "Boy Meets Girl", I still think some of the stories were a bit hit and missthis is the second Ali Smith that I read, and while I liked it better than "Boy Meets Girl", I still think some of the stories were a bit hit and miss.
There are aspects of her language that I love, and I relate very much to some of her imagery, but I think some of the stories fell a little flat. You can obviously tell which of her elements she re-uses quite frequently and so you can never quite believe that each story is about a different character; it seems like the same one over and over again. ...more
This was a very interesting read, and a lucky find in the Teen section of Bromley library. The title caught my eye immediately and I borrowed it evenThis was a very interesting read, and a lucky find in the Teen section of Bromley library. The title caught my eye immediately and I borrowed it even though the presentation of the book wasn't the greatest. It was either going to be a waste of the publishers' time, or a rare gem. It turned out to be the latter.
This novel follows the story of Taylor, a teenager who gets sent to a Bible camp after he comes out to his parents, who are hoping to "make him straight". In Taylor we have a main character who has a strong faith in God but who is also resolved not to let the "program" change who he is and what he feels for his boyfriend.
Taylor has to start by not talking for three days, and while on one hand he does not want to be brainwashed, some aspects of the camp and especially of human interactions really fascinate him. I really did enjoy all his theories about what motivated these people, because I'm also an overthinker, so I didn't think it was unrealistic or simply "too much".
There is an outstanding cast of supporting characters, so many names to remember and yet even those who only get mentioned once or twice I thought were fleshed out quite well, making it easy for me to remember who was who.
I am not religious but I was able to follow the religious talk quite easily, although at times I must admit it got a little intense. I do like religion when it's used as a basis for analysis of people's behaviour and how society has evolved. I think this book made me more sympathetic towards gays who choose to remain religious, while up until now I had dismissed them saying "how inconsistent is it to want to remain part of something that hates you?". I suppose I feel that more towards Catholics as that is the religion I was raised in, but the novel actually deals with a nonspecified Christian denomination in America.
The only fault of this book is in the narration, occasionally, and jarringly, in the occasion of "circle" meetings it looked almost like scriptwriting (character name: "Dialogue") and it just seemed inappropriate in the middle of a novel. Also, the IM acronyms used throughout the book must have seemed all the rage at the time, but they are quite outdated at the moment, giving it a bit of a "distant" feel while the topic is still extremely relevant, with the common plague of gay teen suicides.
(view spoiler)[The last 100 pages of the novel went really fast, as it was obvious that there would be a scandal of the "one of the camp staff is a pedophile" variety. I did think perhaps the attack towards Taylor was a little unrealistic, although I enjoyed Taylor's jibe about how in films the hero always wastes time telling the villain what he's going to do and that's when he gets overpowered. I thought that was a truly hilarious touch. It was also perhaps not the best choice to make the pedophile character evidently mentally disturbed. I think it would have been more impactful if this character had been fully aware of what he was doing and why and doing it out of true evil instead of having craziness justify his actions. Still, despite the resolution being perhaps overly quick, I thought it was necessary. (hide spoiler)] I would have perhaps appreciated an epilogue where we find out what happens to Taylor once he returns to his parents, unchanged in his gayness but more accepting of other's narrow-mindedness.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Interesting read! I was very skeptical that I could like this as it looked like one of those really cheesy, cheap books that get published just becausInteresting read! I was very skeptical that I could like this as it looked like one of those really cheesy, cheap books that get published just because the specialised LGBT publishers will publish anything they can get their hands on regardless of quality. But for once the bad title and cover graphics did not match what was inside.
It's a coming of age novel about Grace, aged fifteen, who goes to an extremely religious school and is surrounded by nuns and the typical hypocrisy of Catholicism. It has some very common elements to this type of lesbian novels, for example, Grace's best friend is just discovering boys and sex and is extremely excited about it, and Grace just doesn't get it, and fools herself that it could be because she has "the calling" or isn't with the right person.
In fact, when Grace begins a secret relationship with school mate Meg, she realises that she can in fact be very sexual and even ends up losing her virginity before her best friend who is described as more liberated and sexually positive.
(view spoiler)[Eventually the relationship is discovered by Grace's mother, who sends her daughter and her girlfriend to counselling with a priest - the counselling is actually quite wishy-washy, with the priest not even careful to respect the mother's wishes that the two girls get separate counselling sessions. I thought that it was a bit of a plot hole that Grace's mother never bothers to check how the counselling is going and to verify that Grace is in fact not seeing Meg anymore. What is actually happening is that the relationship continues right under her nose, using school activities or other friends as alibis.
