Archive

Tag Archives: 3

27272505Title: A World Without You
Author: Beth Revis
Pages: 384
Year: 2016
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 3 weeks, 3 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisSeventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his worried parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have “superpowers.” At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofía, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Sofía helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofía, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age. But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she’s not actually dead. He believes that she’s stuck somewhere in time—that he somehow left her in the past, and that now it’s his job to save her. And as Bo becomes more and more determined to save Sofía, he must decide whether to face his demons head-on or succumb to a psychosis that will let him be with the girl he loves.

It took me a really long time to get through because I’ve been mega busy, and a lot of the time, I need to choose between reading for fun and reading for my internship, and I have to do my work. Plus, my boyfriend has been staying with me while he’s on his winter break, so as a result, I probably will have read and reviewed only one book this whole month. Which is terrible, but life happens.

I kind of thought this was supposed to be like, you’re not really sure whether Bo has powers or is delusional, and you’d try to figure it out until it’s revealed at the end, but as I’m reading the synopsis here, I realize it’s supposed to be known from the beginning that he’s delusional. I guess I didn’t read it that closely before I started the book. I think it’s much more fun my way. I imagine I would have been a little bored if I felt like I already knew the ending. I thought this book was definitely a lot longer than it needed to be. There were a number of scenes, mostly scenes with Bo alone, that felt repetitive. In particular, I got really sick of hearing about the timestream. It felt like each time Bo “calls up” his timestream, he would go into intense descriptions of what it looks like to him, so we had to hear it all again so many times. It was pretty irritating. I would have liked to see a lot more of the other kids at Berkshire. I liked that we got to see some things from Phoebe’s perspective, and of course I typically hate changes in perspective, but seeing Bo from the outside was interesting. Phoebe was really the only character that was developed apart from Bo, and I really liked Phoebe, though I know many Goodreads reviewers did not. I think it was really important to see the family dynamic from a clear mind, and I really cared about Phoebe because she was scared for her brother, and she just wanted a better life for both of them. Sofía doesn’t even seem real. Like, I know we only really interact with a version of her that actually isn’t real, but it really felt like she was missing something. She felt real to Bo, so she should have felt real to the reader too.

I really liked the second to last chapter. That’s when you see the full power of Bo’s mental illness. This book is only six months old, so I won’t say what happens, but it’s pretty cool. Well, it’s not “cool,” because it’s very warm…. Anyway, I’m glad that I read this, and I enjoyed much of it. Though truthfully, if you’ve read the synopsis, there isn’t much of a point to reading this. I probably would have given it two stars if I had. I don’t want to say “don’t bother,” but…. Anyway, there’s not much time left in December, so y’all may not hear from me again until 2017! I managed to finish my Goodreads challenge of 50 books just in time, and I’ll be setting the same goal for the upcoming year. I’ve read a lot of great stuff this year, and I can’t wait to discover more amazing books in 2017. And I’d like to thank everyone who has followed me this year and has been reading my reviews. Hope to see you all on the other side.

25982869Title: Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here
Author: Anna Breslaw
Pages: 288
Year: 2016
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsis: Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor. When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV.

This is difficult. Throughout the first three-fourths of this book, I thought it was god awful. It was like somebody tried to write their own version of Fangirl but with a really obnoxious main character. Really, really obnoxious. I mean, Scarlett is infuriating. She’s actually really funny a lot of the time, but all she’s capable of doing is making fun of people who are more well-liked than her and feeling sorry for herself because she’s not one of them. I think the only reason her personality was tolerable was because people were consistently calling her out on it, which increased in frequency towards the last fourth of the book, which is why I started to hate it less then. And of course she learned her lesson and believes that Ashley is actually a human being now and is even going to be friends with her! I guess that’s character development, but it felt like weak, cheap, predictable character development. And speaking of weak writing…Scarlett’s fanfiction, the “Miss Ordinaria” story is horrifying. Was there no one along the process of publishing this book that felt like having a fictional subplot about teenage sex robots is disgusting and stupid? I mean, I was totally like Scarlett when I was really into Sherlock. I was a lunatic, and I wrote dumb fanfiction (that I’m still oddly proud of, truthfully), but even at my deepest point of cringe-y fandom, I would have thought this was weird. And I’d just like to point out that there were some fandom references, like certain acronyms and stuff, that even I didn’t get, so I can’t imagine how this book must have looked to a normal person.

