Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Only Girl in the Car by Kathy Dobie

Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 2nd 2004 by Delta (first published 2002)
ISBN: 0385318839 (ISBN13: 9780385318839)
primary language:English
original title: The Only Girl in the Car
Goodreads Synopsis:
Bookworm and dreamer, Kathy Dobie was a young girl with a tender heart, an adventurer’s spirit, and a child’s terrible confusion about her proper place in the world. As the oldest daughter in a family of six children, she seemed trapped in her role as Big Sister and Mommy’s Helper. Then, one day, teetering on the brink of adolescence, hormones surging, she heard someone call her “cheesecake,” and suddenly saw her path.
“Cheesecake, jailbait, sex kitten” -the very words seemed to be “doors opening” to a splendid new self. But from the moment she decides to lose her virginity and reels in her prey, a “full-grown man,” fourteen-year-old Kathy is headed for trouble. One cold, raw March night some months later, parked in a car with four boys on the outskirts of her small suburban town, she finds it.
Though she could never have foreseen the outcome of that night, the “boys in the car could just as well have been Gypsies foretelling my future,” she writes. Girls who break the rules in small towns like the one she lived in are expected to pay a very high price for their transgressions - and she did.
And yet... this young girl, as scrappy a protagonist as any in our literature, manages to transform her fate. The story of how she came to be in that car, and how she stepped out of it forever altered, to be sure, yet not forever damaged, is the theme of this extraordinary coming-of-age tale.
My Thoughts:
This was such a sad story, but so understandable. I ached for this girl who had such a gut wrenching need to be loved for herself, and who went about finding that love in the wrong ways with the wrong people. I understood her need to be who she wanted to be, and the claustrophobia she felt when she saw the "type" that many around her expected her to be. That this created friction in her family that eventually deteriorated into volatility was unsurprising, as was her search for acceptance among peers...not realizing at the time that those to whom she turned would damage her in ways she could not imagine. What does seem somewhat surprising (to me) is the short amount of time it took for her to really hit bottom. You don't envision that situations like what Dobie described can develop so fast...but they can, and the fallout is enormous. Twenty plus years later, the effects are still apparent. What is comforting here is that she survived without more damage...and that, even at age 15, she understood that she could change her life, and set about to do so.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Audio CD, 11 disks (11.75 hours)
Published August 30th 2002 by Recorded Books (first published July 3rd 2002)
ISBN:1402532903 (ISBN13: 9781402532900)
primary language:English
original title:The Lovely Bones
setting:United States
4.5 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration (pitch perfect)

Goodreads Synopsis:
In the first chapter of this haunting novel, 14-year-old Susie Salmon looks down from heaven and describes the horrifying events of her murder. As time goes on, Susie continues her curious observations while her family struggles to cope with the pain of her death. Her younger sister grows tougher and more mature, her mother goes to desperate lengths to ease the suffering, and her father begins a perilous quest to bring the killer to justice.

Suspenseful, daring, and even humorous in just the right doses, The Lovely Bones is an utterly original and unforgettable tale. It transcends one family's overwhelming grief to deliver an astonishing vision of hope and love.

My Thoughts:
** spoiler alert ** I really loved this book. It is such a unique approach to telling the story of a death (a murder), and it fleshes out a perspective that we often speculate about but don't seem to talk about very often. What is heaven like? The story that Sebold gives us is touching and sweet and real. She allows her characters to feel and grieve and react in ways that seem expected and familiar, but she also allows us to see (and possibly understand) how Suzie Salmon copes with her death. What was unexpected (for me) is that she grieved too...and desperately missed her family...and, many times, wanted to go back.

If I had one gripe with Sebold, it was that gave us a Heaven devoid of God. What is the point, really, of existing infinitely, in Heaven, without God. All the elements were there in her story...except one...and it was something that, in the midst of connecting with this lovely story, perched in the back of my mind throughout.

