Posted in 2018, Fiction

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

I remember watching The Golden Compass movie when it first came out (before reading the book) and I thought it was soooooo boring!!! Now after reading the book, I understand why. The actors did a terrible portraying the fictional characters. The actors, themselves are usually good but in this movie, the only believable characters were the animals.

Therefore, it took a while for me to find the motivation to read it. If it wasn’t for a pen pal making a pack to read it together, I probably wouldn’t have opened it, regardless of how many people told me it was a wonderful read.

Now that I have read it, I agree with it. It’s fantastically detailed and filled with imagination. This was the first part of a 3 part series of His Dark Materials.

The details, in the beginning, made the story feel slow at first, but after our protagonist’s adventure began, it was hard to put down. I would definitely recommend it if you are a fan of the fantasy genre.

There was a moment in the book where the author really described a fearful event. To us, it would be a normal event but in the book, the occurrence is so unbelievable that I remember my eyes going wide. That is how you can tell a book is good. When you start feeling what the characters are feeling.

Here are some of my favorite quotes (spoilers below):

“Nothing will hold my hand, Margaret, save only judgement. If I stay my hand in the North, it will only be to strike the harder in the South. To strike a day too soon is as bad as striking a hundred miles off. To be sure, there’s a warm passion behind what you say. But if you give in to that passion,friends, you’re doing what I always warned you agin: you’re a placing the satisfaction of your own feelings. Our feelings don’t matter. If we rescue the kids but we can’t punish the Gobblers, we’ve done the main task. But if we aim to punish the Gobblers first and by doing so lose the chance of rescuing kids, we’ve failed.”

That’s why John Faa makes a great trusting leader. He commenced by saying when the times comes, he will because his heart is not soft, but it will be under judgment and not passion.

Being a practiced liar doesn’t mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have no imagination at all; it’s that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction.

Hahaha, it’s an honest quote.

“Well, that seems kinda precipitate. Seems to me a man should have a choice whether to take up arms or not.”
“We have no more choice in that than in whether or not to be born.”

I feel like that’s life. You don’t get a choice on which war you get thrown in, you just get thrown and you have to do the best you can.

“There wasn’t really and Adam and Eve? The Cassington Scholar told me it was just a kind of fairy tale.”
“The Cassington Scholarship is traditionally given to a freethinker; it’s his function to challenge the faith of the Scholars. Naturally he’d say that. But think of Adam and Eve like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one; you can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn’t be imagined without it.”

Here they are talking about Dust. That when Adam and Eve ate the apple, their Daemons turned into one form instead of changing about like a child’s do. The twist here is that Dust started forming because the Lord said “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” as in, you will be filled with Dust (another cool argument is that someone argues that returning to the ground is God’s way of admitting his own nature to be partly sinful). Dust in the book is an elementary particle that surrounds kids after puberty. It is themed as original sin. One sentence that really struck was when he mentioned: “There was a physical proof that something happened when innocence changed into experience.”

I really like that the book focuses on the importance of Dust. In my opinion, it’s a metaphor for finding yourself. Lyria doesn’t want to grow up, and her pursuit of understanding Dust is her way of trying to figure out where she belongs. The people who inform her about Dust are ironically her parents. Given that Dust is proof when “innocent changed into experience,” it’s interesting to know that the more she knows about Dust (herself, her life…her place in the scheme of life), the more she is losing her innocence.

We’ve heard them all talk about Dust, and they’re so afraid of it, and you know what? We believed them, even though wecould see that what they were doing was wicked and evil and wrong…We thought Dust must be bad too, ebcause they were grown up and they said so. But what if it isn’t? What if it’s [good]?”

I love that logic ūüôā

Posted in 2018, Fiction, Our Shared Shelf

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I read The Hate U Give because, not only was it constantly being advertised, it was the book of the month for the Our Shared Shelf virtual book club.

I was really excited to read it because one of my friends mentioned that it was an influential book for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Now, in my opinion, if I didn’t already believe that black lives do matter, this book wouldn’t have convinced me otherwise.

The problem was that there was no connection to the main character. It’s not that she wasn’t relatable, because she was, at least for me. I can relate to not wanting to sound ghetto around white people due to the fear of judgment. I can relate to needing to separate parts of your world with different people. I can relate to constantly having the pressure of “which identity do I need to be right now” in the back of my mind that disconnects me from the moment and my reality. Very relatable, no connection though. That probably has to do with the fact that she is emotionally unavailable. She had to get hard because, well, her life has been horrible. Her family, as odd as it is (which I won’t go into detail as to why since it has little to do with my argument here, but it is rather interesting and is beneficial to the character dynamic of the book), is probably the only thing keeping her sane. (The rest of this blog contains spoilers) She watched two of her best friends getting killed….heck she watched one of her best friend getting killed when she was too young to process death, let alone murder. I can only imagine the emotional impact it can have on her. That’s probably a good cause as to why she had to shut down. She didn’t shut down in the angry teenage angst kind of way, more or less, she just stopped expressing herself. She expressed her thoughts constantly, sure. She expressed how she felt, or how she felt she needed to feel. But the majority of the time, she just felt like a narrator rather than a protagonist.

I get it. She has a painful story to tell, and if I were in her situation, I probably wouldn’t have had the magnitude to tell it. Maybe if she made Khalil more of a person rather than a memory, things might have felt different. I know that he technically was a memory…but the thing about the mind is that it can make memories feel real. She could have written him to be somewhat present. The way her aftermath occurred made it seem like she just underwent a very traumatic experience….if I didn’t know that he was her best friend, I wouldn’t assume that he was. It was too…detached. Or maybe she’s just more grown up than I am, but if my best friend was wrongly killed, I’d be broken to the point of dysfunction. That is why I couldn’t connect with her. If her emotions were a little more extreme it might have changed the whole story. If she were angrier, or more fearful, or even completely dead inside (this is a teenager we are talking about, after all…I’ve been there….it’s crazy) and she is acting all responsible. But, I guess the end result is that it got the message across. No matter how well you cooperate and follow the laws, black people still have injustice brought upon them. No matter how many right things she did, in the end, she still lost the war. So I would say that the protagonist here isn’t really Starr, but the black lives matter movement itself….leaving the antagonist to be the system.

“‘Pac rapped ’bout that stuff too, yeah, but he also cared ’bout uplifting black people,” says Daddy. “Like he took the word ‘[n-word]’ and gave it a whole new meaning–Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished. And he said Thug Life meant–”
“The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody.”

I didn’t grow up listening to Tupac. I only really know a few songs from him but I always knew he was a big deal….kind of like Elvis, Michael Jackson and The Beatles…although I didn’t grow up listening to them either. Suffice to say, I might not have the best music taste.

