Category: Book Reviews (page 2 of 3)

Reviews of books I’ve read

Book Review: “Unwind” by Neal Shusterman

I need to remember that I LOVE good Young Adult literature. As you know, I generally won’t waste my time with books that haven’t won tons of awards. Partially because I’m a slow reader, and partially because I’m a writer. And if you’re a writer, you’re critical of everything you read. I enjoy reading and want to enjoy reading. So I have to read books that don’t make me stop and think, “Wow. I would have written that so much better.”

I can’t say anything like that about Unwind. unwind

Premise: The U.S. has a second Civil War, over reproductive rights. The answer to stop the war? Life is precious, but between ages 13 and 18 a child can be “unwound.” AKA, parents can decide to have their child’s body handed out in piecemeal. Since the entire body is used, the child doesn’t die. Problem solved!

As with any great book, the entire novel revolves around a solitary question: What if?

Shusterman’s answer turns into a twisted look at what happens to each and every human being in this journal of downward spiral. The weirdest part is that Shusterman manages to make even the most horrible person have reason for the reader’s empathy.

Many reviews suggest Shusterman doesn’t take a stand on reproductive rights, and that is somehow his saving grace in this text. I say that’s all bullocks. Shusterman does take a stance. But it’s a stance that generally isn’t very well liked. Unwind suggests that both sides are wrong. Not because their guiding principles are wrong, but because they lose sight of humanity during the “argument.” So much so that the decision to “unwind” your child seems the logical middle ground.

POV: Shusterman takes an interesting path with his choice of Point-of-View. Most YA novels are written in 1st person and usually set in present tense. Rarely do we see the YA novel written in 3rd person. Rarer still is the 3rd Person Omniscient. And this is what Shusterman chooses. That means we get everyone’s POV throughout the book. Part of this seems to follow the trend in TV shows. But I think in this case, that’s too simple an explanation. I think Shusterman knew what he was getting into when he picked the topic of reproductive rights. He needed to show the humanity (and lack thereof) of nearly everyone involved.

Overall: It’s rare that a book makes my better half and I discuss it for days. “Unwind” did this. The ingenious back stories bring every character to life in ways only massive epics tend to. Shusterman’s understanding of the human condition, human nature, and the reader only feeds into the perfection of this text. I’m actually afraid to read Book 2 since there is little chance he can continue the perfection.

The way each life is interwoven, how all the “rumors” fit together in the end, how he manages to address terrorism’s human side, social hierarchies, how he understands the priveleged youth yet also the underserved Other children like orphans and the poor, the way he picks at the socio-economic structures of U.S. culture…it all culminates in a story that I just can’t get out of my head.

Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”: Book Review

Both because Stranger in a Strange Land was recommended to me by  many of my writer friends and because Heinlein is a prolific

Heinlein

Heinlein

author in the sci-fi field, I felt a certain obligation to read this 1950s text. Here’s my take on it.

As a prolific text

Heinlein is said to have put his hat in the ring with this story. He spent much time and energy piecing together the storyline and working on the social commentary and religious pieces. And every so often there was a sense of that playing out. Suggestions of Socialism or Communalism and a burgeoning understanding of meditation and self-realization and fully understanding the world perked my ears and got my social theory side excited. Then it fell over a cliff like a lemming in a rat race.

But, even with these spatterings of Communalism, the misogynistic comments and general feel of the story kept the sour taste in my mouth that lingered like bad milk. Many have tried to tell me that his womanizing ways were a sign of the time. And, to his credit, that is true. However, that does not excuse his disturbing take on the woman psyche. Everything from calling them children, to objectifying them, to flatly considering them stupid creatures, kept me on edge, pining for Atwood to come and rescue, and cleanse, my soul.

Worst of all, Heinlein falls pray to the same problem as Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. While trying to bring forth amazing ideas of social change and social engineering, he creates a John Galt sort of character that can do no wrong, doesn’t grow as a character, and comes off as an arrogant jerk who everyone should want to smack, not root for.

Jubal is John Galt. And Smith, the Man from Mars, is little more than Taggart. Many times it reads just as arrogant as Rand reads, and the writing, well, not much better.

Colonization

Nearly every Sci-Fi story is knee-deep in colonialism. Stranger in a Strange Land is no different. And I got SUPER excited on a number of points. Smith is the only “legitimate” “citizen” of Mars. Everyone else just showed up on the planet. Smith was born there. At least this is the argument given by Jubal and others.

