I picked this up for the YALSA Hub Challenge. I had meant to read it ages ago - it looked interesting. The thing is, I hate reading about the Titanic....moreI picked this up for the YALSA Hub Challenge. I had meant to read it ages ago - it looked interesting. The thing is, I hate reading about the Titanic. I hate watching movies about the Titanic. They make me depressed. I don't know why this subject feels so tedious to me - because it is very interesting. Maybe it was going through high school with girls who tallied up the numerous times they'd gone to see Titanic. I don't know. But even though I told myself that this time, it would be different, I felt that same sort of dread when I started listening. And in the back of my head, as each character and voice was introduced, all I could think was "What're the odds that this person survived?"
This is a good book. It's well-written, the characters are fleshed out, and I enjoyed Wolf's biographies at the end. I hadn't realized that all of these characters (well, leaving out the Ice and the Rat) were real and I loved the tone Wolf used when describing the controversy among Titaniacs over issues like what was the last song played and who was more cowardly. I am also, at the very least by career choice, a big fan of research. And this was researched to the gills. So the detail was amazing. Really, my only hang-up with this was the topic! And despite that, I still enjoyed it. Enjoy is not the right word. I admired the writing, I was compelled by the characters, I got emotional. There's a scene that I think the print version probably doesn't do the writing justice. When the Titanic has sank and the life boats are surrounded by those drowning, freezing, and dying. An earlier poem about promenading the decks is recited over the voices of those in the water. This is gut-wrenching. People are calling out for help, whispering in the boats, crying. And it goes on and on and on. It was hard to even listen to it. Many of the survivors later talk about being haunted by these voices, and you'll understand what they mean.
Is it really possible for a book about someone dying of cancer to be funny? Well... yes. Greg Gaines's mission in life is to go unseen. He's a senior...moreIs it really possible for a book about someone dying of cancer to be funny? Well... yes. Greg Gaines's mission in life is to go unseen. He's a senior in high school and for several years now he's passed through life, being welcomed by any social clique and a member of none. And that's how he likes it. Then his mother orders him to spend time with Rachel, a girl dying of leukemia and sort-of-but-not-really-Greg's-ex-girlfriend. Add in Greg's sort-of-friend Earl, a short, chain-smoking, rage-filled African American kid who likes to make mediocre films with Greg, and you have your general cast of characters. What's so remarkable about this book is that it avoids many of the typical YA tropes - absent parents, romance with the dying character, a miraculous recovery, a moment when the entire school comes together. No, what Jesse Andrews gives us is a very real look at how awkward life is, particularly as a teen trying to cope with someone you kinda know (but should probably know better) who's suffering from a terminal illness. Greg's growing depression is never spelled out - the story is told in first-person - but we do see the powerful impact Rachel's impending death has on him. And throughout the story, we get an authentic teen's voice as he deals with the perils of high school, his friend's anger management issues, crazy over-bearing parents, and a passion for films. This is worth reading just for the accurate depiction of the high school dichotomy! For those whose readers are sensitive to outstandingly strong language and drug use, this is probably one to skip. Otherwise, highly recommended!(less)
When Klaus Voormann wanders into a seedy Hamburg nightclub, he discovers the most amazing English band and has to share the news. He brings his long-t...moreWhen Klaus Voormann wanders into a seedy Hamburg nightclub, he discovers the most amazing English band and has to share the news. He brings his long-time friend Astrid Kirchherr, a photographer and art student, to the club, where they listen to a new band called The Beatles. From these first few sessions, Astrid and Klaus quickly become friends with John, Paul, George, and Stuart Sutcliffe, the bass player. Astrid influences the band's look with her photos, her sense of fashion, and, of course, the haircuts she gives them. At the heart of this story is the romance between Astrid and Stuart, the fifth Beatle. Told in short narrative bursts, this book documents their brief but powerful relationship, up until Stuart's death. Readers will learn a bit about the history of The Beatles, and their time performing in Hamburg. We see the run-down clubs the band played in, the seeds of The Beatles imagery, and the relationships between band members. Told in black and white, this graphic novel's art is warm and has the feel of a charcoaled page, ready to smear under your fingers. I didn't know much about The Beatles' history when I read this, but I came away wanting to know more about Astrid, Stuart, and the band's time in Germany. While the story can make leaps in time that are a little difficult to follow, it's still an interesting read that tells a story not commonly known.(less)
Amber Appleton is an unyielding optimist. Even though she, her mom, and her dog - Bobby Big Boy - live on a school bus, and her mom sort of sucks at b...moreAmber Appleton is an unyielding optimist. Even though she, her mom, and her dog - Bobby Big Boy - live on a school bus, and her mom sort of sucks at being a mom, and Amber's starting to feel like the walls are closing in, she still maintains a positive outlook on life. Amber volunteers at a local nursing home, helps teaching English at a nearby Korean church, and fights to keep her favorite teacher from losing his job. But when a fatal tragedy destroys Amber's life, she loses it. She is just a shell of her former self, and it's up to the people she's always cared for to help Amber.
