Tag: Coming Of Age

Feb 29

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Coming of Age, Young Adult Fiction 11

G’Day Bookworms!

I had sooooo much fun during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, but let me tell you something. It wreaked absolute havoc on my TBR list. I don’t even remember where I saw it, but somewhere in the blog hopping I was reminded that I’ve only ever read one Markus Zusak novel (The Book Thief, natch. Which duh. Read about it HERE.) I Am the Messenger came highly recommended from this mysterious unnamed source I cannot remember so I decided I ought to read it. And thus, I did. It seems pretty unfair to the rest of my TBR pile that I randomly jumped to this one, but I am a capricious sort of gal sometimes.

iamthemessengerThe book opens in the midst of a bank robbery. Ed Kennedy and his friends are caught in the holdup, and they make a rather motley set of hostages. Ed is an underage cabbie living in a less than stellar suburb of a major Australian metropolis. At 19 years old, he’s spending his life in a holding pattern. He plays cards with his friends, works at a dead end job, and can’t pluck up the courage to tell his best friend Audrey that he’s butt crazy in love with her. He lives alone with a maniacally stinky geriatric dog named the Doorman. (If ever a stench could be called maniacal, I imagine the Doorman’s would qualify.) Nothing is great, but it’s a peaceful existence Ed has carved out for himself. Shortly after the robbery, though, Ed’s life is thrown out of the comfortable pattern he’s used to when he starts receiving mysterious messages in the mail. He is sent on a quest by persons unknown to help (or hurt) the deserving in his hometown. But who is behind these messages?

I have mixed feeeeeeelings about this book. I loved Ed and his friends and their insane card games. I LOVE LOVE LOVED THE DOORMAN. This is the single greatest dog in all of literature! He’s really old and decrepit, so you can’t fault Ed for indulging him with coffee and the occasional ice cream cone. I have a soft spot for stinky old man dogs, okay?! There was a lot of humor injected into the novel and that is the sort of thing I gobble up. Ed’s self deprication? His banter with pals? His deep philosophical discussions with the Doorman? All brilliant.

Ed’s missions though… Some of them are awesome and some of them are rather bizarre. I like the idea of helping out one’s fellow man and all that, but I’m not sure how I feel about the seemingly random vigilante-ism that goes on. Plus, I was less than thrilled with the way the book wrapped up. Like… The mystery behind the missions? I just don’t buy it. Probably because I am old and cynical and lacking in heart. But there you have it. I’m a muddled mess of opinions with mad love for an ancient, fictional, odiferous canine.

Talk to me, Bookworms! What are some of the coolest pets you’ve ever read about? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. It won’t cost you any extra, but it’ll help keep me up and running. So yay. Thanks!*

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Feb 25

In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Coming of Age 15

Howdy Bookworms!

You remember Judy Blume, right? She was an absolute fixture of my adolescent reading life. Remember that time I wrote about how Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret holds an extra super special place in my heart? (It’s HERE if you’re curious.) In 2015 Judy Blume released her first novel in… Well I don’t know how long. But it had been a while, so it was a pretty big deal. That book? In the Unlikely Event.

intheunlikelyeventThe book opens with Miri Ammerman returning to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey after a long absence. She’s back to attend a memorial event dedicated to the insanity that was Miri’s 15th year of life during which a succession of airplanes crashed in Elizabeth. I was about to roll my eyes massively when the second plane crash happened… And then I Googled it. This ACTUALLY HAPPENED. In Judy Blume’s hometown. She lived through this, and dude, it was nuuuuts.

Of course, In the Unlikely Event is not an autobiography or anything, but you can bet your sweet bippy that it borrowed from her own life experience. How could it not? That is a crazy fricking thing to have happen, you can’t make this stuff up. Well, you CAN make this stuff up, but only if you don’t mind massive eye rolls from people like me.

This book is pure Judy Blume. Miri is a fifteen year old girl dealing with friendships and family and faith and first love. It’s right in her wheelhouse and where she shines. I thought In the Unlikely Event was a good book. I don’t think it’ll ever really gain a place within the canon of her best work, but it was enjoyable enough. I mean… If you can find a book enjoyable that features multiple plane crashes… Just add it to the list of stuff that’s wrong with me.

