Ethan was kidnapped nine years ago from his front yard, not that he remembers. Just walked right up to the black van. He was seven years old. Blake, hEthan was kidnapped nine years ago from his front yard, not that he remembers. Just walked right up to the black van. He was seven years old. Blake, his younger brother, remembers--thirteen now, he still holds onto the grief and anger that his brother would just go with the men in the van. Ethan only knows now, of course, now that he's back with his family, sixteen years old and having lived more than half his life with a mysterious woman named Ellen. Of course, it's not easy to slide back onto the life he would have lived--Ethan doesn't remember anything from before he was kidnapped, and tensions rise within the family as Ethan, Blake, his parents, and the "replacement child" Gracie, age six, try to fit Ethan back into the group and town as if nothing ever happened. Oh, and there's a girl, too. They used to take baths together. When they were six. Her name is Cami. Needless to say, Ethan likes her. A lot.
I had a hard time getting into this one, to tell you the truth--after reading Lisa McMann's first book, Wake, I've read three more of hers and keep waiting to hear the same staccato, fragmented style. It's present still in Dead to You, but not as strong. Less obvious, but carries the story along quickly, dramatic without seeming put-on. The book opens with the family reunion, split across two chapters, gorgeously descriptive... the next bit, not so much. It wasn't until the first f-bomb was dropped that it I felt the story settle into a rhythm, the same language and style that carried through the rest of the book, and I stopped thinking about other things (twenty lines of Ovid to translate, five hundred lines of poetry to be read to a class tomorrow afternoon) and was fully sucked into Belleville, Minnesota. (Might should have mentioned--labelled for mature audiences 14 and up.)
It's definitely a page-turner once you get into it, this one--each chapter leads into the next, and it reads quickly. Things move fast. I don't have a real sense of the timeline after finishing it, how many days elapse over the course of the novel, but the vast majority of the plot, I think, occurs over about a month. Things move fast--particularly the romantic aspect of the whole story. It's funny, because while Ethan is so quickly head-over-heels for this girl he's just met and constantly reminds us that she's beautiful for x, y, and z reasons, Cami is the one who annoys me. I like Ethan. He's easily impassioned and has a background story which is gradually revealed and personality and is somehow upfront about all the good and bad. Cami is just sort of the perfect person. She makes 150 peanut butter sandwiches for the homeless with her mother every Saturday night and has no flaws. There is no way this person exists.
Dead to You runs about 250 pages and I read it in an afternoon. The loose ends aren't all wrapped up. We don't get told who Ellen is, we don't get any of the details about this girl Tempest who Ethan hooked up with and mentions occasionally. Ethan is not interested in explaining everything he remembers about his childhood, which was great, because I wasn't really interested in reading it. It's a fantastic experiment in character development, watching perceptions of characters shift as more is revealed, because almost nobody is who Ethan assumes them to be on first sight (with the glaring exception of Cami). The concept, the plot, are vastly entertaining, and Ethan is a character I came to care about. The ending is dramatic, if a bit of an irritating cliff-hanger, particularly since I can't find any indication of a sequel coming out any time soon. Pick it up for a quick read with an intriguing premise and good writing--but prepared to be unsatisfied and wish for more....more
Aunt Peg is the 60-year-old Alaska Young who dies of natural causes. Just had to say that first.
Ginny hasn't seen her favourite Aung Peg in months wheAunt Peg is the 60-year-old Alaska Young who dies of natural causes. Just had to say that first.
Ginny hasn't seen her favourite Aung Peg in months when she suddenly receives a package in the mail from her containing thirteen little blue envelopes, $1000 and instructions to fly out to London. Once there, she can open the envelopes one at a time, following the instructions on each one before opening the next. Following the instructions, Ginny sets off, expecting the adventure of a lifetime. What she doesn't expect is exactly what is waiting for her on the other side of the Atlantic, nor who she will be when she flies back home.
I know this isn't a completely believable book (Maureen herself didn't even really intend for it to be). No mother would allow their seventeen-year-old daughter to go rampaging across Europe with $1000 and thirteen letters from her aunt, who no one has seen in quite some time. What was the likelihood of Ginny finding Keith? And how did Ginny actually manage to do all of those things the letters said?
