Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan

Plot:

The tale of two lovers in a dictionary styled diary. The novel boasts a simple context: boy meets girl who fall in love but hit rough surfaces throughout their relationship. The emphasis of the imperfection of love is scattered throughout the story, leading readers on the same path they are destined to walk.

Review:

The structure of the novel was definitely something I liked. True to it's title, Levithan has expressed the emotions and experience of love through single words, much like a dictionary. It changes up the traditional form of novels and makes for an easy and interesting read. Levithan is so focused on setting out the novel as a dictionary that the sequence of events is lost in the story. Instead, readers are given different snippets of the relationship between the two characters according to the words. The moments aren't chronological but adds up to create a beautiful and raw love story. By doing this, Levithan also gives a little more edge to the plot. He can switch the pace and leave a parts unfinished only to revisit it with an unexpected twist later on. 


However, the selection of words in the novel play as a disadvantage. Half of the words don't belong in everyday language and only people with a large bank of vocabulary would be able to know the meanings. If you could be bothered, read it with a dictionary. If not,  good luck. It's possible to get the jist of the word through the context from the passage but it would be nice to not feel so confused sometimes with words such as: libidinous, stanchion and vagary - just to name a few.

Looking past that though, The Lover's Dictionary certainly demonstrates the inability to define love with one explanation. Instead, Levithan must scour the dictionary and give readers a selection of words that add to the meaning. Just one simple word can hold so much and I love that this novel creates that feeling. Also, whilst Levithan provides different words to explain love they don't necessarily have to make sense for every single person out there. That's why, even though I was slightly distracted by the use of "big" words I could also understand that sometimes love just won't make sense. If that was done on purpose than props to Levithan for conveying such a strong emotion just through words.

It's also a great way to convey the flaws that come with relationships. It's never a smooth ride and readers can experience that from the narrator's recounts. There's love of course but also frustration, dislike and just exhaustion.

The Lover's Dictionary is an easy read. It provides an insight into the life of two people in love but that's about it. I breezed through it and there were moments when I felt warmed by it. However, I can say it's probably not for everyone. I've read other reviews and can agree that people who are in love would appreciate it more. It makes for a great place to get quotes from though (just saying). I liked it though. It's realistic enough and certainly doesn't raise hopes of leading a perfect love life.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath


Plot:

Esther Greenwood is an intelligent, young woman earning herself an internship at a magazine company in New York. There she befriends her co-workers and live a fast paced life. This eventually crumbles and she is forced to return to Massachusetts, her hometown. She is unable to pick herself back up and soon loses her only identity. In trying to find herself, Esther's mind begins to derail.

Review:

Plath is an exceptional poet and her writing does not disappoint in The Bell Jar. I was unsure as to how a poet was going to transfer their talent into a longer form of writing but that concern quickly faded. Her writing flowed at a pace that taunted with your emotions.

What made The Bell Jar so amazing was how perfect Plath's explanation for "the bell jar" is.  It's a feeling that could never have been put into words yet, Plath delivers a story that exemplifies its meaning exceptionally well. It's this feeling that most, if not all, of us experience at some point yet, can never determine what it really is. That is until you read this. There's this dawning moment where I was like, so that's what it is.

The novel is set during the Rosenburg's trial and execution (1950s) yet, Plath mainly focuses on the world that exists inside of her character. In Esther's recounts, it is predominately a reflection of the self. It portrays how consumed humans are in our own thoughts, not much else is noticed. So that when such a historical mark is made in US history, the character is not concerned about.  Likewise, whilst characters are introduced they never linger.  Readers don't even hear about them again once Esther moves on. Except for Buddy Wilkinson who I suppose triggered such a strong emotional response that became embedded in her. Even then, her thoughts of him was never in a positive light. The characters only sat on the fringes of Esther's world and most became a catalyst or reason for Esther's decisions.

The entire novel is frighteningly relatable. What starts as normal spirals into chaos, and revelations only lead to break downs. I found Esther a very likeable character despite her damaged mind. She sort of became a mirror that reflected thoughts or emotions that seemingly creep out during moments I least expect. I think that' what I enjoyed the most. Finding a novel that expresses everything you cannot say. There's an instant connection.

The Bell Jar contains a lot more meaning than what my hurried reading has picked up. Its a novel you can barely grasp a hold of unless you constantly churn the thoughts through your mind and revisit it. I plan to, once it's not so fresh in my mind. I know there is much more I could've picked up on but what I have discovered is already satisfying. It leaves you with a lingering nostalgic feeling and somehow rainy days don't seem so bad after all (how poetic). Sometimes there's also moments of "well, that escalated quickly".