Alright Bookworms. Since this book proves that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, tell me your fave truth is stranger than fiction story. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Jul 16

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Classics, Coming of Age 13

Howdy Bookworms!

You know those lists? The ones that float around on the internet that tell you which books you ought to have read already and how you suck at life for not meeting an arbitrary milestone? Perhaps you just kind of ignore the smug implications of such lists. I wish I could. List bullies. Anyway. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is one of the books that often pops up on said lists, and I finally got around to reading it. Finally. It sat on my Kindle unread for like 2 years. Oops.

icapturethecastleI Capture the Castle is written from the perspective of a 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain. In 1934, she and her family have fallen on hard times. Her father, once a respected novelist, has the world’s worst writer’s block and as a result, the family is destitute. Ironically, they reside in an actual castle in the English countryside. It’s a dilapidated, leaky affair, but it’s got a moat! Broke, but not without eccentricities, the Mortmain clan’s adventures are recorded in Cassandra’s journals.

I fully expected to love this book. I mean, come on. A ruined castle with a moat full of quirky Brits and a dog named Heloise? You can understand where I’d be under that impression. Unfortunately, I had some issues with it. More specifically, I had some issues with the female characters. Just… Hear me out. (This is probably kind of spoilery, so read at your own risk.)

First, Topaz. She’s married to Cassandra’s father and models for artists. She’s a pretty great character, all artsy and glamorous even while half-starving in those crumbling walls. The problem? She has bounced from starving artist to starving artist seeing herself as a muse of sorts… And she FULLY EXPECTS TO BE ABUSED. Physically, emotionally, whatever. She just assumes it’s part of the deal. Because artsy types can’t help it?! Mortmain isn’t a monster or anything, but she’s almost disappointed by his lack of vitriolic mood swings. Unhealthy, yo.

Second on the list is Cassandra’s beautiful sister, Rose. Girl’s a gold digger, hardcore. Unfortunately, she’d expected by society and her family to marry for love and nothing more. Love is all well and good when you’re not literally starving in a moldering castle. It’s not like she had a whole heck of a lot of options. Frivilous and flighty, I didn’t much care for Rose, but I couldn’t fault her for making a cash grab. Homegirl’s gotta eat.

Finally. Cassandra. I know you’re 17. But come on. Let’s talk about poor romantic decisions, shall we? Who should one get hung up on? The fellow who is completely unavailable for very good reasons, OR the extraordinarily handsome fellow whose kind generosity in the face of poverty is equaled only by his adoration of you? WTF, Cassandra? Get a grip girl. And make it a grip on Stephen. Swoon.

Good news and bad news, I guess. I can now check another box off on my next judgmental internet quiz, but I didn’t love it. Ah well. Not every book works for everyone. Talk to me Bookworms. How many of you have read I Capture the CastleDid you love it? Hate it? Or are you with me in Ambivalent-ville?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’m considering installing a moat in my yard, so, you could help me live the dream.*

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Mar 19

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Coming of Age, Humor 5

Oi Bookworms!

I am always up for a coming of age novel set in the 1990s with a dollop of rock-n-roll. Seriously, who wouldn’t be? That’s the good stuff, right there, which is why I was rather gleeful when I snagged How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran on sale. (Kindle Daily Deals are my kryptonite.)

howtobuildagirlHow to Build a Girl is the story of Johanna Morrigan. Born into poverty in Wolverhampton, England, she posesses the sort of teenage awkwardness that all but the very lucky deal with at some point. Unfortunately, part of her awkwardness is displayed prominently (and weirdly) on local television, so she decides she’s had ENOUGH of being Johanna and constructs a new identity. Enter “Dolly Wilde,” the hard partying rock-n-roll journalist and resident badass of the London indie rock scene. Between the smoking, drinking, sexcapades, and the brutal reviews she provides for her magazine, Johanna begins to realize that the persona she built may not be the person she wants to be at all.