Look, it’s not like there were no reasons for Scarlett to feel sorry for herself. Besides high school, she lived in a tiny apartment with an “absent” mother (who actually seemed pretty present and loving in my opinion). I don’t really know how to approach the subject of Scarlett being poor. She says it a lot, and I’m not going to say that no poor people have Converse, but it just felt like a detail that could have been used to emphasize Scarlett’s situation and did the exact opposite, and it threw in another unnecessary cliche on top of that. And I’d also like to note that in real high schools, people don’t actually openly get made fun of for being poor. I was very much part of the middle class when I was in high school, and you know who made fun of me? A girl who probably came from one of the poorest families in town. Another detail that bothered me: Scarlett complains that Gideon makes fun of fat people, and I get that they made fun of Leslie, and I guess Leslie was supposed to be the fat girl, but I don’t remember a mention of Leslie’s size, and even if there was one, it didn’t come from the guys making fun of her–it would have come from the narrator, Scarlett. In fact, Scarlett uses a term I have yet to hear, “skinny-fat,” which she describes as not being fat but also not being “toned” (148). And that left me thinking, am I skinny-fat? I’m not toned. Is she describing that girl that’s on the front and back covers? Because she’s just skinny. (And her glasses are super cliche. FYI, I’m a giant nerd, and I have perfect vision. But anyway, she looks like me, maybe slightly more stick-like, and considering the fact that I’m underweight, I don’t think I should be described by any word, hyphenated or otherwise, that has the word “fat” in it (despite the fact that I do feel that way about myself sometimes). Oh, and then there was the mention, near the beginning, of carbs, “even quinoa,” being so bad for you that it kills brain cells, cited by Avery’s father, a nutrition professor. You know where I was going while I was reading this on the train? Eating disorder therapy. You know what we had for dinner that night at eating disorder therapy? Quinoa. Yeah, I felt great. Listen, this is why I want to be an editor. I need YA authors to understand who is reading their books. These comments won’t affect everyone of course, but teenagers are fragile. When you write for teens, it is your job to use every word to build them up, or at the very least to make sure not one word is there that could tear them down. I’m officially instating a new rule for YA authors: you’re not allowed to mention food in a negative context or weight in any context unless it’s to celebrate body diversity.

In the end, I’m giving this three stars rather than two because even though this is a crappy version of Fangirl, I like to think that even normal girls who are really obsessed with TV shows are interesting enough to write books about, because I’ve been that girl. And because it’s pointed out more than once that Scarlett is a real asshole, often by Gideon, who is, like, a decent love interest. She barely talks about his looks, other to say that he was chubby at some point. There’s some good body diversity. This has been a review.

5107Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J. D. Salinger
Pages: 277
Year: 1951
Publisher: Back Bay Books (Little, Brown; Hachette)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsis: Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. […] His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.

Yes, I have an English degree, and I only just read this book for the first time. People were always baffled when I told them I hadn’t read this one, but now I have, so I guess I’m a normal person now. What pushed me to read it was my interview with Writers House. The director of the program told me it’s his favorite book, and I ended up being selected as an “alternate,” but that’s a different story. I wish I had read it in high school, because I would love to know how my teenage self would have responded to it. Unfortunately, all I can discuss is now.

I think I really liked the stream of consciousness style, and I liked that there wasn’t much of a plot. There was a problem, and there was a character solving the problem, but it wasn’t a plot in the usual sense. I say I think I liked it because I’m not totally sure, but the more I think about it, the more I feel sure that I liked it. I know that a lot of people think Holden is a whiny emo bitch, and I see that. Whenever he complained about people who like movies, I wanted to smack him. But the reason I can’t say I like this book overall is his attitude towards women and girls. I do not care what time period this was written in, let me make that clear. I do not care. I don’t care if it’s the year 2000 B.C., you cannot talk about girls the way Holden does. He constantly talks about how “most girls” are stupid and “phony” (as apparently everyone is in Holden’s world) and blah blah, and I won’t have it.  And he even starts talking about how whenever he tries to have sex with girls, they want him to stop, and he does, but he talks about how he shouldn’t stop, and he wishes he wouldn’t, but he does anyway. He really makes it out to be a negative thing that he isn’t constantly sexually assaulting girls, and it’s horrific. Sure, it’s good that he’s not doing it, but everything about his mindset is wrong.

