Book Review: Ghosting by Edith Pattou

One summer night in a small midwestern town, teenagers engaged in teenage shenanigans learn life’s hardest lesson.  A prank goes awry when guns, alcohol, and misunderstandings are involved.  All these separate lives converge in one moment, and the result will alter lives forever.

Edith Pattou’s novel-in-verse combines the lives of eight teens with mixed results.  While the verse itself is serviceable, it doesn’t feel essential, which might make some readers question the stylistic choice.  However, the verse makes the story fly by, which should keep readers turning pages.  A compelling narrative becomes more engaging because of the sparse prose.

But that doesn’t mean that the entire novel is compelling.  All of the characters are rather flat in their characterization.  While this is likely to happen with any story that attempts to tell a tale from the perspectives of many people, it does a disservice here because it becomes difficult to keep all the teens straight.

Of course, that won’t matter to some readers.  Pattou keeps the novel clipping along at a good pace, and the sense of foreboding that permeates the novel’s first half will keep readers turning pages to find out what’s going to happen.  It’s a perfectly fine title to add to a contemporary collection, but perhaps not wholly a must-read title.

Ghosting by Edith Pattou. Skyscape: 2014. Electronic galley accepted for review via Netgalley.

My Weekend in Pop Culture

These are the pop culture items I consumed this weekend, in the midst of one of the last (?) super-warm weekends before fall sets in for real.

outlanderOutlander, Season 1 (Part 1): J. and I got super into this after I griped about how much I didn’t care about it.  I’m not afraid to say I’m wrong about something, especially when the stakes are this low! The show is really well done, super feminist, and completely engrossing.  I’m loving it, and I’m not looking forward to it going on hiatus until next April.  However, I’ve started reading the book, and that helps a little.

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For: I had reservations about this, and they sin city 2were not unfounded.  The movie was not good.  I remember really liking the first one, but this was NOT GOOD.  Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt could not save this one.  This movie has a serious Problem With Ladies, and the entire thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

Sam Smith – “I’m Not the Only One”: I discovered this video by accident, waiting for J. to come watch another episode of Outlander.  It’s not totally remarkable on its own, but it does have my secret boyfriend Chris Messina and the pretty-much-flawless Dianna Agron in it, and it’s worth a watch (or two).  I have a lot of questions about it, none of which anyone else I forced to watch the video cared to discuss with me.

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’m thinking about this week:

Who’s Worse: Lorelai or Rory Gilmore (Vulture)

Margaret Lyons is already a pretty rad critic, but this piece at Vulture (part of a week of celebrating all things Gilmore Girls), sends her over the top.  I agree with everything in the piece about how flawed Lorelai and Rory are as characters:

Rory’s worst attribute, other than her slouchy posture, is her lack of impulse control…Lorelai’s downfall is her intense, overwhelming self-absorption.

But like Lyons, it doesn’t matter: I still love these women and the show they inhabit.

I am More Than OK with Not Having it all (Dame Magazine)

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about women who choose or do not choose to have children and what it ALL MEANS.  This piece is both illuminating and well written, and tackles the decision to give up the ambivalence she felt about procreating.  It’s also about loving dogs, and caring for smaller, more vulnerable living things.

It’s pretty great:

Now, for as much as I’m a crazy dog person, I am not the type who calls my dogs “fur children” or thinks of what I do with them as parenting. Zsa Zsa is categorically not my “baby” in that sense. But she is the smaller of two dependent creatures I’ve chosen to care for at the moment, who are both allowed to poop and vomit all over my stuff and irritate me and disobey me and cry at me for no obvious reason and still get my unconditional love.

Let’s Talk About the Books You’ve Pretended to Read (The Toast)

This one is pretty straightforward, obviously.  It’s funny to read the essay itself, and the comments are great, too.  As someone who has faked a fair amount of “I’ve-read-that-classic,” I totally understand this one.

I will get the ball rolling: I have never seen The Wire. I have seen the pilot for Friday Night Lights three times and the pilot for The West Wing four; I have never seen any other episode for either show. I have never gotten more than three chapters into Lucky Jim because it wasn’t funny and also I hated it. At least two separate friends have lent me their cherished copies of Mary McCarthy’s The Group and I have returned their copies to both of them unopened. I have never read Octavia Butler and I’ve gone for so long without admitting it, I don’t know how I’ll get on after confessing.

Fake News Sites Aren’t Ruining the Web, You Are (Daily Dot)

I deactivated my Facebook (yes, again) a few weeks ago and the further away I get from checking it, the less I miss it.  For a long time, it was a crutch when I was bored and wanted to start shit with people who are, frankly, dumber and way less informed than I am, and it was also an outlet to judge people (and screencap their crazy).   This article is about information literacy, confirmation bias, and the dangers of viral articles:

Mocking the rubes who aren’t savvy enough to know when they’re being hoodwinked would be more mean than it is funny if it weren’t for something fundamental about how the National Report’s satire functions. The thing that makes these stories seem believable, even when they contain details that clearly cross the line into the absurd, is that the overall thrust of the pieces fall into predetermined narratives. People will read something ridiculous in a National Report story and believe it because it’s something they already desperately want to believe.