Regardless, I never knew this about Tupac. I asked a friend who loves him if this is true (because part of me thought this was just a theory from the author…kind of like the gang theory from Harry Potter [also mentioned in the book…which makes total sense and that’s somewhat the reason I liked the series]) and she said it’s true (even if it weren’t true, that wouldn’t take away from the book. It’s a cool saying). Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because, since it is true (according to my one source, so don’t take my word for it), I feel like all his work in the progression of black people has gotten lost somewhere. I don’t mean black people in general. I mostly mean the hip hop artists, whom, instead of using the N word as an empowerment tool, they use it to bring other’s down. The usage of it in the songs these days is similar to using the B word. There is no grace to it. So it’s sad that Tupac made it meaningful, and that these new artists, whom claim to be inspired by Tupac, are shattering that legacy.

Now thug is an appropriate acronym. I do believe that, even though we try to act otherwise, we are affected by how others view us and treat us. We become the product of our environment. It’s why we love stories with underdogs, and going against all odds and other unreal things that don’t normally happen to the average person. We are amazed by the unordinary because we are prone to become numb to our surroundings. People settle. It happens. We let our dreams die. When our dreams die, it affects the world. Think of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There was a plan for your existence, and if, for whatever reason you stop honoring that path, it affect the world…directly or indirectly.

“This neighborhood makes young men deaf to their elders”

The truth to this statement caused me to pause and digest. Sometimes, when the situation seems overwhelming, we stop listening to wisdom and start listening to the fastest way out. I don’t blame Khalil for needing to sell drugs (before we knew the real reason). When people are taught to believe that you won’t accomplish much, you look for a way out. You think you will be an exception. You think you’ll figure it out the way no one else has done so before. Life is extremely personal and it’s hard to believe that you are just a vulnerable piece in the game of life. Elders are wise from their experiences and obseravations. Youth blinds us to time because the pressure of it feels deathly.

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

One of the reasons I loved reading this book is because the family had strong moral values…well….to an extent. It’s hopeful to read about people continually trying to do good regardless of the circumstances. It’s easy to give in to the darkness, and this family kept trying to be better…to do better even after they’ve already made countless mistakes. George W. Bush made a speech where he said “Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and genius for renwal.” That’s essentially what the characters in this book embraced. It’s refreshing. I’m always reading books where characters are trying to justify their actions but here….they face the truth, as ugly as it is and learn from it.

I also liked that the main family had to fight off racism…not just from the cops…but internally as well. Starr had to face dating her white boyfriend after a white cop shot her best friend. She knew it was wrong to judge him by his color, but…it is what it is. There is this invisible line when two cultures (whether ethnic or religious) merge of what’s appropriate and not appropriate. Starr refused to let any of her white friends in on her personal life…and she doesn’t introduce her black friends to her white friends. She is certain they wouldn’t understand (and there is truth to that) but she doesn’t even give them a chance. She, without realizing it, judged them. It happens. The question though is whether or not you let arrogance rule your thoughts. She learned to try and see the best in people regardless of the exterior. Great character development.

Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.

As a minority, I often find myself livid about the injustices of the past and the present. I can’t really explain why that happens, or why it feels so strong….but this works as a possible explanation.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book. It wouldn’t be for everyone. I would recommend watching the movie though. Although it hasn’t been released yet, the trailer pretty much gives the story away. Frankly though, I’m displeased at the direction they took of Khalil’s last moments…with him reaching for the brush. The way it was written in the book was so much more…intimate. His last moments were of him worrying about Starr…whereas in the trailer, it seemed he care more about impressing her, or showing off. Won’t know until the movie comes out, obviously.

Posted in 2018, Fiction

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

I don’t know why I think this, but I feel like this book is underrated. There is nothing too special about the book to make me think that, I just do.

The story follows a man named Eddie, from the day of this death (which just happens to be his birthday) to the five people he meets in heaven, and the stories in between.

The concept is that when you die, you meet five people in heaven that help you understand your life. The themes I see throughout the book is forgiveness, how to let go, integrity, and humility.

Let’s get straight to the quotes:

“There are five people you meet in heaven,” the Blue Man suddenly said. “Each of us was in your life for a reason. You may not have known the reason at the time, and that is what heaven is for. For understanding your life on earth.”
Eddie looked confused.
“People think of heaven as a paradise garden, a place where they can float on clouds and laze in rivers and mountains. But scenery without solace is meaningless.
“This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life. Yo have it explained. It is the peace you have been searching for.”

I don’t believe in heaven, but if I did, that’s what I would want.

“Fairness,” he said, “does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

“My funeral,” the Blue Man said. “Look at the mourners. Some did not even know me well, yet they came. Why? Did you ever wonder? Why people gather when others die? Why people feel they¬†should?
“It is because the human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect. That death doesnt’ just take someone, it misses someone else, and in the small distance between being taken and being missed, lives are changed.”

“Strangers,” the Blue Man said, “are just family you have yet to come to know.”

“No life is a waste,” the Blue Man said. “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.”

That was the first lesson. From that, I took that no event is random. The circumstances have a reason for why it happened the way it did, whether we agree with it or not.

He wakes up the next morning and he has a fresh new world to work with, but he has something else, too. He has his yesterday.”

I never realized how powerful the past can be till I read this. You get a fresh start with the knowledge of yesterday. It’s common sense, but how many times have we taken something for granted.

“Sacrifice,” The Captain said. “You made one. I made one. We all make them. But you were angry over yours. You kept thinking about what you lost.
“You didn’t get it. Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s¬†supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to¬†aspire to. Little sacrifices. Big sacrifices. A mother works so her son can go to school. A daughter moves home to take care of her sick father.
“A son goes to war…”

Sacrifice is the second lesson. Bitterness can ruin a soul faster than any substance. Sacrifice is selflessness. It’s understanding that you are not entitled. It’s knowing you are a part of a greater scheme of life.

Through it all, despite it all, Eddie privately adored his old man, because sons will adore their fathers through even the worst behavior. It is how they learn devotion. Before he can devote himself to God or a woman, a boy will devote himself to his father, even foolishly, even beyond explanation.

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Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them- a mother’s approval, a father’s nod- are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.

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“People don’t die because of loyalty.”
“They don’t?” She smiled. “Religion? Government? Are we not loyal to such things, sometimes to the death?”
Eddie shrugged.
“Better,” she said, “to be loyal to one another.”

This is the 3rd lesson. Although in this lesson she was referring to her father’s loyalty to his friend, in a way, Eddie was loyal to his father. It’s why he pretty much took his place as his mother’s caretaker and his position in the amusement park. But most importantly, he was loyal to his anger towards his father. This is why the next quote is effective.

“Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that gating is a¬†weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.
Forgive, Edward. Forgive. Do you remember the lightness you felt when you first arrived in heaven?
That’s because no one is born with anger. And when we die, the soul is freed of it. But now, here, in order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did, and why you no longer need to feel it.”

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Love, like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes, under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots, keeping itself alive.

“Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.
Life has to end,” she said. “Love doesn’t.”

The fourth lesson is love. Eddie loved his wife. The old fashion love. Where you can’t really move on without your partner.

The 5th lesson is redemption and purpose. I couldn’t find a good quote for it. Nor do I want to go into detail about it because this is something that you should read and experience the impact for yourself. I didn’t know if anything was able to top love, but this did it.

Let me know what you think of this book, and what lessons you believe you might have in your heaven.

Featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3431.The_Five_People_You_Meet_in_Heaven

 

Posted in Fiction, John Green, Looking For Alaska

Looking For Alaska by John Green

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Looking For Alaska by John Green is a story of adventure, love, loss,¬†and friendship. Miles “Pudge” Halter is a teenager searching for the “Great Perhaps” and convinces his parents to let him go to his father’s old boarding school.¬† There he meets The Colonel (his roommate and fast friend), Alaska Young (neighbor), Takumi and Lara. Together they pull pranks and participate in other teenage antics.

Miles is obsessed with knowing people’s last words. For the most part, he feels insecure about his looks and has a hard time making friends.

The Colonel comes from a poor family but is one of the most ethical guys at school. He doesn’t believe in ratting people out. He’s a smoker, a tough guy and an expert in geography.

Alaska seems like a party girl when you first meet her. She’s a reckless, smart, philosophical feminist.

We don’t really get to know much of Takumi and Lara outside of Mile’s point of view. The story focuses more on the relationship of Miles, The Colonel, and Alaska.

I got this book because I remember reading a quote from it and thought “this is a book I need to read.” I would recommend this book if you’re into YA books. It fits the standard of an outsider kid who finds friends and starts feeling like he belongs. There is a slightly complicated love story. And like most successful books, there are golden nuggets of wisdom buried in the book.

I would not recommend this story if you don’t like a narcissistic¬†protagonist. Miles has low self-esteem but that doesn’t stop his sense of entitlement (to his defense, he doesn’t know he has that attribute and he isn’t a jerk about it. He’s just a…well…human).

The characters here are rather simple and it doesn’t have a strong character development, but given the events, I don’t expect it to. I wish I could say it had an interesting plot twist, but I wasn’t at all surprised. If anything, I was expecting the tragedy. That, however, didn’t take away from the story.

IN-DEPTH REVIEW (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

The book is separated from the Before and the After. This is an interesting concept because you know there has to be something big in order for there to be a before and after.

When I first started reading it, I thought the before and after was Miles losing his virginity (don’t know why just felt like that would be a big thing for a teenage boy). As the story progressed, I thought it had something to do with a tragedy revolving Alaska. Maybe she left school, maybe she wound up ODing or hanging herself. I didn’t expect her to die in a car crash persae.

One of the things I loved about this book is that the dialogue really spoke for the characters. It wasn’t just mindless conversations. They exposed parts of themselves with responses. Here are some of the quotes I dissected.

Before

“‘I guess I stay with her because she stay’s with me. And that’s not an easy thing to do. I’m a bad boyfriend. She’s a bad boyfriend. We deserve each other.'”
There are so many people who have stayed in relationships because of this mentality. The “I don’t deserve better than I have” mentality. I appreciate this being part of The Colonel’s story because at first, he seems like this confident guy. But as we start getting to know him, we get to see his insecurities. He was, by far, my favorite character.

“‘Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.'”
Alaska Young said this on page 44. This is when I knew something would happen to her. I feel like when you have a character as dark as this, there are only a few directions this person can take. Even if she fell in love with Pudge, he is not a strong enough character to have her change her whole personality and live the “happily ever after” most teenagers hope for. Characters like Alaska are really hard to write for, mostly because they are such forces.

“‘I’m not going to be one of those people who sits around talking about what they’re gonna do. I’m just going to do it. Imaging the future is a kind of nostalgia.'”
This is a quote that Alaska said that made it obvious that there was more to her than the party girl prankster she portrays herself to be at first.

“‘You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining the future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.'”
The labyrinth becomes very symbolic in the book. It derives from Alaska’s favorite book The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His last words were “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!” Alaska was as obsessed with the mystery of the labyrinth as Pudge was obsessed with last words. Alaska and Pudge went back and forth with figuring out what it was (more on that later).

“‘I just did some calculations, and I’ve been able to determine that you’re full of shit.'”
This is going to be my new comeback. BRILLIANT! The Colonel told this to Pudge after he tried to deny that he didn’t ditch his parents to stay because of Alaska. I like that this shows that The Colonel is very perspective, and knows more about people’s intentions. He is the only¬†one who truly knew Alaska. I also like that he lets others be who they are without trying to change them. He even told Pudge that if he does hook up with her, it would disastrous, but he never forbade him not to hook up with her.

“‘I’m really not up for answering any questions that start with¬†how, when, where, why,¬†or what.'”
Another response I have to add to my arsenal of conversation. This was from Alaska when she was feeling down. She can be very closed off when she wants to. This was a bit frustrating because, since we were already so invested in wanting to know Alaska, it felt like a tease…and I’m also the person who wants to really know a person by more than just a superficial level. Anyway, it plays out well enough since the second half of the book is about her friends trying to understand her last thoughts. The mystery that is Alaska Young.

“‘No woman should ever lie about another woman! You’ve violated the sacred covenant between women! How will stabbing one another in the back help women to rise above patriarchal oppression?!’
This is Alaska’s argument when The Colonel’s girlfriend Sara lies about The Colonel and Alaska hooking up. This is the moment I knew I would like Alaska. Before I was a little unsure of whether I thought she was a strong female character mostly because she seemed to tease Pudge a lot. Sometimes without meaning to, but still, it felt like she was just going to be a sexualized character (which makes sense since we are in the mind of a teenage boy). However, Green made her this complicated, deep-thinking,¬† character. With her witty remarks, her power over her peers and her comfort around the adults. She, for the most part, tries to be a good person.

“Just like that. From a hundred miles an hour to asleep in a nanosecond. I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”
This was the quote I read on a post that made me think “I want to read this book.” It gave me butterflies just writing it down. I’m such a hopeless romantic.

‘Don’t you know¬†you love, Pudge? You love the girl who makes you laugh and shows you porn and drinks wine with you. You don’t love the crazy, sullen bitch.’
Alaska told this to Pudge when he was trying to console her after she started sobbing wondering why she always screws everything up. It seemed like a sudden turn from such an outspoken character. Later we find out where this “”Scared isn’t a good enough excuse!”” attitude came from. But for now, the reason I liked this remark is that it shows that she feels like people won’t like her deeper rooted emotions. That they fall in love with this idea of the perfect girl. It’s no wonder she’s cheated on all her boyfriends.