Plath has contributed with an exceptional piece to literature and there is no reason to not read The Bell Jar. You won't regret if you do, trust me. It has quickly climbed into my top 10. I would love to spend this entire post discussing it but then I'd spoil it. Just read it, that's all I'm saying. It's an eye opener - definitely life changing.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Counting Down: My Top Five

5. Scatterheart - Lili Wilkinson

Plot:

Hanna Cheshire is the spoilt daughter of a wealthy businessman. She has been served on her entire life and tutored by young Thomas, who lets her know of the world outside her home.

Hanna suddenly becomes abandoned and must fend for herself. Before she understands what is happening, she placed into jail and shipped off to Australia as a convict for a crime she didn't commit.

The story of Hanna's journey across the seas unfolds into a story of her growth as a person and a romance that was never meant to happen.

Reason:

This is a story that has stayed with me ever since I was young. Ok, not that young but still just in my teens.

It's got a pretty simple plot line but has a level of complexity that makes it intriguing and memorable. Hannah's led a  pretty sheltered life so when she realises how bleak the world actually is, compared to the usual fairytales, it becomes a life lesson. I felt like I travelled along with her across the seas and everything that she experienced left a mark with me.

There are characters who still, after all this time, have a place somewhere in my heart (?). I found that Hannah was more of a vehicle than an actual character but whilst I was reading it, it didn't bother me. She definitely drove the plot with her first person view. It was the people around her that I developed an emotional attachment with,  especially Meg. In the story, she becomes like a mother/sisterly figure for Hannah and is downright badass as well.

I would say there are moments that might not be so appropriate for younger readers, depending on what you've been exposed to. Those that left an impact for me are the heartbreaking ones, which I think made the novel so much stronger. It's never smooth sailing and Hannah learns that during her time on sea. It creates a realistic world, not necessarily relatable but in a world readers will know.

Don't mistake Scatterheart to just be about the soppy romance. It's about finding identity, trust in the people around you and most importantly, being yourself. It probably is a bit more on the girly side, not saying boys can't read it, but it's just gorgeous and there's the bonus of a tale/myth being told as the title of each chapter.

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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Night Road - Kristin Hannah


Plot:

Lexi and Mia find similarities in each other despite the differences in their background. They become best friends immediately and Mia comes to rely heavily on Lexi. This concerns Mia's mother, Jude, at first. However, after the girls have a night out with Mia's brother, Zach,  Jude finds that her worries over a friendship is minute compared to what she has to face. Their lives take a turn and nothing will ever go back to how it was before.

Review:

Night Road centres around four characters, Lexi, Mia, Zach and Jude. It can be split into two halves, the first being Mia and Lexi's friendship during high school and the second their adult lives.

I understand that the time jumps are necessary to quicken the plot but sometimes came across as choppy. There was a lot that wasn't covered, which I'd like to have known about but I guess Hannah thought it wasn't necessary.  Also, the time jumps would have been more successful if the voices of the characters had changed to match their ages. It seemed like the adolescent characters were just transported into the future without really ageing. Their tone and use of language stayed consistent throughout, which made the time jump seem a little unbelievable and made me feel a little annoyed.

Character wise, none of them really stood out to me. I think Hannah tried really hard to add levels of depth to her characters but they still felt flat to me. Both Lexi and Jude went through childhood problems, though neither the same, which affected their decisions in later life. Mia was socially awkward and Zach had too many expectations to uphold. Jude was the most annoying character, I can't even begin to explain how much I wanted to just slap her across the face via the pages in the novel (if that's possible). Yes, she was a protective mother and had her reasons for most things but her stubbornness and inability to let go made me want to just shake her and say snap out of it. If Hannah was aiming for that response in readers she certainly succeeded.

The novel though, comes down to its message, which I felt was great. Teenagers do make a lot of hasty decisions, especially on the brink of adulthood. Night Road explores the consequences of such decisions and it's effect in the long run. The concept of family also made its way into the plot, which did create an emotional tug. There were moments where I felt a little sympathy for the characters, especially Jude. But that quickly faded (as explained above).

Hannah's attempt to create a world that the current generation can relate to is well done. She could've probably made the first half a little less modern in order to transition into the second half better, making it more believable but it wasn't too noticeable.

Night Road had great moments but it also had quite a few bad moments. I powered through the novel though and it did leave an impression. There are pretty shocking moments and you probably will fall in love with Zach, even if he doesn't come off as a strong character.

Rating: 3/5

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