Graphic Novel Review: In Real Life

Synopsis:

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer–a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.

From acclaimed teen author (Little BrotherFor the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash

First Thought:

I remember grabbing this book at a comic book store near the beach a few years back; I believe I read it then but I’m not 100% sure on that. I do remember what caught my eye though, girls and gaming. I’ve played video games since I was seven years old and my older brother wanted someone to play Halo with him. While I’ve never been personally ostracized for being a girl gamer, I’ve had friends who were made fun of and criticized for it so I was interested in the content of In Real Life and I wanted to see what it was about.

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I think this story was trying to bite off more than it could chew. In the descriptor it talks about tackling adolescence, gaming, poverty, and clashing cultures but it only does one of those really successfully and the others in declining order. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the story for the most part but I have to recognize that it was flawed and in some ways that really hurt the storytelling.

So the one thing that I really liked about the story was one of the focuses of female empowerment in gaming. Like I’ve said before, I personally have always been treated respectfully as a female gamer and have never been made to ‘prove my worth’. However, I do know that people are criticized for being female gamers. Hell, I’ve even witnessed male gamers be made to feel worthless by their peers for doing what they love. In Real Life’s first message is to show that girls can feel empowered by being themselves in both the real and virtual world. We see this through Anda’s development through the story. At first she appears to be this meek girl that enjoys making games and playing D&D with her friends, but by the end we see a more confident individual that even tries to make friends with someone from the ‘popular’ crowd. They even drive home the message further with the physical change to Anda’s appearance, giving her the opportunity to make herself look more like the virtual character she created, showing that her virtual and real selves were becoming the same. I also enjoyed some of the little things they did as well with this message, including dialogue showing that the other female characters weren’t sticking with Anda for her gender but because of her skill and reputation in the game. I’m all for girls sticking together, but I find it more organic if it’s out of respect and not shared genitals, just my personal experience.

I liked a lot of what they did with the gaming element of the story, in a way it kind of reminded me of Sword Art Online but more modern day than futuristic. I haven’t actually participated in a lot of MMOs, in fact, that’s not really my gaming of choice because internet connections have always been too terrible for me to try, so I’m not sure how well In Real Life portrays it. From what I understand of that style of gaming, the graphic novel does a fine job showing the positives and negatives. However, I felt like it could’ve done a better job at explaining gold farming and why it’s so bad for gaming, because in my gaming experience farming has a different meaning—and not just that it means to grow/raise plants and livestock. I also felt like it could’ve explained more about guilds and why they’re important for community building and such, but this didn’t really impact the story like the gold farming does.

I’m not sure how this story tackles poverty, other than the whole lack of health care for the Chinese characters. I mean this story does bring to light the fact that a lot of Chinese workers don’t get paid very much so they have to work long hours to make things livable. But I don’t feel like that was a main focus in the story, it was mostly about Anda trying to help a stranger from another country and learning that not every place is like the U.S. With that said, I really don’t think she had a hard enough lesson because the author sacrificed a more realistic ending to make it a happy one. Her ‘punishment’ for interfering in affairs that are beyond her comprehension are laughable and non-existent, she doesn’t really learn anything. She complains about how unfair reality is, but then gets an unrealistic happy ending that is supposed to help her feel good about herself. I get that the biggest point the author was trying to make is that through unity, which we can accomplish more of and on a grander scale now that the internet makes communication easier, we can bring positive change to the world. However, I felt that with the storyline the author was going with the greater lesson would’ve been shown through failure. Yes, not every place is like America, but not every place can become like the U.S. especially not using the means we can to get what we want. The better lesson would’ve been taught through failure because it would’ve shown that the best communication comes through understanding both sides, not by injecting your own values into everything.

Ratings:

Art: 4

I really enjoyed Jen Wang’s art! The character designs are great, each one is unique and really helps make each character notable. There wasn’t a single time in which I confused one character for another, except when it was important to the story. I loved the coloring job as well, everything is so bright and soft—like it was done using water colors! The most detailing was done on the characters, not so much the story sets. The backgrounds for the characters were fine, there’s enough detail to know that they’re not just floating in place. Personally, I like to have more details in the backgrounds especially if it’s a setting like in a video game because I LOVE scene setups in video games. But I understand that the main focus was the characters, so they got the most detailing. The one thing that did bother me was that occasionally the panels looked a little blurry, I don’t know if that’s an art style and done on purpose, but it really stuck out to me in a bad way. Otherwise, the art is fantastic and one of my favorites!

