Monday, April 15, 2013

#90- Along For The Ride By Sarah Dessen

#90- Along For The Ride

Rating- 8.5/10

Growing up I read all of Sarah Dessens books. Not to say that I am not still growing up, but specifically in high school I really enjoyed the stories that she wrote. Because I decided to re-read even books I had read before in order to give the best reviews, I was saving some of the Dessen books as filler between books I knew I wouldn't enjoy to read. Almost like a breath of fresh air between the fantasy novels. (sorry, just not my choice of genre!)

Along For The Ride is about a girl named Auden, its the summer after high school and she made the decision to go spend it with her father, his new wife, and their new baby-her half sister. They live on the beach in a small touristy town where her father writes his books and teaches at the local college and her step-mom owns a small botique. This sounds like a perfect summer for a typical teenage girl, which Auden is anything but.

Auden's mother is a college professor and her entire life has been surrounded by grown ups, literature, and school related items. She chooses to stay in on a Friday night and read school books and prepare for her future. She has never had a serious boyfriend, never been to a school dance, and generally missed out on many teenage rights of passage. She never considered this a problem until she gets to her dads house this summer after high school.

Auden starts working part time at her stepmothers boutique and while working there finds herself meeting a group of girls, and having an adventurous summer that she never imagined would happen to her. Along with the girls, she meets a boy named Eli, throughout the weeks of hanging out her new friends, together they all decide that she needs to experience a summer of true teenage adventures. With the help of her friends, and most surprising of all, stepmom, she finds a summer that makes up for all of her friday nights spent in her bedroom. 

There isnt much bad to say about Dessen books, she clearly knows what she is doing and is quite good at it. Generally a romance with the added adventures of a few girlfriends and some family drama, its written in a mind of a teenage girl and is very relatable. There just isnt anything bad to say. She writes books that are quick reads, enjoyable stories, and memorable characters and I am always excited to pick up one of her novels. As I said above, a much needed breath of fresh air.

“It shouldn't be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It's the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something's difficult to come by, you'll do that much more to make sure it's even harder--or impossible-- to lose.” 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

#62- Just Listen By Sarah Dessen

#62- Just Listen


I usually really like Sarah Dessen books, in fact that is by far the lowest I have rated any of her's in this project. I found the entire thing to be really cliche.

Just Listen is about a 16 year old girl named Annabel, she is the youngest of three sisters and growing up they have always all differed in everything except for modeling, which their mother got them into when they were young. Annabel being the youngest and sweetest, Whitney being the middle child and seeing the world with a tinge of bitterness, and Kirsten, the oldest, always viewing life with rose colored glasses and a sunny disposition. Guided from their supportive parents they have always been supported in whatever ways they needed.

Annabel is going into her sophomore year of high school at the beginning of the book, having just gone through a rather dramatic fight with her best friend at the start of summer and not having talked to her since. On the first day of school Sophie, her ex-best friend, makes a point to look her in the face, call her a whore, and continue on with her day. Annabel is shocked and outcasted. During lunch she sits on the wall by herself and doesn't have much hope about making any kind of friends that year. Each day, as lunch rolls around she sits on the wall, with no one around except for a boy named Owen. They always keep their distance until one day when he starts a conversation and gives her a ride home from school. Intrigued by his mysterious personality and interesting taste in music, Annabel and Owen start a therapeutic friendship which helps her overcome struggles throughout the year.

Other than the parts just summarized above, the book touches on Annabel's middle sister's eating disorder, her oldest sisters college adventures, and the real reason why Sophie won't talk to her anymore. Ruining a bit of the surprise of this, which isn't exactly a surprise because the minute that I heard that she was outcast for something that happened at an end of summer party I immediately thought of the book speak and wow wouldnt you know it, Annabel was sexually harassed by Sophie's boyfriend. Now while I am by no means trying to down play how serious rape and sexual assault is, I found it incredibly cliche that she wrote another one of those books about losing friends and having a rough year because a drunk boy was a disgusting pig at an end of year party. I thought she stole the concept from Speak (I did check, she wrote this 10 years after Speak was published) and I didn't think the book was better by any means.

I love Sarah Dessen and this book doesn't change that, I like that she references characters from previous novels in her book (for example Remy and Dexter from This Lullaby was mentioned in this book, Dexter's band played at a club that Annabel goes to with Owen) and like how easy her style is to read, I finished this book in two nights just casually reading. I won't judge her future books from this and will continue to enjoy her as an author, I just don't think this was one of her best.

I actually loved this quote in high school and used it on many different facebook posts and even a speech one time for a youth group I was a part of;

“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you'd better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you'll never understand what it's saying.” 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

#24- Thirteen Reasons Why By Jay Asher

#24- Thirteen Reasons Why


Thirteen Reasons Why is about a boy named Clay. One day he finds a package outside of his door containing 13 cassette tapes and not return label.

Feeling confused and curious he goes to his garage to find an old boom-box to listen to them and see what is going on. After clicking play he realizes that his excitement over the tapes was a mistake, because speaking back to him through this tape is Hannah Baker. Now usually getting a tape made from a girl would be a good thing, that is, if the girl you are receiving the tapes from hadn't committed suicide several weeks before receiving the tapes.

Thinking that this is some kind of messed up joke, but feeling the need to see what the tapes have to say, Clay presses play and listens to her opening dialogue. Included in the package are 13 tapes, filled with the names of 13 people and 13 reasons that she committed suicide. If you are indeed supposed to be receiving these you have gotten a map previously (Clay had gotten one put in his locker a few weeks prior) and it is now your job to listen to these tapes and pass them onto the next person on the list. Hannah threatens that if you don't pass these along, there is a second set of them and they will get out for the rest of the world to know. Put it simply; if you don't pass along these tapes all of your awful secrets could be told to the rest of the world.

