Sunday, August 5, 2012
Jamie's older sister Rose haunts the family from the mantelpiece in this hard-hitting children's novel. She lives there. She's spoken to, she's offered food and she even manages to buy her family gifts. But Rose is dead. In fact, she was killed in a terrorist attack 5 years previously and Jamie can barely remember her - let alone cry for her. In contrast, Jamie's parents' inability to let her go eventually tears the family apart. Mum walks out, Dad drinks to forget and Jamie and Rose's remaining twin Jasmine are left desperately trying to patch their lives back together.
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is an honest and unsentimental portrayal of an imperfect family struggling to come to terms with the death of a child. It's telling that this children's book feels more authentic than the majority of popular adult 'tragic lit' titles (or whatever Waterstones are labelling them as this year). Far from featuring stock, dependable adult characters, in Pitcher's world grief has made children out of the adults and adults of the children.
Jamie is an unselfconscious narrator and he paints a brutally clear picture of the children's neglected state. The faith that he relentlessly places in his mother could distress some adult readers. But the success of this book suggests that children respond well to such a honest representation of a dysfunctional family. And why shouldn't they? Children are on the whole much more honest than adults. And their response to death is usually way more pragmatic than an adult's. In short, Jamie's parents could stand to learn a lot from him.
The book has its sweet moments as Jamie interacts with his sister and his only friend Sunya, (a friendship that Jamie's Dad would definitely NOT approve of). It's clear early on that his chance for happiness rests on these two young pairs of shoulders. I was a little disappointed that the author has made both of the only 2 nurturing/supportive figures in the novel female. I suppose it just felt predictable, especially as the school bully was male, for the parenting void in his live to be filled by two females.
Also the romantic aspect of Jamie and Sunya's relationship didn't really ring true for me. His infatuation seemed to devalue their friendship in the way that it served as a convenient motivation for his continued resistance to his Dad's tyranny. It would have been way cooler if Sunya's personality (which did rock) was the main instigator for Jamie's loyalty rather than an attraction which seemed to border on a fetishness for Sunya's cultural differences. It felt like the crush had been added mainly for the benefit of the adult cute factor and removing it could have opened up the book to more young male readers.
Those issue aside there's a lot to like about this book. I always like books that hand the reins to kids in difficult situations and I really value the honesty surrounding this difficult topic. It's also a pretty funny read too. 3/5 stars.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
You may think at first glance that Pressfield is treading familiar water after two other books on resisting Resistance to make art. He is, but each book in his 'making art' canon can be looked at as following the 'hero' journey of the artist. THE WAR OF ART discusses the decision to start, while DO THE WORK takes on the concept of sustaining the discipline it takes to finish a piece of work. TURNING PRO takes things up a notch by insisting the artist must establish a rigid discipline and trust the Muse. But they all rail against Resistance--something Pressfield himself readily admits he still struggles with.
These are books you can go back to again and again when you have those inevitable 'all is lost' moments. With Pressfield, there are no seminars, no CDs to order, no podcasts to listen to. He's not a guru. He's just like you: sitting there in front of the computer, typing word after word and trusting the Muse.
This is totally worth the money.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Monday, July 2, 2012
Adam Farmer is a 14-year-old boy trying to take a package from Monument, Massachusetts to his father in Rutterburg, Vermont. In order to do so, he must abandon his mother and his best friend, Amy Hertz.
He has a little more than $39—enough for a couple of overnight stays in hotels and some food for the 70+ mile trip. He's anxious to see his father, so one morning he pours all his pills down the bathroom sink, gets the package, and takes off.
The novel flips back and forth between Adam's journey and an ongoing conversation between a patient and a doctor. We learn that Adam's family was in an early version of the Witness Protection Program; as an investigative reporter his father revealed some smarmy secrets of a vast criminal network (what the secrets were was never revealed) and the family had to go into hiding. They're protected by Grey, FBI agent #2222, a character as featureless and vague as his name.
