Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Cover of 172 Hours on the Moon

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad. Little, Brown & Company. 4/17/2012

It’s been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA’s unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space—and change their lives forever.

Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band’s ticket to fame and fortune.

Midori believes it’s her way out of her restrained life in Japan.

Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space… no one is coming to save them. *

Back in February, I blogged about receiving a big batch of ARCs in the mail from whatchYAreading? and promised to review each ARC as I read it (as close to the publication date as possible). Earlier this month, on April 17, 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad was published in the United States.

PLOT

What a spine-chilling read! If you don’t remember, I wanted to read this novel because I thought sending 3 teenagers to the moon in an attempt to jump start the NASA space program was easily the worst idea in the history or future of ideas. As it happens, according to Harstad, sending teenagers to the moon is the worst idea of all ideas ever. While I did expect this novel to be creepy — hello, check out the glossy eye & reflected moonscape on the cover! — I did not at all expect this to go from just plain creepy to completely chilling. I’m so incredibly happy it did. Everything that can go terribly wrong in this book does so, and there is absolutely no coming back.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoiling something, but let me leave you this small suggestion: read Harstad’s novel during the day time in bright sunlight. The sun will become your best friend during this read, and the moon . . . well, I was scared of the moon for a week.

The NARRATORS

This novel is told from the 3rd person perspective, and while each chapter is told from a limited, singular point of view, the point of view does change between chapters. The majority of the story-telling is done by the three teenagers — Mia, Midori, and Antoine — but at times other astronauts pitch in for a unique perspective on the events unraveling. This narrative quilt lends depth & intricacy to the story, while at times also jarring the reader out of a particular narrative style or focus. This was actually very well-done, and I rather enjoyed the narrative styles of each character.

Mia wanted to go to the moon to bring some fame to her band — this cover summary is actually a little misleading, and I think Mia in the novel is much more interesting than this snippet might have you believe. She is definitely fame-centric, but she’s also bitter and spunky and determined. The story around how Mia gets to the moon & then how Mia handles the moon is a very engaging one in its entirety, though she did get on my nerves some at the beginning.

Midori wants to escape her restrictive Japanese lifestyle — this is spot-on for what Midori’s doing on the moon. In Japan, she was a Harajuku girl and she really believes she’s instantaneously more grown up the second she wins a spot to the moon in the lottery. She’s got a spark of modern feminism & a dash of pride about her culture — Midori brings into play a feminist independence, but when she desires comfort, she shares a Japanese folk tale with Mia & Antoine. The folk tale, as it happens, might be the most disturbing part of this entire novel.

Antoine wants to get very, very far away from his ex-girlfriend — which is probably a good thing because he starts the book off stalking her and it’s totally creepy. Antoine is a quiet, kind of watch-what’s-happening person, and while in the beginning that’s channeled to some mild-stalking-creepiness, it’s channeled to a more observant, self-sacrificial goodness once the first disaster strikes on the moon. Antoine’s storyline is sweet, subtle, and subdued, which gives it extra creepy points as the plot unravels.

My FINAL THOUGHTS

I can’t quite decide if I missed some things while reading or if there are gaps in the story line. The end felt a little rushed to me, but I expect this is because it was 2 am and I couldn’t stop reading because I was so disturbed by what was happening & just needed to reach the end. There are bits & pieces of romance throughout, and they are both expected and not overbearing. The familial ties & dramas between the three teenagers and their respective family units might be my favorite on-Earth bit of development. I plan to reread 172 Hours at a slower pace (and in the sun!), but that might be a while yet because this book really did freak me out. And I loved that, but I don’t need to revisit the moon anytime soon.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

* Summary from barnesandnoble.com

What does that rating mean?

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Review: Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams

Waiting cover image

Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams. Paula Wiseman Books. 5/1/2012

Growing up, London and Zach were as close as could be. And then Zach dies, and the family is gutted. London’s father is distant. Her mother won’t speak. The days are filled with what-ifs and whispers: Was it London’s fault?

