Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prep-- Curtis Sittenfeld

I hated this book. Let me reiterate. I HATED, H-A-T-E-D this book! By the second chapter, which, by the way, was about 30 pages in, (This was a short chapter, the last was over 60 pages.) I was so sick of the main character, Lee, continually thinking that she couldn't speak to anyone because she didn't measure up.

Now, I know that many young women feel they don't measure up. They feel that they can't speak to boys or really have close relationships with anyone, but this poor girl went four years barely speaking to anyone. It really wasn't realistic. The young women I know, even the ones who have trouble in this area of self esteem still do not seclude themselves to the extent of speaking to no one and never sharing concerns or problems with anyone.

My first complaint: What thirteen year old would actually sign up for prep school on her own, especially a self loathing one? The premise didn't fit the character.
My second complaint: The names. AHHHH. Now, I get that this is a prep school, so the names might be a little different than your average book, but having Aubrey be a guy and Horton a girl just drove me absolutely insane. Among others are Aspeth, Cross, Dede, Ferdy, Darden, Conchita, and oh, I think there was a Jonathan. At least one normal name made the list. My third complaint was that the book moved at a snail's pace. I'm a fairly fast reader and it took me literally three weeks of reading every night to stomach this book. I can usually finish a book in a day or two, but not this monster.

Now I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to even discuss this book. I think I've partially blocked it out of my mind because I'm trying to think of some redeeming qualities to discuss and nothing is coming to me.

I guess I'll begin by trying to trace Lee's four years at Ault School.
Year one: Lee is a scholarship student, which essentially means that she is not of the same class as the rest of the students whose parents are multi-millionaires or CEOs of companies and the like. This immediately sets her apart from the crowd and starts that self loathing she's so desperate to revel in. By Freshman spring, she begins a game of assassin. This game consists of "killing" the other students with stickers. It is here that she could have taken advantage of the game in order to actually try to have a normal friendship with someone, but instead uses her incognito to her advantage. That is until she stabs her one and only friend in the back and is "killed" by her. Ha! Serves her right.

Year two: Her English teacher is a bit odd, and we later find out that she was not first choice by the administration at Ault. The kids torment her. Also notable in this chapter is that Lee starts to cut people's hair. She uses it as a way to get close to people without having to actually have a conversation or real interaction that might, God forbid, lead to friendship.

My favorite quote from this section goes like this: "This anxiety meant that I spent a lot of time hiding, usually in my room after any pleasant exchange with another person. And there were rules to the anxiety, practically mathematical in their consistency: The less well you knew the person the greater the pressure the second time around to be special or charming, if that's what you though you'd been the first time; mostly it was about reinforcement. Also: The shorter the time that had elapsed from your first encounter to your second,the greater the pressure. And finally: The better the original interaction, the greater the pressure."

When someone is so preoccupied by themselves in every situation, as Lee was, it's no wonder that she didn't have the capacity to make friends. She was too busy worrying what people would think or just how she should react in every situation. Some people, I know are that caddy and would judge on what you say or how you act, but those people aren't worth your time. For the most part, humanity is fairly forgiving when it comes to personality flaws.

Oh, yeah, this is also the year that she blows off her parents when they come to parents weekend.

Year three: She meets a guy who works in the kitchen. There is potential there, but now she's so preoccupied with trying to impress people she doesn't even like that she blows him off. Too bad.

Lee nearly fails math, but luckily, her roommate cheats for her and she passes and is not asked the leave the school as a result. I'm amazed that after nearly failing pre-calc, the next year, she surprisingly understands enough of both pre-calc and calc to pass with a B. Wow! Impressive. (Can you hear my sarcasm?)

It is also this year that she begins sleeping with Cross Sugarman. But, don't think that she can actually have a normal relationship of any kind. Oh, no. She asks him not to tell anyone and even goes so far as to intentionally ignore him other than in their secret rendezvous room.

Year four: This year mostly concentrated on her continually sleeping with Cross and then ignoring him. She struggles through the how-do-you-know-it's-love feeling about every other day until I wanted to scream!

The final straw is when she chooses to air her complaints about life and Ault to a reporter and pretty much kills the school's reputation singlehandedly. And just when she was starting to like the place that she's hated for three and a half years.

O.k. people, if I have to force myself to write any more about this book, I might fall into as deep a depression as the main character and sever any functioning relationships that I have out out of understanding of the character. I can't do that, so I'll end my thoughts now.

Let me leave you with one last thought.
If you are a young girl who has anxiety about forming relationships with people or has trouble talking to boys, please don't think that this book is the way it has to be. As I stated before, most humans are forgiving of small mistakes and by golly, they might actually like you if you just give it a shot.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wrecked-- E.R. Frank

I've been searching lately; searching for something that will touch me. It needn't be a love story that made my emotions run wild. (I'm kind of sick of those at the moment.) What I wanted was something that made me think, that made me yearn for what the characters desired, that pulled at my heartstrings and make me say to myself, "I know what she/he is feeling!" even if I've never experienced said event in my own life. I found that in Wrecked by E. R. Frank. What a fantastic book.

