In which I word-vomit my way into “reviewing” the books I devoured in the early half of twenty thirteen.
9 books + 2 ebooks! Yes, I have been (semi) productive this summer, and since it’s the last Friday of summer vacation, I’ve finally found the urge to
blog rant about a few things that entertained me these past couple of months.
~Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom
I spent the whole month of January reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and I just love it to bits. I think it’s the first time I’ve read a legit contemporary adult novel (or the first one I’ve ever enjoyed reading one that is). I heard about the book when my (awesome) English professor posted a passage on her blog - and because she is my peg in life (LOLOLOL) I decided to read it too :P That, and I saw it was on sale in Fully Booked.
Freedom tells the story of the Berglunds and their family friend, Richard. It’s a long and winding novel of marriage, family, love and friendship, and realities and expectations in life. The characters were pitiable and infuriating at the same time – but they were human, and this novel narrates their growth (Patty and Walter, in particular) from mediocre people living half-lives to broken but mature adults, even if the growing-up part did take them a while (and with a lot of drama). A minor character in the novel even commented in the prologue, “I don’t think they’ve figured out yet how to live.” and the rest went on from there. As expected, there were Marxist and anti-capitalism/consumerism tones in the novel (not surprised – my professor is an activist btw) which in my opinion, made the novel more realistic and complex. (Forgive me for sounding ditzy and pretentious, it’s not that often I read and enjoy a novel such as this :P) But the heart of this novel is about love – in all its forms: romantic, platonic, all-consuming – and forgiveness. The raw honesty of every moment is something that I have never read before this.
Reading this novel was an experience in itself. Usually, when I’m engrossed with a book, no matter how busy I am, I would choose to finish it within a week, tops. But this novel took me a month to read – during train rides home or on weekends not spent working or sleeping – and yet every time I crack open the page where I left off, I’m immediately sucked into a world very much like the real one, yet a more distinct in a way.
Exceptional read! Five stars.
~YA Novels: The good, the bad, and the great
Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francesca
I’ve read Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road last year, upon recommendation from a blogger, and it was a good read. Not amazing, but satisfying like reading a Sarah Dessen novel. Saving Francesca is about (duh) Francesca – as she begins to study in a former all-boys school. Francesca, a conformist, mediocre, blend-in type of individual, tries to adapt to her new life as she faces challenges in coping with her Mother’s depression. I admit, what got me reading this book is its promise of candy fiction – I thought it was a boy harem type comedy like Ouran – and the fact that I liked the previous book of the author gives it a bit of credibility and is less likely to turn into an airhead YA novel. But what got me reading til the very end was its characters – I particularly liked Tara, the headstrong feminist and Thomas, the mischievous yet kindhearted (if you think about it) friend. SPOILER: They get together in the end. It’s freakin’ adorable. END. I liked that it is not one-dimensional focusing merely on romance – it tackled issues on family and friendship as well.
Of course, there were downsides to this novel, particularly Francesca’s man-stealing tendencies (though the “feeling” is mutual and she didn’t know he had a girlfriend in the first place) which I think was added for a bit of “teenage angst” – in lesser levels compared to other angst-worthy happenings in the book – and conflict. I didn’t like it though… and especially when she prays at night to “Please let them break up soon” Whyyyyy.
And so this literary turn off brings me to “The Bad”
Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss
Where do I even begin? I really wanted to read this book… I wanted to buy it, actually, based on positive book reviews. Good thing it was sold out and I didn’t want to wait anymore so I downloaded it online. If I had bought it, it would’ve been a repeat of 13 Little Blue Envelopes.
So it was set in Paris, and the main dilemma is that Anna is feeling miserable because she doesn’t want to study in a boarding school abroad. Oh woe is me, first world problems. It seriously pissing me off which why I am frequently unable to read a YA novel without cringing. There’s seriously an epidemic of first world problems as “conflicts” in YA novels. In a nutshell: not-so-single girl meets not-so-single boy, become attracted to each other, become best friends, break it off with their partners to be together.
And to think I would’ve spent P300+ on this novel.
I don’t know if I’ve outgrown my love for YA, or that most novels in the market today are just… not good. It’s sad, to think that most children/teenagers would read these kinds of novels and be filled with hollow fantasies and superficial expectations in life: especially about relationships.
(I also find it ironic that the two characters Anna and Francesca are “man-stealers” – trying to think of a gentler term but nothing comes to mind – and when the names are combined, they form my name. Crap. Good thing I read these on mobi – there’s a trend that almost all the books I read in my computer are… better off as MB rather than printed. )
Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution
In the midst of poor, mainstream YA literature lies a gem undiscovered. It took a little digging (Literally. I found this behind book in the deepest part of the shelves) but the time spent searching was worth it. Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution is a parallel contemporary-historical novel about Andi, who’s trying to get over the death of her younger brother, Truman, and Alex, a young, poor performer trying to rescue the lost king of France, Louis-Charles. I’ve always been a sucker for historical fiction (and parallels like Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth and Sepulchre), and this one was even set in Paris, which is even better (yes, I am biased). I liked that the protagonists: Andi and Alex, though miserable, were strong and were able to “save themselves” in the end without any guidance from a “prince charming”. The novel fell into the usual YA pitfall of instant love connection though, but it’s not one I find annoying because the way it was written and how it developed was quite sweet (and not vain or shallow). Plus, the novel didn’t revolve around romantic love – it was about Andi’s love for her brother and Alex’s love for the prince and her ward. It was also a novel about strength and courage.
“Why did you do this thing?” he says brokenly. His eyes are bright with tears. “Why did you give your life for nothing? The boy will die. You said so yourself. Now you will, too. And likely myself as well. If the guards get hold of me I am a dead man. And for what? What did you change? The light you made is snuffed out. Hope is trampled upon. This wretched world goes on, as stupid and brutal tomorrow as it was today.”
“Oh, dead man, you’re dead wrong,” I tell him. “The world goes on stupid and brutal, but I do not. Can’t you see? I do not.”
I wish there were more YA novels like this one.
- Carnival of Souls – Melissa Marr
- The Inheritance – Louisa May Alcott
- A Dubious Legacy – Mary Wesley
- Starter for Ten – David Nicholls (Absolutely adored this book! The protagonist, Brian, is probably my spirit animal. We’re the same age and the same… personality. Only he’s awkward, idealistic and neurotic as a college freshman, I’m still the same but I’m now graduating :P)
- The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Another good book!)
- Artistic License – Katie Fforde
- The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger (I know it’s supposed to be about the teenage angst from transitioning from a child into an adult but… well, I have to organize my thoughts about this novel first.)