Alaska tells the group that her mother died when she was young and that her father blamed it on her because she didn’t call the police on time. She was a kid, she was in shock. Her mother was choking and she didn’t know what to do. This is why her “Scared isn’t a good excuse” mentality is so strong. This is why she thinks she screws everything up. Because her mom died from her incompetence. Now I don’t believe she was incompetent. She’s a little lost, yes, but she had a good heart.

Before she convinces the boys to distract The Eagle (their principal) so she can leave (she was drunk…), she was freaking out over something. Later we find out that she was freaking out because she forgot her mom’s death anniversary so she was going to drive to the cemetery…only she didn’t make it.¬† The whole after consisted of the guys trying to figure out if it were an accident or suicide. The police said she didn’t even swerve. She just drove straight to the cruiser.

After

All night, I felt paralyzed into silence, terrorized. what was I so afraid of anyway? The thing had happened. She was dead. She was warm and soft against my skin, my tongue in her mouth, and she was laughing, trying to teach me, make me better, promising to be continued. And now.
And now she was colder by the hour, more dead with every breath I took. I thought: 
That is the fear: I have lost something important, and I cannot find it, and I need it. It is fear like if someone lost his glasses and went to the glasses store and they told him that the world had run out of glasses and he would just have to do without.”
This train of thought, passing through Miles (I switch his name, he is Miles when he is by himself and Pudge when he’s with his friends). This is the constant annoying thought that keeps running through his head that makes me call him narcissistic. He is more concerned that he will never get to continue kissing Alaska, than the actual fact that she is dead. I understand though, people handle death differently. It’s a traumatic event to lose someone. It is normal to start thinking about what you lost. I have told many people that if I were to die, not one person would really know me, they would just know the role I played in their life. Therefore, given that he only knew her for less than a year, it makes sense that he only sees her as a love interest. It’s not his fault, it’s just…really annoying. He wasn’t the only one who lost Alaska, we, the audience, lost her too…and I would have like to know more about her. But, we don’t get what we want. The Colonel even called him out for this. He said that he forgot her personality already and that he was only concerned about how they hooked up. Takumi also told him that he does not get to monopolize her.

And what was an ‘instant’ death anyway? How long is an instant? Is it one second? Ten? The pain of those seconds must have been awful as her heart burst and her lungs collapsed and there was no air and no blood to her brain and only raw panic. What the hell is¬†instant? Nothing is instant. Instant rice takes five minutes, instant pudding an hour. I doubt that an instant of blinding pain¬†feels particularly instantaneous.
This train of thought gave me a headache. I get it. I have experienced deaths of those close to me and there is no such thing as consolation. It hurts. And anyone trying to make it less painful doesn’t understand the pain of loss. There is no “at least” there is only what is and what isn’t.

Yeah. I was so tired of her getting upset for no reason. The way she would get sulky and make references to the freaking oppressive weight of tragedy or whatever but then never said what was wrong, never have any goddamned¬†reason to be sad. And I just think you out to have a¬†reason. My girlfriend dumped me, so I’m sad. I got caught smoking, so I’m pissed off. My head hurts, so I’m cranky. She never had a¬†reason, Pudge. I was just so tired of putting up with her drama. And I just let her go. Christ.‘”
This is The Colonel speaking. Remember how I said he knew her best, but that she didn’t let people in? This confirms it. She wouldn’t talk to her best friend about her problem. Life gets overwhelming when you don’t talk about what the real issue is. When Alaska confessed the tragedy regarding her mom, The Colonel was surprised that she never told him. But she was itching to talk about it, otherwise, she wouldn’t have said anything. Her life was slowly falling apart. That’s why she convinced Miles (not that he needed convincing) to hook up with her on a truth or dare. Because although she didn’t want to cheat on her boyfriend, she was also trapped in her mind.

‘I am sorry, Alaska. You deserved a better friend.'”
The Colonel said this as he kissed her tomb. I think he finally felt guilty that he didn’t see the signs as signs, but just as part of her personality. I don’t blame him though, how was he supposed to know? Still, that was heartbreaking. Of course, he was also feeling remorse for not stopping her. But again, how was he supposed to know?

“How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? –A. Y.
‘I’m going to leave that up for the rest of the semester,’ he said. ‘Because everybody who has ever lost their way in life has felt the nagging insistence of that question. At some point we all look up and realize we are lost in a maze, and I don’t want us to forget Alaska, and I don’t to forget that even when the material we study seems boring, we’re trying to understand how people have answered that question and the questions each of you posed in your papers–how different traditions have come to terms with what Chip, in his final, called ‘people’s rotten lots in life'”
Alaska’s labyrinth is suffering. When the guys were collecting her stuff from her room, she wrote “straight and fast” in her copy of The General and his Labyrinth. That’s when the guys started believing it was indeed, suicide because she drove straight and fast. But it wasn’t intentional at first since she had flowers for her mom. If she were going to kill herself, why bother with flowers. They believed that once the opportunity presented itself, she took it. Unless, of course, the flowers were a peace offering to her mom and it was intentional. We will never know. Also, her initial thought of what the labyrinth was life and/or death. She constantly thought about death.

The times that were the most fun seemed always to be followed by sadness now, because it was when life started to feel like it did when she was with us that we realized how utterly, totally gone she was.
I like this quote because it reminds me a lot of Inside Out, the Pixar movie. Memories change. Emotions change. Grief is a challenging emotion.

When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.”
If Alaska was able to remove herself from the situations, maybe she would have learned how to escape the labyrinth. This was a thought that Miles had. Along with “Because memories fall apart, too. And then you’re left with nothing, left not even with a ghost but with its shadow.” He was forgetting her. His memory was fading with what he wanted, what was real and what he couldn’t comprehend.

Eventually, Miles realized that “we had to forgive to survive the labyrinth.” Forgiveness is one of the hardest acts to ever accomplish. True forgiveness. Not just in the moment forgiveness. Not just “I’m going to forget for now because I don’t want to deal with it.” Not just forgiveness for the sake of forgiving. It’s why resentments are so powerful. It’s why some of the 7 deadly sins revolve around the consequences of not forgiving. The inability to forgive is the ultimate disservice to one’s spirit. It’s how wars start. It’s how bridges are burnt. It’s how life becomes unmanageable.

I, at first, thought the labyrinth was…well…life. Not necessarily life as in real life, but life as in the standard people put you in. Your identity. How do you escape the identity that was thrust upon you, without your permission? How do you escape without suffocating? Think about it, how can Alaska forget the blame her dad put her through. How can she escape the girl her friends want her to be? The girlfriend her boyfriend wants her to be? The student they want her to be? She was never really her. That was the ultimate tragedy. If she was this fantastic person, while filtered…image how incredible she would be if she were able to escape this labyrinth?

