Anl: Paper Towns and Coming of Age

Paper Towns is one of my favorite stories. Like many of John Green’s works, Paper Towns involves a lot of complicated themes. In it, there is a discussion regarding analysis, imagining people complexly, and accepting the diversity of people.
Wheels are Turning

I find the beginning of Margo and Quentin’s friendship telling regarding the theme of analysis and its importance. When facing the dead man left in the park, she openly investigates the case. Margo Roth Spiegleman is already displaying analytical skills.

Rather than dismissing the death of a man, she imagines him, his life, his struggles, and says, “All the strings inside him broke.” Not focusing on his outward appearance, she thinks of  the “strings” inside him.

She lives with this skill in mind. From not understanding the basic approaches to adulthood through Q, she diverts from traditional paths to happiness.

When Q tells her, “Duke in the fall, go to med school, and become an oncologist,” she replies, “Isn’t there something that can make you happy now?”

As Q tries to understand her better, he finds her own copy of Leaves of Grass by Whitman, a piece all about the complexity of person-hood and individuality. She circles, “I contain multitudes.” Don’t we all?

Through her adventure with Q, she is humanizing the popular kids by providing Q with background information on them. From Jase cheating on her with her friend, to Lacey confronting his perception of her and sharing the rumors people say about her, to the myth of Margo, John Green brings a sense of realism to the way people perceive as “better”

“Everything is uglier up close,” she tells him. By the end of the story, he realizes how true this statement is. Lacey doesn’t think Margo is that good of a friend. Q wonders if she ever left him any clues to find her, or if she was simply telling him she’s okay.

 

Unattainable Love

Part of the story’s charm is the focus on unattainable women. From Ben’s infatuation with Q’s mother, to his growing affection towards Lacey, and then finally to his maturity as someone fairly comfortable with being single, Paper Towns is ultimately the story of demystifying the manic pixie dream girl. This image of a girl so out of reach, so perfect, so complicated, is given a more realistic form.

The same idea applies to Angela, a girl that Radar hides a huge part of his identity from. He doesn’t talk about the black Santas in his home and doesn’t let her come over. Furthermore, he doesn’t let her talk to his friends that much.

When she does find out his secret, she talks of how Santa is a construct, much like every perception we have about others. And, constructs are meant to be challenged.

Perceptions as Constructs

It begins with Q assuming that his “miracle” was Margo Roth Spiegleman. He assumes that, “Margo always loved mysteries. Maybe she loved them so much, she became them.”

But, by the end of the movie and novel, he realizes that she is just a girl, not a mystery to be solved or a myth to be followed. In fact, he realizes that the story is hers to tell, not his. He says, “what a treacherous thing it is to believe that  a person is more than a person. Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventurer. She was not some fine, precious things. She was a girl.”

Not only this, but she also tells him that she felt just as papery as the paper town she lived in–past and present.

In addition, he realizes that his miracle is his friends and the experiences they shared.  He understands that the lesson is to notice the miracles as they come in life, “that doesn’t mean we won’t have amazing adventures, meet exceptional people, and make indelible memories. The trick is to notice before it’s too late.”

Being stuck and sad makes reading, sleeping, eating, drinking, praying difficult. Everything is hard then.
1.What is a popular book or series that you didn’t like?  Maze Runner,  The Gemma
Today, a box of books appeared on our front step, which is probably the most

BR: Depression and Art in Hold Still

“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. 

Caitlin

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


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. 

  After reading the Raven Cycle, Maggie Stiefvater became one of the most interesting authors on my
I have been thinking a lot about how much things have changed for me over
When I approached Since You've Been Gone, I slacked and hesitated. Then, one night, I

Love, Rosie

If you ever want to experience a love story, a beautiful one at that, read on. I watched Love, Rosie because the trailers were just breathtaking. A story of two people missing each other over and over can be exhausting, but it is not the case for this film. It is a lovely story about two friends, best friends, who are not sure if there is more to their relationship than platonic love.

And, they go through relationships with other people, longing for each other, trying clasping hands and staying together in some form or another. The relationships are not negative in any way; there was no demonizing of anyone. I mean, there was cheating involved, but it did not make the people seem like bad people. They just didn’t work as a couple. That’s life.

Maybe this is why the film means so much to me: it is one of the few films that deal with my age group without making us sound like boring people. You don’t stop having feelings after you are eighteen. Unfortunately (or not), that is not how it works. Heartbreak is still a thing. Trust issues, clarity, confusion, agendas: these are all things we see in the film. We see what it means to find a soul mate, no matter what the age, no matter how quick it can happen.

