I read Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close a few years ago and it moved me tremendously. So, when I saw the movie on sale for 5 bucks (!!!), I picked it up, certain of its awesomeness. In particular, I thought of its mystery aspects and its exploration of human connections and love.
The story offers a much needed message: you should love people for who they are, and tell them you love them (often) because you never know when you could lose loved ones. Be it catastrophic events like 9/11 or just a dwindling health, nothing is certain. Oskar loses his father for the terrorist attacks in New York City. William Black’s father gets ill and dies.
Another interesting theme in the story is connection. People connected with Oskar even if they never knew him or his mother. He discovers that even though he didn’t want any friends, he got them anyway. This blindness, tunnel vision, of just a goal and nothing more is very typical. We zero in on a tangible logical thing while forgetting that there’s more to life than just checks, high fives, and happy dances. There’s love to ground you and remind you that your loss fits in a larger context.
The thing is, Oskar isn’t the only one who lost someone. Abby did. William did. His grandfather did. Everyone has an inner battle and turmoil. They fight it the way they feel fits. Is it perfect? Do they pick the best way to do so? You may not think so. All you can do is try to understand where they’re coming from.
Finally, you sometimes find things when you stop looking in the “logical” places. Oskar found out what they key meant after he let go and let the universe unfold. When he went up to the swings and found out that his father’s quest was much simpler than he expected. Scary, but when your loss is great, you sometimes become braver and stronger than you expect. It still hurts, though.
Have you seen the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? Or maybe you’ve read the book? What did you glean from the story? How was it communicated throughout the tale? Share your reflections in the comments!
One of my favorite aspects of the Harry Potter series is its symmetry. It is wonderful to see connections throughout the books and movies. In particular, I like the little bits and bobs linking the stories all together.
When it comes to Harry himself, his relationship with Hagrid, connects the story from book 1 to the last story. In particular, Hagrid was key in Harry’s development. He is the one who brings him to Hogwarts in the first book, and the last book, too. Hagrid takes him on a motorcycle ride as a baby and as a grown wizard man.
But the symmetry extends beyond Harry and Hagrid–it’s between other relationships as well. The story begins with an orphaned Harry, and ends with an orphaned Teddy Lupin. Moreover, mothers’ love is used as a device connecting Harry, Draco, Narcissa, and Lily. Lily sacrifices her life for Harry, Narcissa does the same for Draco’s sake. Same goes with Molly and Ginny. She kills Bellatrix for her daughter’s safety.
Another lovely connection is between Harry and the Deathly Hallows. Voldemort is obsessed with power, so he takes the Elder Wand. Snape, connected to the ghosts of his love, is connected with the Resurrection Stone, and finally, Harry welcomes death like an old friend. He is okay with letting go and this is why he’s the true master of the Deathly Hallows. Also, in the series, Harry comes in contact with the other Hallows and lets them go. He is sincere when he first meets the Resurrection Stone; only wanting to find it to hide it from Voldemort. The same idea echoes in the way Harry discards the Elder Wand. Uninterested in power or living forever, he is our hero in the stories.
I am in awe of the relationship between Ron and Hermione as well. In the first book, she teaches him how to swish and flick, the wizard way. In the last book, he teaches her how to swish and flick with a stone, the muggle way. Not bad, Ron and Hermione.
One more great connection: the Black family has Sirius who betrays the family to join the light side. Meanwhile, the Weasley family has Percy who wants to be part of the treacherous ministry. Again, Kreacher and Dobby also switch roles. Dobby, coming from a “dark” family, helps Harry to avoid his death. Kreacher, also working for a seemingly evil wizarding family, gives him information and helps him in the final books.
Again, Harry and Ginny’s relationship completes the circle. Harry, with his messy hair, is often told he looks just like his father. He plays Quidditch. He is not very good at school. Yet, Ginny, with her read hair, is similar to Lily. Both are presented as unique. For the Weasleys, Ginny is the only girl out of their children. For Lily, she is the only witch in the family.
Last but not least, there is the element of betrayal. The Order of the Phoenix is betrayed by Mundungus. By the same token, the Marauders are betrayed by Peter Pettigrew.
Symmetry ties the story together, and brings a sense of conclusion and finality to the stories. It makes events and characters more than their own selves, but as elements of a grander story. Harry Potter mirrors the same relationships and connections from the first book to the last.
What is your favorite story from your childhood? Why do you like it? Share in the comments!
When I approached Since You’ve Been Gone, I slacked and hesitated. Then, one night, I was shaking and sweating profusely. I couldn’t sleep and the world felt unbearably dark, so, I pulled out the cheery cover of Emily and Sloane’s story. I begin and I don’t stop till I am done with the book.
