So I’ve decided to set myself the lofty goal (not really all that lofty, but occasionally it feels like that) to publish book reviews on the blog. Partly because I think it will help me read more (not really an issue), and partly because reading as a writer improves writing as a writer, which I’m all about.
So as of today, I’ve read two books this year, Room and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
Room is the somewhat chilling story of a five-year-old boy Jack, and his mother (whose name we never discover), who live their entire lives in one room.
When I read the blurb, I was intrigued, but naively didn’t expect it to be quite as dark as it is. If dark is actually the right word. This is the kind of book that’s disturbing because it could happen and has happened, but I haven’t really spent excessive amounts of time thinking about. (Not necessarily a bad thing.)
What probably upset me the most to begin with — and actually made it hard to read — was that this story is told in the first person point of view of Jack. I found that frustrating at times, partly because of the way he says things, but also because you know that there is a lot going on that you have no idea about. Jack’s understanding of Room, and why they are in ‘her’ as he calls it, is limited. In his mind, there is no ‘outside.’ Reading as an adult, but in the mind of a child is quite confronting, particularly with this story’s subject matter.
However that point of view also brings with it some beautiful, tender moments. Five-year-olds are just so sweet and innocent, and Jack more than any of them. Seeing him construct and reconstruct his world is both heartbreaking and amazing.
Room is the kind of book that frustrates and compels you all at once. Most of the characters were both likable and irritating and I’m a big fan of that in a story. The subject matter was similar. It’s not something I had ever wanted to think about, but when I did, I was glad I opened my eyes to what is an unfortunate reality for a lot of people. (As an aside — there are more human slaves in the world now than ever before. The A21 Campaign is seeking to abolish injustice in the 21st century.)
This is not a book to read if you’re looking for something light and breezy, but it is worth the read.
I first heard of this story when on the plane on the way back from Darwin. Having just had my dad die, a film about a girl with leukemia wouldn’t have been my first pick, but I found myself listening to most of the movie anyway. (I say listening because it was an old plane and the screen was in an awkward place where the sun obscured most of my vision.)
Prior to Christmas, I had been discussing young adult fiction with my mother in law. Taylah (who is a very young twelve and a half), was struggling to find age appropriate books. As an avid reader who will read anything, she was finding a lot of books largely inappropriate, and full of a lot of adult content. It’s a bug bear of mine to be honest. Call me a prude, but I don’t think every book aimed at teenagers needs to include sex.
So when Boatman’s mum said she had picked up a copy of MaEatDG, I was happy because I knew there was no sex in that.
Fast forward to last week when she asked me what Taylah thought of it, and I had to say that after two chapters she had passed it to me to read first, hoping that she had read the worst of it.
This was then the point that I had to tell my mother in law that the book she had bought my twelve-year-old was full of prolific swearing, lengthy descriptions of girl’s boobs (as seen through the eyes of a 17-year-old boy), accidental drug use and an admittedly hilarious discussion on masturbation.(Which was in the movie. I should have seen that coming.)
I’m going to be honest and say there were moments when even I was blushing.
The story itself, is about Greg Gaines, a high school senior who is looking to finish school with as little attention and drama as possible. (Well, perhaps not drama, as a good portion of the story revolves around the home movies he makes with his rather unlikely friend Earl.)
Greg’s plans are ruined however when his mother insists he rekindle an old friendship with Rachel, a girl he knew from Jewish class several years ago, who has just been diagnosed with cancer.
Greg takes self-deprecation to whole new levels; this kid really does not like himself, and he tells you that constantly. The book is written in his first-person point of view, which is great because you really feel like he’s talking to you. Other times you feel like he is rambling on and on and repeating himself, but that’s part of the charm.
As a writer, I loved the stylistic elements in this story. Jesse Andrews changes from prose to scripts to bullet points on a semi-regular basis. It works to break up the scenes as well as gives further depth to Greg’s irritation with himself. At times, I felt like the action was a little slow, and I could have done with less back story, but overall, I thought it was really well written.
This is the kind of book that I’m sure I’ll go back and read again. It had me giggling a lot, laughing out loud on occasion and, of course, all teary at the end (which you would expect from the title). Without giving away any more, I was happy with the way the story finished and a little sad that it had.
If you can get past (or perhaps enjoy) prolific swearing, this book is definitely worth a read.
Just maybe not for twelve-year-olds.
Have you read Room or Me and Earl and the Dying Girl?
What are you reading lately?
This post contains affiliate links.