In the end, the story coalesces in a way that is both satisfying and frustrating. Sebold does tie things up fairly neatly, which in this case seemed appropriate to me, and though I was satisfied that Mr. Harvey would no longer terrorize anyone else, I was frustrated that he wasn't caught...and that his death (painful as it probably was), did not do justice to the torture he meted out during his lifetime. Sometimes, though, life is that same way, so in that respect, the ending of the story seems reflective of how capricious life is sometimes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thrift Store Saints by Jane Knuth

Paperback, 160 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Loyola Press
ISBN:0829433015 (ISBN13: 9780829433012)
4 stars 

Goodreads synopsis:
Jane Knuth's middle-class, suburban, church-going background had not prepared her well to serve as a volunteer at an inner-city thrift store. Reluctantly, she decided to give it a try.Thrift Store Saints is a collection of true stories based on Jane's unexpected, soul-stirring experiences at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Rather than viewing society's poor as problems to be solved, Jane begins to see them, one at a time, in a completely different light-as saints who can lead us straight to the heart of Christ.
Jane's transformation is rooted in the prevailing message of the book: When we serve the poor, they end up giving us much more than we could ever give them. Each chapter introduces readers to new "saints," as Jane thoughtfully, at times humorously, describes how her frequent encounters with the poorest people were really opportunities to meet Jesus-25c at a time.

My thoughts:
This book touched me in ways I did not expect. It is not a great piece of literature, but there are little nuggets in every chapter that pull at you. However, it is the final third of the book that I really responded to. I am thankful it wasn't preachy, and that it was written in a simple, straightforward style. Sometimes in order to really get the message, it needs to be soft-pedaled, and Jane Knuth's light touch was exactly right for the subject matter. I am grateful to have read it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend

Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Harper Perennial (first published 1986)

ISBN: 0380730448 (ISBN13: 9780380730445)
original title:
The Complete Adrian Mole Diaries: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 and The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole
3 stars (or maybe 2.5 stars) 

Goodreads Synopsis:
Adrian Mole faces the same agonies that life sets before most adolescents: trouble s with girls, school, parents, and an uncaring world. The difference, though, between young Master Mole and his peers is that this British lad keeps a diary—an earnest chronicle of longing and disaster that has charmed more than five million readers since its two-volume initial publication. From teenaged Adrian’s anguished adoration of a lovely, mercurial schoolmate to his view of his parents’ constantly creaking  relationship to his heartfelt but hilarious attempts at cathartic verse, here is an outrageous triumph of deadpan—and deadly accurate—satire. ABBA, Princess Di’s wedding, street punks, Monty Python, the Falklands campaign . . . all the cultural pageantry of a keenly observed era marches past the unique perspective of Sue Townsend’s brilliant comic creation: A . Mole, the unforgettable lad whose self-absorption only gets funnier as his life becomes more desperate.

 My Thoughts:
OK, I did enjoy this book. There were lots of hilarious things about it, but over all, I got tired of it. Mostly, I got tired of what a self-absorbed, selfish, ridiculously naive, snobby, hypochondriacal, pain in the ass that Adrian was. I mean, he was completely without any sense, although he fancied himself the most sensible of anyone...which in the context of his family, he probably was. The shtick got old after a while, perhaps because it seemed like between the ages of 13 3/4 and 16 he didn't seem to really wise up at all. I thought I might read more of these, considering the comedic factor, but I think I'm finished.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book Confessions Meme

1. To mark your page you: use a bookmark, bend the page corner, leave the book open face down?
Bookmarks...which can consist of anything from a real true bookmark to a strategically placed booklight to a business card to a napkin (yes, a clean one) to the flap of a dust jacket. You name it, I've probably used it for a bookmark at some point in time.

2. Do you lend your books?
Only the ones I have really enjoyed (or have been requested). And unless I've really, really, REALLY enjoyed them and want to keep them, they go in a book bag to be sold at the local I can buy other books.

3. You find an interesting passage: you write in your book or NO WRITING IN BOOKS!
I've done it, and I'm not against it. In fact, I've been known to look for used books on a particular subject that have notes in them, just to get another person's perspective.