In Since You’ve Been Gone, Emily is part of a dynamic duo. It reminds me of my friendship with a person much louder than I am, more confident, more charming, just like Sloane. I identified with Emily on many levels, because I have never been self-assured and my anxiety prevents me from doing anything uncomfortable. I live in my own shell, like her, and I tend to be overshadowed by others. So, I had a keen interest in seeing how she grows and flourishes as a young woman, friend, partner.
My favorite thing about this story is the characters. I adore all of them, especially Emily and Sloane. Speaking of which, Sloane falls under the manic pixie type of character, at least at first, but as Emily has more distance, she starts to see the cracks in the facade, and encourages Emily to open up about her insecurities regarding her family, relationships, friendships, and courage.
The most beautiful aspect of this novel is the courage all the characters have. It takes a lot of effort to be strong and happy, to be adventurous, to be open to new people and experiences. I like that the lists they two friends make for each other are not over the top crazy. There is beauty in doing the smallest courageous acts. Ride a horse. Hug a Jamie. Apply for a job. Be part of nature and have a sense of wonder. Collins bravely faces his fear of rejection and asks out Dawn. Frank confronts his failing relationship with Lissa. It’s not just Emily and Sloane changing; it’s all of the characters moving through life and learning, which is absolutely lovely to see. It’s refreshing to see female characters focused on more than romantic relationships. I like that Dawn, Sloane, and Emily aren’t competitive or jealous, either.
Morgan Matson is becoming one of my favorite authors because she comes across as a thought-provoking person. I like that she echoes the themes of expanding horizons, and imagining people complexly. Yes it’s a book disguised as summer sweetness, but I think it’s got more going on with memorable relationships, gorgeous moments, and awesome music.
Part of having an online presence is this weird isolation from real life, whatever that is. I remember growing up with the Harry Potter fandom, reading fanfiction, and not really being in tune with who was popular in school, or crushes, or friendships. I was kind of in my own bubble hovering maddeningly in a corner with occasional bursts of contact with the outside world. Reading Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here reminded me of these days. It was an accurate representation of coming of age under the Internet’s influence and the shock of the real life.
Unlike the fiction in Fangirl, here, the story takes on a dark commentary on Scarlett’s real life. The story reflects her difficulties in imagining Ashley and Gideon complexly. She simplifies them into these stereotypes, particularly Ashley, who is literally a robot in her story. The fact that her story garners quite a few fans is also telling because it is a testament to her ability as a writer, just like her father and his new wife. The parallels between her work and her father’s is also interesting, because, in both, they misjudge and misrepresent others.
Ruth and Dawn have this really interesting connection with Scarlett, because she assumes a lot about them, only to realize later on that she was way, way off. For instance, the story Ruth shares of her youth and her family shocks young Scarlett into seeing that perhaps her judgment of others is not entirely accurate or fair. Through Dawn, a strong feminist message is sent in a painful way as Scarlett realizes that she has been overlooking her mother’s value as a person because they value different things. Like her father, she assumes that Dawn isn’t worth much as she doesn’t function the same way. Books and imagination are hard to consider when you are trying to earn a practical living. To Scarlett, her mother is a source of embarrassment due to her profession, her lifestyle, her inability to find someone to appreciate her as a companion.
The losses Scarlett endures offer as a wake up call for her life. Avery and Scarlett lose touch with each other as Ave develops a relationship with her boyfriend. Her struggles to find a balance between her friendship with Scarlett and Ashley isolates her. It’s hard not to feel affection towards Avery, even though she’s not in the narrative for long periods of time.
This brings me to the negatives of the book: it’s very episodic and not much of a plot-driven story. It’s not very character driven, either. I wish we would have spent enough time with Dawn, or Ruth, or even Scarlett’s dad. Gideon is featured in snippets. I didn’t really like the story Scarlett creates, because it took over the narrative way too much. I feel as though the story was hijacked by this fanfiction.
Still, the story is very different due to its humor, its tone, its balancing of feminism, commentary on pop culture and Internet culture, and the exploration of growing up in a time where the Internet can skew one’s perception a lot. It’s a refreshing tale and a realistic one, too. Do check it out, if you’re ready to see a girl take on the world and be bold.
★QUESTIONS: Question #1: The Opening Ceremony: What book did you think had an incredible opening? I’ll Give You the Sun
Question #2: The Games: What is your favorite fictional competition? The photography competition in Hold Still.