Alone and adrift, London finds herself torn between her brother’s best friend and the handsome new boy in town as she struggles to find herself—and ultimately redemption—in this authentic and affecting novel from award-winning novelist Carol Lynch Williams. * 

Back in February, I blogged about receiving a big batch of ARCs in the mailfrom whatchYAreading? and promised to review each ARC as I read it (as close to the publication date as possible). Today, on May 1, Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams was published.

I stayed up all night to read this book (I’m kind of a middle-of-the-night reader), and I couldn’t put it down for two reasons. First, the prose style is quick — Williams puts the reader very deep in London’s head, and on occasion a single page is single sentence thought. Second, the unraveling of the plot and the emotions is slow, but intense, and I didn’t want to abandon either London or Zach in the middle of their heartbreaking story. But let’s get on the particulars, eh?

The PLOT

This is a Christian novel, but it is not a hand-comes-out-of-page-to-slap-you-in-the-face-with-Christianity Christian novel. Zach and London are the children of missionaries, and each character has a personal (read: therefore different) relationship with Jesus and God. There are several secondary characters and families in this novel who are also Christian, who are a part of the Church social circle, and collectively & individually those folks have a personal relationships with Jesus and God. This is not, however, a preachy novel. I wouldn’t classify Waiting as an evangelical novel. It’s a novel with Christians at its center, and one of them has completely lost faith & love (the mother), and one of them hides, literally, at the church (the father), and one of them can’t quite figure out how to find comfort in two dead people — Jesus & Zach (London).

The plot isn’t so much active as it is pensive, but the novel is engaging and does move forward at a good pace. London is deep inside her own head in the beginning, and so are we, and as she tries to emerge from her silent bubble, we begin to understand what’s happening around her with her family and with her friends. London is a master of burying secrets, from the reader and from herself, and as she begins to interact with the other main characters again–Taylor (her brother’s best friend) and Lauren (her best friend)–we begin to see that while she didn’t exactly lie, she left out large pieces of the truth. The reveals aren’t shocking or irritating, though, and I was never once upset or annoyed with London for being unable to tell the story straight. There was an honesty in how London was able to put the events around Zach’s death back together again.

The NARRATOR

As this novel is sunk so deep in London’s mind, I’m pretty sure I covered much of what could be said about London as a narrator in the plot section. The plot is tied inseparably to London’s mind, and the most fascinating aspects of this novel were to see how little bits of dialogue with other characters changed London’s thoughts and forced her to reconcile a new piece of the puzzle around Zach’s death. She had buried much of his death so deep — much like her mother and father — but unlike with them, we see people trying to ease London out of her silent reverie.

London’s change from the beginning of the novel to the end of the novel is honest and saddening and sweet all at once. Her realizations about those who love her and those who can’t love her anymore is both heartbreaking and heart-healing all at once, and those are emotions London feels so deeply in this novel. Being so set in her mind, Williams makes it impossible to escape the sometimes throat-closing pain and lonliness felt my London, which very slowly becomes replaced once again by a liveliness.

My FINAL THOUGHTS

A little past half way, London has this revelation: she is still alive. What this moment means in the novel is incredible, and it’s a simple revelation with serious and lasting impacts on every single person around her. How this moment acts as a contrast to Zach’s death, and his void, is a subtle but brilliant stroke of story-telling by Williams. So I put here so you’ll be sure to watch for it.

Perhaps my favorite part of this whole novel is how central each individual person is to the people who are in their lives. In a way, each individual is a little center of their own universe, and it’s unavoidable that our choices will create waves that will affect those closest to us the most and those farthest from us the least. London and Zach create very different waves, but they are like two stone thrown into a pond at a very close distance — their waves inevitably overlap and push back on one another.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

* Summary from barnesandnoble.com

What does that rating mean?

Review: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Bittersweet cover

Simon Pulse, 1/3/2012

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances, a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life—and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last….*

This is not a novel to be read without an adequate (and by adequate, I mean approximately 3 dozen) cupcakes on hand. Why? Because each chapter begins with a very delicious cupcake description, a cupcake for every possible problem life throws your way. If you don’t have access to delicious, cupcake goodness, you’ll be in agony for the rest of your reading experience.