There were so many opportunities for pulling from this. One, the idea that birth leads to right. If you were born here, you can stay; if you emigrated here, you have no right. Two, that by not being a “citizen” or dubbed so by the Legitimate force (the state) means you have no legal right to anything anywhere.

Then there was the idea that Smith was “not human” because he was born on Mars. Meaning, he was not Of Earth. He had no legitimacy on Earth, so he had no rights on Earth. But Heinlein only HINTS at this. Then there’s the inkling that being “Martian” means you’re not human…if you’re not human, what are you? What makes you human? What makes you Martian? Heinlein does almost nothing with this.

The Good

I feel a certain obligation to give some positive given the scathing review of such a popular text and a hugely popular writer.

As a simple Sci-Fi story, it’s pretty good. The “future” is not super futuristic, so it’s not hard to believe much of the story. TVs that double as telephones, flying cars, and colonization of Mars about wraps up the important science fiction part.

Apparently, in Sci-Fi there were few female characters and fewer female characters that did little more than pine for men. Not that Jill Boardman does little more than pine for Smith and Caxton (the obligatory love triangle for any “important” female character), but she was a fairly main character and was pivotal to Smith breaking out the State control…because she wanted him AND Caxton…the guy who she runs to immediately after the breakout.

Book Review: “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson

Looking for a summary, go elsewhere. My reviews are not like that.

The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master’s Son

My better half bought me The Orphan Master’s Son because John Green (yes, that John Green from Youtube.com’s Mental Floss) said it was one of the best written books. I don’t have the quote. I’m relying on my better half for that info.

That said, my sentiments are not far from John Green’s.

Genuine understand of emotion: The way Jo

hnson describes torture, pain, love, loss, gain, hunger, thirst, power, weakness, and countless other things is so spot on and so deeply touching at almost every chance, it’s difficult to believe Johnson did not come from just such a background.

Political versus social: Another thing I want to commend Johnson for is his dance between showing North Korea in a negative light while showing the humanness of most of the North Koreans we meet in the book. Likewise, most of the book dances around the idea that the United States is not so perfect either. This is made clear with Jun Do, the main character, goes to Texas as part of a convoy. The Senator and others treat Jun Do and his Comrades as poor and ignorant and lesser humans.

I only have 2 gripes, and one isn’t even with the book, but with the mass reaction to the book.

First gripe: Popular praise for The Orphan Master’s Son focuses on Johnson’s ability to get inside North Korea like no one else.

Though this might be true in terms of popular novels, there’s still little we actually know and this is so far outside the realm of what people SHOULD be praising the book for. It’s still a work of fiction and based very loosely on loose understandings of a shrouded system and society. Not to mention that it makes Kim Jong Il out to be an absolute idiot. Which is usually almost never the case with any political leader, no matter how much you might think so.

Second gripe: The end. Not so much that it ended inappropriately. It didn’t. The story line was appropriate, fitting, and I loved it, as much as I hated it (you’ll understand when you read…I’m not going to spoil it for you). No, my gripe is with Jun Do’s lesson. Basically, what he learns is, probably, the reason for the book. It ruined the whole thing for me. It’s as if all that praise I gave Johnson for showing the U.S. in an accurate light goes out the window in a matter of 2 pages.

My favorite hated analogy is the movie Signs. Mel Gibson loses his faith in God, aliens attack, people die, Mel Gibson wins his faith back, aliens die. I have no respect for this movie so I have no issue ruining this one for you…the director did a fine enough job on his own. Point is, the aliens attacked and people died SO MEL GIBSON COULD GET HIS FAITH BACK. A terrible terrible theme that borders on the most self-absorbed understanding of religion ever manifested on the big screen, or anywhere.

The ending of The Orphan Master’s Son was similar.

But, the rest of book was so brilliantly sewn together, that most of that doesn’t matter. Had this last page not been what it was, I would run up and down the streets screaming my new favorite author. As it is, I can only say, great book. Masterfully done.

 

Book Review: “The Inheritors,” by William Golding

In my trek across the Nobel Prize in Literature spectrum, I found The Inheritors at a Savers for next to nothing and thought, “Well now! Golding is a Nobel Prize winner. ADD.”

william-golding

The Inheritors by William Golding

I confess myself less than awestruck. I’ve already prepared myself for the barrage of hate mail and troll comments about William Golding being an amazing writer and Lord of the Flies was the best novel they ever read. I sense saying Golding isn’t all that is akin to saying The Beatles are “so so.” But there it is.

