Posted in 2018, Fiction, LGBTQ

Minotaur by J.A. Rock

This book is very well written…but badly executed. I read it because, 1) I have a thing for bull drawings (see cover) and 2) it was featured in Pride’s month reading recommendation.

I personally felt as if it were two different books merged together. You have the book of the Rock Point home….and then you have the book of the Labyrinth. Both stood well alone, but combining them felt disappointing.

I would have settled for a longer book if it had better action. My guess is that the author originally wanted to make the labyrinth scene, but then fell in love with the back story and focused more on that than on the labyrinth itself.

The labyrinth, full of promise and spooky potential, was treated like a badly managed circus. It’s not that I have an issue that a complete amateur was able to survive the place, it’s that she didn’t even get hurt. Yes, she got tricked, but she, for the most part, suffered outside of the Labyrinth way more than she did inside. How then, can I be convinced that the Labyrinth is a scary place?

The flow of the second part of the book felt like those unnecessarily dramatic stories that you can read to children to scare them. This differs from the beginning which felt more young adult and self-actualization.  

Our protagonist, although a teenager, has the emotional mindset of a child. That’s probably what made her interesting. Child-like heart but adult-like brain (or at least she wanted to act adult, anyway).

The love interest isn’t really about love….but about need and want. That, however, inspired the best quotes!

The character development is uninteresting since regardless of the circumstances, they were all haunted by their pasts. The character relationships were well thought out though.

The Beast was probably the biggest disappointment. Maybe that was the point. To not give us such an obvious villain. Or clever yet, to instate that the real villain isn’t the Beast, but society. The Beast then, becoming relatable.

Favorite Quotes:

We are all a step away from goodness cracking  under our feet and collapsing us into villany.

Loss, violence, bullying, starvation, boredom, the promise of beauty or fame or sex–chances are there is something somewhere you’d turn wicked for. Innocence starts to look haggard with age, same as skin.

My tantrums, my rotten words, the joy my fists took in meeting flesh–those were to distract others from seeing all the spots the spear could go. Until one woman stripped me truly bare, and together we built an armor that rendered me both powerful and humble. It looked so right on me that seeing myself in it for the first time.

Rivulets of grief, sliding down their bones, blushes of it in their cheeks. They suffered because they were lonely in a way people seldom talk about, a way that affects grace and movement and dreams and memory.

Perhaps we believed that if we never acted like adults, we’d never be forced out into the wider world to confront the magnitude of our desolation.

Loneliness is like having a wound sewn shut with barbed thread. We close off the parts of ourselves that are open to others and pretend to embrace the privacy of our bodies–and yet we do the closing with something that will hurt every time we move. That will remind us of the secrets we’ve tried to stow away.

I didn’t give a shit about being pretty. Yet it’s hard sometimes, in a world that promises you the most basic treasures in exchange for being a looked-upon thing, not to wish your face had been a better construct.

A soldier-ish loyalty grew on me ivy-thick, and I started to feel less like an awkward angry child and more like a warrior, with followers and a destiny and a tortured soul.

Bad things, I thought, can’t hurt you if you pursue them with devotion.

I’d spent a fair portion of my life taking, but I could now see the appeal of doing the opposite. Could imagine that it was its own sort of power, to do murder on somebody’s heart with a gift.

That’s a little blunt

I think our wishes often get as muddled as dreams. In our wishes, people are their better selves and walls lose their permanence, and no matter how heavily we populate our fantasies with friends, with family, with lovers–we are ultimately in them alone.

I don’t know why it works this way–that we blame the one who shatters the illusion, rather than the illusion itself, or ourselves for buying into it.

Shame is perhaps both a form of self-pity and a form of loneliness. In the heat of embarrassment, it’s possible to believe you are the only one who has ever felt such guilt, such a profound understanding of what an impossibility evil thing the self is.

388073c6-914c-43fc-bda1-028dd50234cc-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1 Love, love, love that one!

I didn’t want to be shy or delicate. I wanted to know what it was like to ravage a body with a misguided admiration for it. To know that skin got in the way of the truth of the person, and yet that truth, that soul, was untouchable, and so you had to settle for skin.

When you fall in love with someone, you fall in love not only with her face and eyes and heart, but with her vision of the world. Love leaves no room to stand back and pity another’s delusions. You share them. You join hands lying down and draw an arc across the sky and tell a story about what a cloud looks like, a story that becomes your shared truth.