There’s crying in this film; there is heartbreak, obviously, but there is also joy and beautiful, beautiful cinematography. Wonderful acting is another positive aspect of this film.

Guess what, though? I would not recommend the novel. It drags on and on. Just watch the beautiful film and enjoy a love story that doesn’t depress you.

When I first heard of Me Before You, I was drawn to the cast. Emilia
While it is endearing,  My Big Fat Greek Wedding relies on stereotypes to communicate the difference
When I approached Since You've Been Gone, I slacked and hesitated. Then, one night, I

Romance and Sexuality in Pushing Daisies

One of my favorite series ever is Pushing Daisies, a show about a pie maker called Ned, who briefly raises people from the dead to solve their murders and bring them justice (and collect the reward, too. That can’t hurt, right?). This is his life until he has to unfold the death of his childhood sweetheart, who he touches to learn about her killers only to realize that he cannot part with her. In doing so, he brings her back to life for good, but with one caveat: he cannot touch her ever again.

Tone:

The show is sweet and charming. It has bright colors, sweet characters, and a PG plot. What makes it truly fascinating is its contribution to the ongoing conversation about sexuality and romance. In the absence of touchy feel-y moments, the show is surprisingly able to contain enough love to tide its audience over. In fact, it offers a rather satisfactory take on romance, where both parties rely on touching with gloves on, hugging in bulky suits, and kissing with saran wrap.

 

Different Take on Sexuality

At a time where sex is presented as a synonym for romance, this is starkly different. Ned, in general, is very shy and, given his background and magical abilities, he is not too crazy about touching people overall. And, Chuck respects that. She doesn’t glamorize his trauma. What’s really cool is that Ned’s powers are treated as very much part of him that Chuck learns to accept, much like someone’s sexual orientation (asexual, perhaps?) and sexual preferences. Yes, Chuck sometimes tries to find physical stand ins so she can pretend to hold Ned while holding their hands. But, she quickly learns that love doesn’t have to be physical.

sex isn’t synonymous with romance

In a way, the show divorces sex from romance, which opens up the dialogue about sexual orientations and preferences. It frees people and drops the expectation of intense physical contact as part of human relationships. It is the center and forefront relationship, which is quite unorthodox–and it makes the show stand out.

Your Turn: 

Are there any representations of asexuality in media that you like? Share in the comments!

Yesterday, I finished reading the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes, which is called A Torch Against
Over the past week, I have inched my way through the second season of The
When watching Poldark, most people feel passionate about Ross and his story, but I am

Anl.: A Birder’s Guide to Everything

A Birder’s Guide to Everything is a small movie with many credits to its accomplishments of brilliance. Well acted, beautifully shot, and wondrously written, the film spans over 86 minutes full of awesomeness. I thoroughly enjoyed it, to put it bluntly, because I felt that the film was executed well, but also because it has universal themes transcending age, race, and gender.

 

Nature and Its Beauty
David is a nerd. There is no denying this fact. His friends are in a birder club, where they talk about nothing but birds. Tim tells a disgruntled member of the club, “This is not a dating service” insinuating the seriousness of the club’s tone. Losing said part of the group, the trio are stuck with Ellen as they try to photograph an extinct duck. 
Obviously, nature plays a huge role in the film. The friends can be seen identifying birds by their physical features or their sounds. And while there is plenty of beautiful scenery in the film, there is also an understanding of nature’s cruelty presented. As a vegan, I interpret the death of the duck as a symbol of humanity’s ignorance and disrespect to all beings, really. 
 
In a way, though, this demise leads David to understand that his quest is not realistic. You can’t live a life watching birds without dealing with humans and all their baggage. We see this through his grief of his mother’s death, his father’s marriage, and the death of the duck. 
Adulthood and Maturity 
 
He also has to deal with the growing changes he and his friends face: adulthood and maturity. Throughout the film, Tim mocks Peter for not being brave enough. Tim was super interesting to me, because he reminded me of myself a bit…okay, a lot. The foul mouthed, show off, who is lying about his awesomeness resonates with me. Ellen is a challenger to his beliefs and attitudes as a young man trying to find his place in school’s society and in the grander scheme of things. He gives her grief throughout the story until the annoying birders attack her which is when he defends her, “Her name is Ellen.” The tension between them could be because he sees her as a sexually mature person, and it makes him uncomfortable. In addition, he does sense that she is interested in his best friend (David) and that is unnerving. 
 
Aside from all of this, it is a funny, poignant movie. It has beautiful relationships and endearing characters. Definitely one of my new favorites, for sure. 
 