Story: 3

I felt like the author bit off more than they could chew with this one. I can enjoy social commentaries, but this one tried to tackle girls in gaming and social issues in China. When I put it like that it doesn’t really fit, right? Yea, it really doesn’t. The first half was great because it focused on girls being girls in gaming, that if you be yourself in a virtual world you can better embrace yourself in reality. That’s all fine and dandy, and hey it brought some positive light to gaming, that it could be used in a way to build community with others and to build one’s self-esteem. The second half was kind of a mess, and mostly because the ending just didn’t fit. Some people might find the second half to be offensive because Anda deals with characters from outside the US, specifically China, and she tries to help them better their lives by using American means. Her intensions, while pure and misguided, lead to terrible consequences that get her and others in a lot of trouble. However, the author sacrificed good writing and character development to give the story an unrealistic happy ending, and to applaud Anda for her screw-up so she doesn’t really learn from the consequences of her actions—just how to fix them. I also didn’t really care for some of the character development, especially Anda’s mother who was so against online gaming in the beginning and then did a 180 by the end for no real reason.

Overall: 3

While the art was fantastic the story didn’t live up to it. The author wanted to comment on too many issues at once and I felt like it burdened and weakened the story as a whole. The story is still an okay read if you’re looking for an empowering story about a girl trying to come to terms with herself through gaming. But if you don’t want to read about social issues in other countries, especially when an American tries to get involved by themselves, then I would suggest you skip this one. Overall, I find this graphic novel to be quite polarizing. On the one hand I really like the beginning and all the bits in between that doesn’t deal with poverty and just sticks to gaming; on the other hand all the parts dealing with poverty and culture-clash is just poorly written and disappointing to read.

Details:

Title: In Real Life

Publisher: First Second

Writer(s): Cory Doctorow

Illustrator: Jen Wang

Released Date: October 14, 2014

Pages: 175

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Virtual Reality

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Comic Review: Slam! The Next Jam (#1)

Synopsis:

(From Goodreads):

Get ready for another lap around the track in this follow-up series to Pamela Ribon’s critically acclaimed SLAM! After breaking one of the biggest rules in derby (not to mention an actual collarbone), Knockout and CanCan have a lot of work to do to rehabilitate their bodies and improve their standings in the league.

What I First Thought:

I was really interested in reading this one, just because it was really bright and colorful. I’ve read other things by BOOM! Box and I haven’t really been disappointed with them yet, so I decided to give this one a go.

Ratings:

Art: 2/5

The art wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t my style. The overall drawing style stayed consistent and was fine. I really enjoyed all the various character designs; the variety in size, shape, and design was fantastic and easy to tell most characters a part. There were a few characters that were really hard to tell a part and it made parts of the story hard to follow. The thing that I didn’t like the most about this art style was the coloring, it was so in consistent! At times it was solid with no hint of shadowing, even though it was supposed to. Some of the shadows were smooth, other times it looked like someone decided to take a black marker and scribble in between the lines. The scribbling wouldn’t bother me so much if it were consistent, but like when it came to hair a character could have perfectly dyed hair with a nice fade affect but another could have scribbles in their hair. The scribbling didn’t have a rhyme or reason that I could discern and just made the pages look sloppy to me.

Story: 2/5

So it wasn’t until I was looking up some information for this that I found out that it was a follow up to another story, which would explain some of my confusion. This story starts off after a big even is only mentioned at during brief moments, but I don’t really know the characters involved so it was hard for me to judge the severity of the event. For those who read the previous story, this wouldn’t really bother them, but a writer should never assume that a reader has read their previous work because you’ll get someone like me. There was no real indication that this was a follow up, but I always felt like there was something that I was missing that I couldn’t really figure out. A writer should be able to appeal to returning readers while also getting new ones caught up in a clear, reasonable fashion. Instead, this first issue does nothing to really introduce the characters and their relationships with everyone. Aside from that, the story has panels that are out of place that weren’t explained, I was never really sure who the story was following at times, and at the end I’m not really given a reason to continue.

