What Is Real?

*I received What Is Real as part of my CLA YABA jury duties

Reading this book made me feel like I was on drugs. I’ve never actually done drugs, mostly because I like to be in control and the out of control nature of being on them terrifies me. It also reminded me of being very sick, you know when you’re fever is so high you get delirious or you’re in so much pain you can’t really process anything else…those feelings I’m familiar with and so I had a hard time enjoying the book, it made me dizzy picturing things through Dex’s perspective.

“maybe we laughed so much, we used up our quota” (131)

The most notable thing about the plot is that the narrator is completely unreliable. He’s high most of the time, and even when you understand what he’s saying you can’t be sure what he’s seeing is real. He’s also a compulsive liar, lying to himself almost as much as to others. The way he loses himself in drugs and depression is expertly portrayed,

“I’m shedding pieces of me like someone with some kind of invisible leprosy”. (37)

I think it’s easy to sink into the sadness of his situation, to feel his dreams slipping away.

“Feral’s addiction erased me” (63)

Despite the fact that the book was too drug riddled for me to enjoy very much personally I respect Karen Rivers for fabulous writing. There are some haunted metaphors I don’t think I will forget.

“So she left Dad and became someone else, someone unrecognizable.She morphed as easily as a caterpillar. But we were the cocoon that had to be torn open so she could become some kind of creepy, unrecognizable butterfly, flying away.” (21)

The abandonment issues kids of divorced families feel are beautifully developed in this story.

“this shitty town felt like a sweater I’d outgrown years ago that I was trying to pull back on and it wasn’t working” (66)

It’s very difficult to move back to somewhere you were nostalgic about and discover it’s not quite the image in your mind.

“from the outside it looked like the school is vomiting kids in fits and starts, finally spitting out the last few stragglers and then leaning over, done” (85)

Dex’s unusual interpretations of school as he sits watching it from the outside are really interesting. There is a scene where he is too physically hurt and depressed to get out of his car, so he sits there the entire school day and is horrified by the fact that no one notices him there. Apathy is a prevailing theme, and the reader is left feeling sick at the idea of no one helping Dex, no one noticing when he stops talking because he’s too depressed to keep up appearances anymore, no one noticing Tanis’ scars. The lack of action about the abuse of foster kids and a teenage boy expected to care for his suicidal paralyzed father will be shocking to some but this is the idea, that we need to be shocked out of our apathy.

This novel is not for everyone. Not everyone will be able to handle the way it jumps around, the way Dex frames everything with his imaginary camera- distancing himself from his life by turning it into a movie. But it is masterfully done and I’m curious about other books River has written.

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Whoa Nessie!

*I received Sinking Deeper: Or My Questionable (Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster by Steve Vernon as part of my YABA jury duties.

I loved this book. The East Coast of Canada has always appealed to me (says the person who moved all the way West) and this novel oozes with East Coast charm.

The characters were rich and vibrant. The grandfather is my favourite,; he has sayings no one understands and a childish sense of adventure that is absolutely delightful. I was literally laughing out loud. There is also a girl with a very unique sense of style and the way that the boy narrating the story describes her is filled with that somewhat embarrassed affection that makes everything so authentic throughout the book. The only character I didn’t like was the librarian, mostly because I’m tired of librarians being seen as frumpy old spinsters, but even her character grows a bit.

The plot is adorable, in a way I wasn’t sure was possible and I think it will be enjoyed immensely by tweens and young teens, as well as adults who are from a small town, children of divorce or have a wild imagination and crazy schemes up their sleeve.

My only issue with this novel is that it felt a little bit young for the award, I think it’s right on the verge of being in the children’s category. The narrator is 14 but he feels more like 12. On the other hand, he has lived a somewhat sheltered life and since boys mature slower than girls maybe it’s just right.

Altogether a wonderful little book!

LEAP

* I received an ARC of Leap by Jodi Lundgren from Second Story Press

My first comment is that I really hope the back cover is completely different on the finished copy. At the top it says in huge writing “when life is changing, sometimes you have to take a LEAP of faith in yourself” and there’s a cheesy image to go with the cheesy words.  Then the “blurb” tells basically the entire story, ruining any surprises the book may have offered, had I not read the back first. This is like when movie trailers give away the best jokes, it drives me crazy.

The book itself spent a lot of time making fun of books and readers. I thought that was a bit odd considering the medium of the story. Some of that was amusing, like the description of the library book sale;

“They’d traveled into beds, onto the backs of toilets, and under the edges of plates, to be water-marked and food-stained. Their plastic jackets were cracked and peeling, and their sides were stamped in red: Greater Victoria Public Library. Like tattooed convicts, they could leave the prison, but they would never really escape their past.”

Most of the parts about books involved Natalie comparing her mother’s reading to the binges of an alcoholic or person with an eating disorder. It rubbed me the wrong way, probably because I read about as much as her mother.

Truthfully, for the most part of the book I was very aware it was an adult writing about young characters. It didn’t feel like genuine teen dialogue and the cautionary tale of a good girl who goes very wild and then regrets it felt forced. Natalie was an inconsistent character, who seemed completely different one moment to the next. I liked the part where Natalie talks about how around fifteen we realize the adults in our lives don’t have everything under control, and we are left feeling like we have adult responsibilities without the resources adults have. That was about the only time where I felt connected with Natalie.

On the plus side:

  • The dancing parts are pretty cool
  • this book makes teens aware of birth control and STI prevention, something I don’t think schools do enough
  • having things set in Canada was nice, I’m not used to recognizing locations so much
  • deals with divorce in a pretty realistic manner
  • deals with homosexuality of a parent, something not done enough in YA

I gave away 2 advanced reading copies of Leap to Canadians fill out the form

I always wanted to be a gamer girl…

I highly recommend Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi to teens and YA librarians. It is an enjoyable love story full of teen angst but also so much more.

It deals with serious issues that effect young adults:

  • Divorce- the mixed feelings that you deal with when your parents splitcover art of Gamer Girl
  • Bullying- the jerks who make high school unbearable at times
  • Media Literacy-the dangers of online gaming and identity theft
  • Breaking down stereotypes- don’t diss the geek girl but don’t diss the in crowd
  • Loneliness-being isolated from your old friends, trying to make new ones

But it’s not an after-school special over the top cheesy way of shoving issues down teens’ throats, it’s fun to read and relatable.

Tie ins

You will enjoy this book if you like manga or online gaming