But as I read further and further, I realised I didn't care. It's a well-written book. Ginny and Keith and Peg and Richard and Carrie and everyone else are all good characters. Not good as in perfect, each of them managed to tick me off at one time or another, but good as in real.
And besides. This wasn't a completely cliché book. And that means a lot to me, especially after spending a day reading and reviewing stories on FictionPress.
I think that the thing that truly made me appreciate and love this book, though, was that I want this adventure. I want to go places. See places. I want to have Ginny's adventure. I want to have my aunt go insane and leave me thirteen little blue envelopes that send me trekking across Europe. I want to see all of those places, to meet a starving artist in London and a creep in Rome and four friends in Copenhagen. I want to get busted making out with a great guy with an awesome British accent in a graveyard.
But I don't have a crazy aunt (my aunts are all perfectly sane), and I don't have enough money to trek across Europe alone. Nor do I have that much willpower. Or freedom. So instead, I settle with just simply reading the narrative or someone who did. Maureen Johnson is an undeniably a good storyteller, and she has an undeniably good story to tell in 13 Envelopes. So call it cliché and call me a hypocrite, but I loved every page of it.
Now, I had to do a review for school, and it had to be over two pages double-spaced. This is what I said.
Janie Hannagan has a problem. For the past nNow, I had to do a review for school, and it had to be over two pages double-spaced. This is what I said.
Janie Hannagan has a problem. For the past nine years, she's been getting sucked into other peoples' dreams, every time anyone falls asleep near her. And to Janie, well, it sucks.
The plot-line itself is not fantastic. Cabel—the lead male protagonist—seems to be one massive deus ex machina. A third of the way in, he ends up in his dream twice so that he can watch it while he dreams it—and sees Janie (and thus learns about her problem). Of course, this has never happened before and never happens again. And then just over two-thirds of the way in, there's a slight problem of Janie believing him a drug dealer, which is fixed by a massive and vaguely nonsensical plot-twist. Both of these make Cabel just all the more special and desirable, I suppose, but it left me slightly unsatisfied at how the author decided to resolve issues.
The players in the story also have some slight problems—aren't authors usually only permitted one misunderstood few-friended teenager with bad parents and a bad past who have gone through it bravely with few ill-effects per book? Both Cabel and Janie have had difficult histories: Janie's father left when she was young, leaving her with an alcoholic mother who rarely cares about anything but how much liquor is in the house; Cabel's mother left when he was young, leaving him with an abusive father. Neither has a significant 'flaw' in character from this by the time the story starts—Cabel gets out of drugs by that point (having gotten into them when his father put him in intensive care) and is working for the police; Janie is the picture of a good child with her stunning grades, part-time job at a nursing home and dreams of going to college. Their small flaws are nearly identical: neither of them trust anyone and neither of them think they will ever be loved by anyone. Janie is more insecure than Cabel, but they both end up crying a fair amount by the time the story ends.
Small wonder they're such a perfect couple, once they finally start to trust each other.
Lisa McMann does an excellent job keeping the reader from noticing most of this while reading, however. The book passes quickly, never staying at one event too long. Easy to read, easy to stay interested, not so easy to keep up with all the time. Small details can frequently hold the most importance, which takes a while to get used to for a fast reader. I ended up having to re-read sections two or three times occasionally because all of the sudden I didn't have any idea what was happening. Re-reading the book in its entirety may also be a good idea, as there are so many small and insignificant hints placed throughout the book that only really make sense after reading it all the way through. For example, Janie goes to a sleep clinic to try and make sense of her problem, but then is sucked into her school principal's dream and leaves. Later, she is talking about it to Cabel, and McMann writes this: “He grows serious for a moment, thinking. But then waves the thought away.” It isn't until much later that what he was thinking of is explained (that the principal could have been dreaming about how Cabel is working with him and the police to catch drug dealers). And by the time it is explained, who would remember two insignificant sentences?
Despite the challenges of the fast-pacing, the book is still immaculately written. Lisa McMann is the master of the sentence fragment and the run-on all at once. While some authors seem bent on drowning the reader in words thrown in everywhere possible, McMann keeps it simple. If an adjective isn't needed, it isn't there. If it is, there is one, two maximum. Every word is necessary, which probably explains the short length.
