Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

From Goodreads:

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia’s mother is busy saving other people’s lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia’s head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way—thin, thinner, thinnest—maybe she’ll disappear altogether.

Although this book was a tough emotional read, it was also one of the most realistic portrayals of anorexia I’ve ever read.  While mostly a book about eating disorders, it also includes content on suicide, and family breakups.  Anderson writes about this serious content in a haunting lyrical fashion that captivates the reader from the first page.  She is able to explain situations using very few words, and uses a lot of different formatting, including tiny numbers/text, repeated lines, and text strikeouts.

I found it interesting that several times Lia referred to her past as “…when I was a real girl”.  I suppose, as her weight plummeted to scary skinny, she wasn’t truly a real girl, but rather a ghost of her former self. I couldn’t imagine the hell of calorie counting every morsel of food that entered my mouth.  For many anorexics like Lia, this is an everyday struggle and the effects are often shown both physically and behaviourally.  As a coping mechanism, Lia also turned to self -loathing, lying, and self-mutilation.  I often wonder why on earth individuals would do that to themselves, and this book really helped to understand the mind of a crazy, calorie-counting obsessed teenaged anorexic.  Before eating anything, Lia considered the calorie content—for example, “Toast (70) calories. Razor-thin spread of jam (30)= 100 calories.”  However, as demonstrated in the book, anorexia cannot be simple cured or fixed –despite best efforts of health professionals, family, and friends.  Like Anderson writes:

“There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.”

Overall, I’m glad Anderson wrote a book aimed at YA readers since teens and young adult women are most commonly diagnosed with eating disorders.   It is a sensitive, yet serious issue that needs to be addressed more frequently.  I have a feeling that this story will stay with me for a long time.

Librarians

Just in case you live under a rock and missed this…

Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Goodreads:

I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

                   

After visiting the HarperCollins booth at the OLA conference, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Daniel Handler’s book, Why We Broke Up. The booth was promoting the book with a ‘why we broke up’ display, allowing people to post the reason why their relationship ended.  Not only was the title heavily promoted, it also received recognition as a 2012 Printz Honor Book (excellence in young adult lit). Lastly, readers may better know author Daniel Handler as his other pen name ‘Lemony Snicket’.  Yes- it’s true! Handler wrote the fabulous, A Series of Unfortunate Events.  With all this build up, I was expecting great, great things from this book. 

Unfortunately, I’m telling you why I didn’t like your book, Daniel Handler.

First off, I could never connect with the sophisticated/artsy/mature/old soul of a teenager, Min. She never felt authentic to me and I was annoyed when she constantly referred to old movies/scenes.  I’m not even sure they were real movies, but honestly, I don’t care enough to find out. I mostly skimmed through any reference to an old movie or actor (which was a lot!)

Min’s narration made me bonkers. It was stream of consciousness writing, so she just wrote on and on and on with really long sentences that didn’t always make a lot of sense. It made the writing really hard to follow and I often had to go back and re-read the passages.  If I had a difficult time reading the break up letter, I’m pretty sure the co-captain of the basketball team isn’t going to read a 300+ page break up letter.   Min would be better off burning the stuff.

I almost wish I got an e-book version of this book because it is physically heavy. The thick glossy pages made my wrists hurt! Also, in terms of formatting, the book could have done without all that white space surrounding the text. However, I did really like the addition of Maira Kalman’s drawings of things Mina placed in the breakup box. I also loved reading the break up stories of other YA authors on the back of the book.

Overall, it’s really up to you to decide whether you want to start a relationship with this book…  our personalities didn’t match, but perhaps you fared better? Let me know!

Bookit Review: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (Guest Post!)

I picked this title up when it was returned by one our avid teen readers. I don’t know how she has time to do anything but read with all the books she takes out. Oh what a life! I am jealous.

 

 

From Goodreads:

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she’s spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It’s there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she’s never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed. Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can’t be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country’s only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

This book is described as a dystopian fiction novel, but it also ventures into the fantasy realm. Seventeen year old Charlie, nicknamed Chuck by her best friend Brook, lives in a world of hierarchy classes ruled by an evil queen with magical powers. I am a fan of both genres, but for those of you who prefer high-tech gadgets and more scientific explanations of the future you will find this text lacking. The dystopian aspects come in the form of mandatory ID badges and ranks, armed checkpoints, underground clubs and rebel hideouts. These aspects converge with the historical storyline of fallen kingdoms, anarchy, castle ruins, and Charlie’s quest to discover more about herself and her family. Charlie’s innate secret power to comprehend all forms of communication (from verbal and body language to ancient pictographs) is a blessing and curse.  When a war fuelled by rebels and outcasts breaches Charlie’s door-step, she is forced to re-evaluate the safety of the life she has always known and her own ideological beliefs.

