Between the Lines

Everyone can read, but really understanding a book and the story it represents is entirely different. It's important to adopt different perspectives. Here, I offer you mine.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Before you read this, I ask you to check out my other review on The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.
Now. Normally, when I am this fired up about something I have read, I wait a day or two to simmer down so that I don’t publicly humiliate myself by posting something I might regret on the Internet.
Well TOO. BAD.
I literally just put down the book, and I want to review no matter how unstable my feelings for it are right now, and I am GOING FOR IT.
I am warning you RIGHT NOW, I’m not really editing what I write, so if there’s a spoiler or two in there, I apologize. As you can see, I had a LOT to say. And for once, the Negatives are almost a match for the Positives!! :O

Mockingjay (The final book in The Hunger Games trilogy)
Suzanne Collins
374 Pages

Summary: “Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.”
Positive: 1. Murderous cliffhangers. If you’re reading this review, I’ll take a shot in the dark and assume that you’re wondering if The Hunger Games lives up to the hype. Yes, it does. A thousand times, yes! All you need to do is read a first few pages, and you’ll be pulled in and under like a riptide in the ocean. Seriously, the only way I could convince myself to put the book down long enough to get a few hours of decent sleep was to break away in the middle of a chapter—because I quickly learned that if you waited to finish, the compelling cliffhangers that Collins uses to conclude each chapter would pull you right back in. 2. Character development. Suzanne Collins had three whole books to build a bond between characters and the audience, and let me tell you, she used her time wisely. They were all awesome, villains or heroes—but, thank God, nobody was perfect. Katniss especially. Not the most lovable character to me, but goodness, do those boys throw themselves at her! At least she has some “fire” (pun intended) and can defend herself and stuff. She became way more outward with her emotions, but still kept her old snarky, sarcastic charm. And… what’s this? She becomes more decisive? And actually LISTENS?! Finally! We’re proud, Katniss. (Not really. I think her death would have been an exemplary ending, too.) 3. To put it simply, the entire plot is a Positive. After wrestling through the beginning (which I felt was mostly used to remind readers of what had happened in the previous two books), it was just one event after another, firing away—bam, bam, bam! Some events irked me, and some made me want more. The surprises brought about in each chapter made it impossible to stop reading, and it all tied together brilliantly.

Negative: 1. Violence. In the first two books, it is obvious that war is coming—and in the final book, it does. Way more emotional than the first two books, Mockingjay is also the most vicious and bloody. Based on the actions and statements of characters, the gore is clearly (and ironically) pertaining to the cause of anti-war. 2. KATNISS. EVERDEEN. GOT. ANNOYING. Quite honestly, her whining about how hard it was to be the Mockingjay and not have enough control and choose between Peeta and Gale irritated me. Sure, she had a lot to deal with, but often times I felt like she was really dramatizing everything. Especially on the topic of picking her love interest. She had to fake emotions for Peeta towards the beginning, but then began to actually feel them. Eventually, she wasn’t sure of where she stood with Gale because he made it obvious that he loved her when he kissed her back in Catching Fire, but they’d always been just friends, and… GAH! Seriously, the tension almost drove me insane, but I felt like she whined so much that I almost stopped caring. I kind of wish that she ended up alone. I mean, she’s all independent and self-reliant—I always saw her as some lonely cat woman, standing up for herself and not needing a man. The “cat” sound is even in her name! It was meant to be, I tell you!! 3. Finnick! AAAH, FINNICK!!!!!! Come on, Collins, everyone loves Finnick! WHYYY?!?! That is all I will say on this matter, in order to spare those of you who have yet to read. 4. I feel like Katniss pretty much slept through the end. Anyone else disappointed with how the climax fell flat? Something important happens, and Katniss blacks out, and then… we wake up later. Then something else important happens, and she blacks out again, and… we wake up later. And then she sleeps more, and then Peeta shows up, and then EPILOGUE! Seriously, am I the only one who feels like either I missed something or this was rushed? Though, I must say, the epilogue did make up for this.

Overall: While the Negatives do appear to have outweighed the Positives in this review in numbers, in content, Positives are still a win. I DID like this book, despite it's many yet minor flaws. Maybe the book wasn’t worth losing the last shreds of sanity I had left, but it was enjoyable and I don’t regret reading it. Not the best ending ever, but the overall series is nothing short of genius. I absolutely love The Hunger Games.

