fiction

Glass – Ellen Hopkins

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Glass is the sequel to Ellen Hopkins’ well-known book Crank, which is loosely based on her daughter’s addiction to meth. You can read my review here. 

This book picks up where the last one left off – Kristina is back home and living with her mom and Scott, two siblings, and her baby, Hunter. Kristina is a new mom, with no high school diploma, no job, and a little baby weight. She decides to take the dangerous plunge back into the hands of the “monster” so she can keep up with Hunter and lose some weight. This turns out to be a devastating mistake. Kristina/Bree gets kicked out by her mom and moves in with her dealer, Brad, and his 2 daughters. After deciding that she can no longer work for her perv of a manager at the Seven Eleven, Kristina quits and becomes a full-time nanny, and a part-time dealer. She has lost her baby to her mother and she is looking to any guy that comes along to fill the hole left by her family.

Kristina meets and falls in love with Trey, another user and dealer who is a part-time lover and full-time douchebag. But Kristina can’t see past the crystal to realize that he isn’t good for her. She looks to Brad for comfort instead when Trey is off at school. The more lonely Kristina gets, the more she smokes and plays with “the monster.”

I thought this book was much darker than the first. Kristina isn’t just experiencing meth for the first time like in Crank. This time, she knows how dangerous it is, but decides to do it anyway. This is detrimental to her health, her life, and her family. Hopkins paints an excellent picture of what happens when you let drugs take over your life and how it affects other people. Since this was loosely based on her own daughter’s struggle with addiction, I can only imagine the turmoil Hopkins must have went through, seeing her daughter’s spiral downward like that and having to raise her grandson.

I most admire Hopkins’ ability to get inside the head of her character and imagine what she must be feeling and how she’s treated by the men in her life but still unable to see it for herself. She knows doing the drug is bad, but she fails to see how swept up in it she really is. At one point she says something like, “I’ll never be like Robyn, with sores all over my face. I’ll never let it get that bad,” but towards the end, she notices the sores on her own face and everyone who loves her can barely recognize her. She has become the person inside that she’s been fighting with all along – Bree.

I think if you struggle or have struggled with addiction, this series might be too much of a trigger for you. If you have never experienced this firsthand, or if you have someone you love struggling with addiction, this book gives great insight into understanding why someone would continue to play with “the monster.”

4/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

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I saw the trailer for the movie based on this book and I knew I wanted to read the book first. My friend at work finished it and gave it to me. I started and finished it in less than a week. It’s an easy, light read – something I needed after my last book The Orphan’s Tale .

Madeline Whittier is not your average 18 year old girl. She like to read, organize her books, talk to friends online – does that not sound average? Oh wait – she can’t leave her house. She has an autoimmune disease that basically means if she leaves her house, her body “explodes”. She is allergic to the world and has accepted that fact – until she meets the boy next door.

Olly is an average teenage boy – with an aggressive, alcoholic father. Olly and Madeline (Maddy) start chatting via IM. I remember doing this with boys I was interested in as a pre-teen/teenager and it was so exciting at the time. Waiting around to see if anyone would log on, opening a chat message as soon as they did, learning all the lingo – LOL, BRB, TTYL. Maddy and Olly use this form of communication so that they can talk but keep it a secret from Maddy’s overprotective mother. I don’t want to give too much more away at this point.

I really liked this book not only for the story, but also because of the short “book reviews” Maddy writes. In between chapters, Maddy gives a short, one sentence review of a certain book she is reading at the time. One example is her review of The Lord of the Flies: “Spoiler alert: Boys are savages” (34). There are also drawing and handwritten notes throughout like a journal (by Maddy.) I felt like I could relate to Maddy because she likes to read and one of her favorite books is Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, which is one of my favorites as well! She’s also got a very protective mother (check!) and she likes to write book reviews (like this one!).

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone, especially if they like YA.

5/5

The Orphan’s Tale – Pam Jenoff

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I was really excited to read this book. I found it while browsing Barnes and Noble once and I had put it on my Goodreads list right away. However, it was slightly disappointing. I felt like it was a bit of a rip-off from Water for Elephants. The story itself was different, and not a love story like Elephants, but it was a circus theme and one of the main characters who did not grow up in the circus, learns to live the circus life, much like Elephants.

