Archive for September, 2010

BBW: Speak

As you all know, we are nearing the end of Banned Books Week.  It went so fast and I am sad that it will be over soon.  Of course, just because the week will end doesn’t mean we should stop paying attention to banned books.  Unfortunately books are challenged and banned all the time.  On the bright side, thanks to the internet and social media the book loving populace is able to stay on top of these heinous crimes.  I’m posting specifically today, Thursday, because I signed a blog post on some website that now I can’t remember.  I wish I had written it down or emailed it to myself that way I could link back to the site, but woe is me.  Anyways, I promised that I would do a post today about a banned book.

I thought really hard about what book I wanted to blog about and originally I was going to blog about Lauren Myracle’s TTYL, but Forever Young Adult covered that one pretty well and I was afraid that I’d unconsciously steal stuff that they said.  Then I decided that even though everyone’s been talking about it lately, I really wanted to blog about Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  (Don’t worry Jen, I don’t think I can really spoil this book for you, so feel free to keep reading)

I don’t remember exactly when I read Speak, but I do remember that I was most definitely in high school.  So I like to think that I got my hands on the book relatively soon after it was published.  I have since reread Speak a few times, the most recent time probably 2 or 3 years ago.  Now, I am not a big crier when it comes to sad things.  I do not cry during sad movies when beloved animals die, etc.  I even got through the entire book Where the Red Fern Grows without shedding a tear, which according to my neighbor at the time was impossible.  I am more the kind of person to cry during times of intense happiness – like at the end of Rookie of the Year or when they do the house reveal during Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  Am I weird because of this?  Probably.

But I did cry while reading Speak.  A lot.  Not because of what happened to Melinda, but because of how everyone treated her afterwards.  Nobody knew what she had been through, but nobody reached out to her when it was obvious that she was deeply depressed.  I cried out of frustration for Melinda that instead of being concerned for her, they were all pissed at her for not talking.  Why couldn’t they tell that something was VERY WRONG?  I’ll be honest.  I had a pretty idyllic childhood (I include up to age 18 in childhood).  Nothing bad really ever happened to me.  I was never beaten up, never abused, never raped, etc.  I can’t claim that Speak saved my life the way some people can.  I just can’t relate to Melinda’s situation very well because it never happened to me.  Regardless, Speak is one of the books that had the most profound effects on me.

Because I read this book, I know a little bit of what rape is about.  I will never EVER claim that I know what it’s like to be raped, so please don’t think that is what I’m trying to say.  When I read a book, I can be very emotionally invested in the book.  How invested depends on a combination of the subject matter and the author.  Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the best authors I’ve ever read.  Hands down.  Her words haunt me long after I’ve put her books down.  I’m so thankful for her because she tackles unpleasant topics and forces us to react to them.  I’d like to think that because of Anderson (and other authors) I am more empathetic towards other people whose situations I wouldn’t otherwise really understand.

I get so angry and disgusted when I think of the man down in Missouri trying to ban Speak.  He called the rape bits, soft core porn.  To say that rape is a form of porn is to imply that it is a fantasy.  No woman fantasizes about being raped.  A fantasy is something you enjoy.  Rape is sex against someone’s will – therefore THEY ARE NOT ENJOYING  IT.  Rape is a nightmare.  Not a fantasy.  This man, Scroggins (whose name I dearly hope will somehow be turned into some terrible meaning.  I’ve been reading all over the internet about this.  I want it to happen), is either dilusional or a very sick man.  That he wants to keep people from reading this book is reprehensible.  How else would he rather young adults learn about rape?  Hopefully not first hand.

We go to school and read from books to learn things.  Math books, history books, spelling books.  Why is a story book any different?  Instead of learning about the founding of our country, we’re learning what it would be like to be poor, or homosexual, or abused, or a movie star, or even an awkward princess.  Why is that such a bad thing?

I truly don’t think it’s right to keep anybody- children, teenagers, adults, ANYBODY- from reading “questionable” books.  I don’t even think that it’s right for a parent to tell their own child that he or she can’t read a certain book.  I do recognize that a parent has the right to restrict reading material.  I still don’t think it’s right.  Wouldn’t it be so much better if that parent would just read the book along with their child and then discuss the issues?  My parents never took a book out of my hands (unless it was past my bedtime or at the dinner table, and that was for the obvious reasons) and for that I owe them much thanks.  Sure they never read anything that I was reading or discussed it with me, but at least they didn’t say I couldn’t read it.  When I’m a parent, I fully intend on reading everything my children read and if the issues are important we’re going to discuss them.