Rating: One thumb up! (Over all series: every finger and toe I own.)

Tidbit: Rumor has it that The Hunger Games is on its way to becoming an epic, amazing, masterpiece of a movie!! (It better be an epic, amazing masterpiece. If some bad director butchers it, he/she will have an army of angry book nerds to deal with.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Okay, is it sad that part of the reason as to why I picked up this book in the first place is because of its amazingly shiny cover? I mean, as much as this greatly appealed to their primary reader group of human beings, I’m sure that it was also targeted towards their secondary audience of raccoons. You know. They like shiny. Anyway, this is yet another temporary loan courtesy to my friend Delaney, who also loaned to me The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Oh, dear Delaney, where would my blog or word-hungry mind be without thee, my book buddy?
Okay. Let’s get down to business. (To defeat… THE HUNS.) (Sorry, little Disney musical outbreak there.) (SERIOUS FACE.)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
John Green and David Levithan
310 Pages

Summary: “On a night that wasn't too different from any other, Will Grayson walks into a downtown Chicago porn shop after getting left behind by his friends. At the same time, Will Grayson--a different Will Grayson--walks into the same porn shop to meet his Internet boyfriend. The meeting of the two Will Graysons, both with the same problem, will change each of them in unexpected ways. For both Wills are scared to risk it all. But thanks to a girl named Jane, a boy named Gideon, and the fabulous Tiny Cooper, Will Grayson's life will become something great.”

Positive: 1. Humor.
Reading this book, I actually felt like a bit of a loser for giggling to myself alone in my room. Though a bit of a stretch from realistic, a few scenes from this book had me literally laughing out loud! I don’t usually enjoy reading comedic books because it just feels like the author is trying too hard to be funny, but I must say that both authors of this book mastered it beautifully. I felt like I was sitting on the couch and talking to the characters. 2. Style. At the beginning of the book, I must admit that I was horribly confused. Were they really two separate people? Or was it like an alter-ego kind of thing? When I figured out that there were in fact two separate Will Graysons taking turns narrating the story, this new rhythm of the book was very refreshing. At first I was a little skeptical about reading a book with two authors because I reasoned that both must have different writing styles and if both used in the same story, it would probably be a little confusing. However, I found that that was the point when I discovered that this story was split into two separate parts. It really gave the two Will Graysons their own individualities. Will Grayson 1, who was written by David Levithan, is far closer to your average teenager. Laid back, easy to relate to, wanting to fit in. I liked him. Will Grayson 2, written by John Green, was, to be frank, kind of emo. He didn’t use any capitalization (I sensed some definite detachment and not-caring going on there), and his closest friend really wasn’t that close. The contrast between the two characters really interested me. 3. Uniqueness. Most gay guys featured in books I’ve read have been kind of reserved. They were just kind of like, “Hey! Guess what? I’m gay.” And that was about it. Maybe there was a boyfriend, but overall the character was kind of muzzled. Here, though, the gay characters of this book were actually allowed to be proud of who they were, and even—gasp!—sexual. I enjoyed that the authors gave the gay characters of the book a little more dimension than others that I’ve read. The book doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable situations like teen depression, having a gay best friend, or even being publicly humiliated in front of the entire student body. If there’s one thing John Green and David Levithan can write together, it’s teenage literature. These two made a great team in writing a relatable and borderline brilliant young adult novel.

Negative: Okay, for a change, I actually came up with a decent string of negatives!! 1. The absence of capitalization during Will Grayson 2’s narrating. I completely understood why this was essential to the character and why it made sense and how it was needed to differentiate between the two Will Graysons, but I still don’t like reading it. As a Grammar Nazi, looking past the symbolic meaning and creativity behind it, it was annoying. Just wanted to throw that out there. 2. The ending. I promise I won’t give it away in this description! The ending was… how else could I put this? A David Levithan ending. An ending in which the main character has a giant, life-changing epiphany and suddenly understands the meaning of Life and The Universe and Everything Else. I personally like more of a gradual realization, but whatever.

Overall: Will Grayson, Will Grayson is an experiment in storytelling, and it definitely accomplishes the goal of shaking things up. The book was really good and exciting to me, but not the sort of thing I’d read a million times over and over again. It was more of a one-hit-wonder. I’d recommend it to people who enjoy a humorous yet intellectually stimulating and thematically significant story that is equal in both parts light and serious.