Another thing that’s rather infuriating is something I’ve found in some reviews on Goodreads. By the second half of the book, I had picked up on the fact that Holden clearly suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. I’ve talked about this illness a lot because I was given my diagnosis this March, although I’ve known I have it since I was eighteen. I’m not the only one who’s figured this out. It’s clear in the way that he professes his love for Sally and a paragraph later he hates her, and he does this with multiple characters. (It’s called “splitting”.) It’s clear in his impulsive behavior, like when he suddenly decides to leave Pencey, and later on when he suddenly decides to hitchhike out west and then suddenly decides to not do that, and he’s constantly having suicidal thoughts. A little thing I picked up on too is when he hangs out with this guy who he mentions says the word “certainly” a lot, and after that, Holden uses that word with increasing frequency. Because of a Borderline’s unstable sense of self, they tend to mirror the people that they’ve most recently spent time with. What infuriated me in the reviews is that people are swearing up and down that he can’t have BPD because he loves his sister, and Borderlines have no empathy. Excuse me?? Let me introduce you to someone. This is my baby sister:

Her name is Jane, and she’s turning eight years old next week. She is technically my half-sister, but she is basically my own child, and she has been the light of my life since the day she was born when I was fourteen. I do not know what kind of life I would be living if I didn’t have her. I don’t know if I would be living at all. Everything I do, I do for her, and it will always be that way. So I don’t want to hear for one second that Borderlines can’t love or can’t feel empathy. The whole thing about being a Borderline is that you feel EVERYTHING and you feel it hard, and while that can be mostly sadness and anger and guilt and fear, it is also love and happiness. I get to love Jane as fiercely as I do because I am a Borderline. I just really hate people who act like they know everything about mental illnesses when they actually know nothing.

Back to the actual book: I think I would be giving this a much higher rating if the whole girls/sex thing hadn’t really ruined it for me. You couldn’t have just cut that one paragraph, Salinger? Disappointing. But like I said, I liked the style, and I’m glad that I read it so at least now I can say that I have. Happy reading, friends! (Also, guess who liked my last review? Hint: it’s the author of the book!)

29236380Title: Girl in Pieces
Author: Kathleen Glasgow
Pages: 416
Year: 2016
Publisher: Delacorte (Random House)
Time taken to read: 5 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisCharlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge. A deeply moving portrait of a teenage girl on the verge of losing herself and the journey she must take to survive in her own skin, Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.

I read an excerpt from this in the Buzz Books 2016 YA fall/winter edition, and I was really excited for it to come out. The majority of the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, but I’m not sure I agree with them. For the most part, I enjoyed reading this, but I was really frustrated with Charlie. It was painful for me to watch her make poor decisions over and over. I felt bad for her, but that was really all I could feel because there was so much going on. I think it’s amazing that writers are tackling difficult issues like self-harm and abuse, but I also think the messages that these books need to send are far more effective if a writer tackles on issue at a time. I was so overwhelmed by all the crap in Charlie’s life that it didn’t leave me much space to really think about the issues at hand. None of the events or the issues really mean anything to me, and it’s hard to connect with Charlie. I thought Riley was a terrible person but a pretty good character. I really enjoyed hating him, and I was thrilled every time he f***ed up even worse, because then I could hate him more. His sister Julie is the best person in this book and she honestly deserves an award.

