24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

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Abby Reads: If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Hi friends! I’m trying something new with reviews. I have a handful of full-length ones to post still, but I’ve found that I’m more able to keep up with reviewing material I’ve read in shorter forms. This will also include a visual element and, if you want immediate updates on reviews you can follow me at @24hourlibrary on Instagram where the content will be the same. Let me know what you think!

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REVIEW: “If I’m Being Honest” by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka- Continuing with a heavy Shakespearean presence after their debut (this time, “The Taming of the Shrew”), “Always Never Yours,” Wibberly and Siegemund-Broka have a bit of a sophomore slump with their second novel. Although the plot is cutesy enough, the authors rely on too many tropes to make it refreshing, including “popular girl falls in with ‘freak’ crowd,” “‘freaks’ have actual depth and are people, too,” “popular girl has secret nerdy hobby,” “bully is bullying to feel better about being bullied herself,” and “daddy issues” (*cringe*). Still, with her family circumstances, Cameron is a sympathetic character despite her cruelty. While chemistry between her and her younger love interest is limited, there’s enough to carry the plot. Aside from a fun cameo of characters from the authors’ first novel, “If I’m Being Honest” isn’t bad, but probably skip-able. For fans of Morgan Matson, this could still be a breezy, low-key, and enjoyable read — If I’m being honest. 🕹 3/5⁣ ⁣ #bookreview #ifimbeinghonest #books #bookstagram #booklover #bookworm #bookish #bookgram #bookgeek #bookdragon #booklovers #booklove #booknerds #booknerd #bookphoto #bookporn #bookphotography #bookworms #bookvibes

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Abby Reads: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019, 256 pages
Juvenile Graphic Novel

A retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy begin their story with a modern look for a modern audience at Christmastime in New York City. The family is struggling, with an exhausted mom (Madison March) who works as a nurse, and faraway dad, who is serving overseas in the military. While the girls lament their lack of means, each has dreams that extend far into the future. Meg lives for fashion and marrying Image result for meg jo beth amyrich (which will no doubt solve her and her sisters’ problems), Jo focuses on writing and social justice (much to the annoyance of those around her), Beth yearns to play music (if only she could get out of her own way), and Amy obsesses over art and video games (but art supplies aren’t cheap). When the sisters meet Laurie, the new boy across the street, everyone is in for something new. But even the kindness of Laurie and his family can’t help Meg with her love life, Jo with her secret, Beth with her illness, and Amy with being the baby of the bunch. This graphic novel is by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo, along with a team of artists.

The authors make several changes to the plot of Little Women to modernize it — for example, Beth, rather than suffering from scarlet fever, instead becomes ill with one of the biggest disease threats to today’s children. Then there’s Jo, who — I’m not counting this as a spoiler because Rey Terciero shared the panes on his Instagram — must decide whether or not to accept herself as gay and then come out to her family. Overall, the authors provide a sound plot — though adult readers may wonder how the family makes out with Beth’s medical bills. Like Little Women, there isn’t so much a storyline as there is watching a family grow over the course of a year through a series of loosely-connected vignettes to emphasize character development.

Because the book is so heavily focused on character development, the characterization of each character must be developed. Terciero and Indigo achieve this to some extent, and probably mostly to the satisfaction of most younger readers, but older kids and adults may find it somewhat lacking. So, too, is the concept of sisterhood and relationships between women. It’s there, and the authors make an attempt, but it does not quite feel genuine. Instead, there’s a sort of sitcom-like sheen on the relationships that feel a bit one-dimensional and inauthentic. With the sisters and their many interests, most readers will find at least one character with whom to identify. However, the authors missed out on an opportunity represent young women interested in STEM. The four interests are decidedly creative in nature, and perhaps a STEM-oriented sister might have felt like forced representation (and, true, another departure from the source text), but it still feels like a missed opportunity. It seems, too, that much of Jo’s sexuality is represented with stereotypes — while they aren’t stereotypes I’ve found to be horrifically untrue, their presence did call to question why, when LGBTQ representation is so lacking in the first place and, when it does appear, often portrays LGBTQ characters in a limited set of ways.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy maintains the spirit of Little Women which makes it an overall successful adaptation. Despite getting at that spirit, the authors don’t bog down the work in a way that is inaccessible on its own. Fans of Little Women will probably have at least one or two opinions about things that have been changed, but this is a fun graphic novel with enough seriousness to make readers want to savor it. With the characters ranging in age, readers of different ages will easily get different things out of it. And many readers will likely turn to the original story, eager to find out more about the March sisters.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017, 256 pages
Poetry