Overall I liked the storyline of the book because it was fast paced and contained many of the genre elements I enjoy. Thus, it was a quick interesting read. However, it did not rock my socks off. I found some of the character relationships and story plot decisions not fully explained or rationalized. Although, Charlie posses this special communication power that should give her the ability to easily understand others, she discovers that her best friend and her own family has hidden many secrets from her. Also Max claims not to be interested in her because of her ability, but no other explanations are given, and their romantic relationship heats up quickly despite her inability to uncover the mystery of his intentions. Furthermore, the explanation as to why a ruling female monarch is deemed necessary in order for the country to live happily ever after is filled with wholes of inquisition.

After finishing the book I flipped to the front and read the acknowledgments. There I discovered that the premise for The Pledge and the character Angelina, Charlie’s little sister, came from the survival stories of a woman who lived through WWII as a child and had shared many of her experiences with the author. This real world connection can be used to bridge this book with other young adult war stories, and even create conversation about comparisons between Charlie’s world and our own. I was really glad my eyes feel upon this tiny portion of the book, and in the future I will definitely make sure I don’t just skim the acknowledgement section. You never know what you might find out, and where the inspiration for a story comes from.

I give it 3 out of 5 J

Happy reading,

Bookit

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

                                     

I finally got around to reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  This book is the first in the ‘Forest of Hands and Teeth’ series, with The Dead Tossed Waves, and The Dark and Hollow Places following. Zombies aren’t usually my thing, but months ago I read Rot & Ruin and really enjoyed it. When comparing both novels, one definitely comes out the clear winner—Rot & Ruin. There were too many things that bothered me with this book.

😦

-Mary and her community are constantly under threat of being attacked by zombies. Knowing this information, I would expect them to be more prepared (secure locations, food, etc.). Rather, they remain ‘protected’ by a simple fence.

-Too many questions were left unanswered. Where did the zombies come from in the first place? Why was Gabrielle the ‘fast one’?

-The character of Mary. She was the beyond selfish female lead, willing to sacrifice her community, family and friends, all in her quest to find the ocean. I understand that the ocean refers to the bigger picture of hope and fighting for your dreams, but she continually placed herself first.

-The love between Travis and Mary. This romance was never developed or explained and I didn’t understand why Mary was so in love with Travis in the first place.

 

🙂

-Cool title. Grabs the reader’s attention immediately.

-Descriptions of the zombies. I was scared reading this book at night! I kept picturing the groaning zombies with rotten teeth and bony fingers.

 

Extras:

I found the book trailer on Youtube and it scared the heck out of me!

Review- The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

From Goodreads: When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief she’ll never have to tell them that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief soon turns to heartbreak, as Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and not making waves, and Cam becomes an expert at this—especially at avoiding any questions about her sexuality.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. To Cam’s surprise, she and Coley become best friends—while Cam secretly dreams of something more. Just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, her secret is exposed. Ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.

                               

              Expected publication: February 7th 2012 by HarperCollins. 

REVIEW:

First off, thanks to Helen from Library Bound Inc for the ARC of this novel.  I was intrigued when she raved about the ‘compelling romance, strong characters and relentless suspense’.  As much as I wanted to love this book, I just found it OK.

I must admit that I did a lot of skimming while reading this lengthy 467-page book.  I found it very richly detailed/character driven which ultimately affected the pacing of the story. Yet, I do know some readers that prefer tons of detail so it does boil down to personal taste. Second, I disagree with the publishers recommended rating of aged 14+. There were some pretty graphic scenes (drug use, sexual nature, self mutilation) that made even myself uneasy.  However, that being said, this is not a light and fluffy book.  This is an important coming of age story of twelve-year-old Cameron Post as she questions her life and the world around her. Since there aren’t that many books for LGBT youth, I’m so happy I now have another option to recommend.  If placed in the right hands, this book could make a huge difference in the life of a questioning teen.  This leads me to my last issue with the book. Nowhere does it blatantly reassure the reader that sending someone away to ‘fix’ them for being gay is NOT OKAY.  Not then, and definitely not now. 

On the flip side–In addition to the beautiful cover, there are some pretty fantastic elements in The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I loved the little special visual additions such as the ‘God’s Promise’ flyer, Cameron’s iceberg therapy drawing and a hand written note from her friend Jamie.  It was an appreciated break from the text. Although lengthy, the novel was very well written! In fact, so well written that I can’t believe it was Danforth’s literary debut. Overall, I’m glad more books like The Miseducation of Cameron Post are being published and gaining attention.  Despite my critiques, it’s definitely worth a read.

 

Extras:

Watch the book trailer on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlZVTQcR35Q

Click here to access  Harper Collins’  online book club guide. 

 

 

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