 
 
Way back in February, I went to the library and grabbed my first Sarah J.
Yesterday, I finished reading the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes, which is called A Torch Against
    I devoured Becky Albertalli's second novel over the course of two days. Many

Mental Illness in the Hunger Games

I didn’t realize the connection I had with Katniss and Peeta as they experienced grief outside of the arena and after the war. It has taken me a while to understand how PTSD works, how anxiety and depression truly function. But, now, I feel a closer tie to these characters. I comprehend the messages in these stories even more than ever before. Katniss struggles to cope with the loss of Rue, of Prim, of Finnick, of so many people over the course of the stories. And, she feels so disconnected that she considers committing suicide.

Her hope is in Peeta. He is her dandelion in barren fields, the sunlight in a dark sky. He truly anchors her throughout the stories as she starts to trust him. But, even Peeta struggled to understand reality after being tortured by the Capitol. His “Real or not real” game with Katniss honestly reminds me of what it is like to have mental illnesses. When your mind is not well, it plays tricks on you. You cannot tell what is reality and what is pure paranoia.And, it becomes so confusing that all you can do is ask, sincerely, “Real or not real?”

Back to Katniss, who struggles to sleep, to use her bow and arrows, long after the games. If that is not a testament to how difficult PTSD is, I don’t what is. Yes, sure, she lives through the war, through the games (twice!), but even a strong girl like her is bound to break down. It’s only natural, honestly. But, it is also liberating to see that if a character like Katniss can get hurt by the things she faced, it is okay to go through the same thing. I am not saying that we all know what it’s like to go through wars; however, the struggles, the losses we experience are worthy of breaking us down at some point. Obviously, we have to fight. We have to be our own Mocking-jays, fight back the darkness, find the dandelions in our worlds. And, by the same token, our sunshine can falter and flicker. And, we need to be there for them. Support each other, and help get back up. That’s the best all of us we can do.

As Katniss says, “There are worse games to play.” Truly.

  ★QUESTIONS:Question #1: The Opening Ceremony: What book did you think had an incredible opening? I'll
  So, I bought The Disenchantments used and picked up my battered copy scared, because
Being stuck and sad makes reading, sleeping, eating, drinking, praying difficult. Everything is hard then.

Anl. Talking Tolkien

Having just revisited Middle Earth in movie form, it’d be fitting to talk about Tolkien’s work a bit on this blog. His work is valuable and offers great commentary about good and evil, temptation, and grace.

The Ring

The One Ring represents seduction to the evil of this world. Through it, Tolkien uses allegory to convey the importance of resisting temptations of evil.

Galadriel comes to mind, as she fights the ring’s call. She talks about how she could be a strong and terrifyingly effective queen if she had the ring. “All will love and despair.” It’s fear-based love, painful and anxious. Another example is Gandalf. He is pained when he tells Frodo that he’d not be able to control the ring. While he would be trying to use it for good purposes, it’d warp his power and produce negative outcomes.

Boromir falls into this trap. He is so sure that he’d use the ring to end the upcoming war on Middle Earth. Certain and confident in his own ability to resist it, that he doesn’t even see that thinking this way is a form of falling into temptation’s embrace.

Those who don’t try to hold the ring are rewarded for their actions. Aragorn become a great king. Gandalf becomes Gandalf the White. Sam becomes a hero and gets the girl. Merry and Pip become great warriors.

And, those who hold on to the ring are ultimately destroyed. Frodo and Bilbo are emotionally exhausted. Gollum is literally no longer in this world while the two Bagginses go to “heaven” in this world.

Heroes

Unlike everyone in the story, Sam is unchanged by the ring, by the journey, and by the peril he encounters. He is the light for Frodo’s growing darkness. Resourceful and hopeful, he practically carries Frodo to Mount Doom.

He never has any desire to try the ring, no intentions or plans with relying on the ring at all.

The question is of whether you think it’s better to be unaffected or worn. Part of me admires Frodo for his brave decision to carry a burden on behalf of so many races in the story: Men, Elves, Dwarf, Hobbit, Wizards.

Good and Evil

Ultimately, this story is about temptation and its relationship with good and evil. Somewhat simplistic as an approach, but Tolkien relates goodness with the avoidance of temptation, or at least resisting it. However, to his credit, Tolkien still allows for a complex view of the nature of redemption. Ultimately, Frodo redeems himself by taking the burden and ridding the world from an extreme evil.

Your Turn:

What do you think of Tolkien’s depiction of temptation and choice? Share in the comments!