Question #3: The Original: The modern games are based on the original Greek competition. What is your favorite book based on a classic?This took quite a bit of research, but, His Dark Materials by Pullman is apparently based on Paradise Lost, which is one of my favorite classics! I haven’t read it yet, but I know I’ll love First and Then because it’s based on Pride and Prejudice.
Question #4: The Eternal Flame: What is one ‘ship that you won’t let die, even after the books made it clear it was never going to happen? Draco and Harry in the Potter books. Draco and Hermione. Ben and Radar in Paper Towns. Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings (shush you).
I keep wondering what would happen to Mary in Pride and Prejudice and Kitty.
Question #5: Gymnastics: What’s a book that had so many twists and turns it left your head spinning? (in a good way) The White Cat trilogy by Holly Black. If you have an interest in wild cards, check it out.
Question # 6: The Controversial Judge: What’s a book that you have a totally different opinion about than most other people? Unlike many people, I actually am quite fond of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. I remember being engrossed in it and feeling relieved to find a kindred spirit in the poet. Same goes to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendental texts. I found romantic ideology to be quite inspiring. It has definitely shaped my life as an adult.
Question #7: Beach Volleyball: What is your favorite fictional duo? Simon and Clary in The Mortal Instruments. They’re wonderful friends and I adore their connection.
Question #8: Weightlifting: What is the most massive book on your shelf? Either a Mortal Instruments or Dark Artifices or a Harry Potter book, for sure. I gave away all my theory books and textbooks (thank goodness).
Question #9: (Tell us your favorite Olympic Sport): What is a book that you just tore through with world record speed? Vampire Academy series!
Question #10: Synchronized Swimming: What is a book series that you kept reading, even though you didn’t have any idea why? Maze Runner, The Selection. Question #11: The Tortured Fan: What fictional family, group, nation, organization do you irrationally root for no matter how many times they break your heart? The Malfoy (Harry Potter) and Duchannes (Beautiful Creatures) family.
Question #12: Closing Ceremony: What book had an ending that just blew your mind? Carry On.
Question #13: Relay Race: Who do you tag? Anyone who’d like to be tagged!
So, I bought The Disenchantments used and picked up my battered copy scared, because it’s like a first date. I would imagine, all nerves and pensiveness because I seriously don’t know what to expect. At first, I was nothing but old and angry, because I have known people like the ones in the story, especially Bev– the girl who has been haunted by something in her past.
Bev and Complexity
She is so perfect and broken, that the boys and girls idolize her so much. It is different, though, because Bev doesn’t just serve a purpose for Colby. Instead, she goes through her own journey and learns to stop running from the past. I liked that she sang the song to her mom, and that she wrote the letter to friends. I wanted to hate her, because I identified with her so much, but I ended up just…understanding, and knowing what it is like to go through an incredible amount of pain. I am hopeful for Beverly. A lot. I didn’t expect to feel that she would lead a happy life someday, but, you know, it seems like it may happen.
Colby and Meg are fantastic, and I just adored them completely. Such beautiful imperfect people. I like their conversations and connection. This guy is just a pensive, artistic, brilliant person, and I’m happy that college isn’t presented as the “best” option out there after high school, because people are different. They have choices to make, their own routes to draw up, and so on. If I had been a bit younger, I would have been all over the tattoo theme in this book, but, I appreciate it now (just not with the same enthusiasm, I suppose).
Shipping and Pairings
Shipping is kind of difficult in this book. I was pairing everyone together, and it didn’t go the way I expected. It’s a bit of a serious book, I guess, but it has its light moments. I’ll say this much: Jasper is wonderful and I want him and Colby to be together (friends, partners, lovers, whatever. It’s up to them).
In short, it is a pretty good book. Do check it out, if you’re up to an emotional read.
Being stuck and sad makes reading, sleeping, eating, drinking, praying difficult. Everything is hard then. BUT, every once in a while, you get a ray of light out of nowhere. This ray for me was in Simon and Blue’s relationship. I have to admit that it took me a while to buckle down and read because things get to so dark that I can’t see my way out. I still don’t know how to find these silver linings. hilarious. He is also not dumb, impulsive, or silly. I was actually cheering him on.
Here’s one thing that didn’t change throughout the book and afterwards: I HATE MARTIN! A lot, okay? I just can’t sympathize because I can relate too much with Simon. Very much like him, I keep things to myself. I talk a lot, but I don’t ever share the private things. It’s too frightening to open up to anyone, really. So I related to a 17 year old. A lot. I still dislike Martin after his confessions. I don’t think they are justified at all. You can’t just ruin things for someone. I used to think this process was scary enough as it is, but there are so many more pressures presented in this book that just bewildered me even more. It’s good to be aware of consequences.
