Detective fiction is not high on my list of preferred genres, but having recently read and loved "Mystic River", I decided to give "In the Woods" a trDetective fiction is not high on my list of preferred genres, but having recently read and loved "Mystic River", I decided to give "In the Woods" a try. It had all the right ingredients, it seemed: troubled detective with a secret, capable and intelligent female partner, political drama, and my beloved Ireland. French creates a layered and complicated plot that unravels smartly and (mostly) believably, with some gripping reveals and nail-biting moments.
The problem? Adam "Rob" Ryan, the narrator and co-lead investigator, drove me bonkers. He's whiny, self-absorbed, and kind of an a-hole. I could never muster up much sympathy for him, which was problematic given how much time the novel spends retreating into his past. Certainly he should be a flawed character, but there was simply too much flaw and little redeeming quality. Some of his reactions and choices, particularly in regard to his partner Cassie, were well written and believable male/female dynamics. My quibble is that he doesn't do enough good or show enough likable character to make us forgive him for messing up sometimes. Having Ryan as narrator speak directly to the reader was quite unnecessary, I thought, and exacerbated my dislike.
I would give 2.5 stars if I could. I was interested enough in Cassie that I may check out "The Likeness," which she narrates. ...more
"Columbine" is the most meticulously crafted, comprehensive, exhaustively detailed work of non-fiction I have ever read. Dave Cullen devoted ten years"Columbine" is the most meticulously crafted, comprehensive, exhaustively detailed work of non-fiction I have ever read. Dave Cullen devoted ten years to this book, and it shows. He has produced a masterpiece of reporting. He weaves a mind-boggling number of interviews, manuscripts, police reports, journals, news reports, eyewitness reports, court testimonies, and other sources into a well organized and readable narrative. It impressed me, for example, that when Cullen sets out to write about Eric Harris and psychopathy, he doesn't settle for a few articles or expert opinions. He delves deeply into the history and evolution of the diagnosis, wanting to get it exactly right.
Perhaps the most compelling and heartbreaking aspect of the book is Cullen's exploration of the widely divergent personalities of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They are lumped together in legacy under a number of inaccurate characterizations: the Trench Coat Mafia, the loners, the revenge seekers, or the outcasts furious at social rejection. In actuality, Cullen shows the reader, they were both troubled and angry teenagers but each wrestling with very different demons from each other. It's terrifying to read about Eric's psychopathy, but it's more horrifying to look into Dylan's life and understand just how opposite the Columbine massacre was from everything he truly felt and desired for himself.
Alexandra Robbins is a heartfelt writer. One of the strengths of "Geeks" is her obvious care and concern for her young subjects. She presents each ofAlexandra Robbins is a heartfelt writer. One of the strengths of "Geeks" is her obvious care and concern for her young subjects. She presents each of her seven main characters with personalized challenges derived from each student's individual strengths and areas he or she wants to improve, and she supports each student's progress. She makes their stories come to life through her writing, drawing readers in and making us cheer for the students through their successes and hurt along with them as they struggle. As I finished the book, I wondered how the characters are doing now and wished the best for them.
I wonder, though, if Robbins goes too far in championing the cafeteria fringe, the outcasts, the nerds, the losers. The populars are so demonized that the non-populars (everyone else)sometimes get portrayed as too perfect. She does mention, through Whitney's experience, that the non-popular cliques have their own internal power struggles and students who are mean to others. Some of Blue and Danielle's friends, though not popular themselves, are cruel and unreliable to their own friends. But on the whole, Robbins elevates the fringe to such a level of adulation and respect that she does not fully explore the less than ideal qualities of all her main characters. Eli, Noah, Joy, and Reagan come across as perpetual victims whose struggles are most always the fault of others in their lives. Surely they all have treated someone badly before, said a harsh or hurtful word to a friend, made selfish choices. We see those (internally) flawed sides of Whitney, Danielle, and to a lesser extent Blue, but not the aforementioned four.
Regan, the teacher, particularly grated on me because she is written as being right all of the time, the constant victim of others who resent or misunderstand or outright hate her. Surely in a year of following her, Robbins would witness at least some poor choices she made, wrong moves as a young teacher, things said she wished she could take back. I wish we'd gotten to see some of these times. Someone so seemingly infallible is tough to identify with or root for simply because she comes across as unreal.
My other quibble is with the references to Columbine. Robbins is right on about the profiling that came to schools as a result of the tragedy, and the unfortunate tendency of schools to treat failure to conform to some normalcy standard as a threat. But I think she oversimplifies her comments about Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris having done what they did because of being bullied. Having recently read Columbine, I recall that this conception of the killers is still the media party line even though extensive study of the boys has shown the idea that they sought revenge on specific bullies to be false (it was much more a matter of unchecked mental illness--major depression and psychopathy respectively--and in fact both boys had a number of friends with Eric verging on popular himself by some accounts. But I digress. Just read the book). Robbins' comments about Columbine are brief and few, but she closes one of the final chapters with a reference to how badly Columbine High School needed an anti-bullying center. It struck completely the wrong chord with me, and from my reading, seems off base.
My quibbles aside, this book is worth the read, particularly for parents, those who work in education or helping fields, and for teens/young adults themselves. I'd be interested to hear Robbins speak at some point. I appreciate her championing qualitative research and translating it into compelling, accessible writing....more