Following up her major success with Milk and Honey, poet Rupi Kaur brings a new collection of poetry to her audience. In The Sun and Her Flowers, Kaur explores relationships with herself, her mother, men, and society at large. With each section themed by relationship and the conflicts found in those relationships, Kaur also finds focus on concepts such as identity, feminism, immigration, racism, and beyond. Concise language pairs with simple 35606560illustrations to pull this reasonably-sized collection of poetry together and follow up on one of the most well-known collections of poetry of late.

Realistically, The Sun and Her Flowers is going to be compared to Milk and Honey and its enormous success (and, if you pick up The Sun and Her Flowers, you’ll likely find yourself doing the same), so let’s get that out of the way: The Sun and Her Flowers, though very similar to Milk and Honey, is not quite as good. Perhaps it is because so much of what is present in The Sun and Her Flowers has already been done in Milk and Honey so, while the quality is perhaps the same, it doesn’t feel quite as new or as revolutionary (which, caveat: there are lots of folks pointing out what Kaur has done isn’t original and is perhaps even plagiarism) as it did in Kaur’s first collection. (Plus, and this isn’t Kaur’s fault, but, let’s be honest — Milk and Honey’s cover is far more useful for Instagram purposes than is The Sun and Her Flowers. Just saying.)

In the section about breakups, Kaur mixes language that feels entirely fresh and original while other poems spout out the same kind of melodramatic and eye-roll-inducing phrases you’d expect to find in your middle school journal. Though Kaur is forced to use dramatic language due to her extremely pared down style (most of the poems are still no more than a dozen or two dozen words at most — a couple exceptions extend into a full two pages’ worth of words, albeit with still very short lines), the cliches she employs in this “chapter” in particular feel especially cheap.

Meanwhile, in poems about her mother, Kaur presents a relationship with plenty of gray areas and conflicting feelings that are displayed with powerful language and ideas. From admiration to resentment, though Kaur speaks in specifics with particular attention to her mother’s status as an immigrant and what that means for Kaur, the notions Kaur illustrates are largely universal. Readers will find plenty of familiar material in the collection as a whole, but some of the more striking pieces sit within the context of Kaur and her mother’s relationship.

The Sun and Her Flowers is somewhat lengthy; not all of the pieces included necessarily should have been. While Milk and Honey felt to be a good length, many of the poems in The Sun and Her Flowers felt extraneous and repetitive. Given that a handful of poems felt especially like extracts from a middle school journal, the length of The Sun and Her Flowers doesn’t make sense, except that due to the popularity of Milk and Honey, Kaur and her editors likely felt they could get away with a longer piece and that fans might want it regardless of the actual quality.

The illustrations of the poetry are still a great addition to the work as a whole. Simple, wiry, and beautiful, each drawing works to provide additional dimension and emotion to the page. Despite their simplicity, however, the illustrations are always clear in what they are meant to be, even when their representation does not quite match the content of the poem with which they are paired.

