Eleanor & Park

I haven’t read a book in a day since Silver Linings Playbook, which I read when I was home alone and it took me all day. Eleanor & Park, however, only took me approximately 6 hours to read. And I loved every second of it.

This YA novel by Rainbow Rowell tells the story of two high school sophomores who fall in love. Eleanor is a new girl who has a troubled home life and is teased at school. Park is a quiet loner who likes comics and listening to music. Their mutual dislike on Eleanor’s first day of school slowly turns into love. While I had some trouble digesting this novel as someone who never had a boyfriend in high school, as soon as I let it go that they were supposed to be sixteen, I enjoyed the book much more.

I would highly recommend Eleanor & Park for anyone interested in reading “what the kids are reading these days.” Cause I think this is it. The cover art is also incredibly appealing. This is one of those books that I enjoyed so much that I am having a hard time writing about. I’m glad I found this book when I did because I was in-between reading some not so great books.

-A

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The Maze Runner

James Dashner; 2009

Here I am again, trying my hand at YA. Even though The Maze Runner is now a movie franchise, I still managed to not know anything about it other than the obvious: a maze and a boy running in the maze. The story starts off with the main character, Thomas, entering a place called The Glade in a box. He doesn’t know where he came from, and only has vague memories of the world before he entered The Glade. The Glade is in the middle of an enormous maze, and the Gladers devote their days to finding a way to escape.

The Maze Runner starts out really strong; it’s exciting, fast-paced, and mysterious. It was a little frustrating to not understand anything that was happening, although the gap in knowledge perfectly mirrors what Thomas is feeling. I couldn’t take the slang/invented curse words seriously at all – i.e. shank, slint-head, shuckface, etc. They got a laugh 99% of the time, which I’m not sure was the goal. I got a little bit bored towards the middle, and some of the plot was predictable. But the end was enough of a plot twist/cliff-hanger to make me want to read the next book. Off to watch the movie while I wait for my library copy of The Scorch Trials!

The Book Thief

You can never go wrong with a book about books, and that is, in essence, what The Book Thief is about. Death plays the narrator in this unique young adult novel set during World War II in Germany. Liesel Meminger is nine the first time death finds her. He has come to collect her little brother. The two were traveling on a train with their mother to move to their foster parents house. In the end, Liesel is the only Meminger to move in with the Hubermann’s. The story expands as Liesel’s small world with her new parents becomes embroiled in the wider story of World War II. The Hubermann’s hide a 24-year old Jewish man in their basement when he has no one else to turn to. The man, Max, spends three years in their basement before fleeing, afraid of getting the Hubermann’s into trouble.

Behind this basic plot is another story. One about books, reading, and the power of words. At Liesel’s brother’s graveside, she found book 1: The Gravedigger’s Guidebook. Liesel picked the book out of the snow and thus stole her first book. The Book Thief steals more books throughout the novel as her love for reading grows. Max writes her two books about their friendship, and she finally writes her own autobiography of sorts.

Paralleled with Nazi Germany, Liesel’s love of words is dangerous. Hitler, too, loved words and the power they helped him achieve. “She [Liesel] had seen her brother die with one eye open, one still in a dream. She had said goodbye to her mother and imagined her lonely wait for a train back home to oblivion. A woman of wire had laid herself down, her scream traveling the street…And at the center of all of it, she saw the Fuhrer shouting his words and passing them around.

Those images were the world. and it stewed in her as she sat with the lovely books and their manicured titles. it brewed in her as she eyed the pages full to the brims of their bellies with paragraph and words.

You bastards, she thought.

You lovely bastards.

Don’t make me happy. Please don’t fill me up and let me think that something good can come of any of this.

She tore a page from the book and ripped it in half.” -520-521.

But in the end, some good does come of words. SPOILER ALERT. Words save two people’s lives in The Book Thief. First, they save the life of Max, the Jewish man living in the Hubermann’s basement. Once Max runs away, he is caught and brought to Dachau. One day, on a parade through the streets of town, Liesel sees Max in the middle of the group of Jewish prisoners. Liesel runs to him and recites the words to the story he wrote for her. “Somewhere inside her were the souls of words. They climbed out and stood beside her.

‘Max,’ she said. He turned and briefly closed his eyes as the girl continued. ‘There was once strange, small man,’ she said. Her arms were loose but her hands were fists at her side. ‘But there was a word shaker, too.'” -511-512. In this scene, Max’s story gives him and Liesel the strength to continue surviving.