As details from Adam's old life emerge in from the patient, Adam runs into trouble on the road. A strange voice answers at Amy's number and claims to have had that number for three years—a statement that confuses Adam since it hasn't been nearly that long since he's seen her. He also encounters three hoodlums who terrify him on a lonely stretch of road, and his bike is stolen. Additionally, he encounters a man who appears to be a child molester.
Yet it's the conversations that are most disconcerting. They're undated, but slowly we realize the patient is Adam himself. (Or at least, I slowly realized it.) During these conversations we start to gather that he's a patient in a mental hospital, and he doesn't remember very much. As he does remember, we start to see why it's so difficult for him to seize upon his painful past.
As much as I enjoyed this novel, learning the origins of the title was the most fun part for me. I didn't know the entire sequence of the nursery rhyme "The Farmer In the Dell." Nor did I know that not only is it a nursery rhyme, but a game. The last verse is:
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Prior to reading this, I didn't have a lot of interest in the English royal family. I grew up during their most tumultuous years, when it seemed every week brought fresh "revelations" about the exploits of Princess Diana or Prince Charles. I never thought about it growing up, but all those tabloid covers left me with a distinct negative impression of Queen Elizabeth, and of the royal family as a whole.
This book changes all of that. Bedell Smith is an obvious admirer of the Queen, so this biography is hardly objective. But objectivity is not really the job of the biographer—accuracy is. Given the copious source notes and extensive bibliography, I think Bedell Smith achieved this. It's clear she really did her homework. I don't think she would have been able to create such an engaging, illuminating biography of Elizabeth II if there weren't plenty of evidence to support her view.
What is Bedell Smith's view? It's certainly at odds with the press, which has presented Elizabeth II as cold, stolid, and out of touch—a prism that couldn't be further from the truth. Turns out the Queen is an excellent diplomat who has skillfully kept the monarchy relevant while maintaining its timeless mystique—and this in a time when the monarchy is no longer wholly constitutionally relevant in England. Her qualities, so derided in the tabloids, are actually worth admiring. We're so used to seeing celebrities and the like emotionally slobber all over everything in their path, the Queen's self discipline, grace under pressure, and emotional control in the public arena actually come off as qualities to which we can all aspire. In private, she is warm and accepting, using the same diplomatic skills to manage the difficult personalities in her private life as in the public sphere.
One of the most surprising revelations was that Princess Diana's emotional problems had an enormous effect on her marriage. Princess Diana was hugely popular with the press and in their eyes could pretty much do no wrong, but in private she was very troubled. The constant press attention contributed to her problems significantly, but that didn't stop her from feeding tidbits of information (and misinformation) to reporters. I was shocked to read that she participated in an "unauthorized" biography that was scathingly critical of the royal family and then lied directly to the Queen about it. In spite of this, Princess Diana and the Queen were closer than the press ever let on, and there is evidence the royal family tried to get Diana help for her personal issues, such as her bulimia. The criticism Elizabeth II received after Princess Diana's death was a little heartbreaking to read, given that she spent a lot of time in private consoling her grandsons.
There were many comments among the History Book Club members regarding the Queen and Prince Philip's lack of skills as parents—which readers picked up on early in the book. Their situation could hardly compare to that of normal parents. Queen Elizabeth really does feel she belongs to the Commonwealth and she put duty above family as her children were growing up, which turned out to be tragic, given some of their exploits. The same traits that have made her such an effective diplomat worked against her somewhat in a family setting. Yet, the book does such an effective job of showing the Queen and her family as real people, it's hard for me to judge.
Overall, I walked away with a much more favorable view of the royal family than I had before reading the book. I'm not sure I believe monarchies are relevant in our world today, but then, I'm an American. Yet the book is fascinating and illuminates not only the Queen, but a good deal about her job, how England works, and how the monarchy can be an effective diplomacy tool. Totally worth the time and effort, especially if you have any interest in England and/or the Commonwealth at all. Five stars.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Also, Achor is funny.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I can hear many of your thoughts. What. The. ? Why is she reviewing a self-help? For kids? Parents?