Overall: 2

I don’t think I’m going to continue this series. The art frustrates me. It’s inconsistent and sloppy for no real reason. The writer does nothing to really hook new readers. They don’t introduce their characters in a reasonable manner, the story seems to skip between at least two if not three characters, and there’s no clear objective or storyline. The premise of the story looked interesting, I’ve always wanted to read more about Roller Derby, but I wasn’t really left with a reason to continue…

Details:

Title: Slam! The Next Jam

Issue: 1

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Creator: Pamela Ribon & Veronica Fish

Writer: Pamela Ribon

Illustrator: Marina Julia

Colors: Marissa Louise

Letters: Jim Campbell

Released Date: September 13th, 2017

Pages: 32

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Action

Book Review: On Their Way

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: On Their Way

Author: A.D. Green

Publisher: self published

Release Date: June 3rd, 2016

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic

Pages: 275 (eBook)

Synopsis:

On Their Way centers on the ordinary, but confusing modern-day lives of two close friends in their mid-twenties who find themselves on an unexpected journey to Spain.
Meet Ella – she is perceptive, creative, cerebral, loyal, opinionated, full of dilemmas, and torn between decisions, people, places and life trajectories. Meet Will – he is stubborn, free-spirited, witty, sarcastic, and a writer. The novel offers a glimpse into their lives before, during and after their trip.
As the story unfolds we follow how they change, what they resolve, and how they handle the consequences of their choices. It is a story about friendship, finding meanings, self discovery and moving on. The characters search for understanding, take new chances and realize that you cannot await happiness but have to step into the unknown.

My First Thoughts:

I haven’t run into many New Adult books that I’ve liked, and the ones I did enjoy were actually mislabeled. So when the author presented me this book and called it New Adult, I got rather excited. I don’t normally go for many contemporary romances, but it sounded like a coming of age story and so I gave it a try.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

It took me months to finish this book and by the end it was a bit of a chore to finish. Yes, that’s a harsh thing to say but this book frustrated me to no end the more I read it.

The beginning was hard to get into. I understand that it’s supposed to be just-another-day sort of feeling, but if I wasn’t asked to read this book then I would’ve put it down before the end of the first chapter. Nothing interesting happens during the first few chapters, or better yet there should’ve been drama but it felt hollow because I didn’t understand why or what was going on.

We’re introduced to Ella first, who already has her masters in Criminology and is checking her email for job/interview acceptance (mostly rejection) messages. She complains about roommates you never meet and don’t seem to actually exist within the story before she’s scared by a previous lover, who magically entered the house without her knowing. She’s angry to see him there and they keep referencing something that happened between them years ago, but the author doesn’t tell us what it is until much later. This kind of writing pisses me off, to be frank, because I spent more than two-thirds of the book wanting to know what happened to them not out of interest for the story but to understand Ella’s hostility. When I do find out what happened between Victor and Ella it was so underwhelming that I almost gave up on the book right there. The author spends so much plot time referencing this one thing only to reveal it too late in the game for me to really care anymore and the impact was barely a tap. But for Ella this one thing shaped her for all of her college years, blah-blah-blah, and she couldn’t move past it. I get that she’s supposed to be sympathetic, but her character was the least likable for me and I felt nothing for her and her plights.

In fact, none of the characters were likable. Victor, who was a minor character, was a controlling and lifeless individual. Will, her best friend, is some pompous guy that has a thing against authors and self-help books. There’s this whole arc that deals with his failures and stuff, but I felt no compassion for him and not enough time was spent on it to make me care. Ella was also rather pompous, and when I say this I mean that their dialogue between them and others made me imagine their noses high in the air, and her actions made absolutely no sense what’s so ever. Out of all the characters, I liked Will the most because he was less of a jerk.

