Read Bottom Up is a short, light relationship story set in contemporary New York. The main characters are Elliot, a fun-loving but emotionally immaturRead Bottom Up is a short, light relationship story set in contemporary New York. The main characters are Elliot, a fun-loving but emotionally immature chef, and Madeleine, a sincere but self-doubting editor. The book traces the relationship of the main characters from its beginnings, when the two first see each other at the opening of the restaurant where Elliot works; it continues to their first dates and then to later stages of their relationship. Told over the course of 6 months, the story is told through text messages and emails between Madeleine and Elliot as well as exchanges between their best friends, Emily and David, respectively.
All of the characters in the novel are likable but flawed, and the story is interesting, if predictable. The story moves very quickly, and as a result, I never became particularly attached to any of the characters or emotionally invested in their relationship. In the introduction to the book, the authors say they wrote this story as an alternative to Hollywood romantic comedies that present relationships with neat and tidy endings. Although Read Bottom Up may not have a typical date-movie resolution, I would say that, in the end, it is still pretty clean.
None of this is really a criticism. Read Bottom Up is a quick relationship read, and, I would think, perfect for an afternoon at the beach. If, like me, you enjoy date movies, then I think you'll like this book, too.
Favorite quotation: "You are legally insane right now. I get that."...more
Saint Anything is a first-person novel told by Sydney, a junior in high school living in an affluent neighborhood with her parents and her older brothSaint Anything is a first-person novel told by Sydney, a junior in high school living in an affluent neighborhood with her parents and her older brother, Peyton. All of Sydney's life, Peyton has been the star of the family; he is good-looking and popular at school. Sydney is, by her own account, invisible. The novel begins, however, in a courtroom as the family awaits Peyton's sentencing. Flashbacks detail a two-year process of increasingly negative behavior that culminate in a drunk-driving incident. With Peyton facing jail time, Sydney can no longer live in her brother's shadow, and she must define herself anew.
Sydney chooses to change schools for her junior year to provide a fresh start. After the first day of school, wanting to avoid returning to the tension of home, she ventures into Seaside Pizza, where she meets Layla, a kind and bright girl who is also a junior at Sydney's school, and her older brother Mac--quiet, handsome (of course), and protective. These relationships expand to include the rest of their family--their father, owner of Seaside; their mother, suffering with MS, and their older sister Rosie, a figure skater recovering from addiction to pain medication--as well as other friends at high school, several of whom are in a band with Mac. While becoming a part of this new circle of friends, Sydney must also negotiate her home life with her overbearing mother, a distant father, and her brother, who, although in prison, still causes feelings of bitterness and resentment.
I enjoyed Saint Anything a great deal. Sydney is an engaging narrator, self-aware but without self-confidence, and the novel traces the ways in which she grows: in confidence, yes, but also in friendships with others and in understanding herself and the varied challenges life presents to everyone. Dessen highlights these moments of growth and illumination in significant but often unassuming ways; they are fireflies rather than lightening strikes--one of my favorite aspects of the story. By the end of the novel, Sydney does not reach a sense of closure, but only because she has learned that life does not offer the kind of closure we so often desire.
My favorite passage is the book is the end of Chapter 9, but I don't think it would make sense of out context. So for my favorite quotation, I'll offer this instead: "It was amazing that we could live at all, knowing all that could occur purely by chance."...more