THE PLOT

The first fifty pages of this book packs in quite the back story, and it’s one of the few books I’ve read with a prologue that is completely necessary. And let me let you in on what the synopsis doesn’t tell you (and don’t worry, it’s all right there in the prologue): Hudson’s dashed dream is Olympic-level figure skating and the big betrayal is her father cheating on her mother, which ends in divorce.

In a series of fortunate events, Hudson’s life collides with Josh’s, a high school hockey player who desperately wants her help on the ice. But instead of coaching  just  Josh, Hudson ends up teaching all the Wolves how to skate better, the linchpin in their ten-year losing streak. In return, she asks for undisturbed ice time so she can put a routine together for a skate competition that comes with the higher prize of a $50,000 college scholarship.

While bits and pieces of this plot seemed entirely convenient, I’m old enough to know that life does have a tendency to throw what one wants or needs into the mix at eerily precise moments. Of course, what one wants or needs isn’t always compatible. While reading, I found myself continuously doubting which path Hudson should take.

THE NARRATOR

Hudson is a high school girl, the local Cupcake Queen, and under the bizarre impression she can hold the aforementioned title and remain under the radar of her peers.  Her voice, as a first-person narrator, was typical of most other female first-person narratives I’ve read in YA. The action carried more of the story than her narration did.

I must admit to being continuously frustrated by Hudson’s party line: I am not selfish. Or rather, her tendency to change the subject / offer excuses when other characters made a point to mention to Hudson her increasingly selfish behavior throughout the story-arc. This isn’t to say this particular characterization is not spot-on, and there is a very good Moment of Self Realization towards the end that I enjoyed immensely because of this characterization. But still, it’s annoying and a reader should be prepared to want to smash a few of Hudson’s cupcakes in her face.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Much of this book references back to Hester Prynne, and I have no idea why. Yes, Hudson is reading The Scarlet Letter in her English class; yes, plenty of high school girls have felt condemned and ostracized by their peers. But those connections are weak, and often actually missing several larger Points of The Scarlett Letter, and doing nothing to add depth to either the plot of this novel nor to the character of Hudson. There were a few moments where the out-of-place Hester references almost made me stop reading. I feel a need to admit to that here.

The ending (the final two chapters, specifically) made the entire read worthwhile, though. Ockler leaves certain plot lines unfinished.  These plot lines represent realities that Hudson must accept, as they are, for her to make a giant leap in personal growth. I won’t spoil whether Hudson does or doesn’t understand what she’s facing at the end, but that the option is left up to the character, and not easily solved by the author, was especially meaningful.

Rating: ★ ★ ★
*Summary taken from BarnesandNoble.com
Note: this review originally posted on MHLit Society -- found here.

Review: The Stalker Chronicles by Carley Moore

Cover image of "The Stalker Chronicles"Sophomore Cammie Bliss has long been labeled a stalker by her peers, but when a cute new boy named Toby arrives at her small town high school, Cammie has a chance to be “normal.” Trouble is, she can’t really help herself and she’s up to her old tricks of “intense observation and following” pretty quick. Making things worse, her younger brother is dating one of the most popular girls in the school, her parents have separated, and her dad has begun to watch their house most nights. Cammie has simply got to figure out why she behaves the way she does, and end it once and for all. *

Back in February, I blogged about receiving a big batch of ARCs in the mail from whatchYAreading? and promised to review each ARC as I read it (as close to the publication date as possible). Earlier this week, on March 27, The Stalker Chronicles by Carley Moore was published, and here is my promised, honest review.

PLOT

I think the summary does a pretty good job at letting you know what the plot is going to be all about, except maybe it places too much emphasis on Cammie’s parents’ divorce and her dad also having stalker tendencies. I honestly wanted more of this plot arc, and felt disappointed at the end when basically nothing came of it. However, I’ve got the distinct feeling there will be more to Cammie’s story in future books. Or perhaps I’m just really hoping for that because  nothing was adequately resolved by the final page. From the book summary, from “Cammie has simply got to figure out why she behaves the way she does, and end it once and for all,” I really expected a conclusion at the end of this novel. I was disappointed without one. The book ends, quite literally, in the moments before something more happens in regards to her parents’ divorce, and when everything in high school–things with Toby, things with her brother, and things with her best friend–have hit this unsettling calm point. An, I think, obviously unresolved point; a point that leaves me with the distinct “calm before the storm” feeling and I won’t lie, I’m a little bummed I didn’t get the storm and only got the lead-up.