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You can’t unleash an act of good to tame a tragedy.

It’s not that revenge has no place in the world. But we so often clamp our jaws around the things we think we want, while the real prizes escape between our teeth, slide down our necks in rivers and are lost in our skin.

I always thought loneliness must be a quiet thing. Up all night with frog sounds, wandering an empty room by day, resenting the sun squares on the floor. Guilt too seemed like it ought to be a silent kind of suffering. But what was going on inside me was a filthy and violent underground. Jeers and wagers and the sound of creature versus creature.

I do not want the truth gone from me. I do not want only stories. What stories do to heroes is edge out the things that make them bravest–their insecurities and wrongdoings, their trashing-tailed desire for self-preservation. The way they sharpen their love with a quiet, occasional contempt for the object of it. We paint heroes in broad strokes–nameable virtues and forgivable flaws. They brood, yes, but they are never paralyzed by self-loathing. They kill, but only monsters.

Courage without fear is simply recklessness.

I could have fucked her until our cries twined and drowned out the music of suffering.

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Miss Ridges had said once that reading meant nothing unless you could articulate what a story had given you. But I’d always disagreed–though I’d never found the words to argue. You didn’t have to be able to analyze to appreciate a story. You had only to be able to feel, deep in a place that didn’t deal in words, how that story was yours and everyone else’s too.

I don’t know which one I believe in.

“Violence starts as a discovery–of power, of ambition. Of a force that rests with its head against your heart. It is always there–a shadow, featureless. Until you turn a certain way, and the silhouette resolves itself. You see the nose, the lips, the curve of the shoulder. You see what you are capable of. You feel both the danger and the ordinariness of it. Because in the end, the blood comes out of each of us the same way. And one dead human, weighed against the world and the galaxy and everything beyond, means very little.” She paused. “Every act of violence is a disappointment before it even begins.”

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Overall, I don’t think I would recommend this book. The end doesn’t justify the means.

Featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25866851-minotaur

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, Self-help

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Psychologists have concluded that the need to feel loved is a primary human emotional need.

Child psychologists affirm that every child has certain basic emotional needs that must be met if he is to be emotionally stable. Among those emotional needs, none is more basic than the need for love and affection, the need to sense that he or she belongs and is wanted. With an adequate supply of affection, the child will likely develop into a responsible adult. Without that love, he or she will be emotionally and socially challenged.

When your spouse’s emotional love tank is full and he feels secure in your love, the whole world looks bright and your spouse will move out to reach his highest potential in life. But when the love tank is empty and he feels used but not loved, the whole world looks dark and he will likely never reach his potential for good in the world.

If that excerpt doesn’t encourage you to read this book, it might not be for you.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman has been recommended to me countless of times but I refused because I thought it would be boring.

I was wrong.

It is insightful and well written. It not only helps you define your love language, it helps you understand your partner’s and how to manage their love language.

If you are in a relationship, plan to be in a relationship…or want to form better relationships with friends, collegues and/or relatives…this book is a wonderful tool to use.

There is a test in the end where you can find out your language and I must say, I was somewhat surprised about my main language. I guess subsconsiously I knew what it was, but I assumed a different one. Now I know. Now I can express myself.

Now if you don’t already know, the languages are (in no particular order):

  1. Receiving Gifts
  2. Words of Affirmations
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Quality Time

I feel they are pretty self-explanatory on their own, but this book deepends the definitions and circumstances.

People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need. Their criticism is an ineffective way of pleading for love. If we understand that, it may help us process their criticism in a more productive manner.

Guilty!

I am significant. Life has meaning. There is a higher purpose. I want to believe it, but I may not feel significant until someone expressed love to me.

See….it’s not about low self-esteem…it’s about a low love tank. This is probably one of the few self-help books that don’t say “everything you need is inside you” or “you just need to love yourself.” Chapman understands that we are a creature of community.

“Perhaps it would be helpful for us to distinguish between love as a feeling and love as an action.”

Now this is powerful because, if you were like me,  you tend to confuse the two. This book contains examples on what both look like.

Overall, this book will help you grow, if you stick to it, and you apply it to your life. However, it will require patience getting through because, like most self-help books, it gets repetitive!