Oh, Blue, how I adore you. So sweet. I also adore, adore, adore Simon’s friends. They’re awesome people and I wish I had friends who connect with me on such a deep level. And, of course, the humor is just spot on. I can’t get over drunk cute Simon (or should we all call him ALEX!).
As it progressed, the story unfurled lots of great jokes and funny moments. I think there was a true balance between humor and seriousness. So many serious business times in the book, too, obviously.
Your Turn: Have you read any fun LGBT+ characters in YA Literature? Were they portrayed in a fair way? Share in the comments!
Yesterday, I started reading Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On. Having read Eleanor and Park, and Attachments, and enjoying them to an extent, I had a feeling that I may at least like Carry On. I just finished it today. I know. One day! It is a record for me. I read slow and struggle often to focus. So, this is indicative of how great this story was. What a way to start a new year! The book is easily one of my favorites already.
It started off confusing. There is very little background information, which is understandable because this book is supposed to be the final one in a series. So, it took me a bit of time to follow what was going on. I understand that this is kind of a take on Harry Potter but to me, Rowell’s work stands on its own, as a work that is unique. It offers a lot of insight on the Chosen One trope, on fantasy in general, and on relationships.
What I love is that the romance is sweet, but, sexuality is not something that runs the story, like many YA novels do. Baz, at some point in the book, refers to his relationship with Simon as less erotic than he’d imagined it would be. I think that’s more realistic as far as relationships go. It is really nice that they both lose a lot throughout the book. Simon truly loses his magic, the Mage, Agatha. Rowell even makes him get into therapy, because this stuff is intense. It is not like he fell in love and then everything is rosy and perfect. Not at all. Romance is not the goal in life. It is an aspect of life. There are other things that come into play.
Overall, I thought it was a lovely book with complexity and an exploration of so many tropes in fiction. Give it a go, definitely!
Today, a box of books appeared on our front step, which is probably the most exciting thing to happen to me (yet, anyway). I love reading because I get to meet different people and worlds, wrapped in beautiful words like truffles melting on my tongue. Never does it get old and I am happy because I get this opportunity to be introduced and make this life long acquaintance (which later on grows into a friendship/relationship) with lots of awesome people.
So, I decided to list characters I am excited to meet in books on my shelves:
1. The Darkling (The Grisha trilogy).
I love a good villain, especially when they are interested in the main character romantically. Most times, I end up shipping them together. I am just saying this in advance, because I can see myself loving this character so much. I blame Sam from Thoughts on Tomes for making me love this trilogy and world. It is an overwhelming love, I admit, because I don’t know what to expect really. I just hope the Darkling has a big role in the series, because of reasons. Also: Tumblr, where you at? You better step up your game and have mood boards and character castings.
2. Blue Sargent and Richard Gansey III (The Raven Cycle)
I have read two fairy books by Maggie S. They were amazing. I hate to sound like Knives Chau from Scott Pilgrim, but, damn, that woman can write. Beautifully and hauntingly. I just feel incredibly in awe of her talents and her personality. She just has a captivating presence and spirit. It is so cool. Thanks, Tumblr. I already have headcanons and theories about the series (rhyming poet in the house!). Seriously, though, I am ecstatic to have this quartet.
3. Aristotle and Dante (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe).
For someone who grew up slashing everyone (because LGBTQ+ was virtually taboo and unheard of in my world), I don’t have enough characters in my world who are not straight. Much to my dismay. I heard amazing things about this book. I don’t like that there’s a second one coming (I know, I am in the minority here. I may be an extinct species at this point). I just like finality in one-shot stories. I don’t like it when authors revisit a world in a series of stand-alone pieces. Like, let it go (Elsa style). Anyway, I already feel attached to these two dude bros. I know I will be utterly in love with their stories.
4. Kesteral (The Winners trilogy)
Did I get her name right? I am not sure. I just love me a character who is not, not a fighter, because, listen, listen, listen, observe: strength isn’t always physical. In fact, sometimes, being clever and emotionally strong can outweigh muscle. And, that’s all I am going to say. Actually: hold that thought, because I want to complain about the new covers that I ended up getting (price is a thing). Why is she brandishing a knife/sword thing? I thought she didn’t fight! That’s the appeal for me, anyway.
5. Main character from The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Because of medications and recovery from ED’s, I have gained a significant amount of weight over the years of my journey with mental illnesses. It is a source of much shaming and embarrassment. I heard that the character in these books is a bigger girl, and that makes me so keen to hopefully have a fictional soul sister who inspires me to be strong and unabashed by my appearance.
