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Pandemonium (Delirium Book 2)

pandemoniumWhen you read or watched the Hunger Games, or the Divergent series, there was a reason for the teenage girl to be at the center of attention. At first there wasn’t, and then it made sense that they were at the center of a revolution. Katniss Everdeen was the face of her revolution and Tris is one of a few Divergents that we focus on. They are leaders and we follow them through their stories.

With the Delirium series I honestly can’t decide where this story is going. I have been so tempted to look up the wiki, but I’ve managed to control myself so far. Why do I care about this girl? Is she just the main character? Why is she important? It’s like I’m following around a normal person and seeing what they do in the midst of all this pandemonium. And while we’re on the subject, can we talk about that title? I spend at least 30% of this book with two teenagers in a sewer and 30% trudging through the snow or hiding underground so I feel like we could have found another over-dramatic fancy word to call this middle child of a confused marriage.

The book vacillates between then and now and I’m not sure that it serves any useful purpose. Usually the past and present in books go back and forth to lead to a common destination which feels purposeful. That is not the case here. Just make a part 1 and part 2 of the book and give me some damn continuity.

I am not sure what I am supposed to care about. Finding her mom? Her loss of Alex? Her sewer/neck-breathing Julian relationship? The revolution? The first book had a clear main character, a clear conflict, and a purpose and end we were rooting for. This second book was like boring, plain oatmeal that had one or two clumps of brown sugar or a raisin that gave you hope that maybe we were heading someplace but really it was just more bland oatmeal.

I won’t tell you the ending, because you already know if you’ve been reading the book. You already fucking know what’s going to happen. The book basically prepares you for it the entire way, and then it happens and you’re just like…ugh, seriously? It’s not so much a cliffhanger as it is a warning that while you have been blissfully safe from teenage angst until now (somehow!), you will have to suffer through the planned angst as well as the angst you have been avoiding all along.

Look, I’m going to read the third book because it can’t be worse than this book, and if it is I’ll still read it and write about it. And I think if you continue reading through with me, it’s probably for the same reason I still watch Once Upon a Time. It’s going to get better, right? The idea is cool and the characters have potential, so it’s going to get better at some point, right? Hope is a dangerous thing, and often drags us through some terrible stuff. This book wasn’t terrible, but I was dragged through it and I truly am hopeful the third book delivers.

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(Will Grayson)^2

will graysonThink about your group of friends. Consider how you met each one and what you have in common with them. Then, identify that one friend that doesn’t make sense in your circle. Why are you friends with them again? It’s not that you wouldn’t be friends with them, it’s just that it’s weird that you are friends with them.

This is a great way for this book to start. We find Will Grayson (one of two in the book) wondering how he was ever friends with Tiny Cooper. Tiny Cooper is a very large, very gay football player/high school student around whom the book revolves. It’s all told from the Will Grayson point of view, but really it’s all about Tiny and his affect on each of the WGs.

I fell in love with Tiny immediately. I loved his confidence, his outwardness, his ownership of his identity. I love that his family supports him. This was the perfect book to read not only immediately after I finished Roxane Gay’s book, but also after the events in Orlando. Seeing a community around Tiny that was strong, and for the most part supportive (or at least, accepting) of his existence was refreshing. If you’re looking for a book where young LGBT lives are celebrated, this is your Huckleberry.

That being said, this book is fluff. It’s fluffernutter. It’s a peanut butter and fluffernutter sandwich. It’s the lightly browned marshmallow that squishes as you press your two graham crackers down around the s’more. And there is nothing wrong with that. This is a good book for what it is. It doesn’t go very deep in its exploration of teen LGBT issues or challenges. I admire the authors for giving us a story of what it might be like if LGBT youth could just live their lives and find love. If there are any dark reality clouds over this story, they are minimal and blown away by the winds of the awesomeness and fabulousness of Tiny Cooper.