This book is a no-holds-barred teenage crazy fest. Those that are upset by casual drug usage, dysfunctional family situations, sexual encounters, and instances of self-love, be warned. If you’re not put off by those things, How to Build a Girl is an excellent and thought-provoking coming-of-age story. Johanna’s encounter with The Smashing Pumpkins about did me in with cringe-laughter. That’s a thing, right? Cringe-laughter?

What REALLY hit home for me, though, was Johanna’s writing. She was so intently focused on making a name for herself and getting a reaction that she brutally eviscerated countless bands. As someone who “reviews” books in what I hope is an amusing manner, I found this especially poignant. In reviewing, being nasty is easy. Johanna had the disadvantage (or privilege?) of writing in an era where one could not hide behind the internet. A well placed cocktail to the face led her to the realization that she enjoyed being enthusiastic about what she loved more than being casually cruel about what she didn’t. Now, I will firmly stand behind a person’s right to say what they feel, and there is ABSOLUTELY a place for artistic criticism and personal taste. I’ll tell you what I don’t like and why, but I’m unlikely to suggest that anyone be “buried up to their necks in all their unsold records, then stoned to death by angry peasants.” (That was pure “Dolly Wilde.” Amusing, but so, so mean.)

Talk to me, Bookworms. Do you ever feel that comedy crosses a line into cruelty, or do you think everyone is just too dang sensitive these days?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Oct 13

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Coming of Age, Psychological 7

Greetings Bookworms!

You may have noticed over the past month or so that I’ve been on a little bit of a Native American author kick. Since it’s been such an awesome ride so far, when I was contacted by Open Road Media to check out Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, I jumped at the offer. *I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration. This in no way reflects opinions expressed on the novel.*

monkeybeachMonkey Beach centers on a Native American family in British Columbia. (I can still say Native American when referring to native peoples who reside in what is now Canada, right? I mean, the US kind of bogarted the term “American” despite the fact that there are TWO FULL CONTINENTS who have a claim on it.)

20 year old Lisamarie Hill had a crazy childhood. She finds herself reliving her life’s journey in a speedboat while she travels to meet her parents in the place her brother Jimmy went missing (and is presumed drowned.) The Haisla community Lisa hails from has seen its own share of trials including alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence. and untimely deaths. Lisa’s own predicament is complicated by the fact that she deals not only in the physical world, but the spiritual world as well. She doesn’t understand her “gift” and struggles to reconcile Haisla traditions with contemporary Canadian life.

This book was pretty intense. I mean, what IS IT with the Native American authors bringing the pain? Travelling back and forth between Lisa’s past and present was a bit jarring, but I think it stylistically served to demonstrate how scattered Lisa is feeling while reeling from yet another potential loss. Robinson also has some mad skills with describing scenery. I felt like I could see the beaches and channels and forests described in this novel. Plus the cuisine? I mean, I can’t say that I’m aching to try oolichan grease, but you’ve got to respect a writer who can describe fish grease, soapberry foam, and the intricacies of blueberry picking and make it INTERESTING. Respect.

If you’re looking for a book to break your heart and teach you more than you ever really wanted to know about fish grease, Monkey Beach is where it’s at!

Talk to me Bookworms! What’s the last gut-wrenching book you tackled?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Feb 03

Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Flowers, Women's Studies 21

Howdy Bookworms,

Ah, comfort fiction. For me, it typically involves gardening, women supporting one another, and more often than not, it’s set in the South. Sure, sometimes it’s a little on the sweet side, some might argue it’s downright syrupy. Luckily, I never met a dessert I didn’t like, so sweetness is absolutely my thing. I just read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, and I loved it!

saving cee cee HoneycutCecelia Honeycutt has had a rough go of it. As a young girl in Ohio, she plays witness to her mother’s devastating descent into mental illness. Her father is absent as he’s a travelling salesman, so when CeeCee’s mother’s antics move from the eccentric into the psychotic, she is left to handle things on her own.