It is so simple. Otherwise, you may end up reducing your stress with a cocktail instead of - I don't know - playing Goth Barbies for the millionth time.
Actually, my sister showed me the book while we were, um, "visiting" at another relative's house (trying to protect the innocent here). With all of my imbibing, I finished reading it during trips to the loo.
I despise stars using ghost writers to push personal agendas, but this seems to have Goldie Hawn's sticky sweetness all over it. Is it the new wave of parenting or psychology? No, but it is a smart way to provide kids with the language to express their feelings. Eventually, it will help both the parent and child develop strategies to deal with those feelings in a zen-Buddhist reminiscent manner.
There are many other books that will help those with teens or to assist in the understanding of human brain development (as in, teenagers do not have functioning pre-frontal cortexes, so they just cannot help text-driving). This book lands on this like a butterfly sipping nectar but prefers to spread its showy wings to spread calm and beauty.
Hey, it might work.
3.5 out of 5.0 Healthy 2% Milks.
Kristin at Books for Breakfast.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
|Thorns = Go to hell - who knew?|
The Language of Flowers: A Novel
Victoria Jones earned the general last name through the bland child welfare system. She never knew her parents or their circumstances and only remembered disliking touch and her foster families. Until she met Elizabeth, a oak tree against Victoria's hurricanes of hate. Elizabeth began to teach Victoria about the old language of flowers, when gentlemen dared not send red roses to a lady friend.
This is where I will shoot a test tube of some purply vodka mix to avoid giving away the entire story. It is not happily ever after with Elizabeth. And, I wanted to take a horsewhip from my barn to Victoria. The characters behave how they should, however, based on their experiences.
Kudos to a beautiful debut from Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and I look forward to her next work.
4.25 out 5.0 Captain Morgan Silver Sodas.
Kristin at Books for Breakfast
Monday, October 17, 2011
This is one of those books that’s best read when it falls into your lap as a break from other books. One day you’re slogging your way through a tome of ungodly proportions, wondering how in God’s name this book ever got published, when a book like IASC falls into your lap and you pounce on it with the enthusiasm of a bobcat devouring a goat. Soon you find you must shirk all of your daily duties until the book is finished. This, people, is not only the mark of a good book, it is the mark of a good travel book. Even better is one that makes you want to visit Australia—which is remarkable when you consider Australia has more weird and horrible ways to kill you than pretty much any other place on earth. It’s the second most inhospitable climate on earth (the first is Antarctica). But all Antartica can do is kill you with its cold. Australia is home to fluffy caterpillars that can kill you, species of spiders that can kill you with just a pinprick of venom, and the world’s deadliest snake: the taipan. (Interesting fact: the taipan is fifty times more venomous than the world’s second deadliest snake, the cobra. You get bit by a taipan and it’s bye bye baby, goodbye.) (Little show tune humor there you’ll (hopefully) appreciate when you read the book.) Not to mention, there are sharks, poisonous jellyfish (“blueys”), and man-eating crocodiles. And desert. Lots and lots of unforgiving desert. While most Australians aren’t bothered by the rest of the lot, the crocodiles even scare them.
That said, Bryson makes Australia—a country, he notes, to which Americans pay little attention (Russell Crowe notwithstanding)—sound like the world’s friendliest and warmest place on planet Earth. Australians do sound like a very friendly and welcoming folk. That they managed to make a country at all is to their immense credit, though, according to Bryson, they’ll not thank you for mentioning that their country essentially started off as a penal colony. (The “criminals,” by the way, were not at all a bad lot; many were only there because of harsh sentences that were common for the lower classes in England at the time. If you stole five cucumbers, you could choose between your own hanging or … a move to Australia.)