Rating: One Thumb Up

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Double Feature!! The Hunger Games AND Catching Fire, both by Suzanne Collins

Huh! Looks like I have a life after all! Guess I didn’t see it under all that school. But now that school’s over and life has caught up with me, I’ve been so busy!! Which I will use as my excuse for not updating my blog more often. I haven’t forgotten about you guys just yet! Anyway, enough about me. I decided to review both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire together because they’re both in the same series and I didn’t really feel too diverse about them.

DOUBLE FEATURE: The Hunger Games and Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins
374 Pages

Summary: "In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.”

Positive: 1. Compelling. At first, I was a little skeptical about The Hunger Games series. I’m not much of a Twilight fan, so who’s to say that I would enjoy the next teen craze? But when my friend Delaney forced the first two books upon me, I can honestly say that I owe her one. I could not put them down! I mean, they’re not exactly quick-reads by length, but it is because it’s hard to stop reading once you started. The action and suspense mixed with romance and drama kept me going. 2. Unique. These books are nothing like anything I’ve ever read before, though some reviews I’ve seen around the almighty Interwebs compare them to some book I’ve never heard of called Battle Royal. Usually I don’t even like these kinds of books, ones in which the author creates their own little world, because they just don’t come across as believable to me. I must say that Suzanne Collins did an excellent job in this, though. She tied her imaginary place with the possibility of what North America could evolve into as time wares on, so it was easier for me to understand and believe. I found myself wondering what it would be like to live in a place as horrific and disciplined as Panem. It’s a good wakeup call to what a control-freak government could become (well, maybe that’s reading into it too much, but still). 3. Suspense. This was actually the main reason as to why I found the books compelling, but I still think it deserves its own little number under Positives. When Katniss was discussing her encounters during the actual Hunger Games, my curiosity of what romance would happen between her and her partner, Peeta, was eating away at the back of my mind, and vice versa! I loved the anxiety of wondering if Peeta’s feelings were real or just staged to ensure his survival through the Hunger Games. The whole time, Suzanne Collins kept it interesting, throw in one brilliant plot twist after another. Not to mention the fact that both books end in a spot that is horrible because it leaves you with a feeling of incompleteness yet is good because it practically forces you to read on. I’m absolutely dying to get my hands on the third book of the series.

Negative: 1. Violence. This series probably isn’t the best for those who scare easy or don’t do well with blood. I enjoyed it myself because such things don’t really bother me, but squeamish beware. I must say, though, I highly respect the fact that Suzanne Collins has absolutely no problem with killing off a character. Not even in the just-kidding-they’re-not-really-dead-they-faked-it sense. Most people wouldn’t expect a likable character to be knocked off right in the middle of a book, but Collins doesn’t always play it safe that way, and I liked that. Wait… this is the Negatives section. Oops. See, I liked this book so much, the one negative I came up with isn’t even really much of a negative!! I need to read worse books so I can actually have a negative or two every now and then.

Overall: This series is definitely in my top 10. Top 5, even!! It’s got just the right balance of romance and action. I also found the main character likable and very relatable, in that she was headstrong but not perfect. I couldn’t stop reading, and often found myself staying up late at night and skimming the pages until my eyes were watering. The story’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I absolutely love the Hunger Games. (For those of you who already read it, you’ll know what I mean when I say: TEAM PEETA, FOR THE WIN!!)

Rating: Two thumbs up! Feel three to throw in a pinky, a forefinger… heck, a ten! All the fingers I have!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die
Jenny Downham
327 Pages