The Inheritors takes the reader back to the Before time, when Neanderthals were just beginning to be over taken by Homo sapiens, assuming that’s how it happened. We meet a group of Neanderthals who live primitively but quite like humans with feelings for each other, language (though simplistic), thought processes (though muted and simplistic as well), and religion that includes burying the dead.

Golding does a good job of making the reader care about non-human species we know little about. On it’s face it goes above that of Animal Farm in that we are feeling for non-humans for non-humans value rather than for animals AS humans. For that, the praise came in from all angles when the book was introduced back in 1955. His concept is imaginative and daunting in terms of what he has to consider and overcome to write this piece.

But I couldn’t help but feel two very strong ideas playing out.

First is the idea that Golding wrote this book in a sort of “Look what I can do” like New Age Western poetry tends to do rather than the wanted “I have a story to tell…and by the way, I did this really awesome thing with that story.” There’s a nagging sensation that this is a poem with no real guts or meaning beyond the “I have feelings for a dead species. Look how good a person I am.” God, even as I write this review, I feel like I’m just as guilty as Golding. So I see the irony here.

Second is a sensation I get often, and is fully a function of my time spent in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (regrettably). There’s a sense that Golding is trying to show how much better he is than other writers because HE can feel for a dead species. Not that he can’t, or that others can, or that he did so in an insulting way, but that he still managed to impress upon these Others (Others being the Neanderthals, not the Others from the book, which are homo sapiens) that they are “inherently” human. Which, by his storyline, they weren’t. But there is still the Western understanding of life, death, religion, hierarchy, etc playing out among his characters.

I wanted to love this book. I really did. The concept had such potential. The themes were so politically and socially charged. My mouth watered waiting for this book to come up in my virtual cue on my not-so-virtual real-life bookshelf. But my own prejudicial thoughts on privileged white “artists” (myself included) kept me from pulling it together to enjoy this rarely read novel.

Book Review: "Super Sad True Love Story" by Gary Shteyngart

I love a good dystopian novel. Super Sad True Love Story is one of those great “This is what we’re becoming” stories that makes you as uncomfortable as it should.

Super Sad True Love Story is, as one might guess, a love story. But the love story takes place in a sort of dystopian United States some few decades into the future. Anyone who knows me, knows I love dystopian novels. They tend to shed more light on the here and now and on human psychology and sociology than any other genre of fiction.

There are usually only two types of dystopian novels: those that suggest we are moving away from something good (the ones that romanticize the past), and those that show Today in a spotlight by overemphasizing the Truths about the world as it is today (indirectly romanticizing about the future that could be by showing the terrible future we’re building). Very few step outside this realm. For instance, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale does not romanticize about the past, because it was/is bad for women. Nor does she romanticize about a future to come, because, as she points out, even the pseudo-counter culture that is created in response to the over Puritan principles is just as ugly and womanizing.

Super Sad True Love Story is the former.

Shteyngart’s portrayal of overemphasis shows us that we’ve begun to care more about preserving our own life–our body–that we’ve given up attempting to preserve our future or our legacy. In a way, one could think of it as a New Age Fountain of Youth.

There’s also strong overtones of the over-sexualization of everything and the instant gratification of social media. These two things could be separated, but I’m not sure Shteyngart would want to separate them. He’s holding on to a time when women wore clothes that “left something to the imagination” as if doing so changed the simple fact that he was still undressing her in his mind. The only positive I have to mention here is that, though Shteyngart denigrates to over-sexualization of the U.S. culture, he doesn’t get gratuitous like one might expect.

It’s clear that Shteyngart has some sexual issues of his own. A middle aged Jewish man feigning over every tiny, “boyish” Asian girl, like some Anime nut that just wants to live out the Manga wet dream fantasy. Perhaps he was attempting a sort of “Love in the Time of Cholera” experience where the “love story” was actually the OPPOSITE of love while still duping the reading into thinking “real love” was playing out. Though, somehow, I doubt it.

Sexual frustration aside, this is Shteyngart romanticizing for the past. A past before social media, before Brittany Spears and Miley Cyrus sexualized Disney and young women, before books were uncool. A world where all was a little bit better. Yet, like with most romance, this is a farce. Books have never been the rage, teens were ALWAYS sexual, whether or not the Cleavers or the Brady Bunch cared to talk about it, and social networking has almost always been about self-promotion than about social-anything. 

The dystopia he creates is two fold. First is the super social media, everything has to be live and recorded for the world to see, world and the hyper-sexualization of everything like Onionskin pants and nippleless bras and pornography for children. But then there’s the Marxist look at the U.S. system of economics.

