Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

I should just start another category for Graphic Novels because here is another one! I heard about this book a year ago and kept putting off reading it until I found the copy my mom had lent in my room in a box full of books. I could not put it down and honestly who wouldn’t rather read a graphic novel than A Room of One’s Own?

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Astrid and Nicole have been friends forever but when Astrid signs up for Roller Derby Camp and Nicole signs up for dance camp with Astrid’s arch nemesis Astrid must learn to find her own way in the world without her best friend.  I connected a lot with Astrid because I always used to hide in the shadow of my friends and assume they would be with me all throughout life. That isn’t the case as Astrid learns as she skates into roller derby camp all by herself.

Just like everyone else Astrid wants to be the best at Roller Derby as soon as she arrives. When she finds herself skating around the edge of the rink holding onto the side, she almost gives up but when she discovers Rainbow Bite’s locker (her roller derby role model) she decides to stick around a little longer. It isn’t until Astrid takes a tumble into a bush that she is determined to stick it out and practice as hard as she can to become jammer.

This is a delightful graphic novel about growing up and finding yourself outside of your friends. It has a delightful ending and you’ll find yourself smiling the whole time you read this graphic novel.

-A

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Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

I have never read many graphic novels in my life. My friend Regan Garey (check out her blog at fortheloveofbooks767), is taking a graphic novels course this semester (how awesome is that!) and I’ve been religiously following her It’s Monday What Are You Reading to read about her latest graphic novel read.

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This last week she brought Relish to our Methods class and told all of us we needed to read it. I instantly latched onto it and read it in two days! Everyone needs to read this book because not only is the artwork just beautiful the whole book is about food. Food is honestly my second favorite thing in this world and being able to read about someone’s life through their food experiences was the most fun I have had in a long time. It encourages bad habits however because after I read about Knisley’s experience in France eating McDonald’s all I wanted was a greasy BigMac and some fries dipped in ranch.

I didn’t grow up with a chef for a mom and a dad who likes fine dining but I was a picky eater. I only like certain types of food and am only adventurous in cooking/eating  when I feel like it. I’m willing to try new things once and if I like them I will eat them again but unlike Knisley I am not a huge fan of seafood.

It is such a fun book because it makes you think of food experiences you had. I remember eating outdated tv dinners with my cousin because that’s all my grandma had in the freezer. I remember eating a whole tomato one time when I was a kid and the only time I eat tomato’s now is if they are cut up in a salad or are cherry tomatoes covered in ranch.

Knisley traveled a lot as a kid and she writes about these experiences by describing the food she ate. I went to San Antonio my senior year of high school for National FCCLA and all I can remember about that trip is eating the best Mexican food I have ever had.

Relish is a memoir but it’s so much more. It’s looking back on life through a specific lens and Knisley’s is food. She associates memories with food and that’s the kind of life I attain for.

 

 

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger

Everyone has heard of the Time Traveller’s Wife. It was a popular movie and then a popular book because everyone wanted to read the book before they saw the movie (or at least I hope they did). I didn’t like the book and frankly I hated the movie but I loved Her Fearful Symmetry.

Her Fearful Symmetry is a story about twins and the secret world that twins create. If you haven’t read it I recommend finding a copy. It is a bit strange and I didn’t like the ending but it had to end the way it did otherwise the story wouldn’t have made sense.

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After I read Her Fearful Symmetry Goodreads.com informed me that Audrey had also written a book called Raven Girl. The synopsis sounded very interesting: a postman falls in love with a raven and they have a child who is part raven. I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy. I could not find a copy of the book anywhere until I got a Thriftbooks.com account. Even if they didn’t have a copy in their warehouses they would send me a notification when they received a copy. I waited until it was cheaper and finally my copy came. Much to my surprise it is more of a children’s book then I thought.

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It is an illustrated book that tells the story of a girl who is a raven trapped in a human body. It is a modern fairy tale that is beautifully illustrated and beautifully told. It is unconventional and intriguing. It’s a short read but it contains a powerful message. It reminds me a lot of Grimm’s fairy tales because it’s honest and blunt. The Raven Girl feels as if a part of her is missing and when she finds a doctor that will help her get raven wings she finally feels right. It’s mystical intriguing and not at all what I thought it was going to be. That’s the best part about fairy tales they always end up surprising you in the end.

-A

Doll Bones by Holly Black

I do not recommend reading this book alone or at night. It has just enough creepiness to make one shiver and pull the covers up closer. The first time I encountered Holly Black was probably the Spiderwick Chronicles but the first time I read a Holly Black book was her modern faerie tales series: Tithe, Valiant and Ironside. That series and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series were what introduced me to the world of fantasy and fairies. If I ever write a book someday they will be in the dedication because they were my inspiration.

