Thursday Thoughts: I’m a failure

I’m a failure. I’m writing Thursday Thoughts on a Friday. My life is quite hectic this week so here it is. It’s going to be a short one, too. I told you, I’m a failure.

I just wanted to talk about my review writing style. It’s a bit different from the norm, and yes, there is a norm for writing book reviews. Most people keep it pretty professional and just say what they liked and didn’t like. They keep it nice and formal. I tried to do that, I swear! But I couldn’t find a way to separate my feelings about the book from my review about the book. Do you know what I mean? For me, reading has always been a really personal process because I become very emotionally entangled in the stories and the characters.

So, after failing miserably at being professional, I decided to take a new approach. I decided to make my reviews more like reflections. I wanted to share with other potential readers my journey with the book, how it affected me and my life. Books are, and always will be, key players in my emotional and personal development and I wanted to share that part of my life with people. And, of course I wanted other people to love the books I read as much as I do.

With that, I’m sorry if you hate my review style, but if you like it, I’m begging you to stick around. Your participation in this project of mine means the world to me, and I’m not just saying that.

Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham

I firmly believe that a girl is the sum of her parts. Her parts are her friends.

Ashley, Victoria and I as tiny people

I grew up alongside two really cool girls, Ashley and Victoria. We met in Pre-K when we were three years old and now, twelve freaking years later, we’re still best friends. We’re all very different. Ashley is kind of quiet, but thoughtful and humble and a realist, which I really appreciate because I spend my days up in the air. She loves to read and she’s really funny. Victoria is funny, crazy, stylish and has big, exciting aspirations for herself that she is, of course, going to realize. And we’re all dreamers. I could go on for a while talking about them, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that you are (or I was, at least) shaped by the people you surround yourself with. These two girls have lived my life with me and I’m lucky. They make me scream and laugh and love, but mostly, they make me better. They are probably the people who have contributed the most to who I am. You don’t get to choose your family, and, contrary to popular belief, I don’t really think you get to choose your friends either. I mean, we were three. And we found each other. And we stuck with each other for sixteen years. I don’t anticipate ever not being friends with them and I don’t think they do either. We became who we are together and that’s something that we will always have.

Friendship. That’s what Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham is all about. Alice, Summer and Tiernan are ex-best friends. They grew up together, obsessed with the transcendent boy band Level3. Then, in freshman year, something big went down and they stopped talking. Four years later, they’ve graduated from high school and Level3 has planned a reunion show. Impulsively, Alice buys three tickets for the show, even though she hasn’t spoken to Summer and Tiernan in ages. She just has a feeling and goes for it.

I loved this book. I think that too often, YA literature is only ever about falling in love, and rarely about your real soulmates, your friends. I love a good YA romance as much as the next girl, but sometimes I wonder about the other people that occupy a teenage girl’s mind. This story was the answer to my wonderings.

Graham tells a vivid story about what it’s like to be a girl in a three-person friendship and the complications that go hand-in-hand with that. There’s this one paragraph where Graham describes this kind of friendship that I thought was just spot on:

“Even during the glory days of her friendship with Summer and Tiernan, it was a rare moment when all three were equally close. There were always shifting allegiances, always an odd one out. It wasn’t like any of them did it on purpose. It was just part of the package deal with a three-person friendship. That, and the fact that if only two of you were together, chances were you’d talk about the third. Nothing you wouldn’t say to her face (at least that was the unwritten rule).” -Graham. 207.

I mean, come on. That is just incredibly accurate! Because friendship is great, but it’s also intense and complicated sometimes. And Graham knows that and while she beautifully writes about the good stuff, she also writes about the not-so-good stuff. No one is perfect and no relationship is perfect, but they can be so good, and that’s what she communicates in this book.

As a side note, there was this other part that I feel is just awesome. Summer spends her time writing poetry. She loves the English language and it’s just a cool facet to her character. But there’s this one moment when the three of them shared this look that communicated everything they were feeling:

“For someone who loved the English language as much as Summer, she realized that some of her favorite moments in life came when words were superfluous. The silent exchanges, those were real life poetry.” -Graham. 281.

Side note aside, Graham tells the ever-true story about what happens if you break up with your friends. How horrible it can feel. How it will follow you for years, wherever you go.

Summer is the popular one, Tiernan is the rebel and Alice is the glue that holds them together. As they journey from New England to Texas in a big green bus to see Level3, they rediscover their friendship while simultaneously trying to hash out and ignore the past. Memories of the good times they shared as friends resurface, along with the memory of the thing that broke them apart. As they rush to deal with who they are today, they figure out who they were four years ago and how they’ve changed. They’re not the same people who used to sit in the big, green bus and listen to Level3 all day. They’re different as individuals and they’re different as friends. But the question is, can they ever get back to the place where they used to be friends? As they struggle to come up with an answer, Graham entertains with hilarious storytelling about a destined-for-doom road trip.

The whole time you’re reading the book, you’re constantly wondering what it was that broke these girls apart. It’s this big suspenseful thing. And then, when Graham finally tells us what happened, she does it in a way that still leaves some stuff to be imagined. And at first that really bugged me. But then I realized that it’s not about why they broke up, it’s about why they found their ways back to each other.