A lot of people on Goodreads are comparing this to Girl, Interrupted, which didn’t even occur to me until I read some reviews because this is fiction and Susanna Kaysen’s book is not. And then I realized, the portion of this book that takes place in a psych ward is exactly like Girl, Interrupted. Like, Blue is Lisa, and Louisa is Daisy. That bothers me a bit because it feels like Glasgow kind of stole not only from Kaysen’s book but from her life. Truthfully, the scenes in the hospital were my favorite, and I wish the book would have stayed there longer, but maybe with some more original characters. Unlike a lot of reviewers, I did enjoy the writing style. I particularly liked the tiny recurring chapters where it was just a paragraph of Charlie’s thoughts with a lot of words in italics. That makes no sense unless you’ve read the book, but if you have, you know what I mean. For some reason those paragraphs felt like the way I think a lot. I read one review, though, that said that this book seemed to be more like a creative writing exercise than an actual book, which I feel is really accurate.

I think if you’re interested in YA books on mental health, I would give this one a go. It’s a good one to analyze and compare to other books on the topic. I want to say that you shouldn’t expect it to be all that great, but so many people seem to love it, so who knows.

22749695Title: The Trap
Author: Steven Arntson
Pages: 256
Year: 2015
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for  Young Readers
Time taken to read: 4 hours
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisIt’s the summer of 1963, and something strange is afoot in the quiet town of Farro, Iowa. The school district’s most notorious bully has gone missing without a trace, and furthermore, seventh grader Henry Nilsson and his friends have just found an odd book stashed in the woods by Longbelly Gulch—a moldy instruction guide written to teach the art of “subtle travel,” a kind of out-of-body experience. The foursome will soon discover that out-of-body life isn’t so subtle after all—there are some very real, and very dangerous, things happening out there in the woods. The science fiction inventiveness of Madeleine L’Engle meets the social commentary of Gary Schmidt in this thrilling tale of missing persons, first crushes, embarrassing pajamas, and thought-provoking dilemmas.

As much as I love YA and children’s books, I actually don’t find myself reading a lot of middle grade books, although obviously I was always attached to one when I was, like, seven years old. I read this one because I’m interviewing at a literary agency in a few weeks for an internship there, and I thought it would probably be good to have read at least one book that they’ve represented. I did not plan to finish this book in one sitting when I took it down to Central Park yesterday, but here we are.

I liked the setting a lot. I thought it was really neat to have the layers of sci-fi and fantasy and civil rights and racism. Although, when I explained the plot to my boyfriend, he said, “Okay, I buy the ghosts and the astral projection, but you lost me when you said the book claims someone in Iowa in the 1960s knows both someone who’s Native American and someone who’s Chinese.” Truthfully, I had the same thought while reading this, but I love representation, and especially in a children’s book where there are ghosts running around, I don’t really care how logical that representation is. (I honestly don’t know if it’s illogical or not. I know nothing about Iowa or the 1960s.)

The actual plot was okay. I was interested enough to want to know what was going to happen, and like I said, I did finish the book in one sitting. I thought the whole thing with the Fibonacci sequence and the “subtle self” was a little weird and creepy, but it was creative, and I suppose I can see how a kid would enjoy it. Henry was a pretty fun main character. I liked the twin dynamic, although I did not appreciate his remarks in the beginning about how she should have had the bike that was “for boys” because she was the tougher one. I don’t deny that kids think like that, especially decades ago, though still mostly now too, but it definitely had no place in a book like this. If you’re writing for children, you have to be mindful of the messages you’re sending.

In any case, this was a fun read, but now I have to go be a real adult and do real adult things like pay my rent and go to work. I am very excited for the start of September tomorrow! If you have any recommendations for good autumn reads, please let me know. And if there are any fans of middle grade books reading this, tell me your favorite! Maybe I will read more middle grade stuff.

30076808Title: the princess saves herself in this one
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Pages: 156
Year: 2016
Publisher: Self-published
Time taken to read: 2 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisa poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

Though I have yet to publish a book, I think I’ve studied YA enough that my editorial opinions are trustworthy. However, this is not true for poetry. I like grammar because grammar has rules, and those rules make sense, and you can break the rules but only if you know them well enough to be able to break them in the right way (so, following a different set of rules, basically). Grammar and poetry do not mix as well as grammar and fiction, and so poetry doesn’t make sense to me. There must be rules for poetry, but I don’t know them. I mean, I know the rules for poems like villanelles, but free-form poetry must have rules too that I have yet to study. So going into this collection, I decided not to try to judge it by any rules but to judge it by how it made me feel and to listen to my gut.

