Overall In a touching, educational, and surprisingly thought-provoking memoir, John Schwartz tells the story of his son--and of other LGBT youths. TheOverall In a touching, educational, and surprisingly thought-provoking memoir, John Schwartz tells the story of his son--and of other LGBT youths. The focus is Joseph’s unique journey, but the author also uses his tale as a reflection of what LGBT youths, and teens in general, face. The topics include sexuality and the social atmosphere, as well as the ramifications of coming out and the statistics on gay teens (and the strength of that evidence). But Joseph’s struggles also touch upon mental health, ranging from teachers tossing diagnoses at children to the use of powerful medications on growing bodies.
Review The tale opens with Joseph’s suicide attempt, then backtracks to the beginning—Joe’s birth. We are given a slow progression through his life, with contemplation about early signs of his sexuality and his progression through the stages of childhood. Between chapters exploring his son’s life, John provides information, sometimes on sexuality, sometimes on mental health. While he provides a wide variety of statistics, he also evaluates the quality of the data and studies that have confirmed or refuted what are often considered well-known facts.
As Joseph’s unique personality begins to be expressed, other traits begin to appear as well. While they don’t show up at home, troubling behaviors begin to occur at school, ranging from confronting authority, biting the back of his hand, and difficulties socializing. These behaviors—which vary and fluctuate year to year depending on how the teacher handles Joe—lead to conflicts with the school system, a series of therapists and counselors, and a flood of diagnoses.
While sexuality does play a key role in Joseph’s story, and in his mental health, it is the mental and behavioral health issues that become the focus. The Schwartzes are hesitant to place young Joseph on medication, especially when different therapists and psychiatrists can’t agree on a diagnosis, and so, for a large portion of the tale, Joseph faces his problems with the help of mental health professionals, both in and out of school.
The debate on whether children should be given powerful medications for their mental and behavioral health conditions is analyzed, but in some part doesn’t affect Joe until the pressure at school from his announced sexuaity build up and he attempts suicide at age 13. This thrusts him into a more intense evaluation of his problems and pinpoints one major motivating factor as depression.
Once he’s on medication for his depression (and again, there is a discussion on what medications are appropriate for children) and has resumed therapy, Joseph improves. His new out status also enables him to join the LGBT community and see that he is not as alone as he previous felt. The memoir ends with him still in high school, but it leaves him in a hopeful, happy place.
Oddly Normal is a memoir, not a self-help book, but John recognizes that the story he shares can be used to help other parents facing similar struggles. However, he is quick to point out that every child and every family will go through different experiences and overcome different obstacles. He is not trying to tell parents how to handle their child, but merely showing what he and his wife did, how it worked out, and the information he gathered along the way.
While I can see many of the elements that have made this novel popular among the masses, there were too many negatives for me to continue reOverall DNF
While I can see many of the elements that have made this novel popular among the masses, there were too many negatives for me to continue reading. I got slightly over half-way before I finally gave up—and I wasn't even reading. I was listening to the audiobook. I thought the readers were pretty good (although I was surprised there was more than one) despite making some choices that I thought were odd (although may have fit with the book).
For anyone interested, I'd recommend picking it up at the library (most libraries have hard copies, ebooks, and audiobooks). Overall, it uses many of the same ploys that Twilight did while amping up the sex. I found the plot to be weak, Ana to be even weaker, and much of the sex allure to be awkward, although this could mainly stem from Ana's narration.
Review My main impetus for reading this book was the massive amounts of "It does BDSM wrong" that I heard. Sadly, at 56% through the book, the amount of BDSM is minimal (light bondage, sir-calling, and the beginnings of orgasm denial). So I can't even report on that. It makes me sad, since that was the main reason I borrowed the book from the library!
I went in with low expectations, so it was surprising that instead of achieving them (because they were so low), the story's first chapter proves to be horrifically obnoxious and constructs a flimsy premise. Ana meets Christian because she's interviewing him for the school paper. Now, she doesn't work for the school paper (in fact, shows no inclination toward journalism), but her roommate (editor of the school paper) is a super journalist major who has harassed Christian into giving this interview. Sadly she came down with the flu, so can't do it!