The story is set in World War II in Europe (I think Germany is where it starts). The chapters flip back and forth between first person accounts from Noa and Astrid. Noa is a 16 year old girl who’s just been sent away by her family for getting pregnant by a German (Nazi) soldier. She stays at a girl’s home, but her baby was immediately taken away from her after it is born. While working at a train station, she hears what sounds like babies crying in a seemingly empty boxcar. Turns out, it is full of dying/dead babies and Noa feels compelled to save just one if she can’t save them all. In order to save the baby and not get caught, Noa abandons her job at the train station and stumbles upon a traveling circus. This is where she meets Astrid.

Astrid is an older woman who’s lived in a circus all her life as a trapeze aerialist. Astrid has a big secret – she is a Jew. Herr Neuhoff, the master, hides Astrid in his circus in exchange for her talents as an aerialist. Astrid is in a relationship with one of the other main acts of the show, a clown named Peter. When Noa arrives, Astrid’s world is rocked. She doesn’t want to help Noa at all and under Herr Neuhoff’s command, begrudgingly trains Noa to become an aerialist.

I feel like this novel was a bit darker than I expected. There are a lot of tense scenes where Astrid and Noa are escaping Nazis or nearly falling from the trapeze. The scene with the dead and dying babies in the boxcar was quite heart-wrenching. The author stated in the back of the book that she had to “put [her] own children on that train” in order to make it seem real and devastating. I found Noa to be quite brave for her age, because at 16, I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to escape with a baby and be on the run all alone.

While the book did pick up the pace towards the end, the beginning was quite rough for me. That’s why I’ve gone so long between posts because I couldn’t get into this book right up until the end. I think if you haven’t read Water for Elephants yet, you may find this book more engaging than I did.

2/5

 

The Danish Girl – David Ebershoff

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I’d been wanting to read this book ever since I saw the trailer for the movie with Eddie Redmayne playing Einer/Lili. Right from the start, we find out that Einer Wegener likes to cross-dress as Lili, a name his wife called him when he would pose for her paintings. Even though we know early on that Einer likes to pretend to be a woman, it still takes him quite awhile to discover that he is really Lili on the inside, and not just on the outside.

Greta and Einer are married and both are professional painters. Greta sort of wears the pants in the family; she is the initiator of the relationship. She is the one who asked Einer out and who first accepted Einer’s cross-dressing as Lili in public. I really respect Greta because she has to go through a lot as Einer’s wife. She goes on outings with Lili and sees other men flirting with her and even kissing her. I know I would not have been as accepting as Greta if I had to see my husband transform like that. Yet Greta keeps Einer’s secret until it starts to become detrimental to his health.

The story of Lili Elbe is a true one; Lili Elbe was the first known transgender person to have sexual reassignment surgery. One of the doctors in the book wrote off Einer’s feelings as homosexual. Another doctor thought the best treatment plan was a lobotomy–which just seems horrific nowadays because we know all of the horrible side-effects. But one doctor, Professor Bolk, finally decides to let Lili blossom, and suggests sexual reassignment surgery.

I don’t want to dive into the ethical/moral stigmas surrounding transgender issues, but I would like to focus on the writing for a bit. I felt like the author, David Ebershoff, wrote a lot of Einer/Lili’s feelings from experience. I did read on his personal website, http://www.ebershoff.com, that Ebershoff is gay and has been named as one of the 100 most influential LGBTQ people by Out magazine twice. This would explain his ability to understand just a little bit of the situation Lili faces and the reactions of the people in her life.

As readers, we are taken into the mind of Einer/Lili and we clearly see how sad and tormented Einer is about living a double life. We are also given Greta’s perspective as the wife of a man who is slowly becoming a woman before her eyes. I’m glad this was written from third person point of view, so we can see both sides.

I liked this book because it gave me a new perspective about transgender issues and because it’s historical fiction–which I love!

4/5

 

Crank – Ellen Hopkins

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I couldn’t put this book down. I bought it from Goodwill a few weeks ago for like a buck. Sometimes I like to have a quick read right after I finish a book that has taken me awhile to get through. It breaks up the monotony a little bit.

Hopkins wrote this book as a tribute to her daughter–who was addicted to “crank” or meth. There is a sequel called Glass so I’m not sure what happens to her daughter yet. I’ll definitely be reading that when I have time. The book is written in poem format–each “chapter” is a different poem, but they flow in chronological order and it’s not so abstract that you don’t know what she’s talking about. I’m not one for poetry most of the time, but I liked the way she did this one. It was a way to tell a very sad story in a very creative way.

