Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book 4 - The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

This is Meg Wolitzer's ninth novel. I haven;t read any of her previous novels,but I can say that I will go back and look for them now. The story begins at an arts camp in upstate NY in the mid seventies. Six of the teenage campers are drawn to each other because they all consider themselves to be "interesting." Jules is the character that is the protagonist - the story seems to be told mostly from her perspective anyways - and she's seemingly the odd one out, not having come from an artsy background. Her best friend is Ash, her crush is Ash's brother Goodman and Ethan and Jonah are there for the ride. Cathy is Goodman's love interest. Ethan is the one that has the most breakout success as an animator in his adult life. As the group matures into adulthood, they, with the exception of Ethan, are forced to adjust their expectations of what their life was going to be to what their life actually has become.

Woliter's prose is warm and astute - there seems to be nothing that she misses when she expertly dissects sexuality, expectations and many other aspects of the lives of this group. While self-reinvention is nothing new in American literature - it seems to come with the turf considering how our country came to be - Wolitzer brings a fresh perspective and a new way of examining it in this novel. The characters are allowed and even encouraged to see happiness not necessarily as getting everything that they want but as being happy with what they actually have. This definition of success and happiness doesn't necessarily require overachievement. I loved this novel.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Book 3 - Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates


It absolutely surprises me that Joyce Carol Oates has been publishing since 1964 and that this book was the first that I had ever written by her because it is apparent that she is a careful, adept and fluent writer. This book is set in Carthage, a very real town in upstate NY, nearly as far North as you can get without entering into Canada. It is a small town, so the shock that runs throughout the town and the Mayfield family when their somewhat dysfunctional 19 year old daughter Cressida disappears in the Adirondack Mountains is a living and palpable feeling. As the community gathers and begins the search for her, evidence against a disabled Iraq war veteran named Brett Kincaid (who ironically was engaged to be married to Cressida's older sister) seems to mount.

During the course of the novel, we are treated to alternating perspectives, one of which includes the flashbacks to the atrocities that Kincaid witnessed while he was in the service. His memories are often jumbled with the violence that occurs in Carthage and intrudes on everything in his new, quiet life in Carthage. The plot often takes bizarre and unexpected turns, just enough so that the reader is kept on the edge of the seat as much by those turns as by Oates' magnificent prose. There were times that I felt that it was hard to empathize with some of the characters and the choices that they made; however this didn't detract from the message that the novel was sending: that the damage that war wrought is complex and tears at every fiber of the fabric of our society. It impacts everything from the individual to the family unit to the criminal justice system. Loved this book. It's something that should be added to your library immediately.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Allegiant and Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I read these novels back to back. It seemed fitting to do it this way so that I didn't forget anything in between the two books, particularly since Divergent is a cliffhanger. I can't give you a complete review of these books at this time without spoilers, but I will try my best.

Allegiant is the final installment in the series and is told from alternating viewpoints: both Tobias and Tris give their own accounts. I found this to be a really good difference and divergence (no pun intended) from Roth's previous two novels because, while I enjoyed living in Tris' head, I also was very curious about Tobias and his experience. Frankly, there is also so much you can take of the sort of angst that Tris has and I really enjoyed the widening of the experiences that Tobias' experiences give. It also really shows the differences between how one person, Tris, views actions of Tobias and how he views his own actions (and which are often completely different). This was generally a really great ending to a strong and respectable YA, dystopian series.

Insurgent was the second novel in the series. For me, it cemented Tris' roll as both an action hero and as a loyal and multifaceted friend and teammate. She was very strong and three dimensional as a character but also realistic in the sense that she was a character that could be someone you would know in real life. I really enjoyed this book because it also ramps up the romance between Tris and Tobias and begins to highlight the struggles they must face. Loved the cliffhanger at the end.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

If you liked The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, you will want to read this dystopian novel, which has won a number of awards in th...