Tuesday, June 16, 2015

May Book Reviews - We Were Liars, Inexcusable, Sold, Grasshopper Jungle

This month's books were selected as part of a homework assignment for WIFYR, which I will post about at a later date. I was asked to read four MG or YA novels as prep for class. To read as a writer. I chose E. Lockhart's We Were Liars, Chris Lynch's Inexcusable, Patricia McCormick's Sold, and Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle. I am also making a study of the unreliable narrator, so some of my choices were based on that.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I had heard that We Were Liars is a great example in modern YA lit of this particular literary device. In order to avoid spoiley, spoiley spoilers, I will not post an in-depth review here. If you have any interest in delicious prose (which I do), YA lit, unreliable narrators, and a bit of mystery, pick up We Were Liars. I know some people are really bothered by some of the formatting in the book.

People --
line breaks are used
for emphasis.

I loved Lockhart's prose. Her lyrical and metaphorical expression were beautiful to me. I had fun with the character development, and the depiction of parents and family dynamics. There was one part, toward the end, that felt a little redundant to me, but if you would like to discuss it, please PM or email me, because I don't want to give anything away. Seriously. Overall, I found this to be a stunning book. It also has a built-in second read.

Highly recommended.

Warnings on: language, sexual situations.

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch

I read that this book was written as a response to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak and that it's recommended as a companion to Anderson's book.

I didn't like this book. It came across to me as an apologist work, doing a great job of perpetuating rape culture, and portraying the MC as an imbecile who had no idea he had committed sexual assault. Guess what? Most rapes are premeditated. And this point is just one of my issues with this novel.

If you like, I can talk more about this in private. I'll just be moving on now.

Not recommended.

Warnings on: language, sexual situations, sexual assault.

Sold by Patricia McCormick

This novel gives us the story of Lakshmi, a 13yo Nepalese girl sold into prostitution by her stepfather. It follows her through a beautiful introduction to her village and her family life, her journey to the big city and arrival at "Happiness House," her abuse and eventual decision resulting in her escape. And yes, she does escape, or at least, her escape is implicitly understood -- on the very last page.

This book is beautifully written, with spare and efficient prose. The line breaks create an almost dreamlike quality, and the lyricism of McCormick's voice captures Lakshmi's experience with the deft touch required to tell a story like this. The writing is understated, a perfect vehicle for such a heavy subject.

I highly recommend Sold. It is an important book.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

This. Book. Is. Insane.

Part sci-fi, part family history, part adolescent metaphor, part dark comedy, this book is a well-balanced mix of violent, twisted, hilarious, and thoughtful. It follows MC 16yo Austin Szerba and his best friend Robbie Brees, as they unwittingly bring about the end of the world through the introduction of six-foot-tall praying mantises to their hometown of Ealing, Iowa.

Smith said that he wrote this book with no thought of publication. This is undoubtedly why this book is so insane. Because Smith didn't have any voices of reason in the back of his head telling him to stop writing something so crazy. We should all be so blessed to write with such abandon.

It is impossible to explain the genius and complexity of this book in a paragraph, so I will just use a few quotes from Grasshopper Jungle out of context to give you a little taste.

Stupid people should never read books.

History provides a compelling argument that every scientist who tinkers around with unstoppable s*** needs a reliable flamethrower.

You must be crazy, after all, if a bird loves you.

Coffee is a girl who never tells a boy no.

We killed this big hairy thing and that big hairy thing. And that was our day. You know what I mean.

History does show that boys who dance are far more likely to pass along their genes than boys who don't.

They were both so beautiful, and their sound, as we said them to each other above the music, made our chests fill up with something electric and buzzing, like love and magic.

History is full of decapitations, and Iowa is no exception.

This book comes from Andrew Smith, through me, to you highly recommended.

Warnings on: everything. Lots of everything.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

This wasn't part of my homework, but I just reread this book every once in a while to remind myself of what I want to write. Carol tells us: Read what you want to write.

I want to write crazy books that change people. Fight Club is one of my favorite books of all time and I think Chuck Palahniuk is a genius. I don't reread a lot of books, but I do come back to this one. Often.

Also, unreliable narrator FTW.

Here's my original review of Fight Club, which I wrote back in 2011.

Warnings on: language, violence, sexual situations. Pretty much everything.

OKAY, which of these books have you read? What did you think? Let me know in the comments and happy reading!

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