With a pit in his stomach and confusion in his heart Clay presses pause to think for a moment, he had never done Hannah wrong, to the best of his knowledge. These tapes can't be meant for him. He will listen and realize he was wrong and that the map was wrongly given. Following the tapes and listening to Hannah's voice he begins to understand her as a person that he never did previously, and following her footsteps through what she considers her worst moments, he begins to see that he barely knew her at all. Listening to the tapes Clay discovers things he never knew and starts a chain reaction of feelings that will change his outlook on life forever.

If the 10/10 rating wasn't evident enough of my love for this book, let me write it very clearly right here. I Love This Book. I don't love the idea of suicide, I dont love that the girl in this book was clearly very troubled and hurt. I do however love that this book spreads the idea that one little thing can change the outcome of something very big. Each person that Hannah addresses in this book didn't think about the ongoing affect of whatever they did, in fact one person on this list probably didn't realize that by starting a rumor he would kill a girl. Sometimes our words are stronger than we can ever dream possible. If nothing else, I hope that someone who reads this book realizes that they have the power to break, or make, someone elses life. At the end of the book there is nothing that Clay can do to make Hannah come back to life, she has committed suicide and short of a time machine that can't be undone, however Clay realizes that he can change his outlook of other people, that saying a few words to someone who looks like they need a smile can go a long way. From this book I also gained the knowledge and desire to extend a hand or a smile or a few kind words and hope that will be enough for someone in the future. 

The book is written in a very cool format, each cassette side getting its own chapter and italics representing Hannah's voice through the tapes and normal font representing how Clay deals with the knowledge. I liked the voices that each person had to offer and especially liked how the entire story ended up tying into one another and the final conclusion that wrapped all the way back to the beginning of the story.

A fantastically sad read that changes perspective for sure.

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.” 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

#70- Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist By Rachel Cohn & David Leviathan

#70- Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Rating- 9.5/10

Let it be known that I REALLY didnt expect to like this book as much as I did. The logic behind that was that I wasn't a huge fan of the movie and figured they were somehwat similar etc etc. Which was such a rookie mistake thing to think because I know better than to judge a book by its movie. Regardless of my thoughts prior to reading, I really really liked this book. I was impressed by the wit, the writing, the characters, and the duo narrators. I especially love books that switch point of view from chapter to chapter so I really like the split personality of each chapter from Nick to Norah.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is a book about a "queercore" band member named Nick and a jaded sarcastic love-wrecked girl named Norah. They both are at the same club on night where Nick is performing and Norah is watching. When Nick's set is over he goes and sits down at the bar and a pit of terror in his stomach forms when he sees his ex-girlfriend Tris headed over... with her new guy. In a moment of desperation and spontaneity he turns to the girl next to him, Norah, and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes. What he doesn't know is that Norah knows Tris as well from school and is more than happy to go along with his plan if it means causing a bit of a stir from Tris. They have always been a sort of frenemy situation and she is a-okay with saving Nick and making Tris uncomfortable. After kissing and avoiding eye contact with Tris, both of them realize that the kiss was more than they bargained for. Neither one wants to admit that a five minute fling was all they were and they set out on a night adventure. Moving night clubs, seeing ex's, dealing with drunk friends, and seeing one of the best bands ever; Nick & Norah make memories that are... (wait for it...) infinite.

As I mentioned above I really like books that are written from different perspectives and I also really like cliche teenage novels. I guess its not exactly cliche, but in the coming of age type of way. I want to think about my own experiences and I want it to be genunine and not afraid to use curse words and graphic situations and alcohol and love and turmoil and everything that I have gone through as a teenager. I like seeing how different people deal with things and I like thinking of new ways to deal with my own life because of how people in these books deal with theres. I was impressed by this book and other than only being able to see Norah as Kat Denning (which isn't a bad thing, just a fact) I completely separated this book from movie and was really pleased with the end result. Add in the mention of judaism, which is also a plus for me and I was even more pleased. Norah mentions about Tikkun Olam, which means repairing the world, and and Nick says this brilliant point about how maybe it isnt that we are supposed to find the missing pieces and put them back together to repair the world, but that we are the pieces and that by being together and understanding and loving to one another we are doing that. 

There was also one quote in the book that really affected my way of thinking. It was so true. One of Nick's friends says, "You know the reason The Beatles made it so big?...'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.' First single. Fucking brilliant. Perhaps the most fucking brilliant song ever written. Because they nailed it. That's what everyone wants. Not 24/7 hot wet sex. Not a marriage that lasts a hundred years. Not a Porsche...or a million-dollar crib. No. They wanna hold your hand. They have such a feeling that they can't hide. Every single successful song of the past fifty years can be traced back to 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.' And every single successful love story has those unbearable and unbearably exciting moments of hand-holding.”  and ITS SO TRUE. Its true that we are always looking for something simple and I liked that they brought light to that. I thought it was a cool way of pointing it out and I appreciated that idea behind it.

Also, I read online that each author wrote one chapter and then emailed it to the other, Rachel writing Norah and David writing Nick and I think thats insanely cool. What a way to write a book! I think its fantastic and made me appreciate it even more because it was like Nick and Norah were really reacting to each other versus an author thinking out each ones reaction while writing the others. 

Overall I was really pleased with the book and I understand why it was on the top 100 list, I gave it one of the highest ratings of all of the others reviews in fact.

“The way you're singing in your sleep
The way you look before you leap
The strange illusions that you keep
You don't know, But I'm noticing"