And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

andwestayBook Title: And We Stay
Author: Jenny Hubbard
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Age Appropriate: Young Adult
(224 pgs)
Stars: 3 Stars

Description:

When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.

This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.

Review:

On one hand, I really enjoyed this book. I think the teenage version of myself would have loved it – not because I was younger, just because of the poetry, the style, a girl using poetry to heal herself, all the Emily Dickinson. It would have screamed to me, “READ ME! I am melancholy, introspective and full of poetry, just like you!”

Some of the passages and poems in ‘And We Stay’ are so beautiful.  For example: “For Paul to want their story to end the way it did is beyond her comprehension, and the poems in her head, like her fancy new signature, flutter like flags of surrender.” or “In the vaulted Space of Emily Beam’s Mind, Ghosts hover like Clouds.”

On the other hand, the connection to Emily Dickson felt a bit forced and the characters a bit hollow. That being said, I still enjoyed the book because I love Emily Dickinson, I love poetry and I liked the feminine, gentle presentation such a real, present day tragedy.

Tumblr

Panic by Lauren Oliver

panic-lauren-oliverBook Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Harper
Age Appropriate: Young Adult
(408 pgs)
Stars: 2 Stars

Description: Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.
Heather never thought she would compete in panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.
Dodge has never been afraid of panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game; he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.
For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Review:

Let me start off disclosing that I have not read any of Oliver’s other books. I did not go into this novel with an expectation. Maybe that is where I went wrong. Others seem to be picking this one up due to Oliver’s previous efforts.

While I did enjoy the fact that instead of the very popular dystopian theme, the game in this novel could be real. Played by real teenagers in a real town, USA. Except I just could not muster up any feelings for the characters nor care about the outcome of the game. The very end of the book took a turn I was not expecting, but too little, too late (and i mean little, it was about 1.5 chapters.)

With the name “panic” – I was expecting some truly scary situations and/or an underlying commentary about transitioning from a teen to an adult. There were those things in theory, I just did not feel them.

Tumblr

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

13604611Book Title: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
Author: Jonathan Evison
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Age Appropriate: Young Adult/Adult
Stars: 5 Stars

Description: Jonathan Evison has crafted a novel of the heart, a novel of unlikely heroes traveling through a grand American landscape, and most of all, a story that offers a profound look into what it takes to truly care for another person. Bursting with energy and filled with moments of absolute beauty, this bighearted and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible surprises as well as its immeasurable rewards.

Review:

People would come up and say “What are you reading?” Well, when i described the basis, the book sounded very depressing. So I would add “but it is quirky!”

I didn’t find this book depressing at all. Yes, there are some moments of utter poignant beauty. Without dry descriptions, Envision conjures up characters that feel real, that experience pain but are living with it, like we all do. There are no fairy tale endings but there are hard earned character arcs while not making the reader feel oppressed or distressed.

This novel is so well written – gloomy, quirky, heartfelt and engaging.

Tumblr

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

51aJWsQK3fLBook Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Age Appropriate: All ages
Stars: 5 Stars

Description: A brilliantly imaginative and poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s first new novel for adults since his #1 New York Times bestseller Anansi Boys.
This bewitching and harrowing tale of mystery and survival, and memory and magic, makes the impossible all too real…

Review:

This short novel wraps you up and leads down the lane into a fairy tale story. Not the fairy tales of princesses, but of adventure, fear and magic. The story unwinds like a gentle wind, arcs with the power of a crashing wave and then gently places you back into the real world with a pat on the head.

The quote on the back of the book from Erin Morgenstern really sums up how I feel about the story: “It feels as if it was always there, somewhere in the story-stuff on the universe.”

Tumblr