The Hate U Give- A Review

IMG_9837I didn’t really have any expectations about The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas going into it. I’d heard good things about it, but then I often hear good things about books I end up hating.

My Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) YA book club picked this book for October, so when I couldn’t get it from the library (I was #63 on both the audiobook and print edition), I decided to just buy it from Amazon.

I loved it. I freaking loved it.

It’s a hard book to read at times. Starr is 16, living in a poor neighborhood with other black kids, where crime is common. Her parents sent her to a predominantly white school so that she can have a better education. Because of this, Starr straddles two worlds. One where she talks slang and gives attitude, and one where she pronounces her words properly and doesn’t raise her voice so no one thinks she’s the “angry black girl.”

When Starr’s friend Khalil is shot and killed in front of her during a routine traffic stop, Starr has to figure out how to make her voice heard and navigate her anger with the police, and by extension, all white people who make assumptions about what happened.

Starr’s uncle is a cop, and her feelings about police officers become confused. On one hand, she’s afraid of what could happen to her or her other friends. On the other hand, she loves her uncle, who says that the cop who shot her friend is an “okay guy.”

This is a book that could have been preachy, but it wasn’t. Though Ms. Thomas clearly has a statement to make about police shootings of young black men, it’s presented as Starr trying to make sense of her feelings and understand both points of view.

I read a lot of articles by people expressing anger over police shootings, but I don’t think I fully understood their point of view. This book helped me get inside of it and see the despair, fear, and anger that people feel in reaction to these shootings.

No issue is black and white, and anytime I can more fully understand the shades of gray, I appreciate it.

If you haven’t read this book, definitely check it out.

Have you read it? What did you think?

 

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Backwards Bookshelves… Why??

Have you heard about the latest trend? Backwards bookshelves. It’s where you take your lovely books and turn them around so the spine doesn’t show.

Some proponents of the idea say it’s “simple” and “clean” and “beautiful.”

I say it doesn’t make sense.

I’m a practical person. I like using items for the purpose for which they were intended. I sit in chairs. I eat with forks. And I read books.

I’m not saying these items can never be used in a decorative or interesting way. But turning books backwards seems to relegate them solely to a decorative purpose. And that makes my heart sad.

The whole reason I love my bookshelves is so that my books are displayed and I can find what I want. When I’m not sure what I want to read, I browse the shelves, looking at the interesting spines with their multitude of shapes, colors, and the continuum of wear.

Turning them the other way washes out their individuality. Each book could be the same as the one beside it.

Decorator trends are best left in magazines.

I’m going to keep my books right side out.

Would you ever do this?

My Crazy, Bookish Adventure Weekend

Some people are going to read this post and be like, “Book stuff isn’t an adventure.” If you’re one of those people, this post might not be for you.

For those of you who are like, “Books? Tell me more!” read on.

Always Raining Here

My bookish weekend started on Friday when I finally got my copies of Always Raining Here.

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It’s a webcomic that ran from 2012- 2016, a story about two teenage boys’ quest for love. (Okay, it didn’t start out as a quest for love… but they’re teenage boys!) I’ve been waiting for these books for awhile, so it was a nice surprise to finally get them.

The Texas Teen Book Festival

Saturday was the Texas Teen Book Festival with a few authors I’d heard of, and many more who were new to me. The authors sat on panels such as “You + Me = Fate” and talked about themes in their books, writing process, the importance of diversity in books, and other interesting topics.

Though I could have bought these books cheaper elsewhere, I bought a bunch at the festival for a few reasons.

  1. It’s important to support other authors. One day I hope to make a living from people buying my books.
  2. They’re signed! Signed books are always better!
  3. If I don’t buy them immediately, I put them on a list and forget that I really wanted to read them.

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(I’ve already read When Dimple Met Rishi, and it was lovely.)

The Library Sale!

I love the sale at my local library. Not only are books cheap, but I love used books. Part of it is that I just love owning things that other people owned, that have wear marks and maybe writing in them. The other part of it is that I’m conscious about waste, so when I can buy used, I feel good about my purchasing decisions.