Do you support the LGBT community? Are you an ally? Are you feeling hopeless, sad, sorrowful as a result of recent events? This book is a great read right now. It’s hope in a sappy, fluffy, YA John-Green-writes-like-a-teenage-girl-in-a-diary way and you should read it if only to remember that this is what it could be like. We need to hope and dream and scream out that we appreciate Tiny Cooper, because the world is dark and full of terrors. Let’s light it up with sun and millions of rainbows.

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An Untamed State

UntamedI’m not sure that this is a book one can spoil, but I am going to speak candidly without worrying about giving anything away. It is not suspenseful, it is harrowing and you deserve to know what awaits you when you crack its cover.

I want to start by saying I have never been violently raped. But this book made me feel like I had. I have never met Roxane Gay but she mind-fucked me so hard I had nightmares for a week until I finally had to stop sitting down to read this book after 5pm. I am serious when I say that her writing in this novel is so vivid and intense, you will feel yourself experiencing everything that is happening. You will smell the smells.

Our main character is a native of Haiti who marries an American man and has a child with him. She feels the pull to return to her homeland and wants her husband to feel it is home as well. On a vacation trip to visit her mother and father who live there in comfort, they are besieged on their way to the beach and Miri is kidnapped and held for ransom. She is held for thirteen days, and you will feel each and every one. It will feel like a lifetime. It will feel like your soul is being ripped into two pieces so that one piece can survive what is happening and the other can be kept in a safe place so that later you can become a whole person again, if you survive.

The captivity part of this novel was not what made it powerful to me. It will be what draws you in, but it is what happens after she is released that should make you absolutely weep. Make you long for someone to be patient with you, to care only about what you need, to encourage your healing. We live in a world where, either purposefully or subconsciously, we try to make everything about ourselves. We think that if we say “Oh! I know how you feel, now listen to why I know what you are going through!” it will show the person we are with that they are not alone and someone understands them. This only serves to take the attention away from where it belongs: on the person who needs comfort, healing, and time.

There were two places in the second half of this book that I had to place a post-it note in, because I read the paragraph and my heart sang inside of me. If only we all had someone who might treat us with this much care and respect.

“Her kindness, the unexpectedness of it, was more than I could bear. Before I realized what I was doing, I leaned into her now-narrow frame. She held me and kissed the top of my head. I didn’t cry, and I didn’t speak and Lorraine didn’t speak. We just sat there. I remembered, for a small moment, what being safe felt like. I longed for my own mother, but she was not safe and could not or would not keep me safe.”

Even the act of freeing Miri was not focused on concern for Miri but her parents’ concern for their own relationship and financial well-being. Her husband only wanted to talk about how the event affected him. Her escape to her in-laws’ farm is where she finds her first modicum of peace and it was so beautiful I could hardly stand it.

I hope and pray I will never have to go through something like this IRL. But people are captured, raped, physically and mentally tortured every day. Look at our rape culture in the US. Look to our universities and our homes. Women are crying out to be heard, to be comforted, defended, healed. We are told it was our fault somehow, we should have done something differently.

Lorraine tells Miri as she’s bathing her that “You have nothing to be ashamed of. Your body will heal” and Miri’s response is that “I’m no good anymore. I am dead.”

And I think that Lorraine’s response to this is something all women should hear. Women in marriages that are dead, women who are in dangerous relationships. Women who have been raped, women who have been made to feel they are powerless in one way or another.

“There’s so much good in you, it can’t possibly be gone. And I believe you feel dead right now, but you won’t always.”

The beauty in this book is that our heroine is heard. Her feelings and experience are acknowledged and her own personal route to healing is encouraged. It’s about HER. She becomes what she terms “no one” and almost like an animal to survive her ordeal. And how she is treated in that untamed state by each of the other characters in the book is anywhere from appalling to gentle, and helps her find her way back to that other half of her soul. In my opinion, despite the PTSD that she experiences, I believe she emerges stronger and more in charge of herself than she was before. And more importantly, there is hope for the future.

Read this book, but be aware that it takes you places. It’s an important book to read if your mind is ready.

