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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Beginnings, or, Alice Hoffman, Elizabeth Scott, and Carson McCullers


My very first blog post ever. How exciting!

First of all, just some basic facts about me: My name is Hanna and I’m fifteen years old, a sophomore in high school. I love drawing, writing, and I read CONSTANTLY. There isn’t really any genre I stick to, and I’m always finding interesting books all across the board in terms of subject, theme, etc…Basically, I just love reading books, talking about them, writing about them…(Do you get that I’m a bit obsessed here?)

A few years ago, I had the terrible realization that, unless I wrote a list of everything I read down, there was no way I would ever remember it. From there sprung the book journal, a large spiral-bound notebook in which I’ve written down the name of every book I’ve read since, along with some notes about what I thought of it, any overall observations, what have you.

So then I had the idea of starting a blog, which I figure will essentially be a more durable version of my good old book journal, where I can access the titles of every book I’ve read at the simple touch of a button. (Ahh…technology.)

I’ve never been the sort of person who’s been able to keep a diary, or anything like that. Maybe I just don’t have the stick-to-it-iveness (staying power?) to write down what I’ve done each and every day. Or maybe it’s just that every day of my life doesn’t seem interesting enough to document. I mean, really, how much variation and heart-pounding excitement do you find talking about school? (“And then I walked to English class…”) But, what I have found, because of the book journal, is that I CAN consistently write if it’s about books. Books are unique, and interesting, and thought-provoking, and I always have an opinion about them (even if that opinion isn’t exactly favorable.)

imagesFor example, I just finished “The Story Sisters,” by Alice Hoffman, which is her most recent and also the darkest of all the books of hers that I’ve read. It follows the mostly tragic lives of three generations of Story women, grandmother Natalia, mother Annie, and daughters Elv (short for Elizabeth), Meg, and Claire. When they are young, the girls are extremely close, sleeping in the same room and even inventing their own language. But then, Elv stumbles into the most dangerous of traps (forgive the corny phrasing)…adolescence  (duh duh DUH…) In short order, she’s embroiled in a world of sex, drugs, and black clothing, talking back to her mother and fashioning jewelry for herself out of bird bones. Her rebellion paves the way for all sorts of tragedy to befall the family. Untimely death, self-destruction, addiction, illness, betrayal…all come into play in this semi-exhausting saga of familial strife. I think Alice Hoffman is a great writer, and she certainly knows how to tell an engrossing story, but with this one, I found myself getting more and more annoyed. In her previous books (I especially enjoyed “Blackbird House” and “Practical Magic”) there was enough of her signature magical realism to keep the drama from being over-powering. This fragile balance was nicely maintained in the beginning of “The Story Sisters” but about half-way through I felt as though she got fed up with all the fantasy and decided to become Jodi Picoult or something. There were moral dilemmas, there were fraught mother-daughter relationships…was I reading “My Sister’s Keeper”? (Not that I think there’s anything wrong with Jodi Picoult or “My Sister’s Keeper” by the way; it’s just that that sort of thing isn’t what I would expect or want from Hoffman.)

love_you_hate_you_miss_youMore rewarding was the Young Adult book “Love You Miss You Hate You” by Elizabeth Scott, who I think is just FABULOUS. I’ve got to admit, one reason why I love her book so much has all to do with her guy characters. In this latest one it was Patrick, in “Stealing Heaven” it was Greg…I seriously don’t know how she manages to make these characters so appealing and wonderful and non-generic (if that’s even a word.) But that’s not the only reason why her books are so good. She’s also a fantastic writer, never wordy or overly into exposition, but always 100% authentic and relatable. She also knows how to handle her drama (thinly veiled dig.) “LYHYMY” has it’s fair share of angst and heartache (I mean, how could it not, it’s about teenagers…), but it NEVER veers into melodrama or comes across as anything less than honest and compelling. Definite thumbs up for Elizabeth Scott!

20070601122139243Lastly, as a side-note, I’ve been reading Carson McCullers’s “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter,” which seriously deserves its status as a classic. Coming from someone like me, who has not had much luck connecting with classic literature (cough*Wuthering Heights*cough cough), this is high praise. Her characters are so diverse and finely wrought, I feel like I’ve walked around in the head of each one, like they live in my town, or something. I think this is because she addresses such universal themes: loneliness, the need for connection, and how we both seek and find friendship in the most unlikely people. I haven’t finished it yet, but what a beginning! Can’t wait to see what’s next…

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