There were many places in the book where Bryson made me burst out laughing. I tried to read a passage to a friend, but I could barely get it out because I was laughing too hard. And he’s not just good as a humorist, either. He’s great at the factual stuff. What otherwise might be dry and sleep-inducing comes alive in Bryson’s writing, and he kept me as riveted as any high-octane novelist. He truly is a delight to read, and I can’t wait to read more of his books. Highly recommended.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Dr. Montague is looking for evidence of a true haunting, and in Hill House, he appears to have found it. If buildings have psychologies, Hill House is one of complete insanity. The house has a terrible reputation among the town's locals, so much so that they are hostile to anyone asking for directions to it. But along with two other assistants, Eleanor helps the good doctor collect evidence of paranormal activity.
This novel qualifies as a horror novel (in fact, it's considered one of the very best in the genre)—though there's no gore. The horror is all psychological, and Jackson is so skilled as a writer, all she needed to do was paint us a picture of Eleanor's loneliness to show how easily the house could play on it. The others have their moments, too, but it's clear that among them, Eleanor is the easiest target.
No matter how cliché the haunted house trope may be, I've not read anyone who's done it better than Shirley Jackson (nor anyone who does a better job of painting someone who is lost emotionally and psychologically). She's one of those writers who achieved being both a good storyteller and a good writer. Her writing is a study in economy on par with Hemingway's. And I think that's one of the reasons this novel is considered more "respectable" than most others in the horror genre. You really can't fault the writing, even if it's not your style. It's really too bad she didn't publish more before her death. Makes her work all that more a treasure.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Premise: in a near-ish future Earth, the most promising of child-geniuses are sent to train in the Battle School, where they learn to fly fighter spacecraft in preparation for a coming war with the Buggers, an insectoid alien race who nearly destroyed the earth 80 years ago. Ender Wiggins, a six-year-old boy, has been identified by government agents as special--a genius with the capability to become commander of the fighting fleet when the war comes. He leaves his family forever (no contact at all until a family visit that's allowed once the kids turn 12) to face the rigorous, often merciless training at fight school, where he is stalked and monitored and presented with challenges the other students are not.
Themes: The book's biggest questions have to do with the nature of humanity (do the aliens have less right to life?), goodness (is Ender a bad person, because he's been hardened by his teachers into taking life opportunistically? is his brother Peter a "bad seed" type?), and education (is it right to design children through such rigorous training? what about if that's the only way to save the world?).
My personal reaction: like I said, I'm really glad I read this book, because not I can be part of the conversations that include it. I hear it referred to pretty frequently. I can't say I loved it, although I enjoyed the story and found myself caught up in it. Certain elements feel dated. For example, outside of the Bugger-Earth conflict, humans are divided in violent political factions that probably felt more plausible during the height of the Cold War than they do now. I also liked Card's writing of the battle training sequences and student interactions better than I liked the more allegorical and discursive parts of the story (long "telling" passages about his sister back home and her clandestine political campaigns, or the highly metaphorical and, in my opinion, not always interesting video games Ender plays to decompress). I also wish the story hadn't been so forcefully gendered. The reader only meets one female student in the Battle School, and she ends up cracking under pressure at one point. The narrative blithely explains that women have evolved differently and aren't as likely to be suited to the Battle Academy way of life. I find that to be another element of the story that seems falsely anachronistic (like the Iron Curtain feeling). But anyway.
Overall take-home: glad I can say I've read it. Didn't love it. Would like to talk more about it.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Where I got the book: from the library.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
But the dead don't come back to life. They sit frozen in our minds, finally free, capable of everything and nothing in a paradise where they can do no wrong.
Add Everything Beautiful Began After to your goodreads shelf and enter to win one of 10 free copies! Click HERE for details.
"Love Is Like Life But Longer", short film written by Simon Van Booy, directed by Poppy de Villeneuve
Monday, July 4, 2011
A quick investigation of Jean M. Auel tells me that she began publishing her Earth's Children series in 1980, and I must have been introduced to the series in about 1985 when The Mammoth Hunters was published. So my impression that I've been reading this series since the dawn of time has some foundation.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Where I got the book: ARC from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. Its publication date is 6/28/11 according to Amazon.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Second, Moonrat previously reviewed ROCK PAPER TIGER for this blog, thereby saving me the need to write an in-depth plot summary. You can read that and her thoughts here.