What I did enjoy was Grace's reaction to Meg's betrayal, while she is deeply hurt and she feels like the end of the world, she is able to hide this from those closest to her and steel herself to confrontations with Meg, instead of taking her back which is something someone of a weaker disposition would have done. (hide spoiler)]
One thing that I thought was problematic with this book was that it was occasionally too descriptive and I found myself skimming some bits that were not terribly necessary to the plot. The final resolution felt a bit rushed and left me wanting more. Especially I would have liked to know what happened to Meg.
Overall considering when this book was written, it must have been pretty groundbreaking at the time, and funnily enough one of the things that really struck me is the mail-order information at the end for similar titles. I can't imagine a time when books like these were not readily available and I'm sure that despite the very trite - and slightly annoying - "I love you but I'm not a lesbian" undertones, it must have been very comforting to a lot of people in its time. However I don't think I understood if it was mostly aimed at young adults or grownups, because for a mostly YA book I thought the sex scenes were a little too graphic.
One last note - (view spoiler)[I'm not sure how Meg's father molesting her was relevant to the plot, other than for her to say she hated him. I don't want this to be used as a justification for her attraction to a girl and also as the reason why she ultimately goes back to guys. It just seems to pass the wrong kind of message, whatever decade the readers are in. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm putting most of my review behind a spoiler cut because this book deals with eating disorders and I don't know what parts of my review could potentI'm putting most of my review behind a spoiler cut because this book deals with eating disorders and I don't know what parts of my review could potentially be triggering to people. I knew that was what the book was about so I wasn't disappointed like someone who thought it would be all about being gay. I found it quite gripping and I just couldn't put it down.
(view spoiler)[I have to admit, I never quite grasped the concept of "triggers" until I read this book. Occasionally, I would read something and toy with the idea of trying it. Merely for a question of putting myself to the test and seeing how I would cope, and partially also because I am one of those sad people who get a kick out of feeling in control. Look at me, I control my own weight, like a boss!
If I think that, I can only imagine how someone else might see those qualities and actions as admirable and even desirable. I think this book has the potential to do so much bad alongside all the good. Because Portia talks about bingeing, purging, counting calories before you've even got out of bed in the morning, anyone who still has an eating disorder would class it as "thinspiration" more than anything else. They would use it as a guidebook, with tips on how to starve yourself and keep your calorie intake to about 1/5th of what's healthy. And there really is no way to stop those people from buying the book.
Portia's illness was caused by many a thing. Partly, it was pressure although a lot of the pressure came from within her. Partly it was from the unhappiness of being closeted. And lastly, it had been instilled in her from the early stages of her modelling career, aged 12, by her own mother. I think this is the thing the shocked me the most. How this mother completely ruined her only daughter's life. First by encouraging her to starve herself before a modelling job or by using material goods to incentivate her weight loss. What type of twisted person does that? Especially considering she was hardly fat to begin with. I can understand incentives for studying, or even doing chores, but how is weight loss something that would give you long time benefits? Unless you think people only get anywhere in life when they are thin, which is wrong in itself.
Secondly, Portia's mum used to stifle her sexuality and pretty much demand that she stay closeted; sure, once Portia was close to dying of what was basically unhappiness, she said "I'm sorry, I acted stupidly" but how is that a sufficient apology? Portia wasted years and years trying to keep her mother happy, and while it isn't exactly mature to worry about making mummy angry when you're in your 20s, I suppose the twistedness of her own mind at the time made her agree with her mum that coming out was a bad idea.
I don't know what to think, in that generally I would disagree or be disappointed when someone tries to blame all their problems on their parents or the way they were brought up. Maybe I just don't want to cave to the idea that we all turn into our parents, even though I can totally see it in everyone. I haven't read many celebrity autobiographies, but there was one other that I've mentioned to some of you, where I got the idea that the author was saying "none of this is my fault and I will blame a certain relative" and it just felt like an attempt at getting people to pity them and it's just not an attitude that I like, I guess. (hide spoiler)]
So, I don't know; on one hand, it sounds like Portia was partially going for pity, especially where she kept repeating that all her co-stars were so much more famous and successful than her, and she was only the new girl no one wanted to spend time with and was quickly forgotten when another character was introduced in that same season. On the other hand, I do think it gives an idea of how paranoid she was, in general, and judging by the general tone of the book I think we have to realise that it's not probably true in those terms, but she is obviously telling us how she lived it and how she felt.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more