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Delirium: Book 1

DeliriumA long forgotten sector of YA fiction is the group of books which show a dystopian future where sameness holds war and conflict at bay. A more recent series that is kind of like this would be the Divergent series, and a blast from the past more closely mirroring the plot would be The Giver. If you haven’t read the book, please read it first because you need this book in your life. Then, try Delirium.

Delirium is book 1 of a trilogy that explores the idea of love and desire having been eradicated from society. We are not brought up to speed on the events that caused this to happen, but upon reaching their 18th birthday, citizens undergo an evaluation to determine their pairing (marriage) as well as their future education and job prospects, and then a surgical procedure which alters the area of their brain which processes love. They continue their lives as adults who no not feel extreme emotions, especially love.

Of course there is an “other” in the form of Invalids, which are members of society that have either been rejected or have chosen to  live in The Wilds, or the areas of society that are outside the confines of the giant electric fences which keep our characters “safe.” Our main character is on the path to her eval and procedure when she meets an undercover Invalid and we’re off to the love races.

I was amused that it was set in Maine. I grew up in Maine, and it’s not often used as a setting for books so I am always surprised/amused when I can read a book with landmarks, streets, and locations that I recognize. I was also happy that the physical interactions were not too sweaty. There is an enjoyable level of suspense as the main characters attempt to avoid discovery. Lauren Oliver also does a great job transitioning our minds from “okay this is the norm in this universe” to “wait, this doesn’t make sense and is wrong,” and The Book of SHHH quotes along the way help her to do so.

This first installment set the stage beautifully and makes you root for the characters. The second book in the trilogy is already waiting for me on hold at the library. I strongly recommend this book. It is a quick read, it is well written, and it’s an interesting world to escape to that doesn’t involve zombies, vampires, or werewolves. 🙂 Go get it!

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You

YouBefore I began to read You by Caroline Kepnes, I had already had some exposure to what I could expect from the book. My online book club told me that I should creep myself out with the book, and that it was freaky and eye opening. I’m not usually a fan of scary books – horror and suspense usually are not on my bedstand unless you count Stephen King, which even then is a rarity – but because this fantastic group of people on the internet suggested the book when they had suggested so many fantastic ones previously, I decided to give it a go.

I have never read such terrifyingly deadpan descriptions of murder being committed before. What made this book creepy was not that murder and stalking took place, but the normalcy with which it was narrated. Everything was done with an air of “well, this is happening now and of course it is!” that sometimes I got halfway through a paragraph before I realized I was witnessing yet another crime. This life is normal for the main character, and the only real heightened emotion I witnessed in the book was the fear that he would be abandoned or cut off. The anxiety from not enough information was always buzzing, but fear of discovery of his actions was never really a concern.

What makes the book creepy in a larger sense is how easy it was for Joe to stalk Beck once he had her phone. He watched her emails, her Twitter, her texts, her pictures…everything was available there. Perhaps more unsettling was the fact that he could sit out on the street and watch her through her apartment window as people in her neighborhood walked by, unquestioning of his presence. I love how this book seems to call into question our declining sense of community and loss of self through social media and technology, and the dangers involved with this evolution of society. It made me examine how closely I hold my own information online, but then I remembered that no one would ever want to track me like that. Constant vigilance! as Mad Eye Moody would say (I’m also working my way back through the Harry Potter books. LOL.)

My only criticism of the book was that it ended the way I knew it would. The journey the plot and characters were on was far more interesting than the destination, and I almost wish I had stopped reading and left the conclusion up to my own imagination. It made me think of when I watched the first season of Dexter. I loved the premise and enjoyed watching him use his skills for good, and the ending was great, and then when I tried to start the second season, I realized that I couldn’t watch that same idea over and over. Oh, I’ve had friends tell me that certain seasons are AMAZING and I should keep watching, but for some reason my mind hooks onto patterns too quickly, and sees repetition as boring and intellectually lazy. My point? I knew the ending from the beginning, which made it extremely anticlimactic for me, BUT the book as a whole was enjoyable enough that it allowed me to forgive this one, small bore.

Go get it and read it. It’s definitely creepy.