Ignoring the fact that her friend Kat didn't seem nearly sick enough to beg out of a once in a lifetime opportunity (which seems kind of vital, but hey, I pass on huge opportunities because of the sniffles all the time)--I'm sorry, where was I? Oh yes, so Kat can't make it, so she asked Ana to go, despite Ana's protests, lack of experience, and excuses (she has work and finals coming up, and a paper to write? I can't remember). Despite the fact that Ana is totally unqualified and Kat would know other, more-qualified people (like the rest of the school paper staff or the incoming school paper editor), Kat has badgered Ana into going. Completely reasonable. Or not. Whichever.
In addition, Ana does not make a good first impression as she complains that her friend got the flu (how dare she!) and later complains about how gorgeous Kat is with all her curves (unlike Ana who is skinny and pale). Bella had similar complaints about her own appearances, but she came across less bitchy, especially since Ana borrows Kat's clothes multiple times in the book, so they obviously can't be that different in size.
That minor issue aside, Christian is of course immediately drawn to Ana (for reasons I can't fathom) and Ana to him, at least physically. She doesn't like him, think he's self-centered, bossy, and cold. But he's the first guy to get her blood pumping, so she acts like an idiot (at least mentally) every time she sees him. He stalks her (like ya do) until she is overwhelmed and agrees to go on a date. Or something. Paperwork may have been involved.
By this part, Christian hasn't done much to really bother me. Okay, the stalking was a bit weird, but I can definitely understand it, considering the book's origins. But the stalking is the worst thing he's done by this point. He tells Ana repeatedly that he doesn't have girlfriends, just casual fucks, and that she's too innocent for him and she should stay away. Of course, he has no self control and can't seem to stay away from her. Kind of a hypocrite.
There is a lot of mystery to Christian, and I'm not sure how much is explained, but it was the most interesting part for me. He has food issues, touch issues, and was in a BDSM relationship very early in life with an older woman. I'm interested in him psychologically. I'm not saying he does things right later in the book, but he's fairly honest with Ana (as far as I can tell), and besides being a stalker, he's kind of fun.
Ana, on the other hand, has a huge double standard (aka, “why does Christian get upset about answering personal questions?” that Ana was just complaining about having to answer), has lived in a bubble for the past 21 years (which I find ridiculously implausible), and just makes me want to smack her upside the head. Hard. (To which she'd respond, "Oh my, oh shit, or oh fuck" depending on the level of sex involved.) She's Bella, made more virginal and somewhat dumber. Finally, my biggest issue is when she walks out on Christian after they've finished discussing the roles of a Submissive, and she's thinking about how she doesn't want to do it, and how dare he, and he did warn her, after all.
And then she thinks about what he said ("I've never known anything but this). And she thinks "Well, I've never known anything but this too" (although she hasn't really even begun to know) and so makes the grand conclusion that they "can learn new ways together."
AKA, I am going to change him and teach him to love.
Oh, and I forgot to mention she has multiple personality disorder. She has "An Inner Goddess," "A Conscience," and herself. These each have very different thoughts and feelings on things, individual reactions, and unique personalities. Don't get me started. She might want to get that checked out.
For people without delicate palates (aka, well-written isn't necessary in books) and those who have no experience with sexy sex and BDSM, this may be an enjoyable read. I can't really recommend it aside from loaning it out from the library.
Overall A self-help book--sorta--that teaches you how to help yourself and deal with what life throws at you. While I don’t agree with everStars: 4.5/5
Overall A self-help book--sorta--that teaches you how to help yourself and deal with what life throws at you. While I don’t agree with everything, I found some very helpful bits of advice...if only I can apply them.
Review Parts of this book were spot on, amazingly insightful, and inspiring. Those are the parts I’ll take from this book and apply to my own life. I pulled a couple dozen quotes that I really liked that I’ll hold on to and remember when shit gets tough. Put it this way: this book was good enough that I want to buy a copy (I originally borrowed from the library).
Other parts made me worry about people reading it and taking it and going to a bad place. I can imagine psychologists would get angry about large sections of this book, but I also think it could be important for a mental health professional to read. They may disagree with a lot, but I also think it could create some potential for how they can help their clients.
