11. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I haven’t finished a book in five weeks and thank god I finally got into a book enough to finish it! I’m a sucker for YA. Sometimes I think “oh YA isn’t for me” because I get caught up in the classics or other literature and then I realize what an oafish idiot I have become. YA is magical. YA is great. Honestly if you don’t enjoy YA, I’m not sure I want to know you. “Sophisticated” literature can get the best of me, but I always come around to YA. (Side note: today my roommate tried to tell me that children’s literature and young adult literature are essentially the same and I almost impaled her with a frying pan. But I need someone to pay rent.)

My friend said she was reading this book and she thought I would really enjoy the writing style of this book, and let me tell you she wasn’t wrong. I am more than in love with the way this book is written, I’m pretty sure I AM this book. I am a sarcastic fuck and I love everything about the writing style of this book. I think I could take a line from every page and rave about how each sentence embodies my entire personality. I have various screenshots of lines in this book that resonate with me, I honestly do not think I have ever read a book in which I’ve enjoyed the witty, sarcastic prose so much.

The plot was quirky, semi-similar to Fault in Our Stars – but not the same dramatic cancer story. It’s still a story about a girl with cancer, yes. But there’s something more realistic about this book. It was different in that it wasn’t a grand love story with a meaningful adventure and a sad ending that makes you cry profusely. I liked how this plot unfurled in such a casual way, I think it attests to my personality and preferences. I adored the character’s quirks – the entirety of Earl was great. His diction, his backstory, and his relationship with Greg. Everything about Earl is great. Anytime I read a YA novel with a male protagonist I always identify with him, the same rings true in this book. I think it’s mostly how Greg narrates and speaks. I can sum this attachment and connection up with two words: self deprecation. Honestly, if I was any good at being funny I would be a self deprecative comedian. No doubt.

I would definitely read this again tomorrow, I enjoyed it so much.

10. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

This is the first book in which I liked the movie better, and I’m in astonishment at the thought. I watched the movie two summers ago, and obviously fell in love with it because Kat Dennings is my first choice for a political leader. I also have always loved Michael Cera, even though he’s weird as fuck; it’s endearing in some way. Or it might just be me loving his character of George Michael on Arrested Development.

Anyways, It’s taken me a while to finish this book due to the fact that I didn’t feel very engaged. As I read it I liked it, but I didn’t love it. When I read a book I’m attached to I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t finish it as soon as possible, and I did not feel that with this book. More likely, I would’ve been okay not finishing it. This probably says a lot about how I deal with relationships but – whatever.

However, there were key moments in which I did thoroughly enjoy this book. The references to cult classic movies, and certain artists drew me into the book. Additionally, I was drawn to the book because of the protagonist. I identified with Norah because of her nature: non-dominant, “frigid”, and responsible. Throughout the novel she lets go of most of these qualities, which is expected in character development but I stuck with this book because of those similar qualities. Overall it was a good book, and for those who enjoyed the movie or the young adult/romance drama, I think you would like this quick read.

9. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

After not being able to read leisurely for four months, I have been reading The Opposite of Loneliness nonstop for the past two days. As I began to read the essays and short stories included in this book, I felt at ease. Reading each story was natural and melodic. Keegan wrote casually. Through her writing I felt as if I was reading a letter from a friend, something I could relate to easily. Since I hadn’t read anything leisurely in a while, I thought getting back into the habit would be hard but this was a perfect book to begin my summer reading with.

Keegan’s ‘Fiction’ section was the most intriguing to me. I love reading short stories, mostly because the endings are usually cliffhangers. You never really know what happens to the characters in the story, but it’s short and sweet. It’s something your imagination can take care of, or just leave the conclusion as it is: a mystery. Keegan’s subject matters, tone, and prose all came together to create wonderfully mysterious stories. Some stories were very relatable, while others were interesting reads.

My favorite essay was “Why We Care About Whales”. I love whales, so I was partial to this essay but there was a way in which she wrote about whales and their beaching that spoke to me. When reading this essay I could pick up on her care and worry for the whales, and everything that entails in her thinking of how whales get beached. Relating this process to humanity is what really hooked me on to this essay, after I finished the book I went back to read this essay again.

It’s tragic how this compilation of stories and essays came to be. Keegan died in a fatal car crash in 2012. It was merely five days after her graduation from Yale. Honestly, reading this section of the introduction induced tears. I knew she had passed away, but the way in which she believed everything was waiting for the 20-somethings of the world broke my heart. It seemed like cruel poetic justice that she died.

After reading these short stories and essays I felt a connection between myself and the late author. I personally have a vendetta against those who prescribe to Ivy Leagues, mostly due to the fact that the assholes from my high school were the typical judgmental, superior ones who felt that it was Ivy League or die (aka Ivy League or you’re an idiot). The thoughts and concerns I read about from Keegan’s own mind gave me an insight into her, and gave me a little hope for people at Ivy League schools, as awful as that sounds.