I went for the YA/ children’s books first, and was immediately perplexed. Instead of stacking the books so the titles could be read, they looked like this:

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My apologies for the blurry picture. Please don’t tell my husband… he’d be appalled.

Why would you stack books so that you can’t see the spine?? It’s incomprehensible to me, and reminds me of that weird backwards bookshelf trend (which will be the subject of Friday’s blog… stay tuned).

From there, I moved into the main room with all the other books. I was briefly distracted by a copy of The Annotated Alice, an annotated version of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland from 1960. I actually own the exact book that was being sold, but I don’t have much willpower when it comes to Alice in Wonderland. I want to own multiple copies of every version of this book ever made.

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Yeah, I don’t understand it either. Moving on.

I acquired some great finds, including an old Stephen King anthology with “Rage,” a rare short story that King himself asked to be pulled off the shelves.

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The leather-bound book is a copy of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. Now, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have bought this book, except that someone had put it with the religion books. I know volunteers run library sales, and someone just put it there because it looked like it belonged, but it made me laugh, so I had to buy it.

I bought Girl On A Train because it sounded better than The Girl On the Train, which I disliked, though everyone else seemed to think it was great.

There was also a book I spotted called, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.” This raised so many questions for me. Is there also a “Manly Art of Breastfeeding”? Is the implication that someone isn’t womanly if they don’t breastfeed? What if I don’t have children? Should I breastfeed other people’s children in order to be more womanly?

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I didn’t buy that one though. I figured someone else needed tips on being womanly more than I did.

Did you have any bookish adventures this weekend?

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In Celebration of Banned Books Week

I keep a list of the most banned books hung up and highlight them as I read them.

I love Banned Books Week, a week devoted to increasing awareness of the freedom to read.

My views on this haven’t changed that much over time. I believe only in self-censorship: the ability of oneself or one’s guardian to decide what should be read. To be clear, I mean that a child’s parents should be able to decide what he or she reads, but not that a single child’s parents should be able to decide what everyone else is reading. Books should challenge us, make us think, sometimes offend us or present ideas we’re not ready for. Because that’s how growth happens.

My parents let me read anything I wanted growing up. They never told me I shouldn’t read something or worried about content. I was exposed to all kinds of interesting ideas, which I believe has made me open-minded and interested in a variety of things. And almost impossible to offend.

I remember that one time, as a teenager, I was reading some novel about a serial killer. (I’ve always been a bit obsessed with serial killers.) And in the book, murder and mayhem never bothered me. But there was a particularly graphic sex scene that grossed me out. So I abandoned that book and moved on to something else.

I’m sure there would have been other kids my age who were fine with the sex scene, but would be bothered by murder. Just because a particular topic wasn’t appropriate for me doesn’t mean that it wasn’t appropriate for someone else. And just because I read about murder with nary a nightmare, doesn’t mean every teen should read that stuff. I’ve also always hated books with any kind of cruelty to animals. (Yes, I realize it’s fiction… but I don’t even like thinking about it.)

Censorship and banning books basically mean that a particular book is appropriate for no one, which I find difficult to believe. It’s a way of imposing the beliefs of the censor on everyone. The thing I love most about people is our endless variety of thought and belief.

Interestingly, a lot of the most frequently challenged books are the ones that tend to be most meaningful. If a book is important and has something meaningful to say, someone is going to be offended by it.

Here’s a link to a list of the most banned/ challenged books of 2000- 2009.

Of the books most challenged in 2016, I’ve only read Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. (Wonderful book, BTW). In celebration of this year’s banned book week, I’m going to read Looking for Alaska, by John Green, challenged for “a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to ‘sexual experimentation.'” Because kids can’t find anything they want to know about sex on the internet, right?

Censorship and the suppression of reading materials are rarely about family values and almost always about controlabout who is
snapping the whip, who is saying no, and who is saying go…

Yet when books are run out of school classrooms and even out of school libraries as a result of this idea… I tell kids… Don’t get mad, get even. Don’t spend time waving signs or carrying petitions around the neighborhood. Instead, run, don’t walk, to the nearest nonschool library or to the local bookstore and get whatever it was that they banned. Read whatever they’re trying to keep out of your eyes and your brain, because that’s exactly what you need to know.

