Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Publication Date: 10/1/08
Blurb (GR): I'm not crazy. I don't see what the big deal is about what happened. But apparently someone does think it's a big deal because here I am. I bet it was my mother. She always overreacts.
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 of us.
It feels a little weird to say that I felt a book about a 45-day program in a juvenile psychiatric unit was really funny. But it was—in parts. This book, written in journal entries from day one of the program until the last day, focuses on Jeff’s evaluation of why he tried to kill himself. His voice is reminiscent of Holden Caulfield, only he doesn’t call everyone phonies—just whackjobs.
Jeff introduces us to the other young adults in the unit, some of whom come and go during his stay. He also has to see a psychiatrist during his time in the program, the delightful Dr. Katzrupus. (or Cat Poop, as Jeff dubs him) At first, I felt like we weren’t getting to know each supporting character well enough but isn’t that the point? I mean, Jeff is in this program solely to figure out what his issues are. These are his journal entries we are reading. And it all felt real—I felt anxious with him, sad for him, mortified with him, and so hopeful that maybe it would all work out. The relationship he had with his sister made me laugh the most, though.
While this book definitely deals with a lot of morbid topics, the feel is decidedly optimistic for the most part. I enjoyed the fact that Jeff was very matter-of-fact about most things and the conversations he had with people didn’t really tiptoe around the serious stuff. His doctor/patient relationship with Dr. Katzrupus was a highlight as well.
I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a male voice in the female-saturated YA world. Though I hope this wouldn’t affect anyone’s choice to read a book or not, there are some M/M sexual scenes. Just putting that out there. I’ll definitely read more from this author.
Sisters in Sanity
Author: Gayle Forman
Publication Date: 9/1/07
"Where are they taking me?"
"It's for your own good, Brit," Dad said.
I was shoved into a small, stuffy room, and the door was locked behind me. I waited for my dad to realize he'd made a terrible mistake and come get me.
But he didn't.
For sixteen-year-old Brit Hemphill, it's hard to know who she can trust. Convinced she's out of control, her father has sentenced her to Red Rock: a center for supposedly rebellious teens, where the therapy consists of name-calling and the girls who get privileges are the ones who rat out their peers.
But then Brit meets V, Bebe, Martha, and Cassie—four girls who keep her from going over the edge. Together, they'll hold on to their sanity and their sisterhood despite the bleak Red Rock reality. Review:
Sometimes I am just not excited to read a book. (What up, book club?) I knew of Gayle Forman
from her book If I Stay
, which I wrote a gushing review of a few months back. A few of us decided to read this lesser-known work of hers together this week. I was excited to read the book because of the author and because I was reading it with friends…but not so excited about the subject matter. I assumed that this was rather well-worn territory, what with Girl Interrupted
and all. Also, I wasn’t in the mood for a depressing book. Sisters in Sanity
surprised me in a good way, and I definitely recommend it to those who are interested in YA books related to mental health issues/treatment.
Brit Hemphill lives with her father and her stepmonster. Her mother isn’t in the picture and I don’t want to spoil where she is so I’ll leave it at that. Her parents owned a coffeehouse in Portland during her formative years so she rubbed elbows with all sorts of famous musicians and took up the guitar, teaching herself how to play for the most part. Because of her mother’s absence and her father’s relationship (and subsequent child), Brit spends as much time out of the house as possible, mostly playing and touring with her band. When her father and stepmother make her go on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon, Brit is angry she’ll miss a gig but obliges. Only she isn’t going to the Grand Canyon—her dad is dropping her off at a juvenile rehabilitation center because she is “out of control.”
Anger. That’s the emotion I felt for most of the book, not sadness. I was livid with Brit’s father. Absolutely wanted (and still want) to punch that man in the face. How could he do that to his child?
I was expecting the novel to follow the Girl, Interrupted storyline and, for the most part, it did. I was pleasantly surprised, however, at the supporting cast of characters (who were far more balanced than those with Susanna Kaysen) and the relationship between Brit and Jed, her bandmate. His letters and the description of the time they spent together were both lovely and I loved the story behind the firefly references.