4. Dust jackets - leave it on or take it off.
Since I am prone to use the flap for a bookmark, I leave them on.

5. Hard cover, paperback, skip it and get the audio book?
In order of preference (and rarely ever bought new): trade paperback, audiobook, hardback, mass market paperback.

6. Do you shelve your books by subject, author, or size and color of the book spines?
I have done all of the above. Currently my "keep forever and ever" books are loosely categorized by subject, and my "to be read" list (which is actually an entire bookshelf) is categorized as wherever there is room, that's where it goes.

7. Buy it or borrow it from the library later?
Buy used, borrow from the library and/or a friend, exchange with a friend for something they have that I want, and on the rarest (and I mean RAREST) of occasions buy new.

8. Do you put your name on your books - scribble your name in the cover, fancy bookplate, or stamp?
I usually don't put my name in most books because ithey're not lkely to remain with me permanently.

9. Most of the books you own are rare and out of print books or recent publications?
Mixture - probably 30% old/out of print, 70% newish.

10. Page edges - deckled or straight?

11. How many books do you read at one time?
I'm usually reading 2-3 books at a time (at varying speeds), listening to an audiobook, and reading however many books Cody wants to read at any given time.

12. Be honest, ever tear a page from a book?
Only from the phonebook.

Book Nerd Meme

Or how I got my blog name...LOL

1. What author do you own the most books by?
Mark Twain

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
Probably Huckleberry Finn - I have three copies...or maybe four.

3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
None - never had a crush on any fictional character, but there were I few cases where I wished I WAS the character.

4. What book have you read more than any other?
The Stand by Stephen King

5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Probably The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

6. What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
There are five books that tie for worst in the past 12 months (Apr 08 to Apr 09):
Rescuing Sprite by Mark Levin (great subject, terrible writing)
First Love by Joyce Carol Oates (great writing, deplorable subject)
Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells (so bad I could not get myself to read Divine Secrets, even though it was supposed to be better)
Predator by Patricia Cornwell (characters were flat, story was so far-fetched I couldn't get into it)
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (I know it was a huge hit, but it annoyed me completely)

Since I wrote this meme in April 09, I will update my "worst reads" to the current date - thankfully there are only two:

Twenty Things Adoptive Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge (very very negative)
Grace [Eventually]: Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (DEFINITELY not about God's here for my book review)

7. What is the best book you've read in the past year?
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (gritty and violent, but superbly written) - read Feb 2009

Best books from April 09 to present (several tie for this designation)
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (superb in every way)
My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas (click here to read my review)
A Child's Calendar by John Updike (really interesting, well crafted poetry simple & meaningful)
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns (outstanding Southern fiction)
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (outstanding)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (darkly real depiction of circus life)
Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern (Freakin' hilarious!!)
There Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (incredibly rendered story of a black woman's life in FL during the 1930s) 
The Prodigal God and Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller (good, sound theological analysis, powerfully written)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (wrenchingly sad)

8. If you could tell everyone to read one book, what would it be?
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss or Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (awesome kids books)
The Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte (complex story that is flawlessly executed)

9. What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
Hard to say... Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (in Middle English), Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (difficult content for a 12th grader)

10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Probably the French, due solely to the fact that I loved Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac

11. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
No preference - they're all good for different reasons.

12. Austen or Eliot?
No preference

13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Classics - I've read a lot, but not nearly as many as I should have read by now.

14. What is your favorite novel?
Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Stand by Stephen King
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Purgatorio by Dante
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

15. Play?
Noises Off by Michael Frayn or Lysistrata by Aristophanes

16. Poem?
Most anything by John Donne, "Stop All the Clocks" (aka "Funeral Blues") by W.H. Auden

17. Essay?
"A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift

18. Short Story?
"Why I Live at the P.O." by Eudora Welty, "The Beard" by Fred Chappell

19. Non Fiction
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott (the whole series)
Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
Night by Elie Wiesel
My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas
The Prodigal God and Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

20. Graphic Novel?
Never read any graphic novels

21. Science Fiction?
The only science fiction I've read is Isaac Asimov.

22. Who is your favorite writer?
I suppose I have to say Mark Twain, due to the fact that he is the only writer whose work I have generally loved. Most other writers are hit & miss with me.