Now, let's begin.
This book follows Ellie Cooper, a 26-year-old American Iraqi war vet, as she grows up. Yes, grows up. Ellie may be smart (she's learning Chinese quickly) and tough (or is it numb?) from her time in the military, but when we meet her she's a woman who rarely takes action in her life--she merely reacts, if she does anything at all.
This inertia contrasts with her wry observations and likable personality. She's fun to be around, when she's not struggling with her PTSD. And while she may not realize it, she's a strong person. When she tells one character he's "an asshole" you will want to reach through the book and give her a high five.
Ellie finds herself stumbling and limping through China, pursued by various guys in dark suits. Some are from the government while others work for independent organizations and those are often scarier. Despite her best efforts to disappear, she's suddenly getting a lot of attention. The pace quickens, and everything builds towards what I expected to be a crazy, government-conspiracy type climax.
But that is not quite what you get. And, honestly, it was disappointing. I think as long as you go in knowing that, however, then you can still really enjoy this book. Just remember that (in my opinion, anyway), this book is about Ellie's internal journey, more so than it's about her external journey through China. She is not a badass heroinne in this book. She's got potential, but she's also got PTSD and a tendency to mix beer with percocet. The end of this book is only the beginning for Ellie. In fact, I would welcome a sequel!
Bonus factor: China. You've heard it before, I'm sure: China China China. But, it's true. As corny as it sounds, I really felt like I'd been to China for days after I read this book. A tough, sometimes fragile China that's a work in progress.
Much like Ellie.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Young Adult Contemporary
This book surprised me. In a good way.
From the back cover:
Sometimes at night, I wake up and stare at the heart for hours. I think of how I collected each piece from the beach, how I glued it all together into one big sculpture. I wonder if Connor realizes what it means, that he'll always have a piece of me no matter what happens. Each piece of glass is another piece of myself that I gave to him.
It's too bad I didn't keep any pieces for myself.
This is not your typical "abusive relationship" story, although it very well could have been, had the author not decided to tell it backwards.
That's right. Backwards. The entire novel is a string of flashbacks. Unfortunately, this is the very same reason why I struggled through the first 50 or so pages. The timeline takes some getting used to. But I'm so glad I stuck with it.
We start with Ann in a very bad place, made clear by the very first sentence: I lie in pieces on the floor. Then we are shown the events that led up to this pivotal moment. Every so often, the story jumps back (ahead?) to the opening scene.
Which, in my opinion, is crucial. If we hadn't kept going back/forward to that moment, the character arc would have collapsed by the end. Because the end is really the beginning, so by that point we already know everything that happened/is going to happen. In any good story, the main character has to make a tough decision at the end. Ann does just that in the final flash forward.
And that was the scene in which I completely lost all my composure, followed quickly after by the final-final scene, the day Ann and Connor meet, and, being already in a state of sobbery from the scene before it, it was just too much to take--all the innocence of that first meeting coupled with the knowledge of the downward spiral that follows...
I pretty much died at the end of this book. It's that good.
But let's go back to the heart of glass in the blurb and on the cover for a minute. I love when stories have an object of value (to the main character) tying everything together. Every time this heart was mentioned in a scene I felt a little closer to Ann, understood her a little more. It starts out broken, as does her figurative heart, and then as we travel backwards through time we see how she put it all together while Connor progressively crushed her heart.
It's an amazing parallel to the story of Ann and Connor's relationship. So fragile, yet sharp-edged like broken glass. And at one time, it was beautiful. But now it's shattered.
The thing I liked even more than the parallel of the glass heart and the brilliance of telling the story backwards, however, was the presentation of the characters. In a book like this it's easy to make the abuser flat. One dimensional. But Connor isn't, and that's one of the main things that kept me turning pages. It's also easy to make the victim unsympathetic. You get to a certain point in a story like this, and you just want to shake her, saying, "Get away from him! Why don't you just leave already?!"
