When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid

School is just like a film set: there’s The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn’t fit in. He’s not part of The Crew because he isn’t about to do anything unless it’s court-appointed; he’s not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he’s not a Movie Star because even though everyone know his name like an A-lister, he isn’t invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire. Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It’s a total train wreck! But train wrecks always make the front page.

 raziel

 

What a daring debut from 24 year-old, Raziel Reid.  The book is inspired by the true story of Lawrence Forbes King.  To avoid giving away the storyline, look up King after reading the book.

In this fictional story, readers are introduced to the flamboyant Jude, with a stripper mom and sexually promiscuous best friend.  Jude is confident in his sexuality, and expresses himself by regularly wearing stripper boots, lipstick, and nail polish. He asserts “… it’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not. (pg. 100)”

The title ‘When Everything Feels like the Movies’ comes from Jude picturing his life as a glossy Hollywood movie. Even though classmates verbally and physically assault him, he consoles himself by imagining himself as an actor in a movie, a tabloid celebrity with haters. He likes to always be trending.

Even chapter titles relate to the film industry (Hidden Feature, Final Cut, etc.). This illusion may have served as a guard or protection against reality, but in the end, Jude realizes “the script had been altered, and I didn’t want to star in this cheap fucking movie anymore (pg. 166).” I think the self-deception was the strongest element of the novel, as it was heartbreakingly clear to readers that Jude’s largely homophobic small town was taking its toll.

Although this book was awarded the Governor General Literacy Award Winner for Children’s Literature, it is a teen book. The sexual content, graphic violence and strong language are not suitable for a younger audience.  For the rest of the winners, click here.

Book Review: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”

From Goodreads:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers

Wow! This book has definitely caused a stir in the blogging realm! Some say that everyone goes through difficult things in their lives, and Hannah’s  13 reasons were not strong enough to justify suicide (not that suicide is ever justified…) Others say, who are we to judge? Everyone experiences life differently, and no one really knows what is going on in another person’s head. Honestly, I would have to agree with both sides. I reaaaally wanted to sympathize with Hannah, but I found it difficult. To me, she was whiny and constantly looking for excuses and people to blame. She could have prevented some of the 13 reasons herself.  I also didn’t like that Hannah referred to her planned suicide in a joking matter. Obviously someone planning suicide also has some sort of mental illness, but still.

On a positive note, I think this book does a great job at raising awareness about this important and sensitive topic. Just last week, I was reading the newspaper about another Canadian teen committing suicide as an escape from bullying.  Like Hannah, she experienced the ‘snowball effect’ of smaller problems adding up until she reached her breaking point. While I personally don’t think that Asher glorified suicide, I could understand how some readers thought so. In no way should suicide be used as an act of revenge against people who have hurt you.

 I think this book allowed readers to understand what goes on in a suicidal person’s head, that an individual’s actions can seriously affect others and how to recognize the signs in others around you (like how Clay notices Skye at the end of the book).  Therefore, I believe the powerful tale of 13 Reasons Why could be used to spark discussion in a non-preachy way about teen bullying and suicide.  Also, teens may be interested to know that it will soon have a movie tie in! Production companies have acquired rights to the book, starring Selena Gomez. I’m not sure how she will do in a more serious and dark role, but I’m willing to give her a chance.  

Overall, this book was a very quick read as you will want to journey along with Clay to find out more about Hannah’s story. I enjoyed the unique interchanging of listening to Hannah’s side, followed by Clay’s reaction and thoughts. You quickly get used of the interplay of different voices, and would make for a neat audiobook.

 
EXTRA—Want to further explore Hannah’s Map? There is an interactive version available at–
http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

 

Review- Divergent by Veronica Roth

Exciting news–The Indigo 2011 Top Teen Summer Read is Divergent by Veronica Roth! I couldn’t be happier- it’s one of my favourite YA reads in a long time! I actually wrote a review on Divergent a while ago, but just found the time to post this weekend. I’ve been super busy this summer with the summer reading club, grant proposals, and preparing for Fall programmes.   Anyway, without further ado, here is my review:

First off, I can’t believe Divergent is a debut novel by talented writer Veronica Roth.  On top of that, she wrote the majority of the book in college at age 22!  I’m extremely jealous of her creative writing ability.  Thank goodness the story will continue in Roth’s follow up called Insurgent due out May 2012.

Divergent is all about choices and making decisions. Beatrice “Tris” Prior has turned sixteen, the age in which teenagers living in Roth’s dystopian Chicago must make a decision whether to stay with their families or have the courage to choose the virtue (and faction) they most believe in.  The factions are divided into: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (daring), Erudite (knowledgable) and Amity (peaceful).  Roth explains, “It has been this way since the beginning of the great peace, when the factions were formed. I think the system persists because we’re afraid of what might happen if it didn’t: war (p.33).” This explanation confused me.  Dividing individuals up based on differences is completely illogical and just asking for war to break out. Looking back at our own history is proof— if this story takes place in the unknown future, shouldn’t they have learned by now? I really hope Roth gives more information about how and why the factions came into existence in the next book. 

Critiques:

  • The majority of the book is dedicated to Beatrice’s initiation into her faction and undergoing intense emotional/physical trauma. I thought it dragged on, and I started wondering when the story was really going to pick up (in the last 100 pages).  In terms of the number of pages (487 pages), it is formatted so there is a large amount of white space, so it isn’t quite as long as it appears.

Positives:

  • I loved the main character, Tris.  We are able to watch Tris develop gradually throughout the novel by overcoming her fears and learning to maintain balance between her old and new life.  She’s one tough gal.
  • As a reader, it’s really fun trying to figure out what faction you would belong to. I imagine all readers do this! Personally, I couldn’t decide, but I took the Divergent Faction Quiz available on Facebook to determine where they would place me. I was deemed as ‘Erudite- The Intelligent’. Those that have read the book would understand why I’m not sure how I feel about this…
  • Divergent is a gripping, intense, original book.  I know I will be recommending Divergent to those that are looking for something to fill their Hunger Games void.  Like Hunger Games, I think it would also appeal to both male and female readers.
  • I enjoy when romance isn’t the focus of the storyline, and this proved true in Divergent.  I won’t give too much away, but it’s a very sweet and surprising romance.
  • While I did pick up on Four’s big plot twist the first time I read Divergent, I know I missed some things and am currently re-reading it. I rarely re-read books because I have tons of my ‘to-read’ list, so this in itself says a lot about the book.

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