Feature image was taken from the Goodreads page

 

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 LGBTQ

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Non-Spoiler Review

I got this book because I liked the title. It was not at all what I was expecting (well, I was expecting it to be a finding yourself story, which it was, so I guess that’s a lie. The delivery was not what I expected). This book was the first book I ever read with the gender-fluid main character. To spare you the time of Googling what that means, a gender-fluid person doesn’t identify as a fixed-gender. Therefore one day they can feel like a female, and the next hour like a male and then a couple minutes later…like nothing. That’s what happens to our protagonist, Riley. The book never mentions what gender Riley was at birth (I deduced it to “male” but I won’t mention as to why because that would be a spoiler.) In order not to insult, I won’t be reviewing using pronouns for this post.

What makes Riley special is that Riley is the child of a Senator who is trying to get re-elected. Therefore there is a lot of pressure on Riley to be the model child, and apparently, it’s not cool for Republicans to be associated with anything relating to the LGBT community. I don’t buy it because the setting is in California, and regardless of your political affiliation, California is a liberal state and for the most part, accepting (or at least, tolerant).

Riley’s therapist suggested to Riley to start an anonymous blog to help communicate the gender-identity situation. Riley recently transferred to a public school after leaving a religious school after having an anxiety attack due to the realization that (wow, not using pronouns has proven to be extremely difficult) there is more to Riley’s gender than just genitalia. This is all explained within the first few chapters so it’s not spoiling anything. Unsurprisingly, Riley is terrified of not being accepted in this new school. Riley dresses up gender-neutral in order not to expose one gender over the other, that way when there’s a shift, it won’t be weird to the public.

The way Riley explains gender-fluid is as a dial. In one end you have male, on the other end you have female. When you wake up, the dial points in one direction over the other. And it can change as the day and circumstances changes. I noticed that when he was hanging around guys, he felt more like a male. But when she was hanging around with girls, she felt more female (pronouns are appropriate here). I also noticed that when she was liking the idea of being a romantic interest, she felt more female. I guess her inner flirt is a queen.

Riley is paranoid that either someone will figure out that she/he is gender-fluid, the child of a Senator or the author of the blog discussing gender-fluid. We spent most of the time in his/her thoughts.

If you are into YA novels, this one fits the criteria and I’d recommend it. If you don’t have an open mind of the different associations in the LGBTQ community, this is probably not for you. You’d be rolling your eyes everytime Riley talks about being misunderstood.

In-Depth Review (Contains Spoilers)

In order not to spoil the dynamic of Riley’s new found friend and enemies, I decided to write them in this section instead of the spoiler free review.

Bec was the best possible love interest Jeff Garvin could have created. She was patient, sympathetic and comforting. Not to mention a tease that was able to produce a swarm of butterflies.  When she said her sister had a bad reaction to some medication and they couldn’t resuscitate her, I first thought of suicide. I know, my brain sucks. I’m used to reading tragic stories. So when she confessed that her transexual sibling killed herself, I was not surprised. It sucked, don’t get me wrong. Loss, especially through suicide, is hard to deal. I understand how Riley thought that Bec just saw her sister and that’s why Bec hung around. I get the low self-esteem “no one will like me unless they want to use me” mentality. So when it all worked out, I was happy! Also, “don’t be stupid. I don’t have a type. I have standards” is an evolved form of love for a teenager.

Solo is the reason I think Riley was born a male. When Riley’s father saw Solo at the hospital, he was…concerned. Riley has mentioned that his/her father thinks he’s gay. And his/her father would get excited with the idea of Riley handing around with a girl and going on dates. But the point of the story is that gender is irrelevant. I really liked Solo. I was sad in those chapters were Riley thought he was a dick. Solo is an understanding guy who loves Star Wars. He stood up for Riley and got him/her out of his/her head. He was honest and persistent.

I wish we knew more about Riley’s mom. The story was really dad centered with hints of mom here and there. Makes sense, the senators get more attention than the senator’s wife’s.

I was disappointed by the bullying. Not that I wanted Riley to get hurt or anything, but it just seemed unoriginal. Which might have been the point? To create a story where your worst enemy is literally yourself. Where the bullies might be bad but they are no worse to you than others. They didn’t seem too focused on making Riley’s life a living hell up until Riley decided to break Vicker’s arm. Not that I’m saying Riley should not have fended for him/herself. I’m simply stating a point. It was typical high school bullying. Typical namecalling and taunts. Nothing deliberately aimed to imply hated. It just felt that way to Riley. Because he/she couldn’t accept his/herself, she/he assumed the rest of the world would act that way. Then again….if he/she were “normal”, the same thoughts would probably occur and he/she would find another reason to find him/herself unlikeable. Maybe zits or crooked teeth. I do not miss my teenage years at all!

