I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

4.5 stars. Honestly the most touching book I’ve read in a while.

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Blurb (from Goodreads):

Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.

I think half the books I’ve read lately left me a day later, but this one stayed with me for a while. I assumed the story would be pretty cliché based on its summary, but it surprised me. Don’t let the blurb fool you!!! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as imaginative as this one. The author’s use of imagery was amazing. I read a lot of reviews saying they preferred Noah’s POV to Jude’s, but I liked them both. Noah is just… unlike any other character, but in the best way possible. The author did a good job of creating two distinct, completely unique voices. Usually books with different point of views are something I find annoying, but this time it added to the whole story.

“Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,” I say. “Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.” Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things.”

Noah is one of the greatest YA characters I’ve ever come across, but he’s definitely not perfect. Neither is Jude. They’re both deeply flawed and broken characters, and this makes them much more real. This book is so beautiful I can’t even explain it. I wish there were more of it. The only thing that brings down my rating is the ending. It felt like everything happened within 20 pages.

I could rave about this book forever.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

3.5 stars.

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I think this is the first book of poetry I’ve ever read, and I’m not too sure how I’m supposed to review this. Rupi Kaur is extremely popular on the internet, and I really loved what I had read from her so I decided to buy this, but it was a bit underwhelming. There are many poems I loved that touched me, but a lot of them were just okay. However, everything she writes is raw and honest. It’s hard to give this an overall score, because some poems are better than others. this might be irrelevant, but I also really enjoyed the drawings that go with some of her poems.

“stay strong through your pain
grow flowers from it
you have helped me
grow flowers out of mine so
bloom beautifully
dangerously
loudly
bloom softly
however you need
just bloom”

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

3 stars. Weirdly enough, I watched the movie before reading the book and I liked the movie better.

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Blurb:

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.

Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.

Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.

And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

 

I think what really irritated me was Greg’s point of view. The whole self-deprecating thing is only endearing about 50 pages in. He’s constantly reminding us how terrible the book is, and how he can’t believe we’re still reading it. Thankfully, the movie does not take the same approach. Like, yeah, why am I still reading this when I’m constantly being told how stupid what I’m reading is? Greg is probably the least likeable character in the book. He’s constantly putting himself down, all while acting like he’s better than everyone around him.

If you ignore Greg, the book is good. The way it approaches Greg and Rachel’s friendship is realistic. It’s genuinely funny sometimes, but the humour often fell flat for me. What I enjoyed the most was how honest it was. Greg didn’t suddenly become an amazing human being after reuniting with Rachel. He wasn’t moved by Rachel, although I do feel like a big part of that is him being an unemotional jerk. Rachel wasn’t a perfect and strong human being simply because she had cancer. She stops treatment. There’s no message on the meaning of life. Rachel’s cancer isn’t even the focus of the book.

I also really enjoyed the different styles of writing used in the book. Sometimes the author used bullet-points or a script format, and it kept things interesting and helped with the pacing.

Overall, I had higher expectations for this book. I really enjoyed the movie but the book just didn’t amaze me. Maybe I would have felt differently if I read the book first.

 

 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

2 stars. Hate me for this.

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Blurb:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

I DO NOT LIKE JOHN GREEN.

This story is manipulative, cheesy, and pretentious. No teenager talks the way Hazel and Augustus do. No teenager acts the way Hazel and Augustus do. No teenager uses stupid metaphors the way Hazel and Augustus do (how pretentious is that?). The character development is at 0. Hazel and Augustus are the same person. Every character in every John Green book is the same. Hazel is an even more annoying version of Miles. Living her boring life until she meets an amazing boy who changes her life forever, and dies. Congratulations John Green, for creating a manic pixie dream boy. This book has the same basic plotline as all of his others, and it’s sad. But, like, this is a totally amazing book because it like, made me like, cry? NO. It’s not. It just means you have basic human emotions.

The only thing I can’t be negative about is Green’s writing. He knows how to throw in some nice quotes to distract you from the utter mess that you’re reading. He tries to be quirky and witty and original. It’s stupid and it’s shallow. That is all.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

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Blurb: “As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status — much like their grandparents before them.”

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community — and all of us –to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

4 stars.

This was an interesting and insightful  read. Alexander uses facts and statistics to prove that there is still a racial caste system in the United States, one that has existed for centuries. She also uses real stories to accompany her statistics, which makes reading this much more personal. The writing is simple and coherent, but the point that comes across is devastating. There is an underlying reality existing in American society that we never even think about. We are blind to it.

This book can be disturbing at times because it can shatter our expectations of the United States. Life in America is so idealized that it can be shocking to some people that a world like this still exists. Yet lately we have seen the impact of racial prejudice with the events occurring in Ferguson, Baltimore, etc. The feedback of these movements, and those like All Lives Matter, is why reading books like this, and educating ourselves, is important.

Despite all these positives, I found the book highly repetitive. The author could have cut down a few pages and still have proven her thesis successfully. But she repeats herself over and over again, to the point where it’s exhausting to read. Nevertheless, I still think this is a book everyone should read because it’s eye-opening.

“The fate of millions of people—indeed the future of the black community itself—may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.”

I Am Malala

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I’m not sure how to review a book like this one, so I won’t give it a rating.

I read this book a long time ago when my friend lent it to me. This book is a mixture of Pakistani history, Malala’s story, and politics. It brings an interesting insight into a world far away from our own. Malala is undeniably brave in her fight for girls’ education and it’s amazing to see her journey.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”

Although I loved reading Malala’s story, the writing isn’t unified, or even good. The story constantly jumps from one subject to another. In parts of the book where there is a retelling of Pakistani history, Malala’s voice is completely washed out, but when the book talks about her own past, it’s as if there is no ghostwriter. Nevertheless, I don’t think the point is to read an amazing work of literature, but to learn about Malala and her life. Her stories about her childhood, her friends, and her family make us realize that we’re not that different from one another. Some things are universal, no matter where you live.

Even though this wasn’t an amazing work of art, I think it’s something everyone should read. There is so much we take for granted, and it’s important to put everything in perspective once in a while.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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3 stars.

Blurb:

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

Forman is a pretty hyped writer, what with If I Stay being turned into a movie. And I really liked that book, so I was ready to be blown away, except I wasn’t. Forman’s angle on the “teenage suicide (don’t do it)” plot is completely different from most books about the subject, which should be refreshing. However, the whole book is bland. The plot is boring. None of the characters are memorable to me, except perhaps Meg’s little brother. He’s the only character who brings some life into the story. The main character, Cody, is the archetypal kind of character in this theme of YA, she feels guilty but comes to realise it’s not her fault, that whole ordeal. She just lost her best friend and her pain must be very real, yet even though we are inside her head we never get to know Cody properly as a person. Just her irrational behaviour and her feelings for Ben. Why can’t we have more complex male interests than “mysterious bad-boy” and “good boy who finds your most hated quirks adorable”?

Despite these negatives, it’s undeniable that Gayle Forman knows how to write beautifully. And even though I didn’t LOVE this book, I liked it. It’s still better than half of what’s out there. The story is touching and the author put her own spin on a plot that’s been done to death (no pun intended), with an online forum being involved. Maybe I went into this expecting too much. Or maybe I know Gayle Forman can do better.