Books are what got me through my childhood, especially my “tween” and teenage years.  Up above I said that I had an idyllic childhood and I really do remember it to be pretty good.  But that doesn’t mean it was perfect.  Sure, nobody ever put a hand to me, but I was verbally torn down almost every school day of junior high.  For two years I absolutely hated my life.  I wanted to be home schooled but both my parents worked full time and it wasn’t an option.  I had no friends.  I had acquaintances, sure.  I even went to a few sleepovers.  But were those girls my friends?  No.  They talked behind my back (I know this because they kept a notebook and “accidentally” let me see it.  It was full of passages of how ugly I was and how no one liked me) and made me feel like I was worthless.  The only reason I stuck around them was because they were the only ones who let me sit at their lunch table.  I got into extracurricular activities for the sole reason of being able to ride the late bus home.  Everyone on my bus hated me so much that there were multiple times when I rode to school and home in the middle of the aisle on the floor (OK, now that I think about it, no one did lay a hand on me, but I was physically KICKED out of my bus seat by a girl once – I never got close to her ever again), and the times that I did score a bus seat by myself, I would get home and find lollipops and gum stuck in my hair and my bookbag soaked by pop (I put this down as partially my fault because I should have been paying more attention to my environments – it’s not like I didn’t know they hated me).

But you know what?  I got through all that crap.  You know how?  I would get home, feel sad for a few minutes while I cleaned my books and pulled gunk out my hair, then I would go read a book and I’d either have someone else to feel sorry for because their situation was so much worse than mine or I would get pulled into a surreal fantasy world where I could battle dragons or be friends with giants.  If I didn’t have books to pull me out of my own reality, I would have grown up to be a much different individual.  I would probably be a mean, unhappy person who hated other people.  But I’m not.  And it’s all because of books (OK, and my family.  They get SOME credit too).  Lucky for me that I made it to high school where most people got nicer and I found friends and I didn’t have to rely so heavily upon books for my happiness.

So when I see people trying to stop other people from reading, it makes me want to lock them up and force them to live through the kinds of situations that the books they are trying to ban teach others about.  It makes me want to climb onto a dragon’s back and pull a banner behind me that tells people to READ READ READ!  It makes me want to grab all my favorite books that helped me through difficult times and shove them into people’s hands and say “READ THIS NOW!”

I’m so grateful that we have books like Speak, and authors like Laurie Halse Anderson who not only write about the darker things in life, but are willing to stand up against book banners for people, like the under-18 populace, who need these books.

Speak loudly everyone.  Make sure that the public can hear you.  We will not have our books taken away from us.  We will not be told what is proper to read or write.  We will not have our basic rights stripped from us.  Ours is a country where freedom of speech and the press is our right.  Book banners are unpatriotic people who will ultimately cause our fall if we allow them to succeed in their mission.

Lindsay

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The Beautiful Between: A Review

I recently picked up a book from the library – The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel.  Liz B over at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy reviewed it a few weeks ago and it piqued my interest.  I guess I kind of forgot what Liz B had said in her review, because I was totally expecting a paranormal story.  I just reread the review and though she doesn’t come out and say it’s not paranormal, she does say there are no ghosts or vampires (so of course that means it’s about witches and vampires, right??).  To be honest, I was about halfway through the book and I was still waiting for the main character, Connelly, to be all SURPRISE MY MOM IS A WITCH YO!

It finally dawned on me that, no, there is nothing supernatural in this book.  I think it took so long for me to figure this out because Connelly kept describing how she thought of her school in fairy tale terms, like how Jeremy Cole was the crown prince, the popular people were the royalty, the others were just the townspeople hoping to be given an audience with the royals (i.e. hoping to sit with the popular kids at lunch).  Also Connelly would talk about her imagined fairy godmother who would walk home from school with her and help her to fall asleep.  That and she tended to think of herself as Rapunzel – not a princess, but still a fairy tale character.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, especially since I found out that Jen likes to go blindly into books.  So I won’t tell you how Connelly and Jeremy become friends or even why.  I will tell you however, that this book is beautiful in a very quiet way.  In rereading Liz B’s review, she says that this book is in the best way quiet.  And honestly as soon as I finished this book, the first thing that I thought was that this book was so quietly beautiful.  It sounds like a weird way to describe a book, but truthfully I think it’s the best way.  I only wish I could have gone into this book blindly so that I could have appreciated it sooner.  If I hadn’t been waiting for a witch or something to pop out at me I think I would have liked the book even more.  I blame myself for that one.

As for the characters – I wish I could insert myself into the book so that I could be Connelly’s friend.  She really reminds me of my high school friend Jessica – friendly, quiet, not exactly outgoing, but game for anything.  The kind of person that makes an awesome friend.  Plus we totally could have hung out together while we read books and sat around wrapped in blankets and drinking hot chocolate.  Connelly never actually does this in the book, but you just know she totally does it off the page.

Jeremy seemed like a nice guy, but at the same time I feel like he’d be really hard to befriend.  He’s kind of like Connelly in that he’s friendly to everyone, but he’s more outgoing.  That’s why Connelly sees him as the prince.  Everyone likes him not just because his family is one of the most affluent in NYC, but because he’s genuinely nice to everyone.  Not that that means he’s friends with everyone – he’s very selective of his friends.  I get the feeling that he chooses his friends with a purpose (or maybe that’s because we only see his friendship with Connelly).  I get the sense that he’s actually only real friends with Connelly and his little sister, Kate.