 

Being stuck and sad makes reading, sleeping, eating, drinking, praying difficult. Everything is hard then.
1.What is a popular book or series that you didn’t like?  Maze Runner,  The Gemma
Today, a box of books appeared on our front step, which is probably the most

BR: Humor and Darkness in The Demon’s Lexicon

I got introduced to Sarah Rees Brennan through Cassandra Clare online. I feel a connection with certain writers. It’s not always spot on, but with SRB, it certainly was. When I started reading The Demon’s Lexicon, I was hesitant, at first, because I wasn’t sure about the set up and then later on because I started to love the characters way too much. It was truly terrifying to see the curses moving from one person to the next, the talismans lost, and demons summoned. Even now, I am scared for these precious babies.

Relationships: One of the things that I have loved most about Brennan’s writing is the relationships she establishes. For instance, I enjoy the relationship between Alan and Nick, I find it fascinating to see the relationship between the Ryves brothers and Jaimie and Mae as well. I like the push and pull between Alan and Nick while they try to figure out who they are and their relationship with the magicians. Olivia was also interesting in a haunting way. I like that she knows herself and her place in the world. I was sad to see her go. Maybe she can come back somehow. I don’t know, combustion seems kind of permanent.

Humor: The humor matched the darkness of the story, which was pretty refreshing. It honestly made me laugh a lot, just to hear the characters say the things they said, particularly Nick and Jaimie. They’re kind of an odd pair to see together, and they have their differences, for sure, so it’s a blast to read their interactions.

Originality of the World: Another superb aspect of the story was the originality factor. I like that the world was so unique and functioned within rules the characters address early on. The dances summoning the demons were epic and exciting. I just love the whole market atmosphere. It sounds so lively and tricky. I’m hoping to see the characters back at the market setting and interacting with the people there, because that’s probably one of my favorite aspects of the story.

Overall:  If you like “darker” characters, more morally ambiguous, then you’ll probably like the characters here. Everyone has complex identities and they have mixed feelings about each other. You really can’t predict what’s going to happen in the story, which is awesome to experience but also very scary. I honestly couldn’t read the book for years because I was frightened of what could happen in the first installment. I have the next one ready to go now, and I am going to delve in. Hope you check out this lovely hilarious author and read her books, too!

I read Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close a few years ago and it moved me tremendously. So,
  One of my favorite aspects of the Harry Potter series is its symmetry. It is wonderful
When I approached Since You've Been Gone, I slacked and hesitated. Then, one night, I

Dreams & Destruction: Inception

There are two other ways many mentally ill patients, or traumatized individuals, deal with their overwhelming feelings: dreaming and construction. Like I have said before, this is not “sadness,” this is energy coursing through veins urging, moving a person. Inception is a story essentially about a team of “dream hackers,” who try to implant an idea to help a wealthy man stay wealthy. I think this is the simplest explanation without any spoilers.

Things to Love About this Film and How it deals with Trauma, Dreams, Creation, and Destruction as Coping Mechanisms:

1. Nolan is careful to point out something that I was so happy to see: when you create worlds, it’s a very complex process. Dreaming is not easy—especially for those who are traumatized. We see that Cobb his subconscious knows, the people in the dream will look at him and they know that the world is wrong.

2. We see a lot of preparation, planning, and frustration. Unlike Sucker Punch’s Snyder, Nolan does not pretend that the dream world, or implanting an idea (inception) is easy.

3. This gives dreams a whole new weight. What we dream, whether literally in our sleep or when we are awake, consciously can lead us to a conclusion and then an idea that can ultimately change our lives.

4. We see that this is a team effort and that, even in “dreams,” we have fights and full on wars to fight. I like that a person can protect their dreams, have some sort of security—all while you’re sleeping, you can have armies defending your secrets and fears. Our dreams say so much about us…

5. The leads me to Cobb’s trauma issues with Mal (come on dude, look at her name!). Dreams, the worlds we create—projects, jobs, friendships, families (“in real life” or “in our sleep”) can be the death of us

7. Female empowerment, thank goodness: essentially the story begins and ends with women—Mal, the woman who locked away her “reality check” tool (which I thought was a cool addition, by the way) and started to confuse which world was which. Ariadne is an architect, but she soon becomes a creator of worlds; however, she learns not to put herself in them too much. We never learn a thing about her, Arthur, Eamus, or our awesome Yusuf.

8. The film’s artistry essentially taught (hopefully) people to dream and (de)construct to deal with issues.  We all have the power to create. It’s the restraints we place on ourselves, the rules.
Dream Away…

When I first heard of Me Before You, I was drawn to the cast. Emilia
I really, really, really love this story of This is Where I Leave You. The
If you ever want to experience a love story, a beautiful one at that, read