23. Who is the most over-rated writer alive today?
I wouldn't say definitively that a certain writer is over-rated, but of what I have read over the years, there are LOTS of books that are highly over-rated. Writers can have their moments of brilliance even if they are not the greatest, so I'm loathe to make that kind of generalization.

24. What are you reading right now? (this is current as of 6 Nov 2010)
Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff; Faith in the Face of Apostacy: The Gospel According to Elijah and Elisha by Raymond B. Dillard; Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment by Linda Dillow; Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank; Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert; For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers; You're Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation by Deborah Tannen

25. Best Memoir?
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas

26. Best History?
Don't read a lot of history.

27. Best mystery or Noir?
The Lady in the Morgue by Jonathan Latimer (hardboiled detective fiction)

28. What is in your pile of books 'to be read'?
Close to 1000 books so far.

29. Do you prefer to own books or to borrow them?
Own them, of course.

30. Do you write in your books?
Occasionally - and I take no issue when others do it as well. I have been known to purchase books that have been written in just to get a new perspective on what I'm reading.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Literary Characters I'd Love to Adopt

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. They love to share their lists with other bookish folks and LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they post a new Top Ten list complete with one of their bloggers answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND sign Mister Linky at the bottom to share with all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Don't worry if you can't come up with ten every time...just post what you can!
Top Ten(ish) Characters or Groups of Characters I'd Love to Adopt
  1. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee) - A charming, understanding, gentle-natured father who stood up for what he believed in.  My favorite father in all of literature.
  2. Molly Weasley...well, the ENTIRE Weasley Family (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling).  Who wouldn't want to have these hilarious people in your family fold?  In particular, Molly Weasley is a cool, fun mom who encourages her kids to embrace life with gusto.  She is kind-hearted and generous, and always willing to embrace her children's friends as extensions of her own family.  What's not to love?  With one exception, her children seem to follow in her example - they have fun with each other, torment each other, and when the chips are down, they have each other's back...which is what family should be.
  3. Marmie March (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott).  I adored her, plain and simple.  She had a very astute understanding of her daughters and their various personalities that enabled her to cultivate a unique relationship with each of them without favoring one over the other.  She was kind and wise, gave good advice, and believed in not only doing the right thing, but also teaching her girls to do so as well.
  4. Jacob Jankowski (Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen).  Is he a cool old guy or what?  He loves (and misses) his family, he is usually pretty good natured, and he has FANTASTIC stories of life on the circus.  Now those are some life stories I'd love to soak up.
  5. Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling).  He's such an incredibly gifted and wise old guy, with a huge love for kids and a willingness to mentor Harry, the one closest to his heart.  I love his toughness, his skill, and his tender heart.
  6. August Boatwright (The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd).  What a loving, nurturing, strong, proud (in a good way) woman!  She created a life for herself in which she thrived personally while also caring for those around her.  She had a gift for connecting with people, and the connection that flourished between her and Lily was lovely and enviable.  What a complex, interesting woman to have around!
  7. Elie Wiesel (Night).  Like Jacob Jankowski, his experiences would be the stories you couldn't get enough of.  When he speaks of his life, you are riveted to the spot and captive to the story.  No day would ever be dull with Elie Wiesel around.
  8. Pat Conroy (My Reading Life).  Yet another man with stories to tell and a talent for telling them.  On top of that, he has a patience for questions - especially questions about books & writing - that makes him approachable.  He is humble, gives credit where it is due, and he's crazy funny.
  9. The March Sisters (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott).  They all have their good & bad points, as do we all, but they are good to each other and loyal to a fault.  I especially connected with Jo March because of her passion for books and writing, and her complete impatience with some of the more ridiculous conventions of society.
