James Breakwell Vs. John Green

First of all let’s define who James Breakwell because thanks to Tumblr/Youtube/Fault in Our Stars I am pretty sure everyone knows who John Green. James Breakwell is a father of four who tweets what his children say (@XplodingUnicorn). He’s a pretty popular guy and I was introduced to him by the wonderful people of Pinterest who screen shot his tweets and then pin them. I just recently got into Twitter and so I started following James and I haven’t regretted it yet. He’s a funny guy who has a great Twitter presence unlike some people who aren’t original and just retweet stuff all the time, oh yeah…that’s me. When I heard James was publishing a book I was like “cool for you” and didn’t think much of it. Just recently however James started a competition where if you pre-order his book by August 1st and tweet it to him he will put your name into a drawing to have a conversation with him. I don’t know why, maybe the fact I have no social life and spend all my time reading tweets by some middle aged dude about his little family of four, but for some reason I really wanted to enter this competition so I pre-ordered James’ book.

What does of any of this have to do with John Green? Well James’ book comes out the same day as John Green’s new novel Turtles all the Way Down (I honestly don’t know if this is the title nor I do I really care enough to look it up). I dislike John Green’s pitiful attempts at writing a young adult novel. He has a great Youtube channel: Crashcourse in History. It’s fun and I’ve watched it several times in some of my classes (high school and college). John is a great guy he just cannot write a young adult novel. However, I cannot lie…I did like Fault in Our Stars. Out of the four books he has written he got lucky one time. I have read three of his books, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and Fault in Our Stars. I couldn’t bring myself to read another one of his books so I never did read An Abundance of Katherine’s, though I did have a friend named Katherine read that one and she didn’t like it.

I read Paper Towns when I was in middle school. It was new and a requirement for book club. Well, not really a requirement but if I read it and ten other books I would get a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble. B&N! B&N people! I would have read the dictionary cover to cover to get a gift card to B&N. I actually have a twenty dollar limit when I go there because I would spend a $100 on four books and not regret it. Anyways back to how dumb the ending to Paper Towns was. I actually liked the plot but then I got to the end and it left me so angry it didn’t matter whether or not the plot was good because without a solid ending it just left me empty. As an author you cannot create this really strong plot and send these kids on an epic road trip and just have it fizzle out at the end because there really is no climax just a sad bunch of kids and disappointed readers.

The book that would have turned me off from John Green permanently, and did, was Looking for Alaska. If I had read this book before I read any of his other books I wouldn’t have read Paper Towns or Fault in Our Stars. I HATED Looking for Alaska. First of all, the characters were flat, boring, not likable and just frustrating. The main character made me want to punch all prepubescent boys in the crotch. He was sad, whiny and really just needed to grow up. Don’t even get me started on Alaska. She was a tease of the worst kind. She didn’t deserve to die and that is not a spoiler because the whole book is a countdown and you know it is coming. In fact I didn’t even finish the book because by the time I got to that point I was so done, I just quite. Why is Pudge looking for Alaska, I don’t know because she isn’t worth it; you are too young to know what love is and you all suck as characters!

Fun fact: I read this class for a book club in college. Half my book club liked, the other half hated it and one kid just walked out when the yelling match started.

The point of this story is that James Breakwell is a great guy and even though I haven’t read his book yet and it’s not YA, I know it will still be better than anything John Green will write. So pre-order his book instead and help support a family man instead of a middle aged man who thinks he can write about teenagers.

-A

Thirteen Reasons Why: Book vs. Netflix Original

I read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher when I was in eighth grade. All I remember was that it was a good book and I liked it a lot. It was recommended to me by a friend and it quickly went through my group of friends. We were all vivacious readers who were constantly throwing (and sometimes we quite literally threw) books at each other and telling each other to read them.  When I heard Netflix was making an original series I was super pumped as were some friends of mine from school who loved the book as much as I did.

29844228.jpg

However, as with any book to TV adaptation I am wary. I thought it interesting that Netflix chose to do a show because I have been saying for years, and Tumblr users agree with me, that books should be adapted into shows because there is much more room for play instead of trying to cram everything into a two hour time period. That all being said I was excited to see what Netflix would do because they have been doing great things since they started streaming, which let me tell you was pretty crappy when it first started. All they had was B movies and maybe just maybe a few good movies. In fact when my dad first signed up for streaming he hated it, thought it was a waste of money and got rid of it. It wasn’t until we moved, bought a smart TV and decided satellite was too expensive that we looked into streaming. BEST decision ever! Of course watching the entire season five of Supernatural in one Saturday was probably not the best decision I ever made, but eh. I digress.

