Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

“I don’t do pity anything. Pity is patronizing. Pity is the assumption of superiority.”

Three normal humans and a demi-god walk into a high school. No, really. In The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Mikey and his friends just want to make it to graduation without the school blowing up from another superhero fight. In a world filled with superhero battles and dangerous bad guys, normal, average, powerless humans are just trying to survive things like Prom, Algebra 1, and getting into college. Mikey wants to turn his best friend into his girlfriend, wants to keep the attractive, mysterious new guy from stealing his spot in the friend group, and wants his mom to maybe calm down with the election campaigns for Senator. Most of all, Mikey just wants to avoid the new uprising of monsters that are mind-controlling the city police and killing super-powered kids (called “indie kids”) like flies and focus on his own problem instead, like his sudden return of OCD that has him washing his hands until they are raw.

Ness’s book takes an inner look at the kids who have to survive superhero catastrophes, knowing there is nothing they can do to help. This book is not about normal kids saving the day. It’s not about the underdog showing his true value by proving his worth in front of the whole town. This story is about one boy coming to terms with his mental health and learning that just because he isn’t going off on a grand adventure, doesn’t mean he isn’t important in the world.

“They’ve all got other lives. Jared’s got all this family stuff, Mel’s dating a doctor, Henna’s going to Africa. And what do I have? I have them. I don’t have anything else.”

Mikey is such a relatable narrator for me because of his self-doubt and anxiety. One of the things Ness did really well is write a character who is scared of turning into his old self and falling back into a boatload of mental health issues. Mikey wants to get better and wants to be better, but he struggles with feeling right in his skin. Even though he’s one of the normal kids, Mikey doesn’t feel normal at all, and more than anything, he wants to be like everybody else (who’s normal). Because of this, Mikey feels sympathetic towards the indie kids, who already have low survival rates and are constantly facing some supernatural challenge on top of everyday puberty and homework.

Overall, this is a cute story with really intriguing characters and a nice sibling relationship. I enjoyed reading the parts in which Mikey and his sisters hang out. Those scenes felt very unique to this book and were fresh to read. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel a strong connection to any of the characters (besides Mikey) or the storyline, but I am glad I read it and would recommend it for a light read that could be finished in a day.

 

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Book Review: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Book Review: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Lisa just wants to get into the second best psychology program in the US. If that’s means using sixteen-year-old, agoraphobic Solomon as her personal project to help her get into her dream school, then that’s what she’ll do. The only problem is once Lisa meets Solomon, she realizes he’s actually a really cool person, and her mission to “fix” him becomes even more imperative than ever. As Lisa and her boyfriend Clark fall deeper into Sol’s life, the question of whether to tell Sol about Lisa’s interest in him and risk ruining their friendship forever or to keep it a secret and let the guilt eat away at Lisa weighs heavy over their shoulders. With all the progress Sol has made towards leaving his home, isn’t it better to put his future in the outside world above an honest friendship?

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Whaley’s latest novel gives an intriguing look into the life of a boy too afraid of the outside world to leave his home and the friendship that might be able to save him. Told by both Sol and Lisa, readers get to glimpse the anxiety behind Sol’s disorder and the reasons Lisa has for befriending Sol under false pretense. Lisa and Sol have both have unique, blunt narrations which give this novel a taste of honesty and a strong voice. Because of this, the novel is a quick read and can be finish in a day easily. Sol is a sympathetic character, but I never pitied him. He was understandable and relatable and an absolute delight! I wish their story had been longer, because I would’ve loved to see more of him. Lisa was harder for me to like, because I wanted her to be honest and upfront with Sol from the beginning, but I could also understand her reasons for lying to Sol.

Whaley does a great job with this book. Highly Illogical Behavior was a breath of fresh air to read, and I look forward to his future novels.

Book Review: A Good Idea by Christina Moracho

Book Review: A Good Idea by Christina Moracho

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Gripping, haunting, and thrilling— these are the three words I’d use to describe A Good Idea by Christina Moracho. Reading this book gave me the same eerie feeling that sitting in my empty apartment during the middle of a thunderstorm gives me, lights flickering, thunder shaking the windows, Wi-Fi signal only showing one bar. Scary. When eighteen-year-old, Finley returns to the rural Maine town that she grew up in the summer after her best friend, Betty, was brutally murdered there by her boyfriend, she’s looking to send Betty’s boyfriend to jail, but she finds that perfect, golden boy Calder Miller walks the streets freely as if nothing had happened. However, it’s not just Calder who’s pretending he didn’t confess to killing Betty. The entire town acts as if she was still alive and had only run away, even Betty’s mother. Finley starts on a dark journey to understand her town’s nonchalance about Betty’s death and to prove that Calder is a murder who deserves to be punished.

