Monthly Archives: June 2013

Book 16 – The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky (1999)

Last Wednesday night, Julian sent me a text. It said:

Is Perks of Being a Wallflower a book as well as an awesome movie with Emma Watson and Joan Cusack? … end of the movie and I am ACTUALLY thinking it is now my favourite of all time.

I replied that I had never heard of it! The next day we discussed it at school. Indeed, it was a book first… and not a recent one. On Thursday night I downloaded it to my Kindle and last night (or was it this morning?), when I should have been sleeping, I finished it.

It makes perfect sense to me that the movie version would appeal to Julian. This is a beautiful story. Charlie, our hero, is a high school student. He doesn’t have any friends, but he has an older brother who is great at football and a beautiful and popular sister. Charlie is immediately established as introverted yet articulate, socially challenged, but intellectually gifted. He is matter-of-fact and honest to a fault. Something sets him apart, but it takes the whole book to really understand what and why.

This is an epistolary novel. Each letter Charlie writes is simply addressed to ‘Friend’ and it is never really clear who he is writing to, or why. Well, eventually it makes sense why, but it doesn’t matter. Charlie’s story is captivating. His family and his friends are appealing and his story-telling is so engaging that you just want to power through the whole book in one sitting. But… and it has been far too long since the last time I felt this way… I never wanted it to end. Honestly, I miss Charlie, and his friends, Patrick and Sam.

Now I need to borrow the movie from Julian and see if it’s as good as he says it is. I’m feeling pretty confident.

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Book 15 – Reached

“Reached” by Ally Condie (2012)

Last year I read a book called “Matched”. I blogged about it (Book 6, January 2012) and raved about it because it is a really good book. Later in the year I read the second book in the trilogy, “Crossed” and blogged again (Book 25, August 2012), but this time I didn’t rave because I didn’t think it was that great. In an interesting twist, I would describe “Reached” as the hero of the trilogy. Condie has become a more sophisticated writer as the series has progressed, and it is in this third book that the writing reaches the ‘un-put-down-able’ stage.

In “Matched” we meet Cassia, Xander and Ky, teenagers in a totally controlled future, where the Society makes every single decision in their lives, even who they will marry and when they will have children. When they are 17, they attend a banquet to find who they are matched to for life. Cassia is matched to Xander, but when she goes home to watch the microcard of their matching, it is Ky that appears on the card. Thus the classic love triangle is established. Add to this that Cassia’s grandfather has entrusted unauthorised poems to Cassia’s care before his orchestrated death at 80 and you have an intriguing story from the start. In fact, it was the use of Dylan Thomas’ poetry in the first novel that inspired me to buy a class set soon after starting at my new school last year. While it hasn’t been appropriate for me to teach it yet, my colleague, Lisa, is teaching it to our GaT year 7 class right now, with great success.

In the second book, “Crossed”, Cassia makes the decision to search for Ky, who has been banished from the Society, and in this book we see the classic hero’s journey played out. It was a bit of a plodding book. It was also a frustrating book, as Condie had shifted from first-person in “Reached” to alternating the first person perspectives of both Cassia and Ky in the second book, a style that I found quite disconcerting.

In “Reached” she did it again, only this time she added Xander’s voice as well. However, it worked much better this time. Partly, I suspect, because their stories were very different, and also because their names were printed at the top of every page! In this book, Cassia and Ky have returned to the Society and reunited with Xander, but they have revolution on their minds. I don’t want to give too much away, because I would love to think that if you’re reading this, you might read all three of the books. What I loved about this last book was that it offered a whole range of really interesting aspects that kept me engaged. There is a plague at the core of this book’s plot, and the search for a cure involved exploring medical and botanical detail that I found very interesting. The love triangle remains, but other relationships are played out as well with some of the characters introduced in books 2 and 3. And, most importantly, the conclusion to this book is very satisfying on a every level.

I highly recommend these books.

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Book 14 – The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson (2009)
The premise for this story is that Allan Karlsson, who turns 100 the next day, is not in the mood for the big celebration planned. Instead, he decides to escape. He climbs out the window of his nursing home room in his slippers and embarks on a journey involving a suitcase full of money, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant). At least, that is the part of the plot that I loved.

The back story, however, was a little too Forest Gump for me… Not only has Allan witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a child, he manages to find himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle. This part, I didn’t love so much.

I found myself speed reading through the back story, as it became more and more ridiculous. Of course, a reader must suspend their disbelief at the front page, and pick it back up at the end, but this was all just too much for me. And, frankly, it made no difference to the ending.

Look, millions and millions of people have read and loved this book, so who am I to judge, but I wish there had been a whole lot more Allan in 2005, with bungling police, appealing criminals, a hot-dog stand operator, the Beauty and her elephant, and a whole lot less nonsensical historical narrative.

I expect anyone I know who might have read this book probably already has so I have nothing more to add.

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