I decided that in order to fully appreciate the Netflix adaptation I needed to reread Jay Asher’s novel and decided to order the tenth anniversary deluxe edition because it came with all these extras plus the original ending, which I’m not sure if it makes the novel complete or not. Personally I don’t think it does because this books main theme is suicide and Clay realizing that he missed all the signs. If Hannah Baker had lived (sorry that is a somewhat spoiler as to the original ending) it wouldn’t have the same impact. Clay didn’t know the real Hannah. Despite the fact that he liked her and wanted to know her, he didn’t put in the time and effort to know her.

There is a lot of grumbling out there on the internet about this book and the TV show. In fact before the TV show was a thing I am sure not a lot of Americans had even heard of this book, so why suddenly do they care? People don’t read and it is only when it is on a screen will they pay attention. I recommend reading the book first if you want to watch Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s really for one main difference between book and show and that is Hannah’s means of suicide. She doesn’t slit her wrists in a bathtub. She takes pills. She explains it all in the tapes, but of course Netflix couldn’t have her falling asleep and never waking up. It had to be dramatic because that is what keeps people’s attention these days. Gore, violence, and sex are what keep people glued to their screens and that’s all Netflix needs from you. Don’t get me wrong I love Netflix but I am not blind as to what they are doing. If you look at any Netflix original there will be sex, and there will be violence of some kind (with the exception of Kimmy Schmidt but they have ways of keeping you coming back to that show even, only three more days!).

I’ve only watched two episodes so far, so maybe you’ll write me off because I don’t know what I am talking about but I’ve watched enough and maybe I will finish and maybe I won’t. This book is not glorifying suicide and I don’t think the show is either. Not that I would recommend this book to someone who is suicidal rather I would read it to better understand suicide. Sometimes the warning signs can all be there and yet we simply ignore them because that person cannot possibly be suicidal. I bet if I told any of my friends in eighth grade I had thought about killing myself none of them would have taken it seriously. Sure they would have listened and advised me but I don’t think any of them could have seen me do it (I don’t want to kill myself but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it). The point of this novel is to show that you cannot really ever know someone and that the snowball effect is real. Don’t ignore the signs either. Clay ignored them, Tony ignored them, everyone in Hannah’s life ignored them and she killed herself.

One other thing. This book is marketed towards teens. That’s right adults that keep weighing in and sharing your opinion. You are not the target audience. I read this book when I was fourteen years old. FOURTEEN, not FORTY! Yes, you are entitled to have an opinion but the young adults that read this book understand it because it is written about them, to them and has characters they can understand. Don’t pretend you understand teen angst and what teens go through. Maybe you do because at one time you were a teen so why do I read such comments as “Hannah Baker could have handled her suicide better”. Excuse me?! “Handled” her suicide better? How could she have handled it better? She was a sophomore in high school. She moved to that town and thought she could start over. Yet, due to one stupid list and one extremely stupid high school boy a reputation was created that Hannah could not escape from.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a good book. It gives teen suicide a face and a name. It does not glorify suicide in any way rather it just tells a story. You literally have to take it and leave it. It’s the story of a girl who killed herself and wanted those who hurt her to know they hurt her. I’m not saying she was justified in her actions, but she did what she did. She truly did reach out, she tried everyone she could to help her and they all just turned away. So before you claim this show (and potentially the show does) so before you claim the book glorifies suicide think about the fact that Hannah did reach out. She looked for a reason not to end her life. She didn’t find one. Next time you see someone hurting give them a reason not to.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

-A

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

I listened to this book on cd and I highly recommend doing that because of the different letters and voices. I honestly just grabbed this book because I had seen it before but I had no idea what it really was about and I was pleasantly surprised. I love WWII fiction but I don’t read a lot of post-war fiction that reflects back on the past. This story focuses on the channel islands that were occupied by the Germans during the war. I never knew this happened and much like the main character, we as the reader learn as she does.