 

 

Posted in Fiction

Joseph’s Destiny Adventure Part 1: Daily’s Dream by Coach Sharonda Crenshaw

Joseph’s Destiny Adventure is a feel-good story about finding your purpose. Well…almost. This is, after-all, part 1.

The synopsis is:

Two weeks before his 18th birthday Joseph Keller gets an epic opportunity gift wrapped in an open-ended question; “What would you do if I offered you a million dollars but you couldn’t spend it on a house, car, clothes, or travel?”

Though the question ignites him to discover his purpose in life, it will take more than one good answer to find all the necessary keys to win the challenges and finish the game!

Are you ready to play?

To be honest, when I read that…I had no idea what to expect. Which is usually a good thing! I like not knowing everything. It makes me enjoy the story more.

The first chapter felt like a pep-talk. Coach Crenshaw discussed how we’re here to serve the universe…or at least, try! (If you are completely against God, this book is NOT for you. But I would still give it a read because it mostly focuses on morals than on God.) She explains that it’s not only important to know your “what” (what referring to our purpose in life) but that it’s also important to have a strong “why”. Now, I’m a huge fan of the word “why.” It’s why I read a lot of books! It’s also why a lot of those books tend to be extremely depressing. (However….this is not one of those books! As I mentioned earlier, this is a feel-good book.)

It’s an easy read. I don’t mean the wording is easy, but the flow and rhythm were smooth. It made topic-heavy conversations seem like water-cooler talk. My only issue is that it is very dialogue heavy (which isn’t bad) but there was no clear identification to who was talking. However, the exchanges were so well done that you figured it out within a line or two.

Let’s talk characters. There were 5 main characters: Joey (short for Joseph, prefers J), Ben, their Mom, Mr. Daily, and Jesse. Joey and Ben are twins. I like this relationship because they are extremely different in characteristics. The twins lost their father about a year ago. They both took it hard, but Joey took it harder. Joe’s personality is that of the teenage boy who thinks he’s an adult but is really afraid to grow up (can’t blame him…growing up is hard). Ben has an easier time accepting things and seems more graceful and mature. Therefore, it’s no wonder why Mr. Daily picked him for the game instead of the Ben.

Mr. Daily is the owner of Daily’s Dreams, the amusement park. Not what I expected when I read the title. My first impression of Mr. Daily is that he’s this wealthy humble man that doesn’t need to define himself by his riches. He drove a basic car and had a small office. However, although he is a humble man who is not defined by his riches; we later find out that he lives in an extravagant¬†house and owns a lot of cars…so much that he can just give them away.

Mr. Daily pulls Joey into his office and asks him “What would you do if I offered you a million dollars but you couldn’t spend it on a house, car, clothes, or travel?” Joey, of course, answers that he’d just give it back because what else is the point? Mr. Daily then offers to take him on this field trip the next day if it’s okay with his mom. He gives Ben the day off, with pay…so his mom gets suspicious and tells Joey not to take any money from this man. Joey gets upset that his mom is telling him what to do so he decides to run away. However…Ben catches up with him. When Joey asks Ben the question, he said he’d most likely help his mom pay bills and probably help his neighbor get an air conditional and a ramp for her wheelchair. See, Ben is selfless.

Joey is convinced to go back home and he goes to apologize to his mom. He admits that he’s confused and is afraid to disappoint everyone. Unfortunately, his mom was asleep during this confession. His mom apologizes as well and their bond strengthens.

He has a dream that night, with his father, telling him about his dream and how he didn’t quite achieve it the way he wanted to…but he did what he could. He tells him he needs to find something he’s passionate about….and to trust your gut.

Mr. Daily takes Joey to his house. In his backyard is another amusement park. There is a chest with $200k that requires 8 keys to open. The keys needed to unlock the chest are spread amongst the park and each key holds a gold envelope with the clue for the next key. He has 40 minutes to find all the keys. He gives him the first clue, and a Bentley to drive around and find the rest of the keys. So that’s the game. Or at least…the first part of the game.

I don’t want to go into Jesse’s character because it might spoil a lot of the story. But she was critical in helping Joey figure out a good portion of the game. I also don’t want to talk about the game because that’s where all the fun is!

So….let’s change the topic to quotes!

“I hadn’t thought about the sacrifice people make that don’t involve money.”
I feel like this quote is the difference between immaturity and maturity. As a kid, I never saw all the sacrifices my mother made. I just saw how she treated me and what she bought me…and what she fed me. But once I left the house, I realized that she gave up a lot of her dreams as well. Her financial security. Her time. Her sanity. It’s not until that moment of acknowledgment that I really started appreciating my mom. It’s easy to take someone for granted when you’re a scared, confused teenager.

“It’s never easy feeling helpless but its worse feeling hopeless.”
I am no stranger of helpnessness nor hopelessness…but out of the two, I would pick helplessness anytime. The cure for helplessness is humility. The cure for hopeless is…well…hope. It’s far easier to get into a state of humility than hope, in my opinion. There is the euphoria of hope that comes and goes…but it’s still a feeling. Whereas humilty is more action based. It’s easier to control actions than feelings.

“Your talents will help you but your dreams will help others.”
This never occured to me before. I always thought dreams could only be achieved if you had the talent and discipline to do so. It never occured ot me that dreams aren’t tied to talent, but rather, to what you can offer….talent or no talent…money or no money.

“Instead of focusing on what could go wrong if you did it, think about what you would be missing out on if you didn’t. Which would you regret the most?”
Within this past year, I started living with this mantra…so it really resonated.

“You just need to learn how to listen. We’re all full of answers, but most of the time we’re not being asked the right questions. Everything in you can be brought out with the right question.”
I like this quote because I feel like I am filled with answers…but have no one to ask me questions. About three years ago, I realize that there was more to listening than just hearing what people are saying. I started listening to what people were not saying. This helped develop close relationships. It also gave people the opportunity to see that I did care about them, beyond surface level.

“You can‚Äôt expect your life to mean something unless you do something that gives it meaning”
This quote doesn’t require a response.

“Is a dream ever alive?”
This one requires context. Mr. Daily took Joey to the cemetery and asked him what he saw. He responded with a fence. Then asked him what he didn’t see. He answered “Life.” Then Mr. Daily asked him what was the point of a cemetery. He said it gives the world somewhere to bury dead people. Mr. Daily asked if anything living is buried. Joey was confused and asked why would you bury something that’s alive…to which Mr. Daily responded is a dream ever alive?
In my book review of “The Opposite of Lonliness” I mentioned a quote I heard of how the cementary is filled with riches because it is filled with potential. Potential that was never met. This is very similar. Is a dream ever alive? A dream exists…but when it’s alive we call it ambition or drive. If a dream comes true it becomes a reality and can no longer be defined as a dream. A dream is an illusion for those asleep. If we are actively trying to make our dreams come true…we are awake…we are alive…a dream isn’t a dream. It’s a “why”. Why do we do what we do…to make our dreams come true. Our dreams are meant to help others. The purpose of life is to serve.