It’s interesting to see the changes that have happened in Burroughs’ writing from Running With Scissors to this. Fans will find something very different in this book, but if you’re willing to be honest with yourself, I think you may even enjoy it.
And now a few quotes:
“But feelings, no matter how strong or ‘ugly,’ are not a part of who you are. They are the radio stations your mind listens to if you don’t give it something better to do.”
“The truth about healing is that you don’t need to heal to be whole.”
“Because they are not the only ones who die: you die, too. The person you were when you were with them is gone just as surely as they are. “This is what you should know about losing somebody you love. They do not travel alone. You go with them.”
“This is how you you survive the unsurvivable, this is how you love that which you cannot bear to lose, this is how you reinvent yourself, overcome your abusers, fulfill your ambitions and meet the love of your life: by following what is true, no matter where it leads you.”
Overall A touching story of high school romance that involves character growth, thoughts on sexuality and gender, and bullying. Aside from an overall eOverall A touching story of high school romance that involves character growth, thoughts on sexuality and gender, and bullying. Aside from an overall enjoyment, the story had some gaping holes that left me blinking in surprise, wondering where the rest was.
Strengths The art style won't be to everyone's liking, but the rawness felt appropriate for the characters who are edgy and fringe. The construction of the pages was sometimes hard to follow, but never confusing enough to disrupt the story or confuse the reader about what was happening. The writing and dialogue both fit well with the artistic style, unifying the elements of the book.
Some thing about the stye reminded me of Jhonen Vasquez, despite the very different topic matter.
There are strengths and weaknesses of the content of this story. Looking at it from Eu's perspective, the story feels pretty self contained and satisfying and, although I didn't really want their relationship to happen, the story and its ending pleased me. Ash's growth from the boy who won't talk into Eu's equal is interesting and dynamic. The story as a whole touches upon issues of sexuality and gender without dragging it into the main focus.
Weaknesses Ash, who is my favorite character in the book, is too much of an enigma. The narration is mainly from Eu's perspective, but not solely, which created a sense that too much information about Ash was brought up and pushed aside. Very important information is mentioned (repeatedly) but never resolved, including potential incest, potential eating disorders, and the almost blasé way rape/pseudo-rape is handled. Ash has huge issues with being touched but after one encounter it seems to fade to the point where he can get a girlfriend.
I think my biggest issue with these gaping holes is that those elements are what made Ash so interesting and I wanted to know more about them, how they came about, and how they get resolved. Instead the story focuses more on Eu, who is okay, but not nearly as interesting. Some readers may not have a problem with the focus being on her, but most readers will probably be confused--and feel a bit cheated--by the shocking content that is brought up and never really dealt with.
Overall I really enjoyed these stories, which came from a variety of authors, most of whom I wasn't familiar with. However, while it's subtStars: 4.5/5
Overall I really enjoyed these stories, which came from a variety of authors, most of whom I wasn't familiar with. However, while it's subtitled as "Ten Short Stories About Being a Guy," it could just as appropriately be called "Ten Short Stories About Being a Person." Because honestly, how big of a difference is there between guys and gals? Not much (beyond biologicals), since it all breaks down on an individual level. That aside, this was a good collection of stories and I think it'd be great for young "guys" to read, although I'd definitely recommend it to anyone. In answer to the blurb above's question: Being a guy is different for everyone.
Strengths These stories had a good variation of topics that sometimes touched on heavy subjects but never lingered too long or too heavily and often the heavy subject wasn't the main focus of the story either, which was refreshing. Some of the topics include race issues, sexuality, changing friendships, family roles, and identity/cliques.
The writing was solid through out, and each author took a slightly different voice/approach, with one story presented in the form of a comic. And while each story was individual and different, there was never a jarring switch between stories, either. A good compilation.
Weaknesses I think my biggest peeve with this book is the idea that men are so different from women that young men/boys need a guide to being a guy. As if they couldn't figure it out themselves. This annoyance is slightly placated by the fact that the stories aren't grossly "This is how you're a Man," and instead show a variety of how to be a man (or, you know, a decent human being). Feels like a sales ploy to me, much like all products "sold" to "men" or "women."
