definitions-of-indefinable-things-book-review

While I’m so grateful to have received this book from the publisher, I’m sad to say it wasn’t for me. I can see how this book would be a favorite for younger (snarky?) readers, and the writing was decent, but I just couldn’t stomach the YA cliches, bad attitudes/angst, pretentiousness, and other frustrating elements.

I really REALLY wanted to love this book, and I do think fans of John Green or “witty” romance will potentially enjoy this book. I did like, for the most part, how the author portrayed depression and how it can take many shapes in our lives and in the lives of people we love. The letter at the very end of the book was probably my favorite part of the novel for this reason; the main character defines depression for herself and likens the experience to walking a tightrope. If the whole book had been written with this level of vulnerability and humble insight, I may have enjoyed it more.

The main reason I disliked this book was because the main character, Reggie, is one of the most frustrating characters, and not in a Holden Caulfield/endearing kind of way. She hates everything and everyone (and says it multiple times; the author doesn’t even show us this. She tells us). She is mean to everyone she comes in contact with (without reason), which somehow spurs on the romance?

Which leads me to the boy, “Snake.” I really didn’t like the romance. Snake continues to pursue her even though she tells him she hates him and insults him pretty much every time she sees him. I also felt that Snake was way too pushy about their relationship. He literally grabs her at one point and she asks him to let her go, and he doesn’t? I guess it was supposed to be a cute, quirky part of their relationship, their banter and “I don’t give a shit” attitudes about the “uselessness of our condition,” but to be honest, it didn’t come across on the page for me. Maybe it did for other readers, and again, maybe high school readers will feel differently about this book. I just personally didn’t find it funny or endearing, and I didn’t connect with the characters at all. I wanted to stop reading, but a few reviewers mentioned that it got better as the book went on.

At one point, Snake literally told Reggie, “You were wrecked before you met me . . . it suits you though.” Which, in my opinion, felt a bit off. I wouldn’t say it’s romanticizing mental illness in any way, but I definitely got the sense that Snake and Reggie held this superior attitude because of their illness. I don’t know. Maybe I’m hyper sensitive to it, but I didn’t enjoy this book.

I agree with other reviewers that I think people will like or maybe even love this book, and I’m sure people will be able to relate to it, so it isn’t really a one star for me. I also think the author is a talented writer; the characters just weren’t for me.

the-hate-u-give-angie-thomas

Like many other reviewers, I am astounded by this book. I don’t think the right words will come, but I’m going to try.

This book deserves all the hype it received. It was like a sucker punch to the heart in the best way. But it hurts, because it exposes everything.

I’m sure The Hate U Give wasn’t written so white people like me could better understand what it’s like for a black girl like Starr to live her life and experience the injustice she experienced. It was written so people like her—whose representation in media is always lacking—could see themselves in this main character and feel known and empowered.

Even so, I gained so much from learning about Starr’s perspective, and I’m so thankful for the author’s truthful, raw portrayal. This truly is why we need diverse books—but even more so, why we need #OwnVoices books.

This story made me laugh, cry, smile, and feel sick to my stomach. There were moments I happily turned pages to learn about Starr and her family, her boyfriend, her struggles and grief, and then there were moments when I was practically ripping through pages, at the edge of my seat to see what would happen next. It was a character-driven and plot-driven book. The best kind.

The Hate U Give is electrifying. It’s compassionate, complex, powerful, mournful, and fed up. It doesn’t sugar coat the truth. I don’t think I could ever forget about Khalil, even though we barely got to know him directly as the reader. I’m thankful for Angie, who, like Starr, shines a light in the darkness.

The-Night-Circus-Book-Review

Hi all! I loved The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Review below, but basically, this book was enchanting, mysterious, elegant, and a total page turner. I’m planning a “Midnight Dinner” with some friends this month to celebrate the Circus of Dreams. Bookish parties are the best, aren’t they?

Brit-Bennett-the-Mothers-book-review
Oh, my heart! This book aches the whole way through. I was absolutely astonished by the writing.
The Mothers is about a young girl named Nadia who tries to cope after her mother kills herself, the catalyst for Nadia’s pursuit of any opportunity that makes her feel—any opportunity to forget her hurt. She meets Luke, the pastor’s son, and the teen romance ends abruptly, but she can’t stop imagining the life she could have had. In her suffering, she forms an unlikely friendship with a God-fearing girl named Aubrey. The characters are molded by their hurt over the years, each moving through their lives like ghosts, but they remain connected.

This is truly one of the most heart-breaking books about grief, lost love, and the severed intimacy of family. I almost couldn’t bear it. But in its ruthless untangling, there’s a bravery to it and a quiet acceptance that startles me awake.