Overall The Sun and Her Flowers is another win for Kaur. Though not a perfect set of poems and lacking in some places in one way or another, fans of Milk and Honey will appreciate a return to many themes (if it’s perhaps a bit limiting) in overlapping concepts while finding new life in poems about mother-daughter relationships. Kaur’s concise and powerful language continues to make her work incredibly accessible and therefore a popular choice for an entry point to poetry. An easy metaphor of plants and growth underscores this accessibility as well as the stark femininity with which Kaur themes her collection. Though you don’t need to rush out and buy this one, it is worth a read.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Ecco Press, 2014, 272 pages
Horror/Thriller

In Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, the people of America have been plagued with unseen creatures that, when viewed, cause the victim to go insane and inflict violence on others before killing themselves. When these creatures first arrive, Malorie soon discovers she is pregnant. It’s not long before she is convinced of the reality of these creatures, their existence and impact brought home by her sister’s grisly death. Malorie becomes a housemate at a small group of survivors and witnesses — and participates in — the various conflicts that come with dealing with this new world. In the present, Malorie endeavors to escape the house and make a perilous twenty-mile journey down the river where she’s been promised safety. But how do you navigate to a Image result for bird box book coverplace you’ve never been without opening your eyes?

If you’d asked me before I read Bird Box if I liked horror novels, the answer would have been no. I tried Stephen King when I was in middle school (Pet Sematary, if you’re curious) and was bored to tears over it, so I figured horror just wasn’t my thing. While I’d read a few other things marketed as horror since (Asylum by Madeleine Roux, for example), nothing in literature really scared me. Plenty of people said they’d read books they couldn’t read at night they were so terrified by them — often listing Pet Sematary as their own example — and so I figured there was something wrong with me.

Bird Box did not keep me up for fear — but it did keep me up for wanting to read more. Though I don’t have a lot to compare it to (see the previous paragraph), Bird Box feels painfully original and Malerman does an astounding job at creating tension and a weird sense of slow urgency in the context of his highly inventive plot. As the reader moves between Malorie’s present and past, the question remains until the end as to whether or not she and the two children she brings with her will survive and thrive.

Though Malorie begins as one of the more blase characters when it comes to the existence of the creatures at the beginning of the novel, she is easily one of the most neurotic about surviving them by the end. It’s this character development that pushes Malerman’s novel to the top. Originally somewhat self-absorbed and, aside from her pregnancy, fairly lighthearted, Malorie ends up a nervous wreck who is specific, demanding, harsh, and tense. She names the children Boy and Girl, fully aware of how futile it seems to give “real” names to children who don’t live in a “real” world and may not survive the day. Meanwhile, deceit and alliances create fascinating relationships throughout the novel with a manageable size of a cast. Seemingly small choices, like the lack of names for the children, indicate in very powerful ways the mental states of the characters and Malerman manages each character fantastically this way.

Malerman doesn’t push the gore too much in the novel. This means when he does describe scenes of carnage, it’s especially effective. Malerman is sometimes restricted by perspective of his characters who are often forced to keep their eyes closed, but he uses this again to his advantage, creating suspense much like the lack of visual on the famed Jaws creates dread in Jaws.

Even if you’re not a fan of horrors or thrillers, Bird Box may be well worth a shot. On top of being fantastically exciting in the most dreadful way, the novel poses fascinating questions and is an impressive exercise of the senses. Fun and smart, the novel doesn’t take too long to read — no matter how I tried to pace myself, I just couldn’t. And once you’ve finished Bird Box, you can look forward to Malerman’s spring publication, Unbury Carol.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: The Curiosities by Susan Gloss

The Curiosities by Susan Gloss
William Morrow, 2019, 368 pages
Contemporary Fiction

With thanks to William Morrow for the final copy.

After the loss of her newborn, Nell can only think of how to fill the void. Despite treatment after treatment, Nell and her husband Josh are seemingly unable to get pregnant. And while Josh appears to have moved on, Nell cannot let her grief go. Meanwhile, the bills from fertility treatment have added up and Nell has kept just how much money has been spent on treatment from Josh. Now, she has an opportunity to work as the director of a new artists 40712737colony in an attempt to chip away at the bills, but it might be more of a challenge than she’s up to. There’s the hippie-photographer who might be dealing out of the basement Annie, the even-keeled sculptor Odin who gives Nell a case of the butterflies, and Paige, a printer who isn’t ready to settle. As Nell navigates her new position and the people in her life, she must first get out of her own way.