-Stephen King

What’s your favorite banned/ challenged book? Are you reading anything in honor of the week?

Related Posts:

Words Have Power

Don’t Ban Eleanor & Park

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Can Genre Fiction Be As Life Changing As Literary Fiction?

IMG_8384Awhile back, I read The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. The concept is intriguing. A book apothecary recommends books to “cure” people of their ills. Of course, there’s more to the book than that, but that’s the part that’s relevant to this discussion. I looked up some of the books he recommended, and they sounded like literary fiction to me.

What is literary fiction? you ask.

Good question. According to Wikipedia (but this is essentially the answer I’ve seen everywhere):

Literary fiction comprises fictional works that hold literary merit; that is, they involve social commentary, or political criticism, or focus on the human condition. Literary fiction is deliberately written in dialogue with existing works, created with the above aims in mind and is focused more on themes than on plot, and it is common for literary fiction to be taught and discussed in schools and universities.

Literary fiction is usually contrasted with popular, commercial, or genre fiction. Some have described the difference between them in terms of analyzing reality (literary) rather than escaping reality (popular). The contrast between these two subsets of fiction is controversial among critics and scholars. Source: Wikipedia

So, in a nutshell, it’s about analysis vs. escape. I like some literary fiction. And I like lots and lots of genre fiction. I think that, in general, the analysis vs. escape definition fits.

So it got me to thinking if genre fiction ever crosses that line into analysis, and if genre fiction can be as life changing as literary fiction.

I would argue that it can. And in fact, I think young adult fiction tends to do a lot of that.

I realize this is a bold assertion. After all, there are pages and pages dedicated to either people saying “I love YA and won’t apologize for it” and “Adults should be ashamed of reading books made for kids.” Honestly, both sides of the argument are compelling.

But I think that YA is uniquely appropriate for analyzing reality. After all, before they learn that they don’t know everything, many teens are amateur philosophers, solving all the world’s problems. I don’t miss the arrogance and self-centeredness of that time (and I was), but I miss the feeling of having all the answers. Teens are passionate about issues because they haven’t gotten to the point where they realize they don’t have time to be passionate about everything they care about. They don’t know how to pick their battles.

I’m not trying to say that all YA books analyze reality, or even reflect it in any meaningful way. But the ones that do can promote some good discussions and make me think about the nature of reality.

6 Genre Books That Explore Complex Issues

  1. This Savage Song/ Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab: Discusses the nature of responsibility for one’s actions, and that actions have consequences. (genre: dystopian YA)
  2. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes: This was a controversial book because of the way it portrayed one of the main characters, Will. Will became quadriplegic because of an accident, and is also suicidal. While I understand the concerns associated with this book, I loved it because it explores the nature of self-determination, and an individual’s right to choose. (genre: romance)
  3. And The Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich: Explores the nature of grief and loss, and how our choices can imprison us (genre: YA horror)
  4. Six Months, Three Days, by Charlie Jane Anders: Explores the nature of choice and fate. (genre: science fiction novella)
  5. All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven: The main characters struggle with suicidal ideation and depression, and this book looks at how that can manifest for different people, and that sometimes there are no good “reasons.” (genre: YA)
  6. The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis: Looks at themes of vigilante justice, self-protection, friendship, and how actions can have unexpected consequences. (genre: YA)

Have you ever had a genre book impact your life? What book would you “prescribe” to others?

 

Death Note, Not Really A Horror Movie

imagesLast night, the husband and I were looking for something to watch on Netflix, and we came across this interesting looking “horror movie: called Death Note. The premise is that a teenage boy, Light (yes, that’s his name), comes across a leather journal labeled “Death Note.” In the book, there are a list of rules, but what it all boils down to is that if he writes down the name of the person while holding their face his his mind, they die. He can even pick the method.

He starts with the school bully. (That’s not a spoiler. If you couldn’t see that a million miles away, then this is probably the first movie you’ve ever watched.) Ryuk, presumably the creature who orchestrates the killings, appears to him and goads him into killing more people.

Sounds pretty cool, right? It’s apparently based on manga of the same name, and people who reviewed this vs. the manga on imdb.com said that the creators got most everything wrong.