The book is written from the point of view of the daughter–Kristina, or as she likes to call herself when she is high–Bree. For the sake of clarity, I’ll call her Bree. Bree is your typical 16 year old girl who stays out of trouble most of the time, but then she goes to stay with her father for the summer, who is an addict. She meets a guy named Adam, who introduces her to the monster. The monster is what Bree calls meth. When she returns home to her mother and stepfather’s house, she is heartbroken over having to leave Adam, and she has no access to the monster.  The rest of the story is about Bree going to any lengths to find crank and will hang out/do anything with anyone who will give it to her. This eventually leads to her downward spiral–details I won’t reveal.

As I said before, I really liked the format of this book. It breaks up your typical novel and your eyes dart all over the page, much like Bree’s probably do when she is high on the monster. As someone who has never tried drugs, I’ve always wondered why someone would want to do them in the first place–what is the attraction? I thought Hopkins did a nice job of depicting the attraction–the high highs of meth, while also portraying the crashes and burns of coming off a high. We also see the desperate need for more and more, and the effects it has on Bree’s relationships with everyone around her.

I thought this was an excellent book, especially for impressionable teenagers and high school teachers. I also think if you liked Thirteen Reasons Why, this might be a good read for you as well.

5/5

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

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I have to be honest, I didn’t much like this book. I felt like it had the same sort of idea (or reminded me of Flowers for Algernon, which is one of my favorite books–so I had a hard time liking this one. I do think it was well researched and you could tell it was clearly written from experience, as I believe Haddon worked with special needs children. (I could be wrong).

The story is told from the point of view of the main character–Christopher Boone, who is on the autism spectrum. He is a 15 year old boy who find his neighbor’s dog dead from a pitch-fork wound. The story begins with his narration of finding the dog and also his detective work to find out who did it. The book is written in sort of a diary format, so each day is titled with the next prime number in sequence, because Christopher loves math. That’s one of the reasons I disliked the book, because he’s good at math so there are a lot of complicated algorithms and math problems that he depicts in his story–most of which I don’t understand. But maybe that’s the point–Christopher doesn’t always understand social norms or puns, but he does understand things that are logical that most people can’t.

The majority of the book is about his complicated relationship with his parents, who are divorced. Christopher lives with his father, who is just trying to keep it together after his wife apparently died. Christopher and his father are more like roommates–his father feeds him but they don’t really do much together so Christopher is alone most of the time, which he prefers.

I liked the fact that this story was told from the perspective of an autistic teenager. I felt like it gave me a glimpse into his mind and what kinds of things he likes and dislikes. There wasn’t always a reason given behind why he didn’t like something–like the color yellow; however, he clearly spelled out the reactions he would have to things he disliked.

2.5/5

The Light Between Oceans-M.L. Stedman

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I was really excited to read this book because the movie looked really good. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I know by the book that it’s going to be sad! I felt like Bilbo Baggins reading this book, “I feel like butter that’s been spread over too much bread”. In other words, I felt like the story was a great concept, but it was stretched out and didn’t have enough plot points to drive it home. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it, and thought it was well researched and written. But there are only so many ways that you can say, A couple living in a lighthouse finds a baby washed ashore and they torment themselves over what to do.

Tom Sherbourne returns from the war to Australia. He finds a job as a lightkeeper, which is perfect job for him because he’s an independent man, not wanting for much. One of the previous lightkeepers suggests to him that he find a wife or he might go mad out there alone. This is sort of foreshadowing—Tom is just fine when he’s by himself, but once he and his wife find the baby washed ashore with her father’s dead body, they slowly begin to go crazy with worry, fear, and guilt.

Tom’s wife, Isabel, has suffered so many miscarriages and one stillbirth. They’ve all but given up their dream of having a child, when they find the baby they come to call Lucy. Isabel begs Tom to keep her, despite his better judgement.

This is when the book starts to stretch and tug too tight over the conflict. I think the author did a very thorough job of detailing all the emotions Isabel and Tom experience while having Lucy in their possession—on the one hand, they want keep her for their own, but Tom knows in his heart that he needs to tell someone ashore.

The real plot twist comes when they go ashore for the first time since finding Lucy, when she’s about 2 years old. They learn of Hannah Roennfeldt, a woman stricken with grief over losing her husband and 3 week old baby. They were never found. I won’t give anything else away, but it does have an interesting ending.

I wish this novel had more plot twists in it—I think it would have held my interest better. Instead, the author focused more on details and the emotions of the characters. It’s not bad, just different. I’m interested in watching the movie and seeing if it stays true to the book.

2.5/5