Shtyengart builds a world where all the U.S. corporations have joined in mega-corporations and the economy is tanking because of some force unknown to the reader. There’s mentions of Marxism and capitalism, but I don’t recall a reason given for the fall the U.S. Empire other than China and Korea taking over. The Dollar has lost almost all value, and the violence and sensations the characters feel are best described as what anyone in states where economies go to shit.

Once violence is finally exposed to the reader, it’s too late to fix anything. As much as I hate to say this, this can’t be closer to the truth. The Occupy Movement, tanks being purchased by local police stations, drones flown over U.S. soil for surveillance, and NSA data mining of EVERYTHING, is taking place at this very moment. And who gives two healthy shits?

Sure, there are protesters floating around state capitals and D.C. Sure, we’re kind of talking about these things in the periphery. But they are in the periphery. Nobody not being arrested or hunted down for leaking the truth about ILLEGAL UNCONSTITUTIONAL government actions or protesting the bailout of corporations (they have time to protest because they’ve lost their jobs and people attack them for being “lazy” and homeless…the irony makes me vomit) even gives a damn.

Shtyengart is saying what needs to be said. You think you care about things, you don’t. You only care about yourself. And all those “others” dealing with “their problems” will become your problem only after it’s too late for you to stand up! By the time the people with the power to change things get it through their thick heads that things are bad, they will be running from the stream of bullets.

France said it was everyone else’s problem until Germany came knocking on their door. Then what? The U.S. will do the same. The U.S. will fall apart and those with the power to do anything will wait too long and then take what they can and jump ship to leave the poor and ugly to deal with death and poverty and tyranny on their own. Just the way it has been for centuries.

"Disgrace" by John Maxwell Coetzee

My readers know me as one who only reads well-written fiction from well-respected authors. This past year I decided to trudge through the entire list of Nobel Prize for Literature winners. A couple months ago, I found J. M. Coetzee’s “Disgrace” at a Goodwill and added him to my short list.

Unlike my reading of some of the other Nobel Prize for Literature winners like Saramago, Marquez, Morrison, Pamuk, and others, Coetzee’s Disgrace left me wondering how to feel.

Many times throughout the novel I hated the main character. At times I thought it was intentional. With White Guilt a quiet (or not so quiet) condition in South Africa, I thought, maybe that was the intent. Then other times, I found myself feeling for him. But if I was supposed to feel sympathy for David because of his genetics, I didn’t get a big sense of sympathy for many of the black characters.

Petrus came in and out of favor, much the same way David did. But the other black main characters did not score such favor. Not the least of which was the young man of the trio that attacked David and Lucy.

I can’t help thinking this was done on purpose to make one understand that the state, or the culture of the past and present had turned the young man into a monster. If so, I think he failed in making that point clear.

What Coetzee did succeed in doing, too subtly as well, was that it appears nobody free of blame. That the culture has turned everyone, or at least all the males, into exploitative beasts. The only ones who seem to keep their hands relatively clean are the women. I can’t believe Melanie was actually vindictive, or that Lucy instigated crimes against her.

Perhaps, as Coetzee seems to want to make us think about, humans are not, and cannot be decent creatures easily. No (male) person is devoid of guilt in his story. Serious and continuing guilt.

In conclusion, I will add this: Coetzee’s Disgrace was by far the easiest read of any Nobel Prize for Literature winner in my trek so far! There is not obtuse language or flowery sentence structure or even overtly third-person omniscient POV that pokes at you to tell you want you should think or what the story is really about (I don’t mind this method, but apparently most do).

For the record, neither JM Coetzee nor anyone else has paid me for this post or any of my other post. That’s not to say I can’t be purchased, because I can. Also, the image above is mine, and of my copy of the book.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera

The next stop on my trip through every author who has won the Nobel Prize winner for Literature is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The book: Love in the Time of Cholera. Here’s my take…

Never thinking I would say this about Marquez after having read half of Love in the Time of Cholera, I stand corrected by my original thought: this is the driest book ever.

In my initial throngs, torture of the inhumane kind would best have described reading this text. It was akin to reading 400 pages of John Galt’s speech over and over and well…over. Round about the midway point however, something clicked. I still have not decided if the click was internal or on the page but it happened. Suddenly, I found myself enamored by his prose.

