Monday, 5 January 2015

REVIEW! Books I read over Christmas: Let it Snow, Only Ever Yours, Looking For Alaska.

Helloo! Happy New Year!
One of my resolution type things this year is to do more blogging, in the form of book reviews, little essays, general musings etc. So I thought I'd start with a write up/ review type thing of the YA books I read over the Christmas hols!

Let it Snow 
I started with Let it Snow, three interconnecting stories by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. I read this one by the fire on Boxing Day and it was a lovely cosy place to be whilst reading about romantic adventures through a storm storm. I enjoyed Maureen Johnson's opening story the most, something about the "chance encounter" storyline really appealed to me. Nothing huge was tackled issue wise; just never judge a cheerleader by the cover, or maybe do judge a cheerleader by the cover, and teacup pigs make good gifts, and maybe you fancy your best friend, you should have a think about that. It also made me want to eat all the food at that Waffle House. Cheese. So much mention of cheese. I spent a lot of the time reading it being easily impressed every time the stories connected and characters popped up. I also spent a lot of time wondering how they went about writing it. Did they make it up together and then choose a bit, and did they choose when the other characters would be in each story and who went first and just how??

Read it while it's still cold outside. Good, harmless, snowy romance fun. 

Only Ever Yours
In quite a stark contrast, the next book I read was Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill. I felt pretty drained after reading this one. Dystopian futures are my bag, so I was very excited to read this, having enjoyed Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy and Scott Westerfield's Uglies series, and I was not disappointed.  I was willing to brush over the not very sciencey "future where no girls are born" thing to fully invest in the idea of a future where girls are manufactured 'eves' for men, and to breed more men, and grow up competing with each other, in an isolated school, to be ranked in order of their beauty. With mirrors covering every surface, a 'vomitorium' next to the cafeteria, and target weights, it all felt almost too close to reality. Every thought I had about my body or clothes or face over the days I was reading made me double take and realise my thoughts weren't that far off those of the girls in the book. I highly recommend reading this book. It felt like a cut above the rest to me.


What really impressed me and set this book apart from other female led dystopian fictions I've read, was that there was no male accomplice and escape partner. There was no real love interest. And there was no escape. In other fictional dystopian worlds, most of the population is oppressed, so there is a possibility for an uprising, for a spark to ignite, and for a romance to drive a couple to escape together or lead a rebellion. But in Only Ever Yours, the men are not really oppressed, or not in the same way as the women. The patriarchy is so immensely strong and seems to be unbreakable. Darwin seems to be beaten by his father, but as he says to freida, there is no way to escape. There is no "other side" that can be escaped to. And so the real love that could have sparked a rebellion, the love between isabel and freida, never has a chance to ignite as there would just be nowhere to go. When you continue the the comparison between the setting of the book and the reality for girls in our world, this is a reeeealllly depressing thought. Read the book! It honestly feels like a cut above the rest and the 'no happy endings' ending felt so true to the story and not at all a token attempt to be taken seriously. It commands so much respect. Louise O'Neill, thank you.

Looking For Alaska
Swinging right back into reality with a rather harsh bump, I read John Green's Looking For Alaska next. It took me a little while to get into, probably as I'd just read Only Ever Yours and wanted stupid Miles to quit talking about the curve of Alaska's hips or whatever and leave her alone because she wasn't created just for Miles to ogle at, unlike the poor freida and isabel who were created to be ogled at and had no choice, but does Alaska really have a choice? Waaaah. Alaska's rants on the patriarchy and calling out the boys in their objectification of girls eased this a little. Although the book is essentially about the whole girl on a pedestal thing. I think it explored this and the 'mystery girl' narrative pretty well, which I imagine is the intention. In true John Green style there is a literary quirk, Miles reads biographies of authors and historical figures and memorises their last words, which I actually enjoyed as far a literary quirks go. I think Miles needed this quirk, otherwise he's just guy who puts girl on pedestal. (I should have read more YA when I was an actual young adult in high school. Maybe I would have been more pretentious and quoted the classics and stuff. I think I mostly read Harry Potter and the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series. I quoted them A LOT.) Favourite scene is probably the awkward teenage sexual encounter scene, toothpaste tube, we're often sheltered from that kind of honesty in YA, I have found. 

I found it to be very much like Paper Towns, maybe that's why The Fault in Our Stars was such a success, it really stands out from the guy-from-Florida-puts-more-popular-mysterious-damaged-girl-on-pedestal trope. Teenagers, boarding school, class divides, pranks!

Wooh! I hope that was enjoyable. I'm currently reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, and I have E. Lockhart's We Were Liars, which I've heard is great, and Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, to read next!