CeeCee finds her refuge in the library and in the arms of her elderly neighbor. She struggles to deal with her mother making trips to the grocery store in full pageant regalia and withers under the stares of her classmates. Having an untreated mentally ill mother doesn’t make you particularly popular, as it turns out. Then one day, everything changes.

CeeCee’s father arranges to have her move in with her Great Aunt Tootie, a woman she’s never met. She’s uprooted and re-installed in Savannah, Georgia. Aunt Tootie is pretty much the sweetest woman alive, and CeeCee takes to Oletta (Aunt Tootie’s cook and housekeeper) immediately. Unfortunately, a few weeks of good home cooking and affection can’t make up for a childhood rife with neglect. CeeCee slowly learns to accept and acknowledge her past while allowing the love of her new found life to heal her tortured soul.

What can I say? I’m an absolute sucker for this kind of book. It’s the type of novel that leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy about humanity. If you liked The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd or Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg, you will adore Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. If you haven’t read any of them, what in the sam heck are you waiting for?! Go forth and feel good!

Have you ever met a novel that makes you feel good about humankind? What are some of your favorites? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site I will receive a small commission, which I will probably use to buy more books. Honesty. It’s what I do.*

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Nov 19

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for my Baby Cousin

Children's Fiction, Classics, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 40

Hey Bookworms!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I participated in the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly extravaganza that is Top Ten Tuesday. Today we’ve been challenged to create a list of recommendations with a specific person in mind. I’ve got me a baby cousin. Well, okay, she’s not really a baby anymore, she’s 12… I’m not really sure when that happened. However, I was wracking my brains and I kept coming back to books I think Dana ought to read, so she wins today’s list. (Remember my post about snarky eyebrows? That was an ode to Dana’s older brother Adam. These kids, man. These kids…)

toptentuesday

 

 

1. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry- This might be a little below your reading level, but if you haven’t read it, you simply must. It’s about WWII and it’s full of everyday people being brave and doing the right things. Sometimes you need to hear about that stuff when you’re 12.

2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Alice in Wonderland is for little kids. Forget what you saw in the Disney movie. I mean, I guess you can remember it, because that was pretty screwy, but still. These books are clever and full of word play. I also happen to know you and the fam are into Dr. Who and the cosplay scene- Alice should be a pre-requisite for all fantasy endeavors.

3. The Giver by Lois Lowry (my review). I was about your age the first time I read this and it kind of blew my mind. The sequels are not as good, but certainly worth a read if you enjoy this one. It’s set in a scary strange future where people can’t see in color and everyone’s life is weirdly regimented. You’ll be super stoked to not be living in their community, I promise.

200px-The_Giver_Cover

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I know, I know. You’ve probably been there, done that. Wasn’t it awesome though?! Katniss was such a butt-kicking character! You’re a girl who shall never be a damsel in distress, so you and Katniss would probably be great friends. (If you could look past her obvious psychological damage stemming from the fact that she was forced to fight other children to the death in an arena setting…)

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (my review). You’re a pretty mature 12, so I wouldn’t worry about giving you something with some heavier themes. This is another WWII book, but it rocks. If you enjoyed Number the Stars and you’re feeling up to it, give this a shot. Did you know Grandpa fought in WWII? He did. When he went to enlist, he changed his name from “Karl” to “Charles” because it sounded “less German.” It’s a true story, Grandma told me. After you read this, you’ll understand why he didn’t want to be associated with Germany at that point in history, despite the fact that our family is largely of German ancestry. It’s a haunting and beautiful book, but have some tissues on hand.

6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (my review). Dude. Cinderella is a CYBORG. I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this one. Fractured fairy tales totally seem like your vibe.

cinder

7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Don’t laugh! Your parents gave me a copy of this for Christmas when I was about your age and it’s awesome. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy will get all up inside your heart and make you want to buy petticoats and bloomers… And find out what a pickled lime tastes like (I still don’t know… Not sure that’s a bad thing though. The sound kind of gross, and we have pizza now, you know?)

8. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I know, I know, it’s another old fashioned book. It’s so much fun, though! Anne gets into all sorts of shenanigans. Just trust me on this one, alright? There’s hair dye and an episode of accidental underage drinking (The accidental part is key there. Drinking at your age is the WORST IDEA EVER. Promise me you won’t drink until you’re in college? I’m old and I worry.)

9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This book will make science and math seem cool, I swear. It’s really cool and full of time warps and alternate dimensions and mystery. Very Whovian, my dear.

wrinkle in time

10. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (my review). Dana, my dearest. If you are anything like I was at your age, the fact that I’m bringing up this book at all is probably making you blush furiously and feel ill. It’s okay, pumpkin. The internet doesn’t know who you are (seriously, we don’t even have the same last name anymore.) This is a REALLY good book though, about feeling awkward and all the embarrassing girl stuff that goes on (or doesn’t) at your age. If it makes you feel better, check out a copy from the library and hide it under your pillow while you read it. That’s what I did. A girl deserves her privacy, you know?

There we have it, folks. My reading list dedicated to my not-so-baby-anymore cousin Dana. Any of you bookworms have a title to add? She’s quite the reader (I’m so proud) so I’m sure she’d appreciate the suggestions. 

Have you sent your address to wordsforworms@gmail.com yet? You know you want a bookmark! You also know that I’m an affiliate for Book Depository and that if you choose to make a purchase from any of the links in this post I’ll get a tiny kickback, right? It’s all on the up and up, swearsies. 

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Aug 05

Rainbow Rowell, I'm Your Fangirl!

Blogging, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship 44

Hiya Bookworms!

It’s Monday, but today we’re going to talk about Rainbow Rowell’s new release, so it officially sucks MUCH LESS! Remember last week when I told you all about my BlogHer experience and how the awesome folks at St. Martin’s Press were doling out free books? I saw Fangirlsitting there and tried to appear professional and interesting, while my innards were all a-squiggle. Rainbow Rowell’s new book!!! I basically received this book as swag from the publisher. They were handing out books to tons of people who were never going to write about them on their blogs. I’m going to put it out there as a full disclosure anyway, because I’m SUPER ethical. (So dang ethical I deserve a cape and a headband, y’all.)

As you may recall, my love of Eleanor & Park (review) was intense. I’ve been waiting to read Rowell’s earlier book Attachmentspartially because I was afraid it wouldn’t be able to live up to Eleanor & Park. Luckily, by putting a free copy of Fangirl straight into my crazy hands I was able to overcome the fear and read more Rowell.

FangirlFangirl is about a girl named Cath and her first year away at college. She’s a twin, but her sister Wren has decided that she wants to try striking out on her own a bit. Cath is left to fend for herself, and she drowns her sorrows in fanfiction. In Rowell’s world, there’s a Harry Potter-esque series of books about a boy wizard named Simon Snow. Cath and her sister Wren spent their childhoods obsessing over the characters and became very active in the fandom. In fact, Cath’s fanfiction pieces? They get thousands upon thousands of hits daily. She’s got some serious talent, but can’t seem to break free of the imaginary world someone else created. There’s a lot of love and growing up and universal college experiences in this book. I just freaking LOVED IT.

A couple of things I loved. First. Cath and Wren are identical twins. Their mother was unaware she was having twins, and had only chosen one name, Catherine. Instead of coming up with another name, she just split the one she had in half. Cather and Wren. My Mother-in-Law has been threatening for years that the family is due for a set of twins. While I find twins wonderful and adorable, the idea of dealing with two newborns simultaneously is more than a little daunting. I told my MIL that if I had twins, I’d name them both Seamus, you know, as punishment for making me birth two at once. (That is a true story, but I was obviously joking. Now that I’ve got Rowell’s inspiration, I’d name them Sea and Mus.)