My gut is confused. I don’t disagree with anything said in this collection. I can relate to a lot of the pain and sadness, and I believe that I have felt many things that Amanda Lovelace has felt. And I have expressed those things in a very similar way, and that’s unsettling to me. I don’t like the poetry I’ve written, and hers sounds a lot like mine, especially so I suppose because of the similar subject matter.

The beginning of the collection is very personal and a little uncomfortable for me. It freaks me out a little bit to read descriptions of self-harm, honestly, poetic or otherwise. I think the fairy tale theme is a little worn out, but I love princesses, so I was mostly okay with it. I thought the end was sort of strange. She starts making a lot of political commentary, and it’s all things that I agree with for sure, but it felt really out of place, almost forced, like she just wanted liberal points. Again, I don’t disagree with her statements, but it just didn’t feel right. The biggest criticism I saw on Goodreads was that her poems are just broken up sentences, and apparently that’s not what poetry is. Like I said, I don’t really get poetry, so maybe that’s not what it is, or maybe, like Lovelace says, poetry is whatever you want it to be. Maybe that’s true for self-published poetry, but I sort of agree that her lines seemed to lack effort.

My favorite poem in the collection was the one addressed to her sister (I believe), where she talks about her sister being in the company of perhaps their favorite deceased female authors. The poem after that is a good one too, which talks about body image things, as do quite a few of the poems. I’m not surprised that this collection is self-published. It seems like a thing that she made for herself, like it’s just an outlet for her emotions. I do plan to start reading more poetry, so hopefully I find something a little better.

18339662Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Pages: 227
Year: 2014
Publisher: Delacorte (Random House)
Time taken to read: 4 hours
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsis: A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth. We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I bumped this up on my to-read list because the lady who interviewed me at Random House said it was phenomenal, that every page had twists and turns, etc. As noted above, I read We Were Liars in four hours, because I wanted to get to the twists and turns, and I found a few, but I don’t think this book lives up to its hype. It was a good book, but it wasn’t amazing. I’ve heard that you shouldn’t actually read anything about the book before reading it, you should just go into it, which I think makes sense, so if you haven’t read this book, maybe come back when you have. Or not. It’s not really that great. (There are spoilers ahead, though, FYI.)

I found it really difficult to sympathize with any of the characters. I mean, they have their own island. It’s not like Cadence’s condition doesn’t suck, because it does, and I do sympathize with that, but pre-accident Cadence I don’t sympathize with. I don’t even really like Gat, as much as he tries to make them aware of how narrow the other kids’ field of vision is. Spoiler ahead: he also agreed to light a house on fire, which is such an indication of privilege. It’s like burning a pile of money to “make a statement” when you could actually just give it to people who need it. They know that they don’t like their family’s system, but they don’t actually know how to make it better or break free. And yeah, they’re just (drunk) kids, but most kids don’t commit arson.

But a house on fire doesn’t make them liars. In fact, no one was lying, because three of them were dead and one couldn’t remember anything. I read on Goodreads that there were a few chapters that explained the title and the name the kids gave themselves, the Liars, but it was cut because it was too “slow”. Now I feel less like an idiot, as I thought I had completely missed something or wasn’t connecting something that made all of that make sense. Lots of people on Goodreads have found ways to make a connection, all of which make sense, but it definitely wasn’t strong enough in the book alone, which is why I’m only giving it three out of five stars.

However, I did like the style of the book, where it sort of turned into stanzas at some points. And the writing on a micro-level was great. I really like the imagery and descriptions, like how Cadence says Mirren is “sugar, curiosity, and rain.” I liked the metaphors too, although I think sometimes it was unclear whether or not something was a metaphor. For example, Cadence always talks about bleeding and her veins opening and something about her wrists and Gat wrapping her wounds, and I thought she was self-harming for a while, but eventually there was a line, though I don’t remember it, that indicated that it was just a metaphor for being really upset, and there was no literal bleeding.

At least I wasn’t able to guess the ending.