It's almost impossible not to like Amber. As a character, her voice is strong, unique, and realistic. Great attention is paid to the surrounding cast of characters, making everyone - even the jerky jocks - realistic. Quick weaves together a story that involves poetry, religion, disability, and depression, without it ever becoming too overwhelming or preachy. I highly recommend this book!(less)
It seems like things couldn't get any worse for Anya. She hates her family - the greasy food her mother makes, her church where no one bothered to lea...moreIt seems like things couldn't get any worse for Anya. She hates her family - the greasy food her mother makes, her church where no one bothered to learn English, and the way her little brother gets away with everything. She's unpopular at school - maybe it's her body, or the remnants of her Russian accent, or that everyone thinks she hangs out with the one other Russian kid at school, a nerd named Dima. And Anya has no friends - no one to confide in or hang out with. So yeah, perhaps things couldn't get worse for Anya... until she storms off campus one day and falls down a well.
But somehow, at the bottom of that well, is the answer to all her problems! Well, sort of. There's a skeleton at the bottom of the well and attached to it is a ghost. Emily died ninety years ago and has been stuck in the well all those years. At first, Anya is terrified of her. But when Emily follows Anya to school and helps her cheat on tests and get noticed by her crush, well... maybe having an undead best friend is pretty awesome.
Except there's more to Emily's past than she's letting on. And pretty soon she's controlling more and more of Anya's life. Yeah, Anya was looking for a BFF, but Emily isn't kidding about the "Forever" part.
This book is amazing! The art is excellent - no stereotypical rail-thin girls with gravity-defying boobs. Brosgol represents lots of different body types and looks and Anya sports a chubby and pretty body. Her body image issues are worked out in the art and some of the storyline without ever being heavy-handed. The dialogue is spot-on. Anya's wit and sarcasm are perfect for a teenager and I never felt like Brosgol was trying to hard. And the story - I did quite the turn-about on how I felt about these characters as the story progressed. There's enough spookiness to appeal to fans of ghost stories, but I think this would be a story that's an easy sell to almost any reader.(less)
One of the teens at my library had finished reading this and I asked him to tell me about it. His description was excellent and made me want to read i...moreOne of the teens at my library had finished reading this and I asked him to tell me about it. His description was excellent and made me want to read it, so I'll borrow from him. This book is about David Axe, a war correspondent who is addicted to war. If this man has a drug, it's being in the middle of a war zone. And as you follow him on his journey from third-world country to military bases, you wonder if Axe just has a deathwish, or is really looking for a deeper meaning in all the horror that he sees.
This description really hooked me... unfortunately, I think that the description is more intriguing than the actual story. Axe has led an interesting life and witnessed countless atrocities. However, there's not a lot of depth to this book. We know he's struggling with his desire to be out seeing wars, trying to figure out why he feels so strongly about being in the midst of danger. But there's no great sense of discovery or any sort of epiphany, which I suppose would be fine if Axe didn't present the book that way. He acts as if we've peered deep into his soul and discovered something.
I think this book is just pulled in too many directions. Is it about his need to witness war - and perhaps to die doing something meaningful? Or maybe about the countries subject to so much war? That it's important to document these stories? Or something else entirely? I ended up feeling confused by Axe's story. The artwork often said more about what was happening and the emotions he felt than his narration ever did.
While this is an interesting story in concept, I didn't enjoy reading it. Not because of the content, but because of the lack of focus and reflection.(less)
I knew what I was getting into when I started reading If I Stay. I knew it would be a tear-jerker and that there would be a wonderful romance in jeopa...moreI knew what I was getting into when I started reading If I Stay. I knew it would be a tear-jerker and that there would be a wonderful romance in jeopardy and that, at the center of it all, would be a girl deciding if she would live or die. And normally I don't like reading books like that... I don't like books designed to make me cry. Maybe that's because most of the time it seems like the sole purpose of these books is to get you through a box of Kleenex, and not to establish characters, tell a story, or give you a new perspective. So I'm not sure why I checked out If I Stay, other than that I knew I had a lot of driving to do and wanted something recent to listen to.
I'm glad I did read this - it's a good story and I think it has a greater purpose than just being a cry-fest. I'm just not quite sure what that is. There are a lot of layers in this books - first and foremost, the fact that Mia and her family have been in a horrific car accident, leaving her alone (should she choose to live).
And then there's her relationship with Adam, which is both complicated and wonderful... sometimes maybe too wonderful IMHO. I appreciated the way Forman depicted the strain on their relationship as they pondered Mia's impending acceptance to Juilliard.
