Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon is a lovely, unique young adult novel about a girl who has SCIDs or “bubble baby disease”. Yoon tells this coming of age story in a way that is oddly realistic despite the uncommon subject matter. I enjoyed it thoroughly and wasn’t at all irritated by the dialog. Everything Everything is smart, absorbing, and makes you think about human nature and what we are capable of when it comes to protecting ourselves and the ones we love.
This book is what I get for picking up a book from the library without having done any research on it or reading the first chapter. It was rough. The main character was consistently immature and lashing out in bizarre temper tantrums for no reason but was written like the author thought it was how cool girl behave. Acting entitled because her mom died years ago and because she wasn’t the cookie cutter kind of girl in her home town. Basically just all around annoying. Also she was creepy obsessed with this guy, planning their future together after barely dating, but he seemed to be okay with it. I however was very uncomfortable. I felt like the author had never been a teenager or spent any time with them. Book 33 Making the Run by Heather Henson was a bust for me.
This book, swoon. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is an curious tale (and it very much so is a tale) about a family, a few murders, a village, and the cruelty of people. Jackson has woven a paradoxical world that is both beautifully complex and yet still so childlike and simplistic. Sisters Mary Katherine and Constance, as well their Uncle Julian and cat Jonas, live hidden away in a fortress of a home right outside of a village after the unfortunate poisoning of four of their family members. The sisters and their uncle live stunted lives in the wake of what has happened, somewhere between fear of the torment they receive from the villagers and whimsical magic they have created for themselves in their castle. Dark and enchanting, you are pulled into their lives and can’t help but adore every minute of it. One of my favorites of the year so far.
This was a kidney punch of a book, my goodness. Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates is a tale of the aftermath of a brutal gang rape in a small town, in the perspective of a cop, the prosecutor, the rapists, and Bethel (the daughter of the woman who was raped and who was also present at the attack). The reader actually becomes Bethel in certain sections, as if these parts are a letter to her. This book made me feel so many things; disgust with the victim blaming, frustration with the justice system, gut-wrenching pain for the mother and daughter who’s lives were destroyed. Joyce Carol Oates wrote this complex story in such a simple way which made each detail even more haunting and chilling.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was an accidental library check out, I had intended and thought I was getting a different book but since I’m already behind schedule and can’t afford to loose a day I just went with it. This is a “self-help”/motivational book about how to better live a creative life. Now I’ve never read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert before, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how likable she is. Her tone throughout the book was relaxed and casual, the more I read the more I wanted to be friends with her. There were so many moments and stories she told that made me legit laugh out loud. Her overall message was that of positivity, love, and how everything in life isn’t so serious so just relax a little and enjoy life and creating. Most of what she had to say in this book I supported except one minor part that rubbed me a little wrong. Towards the end of the book there was section in which she spoke about this “tortured artist” mentality people have where they think great art can only come from struggle and pain. I was still with her at this point because great art can come from struggle and pain but that isn’t the only way to get great art. Where she lost me was when she went on to say that people sometimes take drugs with the hope of becoming addicted, fake addictions, end up as suicidal casualties because of their creative process, and how they refuse to (for lack of a better saying) pull themselves up by their bootstraps because they think being an artist means you have to have terrible behavior (rude, antisocial, manipulative, selfish). I felt myself almost recoil as I read this. Are there some people who have been dealt a lovely hand of cards by life but choose to fake mental disorders, addictions, and reasons to be pitied? Yeah sure, but I am very certain that is a very rare minority of artists. Famous “tortured” artists who had addictions, mental health issues, or committed suicide are much more likely to have genuinely had those situations and couldn’t get help they needed rather than to have fabricated them. I get the thought that suffering produces remarkable art, suffering is a pure emotion that allows your eyes to be opened to the world around you without rose colored glasses. If you have suffered it is easier to tap into real and accurate emotions for your art, but that isn’t the only way. Mental illness and addiction are incredibly serious, life long battles that most people who experience them would gladly give up if they could. This issue I had with the point she made didn’t ruin the whole book or anything, but it did sully it up a little.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is a young adult novel about 17 year old Lennie, and her family, in the aftermath of the sudden death of her older sister Bailey. This is a wonderfully honest story. Besides unrealistic dialog, my issue with a lot of YA books is that it feels like a mindless dumbed down story but The Sky is Everywhere is nothing of the sort. It was both beautifully, as well as smartly, written. Jandy Nelson made me cry, warmed my heart, and made me laugh out loud. Lennie’s unbearably pure grief for her sister was palpable at times. Nelson executed the gut wrenching, agonizing pain of grief mixed with the anger so deep-seeded that it burns under your skin, in such perfect and heartbreaking manner that is almost standing ovation worthy. This book was a lovely and accurate portrayal of how messy and confusing a thing grief is.