While characters who are diverse in thought and age inhabit The Curiosities, their execution leaves something to be desired. Each character seems to be driven primarily by a personal tragedy, leaving no room for other traits or meaningful history. While certainly things like child loss and partner loss are hugely impactful events, their effect cannot entirely encompass a person. Gloss’s characters are, as a result, rather flat and lacking the roundedness and complexity of real people or believable and compelling characters.

Although the characters may not be entirely convincing, the plot of The Curiosities is reasonably so. The initial setup of Nell hiding crucial financial information from her husband is perhaps a bit far-fetched, but not entirely implausible. From there, Nell does conveniently get the first job for which she applies — and is evidently fairly unqualified for — but the subsequent events, involving the building of the artists colony and a death in the house that causes upheaval for all of the residents feel fairly natural and realistic.

Gloss struggles some with showing over telling, favoring a prose style that is rather unspecific. Rather than extend information into scenes that conveys the goings-on at the colony, Gloss indicates passing time with vague indications of the activities of the artists and leaves more detailed scenes for looks into the characters’ pasts, including the deceased benefactress. Overall, this makes the plot pass quickly and, to some extent, without notice. Additionally, the prose does its job and just that — there are few turns of phrase to savor and enjoy, few impressive descriptions. Readers who seek a more driving plot will latch onto the death and be lost in the details of seemingly more extraneous scenes that develop character, but do little to push events forward. Meanwhile, readers who prefer novels that are heavily character-driven will enjoy The Curiosities if they can get past the singular dimensions of the characters.

The Curiosities is a moderately quick and enjoyable read. Fans of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows will find some shared elements to enjoy, though the work is not quite as adept. It’s a novel that is easily categorized as women’s fiction — though that’s generally not something I believe in — and will no doubt find many book clubs to enjoy it.

❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Monster by Michael Grant

Monster by Michael Grant
Katherine Tegen Books, 2017, 432 pages
Young Adult Science Fiction

I received this eBook from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Monster is available for purchase as of the writing of this review.

Years after the FAYZ has been eliminated, many of those who lived through the harrowing events of the original Gone series are struggling to live normal, healthy lives in Michael Grant’s Monster. But to make matters worse, the alien virus which kicked off those events has returned and with greater strength in the form of projectiles from space. As they land all over the world, kids and teens are exposed to the virus — both purposefully with the intent of gaining superpowers and by mistake — and the United States government wants to intervene. With both familiar26082351 and new characters, Monster brings a new level of thrill to fans of the Gone series.

Grant has a history of being called out for being problematic. He and Debbie Reese have come up against each other multiple times, particularly over his depiction of Native American characters. I have an opinion about the whole situation, but it’s not useful or valid to hear more white people talk about it, so I’ll just inform you that it’s a thing that’s been going on and you can decide whether or not you want to engage with Grant’s work from there. I’ll take one more beat to note that Monster features characters who are absolutely transphobic and homophobic, so be aware of that if you choose to read Monster. The remainder of my review will assess the book as separate from the author and these issues.

As in the original series, Monster has an excellent cast of characters, all of whom have strong, well-defined motivations, interesting and complete backstories, and personalities that are varied and play well against and with each other. Given the number of books Grant has written, I am always astounded by how thoroughly the characters are developed, both as characters, period, and how they actively develop on the page throughout the narrative. Without being heavy-handed, Grant manages to clearly trace back inciting events and circumstances to explain the actions of his characters and this helps bring a level of realism that is necessary for his high-intensity science fiction world.

Along with the intangible realism Grant provides in his novel is the visceral gore he continues to excel at writing. This signature style was one that really elevated the Gone series for me, and its presence in Monster is just as appreciated. Grant’s skill in depicting the grotesque and horrific lies in his ability to do so without cliche and with a great deal of specificity without becoming overly clinical or repetitive. The tedium isn’t held quite as well during fight scenes — of which there are many in Monster — but by the end of the book, it’s clear these moments of physical conflict are leading to something much bigger in a book yet to be published. Monster is, essentially, the first few chapters of the spinoff series, so it’s logical that it sometimes must play the part of exposition.

