The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I don’t remember what made this book pop in my head way back in July.  All I know is that I was sitting at my desk one day and I thought about it and I could see that green spine on the shelf and I decided that I wanted to re-read it.  I’ve been kind of in the mood for re-reading lately and it seemed like the kind of thing that I could get through quickly.

Now, when I first read this book seven years ago, I thought it was okay.  It was one of those books that had a cult following and I liked my favorite book with a cult following better and that was that.  Though, I apparently liked it enough to give it four stars.

This book was so much better than I remember.

I mean, it’s serious and it deals with really serious issues but it does so with a lot of heart and humor.  I laughed.  I cried.  I gasped at one point and said, “Charlie!  No!”  I read some of it out loud to Hubby, much to his dismay.  I really enjoyed it and it was the kind of book that I found myself wanting to read every chance I got.  It was a great experience.

This is the story of Charlie, who is writing letters to someone who he heard didn’t sleep with that person at that one party.  Charlie is about to start high school and he is nervous.  His only friend, Michael, committed suicide and Charlie is just kind of alone in the world.  Not long after he starts school, he goes to a football game and sits with Patrick, who he knows from shop class, and Sam.  They are seniors and they take him to Big Boy and take him under their wing.  Meanwhile, Charlie’s English teacher is giving him special reading and has told him to participate in the world.  Charlie writes letters through the year as he falls in love, dates, notices things about his family, deals with some heavy stuff, and experiments with illicit substances.  Charlie is mostly clueless which is kind of endearing, even when he does blatantly stupid stuff.  Charlie is also dealing with his mental health and always gives off a feeling of fragility that isn’t explained until later in the book.

This was excellent.  I’m so glad that I reread it!

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Jay’s Journal- “Anonymous” (Beatrice Sparks)

One day I was playing around online and come across someone talking about how Go Ask Alice was made up.  Now, somehow I had failed to notice this scandal.  I vividly remember reading the book in high school because it was THE book to read about drug use and teens, even though it was old.  As a teenager I was super into reading books about drug use and Alice was “real.”  I still have teenagers reading it and thinking it’s true but apparently it’s not.  Or, at least, Sparks eventually admitted that she drew some of it from the diary and some of it from her work as a youth counselor in the Mormon church.

Go Ask Alice was a sensation and when it came out Sparks was approached by a mother whose son had recently committed suicide.  She felt that Sparks would be able to use his journal to write another book and help more kids.  The result was Jay’s Journal and when the book was released the boy’s parents were very upset.  Apparently, Jay wasn’t into Satanism and Sparks only used about 25 entries from the original journal.  Again, Sparks claimed that she filled it in with her history of working with teens and with interviews with the boy’s friends.

Literary scandal and a book about Satanism just seemed up my alley because I’m strange like that.

Honestly, though, this book was a bore.  It took me way too long to read.  It’s just entry after entry of a dramatic, egotistical, wishywashy boy who really likes his mother’s bread.  The story behind the book was much more entertaining.

Pass this one up.

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Shortly after I started working in libraries, the young adult publishing started to blow up.  I was 16 and the library that I worked at had two small shelves of hardcovers and one small shelf of paperbacks.  When Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging came out, it caused a bit of an uproar.  It seemed like everyone was reading it and finding it hilarious.  So, I checked it out and I started it and… I couldn’t stand it.  Little goth me found Georgia so annoying and stupid.  What were all of these people laughing about?

Adult me is happy to say that this was a FAB listening experience!

I don’t know why I decided to give it another try but I am so glad that I did.  This is a perfect slice of nostalgia for me.  It’s like my high school years meets Bridget Jones.  I was laughing ridiculously in my car.  I even drove the long way around a couple of times to listen a little more.  It was short, fast, and funny.  It was kind of perfect for me.

Georgia is a 14 year old in England.  She’s stumbling through her adolescence, surrounded by friends who help to add to the comedy and drama.  They are just figuring out boys and kissing and who they are.  Georgia talks about her life, from her 3 year old sister to her huge cat, from her friends and the general chaos they cause to the boy down the street who is snogging all of the time, from the obnoxious neighbors to her hopeless father.  Georgia IS shallow and vain and hopeless in a way that can’t help but be funny.  It’s easy to see the disaster coming, like when she decides to pluck her eyebrows.  But there’s more to it than that.  There’s this mix of naive with knowing that feels very specific to that age and that time period.

I loved it.

Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

I ordered this book for the library after reading a review that mentioned how the world had a David Bowie glam feel to it.  I checked it out a couple of weeks after it arrived and it sat in my TBR long enough for me to forget anything that I read about it.  I’m glad, though.  I don’t know what I would have expected if I remembered the summary I read.  I think this one was better to go into blind.

Watts crafts a world that is much different from our own without feeling completely otherworldly.  The city where most of the action takes place is some kind of holy city and there is talk of the New World without there ever being any real explanation of what the New World is.  The whole book has a surreal, otherworldly 1970’s feel to it.  Django Conn, the rock star that everyone loves, definitely feels like Bowie and the fashions that he’s ushered in fit the glam rock scene too and there is a lot of talk about the moon landing and what it might mean.

Davi has always lived in the Angelus Hotel.  His family has owned it for generations and there he has access to almost anything he could want.  He spends his time listening to music in his room and coming and going as he please, him and his sister having chased off any tutors long ago.  When Davi goes to the Django Conn concert, he spots a girl who is completely lost in the music and he can’t help but feel like they are the only two people who really get it.  When the girl, Anna Z, shows up with Davi’s sister’s boyfriend, Davi follows her, desperate to find out who she is.  Anna Z is unlike anyone Davi has ever met before.  She talk-talk-talks about strange things until they seem to be the absolute truth.  But Anna Z is trying to escape and she needs Davi to be more than he ever has in order to free her.

