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.

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!!