6. The Dragon (Uprooted)
Way back when I was in my more hippie times, I used to really focus on mythology. One of my favorites was the Persephone and Hades storyline. Anyway, I feel like this story (along with Star Touched Queen) will satisfy this missing part of my life without me having to read the same boring stories and interpretations.
7. Karou (Daughter of Smoke and Bone)
This is kind of a cheat, but I have read a bit of the first book in this series, and I adore Karou. She’s an artist and her power is just mind blowing. I love the world she lives in, so I can’t wait to delve in and see what will happen. Not too crazy about fallen angels; this should be interesting. Laini Taylor is a crafter of beautiful phrasings and characters. I know that much to be true.
8. Nora and Kettle (Nora and Kettle).
I don’t know if I have mentioned this on the blog before, but I have specialized in young adult literature and children’s literature while working on my master’s degree in literature. I wrote my graduate thesis/dissertation on Harry Potter. So: naturally, I analytically read Peter Pan. When I heard of this retelling, however, I felt a strong pull toward it. I am not sure why. But, I learned to follow my gut when it comes to books.
9. Morpheus (Splintered trilogy)
Again, I felt like Alice in Wonderland was interesting especially when viewed from a lens that identifies/acknowledges mental illnesses. This retelling sounds like it would have a lot of history and depth. Very exciting.
10. Eon(a) (Eon/Eona)
I think gender is one of those things that were unbreakable growing up. Ironically, I broke it all the time. I spent years dressing up and referring to myself as a boy in response to trauma. I am looking forward to seeing a girl kick butt in a man’s world. Also: the cultural aspects of this novel are compelling as well.
“The sun stopped shining for me is all. The whole story is: I am sad. I am sad all the time and the sadness is so heavy that I can’t get away from it. Not ever.” –Nina LaCour, Hold Still.
Accuracy in the Complications
It is very rare for an author to capture the pains of being suicidal and misunderstood. It is hard to convey this isolation, the desperate attempts to find glimmers of hope, the guilt for not being okay. Yet, LaCour achieves these feats with grace and honest understanding. It’s so matter of fact, this loneliness depression Ingrid has. There is no “justification” going on and I was so grateful for that, because mental illness is not something to reason with. It just exists and seeps the life out of you. Ingrid’s self-harm, her sadness, her despair: all are presented as valid. Caitlin never blames her friend for feeling this way. If anything, she mostly struggled with how she didn’t do anything to help, which is a powerful message to have in a book aimed at young adults. It’s interesting to read, because I was at this point before, and just taken to a hospital, so my life was spared. But, I remember the note-writing and the research. It is unfortunate that some people write about self-harm methods and techniques, about suicide ways. In a way, this book offers a suggestion: consider the impact you have on others since you don’t operate in a vacuum.
This leads me to Caitlin, who was just reeling from the loss of her best friend. She is not annoying about it, but she is grieving and struggling to understand, which makes sense. I never was the friend who wanted to save a life. I was kind of too overwhelmed by my own self that I just didn’t ever read someone’s journals or see signs of a struggle, and that makes the book even more powerful because I could learn a thing or two from Caitlin. She’s empathic and brave. I love how she reaches out to Dylan repeatedly, and chooses her to be a friend. Choosing your friends is important as hell. It is so crucial to be in control of who gets to be in your life. It’s your life. Be careful who you pick. I like the role art plays in Caitlin’s life, because it truly brings her character to maturity and understanding. She processes her identity through Ingrid’s portraits of her. In a way, I wish I could have an Ingrid to show me who I am, because, seriously, mental illnesses can hijack your sense of self. People can be limiting, and simplistic.
Ms. Delani hit very close home because I was once a teacher, and I remember the responsibility of the position. I remember looking for signs of trouble, I remember reaching out to people, and I remember being shut out many times. But, I can’t even imagine the loss of a student. That is so difficult to process, especially when they are so engaged and talented–they leave traces around your life for good. I like that she is portrayed as a pained person who uses photography to get through the pain of the vacancy.
Photography, friendship, love, family, are all used as vehicles to cope with loss and pain, and I think that is a wonderfully inspiring thing to read. It’s also the hardest, most honest thing you can suggest to someone with mental illness. Reach out, throw yourself into something that helps you express the pain. For some, it is photography. Caitlin saw the world differently behind the lens. She gave Ingrid a home through the pictures (and through pictures, Ingrid did the same for her best friend). Maybe it is simply creating (the tree house was a great idea, too). I like Taylor being understanding and sweet. I like Dylan and Maddy. Not like, love, and I haven’t feel this full emotionally and mentally since The Fault in Our Stars.