Ann gives the simply-stated-yet-not-simply-understood answer in the title: But I Love Him. A situation like this is never black and white.
If this is subject matter you normally shy away from because you feel the story has already been told in every possible way, then I highly recommend reading this book. It might just surprise you in the good way it did me. 5 of 5 stars, and a contender for my Best Read of 2011.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
So. My bad. I totally thought I wrote a review here for BREAK, Hannah's debut, which I was going to link in this review... aaaand I didn't. If you follow my blog, though, or follow me on goodreads, you already know I loved BREAK. It was a (well-deserved) 2010 ALA Popular Paperback for Teens, and I highly recommend it for reluctant readers. Easy to read and get sucked into. Quick pace and a brilliant concept. Get on it.
Now for the actual review of said novel in the post title.
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
Young Adult Contemporary
Simon Pulse, 2011
First edition, paperback
First, a word from Hannah. Because she highlights some things in this video that I think are important. One: this novel is difficult to summarize. And two: it's about family. No, really. It's about FAMILY. Just with some sex and the occasional F-word sprinkled in for good measure.
This is probably one of the most difficult reviews I've ever had to write. There is so much about this novel that I want to talk about, but a good majority of it will come off as spoiler-y if I get into it. Yet, at the same time, if I don't, there isn't much to say without coming off as rambly and disinteresting. (I'm getting red squiggly lines under both of those words. Whatever. You know what I mean.)
Let's start with the viewpoint character, Chase. At the beginning of the story he is 14 going on 15. At the end he is nearing his 18th birthday. So that's four years. Or rather, four summers. The presentation of the story solely through the summers spent at the family's beach house is just... amazing. The stuff that happens elsewhere really doesn't matter, and that's a difficult thing to pull off. It includes all of Chase's high school experiences, which in most YA lit is a defining quality, but not so with this novel. The definement (another red squiggly line, wtf? I swear I'm using real words) of Chase's self-perception comes through his summer experiences.
Hence the title, Invincible Summer. It's perfect. Also perfect? Is the cover. This story is told through summers, and I believe the cover presents summer in all its wondrous glory. It's clean and bright. It gets up close and personal with a hot chick in a bikini. That's summer, yes? But for some reason it has been the source of much debate among book bloggers and readers. So there's a girl in a bikini on the cover. Everyone assumes, then, that the love interest (or rather, the sex interest) is the main plot. It SO isn't. The disaster that is Melinda certainly has influence on the events of the story and the realizations of the MC about life--his life--but she, herself, is not the plot. The fact that Chase and his older brother Noah are both "involved" with her is NOT the plot. It's just one element of a much bigger concept.
And that concept is -- family relationships. In my goodreads review I mentioned that this novel is just as much Noah's story as it is Chase's. The perception of Noah through Chase's eyes is yet another item that goes under the "reasons why this book is brilliant" column. Chase calls him "my brother the flight risk", and if that isn't enough to get you interested in the relationship between these two brothers, then maybe this will be: they're both doing the girl next door, and they both know they're both doing the girl next door, and they both continue doing the girl next door in light of this knowledge. It's all very weird and gritty and makes you want to powerwash your brain. Or dry heave. Sorry, but I had a hard time stomaching the idea of so obviously sharing a girl. This didn't stop me from reading, though, and I still love the book enough to recommend it.
But again, that is just one element of the big picture.
Noah is a huge part of the story. He has real issues. Issues I can relate to, and I think that's why I fell for him so hard while reading this. We also have Chase's younger brother, Gideon. Oh God... where do I even start with Gideon. Well, he's only six years old at the beginning. And he's deaf. And stinking adorable. And wildly intelligent. I can't even... seriously, I can't even talk about Gideon without getting teary-eyed. How Hannah managed to portray such a deeply layered character through the eyes of someone else still has me reeling.