This book reads like a Southern Gothic. I only knew as much as Finley, meaning while she believed Calder to be the murder after he confessed to doing so, there were so many other mysterious circumstances arising over town that I wasn’t entirely convinced he did it. Moracho constantly kept me on my toes in suspense, waiting for the real killer to be convicted. Then, when citizens start to sight Betty’s ghost around town, I was convinced she was still alive but in hiding. This story kept me guessing what actually happened to Betty Flynn up till the last few pages. Not only did the spooky setting and apathetic townsfolk keep me on edge, but Finley’s devotion to Betty also kept me feeling on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Moracho forces readers to become involved in this mystery. A Good Idea explores the unchanging ways of small towns and what happens when one girl acts out of the natural order and when one boy, beloved by all, makes sure she never acts out again. This novel will draw you into a world darker than you’ve ever entered before, a world so familiar it feels as if you’ve been here before, a mirror image of something you know so well.

Book Review: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

Book Review: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

Director, writer, and native New Yorker Michael Barakiva debuts his first novel, One Man Guy, a coming-of-age story following an Armenian American boy who experiences falling in love for the first time while dealing with the social struggle of being both Armenian and American. Barakiva writes a comedic, gratifying love story where fourteen-year-old Alex Khederian learns how to love, not just someone else, but his overbearing family and himself. This novel includes:

  • Many mentions of delicious Armenian food
  • Conflicting family pride
  • Sk8er Bois (Avril Lavigne™ 2002)
  • Many old film references
  • A full scale teen movie makeover
  • Free tour of New York City
  • The Most Awkward Parent Meet-&-Greet Ever!!!

Alex is a sweet and intriguing narrator and my heart went out to him on every page. Give this book a try if you want a short, fun, heartfelt New York City Guidebook disguised as a bildungsroman. Plus, come on, guys. Watching a makeover on screen is one thing, but reading one? It is literally one of the greatest scenes in any book I’ve ever read. Read this!!!

Book Review: Sometimes We Tell the Truth by Kim Zarins

Book Review: Sometimes We Tell the Truth by Kim Zarins

“It is a fact universally acknowledged, that a young, unmarried woman is in want of a dolphin.”

In a modern day retelling of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, twenty-two high school seniors sharing a Civics class, their young, hopeful teacher, Mr. Bailey, and a disgruntled bus driver take a class trip to Washington D.C. How does Kim Zarins’ debut novel, Sometimes We Tell the Truth, adapt The Canterbury Tales to a modern day high school field trip? Zarins has each student tell a story and whoever has the best story by the end of the trip will receive an automatic A in the class. Our narrator, Jeff Chaucer, a shy writer, quietly watches the tales unfold while giving readers a glimpse into his own story where he and his ex-best friend haven’t spoken in months and the truth of what happened behind the senior prank gone wrong comes unveiled. In the nine hour bus ride, Jeff is forced to realize that while he may have gone to school with these kids for the last four years, he never really knew them until this day. Zarins does a fantastic job of giving attention to each storyteller throughout this novel, keeping them in character, and keeping each character uniquely their own.

While Zarins is obviously using The Canterbury Tales as a foundation for this story to follow, she pulls from other authors when the students tell their own story, using fanfiction to give each student a voice. Pard uses Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels to tell his own story using DEATH’s character and three original characters to tell the story of his broken friendships and how he was betrayed by his best friend, Jeff. Many of the students put one another in the stories to add familiarity and fun to the storytelling or just to put a classmate in their place. Mari, a writer like Jeff, creates a continuation of Charlotte’s Web where one jock classmate, Rooster, plays a cocky, sex-crazed rooster who almost gets his neck bitten off by a fox because of vanity. Narnia, Harry Potter, and King Arthur’s court all appear as background worlds for some of the stories, giving credit to the stories that influenced these students’ childhoods just as The Canterbury Tales pulls on classic medieval literature.

The number of characters does make it difficult to keep track of who’s who at first. That’s why Zarins includes a Dramatis Personae at the beginning of the novel with detailed descriptions of each student. This novel is hilarious, distinctive, and a treasure to read. Each character pops out of the page, but most importantly, Sometimes We Tell the Truth has saved me from ever having to read The Canterbury Tales!

“I’m going to write this whole thing. I’m going to write everyone’s stories and make a novel of it. A NOVEl. Not just the stories, but everything. The interruptions, the bickering, the coffee breaks. It’s going to be about loneliness and finding each others’ truths on the slant through the stories they tell. It’s going to be about lies and big reveals and how we shuffle and deal the cards and bet our souls away. It’s going to be about EVERYTHING.”

