Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A review of "We Were Liars" by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars has been talked about all summer as the new trendy YA novel, and from first glance, it's got all the right credentials: a prominently placed quote of praise from "Mr. YA" himself, John Green on the cover, an intentionally vague plot summary on the dust jacket that speaks of a "shocking surprise ending", and photographic cover art. After I read it, however, it was revealed to be a far more old-fashioned affair. It's a psychological thriller from YA novelist E. Lockhart, that tells the story of Cadence Sinclair, a wealthy 17 year old girl who lives an idyllic life of golden sunsets and childhood adventure on an island off the coast of Massachusetts during the summer, until a mysterious accident changes everything.  

There is a lot of good stuff in this book. Its characters are all likable and occasionally funny, and even though they lean slightly on comforting archetypes like "affable goofball", there are enough little details to keep them feeling real, and less like cliches. The writing is spare and elegaic enough to both convey the intricacies of teen angst, and the beauty of the island. Lockhart also knows how to write a good suspense thriller, revealing small clues along the way, until hitting the reader with the big ending reveal. She creates a real sense of mystery and dread that sustains until the rather disappointing surprise ending. 

It's not perfect however. Its old-mansion-old-money setting harks back to 50's teen romances like A Summer Place, and the spookiness of the plot seems to recall even older gothic novels like Wuthering Heights (which is once directly name-checked by a character), and The Castle of Otranto, so it often seems like it should be set in another time period. As a result, it was often distracting to see references to iPads and other modern items among the lush, romantic descriptions of swimming in the ocean and making homemade wine, and as a result, often made the tone of the story seem uneven. It often seems to be trying too hard to hector the audience about race and class in America, and at several points in the story, characters stop what they're doing to make small speeches about those aforementioned issues, that often feel like Lockhart hitting me over the head with a large hammer labeled "SOCIAL COMMENTARY". 

Of course, I can't forget the infamous surprise ending. I don't know how other people took it, but I thought it was rather cheap. It's essentially (SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ON IF YOU CARE ABOUT SUCH THINGS) the hoary old chestnut "It was all a dream" that I thought died out with pulp novels. One could argue that it was done partly in homage to the creaky 1930's and 40's melodramas the book is essentially a modern riff on, but that still doesn't make up for how much of an unsatisfying cop-out it was.This prominent flaw will probably prevent it from being the next Fault in Our Stars or Thirteen Reasons Why, but aside from that's it's an okay pulp suspense novel.


Friday, April 4, 2014

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye is about a boy named Holden Caulfield who gets kicked out of Pencey Prep school. He does not like his school and therefore does not apply himself there. He also accuses almost all the students and teachers at Pencey Prep to be phonies. After he leaves the school, Holden Caulfield has to go home, except he doesn't want to go right away. Because of that, Holden Caulfield decides to explore the world in New York City by himself. This book is about his many adventures and many thoughts during this few day period.

I had to read The Catcher in the Rye for my American Lit class. At first I thought this was going to be another typical boring book that I had to read for school. However, I realized that The Catcher in the Rye was a very real book. Holden Caulfield thinks many interesting thoughts, and it was a pleasure to hear his opinions about things, such as peer pressure, parenting, phoniess, sex, and careers. Although it was not my favorite book that I had read, I could find no faults with it. It thought it was well-written, and J.D. Salinger did a good job portraying the realness and humanness in the The Catcher in the Rye. It was a very good book!

Out of my Mind - Sharon Draper

Out of my Mind - Sharon Draper

The book Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper is a book about a young girl named Melody who has cerebral palsy, which affects her nervous system and makes her unable to move a lot or control her movement. Because of this, she could also not talk except in shrieks, cries, and other noises. This is especially difficult for her when she goes to school, because she is unable to communicate with anyone clearly.

On the bright side, Melody has one advantage: she is extremely smart. She has a photographic memory that can remember the most minute details from years back. She watched a lot of educational TV and has learned a lot to begin with. So when she finds out there is a Quiz Bowl team, she auditions for it, except nobody thinks that she will do well at all. However, Melody is devoted enough to prove everybody wrong and that she is a person who is worth a lot!

In my opinion, this was a very good book. I could easily sympathize with Melody and the ending did surprise me. I even got misty-eyed at one part of the book. The only fault I had with this book was that the dialogue was a bit unrealistic at times; some of the insults thrown at Melody were completely unlike what people would say today. Despite that negative point, however, I thought Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper was a great book that opened my eyes to help understand people with mental disabilities more and to understand that they are actually just as equal as everybody else.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Evey Day - David Levithan

Did you ever wonder how life would be if you were somebody else? Well in Every Day by David Levithan, a human soul named A wakes up in a different person's body every single day. A has done this since the day it was born. However, one day, A falls in love with a girl named Rhiannon. A feels love it has never felt before, and it wants to spend the rest of its life with her. However, asides from the fact that she has a boyfriend, A cannot stay in one person's body. Can Rhiannon still love A even though he changes every day?

In my opinion, the best aspect of this book wasn't the romance. In Every Day, A lives inside a different person's body every single day. It goes only into bodies of people its age (16), but A lives in many people. Because of this, the reader gets to see and better understand the positions of other people's lives. They get a better perspective on the realities and truths of men, women, depression, race, ethnicity, homosexuality, and mental disabilities. One can learn to appreciate and accept these people more after reading Every Day by David Levithan.

A great, original plot, combined with a deeper message creates Every Day by David Levithan, an amazing book that is definitely worth reading.