Grant includes interesting pieces of what I’ll call “mixed media writing,” particularly toward the end. These passages include a speech from the President of the United States and tweets. Like the characterizations and gore, Grant somehow finds a way to make these sections heighten the realism rather than cheapening the book, which, from many other attempts I’ve read, is a real challenge to do.

For all I’ve mentioned Gone, it’s possible to read Monster (and, presumably, its follow-ups) without reading the original six novels. It’s not entirely clear whether Monster is, in fact, part of the original series (Amazon and Wikipedia would have you believe it’s Gone #7) or truly a spinoff (the narrative and characters seem to suggest this — and I feel like Grant himself has indicated this status as well), but Monster includes enough detail about the events of Gone and its sequels that readers new to the world could easily hop on board without reading Gone (though, why you wouldn’t want to read the incredible first six books is beyond me).

Monster holds up to Grant’s previous work. It’s just as well crafted as an exciting story with originality, excellent characters, and striking realism within a fascinating science fiction world. The novel is a tough one to put down most of the time, even as a piece that is introducing a new storyline and requires a lot of explanation and exposition which sometimes means sections that feel a little slower. If you enjoyed Gone, Monster is absolutely worth the time and the space on your bookshelf.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Ever by Gail Carson Levine

Ever by Gail Carson Levine
HarperCollins, 2011, 288 pages
Juvenile Fantasy

When her mother is sick and nearing death in Gail Carson Levine’s Ever, Kezi and her family will do just about anything to spare her. When her father makes a promise to sacrifice the first person who congratulates him on his wife’s healing — assuming their god grants them Kezi’s mother’s health — it’s not long before the mother improves and Kezi’s aunt visits. Just as she’s about to congratulate Kezi’s father, Kezi jumps in and does it herself, thus 2204464dooming herself as a sacrifice. But nearby is the self-made outcast known as Olus who is a god unknown to Kezi and her family. His presence has been periphery since his arrival as a tenant of Kezi’s father, but he’s about to become more.

Apparently drawing from many existing mythologies, Levine does an impressive job building her world and new mythology. Though the reader isn’t overwhelmed with details (this is, after all, a juvenile novel), the universe and explanations for it still seem quite complete. I don’t pretend to know of every religion or mythology out there and, in fact, checked quickly to be sure that Levine was not pulling solely from one existing faith or cast of gods. The world in which she works here feels well-established and seems to exist beyond the pages the reader is given.

Levine lacks this skill in her development of Kezi and Olus’s relationship. Perhaps due to the target audience of the book, the chemistry between Kezi and Olus is practically nonexistent. Neither character, it seems, is developed enough to warrant feelings for the other. Kezi’s character is wrapped up in her love for her family and dance while Olus is mostly concerned with his identity of a god. Beyond this, neither character has a personality enough that there’s any substance for the other to fall in love with. While both characters are young, this does not fully explain the lack of character development and the consequential lack of chemistry. Though mythology and fables are often populated by characters with little definition as characters, for a novel-length work, this shortcoming has bigger consequences.

Throughout the entirety of the story, Levine uses a stylized prose which helps to build the world and explain the lives of the characters. In alternating first-person perspective, both Kezi and Olus have similar — though not identical — voices. That said, the style is a little distracting and melodramatic. Though its richness might be appropriate for a less observant, younger audience who needs something with a stronger flavor, the strength of the prose style is such that it might be distracting for older readers.

Ever likely would have worked better for a young adult audience, though the plot might have been a little more trite in that space. While the world is well-developed, Levine falls short with her characterization, chemistry, and, in some ways, the prose. The conflict at times feels contrived rather than natural and this is underlined by a similarly contrived-feeling solution to the conflict. Ever is pleasant enough, but isn’t a stellar novel for any audience.

❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ticknor and Fields, 1851, 240 pages
Fiction

In the generations that follow the Salem Witch Trials, one family continues to experience what they believe is a curse placed upon their ancestor by one of the accused in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s gothic classic The House of the Seven Gables. Now caring for the house that belonged to the accused and was 90192taken into possession by her ancestor, Hepzibah Pyncheon has found herself near poverty and must open a shop to offset the costs of living in her old New England town. It seems that various forces are trying to get her out of the house, including her relative who has an interest in owning the house himself. Meanwhile, a young cousin, Phoebe, arrives to Hepzibah’s home and finds herself courting Hepzibah’s tenant, a man by the name of Holgrave. Their connection, however, is more than it appears and the question of the curse continues to linger over the household.

I’ve had an interest in reading this novel for a long time — ever since I visited Hawthorne’s home in Salem, Massachusetts, which is widely believed to be the structure upon which the house of this novel is based. While I tried to read it last October, the prose proved to be too dense for me at that time, so I held off and returned to it this year in the spirit of Halloween. I expected The House of the Seven Gables to have a creepier feel to it, and found that the supernatural elements of the book are more ambiguous and the descriptions less grotesque than I expected, but still found many of the societal horrors Hawthorne portrays chilling.

Hawthorne is surprisingly socially aware, particularly for his time. While you shouldn’t expect anything to the level of Black Lives Matter in Hawthorne’s work, like The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables explores themes of the marginalized. In this case, those in poverty. While the story’s aim, it would seem (never assume author intent!), is primarily one of entertainment, these comments on society find their way into the narrative and Hawthorne finds excellent ways to illustrate the effects of systemic, generational poverty and how it is perpetuated.

Additionally, Hawthorne’s awareness extends into the philosophy of perception, in that while readers are first introduced to Hepzibah Pyncheon essentially through her eyes, her reliability and sanity come into greater question as the perspective shifts to be more from cousin Phoebe. This subtle move brings interesting questions into play about truth, reality, and, of course, perception in a way that is strong without being overbearing or distracting from the story.

Like its contemporaries, The House of the Seven Gables is full of rich prose, which can at times make the novel especially slow. The narrative itself is a bit of a slow burn with subtle plot points and a conflict that, frankly, is not terribly exciting. Still, Hawthorne maintains his readers’ attention with astute observations couched in a style that is fun to unravel and roll around in the mind. And, too, like a Dickens novel, this work slowly builds a case that is revealed in the end — at least in some plot aspects, while others remain shrouded in mystery or up to the reader, depending on what kind of reader you are.

The House of the Seven Gables is about what you can expect insofar as Nineteenth Century classics go — a little on the slow side; full of dense, flowery prose; atmospheric; and philosophical. Although the plot is not full of excitement and drama, it’s still an interesting one and the book as a whole provides a fascinating study of life in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1800s.

❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Hogarth Press, 1925, 224 pages
Fiction

Virginia Woolf’s classic Mrs. Dalloway opens with the title character preparing for a party. In the day to follow, Mrs. Dalloway and her friends, family, and acquaintances weave in and out of a loose narrative that follows a stream-of-consciousness prose style, seamlessly jumping from character to character.14942 With strong social commentary evident on each page, Woolf sketches early-Twentieth Century London through the eyes of various social classes and makes a strong point about the intersection of class position, perception, and biases.

One of the remarkable achievements of Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf’s ability to be both specific and broad in context and theme simultaneously. Although the story focuses on a select group of people, the implications of their thoughts and actions are easily applicable to society as a whole. While this is often the case or aim for fiction, Mrs. Dalloway gets at it especially well by creating characters who are both stock and individual. This works because she provides a first-person look into each character’s life, allowing them to reveal themselves to the reader while also providing the perspectives of other characters on a given point-of-view character. So while Mrs. Dalloway herself can appear as a sort of stock character who is a high society lady and readers may well accept that as the truth of her person, her maid Lucy’s understanding of Mrs. Dalloway is quite different, and adds dimension to the title character. It’s important to note, however, that racial, religious, and other identifying intersectionality is minimum, at best.