What the three girls come to realize is that, no matter how much you want to, you can never get back to where you used to be. But you can go forward and you can move on and grow together. And that’s what friendship really is, right? It’s finding and accepting each other no matter what. It’s growing up together and discovering who you are. It’s being there for each other and loving each other.

At least that’s what I got from Graham’s Reunited.

9 out of 10. Go read it. Also, look at the cover. It’s so darn cute.

Thursday Thoughts: Self-identifying with a Character

 

I think that, to some extent, whenever you read a book, you identify yourself with the main character. You can find something about them that resonates with you and who you are. It might be a small thing, like the color of their eyes or the way they talk, but it’s almost always there. For me, that’s one of my favorite parts of reading. I just think it’s really cool.

So today, I finished this book called Reunited (review tomorrow!!!) and there’s this girl in it. Her name is Alice and she’s the main character. Aslo, SHE’S ME. I mean, I have NEVER read a book and met a character who is so much like me. I would like to think that Hermione and I are twins but I’m going to be honest-we’re not. Me and Alice- WE SO ARE.

We both have brown curly hair. We both only ever wear mascara. We are big on planning. We have great parents that we enjoy spending time with. We have high and somewhat impossible expectations for our lives and for the people in them. We’re always thinking about what could go wrong. We both wear our hearts on our sleeves.

And maybe these are common things, but when you find a character who just reminds you of yourself completely, it’s exciting!

Have you ever read a book with a character that you totally self-identify with?

Also, apologies for the shabby writing, I had to rush this week!

Thursday Thoughts: Used Books!

Thursday! I love Thursdays. Today, I was studying for my Anthropology class and I was sending up some gracious vibes to the previous owner of my textbook because she was one heck of a note-taker. And she left post-it notes with comments next to all of the most important parts. Since I started using this book, I’ve looked at her notes and the previous owner is really becoming a part of my studying process. She’s like my study buddy. She’s like a character in a book. Just based on her handwriting, her highlighting and her endless post-it notes, I’ve created a picture of her in my mind, like I would with any other character in a book.

I do this every time I pick up a new used book. I try to find the book with the most handwriting in the margins. I think it’s so cool to read a copy of a book that someone’s already read. Someone else has already been on a journey with that book and now it’s your turn. I think that’s pretty cool. And there’s nothing better than if they’ve left comments and notes for you. It’s like, you get to read this new story, but then you also get to read this other new story through some unknown character’s point of view. They go with you on your own little journey of reading.

I like the idea that a used book has this long history. There were many readers before you, and there will hopefully be many after you. You are just a stop in the book’s passage through life, in its history. That book is bigger than you and is smarter than you and is more important than you. Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but to me, it does. And it’s calming to know that you are just a person, but this book is big and permanent and will outlive you and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a relief to realize that and accept it.

Maybe this post ended up being less about used books and more about being a person. Or maybe I just read approximately 26 trillion newspapers for my journalism class and am currently delirious. Probably the latter.

Thursday Thoughts: My Book Rules

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It’s Thursday again! This week I decided to write a short little post about my own personal book rules that I adhere to hen finding/buying a new book. I’m sure we all have some checklist that we keep in the back of our minds when considering different novels, and these ones are mine!

1. On the front cover of a book, an author’s name should never, EVER, be more prominent than the title. This is because, for me, books are not about or for their authors; they are about the story and they are for the readers. But don’t misunderstand me, I worship authors. I think that their ability to write a whole novel is beautiful and brave and so impressive and I think that making the title the focus point of a book cover just demonstrates the humility and understanding of an author. It makes me want to read the book and love the author even more. However, like most of my rules, there is an exception. If a book is a “classic”, then I think the author’s name should be prominently displayed. They’re classics for a reason and the author is responsible for that and should be rightly recognized.

2. I really don’t like books that have super cheesy covers, like a girl decked out in a flowing, full gown and gazing longingly into the distance with her perfectly curled hair blowing in some breeze. I just think stuff like that is unnecessary. BUT, that doesn’t mean I won’t read and love a book with a cheesy cover. For example, the book So Close to You by Rachel Carter has a pretty cheesy picture on the cover, but is by far one of my favorite books! I probably would not have picked it up on my own, but I have it as an ARC and I can’t tell you how glad I am that I read it. So there you go, another exception. 

3. I’m not going to read a book that has a movie cover. You know, like how after the Hunger Games movie came out they started making the books with the movie poster as the cover. I don’t get that because the book is the book and the movie is the movie. They are not the same things so they shouldn’t have the same covers. Now, I will totally read the book cover version. This is kind of a dub rule, but, hey, it is what it is. 

4. If you write a book in which you have written chapters from various characters perspectives, then I am definitely going to read it!!! This is definitely the best thing YA authors can do, in my opinion. 

5. Write a fantasy novel, throw in some romance and a best friend and I guarantee you I will read it. 

I realize most of these rules have something to do with the book cover, which violates the old “don’t judge a book by its cover” saying, but sometimes I think the cover of your book says a lot about its contents. BUT, there are countless exceptions (see: Rachel Carter).

If you have your own book rules or like/hate mine, let me know! I’d love to hear from you!