This was an iffy book for me.  It was short and had short chapters, which I loved, and it reminded me a lot of Francesca Lia Block, which is honestly what kept me reading.  There was a lot here and I would like to see it with more ratings and reviews because I definitely think it’s worth the read.  However, I was a little put off by the portrayal of Anna Z.  She’s almost the definition of a “manic pixie dream girl” but I still liked her as a character.  I liked this book enough that I would like to seek out some more of Watts in the future but it is definitely an acquired taste.  Read it if you love music enough to think it’s everything and don’t mind a few strange ideas being twisted page after page.

A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

I chose A Mango Shaped Space for the battle this year because it has been on my TBR list forever.  I came across it on a long list of must-read YA books about a decade ago.  Why not kill two birds with one stone?

This was an excellent read.  I read the last 50 pages of it trapped between a napping baby and a napping cat, petting said cat and sobbing.  Cat books, man.  They always get me.

For as long as Mia can remember, she has seen the world differently than other people.  Of course, she didn’t always know that she saw it differently.  In third grade an embarrassing incident having to do with making numbers the right colors clued her in and since then she has been pretending to see the world like everyone else.

Mia has synesthesia, a sensory disorder that makes things like numbers, letters, and sounds have colors.  Her cat Mango gets his name because his meow is mango colored, for instance.  Finally, faced with difficulties at school, Mia tells her parents about her colors and they embark on a journey to discover what is “wrong” with her.  Mia can’t imagine her world without the colors and having a name for her way of seeing opens a whole new world for her.  However, Mia has to learn how to juggle her new world and her old, how to keep her true friends and learn which new ones are real, and be true to herself.

Another great book for the battle this year!  This was well written and easy to read and it’s hard to be a little jealous of Mia’s ability!

Some Brief Reviews

This week I’ve finished three books: an ebook, an audio, and a nonfiction title.  I have things to say about all of the books but not enough for a solid review of any.  This could be because I have also been reading 100+ pages per day to get through my battle books but that’s fine.  It’s all fine.  I don’t dream in Greed myth at all.

First, I finish The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights by James Knowles.  I read this book mostly at night and it was a slow read but also rewarding.  I found that it was a great bedtime book.  This early material on King Arthur and, as such, the language is a bit dry.  However, it was a great intro to the legends.  I debated whether or not I would go on to read other renditions in the future and I think that I probably will.  I’d like to see some narrative storytelling but I’m glad that I slogged through this one.  I chose this version because it was free but it might not work for everyone.  Great for lulling me to sleep, though!

Next I finished listening to The Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney.  This is the first book in the Last Apprentice series.  I listened to the first five years ago and recall it being one of my first positive listening experiences.  I’m not wrong.  HOWEVER, when I listened to the first five, they were shelved in the junior section at my old library of employment.  At my current library they are young adult.  THESE BOOKS ARE DEFINITELY NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.  Seriously.  I remember thinking they were scary and exciting, that I was on the edge of my seat while I listened.  I remember sitting in my driveway, gripping my steering wheel while I listened just a little longer.  But, man, are these ghastly!  Blood cakes, you guys.  Coffin worms.  And those aren’t the most disturbing things.  It was intense.  I am going to have to watch who I give these to in the future.

Finally, I wrapped up my reading of Dot Journaling by Rachel Wilkerson Miller.  I had been toying with the idea of bullet journaling for a while and this book has gotten me started.  It was a quick read with lots of great ideas and I loved.  I loved it enough to start up my own bullet journal in my next empty journal and then I went and bought felt pens and actual dot grid journals, even though I have pens and journals coming out of my ears.  The layouts are really pretty and well explained and I really enjoyed this.

Ok!  That’s the run down!  I have to go read more about Greek myths now.  NO, YOU DREAM IN MYTHS!

Graphic Friday- Blankets by Craig Thompson

Welcome to Graphic Friday, where sometimes we accidentally post on Wednesday.  We’re working on it folks!

I was surprised to see that this book came out in 2003.  The way Thomson talks about his teenage years, which I placed vaguely in the early 1990’s, made it feel more distant at the time of writing.  You know, I am one of those people who forgets that I graduated 16 years ago so I guess that’s not really surprising.

This book, well, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me.

Thompson tells the story of his coming of age.  I can’t think of any better way to describe it.  He tells stories throughout that are memories of his childhood, when he shared a bed with his little brother.  Craig says that he was not a very good older brother, that he was sometimes mean to his brother and that he didn’t protect him.  He touches on the inappropriate conduct of a babysitter, a trap that he let his brother fall into and that sent him headlong into religion and the striving for heaven.

Craig takes religion seriously, seriously enough that his pastor asks if he has considered going into the ministry.  Craig hasn’t really considered anything about his future.  Then he meets Raina at winter church camp and he is instantly smitten.  When he goes to stay with Raina and her family in Michigan for two weeks in the winter, he begins to see that he may have missed out on some of life.

This book touched on a lot of sensitive and emotional subjects: religion, abuse, first lover, doubt.  However, I felt like all of these things were handled very well.  I can promise that I was invested in this story after my initial doubt that it was for me.  Craig’s experience of first love and his realization that he may not have been invested enough in the real world felt like legitimate experiences to me.  They felt real.

This was a touching tale but one which I can see not fitting for everyone.