Brit Bennett has the tragic gift of understanding the misunderstandings of people—the truth behind closed doors and the secrets we carry in our loneliness and our grief. I was weighed down by what lay behind her words. As the mothers said, “the weight of what has been lost is always heavier than what remains.” But, my goodness, I was stunned by how beautiful it was: not just the poetic language, but the way she dissects emotion and makes it uncomfortably tangible. She doesn’t apologize for it. I loved that about this story. I loved Aubrey’s story especially, and I was extremely impressed by how she fleshed out the Mothers’ collective voice. Every “we,” and “she-said-he-said” was a perfect echo of the “church gossip” of the south; I was surprised, at times, that it took place in Southern California. I was also surprised by how much we, as readers, can peer into Luke’s thoughts, motivations, desires, and fears.

What else can I say? This book made me grieve for my gender. I felt the weight of a woman’s shame—a mother’s shame— that presses and flattens you out on all sides—the shame and pressures laid upon every mother and every girl who will one day be expected to grow into a mother. “Magic you wanted was a miracle, magic you didn’t want was haunting.” “Suffering pain is what made you a woman.” Even so, this book made me proud to be a woman. I’m softened by their need for love and their need to love. They feel hurt beyond repair, but the heart is stronger. In the midst of suffering, one character remembers walking to the end of a pier—a pier that must be rebuilt time and time again because of the storms. “She wondered if that was the point, if sometimes the glory was in rebuilding the broken thing, not the result but the process of trying.”

Oh, there’s so much we don’t know about the human heart. We experience it all with Nadia: how a loved one’s face she aches to remember slowly slips away while the grainy image on a sonogram never leaves her.

There’s no doubt about it. I will definitely pick up Brit Bennett’s next book.

aristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-of-the-universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a touching coming-of-age story about a fifteen-year-old boy named Ari and his best friend, Dante, and their unique experiences in El Paso, Texas, as Mexican-American teenagers. I listened to the audio version of this story, and while I do believe it was overhyped, I’m fully aware that my personal listening experience could have been completely different if I had physically read the book. Don’t get me wrong: Lin-Manuel Miranda was a brilliant narrator and I thoroughly enjoyed his voice for all of the characters.

I also enjoyed the story’s depiction of family and the secrets we carry, vulnerability and how we all fight our “private wars,” and the authenticity of intense teenage friendships and romance. My heart ached for Ari as he talked about every family member, especially his father and the emotional distance between them. Dante was perfectly loaristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-of-the-universe-book-coverveable in every way, and I couldn’t help but smile at his sensitive spirit and quirky one-liners. I also really, really enjoyed the dream sequences in this book. They were telling and beautiful and tragic—and they seemed to unravel a part of Ari that he didn’t know was there: the struggle he constantly faced to find the secrets of the universe and the secrets of himself. Also, the fact that he named his dog Legs makes me so incredibly happy.

As much as I wanted to love this book, however, I have to say that I was mostly underwhelmed. I enjoyed the story and thought it was cute and touching, but overall, I expected much more, and I’m not sure it gripped me as much as it gripped other readers. I’m all for angsty teen protagonists, but I want the angst to be founded in something real—even if I can’t understand it as a reader.

It’s understandable for a confused character to be upset and not know why or sad and not know why, but I found that I just couldn’t connect with Ari’s anger. I tend to empathize with angry characters, especially “strange” teen characters who are feeling emotions intensely for the first time and learning about themselves and the world around them. But the interior monologue, so often, was and that made me mad. I don’t know why or I really hate that.

I get that Ari is an emotionally stunted character learning to accept his own vulnerability—and that he does transition and grow thanks to Dante’s emotional honesty—but I don’t know if I fully believed Ari at times. When I DID believe him though—and his angst was founded in something real or he dug a little deeper—I was deeply moved. Those moments were in there, but in my opinion, they were few and far between.

It’s not that I was looking for fancy, flowery descriptions or vivid scenes, I just wanted something more . . . delicate. Sometimes the simple, subtle sentences jumped out at me, such as: “Love was always something heavy for me, something I had to carry.” I loved this, and I think my favorite parts of the book were when Ari was with his parents or Dante’s parents.

Overall, I enjoyed most of this book and I can see how it could be a favorite for some people. Ari and Dante are so endearing, and I also acknowledge that my listening experience may have affected how I feel about the story overall (the angst just doesn’t sit well with me when I listen to young adult books on audio, and I plan to avoid listening to YA books on audio in the future).