The dialogue in On Their Way felt so unnatural that it was almost robotic, but set to modern old English. All the characters, except Victor, took so long to say something so simple that I almost forgot that they’re supposed to be closer to my age than older adults. The conversations were also really dry, at times almost completely unnecessary, as if the author didn’t know how else to get to the next scene. Most of the time the dialogue was the only thing that propelled the plot, which weakens the story all together. I learned the most about what was going on from the dialogue and not Ella’s inner thoughts that she kept sharing. The big reveal/decision that she makes at the end came up suddenly in dialogue instead of gradually coming to that decision in her thoughts. The author told me that Ella thought long and hard on her decision and the plans she made, but I didn’t read a single word of that progression. Instead, I got useless ramblings that amounted to nothing. I was told more than shown what was going on, which is what led to much of my anger with this book and what killed any enjoyment I had reading it.

The other thing the angered me was the unrealistic nature of this book. I labeled it as realistic fiction, but I was half tempted to mark it as a science-fiction story instead because the author had no concept of time. The author kept switching back and forth about how many days had passed and how many more days Ella had. Hours passed in a blink of an eye even though nothing really happened during that passage of time.

The author also used this story to bash authors and airport security, all through the boring conversations between Will and Ella. According to the characters, anyone can be an author but few can be writers, which made me laugh because I believe the exact opposite. Will also takes way too much time spitting on authors of self-help books and the whole genre as a whole. Why? No. Idea. Then when they go through security to go to Barcelona, Ella takes the time to criticize airport security because they took her laptop aside and checked it. This actually happened to me before, it was no big deal and it may be possible for electronics to be made into explosives. Normally I don’t care what the author wants to speak out against in their novels, but this was all the action in the beginning-exciting, right?

The romance was the worst thing that I’ve ever read and it lead to my dislike of Ella. The reason I hated it was because in any other scenario, Ella’s actions would’ve lead to another Taken movie with Liam Neeson. She sparks an interest in a hotel bartender, okay that’s fine. She doesn’t ask for his name, they don’t even introduce each other before the first several dates, and she made it into some sort of game…Sorry, what? That can be hella dangerous not knowing anything about a person, not even a phone number, before going out a not one but several dates. She doesn’t even tell Will, her best friend and only known person in a foreign country, that she’s going out or with whom. Her actions in this romance were nonsensical and ill-advised, again in rea life she would be in serious danger of being kidnapped and sold into the slave trade.

Finally, the relationship between Ella and Will was barely there. They have all these memories and inside jokes, but they don’t act like friends. They spend hardly any time together on their trip, which was a gift for their birthdays, and when they do they’re jerks to each other. Will willing leaves Ella by herself in a foreign country, even brought her to a small town only to ditch her. Ella lets Will run off and be alone during some critical moments for him, when he’s in a pretty dark place. Overall, reading their interactions lead me to think that they were best friends at one point but are more like acquaintances now.

Rating:

1/5

Honestly, I have nothing good to say about this book. I’ve tried so hard to come up with something positive to say, but I haven’t found a single thing. The dialogue was a chore to read and propelled the story forward. The action wasn’t really there, the characters just floated in space for most of the story. None of the characters were interesting or relatable, so I couldn’t bring myself to invest in them or feel for them. The romance was infuriating, boring, and dangerous. Ella’s inner monologues were trivial. The tone and language of the story drew me out of the plot more times than in. There wasn’t a whole lot of imagery are descriptive passages. Overall the story was boring and frustrating, with the author spending all their time tell me what was happening instead of showing.

Related Reviews/Books:

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Book Review: Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately the MilkDetails:

Title: Fortunately, the Milk

Author: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Skottie Young

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: September 17th 2013

Genre: Young Reader, Fiction, Action/Adventure, Science Fiction

Pages: 113

Synopsis:

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. That’s not something you see every day.” And then something odd happened.

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal.

My First Thoughts:

This book was loaned to me by my boyfriend’s younger brother who was shocked that I never read a book by this author. He was adamant about me reading this book, and the cover of the book looked amusing enough to excite my inner reader!

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Oh my…that was bloody fantastic! The story, the characters, the illustrations, all of it was amazing and I don’t know where to begin!

Even though this book was short, full of more illustrations than words sometimes, it told a story and really showed its characters better than some of the much longer books that I’ve read recently. The dad was a fantastic and witty storyteller, always thinking on his feet and going with the flow. The young daughter was serious about her music lessons while her brother was more interested in video games, but they both were attentive listeners to their father’s tale.