That was the message I took from this book.

Posted in Fiction, LGBTQ

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

You know you’re about to embark on a good book when one of the first sentences you read is “The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.”

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a young adult fiction book about two teenage boys discovering themselves…and the secrets of the universe.

For those of you who haven’t read it, before going into further detail about what it’s about, I wrote the reasons for why I would and would not recommend this book in the hopes that I’d spare you time in your decision making.

I would recommend this book if you like:

  • LGBT characters.
  • teenage protagonists…correction: smart mouth teenage protagonists to which their teenage angst helps develop the story.
  • questions for the sake of asking them, not answering them.
  • minority groups who are uncertain of their identity.
  • characters with a sense of emotional awareness who overthink the tiniest of events
  • strong character development, without it progressing too rapidly or forcing change for the sake of interest.
  • simple love stories.
  • sad stories.
  • a hint of mystery, but not to the point where it takes away from the main storyline.
  • family drama where they overcome society’s challenges.

I would not recommend this book if you:

  • lack patience. This story takes a while to unfold. If you want immediate action, you will be disappointed.
  • prefer passionate love scenes. This isn’t that kind of book. It’s simple and innocent.
  • don’t like introspection. The majority of the book is spent inside the mind of our main character.
  • are a grammar nazi. The book that I have felt like there were some missing words here and there (pg 120 for example). But really it was only 3 incidents that I caught.

If these notes fit your criteria of books you want to read, great! Come back and leave a comment with your thoughts. If it’s not what you like in a book, then thank you for taking the time to read my post, I’m glad I helped you save time.

For those of you who have read it, let’s discuss! ūüôā

——–the below content will contain spoilers———

Within the beginning, we get an explanation of Aristotle’s (Ari for short) family. He has two older twin sisters and one older brother. His older brother is in prison and he feels like he has to be the good son. His older sisters don’t give him any information regarding his brother. No one talks about him. His father, a soldier of the Vietnam war, also remains speechless regarding his own demons. Ari doesn’t understand him at all, even though he desperately wants to. His mother, however, is the only person he feels remotely connected to. They have this relationship built on honesty, wit, and respect (I immediately fall in love with this mother-son dynamic). They understand their roles and don’t try to blur it.

Then, we meet Dante. Dante offered to teach Ari how to swim.¬† My favorite thought that Ari had was “If a guy was offering to teach me how to swim, then for sure he didn’t have a life. Two guys without a life? How much fun could that be?
I had a rule that it was better to be bored by yourself than to be bored with someone else. I pretty much lived by that rule. Maybe that’s why I didn’t have any friends.”

So now we know how Ari feels about Dante, but upon exchanging names, they bonded on their philosophical names. Instant friends based on this crazy coincidence. They swam together, suggested books and comics, had discussions, came up with stories about other people…you know, typical boyhood antics.

I like to think that swimming is a metaphor for life. See, before he decided to go swimming that day, he was saying that his life was not really his. He did most things because of his parents. He was proud to go swimming that day because it was his original idea, even if he didn’t know how to swim. So here’s this kid who barely knows how to float (live his own life) and suddenly, Dante appears in the picture to teach him how to swim (learn how to slowly become his own person, with his own emotions and own stories).

Ari is your typical Mexican American who doesn’t mind his identity so much but rather, dislike the characters around him. Dante is your typical Mexican American who has shame over being Mexican.

What made me fall in love with Dante was when Ari observed that “He tried not to laugh, but he wasn’t good at controlling all the laughter that lived inside of him.” That made me smile from ear to ear, it made my heart melt and it made me jealous. I can’t remember a time where I was so filled with laughter. It feels like a dream that everyone should strive to be.

What made me fall in love with Saenz (author) was when I read “That afternoon, I learned two new words. ‘Inscrutable.’ And ‘friend.’
Words were different when they lived inside of you.”

If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t belong, reading sentences like that is…home. There is no other word to describe that sensation.

The boys eventually met each other parents. The parents were happy that this relationship was developing because they’ve seen their sons grow up without making any real friends.

One event that made us realize how much Ari cared about Dante is when Dante was telling these boys off for killing a sparrow with a BB Gun. Ari was ready to beat them up if they dared touch Dante. This sparrow showed Ari how much Dante cared about things that no one cares about. That’s also when Dante knew Ari liked to fight, but it didn’t disturb him. That night, Ari had a nightmare about sparrows falling from the sky, hurting him. He became sick and had more of the same dream, except eventually he was fighting back. Flash forward a couple chapters later, Dante sees a sparrow in the middle of the road and he goes to help him out. That’s when a car suddenly turns the corner and Ari jumps in to push Dante away, damaging his own legs in the process. I like to think of the fallen sparrow and his inability to feel free. And in those dreams, how his desire hurts him and how strongly he fights back because he feels like that’s all he can do.

During the hospital, Dante gives Ari his drawing sketchbook (earlier in the book, Dante told Ari he didn’t let anyone see his drawings). Ari decided not to look at them. At this point, he wasn’t aware, but he was conflicted with his feelings for Dante. He has this thought that if Dante really knew him, he wouldn’t like him. So Ari liked to keep a field of protection around him and his emotions. He was upset that Dante gave him the sketchbook to begin with because he felt that Dante only did it because he felt responsible for the accident. Also, he was jealous of Dante’s ability to be so expressive.

There was a moment, in the hospital, where he saw his mother and father holding hands. He then thought “I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.” I felt like this would have been a great opportunity to use “secrets of the universe” to foreshadow the scene in the end. Get it? You can find the secrets of the universe in someone’s hand….Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe….in the end, Ari took Dante’s hand to hold. Get it?! Cute, right?

The next few chapters we’re introduced to more people, mainly because Dante moves to Chicago. His father got a temporary job there. So we meet some of Ari’s classmates, a potential lover, his new truck, new job and a new pet. We also receive letters from Dante telling Ari he’s experimenting with weed, alcohol, and kissing. In a letter, he tells Ari that he’d rather be kissing boys.

When Dante returned, they made some ground rules. Dante can’t kiss Ari. Ari can’t run away from Dante. Although Ari was okay with Dante being gay, Dante was not confident that Ari would stand by his side due to his sexuality. Later, Dante pretty much talked Ari into kissing him. Ari said he didn’t feel anything, Dante said he did. A couple more chapters later, we find that Dante winds up in the hospital because he was beaten up by a group of guys when he was caught kissing another boy. Ari, of course, not only stood by his side, he decided to punch the leader of the pack. What a loyal friend!