Second. Levi! This character comes into the picture as Cath’s roommate’s ex? boyfriend. He hangs around a LOT, which annoys the snot out of Cath… At first. Levi is a farm boy. He hails from a tiny town in rural Nebraska and majors in Ranch Management (Yes. That IS a thing.) Cath is from Omaha, and while it doesn’t sound very metropolitan to most of the world, it’s as urban as Nebraska gets. I SO had this experience in college! (I was from the Chicago suburbs and went to school in the middle of the state. There were kids who thought that our campus of like 80% white kids was diverse. It was weird.) Anyway. While I was in college, I totally met my very own Levi (minus any romantic undertones.He’s a good friend of my husband and is now married to a really fabulous woman. They have a 2 year old boy who is just about the cutest thing in the world. He loves books!)

The thing about Levi and “Steve” (spontaneous pseudonym) is that they are the kind of guys who would go out of their way to walk you home from the library after dark. The guy you could call to change your tire if you were living alone and didn’t know how to do it yourself (or did know how to do it yourself in theory but would rather have someone who actually knew how to fix cars do it in practice.) Needless to say, I mentally pictured Levi looking exactly like my friend, even if he was a little more rodeo where my friend is more muscle car.

I don’t know if it’s my adoration of Harry Potter that made me relate to the fangirl in Cath… Maybe it was her slightly awkward college experience that got me. Sure, her experience was significantly weirder and worse than mine, but the same way Eleanor & Park captured that high school feeling, Fangirl captured college. The whole learning to detach from your parents thing? The character that reminded me of my pal Steve? The EVERYTHING of it all? So much YES. Rainbow Rowell, I am now your fangirl. If I ever meet you, I’ll be the girl who breaks her leg tripping over her shoelace on the way up to the table where you’re signing books. If you could sign my cast instead of my book, that’d be cool too.

So Bookworms! Obviously, one of the biggest things that stuck out for me in this book was that Levi reminded me of my buddy Steve. Have you ever read a book that had a character that was SO TOTALLY someone you know? Tell me about it!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 14

Confession Friday: The Perks of Being A Wallflower and Katie's Teen Angst

Coming of Age, Young Adult Fiction 19

Confession Friday: I was an angsty teenager. That’s not much of a confession. But I used to dress like this:

Photo of me and some friends in high school. Tragically hip.

I went through what I like to call my “grunge phase” in high school. What can I say? I was a socially awkward girl in the late 90s, and it was perfectly acceptable to hide one’s perceived imperfections underneath layers of enormously baggy pants and giant t-shirts. It wasn’t EXACTLY the age of Nirvana, but you know, trends hit the suburbs a few years late.

Anyway, being a teenager and tending toward the angst ridden, you may understand why I list The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky among my favorite books of all time. It was given to me by my friend Kim (the girl conveniently hiding half her face in what she must have known would someday be an embarrassing photo) and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s one of the few books I’ve read more than once. It’s the ultimate teen misfit tome- it was published by MTV, for heaven’s sake!

This book was hipster before hipsters were ironic. Or something. I don’t “get” the hipster thing. I HAVE mentioned that I’m uncool, right?

Our protagonist is Charlie, and he is a freshman in high school. He’s brilliant, but awkward. Two seniors take him under their wing and introduce him to all that high school has to offer angst ridden teenagers (sex, drugs, and rock and roll, obviously.) Charlie’s English teacher also takes a particular interest in him and supplies him with a series of novels that shape his world view. This book was billed as a modern day Catcher In The Rye and it lives up to this when Charlie breaks down and is admitted to a mental hospital at the end. It’s not all bad news though- Charlie seems to be making a steady recovery and we leave him hopeful for the coming school year.

I’m not sure if I would love this book so much if I were to read it today without having my nostalgic connection to it. I mean, it’s good, but I think what makes it so special to me is the time it invokes. Despite all my brooding, I too had moments of feeling “infinite.” Picking up this book is like listening to Nirvana’s “Unplugged in New York” for me- it takes me right back to that point in time (in the case of that album, it takes me to my BFF’s bedroom above the garage of her parents’ new house in Maryland. We haven’t lived in the same state since we were 14, but we are so awesome that it doesn’t matter.)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been made into a movie that is due to be released later this year. I hear Emma Watson is playing a starring role (is there anything Hermione CAN’T do?!) Obviously, as it has not yet been released I can’t review the movie, but I’m going to go ahead and say that the book is better. Even with Emma Watson (although I am VERY curious to hear your American accent, Emma dear.)