And because I thought it several times while reading, I’m just going to say it here, too: I don’t understand why, with Toby, Cammie decides to change from “stalker” into… well, whatever might be more “normal” behavior for a teen girl  pursuing her crush. Because that is essentially the main plot of this novel: how Cammie pursues Toby. Perhaps Cammie is a little over-the-top (she does, at one point, go through his garbage), but I’m not sure “normal” is particularly good or interesting.

THE NARRATOR

Cammie is a very well-written narrator, which is good because I spent the majority of this novel only inside her head. I don’t mean that in the typical first-person narrator way (this is a first-person narrator), but Cammie doesn’t do a whole lot of talking to other people. This is because of her casting as a stalker. She spends a lot of time on the sidelines just watching people and narrating inside her own head about it.

Cammie’s narrative includes anecdotes from the present day revolving around Toby; her brother, Henry; and her parents’ divorce. But mixed in amongst this present-day plot arc is Cammie’s telling of prior stalking incidents, incidents that she self-admits have built up this horrible reputation for her. What I think is always kind of a thing with first-person narrators is that level of unreliability they create within their own story. Each person has their own perception of how events unfold and relationships grow, and within that is an unavoidable creation of unreliable narration. However, when Cammie is narrating, both past and present, but especially past, she only presents “the facts”.  I never felt like she had much of an emotional attachment to herself, to what she had done or the reputation she’d created for herself. Which doesn’t make me question her much as a narrator — getting the facts, the chronological sequence of events, right isn’t that hard. It’s when perceptions and emotions are brought into play with the facts, that her character would be further developed and her motivations deeper understood by me, the reader. As it was, I felt like I was getting a very dry history lesson. I can’t say I understand why Cammie is a stalker other than she has always been one. Of course, I don’t think Cammie knows why by the end of the book, either, even though that’s the question she set out to answer from the very first page.

I will say that Cammie does have some very interesting insights into confronting her own reputation, insights that are earnest and had me, at one point, exclaiming out loud, “Yes, exactly!”

FINAL THOUGHTS

Once again, I’ve found a book with a Hester Prynne reference. It’s brief, it comes late in the book, but it’s there. This has quickly become the thing that annoys me most in YA novels with female leads.  I give a detailed explanation as to why this bothers me so much in my review of Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler over at MHLit. I won’t repeat myself here, but seriously, a Hester Prynne comparison grates my nerves.

There are several meaningful threads of teenager-ness woven into this story, and the interconnectedness of reputation and relationships is particularly interesting. I do hope that Moore publishes more books in The Stalker Chronicles because I think Cammie deserves to sort out herself and her family, and I think the reader deserves to know what happens, really happens, to everyone as the deal with toughness of what’s going on.

Rating: ★ ★

* Summary from barnesandnoble.com

What does that rating mean?

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

When Clara Gardner learns she’s part angel, her entire life changes. She now has a purpose, a specific task she was put on this earth to accomplish, except she doesn’t know what it is. Her visions of a raging forest fire and a mysterious boy lead her to a new high school in a new town but provide no clear instruction. As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between the boy in her vision and the boy in her life, between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. . . . When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?.*

PLOT

I should say that I haven’t read a lot of novels with angels as the main fantastical/mythical (I’m not really sure how to classify angels) component. In fact, I think I’ve only read two fantasy series with angels as a component; one where the angels are cross-breading with humans, similar to Unearthly, and in the second the angel was really just a side benefit to all the demon stuff going on. So for me this is still a pretty new idea, a place in literature I haven’t been often, and Cynthia Hand certainly created a very fun angel-world to visit. There are angels, half-angels, quarter-angels, and the neat tricks of each angelic level is pretty darn fascinating. There is a suggestion that, at least in the world of the novel, these types of human-angel hybrids are historical nuisances (either being feared by humans or hunted by full angels), and they have a long history of hiding what & who they are.