However, when his parents find out that he was violent, they start becoming concerned. They confessed that his older brother was in prison for getting violent and killing someone. After an incident where Ari instinctively punches the wall. His mom has a family meeting and here the father tells him some of his war stories. After, he tells Ari that he has to stop running from Dante. When he didn’t comprehend, he explained it’s obvious Dante loves him, but what he needs to face is that he loves Dante. When Ari became confused and asked why he was saying that. His father told him that “because I can’t stand watching all that loneliness that lives inside you. Because I love you, Ari”

Whoa! Take a deep breath, right?

I still need another moment.

WOW!

Profound comfort. I will admit, I cried…

We’d have a lot less LGBT related suicides if more parents had a conversation like that with their children. Well…there would be a lot fewer suicides in general if more people chose to love.

Anyway, the book ends with Dante and Ari getting together….very pg guys. They kissed. This isn’t Brokeback Mountain. See, not that much “passionate love”…just…innocent love.

I liked a few quotes that I think are worth blogging about. The first one is from his diary entry and says “The problem is not that I don’t love my mother and father. The problem is that I don’t know how to love them.” This is relatable to anyone who was ever told that their way of loving is wrong. We learned to hide it up to the point where we don’t know how to effectively show it.

“I don’t know why I was thinking about all these things–except that’s what I always did. I guess I had my own personal television in my brain. I could control whatever to watch. I could switch the channels anytime I wanted.” This is so relatable to overthinkers! To people who think about everything!!! At all times! I remember laughing and appreciating the description of what goes on in our head.

Those are my thoughts for now. What were your thoughts on the book?

(featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12000020-aristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-of-the-universe?ac=1&from_search=true)

Posted in Fiction, Non-Fiction, short stories

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

Since this book didn’t provoke much thought, I decided to bundle my review to one post. That’s not a slight to the author. Her writing was more emotional than mental.

Introduction
The¬†introduction built up the author really well. It was written by one of her teachers. Based on her description, I was expecting Marina’s writing to be someone overwhelming. (It wasn’t. However, it was original.) Without knowing Marina, I already felt a connection to her, just based on how much love and respect her teacher had for her and her potential. Whoa, too many pronouns.

The Opposite of Loneliness
This was a commencement speech that portrayed Marina as this lively, loving, energetic, insightful ambitious person. She starts off with “we don’t have a word for the opposite¬†of loneliness” and immediately I’m hooked. “I’m going to like this girl!” I thought after realizing that there really isn’t a word that opposes loneliness. Not really. Not sufficiently. Like most commencement speeches, she continues to inspire hope and courage. I was really excited to read what she wrote next.

Fiction

Cold Pastoral
Ironically, this short story made me feel…lonely. Not what I was expecting. I must admit that Keegan is not afraid to delve into those insecurities. The story centers around Claire. She had a friend with benefits relationship with a guy named Brian who suddenly passes away. Brian’s ex-girlfriend convinces Claire to steal his diary so his parents wouldn’t find it and read it. Claire, however, decided to read it herself. I won’t mention what was written, but it was definitely a conflicting situation. Grief and reality, all at once. Kudos for going there.

Winter Break
Another story that leaves a sense of loneliness. However, in this story, Addie and Sam are in a happy, passionate relationship. Addie is back for winter break and finds her parents miserable, although they weren’t quite ready to admit it till they saw the spark between Addie and Sam. A story with a glimpse of the dysfunction of a “normal” family.¬† I liked the contrast of the relationships. The young, passionate couple versus the older, no longer compatible, married couple.

Reading Alone
Reading Alone was perhaps the most original of art her stories. I have never read anything like this. The story is about this elderly woman, Anna, who has bi-weekly sessions reading to a blind man, Sam. It was recommended by her doctor since she started feeling pain after her husband decided to get out of retirement to work again. What made this story interesting is that Anna would undress as she read to Sam. Weird, right?

The Ingenue
This is a story of jealousy, distrust and “cha-cha-cha”. Our main character is intimidated by her boyfriend’s on-stage girlfriend, Olivia. Danny, the boyfriend, is adamant about being the originator of saying “cha-cha-cha” between birthday songs. She felt a strong sense of betrayal by him after he cheated on a game of Yahtzee. My take, it was a metaphor for her doubt in his loyalty in regards to Olivia. But I could be wrong since they wound up getting married.

The Emerald City
The Emerald City seems out of place. The story is a set of e-mails sent from a William Madar. He works for the Coalition Provisional Authority and has been stationed in Afghanistan. Not as a soldier though, he’s the Deputy Secretary of Housing Reconstruction. We see the e-mails he is sending to a Laura Kenzie, whom we never meet, nor do we see her responses, even though it is stated that she does reply. The story progresses with him getting a new translator, Haaya. Haaya and Will try to negotiate with a reformed member of Al Qaeda in order to get a list of names of those involved. It’s definitely a change from her other writings.

Baggage Claim
Baggage claim was the shortest of all short stories. It was about a soon-to-be-engaged couple (the girlfriend doesn’t know Kyle has a ring in his backpack) who decide to go to Unclaimed Baggage Center. They sell luggage and the equipment inside that was never claimed. Kyle, the boyfriend, decides to leave his backpack (with the ring) there because he started finding her annoying. Before the story ends, he returns to buy the ring again from the luggage place. The ending was cute, his back-and-forth conflict was nice to read. You could tell he was nervous.

Hail, Full of Grace
This feels like a story that wasn’t quite done. It has the potential for a romance novel. The story is about a woman, Audrey, who is back in her hometown for the winter. She adopted a kid by herself. She runs into her ex-boyfriend, a man who she previously had a kid with but gave the baby up for adoption since they were really young. Her new baby, Emma, has been cast to be the understudy of baby Jesus for a Christmas play. She runs into her ex-boyfriend, Julian, at a store and invites him to the play. It ends with him showing up…late. See, potential. However, I should note that he is married and has kids of his own with his wife. So, a very controversial romance story.

Sclerotherapy
This story starts with the explanation of Karen getting a tattoo of a Chinese character that supposedly said “Inner resolve and outer peace, a general levelheadedness and tranquility” only to find out by her brother’s Asian roommate that it actually meant “soybean”. It became her shame and she tried to cover it up. Finally, during a sclerotherapy session, she was asked what her tattoo meant. She first said that it meant “inner resolve and outer peace, a general levelheadedness and tranquility” but then admitted it actually meant “soybean”. This story reminded me of the struggle of being honest and acceptance towards the curve balls life throws.