The story was quite a delight and always on the move, I never knew what to expect next. Time travel, dinosaurs, pirates, aliens, natives, and an angry volcano. This story had it all and I couldn’t guess what would happen next, which was extremely exciting and fun! I loved Gaiman’s use of creative license, how his words sometimes portrayed the action he was describing. Never once did I break from the story. Instead he used his creative license to make the words flow with the story and guide the reader along at the necessary pace.

And the illustrations that went with the story were amazing! The character designs were unique and fit each one, or group, rather well. They were the embodiment of imagination gone wild and they were fun, just like the story. I loved how Young used pen and ink to create such broad yet detailed, neat yet messy (but not lazy) images that went perfectly with each page. And I loved how sometimes the pictures told more than the words on the page, or lack thereof.

Final Thoughts:

I have to say that my boyfriend’s younger brother has fine literary tastes! I laughed and smiled throughout the entire book! It was so much fun to read and honestly it made my day. I can’t wait to read this to my own kids one day.

This story is a fantastic, fun adventure to read to your children, especially before bed to get their imagination going for dreaming. And let’s be honest, you don’t need kids to read this book. If you’re an adult I won’t judge you if you read and enjoy it, because I certainly did!

Rating(s):

Story: 5/5

I’m in love with Gaiman’s writing! This is the first story in a while in which I couldn’t guess anything that was going to happen. It was entertaining, but also gripping as I wanted to know what happened. I applaud Neil Gaiman in his ability to introduce so many characters and create such an elaborate story in so few pages. While I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, I was just as excited to turn the pages and see what would happen next to our heroic and witty dad.

Illustrations: 5/5

Skottie Young was phenomenal with his illustrations, they fit perfectly with this crazy, witty story. I loved how he used pen and ink to bring these characters and scenes to life, and I will definitely be looking out for more of his work!

Overall: 5/5

This is totally going into my favorites!

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COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: The F- it List

The F it List

Details:

Title: The F- it List

Author: Julie Halpern

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: November 12th 2013

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance, Realistic Fiction

Pages: 247

Synopsis:

Becca has cancer. She doesn’t know what the outcome of her treatment will be.

Alex is Becca’s best friend, and wants to help. And if the only wat she can is by completing Becca’s bucket list, then so be it.

Sleep on a beach and watch the sunrise? Check.

Tell off Lottie McDaniels? Check, definitely.

Fall in love…Wait! What?!

Here is an unforgettable book about living fully, living authentically, and just…living.

My First Thoughts:

So I bought this book on a whim because I really loved the title. I don’t ever read books that focus on cancer, and no I’m not a heartless person, I’ve just lost too many loved ones to cancer to want to read about it too. But I decided to give this one a shot and make it the book that I read before/during St. Valentine’s Day! Sweet, I know…

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

The first thing I have to say is I cried once while reading this book. It was within the first few chapters when the character’s cancer was still new. It wasn’t an overly emotional scene, but I imagined myself as the main character and what it would be like for my best friend to have cancer. Yea, I cried like a blubbering baby and it was 2 am…

Other than that one crying episode, my eyes were dry for the rest of the book. In fact, I spent a lot of it mentally screaming at the main character, Alex. Unfortunately, the weakest link in this story was Alex because she reacted in the most bizarre ways, at least in my opinion. There were many times in which I wanted to scream at her, asking her what was she thinking and why would she do that. I didn’t understand her character at all. I enjoyed that she loved horror films and made a lot of references to those movies and other fandoms. However, that’s where my love for her kind of stopped; beyond that layer was a bunch of half-assed character traits. She’s supposed to be a bitch, but feels really awful and loses her nerve when confronting someone who has antagonized her best friend for years. She’s constantly shaming herself for having a better life than her best friend, just because she has cancer, but tries to act all tough and strong to everyone. She blames herself for everything going on for no reason, yet can’t control the words coming out of her mouth. Alex was supposed to be a stellar student, though her behavior never really matched and she was never reprimanded for skipping class so often. And the one thing that I really hated was how she sought a physical distraction to everything horrible happening to her but didn’t really know the guy first; she only used him out of convenience and then fell in love.