Speaking of Kate, she’s not in this book too much.  Sometimes I felt like some of the interaction between Kate and Connelly seemed a bit forced, but I feel weird saying that because Kate wasn’t your regular 12 year old little sister.  And even though I felt some of the dialogue sounded weird, I still really loved Kate.  I wish there had been more Kate in the book.

To close out this review, I am going to take a stab at a casting call like the gals over at FYA (the best YA site EVER).

Connelly:  When I was describing Connelly I said that she reminded me of my high school friend, Jessica.  That made me think of a House episode a few years ago where a girl was overweight even though she exercised all the time and took diet pills and it turned out it was like a tumor or something.  Anyways, that girl’s name was Jessica and in my head I went, hey that’s kind of what Connelly looks like in my head.  So I googled House and Jessica and it turns out that it was Jennifer Stone!  I love Jennifer Stone in Wizards of Waverly Place!  I didn’t love her in that horrible Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars movie, but that wasn’t her fault!  Did you hear me Jennifer?!  In my head there is no Blog Wars movie, I won’t hold it against you.  It wasn’t your fault the movie was so terrible!  As I was saying, I love Jennifer Stone as Harper on WoWP.  She’s so crazy and funny, but I think she could be a really good Connelly too.  Jennifer’s a terrific actress.

Jeremy Cole: Ok, I totally know that William Moseley is British and maybe a bit too old to play a 16/17 year old.  But when I try to picture this gentlemanly and princely teenager who is cute and awesome, I picture Peter Pevensie.  So there you get William Moseley.  I would replace this picture with another one because now that I’ve got it up his face looks a little strange, but I like his expression.  It says “You totally want to be my friend because I’m awesome and even though I just said I was awesome I’m still humble” or something like that.

Have you read The Beautiful Between?  What are your thoughts?

<3, lindsay

A New Entry For My “Best Books Ever” Tag on LibraryThing

I have been reading a lot of books lately, and most of them don’t make any impact on me whatsoever because it is all “same old, same old, I’ve read it all before” type of stuff. Ugh. Then I picked up a book (rather reluctantly) and it proceeded to totally move me and affect me in ways that I still can’t quite comprehend.

I usually try to read most of the new Junior Fiction and YA books that come into the library. This is possible because I don’t buy a whole lot with my tiny budget and also I can read pretty fast. So I checked out Keeper by Kathi Appelt just because I check out all the new books. I didn’t really want to read it because I am terrified of her previous book The Underneath. I will admit that I haven’t read it, but I have been warned that a lot of animals get hurt and it would make me cry buckets of tears. (And I know that it is probably a beautifully written book that totally deserved the Newbery Honor, but I don’t care). That is all I need to know to keep me away. So of course I was nervous to read Keeper, because there is a dog and a seagull right there on the cover. Warning! Warning!! This was another animal book!!!! But I had read the review, and it didn’t mention anything about disturbing treatment of animals, so I approached it with caution.

Wow, I am so glad that I gave it a chance because this book is phenomenally wonderful. I can’t even put into words how fantastic it is, but I am going to clumsily try to describe why I like it. First of all, the writing is so poetic and beautiful. There are repeated phrases throughout that almost make it feel like a novel in verse at times. I could really see and feel everything the characters were going through, which I consider a solid victory on Ms. Appelt’s part since I know nothing about the area of Texas where it takes place.

The basic premise of the book is that a young girl, Keeper, sets out in a tiny boat with her dog in the middle of the night to find her mother, who she believes is a mermaid. She is looking for her mom because in one short day, she has managed to disappoint and piss off everyone that she loves in some way or another.

I loved how the book starts out with that scene and works backwards to let us know the catastrophic events of the day. I kept thinking, “man, what did she do to make everyone so mad??” Then I had to know what was going to happen to her, because I cared so much about all of the characters. We get a chance to see the world through each of the characters’ (even the animals) perspectives, which is another thing I really loved. I especially loved seeing into the world of the two dogs and Captain, the seagull.

And I just want to say randomly, that Keeper has some of the most real, honest, and beautiful portrayals of love that I have ever seen. I don’t think I’ve read anything in a long time that comes close to what Keeper accomplishes in that arena.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot of the book because it is much better to experience it page by page, like opening a present very slowly to heighten the excitement of the final reveal. (Sidenote: for this reason I never EVER read the inside flap of books before I start them. I have usually read a review, but most of the time only remember vague details from them. I literally like to go into a book knowing nothing. Whoever writes those inside flap thingys doesn’t know the concept of spoilers.)

So please, go read this book!!! I recommended it to one of my coworkers at the library and she adored it! I was happy that she also understood that this book is really special. I feel like it is a priceless treasure hiding amongst all the generic crap out there right now, just waiting to be discovered.

Jen