The premise:
Anna gets into a car accident after a drinking party, though she isn't drunk, and ends up killing her brother's girlfriend, Cameron. This spurs not a chain of events, but rather a chain of reactions. It is these reactions that draw the reader deeper into each character. Everyone is affected, and the reactions range from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to excessive drinking to denial and anger and broken families. But the broken families are a result only of broken people.

You might think that this book is depressing, and in some parts I felt so much of what the character was experiencing that tears came to my eyes, but over all it is a story of hope and healing.

The first page opens with Anna on her hands and knees picking up leaves one at a time from the front yard and placing them in a grocery bag. This is a creative punishment from her father. Later, after Cameron is killed, Anna comes home to see her brother, Jack picking up those same leaves. For a few days I pondered this. What's with the leaves? They have to be symbolic, my English teacher self told me. I was right, and I believe I now have it figured out. The leaves are the pieces of our lives. Sometimes they fall or get scattered or the wind may blow them this way and that and it is our job to get down on our hands and knees and pick up the pieces. Sure, we could rake them all together into a pick pile, but it's still a messy pile of leaves. But doing it one at a time, by hand allows us to make sure we have every single piece. It takes time, lots of time. I imagine doing just my small front patch of lawn one leave at a time, and the mere thought makes me cringe, but sometimes life is like that. There is a lot to fix and it doesn't happen in a few hours. It takes days and even years to clear the ground enough to plant something beautiful. I think the lesson for me is that no matter what happens to us, we can pick up the pieces.

I won't discuss in detail the elements of the story because it would be much better if you read it yourselves. Do so soon. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Nightlight-- The Harvard Lampoon

First let me send props to my friend, Tracy Hewitt, for giving me this book for Christmas. Never before have I read a true parody. Some satire, yes, but this was a pleasant surprise.

For those who don't know, a parody is a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing. In this case, it makes fun of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, not only that, but it also makes fun of elements of the movie.

For the many Twilighters out there, my advice is this: Yes, we fell in love with Edward Cullen, (or at least in lust). Yes, we were obsessed to the point of staying up till all hours of the night and even buying the merchandise. Even we adults have to admit to being sucked back into our teen years with fondness. But there comes a point when we have to stop and come back into reality. Once we look at ourselves clearly, it's time to laugh and say, "What the heck was I thinking to be so completely overtaken my a book series?!" Once you can say that, you have come to the point of reading Nightlight. We can finally make fun of ourselves!

First, the story of Nightlight is about Belle Goose and Edwart Mullen and is set in the town of Switchblade. Belle is convinced beyond a doubt that Edwart is a vampire, and she loves vampires. Unfortunately, Edwart is nothing more than a computer geek.

Some funny moments include the following:
-Belle drives a Uhaul around and fills it with snow to make slushies for her friends.
-Continually insisting that Edwart wants to drink her blood.
-Her father Jim, who sings to her about vampires, and her telling her father that Edwart is a werewolf, which is o.k. in Jim's book.
-Every time Edwart is described, he looks different, making fun, of course, of the way that Meyer describes in minute detail. First Edwart has dark, wavy hair, then red locks, then blond spiky hair. Sometimes it seemed that way in Twilight

There are so many more, I can't even begin to explain. Maybe some excerpts from the novel will do it better than I. Here are a few:

Let me quote from page 31. "How did he know we were in Bio together? How did he know to walk in front of me at the exact moment a snowball was coming? Why did the snowballs melt off him as if they were made of some watery substance? Most of all, why was he lying to me about his true superhuman identity?"

Another from p 73:
I couldn't sleep that night. I kept worrying there was a leech outside my window." (We are all thinking of Victoria in Twilight.)"I kept worrying it was going to jump from the tree onto my window screen and then worm its way in, using its hemoglobin sensors to find where all my blood was. the problem with having great smelling blood is that everyone is going to want some. I got up and closed the window. But that only caused a whole new slew of fears, because what if the leech were already in my room? What if he and Edward were in cahoots, and the leech was merely second banana to him, hiding under my bed until I fell asleep? One thing was for sure--I wasn't going to stop that leech from doing its job. That's no way to do my part for the economy. I opened the window wide and went back to bed."

And lastly, pg 141:
"The vampires stopped rioting. They all got really quiet and started to lick their lips, closing in on Lucy. I started to lick my lips, too, because it's one of those subconscious, contagious things like sneezing, but then I stopped because it just isn't worth it if you forgot to bring ChapStick.

The drop trickled down her arm and onto the floor. Three vampires lunged for it at once. Another drop trickled down. Three more vampires dove to the floor. That's when her hemophilia kicked in. The blood started spurting from her arm like water from a fire hydrant. The vampires held their faces up and opened their mouths to catch the blood, some twirling around and playing in the crimson torrents like kids on a hot summer day."

What can I say that could possibly add to that? Read it, you won't be disappointed.