Speaking of love, the main couple in this book didn’t really wow me. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer my romances to start with awkward flirting and end with the clothes ripping, though honestly it can stop way before that point too. I understand that relationships do often start in the reverse, but I just didn’t like how Alex and Leo treated each other for the first half of the book. The cancer love story that I would have preferred to read was between Becca and her love interest, but sadly we only got passing shots of the two of them and their relationship.

Becca was definitely the one that I preferred between the two best friends. I felt like her character was more rounded and that the mistakes and character flaws that she had were better explained. The story always got better when she was around, but sadly, she didn’t show up nearly as often as I would’ve thought. If Halpern wants to write this story again, but through Becca’s perspective and with her love interest, then I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Final Thoughts:

If you enjoy contemporary romance with an element of cancer, or any of them separately, then this book may be for you. If you enjoy a book that embraces extreme use of foul language and won’t shy away from excessive (but not terribly explicit) ‘adult content’, then you may enjoy this book too. If you like characters that love horror films and are film fanatics, then Alex and Leo may make your day.

However, I don’t recommend this book to children under sixteen. As stated before, there’s excessive usage of foul language and more ‘explicit’ scenes in this book than I have ever read in a young adult book. Also, if you find those things distasteful, then there is no way you can enjoy this book.

Rating(s):

3/5

The story was all right, it kept me entertained for hours on the plane, and was simple enough. The plot was very straight forward and didn’t have a lot of weight to it, though at times is was carried on only by dialogue. The characters were pretty interesting and different, though I had a hard time connecting with the main character and by the end I never did. The love element was not what I had expected, and I thought that the main love was not as enjoyable as the side love. Overall, the book was average but not one that I’m overly excited to show to my friends.

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Book Review: What we Keep is not Always What Will Stay

what we keep is not always what will stayWARNING!!!! This book deals with PTSD and contains scenes from the Vietnam War!

Details:

Title: What we Keep is not Always What Will Stay

Author: Amanda Cockrell

Publisher: Flux

Release Date: June 8th 2011

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary

Pages: 256

Synopsis:

Hear me, Saint Somebody

 

Angie never used to think much about God–until things started getting strange. Like the statue of St. Felix, her secret confidant, suddenly coming off his pedestal and talking to her. And Jesse Francis, sent home from Afghanistan at age nineteen with his leg blown off. Now he’s expected to finish high school and fit right back in. Is God even paying attention to this?

Against the advice of St. Felix (who knows a thing or two about war), Angie falls for Jesse–who’s a lot deeper than most high school guys. But Jesse is battling some major demons. As his behavior starts to become unpredictable, and even dangerous, Angie finds herself losing control of the situation. And she’s starting to wonder . . . can one person ever make things right for someone else?

My First Thoughts:

I came across this book while attending a writing camp at Hollens University one summer. I honestly can’t remember why I decided to pick it up, or what intrigued me the most because I’ve had it for a while now. However, when I picked it up recently I thought that the title and the book cover were so eye catching that it got bumped to the top of the reading pile.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Honestly, it had been a while since I read realistic fiction and I almost forgot what it was like. I know crazy, right? However, it didn’t take me long to get into the swing of this book, and in fact it didn’t take me long to finish it either, just took a while to write the review.

The first thing I have to say is that this book is not what you expect it to be. By the end of the book, my mind had been blown away by what happened and it took me away to piece it back together. What I mean is that this book is an emotional rollercoaster that you can’t get off of until the last swirl, spiral, loop-dee-loop, and heart-stopping drop is over with.

The ‘romance’ wasn’t one of the big players in this game. Instead, romance kind of took a back seat to the Coming of Age theme in this book. Sure, the romance helped Angie in some of her growth and added to the climax. However, the main focus of this story was the growth of Angie, a young girl not yet 16, in a modern time of war, death and divorce. The book focused more on how she reacted to certain big events and how they changed her throughout the story.

I also found this book to have a more realistic outlook on how a teenager goes through school and what they would focus on in the narration. Too many times I have found authors writing a very Hollywood version of high school that’s so unrealistic that it becomes distracting. However, I enjoyed the scenes in the high school and found them to be pretty realistic.

