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 miss...morethis 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. (less)
Interesting one. This book is presented as "dystopian" but it lacks some of the key elements in the current trend of teen dystopian novels. First of a...moreInteresting one. This book is presented as "dystopian" but it lacks some of the key elements in the current trend of teen dystopian novels. First of all, it's narrated in 3rd person, in a sort of modern fairytale style. It's quite formulaic (Little Fearless escapes, finds someone who does not believe her, then gets back). Secondly, the main characters are children of unspecified age, but we are talking about school age so I imagined them to be somewhat between 10 and 16. Thirdly, which I'm sure is a plus for some people, due to the younger age of the characters, there is no romance in the book at all.
The story is set in the future, in what is basically a correctional facility for young girls, which however is presented as a religious school to the outside world. The girls find themselves enslaved in a workhouse and obviously victim to bullying and different ranks between them, until our hero, called Little Fearless, hatches a plan for escaping and trying to tell someone on the outside world what is really going on in that building.
Other than the repetitions in the plot, the language is also sometimes reminiscent of fairytales. I agree with other reviewers that some of the supporting characters, namely Little Fearless's 3 Y-girl friends, were not too well defined and very interchangeable with each other. At the same time, description of what exactly was going on in the outside world was bland and, at times, even contradictory. There is talk about a war and bombings but whenever Little Fearless goes to the City it just seems an everyday evening, rather than a city at war. It was maybe even superfluous to try and update simple terms like "television" to "vidscreen" to give an idea that this is a future world. Creating a new language is typical in dystopian novels, but this seemed unnecessary. At the same time I found the novel very gripping and read it in half a day. I'm not totally convinced that it would belong in the "teen" section of a library, but it was definitely a good read and I especially appreciated the subtle anti-religious undertones. (less)
I borrowed this from the library on a sunny day and took it to the park to read - I didn't read it the whole way through, just skimmed it. I thought i...moreI borrowed this from the library on a sunny day and took it to the park to read - I didn't read it the whole way through, just skimmed it. I thought it was very poor. The concept was interesting, but for every topic, several authors, as well as readers and bookstore assistants, were asked to list their preferences and the lists just ended up containing everything and the opposite of everything.
For example, when asked what their writing routine was, some authors said "every day at the same time", others "once or twice a week but for the whole day", and these preferences ended up contradicting each other so instead of being a list of "dos and don'ts" it was pretty much claiming that "everything goes", which I believe is the opposite of what this guide was trying to do.
The same goes for the debate of concise narrative vs. long, detailed descriptions, or what makes an interesting character or narrator. It was so contradictory it gave me a few chuckles, which I don't think is a good sign.
If someone was reading this looking for actual tips on how to write, I think they'd just end up being more confused than when they began. (less)
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 even...moreThis 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"]>(less)
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 becaus...moreInteresting 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"]>(less)
I could not finish this book, and ended up returning it to the library and taking it off my currently-reading shelf. Maybe my expectations were too hi...moreI could not finish this book, and ended up returning it to the library and taking it off my currently-reading shelf. Maybe my expectations were too high, due to John Green having such a loyal following of fans, so much so that upon opening the book someone had left a little post-it note hidden inside, promoting his Youtube channel.
There were some good concepts in this book (like the difference between a genius and a prodigy) and some very powerful one-liners but they don't really make up for what I felt was lacking. The constant footnotes were really annoying and broke the flow of the writing, as well as the premise being a little too ridiculous for my suspension of disbelief (a guy who has been with or has loved only girls named Katherine, and 19 of them at that).
When I read "Will Grayson, Will Grayson", I remember someone commenting that the characters were the "typical John Green stereotypes" and upon reading this book, I must say I completely understand where that reader was coming from, as it felt like I was reading about the same characters with different names. I don't think it's wrong to write about similar people or situations, but more could have been done to distinguish these characters as individuals, I think. (less)