Friday, 24 February 2012

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

This is book is like one of those movies where at the beginning you're like OMG this character is a !#@$%!$ but at the end you're like OMG this guy is awesome. The path from one to the other is achieved with Melina Marchetta flair and gorgeous writing style.

A sequel to Saving Francesca, this book is a grown up version of that one, in every sense of the word. For starters, it's about Thomas Mackee, and they're all university age. He's also got much more serious problems, like drug addiction, and immense grief over his uncle who has recentletc. The book switches perspective between him and his aunt, Georgie. She's dealing with being pregnant by a man who is her on and off boyfriend. To complicate things, he has a child by another woman that she has to come to terms with. So: definitely more grown up topics here!

Okay, I'll say it: I found the beginning very depressing. I know that the book was set up so at the beginning they were miserable and at the end they were all happy, but the first bit of the book just felt a little heavy. The change was more gradual in this book than in Francesca, mostly because they started off so much more messed up than Francesca did. Speaking of Francesca, I really liked how she was brought back- it was nice to see her character all grown up after I spent so much time in her head! The jokes and snarky comments are similar to Francesca, but it's not quite as funny. The best thing about this book is how both Thomas and Georgie start out with nothing and end up with a loving community. Good book, but a tearjerker!

If you loved this book, you'll like:

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Men of Stone by Gayle Friesen
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Paper Towns by John Green
Janey's Girl by Gayle Friesen
Losing Forever by Gayle Friesen
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Friday, 17 February 2012

The Beckoners by Carrie Mac

I don't think anyone can honestly say they've never seen someone being bullied or teased. That's why this book is so important- it addresses the issues right at the heart of bullying. When Zoe, the main character, moves to a new town, she is accepted into an infamous group of girls called the Beckoners. (They're named after the leader of the group, Beck) Soon she's smoking with them, partying with them, and pranking with them. She doesn't really set out to be in the most popular clique; she just wants to fit in. But she's uncomfortable bullying the Beckoners' most frequent target: April, or Dog, as she is called. She wants out of the Beckoners group, but she can't imagine the consequences of her actions.

Now, I'll admit it: the writing in this book isn't fantastic. Especially in the beginning, I felt like 'wow, that probably should've been said a different way'. (I am a picky reader, though, if you hadn't noticed:) However, I've never seen a book capture bullying in such a perceptive and unflinching way. How it starts off small, and then escalates. Why bystanders are afraid to do anything. The motives of the bullies themselves. And why it is that it's so hard to stand up for someone else. Like Zoe, at the beginning of the book, I thought, 'Well, the bullying is pretty bad, but no one could really make a difference. No point in two people getting bullied. Besides, she is kind of bringing on herself.' But by the end of the book, I was absolutely sickened. I actually couldn't get to sleep because my mind kept replaying the scene at the park. This book definitely left an impact.

There are some great things to be discussed in this book. Some I already mentioned, but others include child abuse, neglect, religion, homosexuality, and rape (though very minor). I really like how the characters are multifaceted: April isn't totally innocent; she's very homophobic and does certain things that encourage the bullies. Zoe, of course, is like any normal person: flip flopping between the lure of popularity and blaming April for her own fate, and realizing that she needs to stand up for both herself and April. Even Beck has many sides; is it really her fault she ended up being so power hungry?

After reading this book, I will never look at any case of bullying, however small it might seem to be, the same ever again.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

The best thing about this book is that it's written in poetry. It's nothing like huge Shakespeare sonnets,  but even nonbibliophiles will appreciate how the author artistically arranges her phrases. What I love is that the first page of a new viewpoint (this book has four characters and the perspectives switch) has a hidden message running down the single words at the side. It's hard to explain without seeing the book, but when you read it you'll know what I mean. This book is so beautifully written, I ended up reading bits over again just to soak in the meaning. It addresses a plethora of issues: anorexia, modeling, homosexuality, alcohol addiction, cheating, suicide, drug abuse, high expectations. BUT- before you freak out- the book doesn't feel like it's about these issues with some characters thrown in, it feels like the story of four teenagers' lives and their problems. This book is more, ah, optimistic than a few other teenage problem books I've read. It talks a lot about outer beauty vs. inner beauty, love, and finding a place in the world. Which all sounds very cliche, I know, but trust me, this is definitely worth a read.

A quick plot summary: Cara's brother (Conner, who is featured in the book Impulse) has recently attempted suicide, throwing doubts into her mind about her parents. Her mother pushes her to be an overachiever and to be 'perfect' (hence the title of the book) by any means, without really caring how Cara feels. Cara's boyfriend, Sean, takes steroids to get a sports scholarship to Stanford, where he knows Cara is going. His life revolves around her and he wants to marry her someday, and he goes of the deep end majorly when things don't work out the way he wanted them to. Kendra is missing love in her life since Conner broke up with her. She desperately wants to become a model and will do whatever it takes to reach her dreams- plastic surgery, not eating, taking pills. Andre is a dancer whose parents also put pressure on him to go to a good university and go a more conventional route. He falls in love with Jenna, Kendra's sister. Jenna is, quite simply, a train wreck. She's not anorexic, but she's always drunk and flirts to get what she wants (attention and alcohol). The changing viewpoint is never confusing, as it is in many books; it just builds the book in a very three-dimensional (or four-dimensional:) way.

If you loved this book, you'll like:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Life is Funny by E.R. Frank
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Skud by Dennis Foon
Ms. Zephyr's Notebook by KC Dyer