  10. Minerva McGonagall (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling).  She's stern, discerning, wise, and fierce.  Her affections are deep, and though rarely expressed, it is obvious that she cares enough to advise wisely, give space when needed, and protect & defend when required.
  11. Anne Frank (Diary of a Girl).  She is so smart and so observant, and she spares no words to say what she thinks.  I just love her.
  12. Emily Elizabeth (Clifford books by Norman Bridwell).  How can you not love her?  She has the COOLEST dog on the island!  Plus she's kind and generous, and she is always willing to give you a chance to redeem yourself when you've messed up...'cause everyone does, even the best of friends.
  13. Naomi ( of Ruth).  Now THAT'S what a mother-in-law should be like.  If she can engender that kind of loyalty in a DIL, even after her son has passed away, she is a special woman indeed.
  14. Anna Pigeon, Dave Robicheaux & Spenser (from their respective detective series).  I present these three together, because they are essentially the same type of person:  good but flawed people with an extraordinary talent for ferreting out the truth in even the most inscrutable circumstances.  Plus, when it comes to getting things done, they have the connections to do so.  Seriously, I wouldn't want to be related to Clete Purcell or Hawk (or various other "unsavory" characters per se, but I wouldn't necessarily object to a family member having connections to them.  Especially if I had need of their services...
  15. Orry Main (North & South, Love & War and Heaven & Hell by John Jakes).  I loved him for two main reasons (no pun intended):  his consuming & undying love for Madeline, whom he (finally) rescued from her abusive husband; and his unwavering friendship with George Hazard, with whom he had huge political differences but did not allow them to degrade their relationship.  He is a leader in his family, and let's face it...he's a charming Southern gentleman.  For a southern girl, that's irresistible...and made even more so when Patrick Swayze was cast in that role on the TV miniseries. :-D
  16. Trisha McFarland (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King).  Man, was she one plucky, smart, focused, disciplined kid...and a survivor.  She gets lost in the woods, deals with all manner of scary things, and keeps her wits. Talk about having a little sister with some guts.  She's a winner all the way around.
  17. Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee).  She is smart, can hang with the boys without being too girlie for them, has a tender heart, and she's not superficial or shallow.  Of coarse, it would be surprising if she were, given her parentage.  I think I'd enjoy hanging with her and talking about...well...whatever.
  18. Sister (Why I Live at the P. O. by Eudora Welty).  She has a family that would stress anyone out.  She is outspoken and frank about the familial hijinks seem to be as constant as breathing.  She is wickedly, ridiculously funny, and I just couldn't get enough of her.
  19. Juliet Ashton (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  In looking for her next book project, she finds her idea in the most unexpected (for her) place...a letter from a man she doesn't know.  What I dig about her is how she allows herself to pursue this idea past just a story interest, and in the process fills her life with interesting, deep and lovely people...and she is deeply changed in the process.  I love that in the end, she cares more for them than for her book, which is the kind of person I would enjoy having around.
  20.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (from the book of the same name).  I loved every single one of these people for their ability to find a way to not only exist, but to find joy and fun under very dire circumstances.  It made for hilarious adventures and lasting friendships, which are staples of great stories.  I mean, really, it would be a total riot to have these people around all the time, and to be witness to their lives.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Audio CD, 6 disks (6.5 hours)
Published January 28th 2006 by Recorded Books (first published February 1st 1999)

ISBN:1419387243 (ISBN13: 9781419387241)
original title:The Perks of Being a Wallflower
characters:Patrick, Charlie, Sam
4.5 stars overall / 3 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is navigating through the strange worlds of love, drugs, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", and dealing with the loss of a good friend and his favorite aunt.

My Thoughts:
** spoiler alert ** Before starting to review this book, I read a lot of reviews on it to get a sense of what others were saying about it. This may be cheating, but in this case, I was having a lot of trouble coalescing a lot of impressions into any sort of articulate analysis, and reading other reviews has really helped me organize my thoughts.