From the description above, I predicted the arc of the story to be: first, about Clara learning that she’s part angel; second, about what she can do as a quarter-angel-human; and third, about her mysterious task, the one she was “put on this earth to accomplish.”  However, at the beginning of the novel Clara already knows she’s a quarter-angel-human (though there is a flashback scene to her finding out). Clara knows what she’s supposed to be able to do as a quarter-angel-human, but she mostly sucks at it (she spends a majority of this novel learning how to fly, which is both humorous and frustrating, for Clara and for the reader); and there are a few great moments of Clara doing something angelic and her mother being surprised by it either manifesting at all or manifesting so soon (which, if you can’t tell, suggests Clara is a special quarter-angel-human). Finally, Clara has her mysterious Purpose, which turns her into a bit of a stalker, and really, the entire plot of this novel is redeemed by the larger Purpose plot. It takes a long time to unravel and get anywhere (there is all the angelic training, and moving, and general teenage stuff to do, too), but when it starts moving, it’s pretty interesting and very action-packed.

THE NARRATOR

Clara seemed a very typical teenage girl narrator: she found her inner narrations more funny than they were and she focused on tidbits of life around her that were obviously missing the point (which was interesting for me to notice as a reader as I was “in her head”). There is an odd tension between first-person point of view and Clara seeming to be aware of an audience listening to her; it’s unclear to me after reading this if Clara was supposed to be conscious of an audience (if the story-telling aspect of this narration was, on purpose, emphasized) or if that was just the way the narration kept leaning. In a few places Clara seemed to be consciously narrating & commenting on the story, and in other places her first-person voice seemed more natural, less self-aware.  Either way would have been a fine choice, but each way lends its own stylistic impacts to a story-arc, and the wavering between the two styles threw me off in specific places. Not in a strong, distracting way, but it was noticeable none the less.

Clara does, however, make far too many “literally” jokes. I’m very proud she actually knows what the word “literally” means, and I’m glad she never literally laughed her butt off, or literally split a rib laughing, but still. Not using a word incorrectly does not mean one needs to use the word correctly at every available & correct opportunity.

As a complicated quarter-angel-human teenager girl, Clara made some decisions that were flawed from one perspective of the plot, but commendable from another. She was still making some interesting choices at the end of the novel that lead the plot into some twists that, while predictable, were reached in interesting ways. This book is followed by its sequel, Hallowed (1/17/2012), so though Clara’s story in this novel ended without making much forward progress on her flaws or concerns, there is still room for her to grow.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Like most books that will come up for $0.99 review, I purchased this book because of it’s price point, and then I read this book because I’d purchased it (weird line of action there, I know). It was a quick read for me (a few hours total), though I did find myself missing key world rules & dynamics and having to re-read in places.  This novel was definitely entertaining enough to read at a slower, more careful pace so as not to miss important bits of information; especially the important bits of subtle action that propelled Clara into a sudden climax.

I will probably, eventually want to read Hallowed to know how things progress for Clara and co. The side kicks in this novel (her little brother, two potential love interests, and several other part-angel-humans) are obviously going to be involved in future books in more impactful ways. And I am sucker for good side kicks.

Rating: ★ ★ ★

* Summary from barnesandnoble.com

What does that rating mean?

Review: Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski

2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn’t have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn’t jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe “opportunity” isn’t the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: “Lied to Our Parents”). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up “Skipping School” (#3), “Throwing a Crazy Party” (#8), “Buying a Hot Tub” (#4), and, um, “Harboring a Fugitive” (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn’t-have-done at a time.*

PLOT

Well, and this is definitely stating the obvious, ten things happen. Unfortunately, these ten things all seem unrelated and the juggling act it takes to fit them into this novel is awkward. A few balls get dropped. For example, Harboring a Fugitive (#7). I couldn’t tell you now who the fugitive was in this book. It was so circumstantial and secondary to the rest of the book that it wasn’t even worth sticking in my memory.

The ten things should be interesting, and admittedly, the hot tub is pretty darn cool, but instead, more are really inconsequential to most of the larger plot: which is, unoriginally, a girlfriend afraid of losing her boyfriend. There are undertones of The Divorce & Remarriage of Parents and Fear of Starting Over, but for the most part this novel revolves around the boyfriend. Despite what April tries to claim throughout, I don’t buy that this is bigger than losing her boyfriend (who seems to be representative of Losing Everything, and that bothers me, too) and said boyfriend doesn’t seem to buy her claims either.