Then there's Claudia, Chase's younger sister, who is eleven years old at the beginning. She is, in a word, adventurous. Totally love her. The parents? Mom is pregnant during the first summer. So, another kid is added to this already large family. You'd think the parents just can't get enough of each other, right? Wrong. Hannah added huge parental issues to the mix. Again, brilliant.
The story is just one dynamite layer after another after another after another... until it all explodes.
I can't get into the minor issue I had with the ending without giving anything away, so I'll add one final remark on the Melinda thing. She was raped when she went to college -- I don't think saying that here will ruin your enjoyment of the book. It's made pretty obvious early on in the story.
The thing I want to comment on is that even though she was raped, and subsequently fell into a depression (which is expected), she didn't shy away from sex after that horrible experience. To me, this came across as REALISTIC. Yes, many girls who are raped can't stand the thought of going near a guy for a long, long time, after much, much therapy. But. That isn't always the case. Some girls then use sex as a way of staying in control. They had an "out of control" sexual experience, so they put themselves in situations where they are "in control of" the sexual experience. And that's exactly what Melinda does with Noah and Chase.
And I just want to personally thank Hannah for going that route, when most novels that include this touchy subject go the obvious route of the girl completely withdrawing from all forms of sex. It was refreshing to see something different, yet still real.
Okay, I think I've blabbered on long enough (no red squiggly line under "blabbered"? I give up). All that's left to say is READ THIS BOOK. 4 out of 5 stars.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Where I got the book: from the library. It's been on my TBR list for a while, but when Holly Tucker started a history and science readalong on Goodreads, I knew its moment had come.
"It's not often that Khalid can look at his life from a distance. But, instantly, he can see himself clearly for once. He's another meaningless bent orange shape dropped into some weird world game, the sun fixing him here on this lump of tarmac like a dart in his back. He's nothing but an orange heap for soldiers to toss around because they think he's a terrorist who wants to blow up cites. Think he hates the West, even though he lives there and doesn't know anything about weapons of mass destruction or bombs or buildings crashing to the ground in New York."
There’s nothing unusual about 15 year old Khalid. He’d much rather be playing a computer game than polishing his school shoes. He hasn’t got a clue how to flirt with girls, and there is no way he’s leaving England to visit his father’s boring family in Pakistan. Especially when his football team is so close to being promoted.
Unfortunately for him Khalid’s parents disagree, and they soon arrive in the bustling Pakistani city of Karachi. What Khalid finds there is far from boring. The streets are filled with whispers of U.S troops and terrorist informers, and Khalid’s worst fears are horribly realised when he’s kidnapped and detained for questioning by U.S troops.
Surely they’ll quickly realise he’s innocent and release him? They can’t possibly send a 15 year old to Guantanamo Bay. Can they?
This book combines that chilling mixture of everyday normality and unimaginable horror. It’s the kind of story that really haunts you because it depicts a horribe situation that could so easily be true. As the author notes, ‘although Guantanamo Boy is a work of fiction, it is inspired by real events. It remains a fact that children have been abducted and abused and held without charge in the name of justice in Guantanamo Bay and many other secret prisons around the world.’
I certainly couldn’t put this down. I can’t say it was always an enjoyable read, but it was definitely immersive and thought provoking. Whilst this book carries a strong and valuable political message, the overriding sentiments are that of love and the support of family and friends. Khalid is well drawn and Anna Perera does a brilliant job of persuading even the most indifferent of readers to truly care about his wellbeing. She does this subtly over the course of the story, and I found my affection for him building slowly whilst my full attention remained centred on his inhumane treatment.
Unlike many other novels dealing with similar stories of abuse, the narrative of Guantanamo Boy is lightened by lifelike humour and small acts of kindness. This contrast allows the darker moments to retain their sharpness, and it allowed me to keep reading for long periods of time without feeling emotionally drained.
Anna Perera has highlighted the importance of human kindness in a truly remarkable setting. This book needs to be in every school library.