I had a lot of personal reactions to this book because of the fact that so many of the references were cultural staples during the time I was a high school student. Contrary to what some reviewers stated - that the cultural references were out of date and/or unrealistic, I think they were pretty much spot on. I was in college during 1991-92, but as a high schooler I remember the cult of Rocky Horror (though I was not a part of it), and I remember the whispering, bullying, shunning, etc. that those on the fringes received in high school. At that time, the fringes included homosexuals, artsy types, druggies (and those who dabbled), super smarties, and of course all the other standard groups. There is no question that taunting, bullying and the like happened to the fringes kids. There is no question in my mind that Charlie would have experienced that type of treatment. I don't know how high schools are now, but I expect things have not changed a whole lot with regard to kids who are weird, unfashionable, or different. It is certainly realistic to me that oddballs tend to draw to each other, especially if they have any kind of kindred feelings and kindness toward others like them as a result. Chbosky was hardly speaking of the mainstream high school kids here, so that the mismatched element to this group of friends seems right to me.

With specific regard to Patrick & Brad, and how they navigated their relationship, I think to some extent you have to have lived through the 80s and early 90s to understand some of their behaviors. Attitudes were a lot different toward wasn't as mainstream as it is today, especially in high school. There absolutely were known areas to go for the purpose of casual sex. It wasn't at all easy to "come out." Additionally, this was before there was a widespread understand of sexually transmitted disease, and the risky behaviors (meeting in the park after dark to hook up with an unknown person) that made one a high risk candidate.

I think Charlie's voice rang absolutely true in the book. He was smart, weird, emotional and broken. He felt completely responsible for the death of his Aunt Helen because she died on his birthday while out to buy him a present. What teenager wouldn't feel like that to some extent, especially a teen who had other emotional and psychological issues (as we learn at the end). I certainly did not expect that turn of events, but in the end, it explained a lot about Charlie and his fragility.

I also think that, again contrary to what some reviews suggest, it was completely realistic for Charlie's parents to be somewhat naive to what was going on in his life. For a kid who had emotional & psychological problems - from which he appeared to have largely recovered - they were realistically and understandably glad that he had made some friends. He had a teacher at school who showed particular interest in him because he was so a parent, especially one who was unaware of the molestation, this would be a welcome experience. I remember going through high school and being pretty much autonomous when it came to my academic decisions...not surprising when you're a responsible student, and Charlie was definitely that. Now I do think that they were ridiculously out of touch when it came to his social schedule, but there are a lot of kids out there who, at 15 or 16, have an inordinate amount of freedom (and free time). It seems understandable to me that this inattention to his activities is part & parcel of their characters, and also of their happiness at seeing him make some new friends...especially after his best friend committed suicide.

Finally, it is easy to see why this book created controversy. While I didn't see it as encouraging deviant behavior necessarily, I can see how the fact that it was accepted and there weren't really any negative consequences could make Charlie's 9th grade experience seem exotic and desirable. He was essentially a good kid who went through a lot of crap, so this whole situation is an anomaly. But then again, back in my high school days when we were reading Catcher in the Rye (to which Perks of Being a Wallflower has been compared), Holden Caulfield's experiences were an anomaly as well. I don't know that I'd be comfortable as a parent with it being on a required reading list, but I'm not a believer in censoring lit, nor in being an uninvolved parent. I believe it should be available, and parents should know what their kids are reading so they can, when necessary, talk about it.

All in all, I loved this book. I loved the epistolary format. I loved that Charlie had an emotional outlet. I loved that his family pulled together when it counted. I loved that he had a teacher who was interested in him for his brains, and who was not a pervert. I loved that he had friends like Sam & Patrick...because there are kind kids out there, and there is always a net gain when people are kind to each other. And I loved most of all that he recovered. To me, that may be the most important part of this whole story...that you can recover, that suicide is not the answer, and that help is available when you need it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Blog

I decided, after looking at my personal blog, that I needed a separate blog for all things book related.  Bear with me while I transition the book-related content from Spotts in the Valley of the Sun to Bookish new blog dedicated to all things literary.

Please visit & follow, make comments & suggestions.  I welcome input, and I hope you will find my bookish thoughts interesting.

Thanks for reading!