Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Follow The Reader: January 2012 Reads

    A Recap and a Reflection

    Ooh, it was a good reading month for me. I read seven great novels, as well as two full manuscripts for my fun internship as a reader for a publisher.

    Look at all those stars! These were some seriously great books.
    Matched by Allie Condie ★★★★
    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs ★★★★
    Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles ★★★★
    City of Bones by Cassandra Clare ★★★★
    Mortimer's Book of Whatifs by Mandi Tillotson Williams ★★★★
    Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves ★★★★
    Evermore by Alyson Noël ★★★★

    Some things I've been chewing on since reading these books:
    Because that's what a good book does, after all. It feeds the reader, and not just in the moment.

    I've thought about the pills the characters carry around in Ally Condie's dystopian YA novel Matched. The link between control and medication is so compelling, probably because we are already living a less organized (yet still altogether terrifying) version of this reality right now. 

    The lack of parental involvement in Jo Knowles's Jumping Off Swings has stuck with me like a popcorn kernel skin that just won't budge. When I taught high school I was often shocked at how much more I knew about my students' lives than their parents. A common complaint I've seen in reviews of YA books is that the parents are non-existent, but I think this is actually more realistic than we'd like to admit.

    I used to have this habit of grabbing on to a person's quirks and running away with them. I'd exaggerate the quirk in my mind, and create a new person there, with the extra quirkiness. The quirk became exceptional, a point of pride. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing this, but rediscovered the habit after reading about the delightful individuals of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Thank you, Ransom Riggs.

    The possibility of evil. (It's not just a great short story.) Dia Reeves's Slice of Cherry has sort of turned the way I consider characters upside-down. See, one of my favorite things about story is that it often explains why people behave the way they do. Especially the people we have the hardest time understanding--the villains, the bullies, the foils. I love the way a really skilled writer can sometimes make me thing You know, he's not so bad after all by exposing that sensitive underbelly most people work so hard to hide. Not Dia Reeves! Slice of Cherry reminded me that sometimes, there is no redeeming quality or explanation for the bad things people do. It's unsettling, but in a good way.
    What about you? What did you read in January? What's stuck with you since?


    Allie said...

    I've been reading excerpts from many theologians in my Jewish thought class and what sticks with me is Martin Buber's I and Thou. He says that (basically...and I'm no Buber expert) to encounter the divine is to bring your whole being, your whole consciousness to interactions with other people. Only then, when you are fully present and open to the other person, can you have an "I-Thou" encounter...those moments when you feel so connected to someone or an idea that the moment you start to realize just how connected you feel, it's gone. Also, his concept of an I-It relationship (anytime you think of a person as a thing, ie think of the cashier at Starbucks) forces me to evaluate how I interact with people on a daily basis. Buber's writings also make me reconsider how I treat "things" in my life (ie my iPhone).

    I want to borrow these non-Jewish books. Please send me a care package with them ASAP. Thanks. :-)

    Lori Oster said...

    We are getting DEEP on this blog, now! This concept of the I-Thou is totally new to me. I want to hear more. Write a post about it, pretty please?

    Julia Tomiak said...

    "Matched" had me "chewing" on a lot of things- the pills, the food ("we eat for function, not pleasure"). In this election year, it had me seriously reconsidering some of my political leanings- yes, perhaps big government would be bad...
    And, just wondering, do you read primarily YA?

    Lori Oster said...

    Oh, I'm with you, Julia. MATCHED was so good. I, too, found myself reconsidering a lot of things while reading it. It so reminded me of THE GIVER, actually, which was one of my childhood favorites.

    Lately I've been reading a lot of YA. However, I go through serious phases with my reading. I went through a Southern American women's fiction phase. Then it was a restoration lit phase--Dryden, anyone? I have a feeling I'm going to find myself in an historical fiction phase soon. I just know it. Although, Carrie Harris's BAD TASTE IN BOYS has me drooling for more zombie fiction, so you never can tell. :)

    I studied lit at a pretty traditional stick-to-the-cannon undergrad, so I dip into the canon every now and again, too.

    How about you?

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