Bookworms, do you have a nostalgia book? What did you love during your awkward teen years?

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Aug 21

Childhood: Be Grateful Yours Wasn't Like These

Coming of Age, Memoirs 19

“Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome.” That poignant quote is brought to you by the classic Sandra Bullock movie, Hope Floats (don’t judge me!) Personally, I think spending 70 years of one’s life obsessing over what occurred during the first 18 is counterproductive, but I didn’t spend my childhood like any of the following characters. If I had, I’m sure I’d be singing a different tune. To my psychiatrist. Whom I’d see 5 times a week, in addition to group sessions and a heavy medication load. In fact, I’m not sure how some of these people/characters survived- even bodily.

I was shamed into reading Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by a coworker. It’s not the first occasion I’ve been ashamed to admit some of the things I haven’t gotten around to reading, despite my dedication to the pastime. If you’re like me and have not read this book, it’s fiction and  centers on a poor girl named Francie Nolan as she grows up in Brooklyn. The family is poverty stricken, and saddled with an alcoholic, albeit well-meaning father figure. I’m partial to coming-of-age stories as a general rule, but this book has the added benefit for me of being set in the early 1900s. Historical perspective on child labor laws, tenement housing, and lack of creature comforts aside, I related to Francie. She was a bookworm, like I am, and she was bound and determined to finish school. (I still have frequent nightmares about missing classes and failing exams. I have issues.) The moral of this synopsis is: read this. You won’t be sorry. It’s not a classic people just pretend to like, they actually enjoy it. Thanks for the public ridicule, Erin!

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is another coming of age tale I read recently. Unlike Francie Nolan, Jeanette Walls is a real person, and she really lived through one of the most insane childhoods I’ve ever read about. I loved this book. Walls’ writing style was clear and easy to follow. She didn’t get overly sentimental or overly dramatic, which is quite impressive considering the subject matter. Her father was an abusive alcoholic, her mother was (armchair Freud here) mentally ill, and it’s an absolute marvel that they were never caught  by DCFS for child neglect and endangerment. Egads. Still, there are some funny moments out of the tragedy, and I like that Walls takes a well rounded approach to her parents. She’s not simply angry and ashamed of them, but she examines their faults and the life lessons they taught her in spite of themselves. It’s refreshing to hear the perspective of someone who lived a legitimately crappy childhood who managed to turn into a productive human being.

Speaking of crazy true life stories, I feel the need to mention Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. I may have been hyperbolic in describing The Glass Castle as the most effed up true life childhood story on record. That award might go to Augusten Burroughs for living though his own personal crazy town. First, I’ll say I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted to. It was touted as a David Sedaris-esque jaunt through a quirky life story, but it was much darker. (David Sedaris, you get your own post one of these days, because I adore you.) Burroughs is taken in by his therapist and god only knows how the therapist managed to keep his license for so long, because YIKES. Dilapidated housing, statutory rape, lack of formal schooling… All par for the course. The problem was that I had a hard time finding the humor in it. Memoirs can be hysterical or they can stray into bitter territory. I’m not sure I’d even call this one “bitter” per se, it’s just bizarre to the point where you can’t believe that it’s real. And yet, it is. Or at least, to my knowledge, Augusten Burroughs hasn’t suffered a James Frey style scandal of over dramatizing his memoir for the sake of sales, sensationalism, and manipulating Oprah. Oprah has done more for reading than… Well most celebrities. So shame on you James Frey! A Million Little Pieceisn’t nearly as shocking if you KNOW that scene about getting massive dental work done without painkillers is false. (Mom is a dental hygienist, she knew he was a fraud before Oprah did.)

So, I guess if you’re into childhood trauma, check these out? That sounds awful. How about this: “If you’re struggling with your own personal demons and unresolved issues, read these books! They’ll make you really grateful for your comparatively normal childhood! Also, for running water!” Seriously though, if you had a legitimately jacked up childhood, maybe skip these and avoid opening old wounds, k?

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