I may not have noticed that Clare Abshire is an anagram of Isabel Archer (we have Kevin Killian to thank for that!), but I definitely noticed that Amm...moreI may not have noticed that Clare Abshire is an anagram of Isabel Archer (we have Kevin Killian to thank for that!), but I definitely noticed that Amma (a pint-size remix of the vile mother character) is an anagram of Mama. I feel like such a little genius!
If you want to read a book that is like a 250 page Hole song, this is the tome for you. Sharp Objects is perhaps the most outlandish of Flynn's novels, but also (imho) the most poetic and symbolic and strange. Outlandish is fine by me. This is probably the most "gurlesque" thing you can buy at your neighborhood Target. Transfixing!(less)
King Dork is a near-perfect YA book. The narrator is engaging, acerbic, hilarious, and totally relatable for anyone who ever was a punky freak at the...moreKing Dork is a near-perfect YA book. The narrator is engaging, acerbic, hilarious, and totally relatable for anyone who ever was a punky freak at the high-school level. Thank God this book is in the first person. There are two mysteries here that require sleuthing, both around identity: one is a mystery of marginalia in Tom’s deceased father’s teen book collection, one is around a disguised mod girl he made out with at a party. Tom is preoccupied not only with individual identities but generational identity, and part of what made this book personally interesting is that it is preoccupied with the relationship between baby-boomers and late-era gen X folks. If my math is correct, King Dork takes place in the late 90s or early 2000’s. This was a brilliant way for Portman to avoid having to incorporate text messages and social media, neither of which were missed by me. The clueless baby-boomer characters were my favorite part, in particular, the snaggy step-dad “Little Big Tom" and the brutish gym teacher.
I LOVE that this book avoids the typical YA trap of being a slave to the character arc. A quote:
“In movies and books there’s always this thing called a character arc, where the main guy is supposed to change and grow and become a better person and learn something about himself. Essentially, there’s supposed to be this part right at the end where he says: ‘And as for me, well, I learned the most valuable lesson of all.’ Now if I were the main guy in a movie, I’d have the most retarded character arc anyone ever heard of. I didn’t learn anything. What’s the opposite of learning something? I mean, I knew stuff at the beginning that I don’t know anymore. Bits of my life simply disappeared. I’m more confused than I ever was before, and that’s really saying something.”
The sex and drugs, which seem to piss off a majority of GR reviewers, seemed spot on and frankly a little on the tame side. The other area of controversy is that Tom tends to (shock!) sexualize any fair maiden in his life who is not a blood relative. Foremost, I don’t think it’s prudent to judge a YA novel on what messages it holds for the reader—or worse what it can “teach” the reader. This is my main peeve in people’s attitudes around YA. By the time most of us are old enough to hold a chapter book, we’ve already been inundated with all shades of societal BS. If King Dork is the most screwed up thing you’ve ever encountered as a young adult, then there’s a harsh road ahead; you deserve to have your life view throttled by exposure to a worse den of iniquity than that of the suburban King Dork world. I can see why someone might be weirded out that Deanna Schumacher or Fiona/Celeste would invite Tom over for a little hanky-panky in the off hours, and sure, Deanna Schumacher contributes to the old “f-ed in the head, wild in bed” mythos. That said, I think each of these girls has the clear upper hand in their respective situations. I am pretty disturbed that so many reviewers are using the word "slut" to describe these characters in the same breath as the word "feminism." So any teen who likes giving blow jobs is a slut with no self esteem? Ugh and puh-lease. So Tom doesn't "really care" about these girls. Do these girls care about him? Face it, teens are into boning (63% of them by senior year, supposedly). Better this glamorous model than the one most of my high school friends suffered through.
The thing that freaked me out was the bullying, which was pretty intense if you ask me. I know this is a hot topic in education (I don’t live under a rock!) but I don’t really know if the bullying here is plausible. That said, plausibility schmausibility. I don’t really think it matters.
Joan Didion is an incredible writer. It is a shame the story is a bit played out (or maybe just dated):
A starlet divorcee suffers the feminine mystiqu...moreJoan Didion is an incredible writer. It is a shame the story is a bit played out (or maybe just dated):
A starlet divorcee suffers the feminine mystique post-break-up. She has a back-alley abortion and issues with aging and Daddy. There's not much to like about her personality, but It's Okay because she's a)hopped up on pills, b) pretty enough to lay and c)losing her marbles. She detaches further and further and further.
We watch it happen. Whoo, ennui.
And yet this book has it's haunting moments. And prose, the lovely prose.
p.s. I love despicable characters, believe you me. Maria just was not my personal brand of heroin. There's something simpering about her, and I get the distinct notion that She Is Absolved because the world is so cruel to sexy starlet divorcees. They are not exempt, anyway.(less)
This tearjerker is an outlier. One look at the cover art and you know you ought to feel inspired. There is a teen girl in cargo pants. She is going to...moreThis tearjerker is an outlier. One look at the cover art and you know you ought to feel inspired. There is a teen girl in cargo pants. She is going to be Real. The human spirit is destined to triumph.
Leave it to me to think this book is a chore.