The writing flowed really well and all three of us that read it finished it in a day. (as far as I know) I did feel that the ending wrapped things up just a bit too perfectly, then again I am a fan of leaving things hanging—well, if it is realistic. 3.25/5 stars
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 9/1/08 (US)
"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.
Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.
In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her futureReview:
A lot of people think that Henry David Thoreau* went to Walden to live a solitary life. I felt like that until I actually went to Walden Pond. Imagine my surprise when some friends and I decided to go for a hike, go for a swim and check out the scenery--we left Boston around 9...and we got there by 9:30. Yeah right, HDT, I could live deliberately in the woods, too, if I knew my transcendentalist cronies would bring me a Cinnabon and some pumpkin ale once in awhile.** Nevertheless, Thoreau’s idea served as the inspiration for Yeats’ poem Lake Isle of Innisfree
*** from which Melina Marchetta
quotes in this novel. Yeats, who looks a little like Kenneth from 30 Rock
, wrote about Innisfree because, to him, it served as an idyllic place where he could always go for peace and solitude. (I find it rather amusing that both Thoreau and Yeats wrote fascinating works about livin’ la vida simple that become so popular. Lesson:
If you find a perfect place, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF) But Marchetta's magnificent storytelling was only enhanced by her reference to Yeats' poem. Instead of pounding quotations into your head, like a sad number of authors do, Marchetta only mentioned Innisfree
once in passing...but it stuck with me through the rest of the book.
I don’t want to go into the plot of this book too deeply, for the point I took away from the book is that we all have those idyllic places we go to in our minds. For some of the characters in this novel, their Innisfree was with family, or with their childhood friends, or even just spending time with one particular person. It doesn't have to be a place at all. No matter how far we get away from those memories, they are always all polished up in our minds like the Hope Diamond when we need to imagine a perfect place in time.
Marchetta’s characters, as usual, were intriguing and fleshed out. It is constantly amazing to me that I can read a book and be unable to visualize even the protagonist, while this author is able to give me an extensive cast of characters and I feel like each one of them is someone I know. From Santangelo to Griggs to Raffy to the Brigadier, I understood where they were coming from and could reasonable predict what they would do in a situation. Very rarely was I frustrated with choices that characters made. I also have no idea how Marchetta can make my heart hurt one moment and make me hysterically laugh the next.
I must admit that the territory war aspect of the novel was not my favorite, though I understand its place in the overall story. The transfer back and forth between Taylor's present day and Hannah's story was rough for the first fourth or so of the book. If you try it and get stuck, please truck through it--it is so worth it.
As I knock each of Melina Marchetta’s book off my to-be-read stack, I am a little more sad. When I’m done with them, how long will I have to wait for a new one?
*The Wikipedia entry for HDT informs me that he wore a “neckbeard” for many years and insisted many women found it attractive. 1) I never knew that hideousness had a name; and 2) If you are a woman that finds a neckbeard attractive and we are friends on here, just go ahead and defriend me.
**He was only 1.5 miles from his homeboy Emerson’s house.
***This poem is the shit.
EDIT: I listened to the first third or so of this book and read the rest in book form. The audiobook was great but I wanted to read it faster. The only negative for the audiobook was the annoying DMB-type music that played between every chapter and at the beginning and end of every disc.5/5 stars
Author: Cynthia Hand
Blurb (GR): In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . .
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.
Thanks for the push, Jess! Tetons and Yellowstone, cowboys, log houses, swimming in rivers, boy/girl twins! NOMNOMNOM. I didn't even give a crap that this book is about angels. I loved it:)
Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal. Review:
When you look at the cover of this book, what do you think it is about? A blond teenage girl is wearing a prom dress in a field of pussy willows or wheat or something equally nonsensical. Here's a new cover that crushes the actual book cover on the relevancy front (though regrettably not in terms of artistic merit):
I mean, I went into this thinking it was going to be another YA paranormal romance and IT ISN'T. It is decidedly fun YA urban fantasy
book. (jacket copy reading is for losers) It has a pretty kickass heroine, mermaids, werewolves (that may or MAY look like an Ewok in my picture), people made of water, people made of fire, vampires, trolls, nymphs, faeries, and everything else you can think of. Why would you trick your audience with the wheat field?