“Everyone has to die. We all know it. With only a few months of life left, sixteen-year-old Tessa knows it better than most. She’s made a list, through—ten things she wants to do before she dies. Number one is sex. Starting tonight. But getting what you want isn’t easy. And getting what you want doesn’t always give you what you need. And sometimes the most unexpected things become important. Uplifting, life-affirming, joyous—this extraordinary novel celebrates what it is to be alive by confronting what it’s really like to die.”
Positive: 1. Forms of emotional response. It was interesting for me to see how each individual member of Tessa’s broken family—her divorced mother and father, as well as her younger brother—emotionally dealt with Tessa’s condition. Her father reacted with denial, always pushing Tessa to undergo treatments and talking about her getting better, though even Tessa herself knew she wouldn’t. Her mother, who was constantly absent before, tried to be there for her daughter, but still remained emotionally distant and refused to accept the seriousness of her situation. Cal, the younger brother, first came off as a snotty brat, cracking jokes about Tessa’s condition and acting almost jealous of the attention she got. It soon becomes obvious that Cal simply didn’t understand how to emotionally respond to losing his big sister, and Tessa understood that. The book showed different ways of how people protect themselves from the truth when it’s too much to bare. 2. Tessa’s evolution. Tessa changes in a number of ways throughout the book, which really interested me. At first, she’s a girl dying from cancer who wants to live up the last days of her life, but doesn’t have the courage to do it on her own. So, she enlists the support of her outgoing and adventurous best friend, Zoey. Throughout the novel, Zoey soon loses her risk-taking appeal as she becomes engulfed in her own problems, leaving Tessa to fend for herself. Towards the end, Tessa becomes the more outgoing of the two as she learned that she didn’t need to rely on Zoey to accomplish things she normally wouldn’t dream of. 3. Beautifully written. Terminal cancer is a serious and sensitive topic, one that may be difficult to capture through words. A lot of books are very sentimental and quite sappy when writing of a cancer victim, but this book did a great job of keeping a good balance between emotion and realism. While there were still a few tear-jerking scenes, it wasn’t a big sob story about someone dying. It was a headstrong girl who already came to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t live much longer, and was determined to make something of what little time she had left. Normally I don’t really like overly sentimental books about people who are dying, but I really enjoyed this one. Tessa, as the main character, was very well written, too. She was just as pissed off, as any teenager would be who couldn’t do what they wanted to do. Her list is composed of things a typical teen would want to do in their life, like have sex and try drugs, not say goodbye to loved ones or anything like that. She’s stubborn, and makes you almost angry with her when she makes a stupid choice. But she seems to grow and mature as the book goes on, and her time runs out.

Negative: 1. Zoey. I didn’t really understand why Tessa and Zoey were friends in the first place. Zoey seemed so shallow and self-absorbed to me! At first, she was all over helping her dying best friend with her final wishes before she died of cancer, but she gradually seemed to lose interest. I mean, she has a legitimate reason (which I won’t spoil for you who haven’t read it yet), but still! You’d think she’d try to pay more attention to Tessa as she slipped away. Maybe Tessa needed to feed off of her energy to complete her list, or maybe I just misunderstood how Zoey was being portrayed. Either way, the two didn’t seem to have a very reliable friendship. 2. Tessa’s behavior. Sometimes, the way Tessa acted really bugged me. There were instances in which she seemed self-absorbed, immature, and irresponsible. I understood that she was dying of cancer, but she used it as an excuse for some things that she really shouldn’t have. I wish she just took responsibility for her actions instead of trying to get people to feel sorry for her. Seeing as she’s a dying sixteen-year-old girl, though, I can understand why she acted that way every once in a while, but it still bothered me. It was a little hard for me to warm up to her at first.

Overall: Before I Die is a great quick read. Not quick because of length, but because you won’t be able to put it down. As Tessa races against time to complete her list of things to do, she adds and changes some of the items of the list as she learns that some of the things she wanted so desperately were really worthless when compared to others. I nearly felt guilty turning the page, knowing that each time I did I was only bringing Tessa closer to her inevitable death, but my growing curiosity for just how her death would come about kept me going. Tessa’s story reminded me of how lucky I was to be young and healthy. This book is very uplifting, making readers appreciate having all the time in the world.

Rating: One Thumb Up!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

The Body Finder
Kimberly Derting
327 Pages

Summary: “Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her new best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her ‘power’ to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world… and the imprints that attach to their killers.”