In many respects, Wake is like a better-written and significantly shorter version of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight, just with no vampires and an entirely different plot. Both were written about a dream, though Lisa McMann only uses her dreams as a base for some of the dreams Janie has to go through. Both are from a female character's third-person perspective. Both have the female protag go after the male one, break up, and come back. Neither male protagonist wants to hurt the female by involving her in his life, but then gives in because he loves her. The female protag's friends all fade into the background once she's with the male protag, and are mentioned less and less frequently. And, in a twisted form of “love enduring through everything”, the author seems to be crazed with the idea of keeping the protagonists a pair and liking each other—even if it means compromising everything else, like the believability of the plot. And, of course, both have that bit where the reader doesn't notice this at all until after finishing the book and thinking about it.
No matter the faults, though, the book is an incredibly enjoyable read. Janie isn't a goodie-two-shoes all the time, dishing out bright sarcasm to her one and only friend, Carrie. There is also an awful lot of drinking when Carrie's around, after all, there is an awful lot of Janie's mother's alcohol sitting around constantly (no ill effects from this, of course; if there was ever an otherwise good book to make a teenager want to drink, it would be this one). Janie buys a car specifically when she is told not to after passing out from a dream. She hates her P.E. coach, and makes no secret of it. I've read several books that have gone down on the “do not read” list because the author tried and failed to write in a teenager's voice (many ended up sounding more like seven-year-olds than seventeen-year-olds), but Wake manages to stay true to Janie's seventeen years in narration and in characters. Lisa McMann has connected with her inner teenager successfully for this novel (with the help of her teenage kids).
Overall, a rewarding read. McMann has managed to create an excellent style, aptly covering any of the book's faults while reading. The characters are more lovable than they believe themselves to be, and while Janie doesn't often think too deeply, the books hints at deeper ideas and thoughts to ponder. And, of course, she has also created a second book to quickly devour, and a third to wait for impatiently until the release. ...more
eh... it was pretty good... I guess I'm not being fair on the rating system. my standards rose considerably after I started reading Scott Westerfeld aeh... it was pretty good... I guess I'm not being fair on the rating system. my standards rose considerably after I started reading Scott Westerfeld and John Green and Eoin Colfer a whole lot. so, if it was before late '08, I'd give it a 5. but now, 4....more
"And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn't being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surr
"And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn't being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surrounding her. I thought of her asleep on the carpet with only that jagged sliver of sky above her. Maybe Margo felt comfortable there because Margo the person lived like that all the time: in an abandoned room with blocked-out windows, the only light pouring in through holes in the roof. Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made--and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make--was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl."
"When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out."
John Green has written something wonderful. And I don't say this as a Nerdfigher or as a pursuer of lovely quotes or even necessarily as an aspiring writer. I say this as a person, as a person just like every other person.
You can say that John Green is a master of writing, or even better, a master of story-telling. A brilliant craftsman, with literature being his trade. But then you have someone a copy of the book and tell them to just read it. Don't read it for school. Don't read it to try and find meaning. Don't analyse. Just read it. And then you'll see that first and foremost, John Green is a master of people. He doesn't craft characters, he crafts people. He doesn't just write a story, he tells it.
As a nit-picker, I'm compelled as usual to make an attempt at a literary analysis of some kind. But Green has joined the ranks of Amy Tan and other classic authors in his ability to weave in an overwhelming number of theories and ideas, not noticed until later at two in the morning when one has finally finished the book and cannot sleep for thoughts of adventure and wanderlust. It is extraordinarily difficult to pick and chose what to say, what sticks out and makes a statement. Because it all does. Quentin is not a genius, but he can think, because John has made him so, and more importantly, Margo has made him so. Because Quentin is not a superhero. He is a teenager. He changes, and he's influenced by the people around him. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as changes can open your eyes.
Overall it's an incredibly impressive book. The mystery is a page-turner, and nothing is revealed until the end. It's one part completely, side-stitchingly hilarious ("IT'S NOT MY FAULT THAT MY PARENTS OWN THE WORLD'S LARGEST COLLECTION OF BLACK SANTAS."), and one part deeply insightful and thoughtful ("What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person."). You will laugh until you cry, and then cry until it aches. You will go to the paper towns, and you will never come back....more