On its face, Love in the Time of Cholera is about love, an unending, pure love during the time when Cholera was still an issue in parts of the world that the rest of the world gave a shit about. If one could not pull this from the title, perhaps, thne, a brain enema might be suggested. However, this is not what it is about! Florentino’s love is infatuation and blinded by lust and self-loving and self-hatred. Fermina’s love for him is apparently not as strong as her love for her father, so she marries into money and power per her father’s request. She spends the next 50+ years pretending not to hate the Doctor husband she married. All the while, Florentino carries his infatuation to disturbing heights–buying a mirror her reflection drifted across–and screws every wife and whore that will have him.

Marquez seems to purposefully mention dark concepts whenever the true love affair is described. He likens deep infatuation to disease, calling its symptoms out as equivalent to that of Cholera. I can’t help but think Marquez did not intend this as a happy love story. Nor can I help but believe he has a dark view on love and aging. Himself an aging, I can understand it. Only 34 myself, I’ve never concerned myself with aging except my recent inability to maintain a flat stomach and my ever-receding hair line. Perhaps if I cared about such things, I would take notice that my testes hang lower than they used to, but if I were that type of man, I would simply comment to myself that my balls have gotten more impressive in view (I bring this disturbing point up since Marquez himself raises equally uncomfortable points about aging and one’s thoughts on aging and dying).

I find it funny (nay, disturbing) that many of the few who have read Love in the Time of Cholera think it’s a beautiful love story. Then again, perhaps that was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s plan all along.

PS: The image is mine, of my own copy of the book. Nobody paid me for this review. Though I’m not objectionable to anyone paying FOR it.

Book Review: "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk

Recently finished yet another novel from a Nobel Prize in Literature winner. This time it was “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk. As my readers know, I don’t give synopses. For that, head elsewhere. But here are some thoughts.

First, this massive 426 page novel essentially took place over 3 days. That’s it. Three days. That is, if you don’t count that the narrator wrote the book some four years after the main character’s death and that there is some commentary that ties loose ends up from the narrator after the fact. By the way, this isn’t that big of a spoiler because the narrator tells you this midway through the book.

Second, Pamuk does for social and political commentary what Jose Saramago did, but he does it in the style of Haruki Murakami. His prose are easily readable by most standards and hold a surrealist slant that dips in  and out of consciousness. Not that I don’t enjoy a tough read. Tough reads make me feel like I’ve actually learned something and grown as a reader, as a writer, and as a human being. But there’s something to be said for readable prose.

Now to the topics Pamuk brings to the reader in “Snow.” There’s discussions of Eurocentric understandings of the world. The story takes place in Kars, Turkey and there are constant reference to what Europeans think of Turks, why they think what they think, and why they are wrong, but not for the reasons the average European would think.

The whole story revolves around the “Suicide girls” and cultural questions revolving around revolution, wearing of the hijab, and religion. Unlike where the average Westerner might think Pamuk to go, he goes everywhere else. He manages to paint a picture that does not denigrate Turks or Islam while at the same time not promoting it outright. All this is done while also not playing the “everything is relative and nothing is moral without relativist understanding.”

For the record, I have not missed the irony that a Westerner is telling you how to think about a book written by a Turk about the Western interpretation of Turkish life.

"Thirteen Reasons Why" and Suicide

Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, a YA novel that apparently is a huge hit around the world, is something to behold. Not just as a first novel, but as a prolific, captivating story.

***Fair warning: there may be spoilers below***

First, it touches on a subject few really want to discuss beyond the usual pep-rallies that hype up the “awareness” of suicide. In almost every culture around the world, depression (and all mental illness) is seen as a “get over it” disease. “If only you’d smile more, you wouldn’t be so depressed.” “If you stopped wearing black, maybe you’d have friends.” “Stop looking for attention and get over yourself.” “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

These are all comments I heard directed at me (and others).

Second, Hannah (one of the main characters…the one who commits suicide) makes it a point to acknowledge several things. For one, the councilor did nothing to stop her though he of all people should have known the signs. The reason for Mr. Porter’s misstep remains unclear, but given my professional background, I can say that many professionals in the field of mental illness and teens (or adults) hear different versions of “I’m gonna kill myself” so often, even they begin to go blind. It’s a field that one can rarely remain successful at for very long. It’s too draining.

If, on the other hand, Mr. Porter wasn’t really a professional, he still acted like every other school faculty member I’ve ever engaged. When I went to several different school faculty members about bullying I was told everything.

“Get over it.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“Everyone’s going to die. ‘You’re going to die’ isn’t a threat.”
“You can’t possibly believe they did that on purpose.”
“If you stopped dressing like you do, maybe you wouldn’t draw so much attention.”