Funny how this is the first cancer narrative I’ve read that describes in detail the process of chemotherapy. Other tearjerkers mention chemo in passing, skipping ahead to the angst of My First Wig. Other tearjerkers would like to bypass the sickness all together. Izzy, unlike other protagonists, does not get prettier with cancer. Instead, she develops mouth sores, creeping fungus on her hands, tears beneath the surface of her skin; she describes her new look as “haunted.” Yes, this is somewhat refreshing.
One qualm about the book is that Izzy is so cut off. I am not sure if this expectation is the result of reading too many tearjerkers, but I can not imagine having a potentially terminal illness without grieving some, without assuming I might die. She is supposed to be a wise guy, but most of her jokes were lost on me. (less)
Angela Carter’s prose is so decadent; it is ruffled (or stabbed!) with description and metaphor. I enjoy her balance of jeweled things and depravity....moreAngela Carter’s prose is so decadent; it is ruffled (or stabbed!) with description and metaphor. I enjoy her balance of jeweled things and depravity. It feels wrong to give a book with such lovely writing 3 stars, but I had a terrible time getting through this book. The pacing of the Magic Toyshop was so slow after the first (intoxicating) third of the book. Perhaps this is because last 2/3rds are so concerned with captivity and spectatorship. This portion of the tale is set in the toyshop (and no corner of the shop is left out of Carter’s listing). Here, Carter creates a landscape that is both claustrophobic and glittery; you are forced to linger in it (and lingering in it is oppressive). The toyshop is full of artifice—lifelike toys and puppets, paper roses, artificial sunlight, electric fire in a fireplace and plastic holly at Christmas. In the toyshop, characters stay put and wait to be savaged. Ravaged? (less)
This turned out to be quite a gratifying read, and if I were an indoor chain-smoker, I would relish the chance to see the words on the page emerge fro...moreThis turned out to be quite a gratifying read, and if I were an indoor chain-smoker, I would relish the chance to see the words on the page emerge from the plumes. That's 'cause the grift is so shadowy.
I like the pacing of this book. Like other books of its genre, it is smart and intricate without being tedious; the words go down smooth. I was scandalized, held in suspense, and ultimately surprised by the ending. What more can I ask? (less)
Conceptually this book is very intriguing. Written in verse, it is an investigation of/inquiry into the murder of the author’s aunt. Like Maggie Nelso...moreConceptually this book is very intriguing. Written in verse, it is an investigation of/inquiry into the murder of the author’s aunt. Like Maggie Nelson, I have a murder in my family’s past that has always fascinated me. I never knew her. Like Jane, she died in the full bloom of youth. Nelson quotes Poe who says: “the death […:] of a beautiful woman is, unquestioningly, the most poetical topic in the world.” This skeeves me out to a degree, but it certainly holds true.
I am interested in the research, the documentation of that research, the candidness about process. Nelson invites the reader to connect the dots beside her. I like the inclusion of snippets from Jane’s real life journals. They appear out of sequence and alongside writing in the present day; I frequently re-situated myself in time while reading. I admire the chilling moments: descriptions of photographs, the precise arrangement of slain bodies and artifacts, the scandal surrounding these murders as retaliation for menstrual blood. A death in which the only witness is the murderer is quite a chilling thing.
I am torn about the lineation. It does impose a more rhythmic reading—a wraith-like holiness on otherwise prose-like lines. The writing style does not hold much verve for me.
I wonder: is this what the kids are calling a new confessionalism? (less)
Like Stephenie Meyer's Bella Swan, Laurie Halse Anderson's Melinda appeared to her in a startling dream. The startling dream compelled her to write th...moreLike Stephenie Meyer's Bella Swan, Laurie Halse Anderson's Melinda appeared to her in a startling dream. The startling dream compelled her to write this book which has been captured on film and rereleased in a glossy platinum addition. I am wracking my brain for what fodder exists in my dreamlife, but NOTHING. I will never be a YA starlet.
SPEAK is what my librarian pal calls "an issue novel." It chronicles a year in the life of Melinda, a depressed tween who recedes into the background of freshman year. She fails classes; she can't relate; she's limp with suburban ennui. She is all but mute. We know early on she is burying something, and that something is pretty obvious (especially if you peek at the catalog info for the Library of Congress). It feels strange to treat this as a mystery, but I suppose it is true to trauma and how a person pulls away.
It this novel, we follow Istina through various wards of a 1960s mental asylum. Istina treats the wards like levels in a video game. Patients get to t...moreIt this novel, we follow Istina through various wards of a 1960s mental asylum. Istina treats the wards like levels in a video game. Patients get to the "next level" (the topmost level = self-sufficiency/returning home) based on the merit points they accrue; they lose points by acting out or getting moved to wards with dirtier day rooms. Many patients opt out of the whole video-game system and call the wards home. Some have reached zombie-status from multiple rounds of EST. Others yearn for lives in the outside world. Istina is torn about trying to progress within the levels she describes; at one point, she escapes, panics and turns herself in.
I had difficulty navigating the ward system and, in the end, I gave up the attempt. This book is so plot lite. My sense is that the plot particulars are secondary to the details (many paragraphs make awesome poems) and vignettes/profiles of her wardmates.
This novel is extra compelling because Janet Frame escaped a lobotomy herself by winning a prestigious literary prize. I plan to watch the nineties biopic soon!(less)