My Own Personal Library & Lists

So I’m living in Boston this summer with four of my roommates from this year. My room has a little living space before my bedroom, and I’m planning on turning it into a library! For those of you who have designed, constructed, or simply have ideas for creating your own library please feel free to comment. It’s a small space, so keep in mind when commenting – nothing too extravagant, I’m in college so I have no money. About 80% of my books are currently in storage and reside in Boston, so slim pickings for what to read during these two and a half weeks before I move in.

The second point of this post is to make a list, yet again. I’m addicted to lists and I never stick to them, but they make me feel organized so sue me. Here’s my plan for the next two weeks, until I’m reunited with my other books.

  1. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
  2. Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger
  3. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
  4. The Tinder Box by Hans Christian Andersen
  5. The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  6. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  7. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  8. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  9. FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer
  10. Bad Twin by Gary Troup

8. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

First off, I finished this book about 3 months ago so I don’t recall everything about my initial reactions. I had been reading it for the month of January and February, not being able to get much reading done since I was busy with homework and student teaching. I do recall that while I was reading it, I found myself confused and using context clues about what I knew from the movie (mostly from what I have heard about the movie since I have never seen it). I kept asking my friends who had seen the movie questions like, “Tyler isn’t real, right?”. I knew the book ended in a mind fuck somehow, I couldn’t put together how just yet.

I enjoyed Palahniuk’s writing style in this book, mainly because it was a satirical novel. The way he told the story was sinister with a dash of psychological discourse to put it simply. I love reading novels in which there’s something wrong, and it gives you that shiver thinking about what exactly could be wrong. I found that the dark materials explored in this novel were absolutely riveting.

Overall, I would definitely read it again and perhaps venture into Palahniuk’s other works if they are similar to this one.

Why I was MIA for the past 4 months

Hello all!

I’m not sure if anyone still follows this blog, but second semester of junior year really takes it out of you. I’ve been busy with classes, my student teaching, and general life. I haven’t been reading much this semester, I think the last book I finished was Fight Club which was around February (which I should review). Right now I’m working on reading The Opposite of Loneliness, which I’m already halfway through so I’m excited to write a review for it!

Anyways, for those of you who have stayed thank you for your patience. I’ll be back and running this summer. Additionally, I might be posting about my food intake this summer as well. I’ll keep you guys posted.

7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I am always meaning to read more classics, but some authors intimidate me. Hemingway is one of them. I never had to read his works in high school, so thought it was high time that I read at least one of them now. I was surprised at the novel, and I’m not exactly sure why. I was expecting grandiose prose for some reason, I guess I just built up an expectation in my head.

The book begins with a fisherman who has had bad luck for 84 days, meaning he hasn’t caught any fish in that amount of time. He is very poor and struggles to find food for himself. He has a little boy who helps him fish. He plans to go out to sea and catch a large fish. It seems like the classic tale of man against animal and the sea. I haven’t read Moby Dick (it’s on my list) but it reminded me of the limited knowledge I have of that novel. The book did not have chapters, just paragraphs of text for one hundred some pages. I didn’t dislike this about the book, but I was taken aback. I think I’m accustomed to the chapter format that the lack of sectioning text confused me. Looking back, it would have been weird to cut off the text. I think that Hemingway wanted the text to flow, from event to event. Much like the sea, he wanted the events to weave into each other. I might be analyzing that too deeply (deep sea, get it ha I’m going to stop now), but in my head it works so.

For the first half of the book I was somewhat disappointed, because it seemed like nothing was happening in particular. Call me overstimulated, but there is a point in which descriptions can be too much and a reader just wants to see some action take place. Towards the end, when the old man catches the large fish is when I really became invested in the story again. From that point on I enjoyed to novel, but I do see why the rest of the novel is necessary to build background information and show the reader the old man’s relationship with the sea.

Since it is a classic, I would recommend people to read it. Although it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. At first I did not particularly like it because it was so much about fishing, which I know nothing about, but I began to gradually like it towards the end. I’m a fan of marine life, not hunting it but there are parts of the novel in which Hemingway talks about the marine life and describes them which brought my attention back.

6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This is another book that I bought and never finished. I got this book in middle school, and remember making it to the first couple chapters and putting it down. I think that at the time I was not able to fully comprehend the ideas and concepts behind the book. It begins with Clay, the narrator of the story who receives a package of tapes. They are the tapes recorded by a dead girl, Hannah Baker. She committed suicide and has made tapes about the people and things that had led her to the fatal event. Looking back at my age and maturity level, I’m glad I read this book now instead of then. I don’t think I would have understood the gravity of what a suicide means for a community.

The format of the book, the chapters are labeled as the cassette tapes, was very creative and different from what I was expecting. The spoken word of the tapes is distinguished from the narrator’s text through italicization. I thought that the emotion and feeling of the entire book was genuine. I’m not sure if Jay Asher had a lot of experience with suicide, or events that impact a community but it was very chilling to read. At first I was skeptical, and some of Hannah’s tapes were very ‘high school’ in that it seemed like the tapes were petty – trying to get back at a person for a certain action. But I guess that was the point, to tell them what they did and how it affected her. I don’t think many adults would understand how important this book might seem, but I think it’s salient to have a book like this on the shelf for teens. Honestly, I cried when reading this book. But not until I reached the last page in which Asher acknowledged people who had helped him with the book. It hints that he has had a history with suicide and had a hard time publishing the book.