THE NARRATOR

April is the narrator of this novel, and her voice is definitely strong enough to carry the story. I never felt out of her mind while reading, and her approach to the things happening in her life and the events unraveling after that fateful first thing (Lied to Our Parents) are honest. From the get-go, April is a teenage girl who’s been feeling uprooted for a long time. Before the book begins, April’s mother has divorced her father, remarried, and moved to France; her father has remarried a woman named Penny, and they’ve all moved together into a new house. So it’s no shocker that when Penny and her father want to move to Ohio, April doesn’t want to go with.

It’s extremely appropriate that April feels even more uprooted once she is living in Vi’s basement, despite the fact that she’s still in her hometown and with her lifelong friends. The background drama of family in this novel is spot on, and I’d wished there had been a little more of it. The hints of her friends’ struggles with their own parents offered up both an important parallel (hey, all teenagers pretty much complain about parents) and a stark contrast (at least her friends still had their parents with them).

April also has several moments lacking self-awareness. While these moments are annoying, they are also a part of a truthful characterization. She gets herself into trouble with various people throughout the book because she becomes so caught up in herself and her situation, which is something every teenager does and must learn how to handle. It’s easy to become self-interested, and April falls into that trap for most of the book. However, I wish I could believe that by the end she learns how to put her friends first and herself second at appropriate times. Unfortunately, I don’t.  April makes one important personal growth leap, but there is nothing to make me believe anything else about her–some major personality flaws included–have even been acknowledged.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I read this book because a friend of mine read it and reviewed it and loved it. She was even the one to let me (and all of Twitter) know when this book dropped in price to 99 cents on the Nook. She’d liked it so much and it was 99 cents, so I immediately downloaded it.

I’m not saying it was completely terrible because I reached the end, and it only took me a day to read. Clearly, not terrible. It seemed a bit jumbled and, while I can’t say anything on the ending due to spoiler reasons, I didn’t buy it. There were two twists I felt were really interesting, but both were very clearly Plot Devices and didn’t seem to emerge naturally from either character interaction or event sequence. I think both Twist 1 and Twist 2 were more interesting and would have created a more substantial plot, but instead, both are just sort of dealt with quickly and set aside to move forward to the obvious and happy (it is happy, so I give it that) ending.

Rating: ★ ★

* Summary from barnesandnoble.com

What does that rating mean?

Wintergirls (Laurie Halse Anderson)

Time completed: 9:30 p.m.  

Date completed: 1/25/2011

Days to read: approximately 8

Thoughts?

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is the most difficult YA book I have read. I don’t mean that in the this-was-boring-and-I-kept-putting-in-down sort of way. Even though, for me, the eight days it took to finish this book might suggest just that. No, Wintergirls was the most difficult YA book I’ve read to date because of the subject-matter.

Lia is anorexic. Her best friend, Cassie, has just died. alone. in a motel room.

This novel deals with eating disorders, body image issues, family malfunctions, mental instability, and what is, essentially, attempted suicide. Not only are the struggles Lia faces complex, the narration grows in complexity as Lia’s brain is slowly starved to death.  Her grasp on reality fades, and the narration is a reflection of that deterioration. Really, the narration is what made this novel so difficult to read, much more than tough content.  Because of the narration, the reader isn’t just reading Lia’s story; the reader is experiencing Lia’s pain and deterioration.  As Lia’s mental awareness begins to decrease, the readers becomes more and more aware of her self-perception altering.  The narration is so intimately linked to Lia’s mind, as a reader, I was equal parts sympathizing with her and terrified for her.

The side-effects of reading this novel were many. I had very terrible nightmares along the same lines as Lia’s; I found myself flipping food packages over to check the calorie count; I was torn between wanting to eat every time I picked up the book, and not wanting to touch food for hours. I was so close to Lia’s mind, it was like she could touch my mind. This is why I had to take eight days to read Wintergirls.  The side-effects were, however, completely worth reading the novel. Like all of Anderson’s characters and stories, Lia and her struggles is meant to be more than words on a page; it physically becomes a part of the reader’s consciousness when they are reading.