I haven’t read the manga, but the story felt off to me. The whole time I was watching it, I wanted to like it. But it was too much like bad TV movie instead of the quality I’ve come to expect from Netflix originals. Even worse, the premise was fantastic, and I saw how it could have been great.

What I didn’t like (SPOILERS below):

  1. It turned into a bad cop show. Now, I love cop shows. But this was supposed to be a horror movie. It was like a caricature, with the nameless “secret” detective not only believing that a single person could be responsible for the deaths of 400 people, but then figuring it out that it’s a teenage boy. Yes, Light has people leave his “signature” at their death scenes, but the police never heard of copycat crime?
  2. No real exploration of human nature. The kid starts killing bad people, starting with the bully and then the guy who was responsible for his mother’s death. Which is totally understandable. Light starts dating this girl who’s obsessed with death. At first they’re just killing bad people: rapists and murderers. But when detectives start getting too close to them, Mia wants to kill the detectives and Light doesn’t. This could have been such an interesting storyline, but they just left it flat. Light was the good guy, Mia was the bad guy. Black and white.
  3. The book falls from the sky. The first scene of the movie is that a storm rolls in, and the Death Note literally falls from the sky. Literally falls from the sky. Light picks it up and becomes the “keeper.” This is the dumbest way it could have happened to get the book. Off the top of my head, I can think of many better ways for this to happen. It’s too deus ex machina for me. But at least the opening scene set the stage for how the rest of the movie would go.
  4. Light never wonders what happened to the last keeper(s) of the book. Ryuk alludes several times the previous keepers, but Light doesn’t seem to pick up on it. Ryuk says only the keeper can hold the book for more than 7 days. And that Light can either give the book away, or Ryuk can find a new keeper. But the way he said it made me wonder if the last one died, and how.
  5.  I love when music blends seamlessly into the background, enhancing the mood. This didn’t do that. It led to that caricature-like atmosphere I mentioned before.
  6. The ending was ambiguous. I like ambiguous endings, when appropriate. The ending of Inception was cool because it wasn’t lazy storytelling; it was part of the story. In this case, how it ended would change the message of the entire movie. I understand why the writers did it; to leave it open to the audience to determine, like a commentary on human nature. But the rest of the story didn’t do a good enough job of this to have it end this way.

One thing I really liked:

Other than the premise, the one thing I really liked about this show was the fact that people started worshipping “Kira,” the entity who took credit for the killings. Criminals started turning themselves in to police, instead of waiting for Kira to kill them where they were. I found those two things believable and interesting.

In conclusion:

Overall, it was interesting to watch once. I wouldn’t have been as disappointed by it as I was if it didn’t have such great potential. It’s just that I like when horror explores human nature, and this was a let-down.

5 Things Friday

It’s been a busy month for me, and while I have a lot of great ideas for posts, I don’t have the energy to do them justice right now. So, instead of skipping today, I thought I’d do a fast and fun five things Friday. (It’s apparently a thing.)

One

What I’m Reading

Because I tend to reach for things I’ve already read when life gets stressful, I just finished rereading The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

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Two

What I’m Writing

I’m just about to start seriously editing the last novel I wrote, Not Dead Enough, a YA thriller about a teenager whose boyfriend died in a car accident. But when she starts getting messages from someone claiming to be him, she has to question if she’s being stalked, or if he’s somehow communicating with her.

I’m also writing a novel tentatively called The Cycle about a woman whose children get taken into foster care. She grew up in foster care and group homes. The story is told with dual timelines of her at 13 and 22. Actually, that’s probably what made me think about The Language of Flowers.

Three

What I Read This Week

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, which I rated 4 stars on Goodreads

Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin, which I rated 4 stars on Goodreads

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, which I rated 4 stars on Goodreads

Four

When I Wasn’t Reading

I was writing, chauffeuring my two sick cats to the veterinarian, finishing some touch up work on the bathroom I painted awhile back, and walking the dog.

Five

Favorite Picture of the Week

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This greedy squirrel is pretty much constantly eating. One of my cats loves watching him, and we call her a “TV addict.”

What have you been doing this week?

 

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