Positive: 1. Universal appeal.
The Body Finder has pretty much every genre teens are interested in, all bound between a mere 327 pages. Romance, adventure, action, mystery, suspense, drama… There really is quite a lot happening at once in the story, but somehow Kimberly managed to portray it all in a way that kept readers guessing but still made sense. 2. Characterization. I absolutely loved the characters of this book. Jay was amazing; I suspect that he’ll become the new-and-improved Edward Cullen amongst the teenage girl population. Violet seemed to be very relatable, always wanting what she can’t have (i.e., straight hair) and not realizing how beautiful she really is. Her friends were a nice comic relief from the intensity of the book, each with their own quirky personalities. They were presented in a way that made the reader care for them. 3. Captivating. The instant I read the first few pages, I was hooked. The story started out very vague, presenting many questions and provoking curiosity in a way that didn’t confuse the reader but made him/her want to continue reading. Also, throughout the book, Kimberly switches the focus of the story between Violet and the mystery murderer. This really took me by surprise when I read the first chapter focused on the murderer, but once I adjusted to it I found it kind of refreshing. It was nice to be able to switch off between the two characters because it felt like it kept the story feeling fresh.

Negative: I can honestly say that I couldn’t find anything significantly bad about this book. Believe me, I’ve tried! I actually ended up reading it a second time, looking for something negative to write in this review, but came up empty-handed. Sorry to disappoint!

Overall: The Body Finder is definitely one of my top 5 books. It had just the right balance of the intense murder mystery and the dramatic romance, both carefully intertwined. I found Violet easy to relate to, and I enjoyed watching what was happening between her and Jay, though it wasn’t very hard to foreshadow that they would end up together. Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder is a great read, and I would recommend it, especially to Twilight fans looking for something new.
Kimberly is my mom’ s friend’s friend, and I’ll be flying up to Seattle to meet her on April 7th. I’m SO excited!! She's already sold the movie rights to The Body Finder AND is working on a sequel. The Body Finder's already sold out at my local bookstore, too. Congrats, Kimberly!

Rating: Two Thumbs Up! (And more if I could. Unfortunately, I was born with the average two thumbs.)


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It’s Kind of A Funny Story
Ned Vizzini
444 Pages

Summary: Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life—which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job. But once Craig aces is way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself. Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety. Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.”

Positive: 1. Humor. I think that readers would really enjoy the sense of humor Ned Vizzini presents in this book. A lot of the characters and situations are very amusing. It’s Kind of A Funny Story really lives up to its title. I remembered the last time that I burst out laughing at a solemn or inappropriate moment, and realized that the author was really targeting the fact that laughter is a common way of dealing with pressure. He made the reader feel okay about laughing, even while reading about such tragedy as people stricken with mental illness. The other characters in the book seemed at peace with their state of mind, and Ned Vizzini reminded me that maybe it’s better to laugh along with them instead of feeling sorry for them. 2. Very informative. This book explores the cause and affects of clinical depression amongst teenagers. I personally have never suffered from anything like depression, and I found it really interesting to read about what it was, what it did to people, and how it affected lives in a way that I could relate to, coming from a teen perspective. Although Craig isolated himself in a battle against his feelings, he’s only one of over thirty-two million others like him in the United States alone, a fact that really got me thinking. Ned Vizzini gives teens an example of how to help themselves and assures them that suicide isn’t the only solution. Just knowing that the author spent some time in a mental hospital himself really helped illustrate the story. 3. Emotional disconnection. Sure, this may seem like a bad thing. Craig being the narrator made it hard to get into the story because he seemed so emotionally distant from himself as well as others around him. I found it difficult to form attachments at first. However, Craig taking charge and checking into the hospital changes everything. Perhaps that was the point. As Craig started to put himself back together, he began to make connections with other characters, which allowed me (as the reader) to do the same. It was really interesting to build connections with other characters alongside Craig.

Negative: 1. Unrealistic timeline. According to the book, Craig managed to learn about his calling in life, build a relationship, and significantly help others diagnosed with illnesses similar to his own in a matter of five days. For some, it may not ring true that Craig adjusts to life so quickly. However, I liked the story enough to set aside my disbelief and just go with it.

Overall: I loved reading It’s Kind of A Funny Story. It had just the right mixture of seriousness and humor to keep the mood light and still get the point across. I found the main character easy to relate to, and enjoyed studying how he emotionally evolved throughout his story. Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of A Funny Story is a great read, and I would definitely recommend it.

Rating: Two Thumbs Up!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

Suicide Notes
Michael Thomas Ford
295 Pages

Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff’s perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they’ve got problems. But a funny thing happens as his forty-five-day sentence drags on—the crazies start to seem less crazy.
“Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, ‘Suicide Notes’ is a darkly humorous novel from award-winning author Michael Thomas Ford that examines that fuzzy line between ‘normal’ and the rest a us.”