These are all comments teachers and principals said to me when I approached them. And, yes, I received phone call death threats. I brought the answering machine tape in as proof. The administrator looked me square in the face and said, “Everyone’s going to die….this isn’t a threat.”

There remains an overarching culture of “teenagers are just melodramatic” and “teasing is a natural part of life”. That’s a main reason why so many, like Hannah, commit suicide. Which leads me to something else Hannah mentioned that I’ve never heard spoken by anyone except my own troubled thoughts when I was a teen.

These “isolated” incidents can get to a point where nothing in your life is sacred, nothing is safe, and psychologically, it hollows you out. You’re not safe at home or in your room. You’re not safe in school, at recess, at the bus stop, on the street, in the store, in the car, or anywhere. Crowds become something you avoid, as are places of isolation, places where you can be surprised, where there’s no bright lights. You stop using the bathroom since nobody can see you in there. You stop going into public because people can see you.

A friend of mine and I were chased on foot by three jocks in their car one night. Three blocks they followed us and screamed what they planned to do to us. We ran into a VFW where they were holding a fundraiser. We begged to let us use their phone. They said they didn’t want that kind of trouble there and kicked us out…where the three other students continued to follow us. Finally at home, we called the police. They took statements but nothing happened. Why? One of the other guy’s parents was a police officer.

Lastly, Hannah was seeking attention. But not in the way most mean when they utter those words. She sought help. You can’t just walk up to somebody and say “I want to kill myself.” And if you did, they’d simply say, “If that were true, then you’d have done it already…you’re just looking for attention.” The next morning, when questions were asked, they would say, “Yes, but I didn’t believe she’d actually do it.” Then pep-rallies would ensue and the cycle would continue…without that person.

You’re right! They are looking for attention. They came to you for help. They still don’t really want to kill themselves. There’s still a shred of humanity inside them they’re clinging to and they are looking to you for the reason to continue holding on. But since they have not yet found a safe haven, death seems the only relief.

Too many nights, as a teen, I spent trying to figure out how I’d do it. Friends, parents, teachers, peers, principals. I went to them all. The dark clothes and the anger didn’t come until after I had given up. As  someone I knew once said, “The only problem was, I was too depressed to lift the knife to my wrist.”

I can’t thank Jay Asher for bringing those horrible memories of my own past to light, but I can say Thank You for producing a book, and apparently a moment that will, I hope, change many. It would be my guess, however, that most schools will ban this book the next time a teen within their walls french kisses the barrel of a gun. Having read many of the negative comments about this book, I find it hard to believe Asher is winning this uphill battle.

Addendum: Jay Asher and I don’t know each other, have never spoken, and nobody and no organization or company paid me for this post.

Gathering Blue: A look at Lois Lowry’s 2nd book in the Giver series

I have to say I expected more from Lowry in this second book. I loved The Giver. And though Gathering Blue was not a bad book, and I’d recommend it to any young adult reader, I felt it lacked.

It started off strong and I thought Lowry was going to give the reader serious social commentary on the treatment of people with disabilities. There remained an undercurrent of this, but outside of the first few pages, it drifted into the background.

The ending was by far my least favorite. Don’t get me wrong. I’m the first to admit, I love sad endings, ambiguous endings, and any story where not every loose end is tied. I’m thinking here of The Chocolate War, The Giver, Nothing, and any number of young adult stories. But without giving away the ending, this one left me confused. Assuming names are based on 10 year increments, I expect Kira to be a relatively young woman, yet her grown-up decision involving her past seemed just too adult-like, even for her. She seemed relatively unmoved by the last thirty pages. As was I. It was as if Lowry had no idea how to end Gathering Blue and just went with the first idea that popped into her head.

But I’m still going to read her last two books in the series. Perhaps it’s my more recent book choices which include Morrison, Saramago, Atwood, and now Updike that has upped my threshold for great literature. This all said, Lowry is still one of my favorite young adult writers. And for such a short read, I would not pass up another read sometime in the future.

Addendum: Rereading this post I noticed how harsh I was on Lowry. Perhaps its the Monday blues. Gathering Blue reads well, reads easy, doesn’t talk down to the reader, and, frankly, expects more from her reader than the average author. I blame Lowry herself for raising the bar so high for my expectations ^_^.

Soon I hope to finish Updike’s The Coup. This is one of Updike’s least known novels, and certainly one of his most experimental. Apparently, I like experimental. Unlike most, I’m digging this novel so far.

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