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Doll Bones has nothing to do with fairies but it has everything to do with growing up and balancing being a kid and an adult. I remember when I started middle school and suddenly I found I didn’t have time to play pretend anymore. It was a slow transition; it didn’t happen overnight but I just remember waking up one day and realizing that I was growing up. It was scary because my pretend world was my safety net. It was where I went to escape life when life became too much to handle. It’s the same way for Poppy, Zach and Alice. Every one of these kids has something in their life they are trying to escape from. Every one of them doesn’t want to give up their pretend world because that means facing reality and reality isn’t as fun as adventuring on the high seas.

However when Zach is forced to choose between growing up and giving up pretend Poppy doesn’t give him the chance. Poppy has been dreaming of the Queen (the bone china doll in the cabinet) and how the ghost of the dead girl won’t rest until they bury her in her grave. Poppy, Alice and Zach must go on one final quest and along the way discover that maybe they don’t have to choose between their world and growing up.

-A

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

I’ve always enjoyed books that focus on the aftermath of an event because we never talk about it. I think that is the reason I liked Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher so much because it was life after suicide. And We Stay is also the story of the after, after Emily Beam’s boyfriend kills himself in the school library. It is the story after her abortion and the guilt that drives Paul Wagoner to kill himself in front of his girlfriend.

We as a society don’t often talk about the after. We either focus on the before or the event itself but never the after. Why was there so much personal outcry against Thirteen Reasons Why? This is just my opinion but I think because it talked about the after.. Hannah Baker couldn’t be saved and we as a society couldn’t accept the fact that suicide happens and people are successful at it. It’s a sensitive subject because we probably all know someone who has committed suicide and we don’t want to talk about it because it hurts too much. We need to talk about it. I cannot stress how much we need to talk about it because there are kids out there hurting who feel they can’t talk about their suicidal thoughts because then they would get labeled. There is such a stigmatism surrounding suicide that some people are fearful of talking about it because they are not sure how people would react.

A girl recently convinced her boyfriend to commit suicide and that is tragic. Her boyfriend reached out to her and she obviously did not help him but let us use this as an opportunity to talk about suicide. I’m sure everyone at some point in their life has thought “why go on?”. However will any of us openly and publicly admit this? Why?

We live in a world where Netflix can take a book about suicide, make it into a tv show and then in everyone’s opinion “glorify” suicide. I admit I haven’t watched the entire series nor do I plan to simply because of Netflix’s decision to show Hannah’s suicide and not in the way she did it in the book. However that hasn’t stopped me from rereading the book I loved as a middle schooler and still do. I know this is not a review of Thirteen Reasons Why but what And We Stay and Jay Asher’s novel have in common is suicide a subject that is never talked about enough. Jay Asher wrote a story about a girl who committed suicide. It happens and we cannot ignore it by saying people shouldn’t write about it. It’s like saying let’s not write YA novels about love. As much as I would love to say that teens don’t think about and/or commit suicide it happens. I still shake my head at a comment I read about Thirteen Reasons Why which essentially said Hannah could have handled her suicide better. First of all Hannah is a fictional character. Second of all suicide is a tragedy and it doesn’t matter how we handle it because for someone to get so sick of life that they wish to end theirs is just awful. I don’t care how they do it what matters is that they feel life is no longer worth living.

I’m reminded of the scene in the book Thirteen Reasons Why when Hannah wrote the word suicide on a slip of paper and the remarks her fellow students made. Lots of people say those things because we don’t want to talk about suicide. We hope that by saying “it is  a selfish decision”, “why would you want to kill yourself” and “think of those you are leaving behind” that somehow it will make everything better. Actually being there for people and listening to them when they are hurting is going to help more than just making blanket statements about suicide.

What about those of us left behind wondering what went so horribly wrong? Emily Beam, a fictional character, is left wondering that as well. She made a hard life choice to abort her child and then she lost the only other person she could turn to. She turned to Emily Dickinson to help her and this is why literature that talks about death and suicide is so important. Sometimes the only place hurting people can turn is to stories that mirror their own life. I am an introvert and as I explore the world of introverts I find that I am not alone and that when I want to be I can be an extrovert. I read an amazing book called FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell and it was the first time I found myself staring into a mirror as I read the story of Cath the introvert. I had never before read a book that so perfectly described my life and it makes me sad to think that it took me 20 years to find a book that described me.

Thirteen Reasons Why and And We Stay are those books for people who are reeling from a suicide of someone they know. We need to be able to talk about the “tough” subjects because if we simply ignore them those students/people who are hurting and need to talk about suicide, depression, anxiety, or whatever else you are dealing with they are not going to get the help they need.

 

Recommended Reading:

After by Amy Efaw

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

-A

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.

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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