So lesson here: check your sources, folks.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

 

 

 

Book Review: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

Addison Stone was an enigma in life and continues to be one in her death.  Following the mysterious circumstances surrounding her fall (or did she jump? or was she pushed?) from a bridge overpass during an art stunt, writer Adele Griffin tries to make sense of Stone’s life through a collection of interviews with those who knew and loved her, images of Addison’s work, and transcripts of interviews Stone gave when she was alive.

Stone’s experimental novel presents a fictional biography of a rising star in the art world.  It is intricate, layered, and nuanced in a way many other books of its ilk are not.  This is a knockout of a novel and is guaranteed to attract legions of fans.  It’s addictive in its prose and absolutely unputdownable.  The characters–Addison especially–will stay with readers long after they finish the book.

Griffin is an author to watch, always, but this latest offering offers a fresh take on the oral-history genre.  Combining text and images in a seamless, fascinating way, readers are given insight into Addison’s art through the use of many of her paintings and drawings as well as descriptions of them.  It’s a perfect use of mixed-media, and it helps add dimension to a character who might otherwise be accused of being a bit too elusive.

What is especially remarkable here–and there are many things that are indeed quite so–is that Griffin is such a gifted writer that through her other characters, she is able to craft a multi-layered narrative that begs to be examined more closely.  Through others’ recollections of Addison Stone, she not only illustrates the fact that no one truly knew Addison, but also that they don’t fully know themselves.  The ability of Griffin to allow these characters to speak in ways that are authentic but also allow them to project their own fears, hopes, and beliefs on the novel’s narrative is truly masterful.

There are not enough positive things to say about this one.  This is a must-read, one of my favorite books of the year.  It’s going to have enormous crossover appeal for both teens and adults.  It’s one readers will sink their teeth into, and it’s one that will naturally offer up plenty to unpack and talk about.  Read it now.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin. Soho Teen: 2014. Electronic galley accepted for review via Edelweiss.

Waiting on Wednesday: How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

Expected Release Date: October 21, 2014

When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

(summary via Goodreads)

Even if this novel didn’t feel important and timely, given the state of race in the United States, this novel would still be on my radar because Magoon is such an outstanding voice in fiction.  There’s been some good buzz about this one, and I hope it continues, because I can already tell that this one is going to be an important one.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann

Fairy tales can be applicable to modern life.  Teenage girls might relate more to the fairy tales of their youth than they first thought, and these poems help illustrate that fact.  Fairy tales teach girls how to think about themselves and the world around them, for better or worse.  In this book, the poems take on the classics–and provide a sharper edge, too.

The fifty poems in this slim volume pack a serious punch.  Combining the tropes and themes of classic fairy tales with the modern teenage girl, Heppermann doesn’t shy away from life’s ugly truths.  Feminism, eating disorders, the perils of girlhood, and much more are tackled in these short, impactful poems.  This is a sharp, incisive read, and it’s one that readers will tear through and then flip back to the beginning to start again.

Blending stunning photographs with sparse, haunting poems, Heppermann is unafraid to confront the struggles teenage girls face in today’s world.  These poems are angry, raw, and cut deep.  There’s much to unpack here in each poem: the searing social commentary, the urge for freedom, the frustration with the limitations place on girls.  Although the poems read quickly, it’s worth it to revisit them, to read them aloud, to recognize the cadence in each and how they mimic the fairy tales of the past.

A fierce, cutting piece of feminism for the teenage set.  This is a must-read, and a must-have this summer.  Highly recommended.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann. Greenwillow Books: 2014. Electronic galley accepted for review via Edelweiss.

 

 

My Weekend in Pop Culture

These are the pop culture items I consumed this week.  Without further ado:

obvious childObvious Child: I made J. watch this with me this weekend, and he seemed to like it a great deal.  It held up for me on my second viewing.  This is a standout movie, and definitely one of my favorites of the year.  LOVE IT.

The Girlfriend by Abigail Barnette: So in one of my internet click-hole sessions, I stumbled across the blog of author (and very funny person) Jenny Trout, whose star rose quite a bit when she did in-depth recaps of the 50 Shades of Grey books.  I’ve been reading her recaps because they’re hilarious and hit all the same issues I have with the books themselves (not even talking about the quality of writing).  But Trout also writes erotica under the pen name of Abigail Barnette, and she’s written a series of BDSM erotica novels that feel like a response to 50 Shades. And…they’re kind of excellent.  So I’ve been devouring them.  This is the second in the series, and it was nearly as fun as the first.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?