Book Review: the princess saves herself in this one by amanda lovelace

The Princess Saves Herself in This One is Amanda Lovelace’s debut poetry collection. This powerful collection follows the transformation of one woman coming into her own body. Divided into four sections, these poems follow a princess turned damsel turned queen, and finally conclude in the last section titled “You.” The Princess tells the story of a powerless girl in an abusive family who has to come to terms with her childhood. Many of these poems follow the harmful relationship between the mother and daughter and the impact of beauty standards on children.

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This above poem is an excerpt from the Princess section and follows the burning of the Princess’ childhood home. This poem reminds me of my own childhood and feeling like a stranger in my own skin. Lovelace captures the complicated relationship between the body and our self with which we constantly struggle. This poem also makes it okay to not feel at home in your own skin, though, which is something I wish I’d known at thirteen.

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This poem is from the Damsel section and addresses the Damsel’s complex relationship with her verbally abusive mother and how she comes to terms with her mother’s terminal cancer. Although the Damsel doesn’t give us a positive opinion of her mother in the first part of the collection, Lovelace was able to make me understand why this relationship is so complicated. The Damsel may have been mistreated by her mother, but she still loves her mother deeply. With her mother coming closer to death, the Damsel’s own existence feels debatable. Lovelace begs the painful question of how can a mother forget her own daughter’s name? How can any sickness take the love a mother is supposed to show towards her children (as complicated and harmful as it may be) and erase it? This stood out to me as one of the most painful and touching poems in the entire collection because of the questions I had after reading it.

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As someone who graduated two months ago with an English degree, this poem was the biggest relief to read. I mean, seriously, this poem felt amazing to read and summed up my feelings towards anyone asking about my future plans, which, I DON’T KNOW!!!! It also released a waterfall in my Little Writer Heart that kicked my Writer Drought out of the house until it can come back with Writer Rent. Seriously, this poem gave me such a feeling of momentary calm and relief in the middle of the summer in which I’m trying to figure out my entire life.

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This last poem is from the last section of the collection, the “You” section. While all of the poems in the collection so far had been following the narrator through her changing roles as she grew up and had to overcome obstacles, these poems feel like Lovelace wrote them for the reader. They are literally for you, and this one particularly felt directed at me. This poem is the reason I write, the reason I read. Writing is dirty and hard work, but when you’ve finish your work, you come through the other side of summer with a beautiful garden where you can enjoy the sweet fruit of your labors. Lovelace gives you a reason to keep writing (or painting or developing software tech. or teaching kids in a school, whatever it is you may do).

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“Some days getting up seemed like a bigger commitment than I was ready for.”

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life? More like the inexplicable logic of the feels this book gave me. Once again Benjamin Alire Sáenz has graced the literary world with a new book that left me crying in my bed at 2AM. The story follows seventeen year old Salvador Silva in his senior year of high school as he tries to understand the violent outbursts he starts having and how it might be connected to his birth father who he had never met. Adopted into a Mexican-American family after his mother’s death when he was three and raised by a gay father, Sal grows up in a loving and tightknit family. Like Sáenz’s past novels, the story is character driven and follows the emotional struggle of the main character and his friend’s rather than giving an elaborate plot. Sal must learn how to be a person on his own and also accept that people won’t always be around no matter how much he loves them.

Sal’s caring family is contrasted by his best friend Samantha’s family: an absent father and a mother who is constantly out with boyfriends. Sal also befriends Fito, the hardworking son of a drug addict who is trying to get enough money for college so he can leave home for good (and honestly deserves so much better). Both Fito and Sam are ambitious, hilarious, smart side characters who weave their way into the hearts of readers and don’t for a second believe themselves to be anything but the main characters of this story. Together they teach Sal that family is not just blood but heart and soul.

Sal’s dad, Vincente Silva, is also undergoing a change as his mother gets terminal cancer and an old love comes back into his life. While Sal’s heart is willing to love everyone he meets, Vincente’s has built a protective shelter around it over the years and he must learn to let go of one love and let in another if he ever wants to be truly happy. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a love story through and through, following the men of one family as they come into themselves and let themselves love and be loved.

If I were a poet

I would write a poem

that would make the oceans

clean again.

I would write a poem

so pure that it would rain for days

and when the skies were clear again,

a million stars would fill the summer nights.

I would write a poem to make the people see

guns are guns and unworthy of our love.

I would write a poem to make

all the bullets disappear.