Sunday, October 11, 2015

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven
Release date: January, 2015
From Goodreads:

 Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

A word about the cover: So pretty, so delicate, I love it! I think it fits in beautifully with the content of the book.

Thoughts about the book:

I'm glad to say that most of the books I've read this year have turned out to be really good. Of course, I suppose one of the main reasons for this is that I've started abandoning books which don't rub me the right way (not saying that's a great thing, it's just what's happening), which means that if I end up finishing a book, it's probably good.

And this one obviously was. By now, you've probably heard of the million awards it's been getting nominated for and winning.

When you read All the Bright Places, you understand that it comes from a personal place. There's such a sensitivity with which the harsh reality of mental illness and abuse and grief has been handled (not to mention the author note at the end of the book). It's very well-written.

Things I liked:

  • The dual PoV. I love to see how authors handle more than one narrator's voice and it's such a treat when someone gets it right.
  • The writing. Like I keep saying, so much sensitivity. It's like cracked glass, delicate and sharp.
  • Mental illness. So glad someone decided to talk about it. It needs to be talked about, more. Especially in books where that isn't the sole focus.
  • Love. How the only kind of love to talk about isn't the kind that's forever. There are all kinds of love. All kinds and every kind is true and real in its own right.
  • Indiana. Violet and Finch have to explore the 'wonders' of Indiana as part of their class project. So in a way, this read like a love letter to Indiana, because you only read about people exploring the big cities with their fancy lights, not states like Indiana, which I thought was very very cool.
  • The emphasis on the word 'lovely'. 'Lovely' is one of my favourite words, and when Finch says, 'Lovely is a lovely word and should be used more often', he took away the new-fictional-bff trophy.
  • The quirky light touch of this book. It's very rare to find books that deal with such serious issues dazzle like the sun. Really. The atmosphere of this book was so...hopeful.

This was a lovely book that left me in pieces. And such an important read, too. People need to be sensitized to how the good and the bad happen together, that neither is exclusive of the other, that mental illness exists and that age has nothing to do with it, that we have to look out for it instead of turning away from those afflicted by it. There needs to be more books like this. Good fiction works this way - commercial appeal, important book.

You know what the best piece of news about this book is? It's being made into a movie with Elle Fanning as Violet. They haven't found a Finch yet, but I'm waiting to be surprised.

Before that happens, go ahead and read it.

What's the last contemporary YA you've read?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

The Vast Fields of Ordinary
by Nick Burd
Published on: May 1st, 2009
from Goodreads:


It's Dade's last summer at home, and things are pretty hopeless. He has a crappy job, a "boyfriend" who treats him like dirt, and his parents' marriage is falling apart. So when he meets and falls in love with the mysterious Alex Kincaid, Dade feels like he's finally experiencing true happiness. But when a tragedy shatters the final days of summer, he realizes he must face his future and learn how to move forward from his past.




I read this book a year back. Yup. Long, long time. But just couldn't get around to talking about it because I tend to lose my coherence when I end up liking something (which, I understand, is a terrible thing to admit on a book blog but whattodo!).

This book is one of my brother's favourites (the kind that he re-read so much that he actually lost count of how many times he has read it) and he gave it to me at this time last year when I had no idea what I was doing with my life and made the impulsive decision to shift from Calcutta to New Delhi again.

Anyway. I moved to ND almost empty-handed (in terms of books, really) save for this. And thank god for that. What an ache-y, sensitive, beautiful book this was.

I believe the true test of a book lies in holding your attention and making you feel, really feel, when you've shut yourself from the rest of the world and kind of hit rock bottom. Everything stops mattering at this point. And if a book ends up mattering, well, you can guess how good a book that must be,

This is an extremely well-written book, exploring that time between high school and college when everything around you is changing and you are not quite sure if you want it to or maybe you're just torn between wanting it to and not wanting it to. Dade is at that point, wanting to leave high school and his town behind but not quite sure how to, especially when he falls in love with the strangely alluring Alex Kincaid (fictional crush alert, yup). This is a book about relationships, complicated relationships - between divorcing parents, between parents and children with secret lives, between lovers and ex lovers, and it's all very sensitively handled. It's a book with a big heart and it's essentially a bite of a-few-days-in-the-life-of-a-gay-teenager. And it's done beautifully. And that makes all the difference.

I don't know if Nick Burd has written any more books. I haven't come across any more but I wish he does, because I would read it. He is immensely talented. It takes a deft hand to make the everyday so beautiful and significant.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller
Published: September, 2011
Winner of the Orange Prize, 2012
From Goodreads:
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

I don't quite know where to begin with this book. When I finished it I wanted to talk about it immediately, but I refrained because I was too overwhelmed and I wanted to distance myself enough to look at it objectively.

Tried. Failed. Can't. It's been over a week and I'm still overwhelmed by it and I can't keep myself from talking about it anymore.

I LOVED THIS BOOK.

It destroyed me and I loved it. 

When I was in school, I was obsessed with the Trojan war and when Brad Pitt and Eric Bana came together to play Achilles and Hector in that terrible movie, my teenage hormones went into overdrive. Back then I used to read up every book I could find on the Trojan war. 

Which makes you wonder what new thing could anyone offer on the Trojan war. It's been told and re-told and dealt with and done with. What else? Well, a love story maybe. And not the Helen-Paris kind which, honestly, makes me roll my eyes too much. But, hello, Achilles and Patroclus! Madeline Miller hits it just right. Of all the things that somebody dealing with an epic retelling could try to take up, this love story is the crux of this story. This is no Trojan war retelling. The Trojan war is just a by-the-way detour (albeit the most important one) of the many detours that come in the way of Achilles and Patroclus' story.

And.

This is quite possibly the greatest and most beautiful love story I've ever read. Madeline Miller has a way with words. She hits the right balance between literary and commercial. An epic setting and a glorious story of two boys from childhood to adulthood and thereafter. Of course, since I was familiar with the detailed story of the Trojan War, I knew where the book was heading and what would happen but that did not stop me, rather could not stop me, from reading this in one sitting. My housemate was appalled seeing that I had very conveniently skipped lunch and a bath and every other essential everyday thing for the book. When I finished the book at about 1 a.m. in the morning, in tears, right before the power went off for the next three hours, she was even further appalled. 
'I've never seen or heard you cry over a real person before,' she said. Oh, and she has known me for the last eight years.

Anywho. The point is, this book is going straight into my forever-favourites list. A week since reading it, just looking at the book on my shelf makes my heart all tight and big and it's funny how it does both those things at once but THIS BOOK IS SO BEAUTIFUL I WANT TO CRY WHENEVER I TALK ABOUT IT.

AND I WANT TO TATTOO SOME OF THOSE LINES BECAUSE OMG SO GORGEOUS -


“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.” 


"I know. They never let you be famous AND happy." He lifted an eyebrow. "I'll tell you a secret.""Tell me." I loved it when he was like this."I'm going to be the first." He took my palm and held it to his. "Swear it.""Why me?""Because you're the reason. Swear it."



“This, I say. This and this. The way his hair looked in summer sun. His face when he ran. His eyes, solemn as an owl at lessons. This and this and this. So many moments of happiness, crowding forward.”

If you read only one book this year, let it be this.

Do you like historical fiction?
 
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