And then (no and then!) there's Mia's family. Again, I thought they were just too many kinds of wonderful. Maybe this was to balance out the awful thing that happens to Mia or maybe I've just read too many YA books with horrible parents, but it just kind of strained credibility that everyone was so wonderful and supportive and really cool. That doesn't mean her family wasn't incredibly likeable... they were unique and fun characters. But sometimes I thought that they were so great just so you'd feel even worse for Mia.
And somewhere in there is friendship and weird antics (a punk band makes a sneaky diversion in an attempt to get Adam in to see Mia in the ICU) and a bit about the afterlife.
So yes, there are many layers to this book. I think that this book sometimes felt like an exercise in creating characters. We learn about Mia in fractured bits and pieces and she recalls moments from her life and flashes back to them, all while lying in a hospital bed or in surgery. And those flashbacks serve as short stories that develop the friends and family in her life. Mia's decision to continue living or to die serves to connect all these fragments.
I didn't mind this storytelling technique - I like jumping in with a character and learning more about them as we go. I think what bothered me was the way some characters were too-perfect. And I just didn't feel like this would be very memorable. Still, as far as tear-jerkers go, I'm glad I read this one.(less)
Miranda has to write a letter. She doesn't know who she's writing to and she's not sure what she's supposed to write about. But she knows that, if she...moreMiranda has to write a letter. She doesn't know who she's writing to and she's not sure what she's supposed to write about. But she knows that, if she doesn't, a friend's life will be in danger. And that whoever is supposed to receive this letter can predict the future.
Miranda is a 6th grader who lives with her mother and, sometimes, her mother's boyfriend. Her best friend Sal, has just become her ex-best friend, after a mysterious kid punched him in the stomach on the way home from school. She's recently started working at a sandwich shop near school, even though she and her friends only get paid in cheese sandwiches and Miranda can't cut a sandwich neatly to save her life. Her favorite book in the world is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. She's scared of the Laughing Man, a strange homeless guy who sleeps underneath the mailbox on her corner. And Miranda has just received the last of a series of letters, predicting that her mother will be a contestant on the $20,000 Pyramid and instructing that one of her friends is in terrible danger. If she wants to save them, and the letter-writer, she'll need to write a letter of her own.
It's rare to find a book that tackles so many issues without becoming bogged down and cluttered. Miranda is a latch-key kid who is just becoming more aware of who she is as a person, her social status, and just how alone she is without her friend Sal. Her story mixes elements of science fiction, mystery, historical fiction, and explores different types of friendship and how it changes as we age. She also struggles with her mother, often wishing for a more "adult" parent and comparing her with her friends' parents.
The chapters are served up in bite-sized portions, keeping the reading quick, light, and difficult to put down. I really loved the $20,000 Pyramid tribute in each chapter title - as I finished a chapter, I'd turn back to see what the title had been (Things that you hide, Things that bounce, etc.). I also loved the setting. This felt perfect being in the 1970s, raising issues that you might not get in a more current setting, but still very relevant.
I've already started recommending this book to friends and coworkers. It's definitely worth picking up and reading!(less)
I kind of didn't know what to think of Solanin when I started reading it. I had seen the great reviews and that it was highly recommended, but I kept...moreI kind of didn't know what to think of Solanin when I started reading it. I had seen the great reviews and that it was highly recommended, but I kept putting off reading it. When I did start, it was hard to connect with the characters. It seemed odd, because here are people asking the same questions I've asked myself so many times, and even still ask myself. Or I think about these questions for the people in my life - are they happy? Is this what life is about? Will I be doing this job for the rest of my life? Is this what it means to be an adult? Is there something more?
So I'm not sure why it took me so long to click with these characters! Perhaps its because we don't know much about them until much further into the book - we just know their circumstances. Meiko is working in an office building and she hates her job. She's been out of college for awhile and is the "responsible" one in her relationship - her boyfriend Taneda works part-time as a graphic designer and talks about getting his band going full-time again, but he's pretty aimless. Or so it seems. They have the same group of friends from college, who also happen to be in Taneda's band, and they're all wondering about their place in life. Meiko surprises herself and her friends when she suddenly quits her job and decides to spend a year being free, hoping to discover something that sparks her passion. Quitting her job sets a series of events in motion, forcing each of the group to ask themselves about what's important to them and what are they willing to sacrifice to keep that thing going.
I don't know if I'm being very clear in my description... this book is about living. It's about choosing what to do with your life and following through. And it's about friendship. I really liked how Meiko's mother tells her and Taneda that life isn't always about taking the difficult path - that happiness is actually easier to find than you think. Once you get to know these characters, to understand them, you can really get immersed in the story. As the author explains, these aren't larger-than-life characters; they're meant to be real people that can easily fade into the background. And what happens to them is beautiful and sad and wonderful.
On a quick note, the artwork here is amazing. It's filled with detail but also simple. And the moments where the band is playing really evoke the passion and power you can feel when you're creating something. Towards the end of the book there's a performance and the way that the lighting works and the characters move and drip with sweat... it just shows the passion that they're seeking in life.(less)