I digress. Evie has lived in the Center for as long as she can remember. She was picked up at the age of three and put through the foster system until the IPCA (Int'l Paranormal Containment Agency) realizes that she can see through glamours produced by all paranormals. As a vital asset, she goes out to bag-and-tag all sorts of beings for the agency. Things get a little dicey when all sorts of paranormals are being killed, the Center is invaded, and some faeries are being total douchebags. Speaking of faeries, Reth sounds like a noise someone makes when they are choking on something. Reeeth...Reeeeth...I'm retching here, it's too bad you can't hear it.
I felt like the last third or so wasn't as strong as the rest of the book. The story moved at a relaxed but appealing pace until a total break occurred and then it was out of whack. Fun, sure, but I was perfectly happy with the natural pacing of the relationship--I was glad it wasn't going into trite YA foreverlove territory, and it still didn't...but it did get a little cheesified.
Kiersten White has a great sense of humor. Her characters were funny and fans of Buffy will definitely find something appealing about the friendships and storyline. I'm excited to see where it goes in the second book--Supernaturally
.(which, incidentally, has Evie in a red dress and with some red (and probably completely irrelevant) flowers on the cover) 4/5 stars
Author: Kiersten White
Publication Date: 7/26/11
Publisher: HarperTeenBlurb (GR):
Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees. But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.
So much for normal. Review:
Hello, and welcome to Irrelevant Book Cover Redo, Part Deux! (Part Un was my Paranormalcy review
) In this second installment of the Paranormalcy series, Kiersten White picks back up with Evie and the gang after the gaggle of events that occurred at the end of book one. Look at the cover. Okay, now read this the following paragraph where I set up the plot for you…
Evie is living out in the real world after Lend’s father falsifies papers for her. She is living the dream—er, well her dream, to attend a real high school while her boyfriend is away at college. But things are not fine and dandy in the paranormal world (are they ever?) and there is an unexplained influx of paranormals in town, some of the elementals are disappearing, Evie’s sister is appearing in her dreams, and a weird boy who can navigate the Faerie Paths shows up out of seemingly nowhere. What’s a girl to do?
Alright, so it makes perfect sense to have a girl in a red dress prancing in some poppies (or daisies), right? NOT. To the left, you'll see my cover redo of questionable quality.
I mean, right? I didn’t even include everything! (in answers to your already budding questions: the guy is doing a flip off the bed, the gnome is a chef, Evie is wearing her gym suit because she seems to always be in gym class, the cloud is alive, the vampire is on her laptop, and the doorway is open to Faerie) Phew! The plot of this edition is just as fun and full of interesting events as the last one, but I felt like it was not as successfully sewn up. So many storylines and characters are added in and I do not feel like I got to spend enough time with any of them. The Lend/Evie relationship fell flat to me, which was a huge disappointment as I was rooting for them in Paranormalcy. Several of their problems were Evie’s fault (well, all of them) and those of you who are worried about her becoming TSTL—it’s not a complete transition but she certainly makes several ridiculous decisions in this installment. (almost all of them involve not communicating effectively with those she is closest to. Frustration City, population ME.)
My other largest gripe came from Jack’s character. He is the flipping boy in the new cover. He seems to always be effing flipping all over the place and frankly, if I was Evie, I would’ve done a super dramatic eyeroll at him. (at the very least) He was beyond immature, which was weird considering the writing was leading him to be Lend’s competition and Evie’s friends found him attractive. Um, not really. I keep thinking to myself that I might not be the target audience for this book but the thing is—I kind of am. I read buttloads of YA books. Kiersten White impressed me with her sense of humor, fun storyline, and consistent writing in Paranormalcy. She still entertained me in this one but just not to the same extent.
I will definitely continue to read this series. Several new storylines and characters are introduced in this one and the anticipation builds throughout the narrative. I am really excited to see where the plot threads that felt irrelevant to THIS book will lead in the NEXT book—because obviously that is why they are there. A few people have given this 5 stars so maybe you’ll fall on that side. But if any of the same things that bother me irk you, you’ll probably fall with me around 6-7 out of 10.3/5 stars