Challenger Deep
If any of her stories were to make it into the big screen…I would bet on this one. Well, maybe the ingenue as a Sundance film or something. These 5 people were stuck in a submarine thirty-six thousand feet under. They were in complete darkness and couldn’t see. They were all slowly losing hope, with the exception of Ellen, who was recently engaged. Little by little, they all begin to crack. What makes this suspenseful is that there are 5 shifts needed to run the submarine….so all are needed and can’t be replaced. Therefore, it is important that everyone stay. They are all haunted by their dreams and the lights they can see in those dreams.

NonFiction

Stability in Motion
This is basically a love story for her car. She talks about how her grandma used to own it and took very good care of it. But once it was passed down to her, it started becoming messy and filled with memories of her own life. It ends with her clearing it out and passing it down to her younger brother. She reminisces about her break-ups, her first kisses, her newspapers and all other important events in her life that were lived in this car. This car that once belonged to someone else, and will now belong to someone else. In other words, it’s kind of like a country song.

Why We Care about Whales
Her writing style here was irresistible. My favorite quote:
“I worry sometimes that humans are afraid of helping humans. There’s less risk associated with animals, less fear of failure, fear of getting too involved. In war movies, a thousand soldiers can die gruesomely, but when the horse is shot, the audience is heartbroken.” How true is that?! We care about the pets more than we care about the people. She goes on about how we should care about people but that during the heat of the moment, it’s hard to be philosophical. Her description of the dying whales that washed into the shore was hauntingly beautiful.

Against the Grain
So…her mom…is the best! In this story, Marina describes the lengths her mom went through due to her (Marina’s) dietary restrictions. See, Marina was allergic to gluten during a time where there wasn’t that much information about it. Her mom, nor the doctors, could figure out why she kept getting sick, until her mom found the definition of Celiac Disease. Her mom made all new foods, researched like crazy, and tried her very best to make sure Marina didn’t feel like she was being left out. But of course, all that effort made Marina feel completely different. Who among us haven’t felt ungrateful for our mother’s efforts every now and then?

Putting the “Fun” Back in Eschatology
This is just talking about how the world will eventually end. She hopes that humanity can survive it…if we don’t fuck up. It’s just a two-page opinion piece. I personally don’t see how we cannot fuck up.

I Kill for Money
With that name, you wouldn’t think that this is the funniest story. But it is! It’s about an exterminator. Get it…he kills for the money. Clever. Tommy, the exterminator, AKA Dr. Death, is sixty-three-year-olds and loves his job. He is filled with lame jokes (depending on your sense of humor, I’m into dad jokes so is jokes were up my alley). I felt for Tim. He’s made fun of a lot but he does good work and he tries his best to be nice. The world needs more people like Tommy.

Even Artichokes Have Doubts
I never figured out why she picked that title. I can tell you that it was about doubt. In this story she talks about her personal experience regarding receiving a letter from McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm. This got her to question what her peers thought about this, especially those not studying for the finance industry. She received some feedback about the doubts her classmates felt about not being able to make a living in a non-profit, and how most feel like starting here would be a good step. Many justify it by saying they’ll get valuable experiences.

The former dean argues that you can get those experiences doing something more interesting. He continues by pointing out that “if you’re like most people, you’ll do one thing for two to three years, then something else for two to three years, and then–somewhere in that five- to seven-year distance from Yale–you’ll see a need to fully commit to something that’s a longer-term project” but what made this quote eye-opening is that he ended it by saying “If you think of your first few jobs after Yale in this way–holistically and in terms of your growth as a person rather than as a ladder rungs to a specific material outcome–you’re less likey to wake up at age forty-five married to a stranger.” But his advice was not all that extreme. He believes that you can do more good working for a corporation (even though they have a stigma about being evil) than working for consultants or banks. It’s an unproductive use of Yale graduates.

She ends it with her fears: that people are settling due to fear of not being able to succeed otherwise. She mentions how excited she gets when her classmates are passionately doing the best they can for a project and how proud they become…and how she can’t imagine a world without their visions coming to life.

The Art of Observation
I won’t go too into this one since I didn’t get much out of it. Here, she and her boyfriend are tourists in India and get asked to have their picture taken…a lot. Her boyfriend is quickly annoyed whereas she enjoys it for as long as she can. Then, late at night, she wonders how her face will be in dozens of strangers pictures….and she takes a picture of a complete stranger. A circle of silent understanding.

Song for the Special
Here she talks about how every generation thinks they’re special. She talks a lot about jealousy and how she sees other people succeeding and she wonders why she didn’t think of it. Then she gets deeper, she mentions how nothing is permanent and that the world will eventually end. “Everything will be destroyed no matter how hard we work to create it. The idea terrifies me. I want tiny permanents. I want gigantic permanents! I want what I think and who I am captured in an anthology of indulgence I can comfortingly tuck into a shelf in some labyrinthine library” I found this amusing because I believe every person should have their own memoirs. Not for money, or fame…just so that people can know you existed. That you were here and you contributed, no matter how small, to this world. That everyone’s story, no matter how horrific, tragic or boring should be told.

“I’m so jealous. Laughable jealousies, jealousies of everyone who might get a chance to speak from the dead. I’ve zoomed out my timeline to include the apocalypse, and, religionless, I worship the potential for my own tangible trace. How presumptuous! To assume specialness in the first place.” See…if we had our own memoirs, this desire might diminish. It’s true, I’ve read about it in a utopian novel…that ended horrible bad…hmmm….my thoughts are flawed somewhere.

“There’s a really good chance I’ll never do anything. It’s selfish and self-centered to consider, but it scares me.” I understand this feeling too well. My biggest fear is that I’ll never be more than average. I was taught to strive for greatness…but realistically….not everyone can be great. It’s like a lottery game. Hard work is not enough. There are many hard-working people who don’t get to where they want to be. Luck plays a big role. Opportunities help. It’s why many people say the journey is what matters…because the journey is obtainable. The destination isn’t promised. Marina, herself, didn’t get to where she wanted to be. She worked hard, won many awards but I’m sure she had bigger dreams. That’s why the book was created. To help her dreams come true. But what if her friends and family didn’t care enough? This book wouldn’t exist. Her hard-work would have disappeared. My point about luck would stand strong. It was luck that she was born to the family she was born in. Not everyone has the good fortune of caring parents.

But it is scary. The deepest quote I ever heard was “the place with the most treasure is in the cemetary….it’s buried with potential.” (it was by my friend’s mom, not some famous person…unless she got it from a famous person and I just never did my research.)

 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. Her writing was untamed and doesn’t follow any style I’ve read before. If you know of a book similar to this, please let me know.

 

(Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18143905-the-opposite-of-loneliness?ac=1&from_search=true)