51+mO5tlK6L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

This story is written in the form of letters from several different characters which is why I recommend listening to it. The two characters you are introduced to at first are Juliet Ashton and her friend Sydney Stark who doubles as her publisher. They have been exchanging letters back and forth for years, especially focusing on Juliet’s novel she wrote based on a column she wrote during the war. One day Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams who happened to find a book with her name and address written in the front and he wishes to know if she knew of anymore books by Charles Lamb that she wouldn’t mind recommending. This began a long correspondent in which the two became friends and Juliet decided she needed to write about the island Guernsey during the war and it’s occupation. Along the way Juliet is courted by a potential rival publisher, falls in love with a bright young child, and finds her inspiration for her novel.

This is truly a wonderfully interesting story about WWII and most specifically the island of Guernsey and how life was during the occupation. I love reading books written in letter form because they are so personal and so interesting because you get the personal voice of every character, in a much more intimate way then you would from just regular narration. The epistolary style also fits the time period of this book so well. It’s very different then anything I have read about WWII because everything I read focused on the Holocaust and this doesn’t. There is so much more to WWII than just the Holocaust and sometimes that gets overlooked so it’s important to find literature that discusses other aspects of WWII.

-A

Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

I’ve been taking a multi-ethnic literature course this semester and it’s put me in contact with a lot of books I would have never read otherwise. I have never heard of the book Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts but I did enjoy it surprisingly. I say surprisingly because this isn’t your typical style book and I would call it post-modern because it really isn’t her memoir but rather the stories of women in her life who shaped who she was.

grid-cell-10312-1431015782-3.jpg

 

I read an article for the class that described Kingston’s novel as a forgiving style in which daughters write the story from the perspective of the mother to forgive them. I found this to be intriguing because throughout the memoir you don’t really get from the author that her and her mother had a great relationship. Kingston’s parents were born and raised in China but Kingston was born and raised in America and throughout the book you see that clash of culture and I think Kingston was trying to explain that.

The first section of her book focuses on her unnamed aunt who committed suicide in China when it was discovered she was pregnant and it wasn’t her husband’s child. Kingston doesn’t know exactly what happened because the version she gives that her mother told her is dark and a warning not to get pregnant outside of marriage. Kingston theorizes throughout her narrative, but her main goal was to give her aunt a voice and then throughout the rest of the narrative she gives her mother a voice, her other aunt and herself.

This is not a traditional memoir and it raises a lot of interesting questions about what Kingston was trying to do. I watched an interview with Kingston in which she said she wanted to write a book for Chinese women and a book for Chinese men which is why she wrote China Men. She purposely split the two genders into two different books because she wanted one specific novel for each. I loved this book not only for it’s style but the language as well. Kingston writes in such a way that you can understand why her mother does the stuff she does and I do think Kingston is forgiving her mother.

-A

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

I struggled to finish this book because I knew what was coming. If one were to read the back of the book they would know that the ending is not happy but reading it will open your eyes.

25614492.jpg

I consider myself a scholar of World War II and if ever I were to get my doctorate that would be my area of study. I don’t know everything about WWII but what I do know is sad and awful and never talked about. The amount of space given to the Holocaust and WWII in my history textbook was a paragraph. We never studied the third reich, we never studied Stalin and to this day I don’t really know what was happening in Italy during WWII. You could argue that doesn’t make me a scholar but I know more about WWII then your average person or even average college professor. Why isn’t it talked about? Why did I have to read a YA novel to know about the 9,000 people that were killed on the Wilhelm Gustloff? You are probably asking yourself what is the Wilhelm Gustloff? It was a passenger ship caring 10,000 civilians running for their lives from the Russians and it was blown up by Russian torpedoes. The Russians may have helped us win the war but that was after they decided to break ties with Germany, never forget that.

The story follows four different characters, Joanna, Emilia, Florian, and Alfred. Joanna is a Latvian nurse running for safety. Emilia is a Polish girl with a secret. Florian is a German spy with an important mission for the Fuhr or is he? Alfred is a lone soldier determined to make a name for himself before the war is over. What brings these four together is the Wilhelm Gustloff and only the way people who have experienced tragedy at the expense of war can. Poles weren’t the only people who died and experienced tragedy at the expense of the Nazis, and Germany wasn’t the only country killing people. There was tragedy all around the world during WWII but burying those tragedies doesn’t make them any less tragic. Nine thousand people dying isn’t something to just not talk about. I scoff at people who say history doesn’t repeat itself because it does. Countries constantly turn their back on the suffering of other countries whether out of fear or an unwillingness to become involved in other people’s business. There is no right answer for these problems but not talking about them in classrooms or social circles isn’t the right answer. These people didn’t suffer to just be forgotten.