The second person saved by words is Liesel. She is in the basement when a bomb strikes, leveling her entire block.

It truly speaks to the power of Markus Zusak as an author that he gives away the ending in the beginning of the book, yet I still bawled for a solid ten minutes when I finished.

The Book Thief just rocketed into my top twenty favorite books of all time. I highly recommend it.

-A

Paper Towns

Unfortunately, I was stuck in the airport for 8 hours this past weekend trying to get home, so I read Paper Towns. I think I was expecting something insipid and juvenile, but Paper Towns was so good that I kept forgetting that it’s YA. This is probably the best modern YA book I have read, ever. A lot of the time, I feel like writers have to sacrifice vocabulary or plot to write a book geared towards “the youth”, but Green does neither of these things.

For those unfamiliar, Paper Towns takes place in the final month of Quentin Jacobson’s high school career. Four weeks before he’s due to graduate, his paramour, neighbor and friend, Margo, appears at his bedroom window and convinces him to spend the night out with her. Margo has an intricate plan to get revenge on all her fake high school friends (highly relatable plot point) and Q helps her. The next morning, Quentin wakes up to realize that Margo has disappeared. The rest of the novel follows Q and his group of friends as they try to follow the trail of clues that Margo has left.

As Q tries to unravel the clues that Margo has left for him, he begins to learn more about Margo herself. Let me just say that I am glad I did not read this in high school, when I was completely in love with the idea of being in love. It would have made me cry like the sap I am trying to pretend I am not.

My favorite part about this book is the explanation for the title. Green describes a paper town as a town created by cartographers to protect against copyright infringement. For example, if a cartographer creates a map and adds in the made-up town of Agloe (real example from the book) in New York, he can then check all other maps made after his to make sure no one is copying his map. I have been unsuccessful in discovering if this is a real phenomenon, but I believe it might be.

-A

 

Through the Looking Glass

AliceLewis Carroll is crazy. Genuinely. This was my third(ish) read through of Through the Looking Glass. I have this odd relationship with this book where I keep coming back to it, even though I wouldn’t say I love it. I don’t know what makes me pick it up every few months. I think it just makes me happy. Which should be odd, considering the creepy backstory. If you don’t know by now, this may come as a shock. Lewis Caroll was in love with the OG Alice, the then ten-year-old Alice Liddell. Casual. I always forget about this poem (pictured), and it is so creepy. This might be the best acrostic I have ever read. Still creepy though.

-A

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell; 2013

I was very pleasantly surprised by Eleanor & Park. Now that my Sarah Dessen days are (sadly) far behind me, I’m not always a YA fan, although I dabble very occasionally. Eleanor & Park takes place in 1986 in Nebraska. There are a lot of music and comic book references, but not so many that it becomes annoying or distracting if you’re not familiar with all of them, like me. Eleanor and Park meet on the school bus and become an unlikely pair. I’m hesitant to say much more than that, because I think it’s better to be surprised by all of it. It’s about a first love, and things do escalate pretty quickly, but such is the nature of YA. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

The writing is clean, engaging, and accessible for both YA and adult readers. Park’s parents are so perfectly drawn, and think Rowell has the impressive ability to tap into the teenager experience really convincingly. Her characters are still developing, still messy, still awkward. AKA real life, amirite? This was by far the most convincing contemporary YA sophisticated enough to convince me to become the occasional YA fan. Please do read!

We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I was in the mood for a fun, quick read and I’d heard about We Were Liars quite a bit. So I committed four hours of my life to this one. UGH, what a mistake. Basically this book reminded me why I stopped reading YA at 17. I think maybe the overdone angst in YA is too much for me and hard to take seriously.

We Were Liars
is about
rich
teenage cousins who
are beautiful
and call themselves
The Liars.

Did that annoy you? Because 1/4 of the book is written like that. I couldn’t quite figure out how commas were being used, and the narrator had a tendency to use ridiculous, long-winded metaphors to describe herself and her headaches. If I had to sum up this book in one word: MELODRAMATIC. I guess this was supposed to be edgy and experimental?

We Were Liars features a HEAVILY recycled plot: rich girl wants to date ‘poor’ but interesting and forbidden guy but can’t because of family. It’s also about the privileged Sinclair family who somehow own a private island off the coast of Massachusetts where they spend their summers. I guess this family is supposed to be interesting because they are rich???

I actually finished this book in a rage. It was mainly so awful because it hypes you up but then the end is like REALLY?! Kind of like watching one of the bad/stupid M. Knight Shyamalan movies. At least it was short.

-M