As I said in my last review, it’s very important for teens to have access to ‘dark’ materials like this because it allows them to learn more about the topic, and open up a forum of discussion and awareness. I thought this book did a great job with introducing children to what can happen when a person commits suicide, how it affects the community, and what kind of things can affect a person. I think this book is great at showing how the words and actions of people can affect one person so much. Thirteen Reasons Why shows a lesson in civility, and what might happen after doing something you are not ready to take the blame for.

An outstanding young adult novel that hits many issues that teenagers may be experiencing.

5. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Although it is a tough subject for me to read about, I will always have a fascination with books about eating disorders. I bought this book in high school when I was at the height of struggling with my eating but I never seemed to finish the book. Now, four years later I finally finished it.

I was skeptical about reading this based on the nature of its topic but I’m glad I read through the whole novel. The book is about a girl named Lia who has an eating disorder. As we enter her story, her “best friend” Cassie has died in a motel room, she also had an eating disorder and her death was caused by it. As the book moves along, it’s clear that Lia’s eating disorder was not triggered by Cassie’s death, but caused her to get into a dangerous territory of eating; or lack thereof. Her parents constantly tell her that Cassie’s death caused a relapse in her eating habits, while the reader and Lia know that she never got better. She often talked about how she faked being happy with her “fat” when she was forced into inpatient treatment to get better.

It was hard for me to read parts of this book because I would have memories of myself doing some of the things that Lia did, like exercising in the dead of night, restricting to one meal or less, and constantly lying about when or where she had eaten her last meal. It’s truly frightening to think that I was ever in that place in my life, and although I’m not completely better I realized how much I was harming myself. As I was reading I caught myself saying, “wow, I’m glad I’m not like this anymore”. This is not to put down anyone who is like this now, but retrospectively it was a revelation on my part. As a book about a girl with an eating disorder, it was written very well for those who are in middle or high school and might have issues with eating. I wish that I did read when I bought it in high school because I think it would have helped me a lot at the time; but I’m glad I finally got around to it.

I am especially surprised and proud of authors like Anderson who publish darker materials like this for teenagers to read. The only other book about eating disorders that I have read is The Best Little Girl in the World by Steven Levenkron, which was written by a psychotherapist. His view was very biased and I remember not having a connection with the book in the same way I did with Wintergirls. The way that Anderson writes about Lia’s problems is more genuine and heartfelt than in Levenkron’s novel. This is not a topic that many adults can talk to children about without being awkward, too serious, or frightening. Anderson also wrote Speak, which was about a girl who got raped by a popular boy in high school and stops speaking all together. The fact that there are many authors writing about mental illnesses, suicide, rapes, etc makes me hopeful for the next generation of readers. When I was a child, it was taboo for me to be reading about anything of the sort. If I was reading anything of the sort, I would not let me friends, teachers, or parents know. Now that these topics are emerging in children’s and teen’s literature, there is hope that instead of being taboo these topics will bring awareness to both children and their adult counterparts.

I was impressed with the portrayal of the family dynamics and the thought processes of Lia that Laurie Halse Anderson put forth. I’m wondering whether she has had experience with having an eating disorder or being closely involved with someone who did. I didn’t exactly enjoy this book, reading this book was more beneficial to me than enjoyable – if that makes any sense. The writing was fairly easy to read since this is a young adult novel. The content was hard to stomach at times, but that simply depends on your history with eating disorders. I would not recommend this book to people who do not know much about eating disorders, as some of the ideas and concepts integrated in the novel take some understanding. It would be important to read up on the different types of eating disorders to gather a sense of background information about the topic.

4. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

I love graphic novels, but I can be very picky about which ones I read. I read Maus and Persepolis in high school, and fell in love with the medium. Primarily, I’m keen on historical graphic novels but I have heard so much about Ghost World that I thought I would give it a try.

Ghost World is about two girls who are stuck in the town they have spent their whole lives in. The only way I can think of describing them is to imagine the MTV cartoon Daria. One of the girls is much like Daria Morgendorffer, while her partner is a mixture of Daria and her sister Quinn Morgendorffer. One is superficial and easily distracted by cute boys, while the other is cynical and tends to see the negative side of every situation. The novel does not stick to these archetypes though, the pessimistic character has a soft side and the superficial character has some heartfelt moments.

I felt that the first three quarters of the book was slow in content. It was not until the last quarter that I felt the need to keep reading. Near the end of the novel, one of the characters is making a decision to go to college and makes all these plans only for news to come in that she cannot attend because she did not pass a test. Although this story did not strike a chord with me, I can see where it would with other young readers. Many readers who are from small towns and experience the need to leave their environment to find solace will empathize with the pitfalls of trying to escape. The book ends with the speculation that the two girls left their town, but it is not completely known what became of them. I’m not sure if there is a sequel, but it would be interesting to see where the two girls ended up! On the other hand the cliffhanger ending speaks to the idea that people often disappear and you may never know what happened to them.

It was a good quick read, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys MTV’s Daria and graphic novels.