I’m always a stickler for a good cast, both main and supporting, so I tend to get picky with a book’s characters. With that said, I absolutely loved all the characters in this book. Cockrell did an amazing job picking out people from all walks of life and piecing them together perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. Every character had a specific role and both the main and supporting characters showed change over time. She also does a good job of making them human and not dolls or actors in a movie. I loved Angie as the narrator, sure it was a little disorienting at first, but it soon grew on me. It didn’t take long for it to feel like she was actually telling me this story from her childhood over drinks. She narrated in snap shots, describing scenes in chronological order but didn’t always flow smoothly together. Sometimes she went into detail about something random that didn’t quite make sense at the time, but by the end of the novel it all made sense in the grand scheme of things.

Cockrell also did an amazing job with picking out and stringing together bits of tradition and lore from the cultures that most impacted Angie. The author shows what life could be like for a child whose parents are of different religions and ethnicities. It was fun to read about the different traditions and lore because they spiced up the story rather nicely. It was nice to read a story with a person of color as the main character for a change and actually know it too.

It was also nice to see a romance between a nice girl and a guy with a mental illness. Warning, one of the main characters suffers from PTSD from fighting in a war. Sure, there have been books with the male protagonist suffering from something or another, but it’s never really addressed or adds anything to the actual plot. Cockrell, however, uses the mental illness as one of the driving forces in the story and how the illness not only affects the victim but the people who loves the victim as well. She also uses it as a good example, that no matter how hard you try, you can’t help everyone even if your heart is big enough. Taking on the burdens of another person doesn’t always help them in the end, but it will darken the circles under your own eyes.

Final Thoughts:

This book honestly surprised me. It had a bit of a rough start but it had a killer ending. The title is one of the most accurate and dead on titles I have read for at least the month, maybe even the entire year. The characters were so real and diverse; I honestly can’t say that enough! Felix was a hoot, even though he weirded me out when he was first introduced. It was quite the journey to read as Angie grew up and changed from good times and bad times. And it was also nice to see some of the people around her change as well, some even for the worse. Cockrell did an amazing job showing how war can not only affect the soldiers and the victims, but the people at home, removed from the war.

I loved the traditions and lore that she mentioned, really using them to flesh out who Angie was as a person and also the people of the town. I also love the Coming of Age theme within the novel, because let’s face it a teenager changes the most between 15-17 and it was interesting to read how Angie changed from the situations that were presented to her. It was also nice to see romance take the back seat to a story for once and for the male protagonist to be ‘fragile’ in some way, not in a bad way but the character isn’t oozing masculinity and drinking broody juice.

Rating(s):

4/5

This book was a bit of fresh air after some of the books that I read before it. I loved seeing how Angie changed and grew, and I also enjoyed watching the other characters change as well. Sure the main focus was on Angie, however, the writer did a very good job at showing how people in the background or just outside the spotlight also changed. The writing was unique and fun to read with diverse characters from all walks of life. I loved how she incorporated different traditions and lore from all of the cultures that influenced Angie’s life, it was a true picture of the ‘American Melting Pot’. And the ending was not what I was expecting and totally surprised me, which is hard to do most of the time!

I would recommend this to people of all ages, because I believe that it is one of those books that can teach people something different as they grow older. Younger people can relate to Angie, parents can relate to Angie’s parents, and veterans or people who know veterans can relate to Felix and Jesse.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!

Book Review: The Golden Day

The Golden Day

Details:

Title: The Golden Day

Author: Ursula Dubosarsky

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Release Date: April 28th 2015 (first published March 23rd 2011)

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Realistic Fiction

Pages: 149

Synopsis:

In a year that begins with the hanging of one man and ends with the drowning of another, eleven schoolgirls must embrace their own chilling history when their teacher abruptly goes missing on a field trip. What actually happened that day? Who was the mysterious poet in the garden? And most important, Who can the tell about it?

Part gripping thriller, part ethereal tale, The Golden Day is a poignant study of fear and friendship that, in beautifully crafted rose, reveals how a single shared experience can alter the course of young lives forever.

My First Thoughts:

I’m not usually one for thrillers or mysteries; they’re just not my normal cup of tea. This one, however, grabbed my attention and I decided to read it if not because of the author’s note at the end. I decided to give it a try and broaden my bookshelves some!

