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The Joy Luck Club, The Maytrees, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and Part of Possession…


 

Cover of "The Maytrees: A Novel"

Cover of The Maytrees: A Novel

 

Arggh I’m tired today. It’s finals week and everyone is annoying and all I want to do is watch the Borgias until my eyeballs fall out BUT I have posted in over two weeks, so I felt like I should at least TRY to be a good blogger and, you know, actually post once in a while…

 

1. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan was a great book that I just finished. Just the write length, well-written without being overblown or flowery, populated by believable, (mainly) sympathetic characters, and definitely deserving of the love that’s been heaped upon it over the years. Tan captures the misunderstandings and annoyances between mother and daughters perfectly, as well as the lighter times. Her vision of two generations of Chinese-American women is perfectly realized and written with such refreshing elegance and assurance.

 

2. The Maytrees by Annie Dillard was one that I just finished and wasn’t quite so crazy about. While I loved Dillard’s evocative imagery and note-perfect descriptions of the ocean, I couldn’t get past her over-reliance on alliterations (seriously, sometimes enough is enough…) and the often foggy and under-developed motivations of her characters. Without giving much away plot-wise (I personally am never interested in long plot descriptions in reviews), I’ll just say that she seems to set the reader up for one set of events before completely turning them all on their head in a way that I frankly found unbelievable and incongruous. The characters also bothered me in that they never seemed to DO much of anything. Sure, there was a lot of staring at the sea and pondering the nature of love, but come on, can’t they work a little bit too…? Or just do something that could be construed as useful…? Overall, this book had moments of lovely writing marred by half-baked and maddening characters.

 

3. I read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey for my English class, and I ended up really liking it, though I just can’t say I ever really LOVED it. (Unlike The Grapes of Wrath or The Great Gatsby for instance…) I really don’t know why, I just never fully connected with the character of McMurphy, and I think without that, the book just lost a little bit of its pull for me. Great message though, obviously (basically, stick it to the Man!), and well-written/constructed.

 

4. Possession by A.S. Byatt doesn’t really count, sicne I just started it and am only about 50 pages in, but it is SO GOOD. Really, SO SO GOOD. Every time I read it I literally feel like I’m being swept away into another time and place. (Okay, maybe not literally). Byatt’s writing is almost insanely brilliant and incredibly versatile. AHH better get back to reading it!

 

 

Matched, One Day, The Film Club, The Crucible, AND Play It As It Lays…


 

Cover of "The Film Club: A Memoir"

Cover of The Film Club: A Memoir

 

I don’t know why, but for some reason, I keep reading such odd combinations of books. For example, in the last two weeks, I’ve read Matched by Ally Condie, One Day by David Nicholls, The Film Club by David Gilmour, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and Play It As It Lays by Joan Didian. Each of them are INCREDIBLY different from the others, but they were all (pretty much) very good. So, without further ado…

 

Matched was a nice, fast-paced weekend read, the kind of thing that doesn’t take too much time or brainpower but nevertheless leaves you feeling satisfied. What bothered me about it, though, was that the plot just seemed to done. I mean, how many YA writers can put a twist on the old free-thinking-teen-rebels-against-his/her-dystopian-government plotline. I like these books as much as the next person, but only when they differ enough from this stale formula to chart new territory and not just feel like a tired rehashing of the same events. Compounding my annoyance at the book was its sassy girl/nice guy/bad boy love triangle that frankly, just felt like a tepid redo of the whole Katniss/Peeta/Gale storyline in The Hunger Games. I loved that series, but the downside of its crazy popularity is that now so many YA writers are sticking straight to its formula without adding enough twists and surprises of their own to keep things fresh. Okay, rant over.

 

• I just finished One Day last night and I have to say, it ENTIRELY lived up to the hype. It was glorious. Funny and realistic and interesting and sad, I completely believed the two main characters and their messily imperfect lives. Telling the story through yearly snapshots of Dexter and Emma’s lives on the anniversary of the day they met was an ingenious way to present the character’s lives and pique the reader’s interest throughout the story (“Ooh, can’t wait to see how this turns out next year…”) All in all, a great big fun romantic story with a heartbreaker of an ending.

 

The Film Club was another great book. A memoir of sorts about the years that Gilmour allowed his son Jesse to drop out of school as long as he watched three movies each week, this book surprised me in its smooth, assured style and the startling depth of its insights about family, love, and, of course, movies.

 

• We just finished reading The Crucible in school, and while I liked it, I can’t say I loved it. I tend to find highly subtextual novels somewhat exhausting, with their thinly-veiled references and wink-wink-nudge-nudge cleverness, and with this one, I just kept feeling like I was being hit over the head with its hidden agenda. But this one’s a classic, so that might just be me…

 

• Since I read The Year of Magical Thinking a while back, I’d forgotten how stark and bone-dry Didion’s writing can be. But Play It As It Lays brought it all back. Each sentence felt like it was trying to suck the moisture out of the air, the writing was that dry. I really respect Didion’s control over her work, and her obvious talent at creating tone and atmosphere, but when a books feels like Death Valley translated into novel form, it can be a bit of a trial to read.

 

So many good books this week! And so many more on the horizon! I just started The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner…Let’s hope the stay as good as they are now!

 

 

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