-A

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I read this book for a class but it was such an eye opener and honestly I think it is a book that should be read in every high school classroom. I live not too far from an Indian reservation and my job puts me in contact with a lot of Native Americans that live on the reservation. I can tell a lot about them in the items they purchase and I’m not going to lie I have passed judgement on them. Reading this book made me reevaluate my opinions of them and their purchases. One of the big things that got me was the illustrations specifically the illustration where Junior compares himself to a white kid. It was his shoes that hit me the hardest because even though I grew up poor my parents always made sure to buy me good new shoes for the school year and I see Native Americans coming in and buying crappy plastic shoes that are not going to last six months let alone a whole year and it breaks my heart.

693208.jpg

Junior is an fifteen (?) year old kid who is entering his Freshman year of high school at an all white school off the reservation. He knows in his heart he needs to get off the reservation and the first step to doing that is going to a different high school. Of course anytime you leave your hometown for someplace new it is almost always seen as a betrayal and that is no less with the Native Americans who see Junior leaving the reservation as turning his back on his people and culture. Not only does he lose respect from his people but his best friend, Rowdy, as well. Junior or his given name Arnold has to make the first of extremely tough decisions in his life and that is continuing to go to Reardon, the all white high school. He not only faces the pitfalls that come with being a Freshman he is also perceived as different because of his ethnic background. People will always prejudge and Junior’s experience is no different.

This story is not only tough because of the Racism and Prejudice Junior experiences but the things that happen back on the Rez. At one point Junior says he has been to forty some funerals and it breaks my heart reading that. The kid is only fourteen or fifteen and he has been to forty some funerals. I can probably count the number of funerals I have been to on my fingers. There is a lot of blunt conversations in this book about sex and other sensitive subjects so I wouldn’t recommend it to Junior high kids even though that is technically the demographic. I would teach it to older high schoolers, not only because it is an easy read but it also teaches students a lot about life on a reservation.

-A

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

The first time I ever heard of Alice Hoffman I was looking at a copy of The Museum of Extraordinary Things. It looked really interesting and I absolutely love historical works of fiction. I actually ended up reading The Probable Future before I read the other book and ever since then I have been hooked. There is just something about Hoffman’s way with words that makes the story come off the page. It’s like Hoffman has her own form of magic ;). Her words are lyrical, inviting and come so easily to the tongue that putting them all together creates a wonderful story that one never wants to put down.

23492741.jpg

I actually did not know this story was going to about French artist Pissarro’s parents until I read the name Pissarro and started putting two and two together. I thought this just a historical work of fiction about two worlds clashing, however I was pleasantly surprised. My favorite class I ever took in college was an Art History course and if I wasn’t so dead set on becoming a teacher I would have chosen some degree in the art appreciation field. I remember studying Pissarro but he didn’t stick like some of the other artists such as Cézanne, Monet, Manet, or Degas.

I wasn’t sure where this story was headed and I appreciated that it covered most if not all of Rachel Pissarro’s life and that of her closest friend. There were plenty of love triangles and hidden family connections to keep me reading until I fully understood what was happening. It truly is the story of the marriage of opposites and how they made it work despite all the forces working against them. Rachel is the strong woman heroine that everyone wants to read about. She cared what people thought but she honestly cared more about her own personal happiness considering that it had been taken too often from her and those she cared deeply about. This isn’t only the story about a marriage it’s the story of a woman learning to love herself after growing up with a loveless mother. It’s the story of a woman taking control of her own life after being married for business purposes. It’s the story of a mother learning to let go of her favorite son. It’s the story of families reconnecting across oceans and old secrets being put to rest.

If this story had been told by any other author I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. Hoffman has a way of bringing a story to life and making you emotionally invested in characters you may or may not like. It’s the kind of story that makes you find a quite corner so you can read for hours uninterrupted.

-A