Postive: 1. Captivating. I honestly don’t even know what to say about this book quite yet. Partially because I read it really quickly. Not because it’s a short book, but because I couldn’t stop. I think I finished it in about three days total. I just had to know what happened next. The main character’s witty sarcasm and stubborn belief that he didn’t belong in a psychiatric ward really drew me in. 2. Unexpected storyline. When I first picked up the book, I was expecting some big, epic story of someone’s tragic life and hope to escape it all. What I got instead was the aftermath. This book kind of worked backwards, and it was pleasantly surprising. I was intrigued by the main character’s suicide attempt, which was presented as the rising action instead of the climax or ending event. Instead of learning the outcome of a series of events, we learn about the events that led to the outcome. In the end, when readers discover his true reason for trying to commit suicide, it’s scary to think that things like that happen every day. It really opened my eyes. 3. Theme. To me, it wasn’t really about the Jeff’s suicide at all. It was more about him growing up. I found it interesting that the main character was also the narrator, because he was kind of unreliable. He didn’t seem capable of accepting the harsh reality of what had happened yet. As the story goes on, he grows to understand and tries to make things right.

Negative: 1. The humor. Sure, some parts of the book were clever and witty. I did enjoy Jeff’s sarcastic and stubborn attitude. At times, though, it kind of felt like the author was trying a bit too hard to be funny in a way that would appeal to teenagers. Or perhaps that’s just not the kind of humor I myself enjoy. Either way, I found the author’s comedic attempts to not fit my style of humor. Of course, it might be different to other people. 2. Surprise sexual content. Spoiler alert! The story involves Jeff’s sexual activity with both a girl and a guy. I mean, I’m not against it. Some readers would turn away from extremely graphic scenes of homosexual intercourse—or any intercourse at all—but sometimes such a scene is necessary to piece a story together. I understand that it was definitely needed in this story, seeing as how a lot of it was Jeff identifying his sexual preferences. However, it kind of left me feeling uneasy. That was the last thing I expected of this book, and I was really shocked, especially since the sex scenes were so… detailed. I didn’t understand why it was even included in the story and what significance it had. Still, I read on, and in the end it turned out to be vital. When I finished the book and realized what it was really about, I understood the meaning of it.

Overall: I think the book was okay. It’s a good read to pass the time, and it presented some controversial ideas that are very interesting to think about. I kind of like how the book ended up being completely different from what I had expected it to be. I found it interesting how the story as well as the main character started off light and humorous but gradually became a bit more dark and serious.

Rating: One Thumb Up!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Since this is my first review, I thought I'd start with a book that I've read a thousand times.

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
576 Pages

Summary: ’It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery...’ Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.”

Positive: 1. Technique. It really can’t get much worse than World War II. Hate, destruction, pain, fear… It’s a true art to take something so horrible and mold it into something beautiful. As bombs drop, innocent people suffer, and the world seems to come apart, Markus Zusak brings out a touching story that managed to capture the true horrors of World War II while maintaining the innocence of a teenage girl. It expresses the horrible things that happened to German citizens as well as the Jewish victims. 2. Narrator. At first, the involvement of Death with Leisel Meminger’s story seemed irrelevant. However, it eventually became essential to the story’s overall meaning as Death’s compassion for the humans that haunted him was brought forth. 3. Characters. Each character in the story had his or her own quirky personality, which only made the reader care for each individual even more.

Negative: 1. Length. “The Book Thief” is a pretty long read. It takes time and dedication to get through it, but it’s definitely worth every minute. 2. Getting used to the new writing style. Throughout the first few pages the first time I read the book, I was extremely confused. I had no idea who was narrating the story, and I wasn’t used to the format of writing the author was using. When I figured out that the narrator was Death and that he often paused to make announcements, I got into the rhythm of the book and began to understand it much better. In the end, the new writing style seemed refreshing and unique.

Overall: I have read this book countless times. Each time I reread it, I gain an even better understanding. There are so many meanings and symbols hidden in the pages that it just seems to get better every time I pick it up again. I love how the author brings readers to care for each character, provoking fierce emotions when something drastic happens to them. This book is extremely thought provoking; I often paused to contemplate the comforts of life that I now enjoy and how grateful I am to not live in a war-torn country.

Rating: Two Thumbs Up!!