Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lone Wolf

Written By Jodi Picoult
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 2 Stars

I have really got to stop expecting new and exciting things from Jodi Picoult.  My Sister's Keeper was a one hit wonder, and the rest of her novels are bubblegum or rehashes with very slightly different casts of the same novel.  At least they're easy reads.  Bubblegum isn't terrible, just not good.

Let me sum it up for you:  Life or Death Situation is followed by Awkward Family Moment, usually in a hospital, is followed by an Ethical Dilemma in which there is an Intense Disagreement and Alienation of Certain Family Members.  All this is followed by the Big Courtroom Drama Law and Order SVU style, then a Dramatic Decision is made, which is followed by a Big Reveal of a secret or Big Twist Ending that changes everything.

This book had some serious potential.  There's a family.  Luke, the father, works with wolves.  He has been known to take off and live with packs of wolves.  Cara is his high school daughter.  Edward is the estranged son.  Luke's ex-wife is married to an attorney and has young twins from her second marriage.  There is a car accident, when Luke is picking up Cara from a party that she had attended.  Cara drags him out of the car, but he is non-responsive.  Luke's character could have been so fucking cool.  Instead, the story just sort of petered out into a Jodi Picoult My Sister's Keeper rehash.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Written By R.J. Palacio
Original Publication Date: 2012

Rating: 4 Stars

Favorite Quotes:
"the universe takes care of all its birds."

"Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world. "

What do you do when you see someone with a deformity, a missing limb, a physical disorder, or really, anything that's considered "not normal"?  Do you stare?  Do you look away?  Do you glance away and then look back, pretending that everything is "normal" and you're not bothered?   Do you tease and mock?  Do you cringe?  Do you feel badly that you're looking at that person differently?  We all do it.  When we're confronted with a person's appearance that is less-than-average, we panic.  We don't know what to do.  We don't know how to approach that person because we can only assume that their less-than-average appearance makes them a less-than-average kind of person that needs to be treated differently.  It's a twisted part of our human nature.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity, though that's an understatement of grand proportions.  He's looked at differently every day.  People treat him like a porcelain doll.  People even scream, when startled by his appearance.  He says he's used to it, but can anyone ever really be used to that sort of treatment?

Up until the fifth grade he's been kept out of school.  His mother has homeschooled him because of the multitude of surgeries that he goes through to make his face more functional, firstly, and slightly more average, secondly.  For the fifth grade, he gets sent to Beecher Prep, a private school in the city.

Remember what it's like being the new kid in a new school?  Remember how you looked at the new kid in your school?  Remember how they were treated?  Now imagine going through that every single day for a year, because every time you meet someone new, you are always considered the freak: always.

Wonder is a remarkable story of growth.  The perspective switches between Auggie, his sister, and various other friends of the kids.  The growth can be seen in all the perspectives, by all the kids.  This is not only the story of how one deformed kid is grown to be accepted by his peers, but the story of how a group of kids grows to accept the strange and different in their worlds.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass

Written By Meg Medina
Original Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Rating: 5 Stars

Book Notes:
I received this ebook for free from the publisher, via Netgalley.
I've been sitting on this review since February 23rd, I wanted to wait until pub. date for it to go live, and it's been truly making me antsy.

"Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass," is what Piddy Sanchez is told, in the very first line of this moving novel about bullying.  This is news for Piddy, she doesn't even know who Yaqui is.  Turns out, Yaqui thinks that Piddy's stuck up, because of her good grades, lack of "Latina" attitude, and she shakes her butt when she walks. I love this premise because it shows exactly how inane the reasons are for a particular teen to be singled out of the crowd and bullied to, really, the end of their rope.  Bullying is an inanity, I've seen too many books try to give good reasons to the bully for hating those they bully; that's just not how it works.  More often than not it is a ridiculous non-reason that a student is picked out and picked on by her peers.

What I really loved about this book was that while the characters were Latina (and I know I missed things because of that - I really know very little about the Latina culture), they were people first and foremost.  This was not the story of Piddy Sanchez, a Latina girl who was getting bullied for not being Latina enough.  This was the story of Piddy Sanchez, a girl, who was getting bullied because of some ridiculous non-reason.  Piddy's mother was not only "Piddy's Mother," but a woman with a rich and slightly disturbing past, first and foremost. Even the minor characters were richly written; there wasn't a single character that felt incomplete or flat.  I could relate to almost all of the high school students.  

Okay, now that I think of it, Yaqui's cronies were pretty flat, but they were barely characters, simply extensions of the twisted mind that was Yaqui.

Another wonderful thing about the way this book was written is that it expresses the difficulty and confusion that a bullying victim feels when trying to decide what to do.  Sure, we're told over and over again that telling an adult is the correct thing to do, but as teenagers, all we can see is that if we tell an adult we'd be considered a narc or a tattletale and then the bully would probably hate us more.  In fact, not only would that make the one bully hate us more, but it could possibly make the rest of the school hate us as well.  Being a teenager is hard and this book expresses one facet of that, beautifully.

The chapter when all the threats come to a head, and there is a fight, is painful to read.  I needed to put the book down after reading it.  The humiliation and fear and desperate desire to forget it ever happened were so real.  While, my bullies never made it to actually beating the shit out of me, it was something I lived in fear of for a good portion of my middle school career.  Piddy's thought processes and actions throughout the entire book were so real.  I can't help but wonder if Meg Medina went through something similar in high school, herself.  We all have our horror stories from that part of our lives, in one way or another.

Honestly, I'd love to see this become a required reading book for high school or middle school English classes.  There needs to be an update on some of the novels that we have our children reading about bullying, because some of them are so out-dated that they're down right unrelatable.  This tale is horrific and completely relatable and modern.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The River

Written by Michael Neale
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 3 Stars

Book Notes:
I received this book for free from the publisher, via Netgalley.

I didn't realize until after I requested the book that this is a novel that is considered religious fiction; the summary gave me no such clue.  I guess I wasn't thrilled when I read that, because while religions all fascinate me, "Religious Fiction" tends to mean a books that "Shove Christianity Down Your Throat."  Luckily, this book really didn't give off that vibe.  It's comparable to how I love Flyleaf - yes, they're technically Christian Metal, but they're not overtly so, and I love them anyway.  Now, I didn't love The River, but it was a nice story.

When Gabriel Clarke was five years old, his father took him out to The River.  A risk taker in a kayak didn't know The River well, and he went over the falls; Gabriel's father jumped in after the man.  The man survived, but Gabe's father never resurfaced.

Gabriel moves out of Colorado and to Kansas where his mother lives, where he struggles to overcome the mental issues that The River instilled in him.  He grows up, damaged, in more ways than a "normal" child, until he rediscovers The River and the healing begins.

Bottom Line:  This was a nice story, though the writing style was fairly simple and nothing terribly special.