This thing hit me hard. Well done, but dug up a lot of emotions, especially if you struggle with depression or high school (hah!). Some people may takThis thing hit me hard. Well done, but dug up a lot of emotions, especially if you struggle with depression or high school (hah!). Some people may take issue with David's Will Grayson's lack of capitalization, but it felt like a good way to distinct the two characters to me, so the reader never felt like they were in the wrong head. Definitely worth a read....more
This book of poems, which all link together to tell a story of a life (or at least a life in progress), resonated with me. Not everything spoke to me,This book of poems, which all link together to tell a story of a life (or at least a life in progress), resonated with me. Not everything spoke to me, but there were poems and lines that caught me especially, and I hope it's not just because the author is my age (born the year before me). I took it out from the library and I think I'll purchase a used copy when I get around to it.
It's not long (136 pages of poetry), but there is a full story in these poems, although there are large gaps (and some time jumps) that left me wondering a little. Overall though the story itself isn't important so much as the emotions behind it--mainly, love. Love of our parents, our siblings, our friends, our lovers. Love gone sour, fresh love, bitter love, one-sided love, and loveless. I don't I could have found this at a more perfect time in my life.
I'll never look at peeling the labels off of bottles the same.
Overall A compilation of short stories, some shorter than others, crossing between straight and gay. Some are simple, some complex, some swStars: 3.5/5
Overall A compilation of short stories, some shorter than others, crossing between straight and gay. Some are simple, some complex, some sweet, some fun, some heart breaking and beautiful, some romantic and eternal, these stories are much like all the different forms that love takes. All the stories have a happy ending of some sort, but some of the stories aren't a romance and are about a different sort of love. The style of writing varies between tale both in writing style and format, but most stick to a traditional format. This was a cute, fun collection of short stories that often peeked into deeper emotions and made me ponder the wonders of life and love.
Although some of the stories didn't "speak to me," there were no real weaknesses among them aside from the fact that they weren't good enough to earn a five-stare score, mostly because only one of them was extremely deep and emotionally touching.
The writing was excellent, most of the characters were charming and age appropriate, and the stories were sweet. Overall a good book of good stories, nice and strong but not amazing. Book cover bumped it to 4 stars.
Overall This is not an easy or light reading, although it's not too heavy either. It's a nice balance of story and teenage sexuality drama.Stars: 4.5/5
Overall This is not an easy or light reading, although it's not too heavy either. It's a nice balance of story and teenage sexuality drama. Although the topic is nothing new, I feel like the way the story was handled was fresh, making it a new and interesting story. While I really enjoyed this story, I can see some people taking issue with its not-completely-happy ending. I struggled with it myself, but I felt the decisions the author made were appropriate for the story and the lessons that John learns.
Strengths The writing is pretty easy going, matching the character, who is pretty laid back most of the time, but has a temper when his buttons are pushed. It was straight forward and well paced and overall made for an enjoyable read.
John is a likeable character, although he is flawed (he has a temper, biases, and acts like the teenager he is). But he's still a young man struggling to deal with things in his life and he acts like many teenagers do, and has to face those consequences. I think what I liked most about him is that he never complained about things being unfair or trying to take things back (even if he wishes he could). Instead he focuses on where he's at and what he needs to do—and what he should do. There are various side characters that are nice and varied, all of whom help make John who he is. I also liked Kit, even though some of the things he did/choose were just as hard to deal with as what John did/choose.
While there are some difficult things that happen in this story, and some difficult decisions that the characters make (many of which I disagree with, personally), I really enjoyed the story with its different resolution and some of the "morals" it teaches (to the main character, but not in a preachy way). I also liked the bull riding/western environment, which fit into the story without being too heavy handed in its role.
Weaknesses Not really a weakness, but I didn't like the ending. It was handled well, and I knew it was coming because of what I read in someone else's review, but … well, you'll have to see for yourself.
The cover that I had makes it seem like the main cast is young teens when they are actually all 18 or older. While I like the set up and the emotion behind it, I think it would dissuade younger people from reading it, which is a shame.