Story Breakdown:

The Golden Day is a story set in Australia during the late 1960s and mid-70s. The man focus of this story is on eleven little school girls and a day that changed their lives forever, and the events that followed. However, out of the eleven, only four girls get most of the spotlight: Cubby, Bethany, Icara and Martine. Through these four little girls the reader gets to see how such a traumatic event will alter their psyche, but also push them forward into adulthood, leaving scars that not even time may completely heal.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

I loved that this story was set in Australia, because I’ve been there before and I don’t read very many realistic fictions outside my own country, let alone on the opposite side of the world. However, it was very easy to forget sometimes that these little girls were going to school in Australia. It was only when they mentioned region names or the Aborigines that reminded me that the story was set in Australia. The dialogue in the story didn’t really reflect where the girls lived, there were only a few instances where they used different idioms or colloquialisms that I recognized as Australian or didn’t recognize at all.

This story had kind of a large cast of characters, and even though it wasn’t a long story it was still hard to keep the different characters separate from time to time. It also didn’t help that four of the little girls shared the same name and didn’t go by different variations of that name. They were all just Elizabeth, of the four of them only two really said or did more than the others, and one of them only had maybe one or two lines. The author also did a quick character description every time a new character appeared, nothing fancy, she just mentioned the color of hair and eyes, how their age appearance, and possibly what they were wearing.

For me, it was hard to connect with some of the characters, especially the victim of the event. There were times in which they said or did something that resonated with me, but then they would destroy it by doing or saying something that angered me. Honestly, I didn’t feel bad for the victim, because I didn’t really feel any connection or emotion for them. They had some cool ideas and words, but they also had some nasty traits that tainted their personality and didn’t make me feel sorry for them. I felt more emotion and pity for the little girls involved, especially for Cubby and Icara whose interactions seemed to be the most detailed and drove the plot of the story. You see more about their friendship and their reactions to the event than any other girl.

I believe the most interesting thing about this book was the idea of it and how the author created it. The author tells you how she came up with idea in the Author’s Note, but I’ll briefly sum it up. The idea of the little girls and their kind of school life came from the experiences of the author herself. As for the events in the story, they were inspired by different artworks about schoolgirls from different artists, and some of the tragedies that occurred in different regions of Australia, mostly of either missing persons or awful murders. Also, each chapter heading comes from the title of paintings and drawings by Charles Blackman, who’s painting Floating Schoolgirl, planted the first seed in the author’s head.

The one thing that aggravated me the most about this story, was the over use of the word said. As having gone through a number of writing classes, and being a daughter of an author, it was drilled into my head that while said is a good word, it is overused in concerns to dialogue. I was always taught to use words in place of said, especially during scenes with a lot of dialogue to help spruce things up. So it annoyed me when I read over several said’s on the same page. The author did use some other words, but her go to was said, which I understand doesn’t bother everyone but it bothered me.

Final Thoughts:

If you love mystery thrillers, then this book may be up your alley. The mystery isn’t as cut and dry as it may first appear. In fact, the ending took me by surprise and left me a little unsettled and lost. The ending isn’t black and white; it’s up to the reader to decide what really happened. So if you don’t enjoy those kinds of ending then you may not enjoy this book. The ending may have been done that way to intentionally make readers feel unsettled like the girls at the end. However, if you don’t like that feeling then you should steer clear for this book.

If you’re interested about the human psyche and how different people respond to the same traumatic event, then this book may be of interest to you. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if a teacher picks up this book and adds to their reading list for class, either for English or Psychology. While it isn’t full of psychology terms or theories, it definitely allows a person to see the different reactions as if it were a real experiment. As for English, having gone through several reading intensive English classes, including a few years of AP English, this book just seems like it would fit into those reading lists, especially if the class was exploring literature of different time period and/or from different countries.

Rating:

3/5

I believe that this story while interesting, is just a good, average book. It’s a nice quick read for anyone who needs a break between large volumes of books. The plot is very straight forward with very few, if any subplots. There are no scenes that some people would consider unnecessary. And it would interest anyone who is curious about a child’s psyche and how children react differently to the same event.

Related Reviews/Books:

Coming soon!