Woolf tells of these characters, too, with prose that is elegant and meandering, much like many of its contemporaries. Despite being a very different kind of work, Mrs. Dalloway frequently reminded me of J. D. Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” I can’t quite put my finger on why, but if you enjoyed Salinger’s short story, you might find something in Mrs. Dalloway to enjoy as well.

With the stream-of-consciousness structure, Mrs. Dalloway can be slow at times. Though the commentary on society is endlessly fascinating, it can also be fatiguing with line after line making some point or other about this or that facet of life as a human. It’s a lot to take in and would likely require several reads before a reader could feel like they had a grasp on the majority of it. Woolf’s depth and attention to detail is extraordinary in Mrs. Dalloway and this means the reader’s attention, too, must be hyper-focused. For such a short novel, it can take a lot of scrutiny and turning over in the mind to impart the most on the reader.

Mrs. Dalloway is, for sure, one of those novels that you’ll get more out of if you’re in a classroom and have the guidance of historical, geographical, cultural, and literary context. But that’s not to say you can’t find value in Mrs. Dalloway reading it on your own. Woolf has lovely turns of phrases and, if you can manage the stream-of-consciousness style well enough, there are lots of opportunities to pick up on allusions and the various points Woolf makes about society. At the same time, this means Mrs. Dalloway requires a bit of work. If you’re looking for a straight entertainment read, this probably isn’t it, but if you’re up for a bit of careful reading, give Mrs. Dalloway a shot.

❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Viking Press, 1967, 192 pages
Young Adult Fiction

As one of the local greasers, Ponyboy Curtis finds trouble with the privileged Socs often enough. After befriending a soc name Cherry Valance, things come to a head. Cherry’s group isn’t so keen on Ponyboy and the others spending time with her, so they attack Ponyboy and Johnny viciously. When this Image result for the outsiders hintonevent becomes bigger than Ponyboy could have anticipated, everything spins out of control and nothing will ever be the same in S. E. Hinton’s young adult classic The Outsiders.

If you didn’t already know, Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was fifteen. The book was published when she was eighteen. This is especially impressive when evaluating the book critically. Structurally and thematically, The Outsiders is a mature and nuanced look at things like cycles and privilege. The way Hinton ties the ending of the novel to the beginning may seem overused at first glance, but the grace with which she handles the transition is excellent. Even as the final pages started rolling by and I realized what Hinton was going to do structurally, I worried — but there was no need. Despite the trope she uses, it feels entirely fresh thanks to adept handling.

Meanwhile, themes of the novel are clear but not heavy-handed. Issues of privilege, albeit with minimal intersection (it’s of its time and so on — there is a Native American slur used and the plights of the characters are, at the end of the day, mostly white-people problems), show up in various ways with nuance and great understanding without making the issues too complicated to grasp. All of this is underscored by Ponyboy’s first-person narration, which is delivered in a well-defined voice. As it turns out, the social commentary Hinton lays down is timeless, too. As some supplementary material points out in the Speak edition I read, the terms “greasers” and “socs” may change over the years, but the fundamental concepts behind the groups and their conflict remain.

Part of Ponyboy’s voice is his attention to detail. This sometimes means the plot seems to be moving slowly, but the reality is the plot is simply a more subtle one and not bogged down with side plots. The Outsiders is short, at 192 pages, but a delicious thing to digest with all of Ponyboy’s observations. A few literary allusions, too, help to define Ponyboy as a character and add value to the book as a whole. Though I often find literary allusions to be on the cheap side, Hinton once again surprised me here.

I don’t think I believe in perfect books, and there were a few moments of The Outsiders where dialog or phrasing was awkward. The single side plot of Sodapop and his relationship with a girl named Sandy certainly had symbolic significance, but I could have done without so much of it. But The Outsiders has stood strong for fifty years for a reason. It’s a strong example of structure and theme woven well together without being an intimidating piece of capital-L Literature and I’m not surprised it’s been used in schools for years.

❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

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