Unfortunately, I didn’t find that many good quotes in this book. Most books that I’ve read so far regard teenagers who are forced into a serious situation that requires them to grow up too soon and that is where all the introspective insights that I love reading about come from. With Riley’s case, he/she was arrested at the age of 6 when he/she had to decide what toy to get. He/she saw his/her dad looking disapproving at his/her choice of either a blue power ranger and a Bratz doll. That little incident was registered as “I did something bad. What I like is bad. I have to please my parents” and that is what started the hiding process. So in other words, Riley has a 6-year-old coping mechanism while being thrown in the zoo that is high school. No wonder his/her anxiety is off the charts! As cliche as it sounds…you need love to grow, at least emotionally. He/she didn’t have that. Not until Bec and Solo. And the LGBTQ support group (which I think they should have their own reality TV show because they were just amazing people, even if they were fictional). Then he/she started feeling more confident. More transparent. More visible. Like he/she belonged.

I did find two good quotes though:

“‘So, first, I want you to know that everybody experiences some level of anxiety. It’s a normal human response to stress. It’s like your body’s smoke alarm. If there’s a fire, you want to know so you can put it out or call 9-1-1, right?’
I shrug. ‘ I guess. But it feels like my alarm is going off all the time.’ 
Doctor Ann nods. ‘Some people’s systems are more sensitive than others’. For you, Maybe all it takes is burning a piece of toast, and your alarm thinks the house in on fire.'”
Anxiety is a trip (for more quotes about anxiety, read my blog post of Queens of Geek where I posted a good selection).

“‘You always say the best leaders figure out how to turn a bad situation to their advantage. When life gives you gators, you make Gatorade. Remember?'”
That should be a shirt!

(Featured Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22692740-symptoms-of-being-human)

Posted in Our Shared Shelf

The Power By Naomi Alderman

NON-SPOILER REVIEW

The Power by Naomi Alderman has an interesting set-up that confused me at first. It starts out with a letter from a gentleman named Neil writing to a Naomi. So naturally, my first thought was that Neil was writing to our author and she just liked the letter and decided to include it. When, in the letter, he said he included a manuscript, and then it went from “The Power: A Novel by Naomi Alderman” to “The Power: A historical novel by Neil Adam Armon” I realized it that he was a fictional character himself, and this was his book.

Quite creative! Except that the way he wrote it didn’t feel historical at all. With the exception of the few diagrams here and there…it felt like a novel. But maybe he’s on to something. If history teachers thought like this, maybe we’d learn our history better.

The story then takes on 4 characters point of view (with later additions of 2 more characters but I won’t mention whom).

Roxy is the first character we’re introduced to. She was one of the first to gain the power, and she was one of the strongest with the power. Her story was quite incredible and overwhelming that it was unrelatable. She is the daughter of one of the most feared gangsters. Her story lies mostly within the “business” which actually, weirdly enough, makes her seem quite normal. Although she was the most powerful girl with the power, she didn’t abuse it. She used it for her day to day life, but it never went over her head. She was the most responsible with her power and used it wisely. She was mostly always in control. This could be because she has complete confidence in herself and/or she has strong values.

Tunde is our male character point of view. He first discovers it exists when a girl he likes…um…I guess electrocutes him playfully and he doesn’t know if she should be scared or turned on. He wasn’t able to talk about it with anyone and it was driving him crazy. Then, finally, he realized another girl was about to shock someone and he caught it on film. When CNN asked to buy his rights, he realized he could make a living as a reporter. He found his purpose. Throughout his story, we get an insight of all he saw in 3rd world countries regarding The Power and we get an insight of the male perspective and his feelings towards The Power’s existence and usage.

Margot was perhaps my least favorite character. If you like her, great, please leave a comment as to why. I’d be curious to see your point of view on her. I tried liking her at first. She’s a politician and she had to make a decision on whether or not to close down the school since little girls were bullying little boys. She was in a tough position, I get it. I can respect that. When her daughter (which I thought would make an even more interesting point of view character…she was one of my favorite characters) was caught shocking a boy, her mom asked her to do it to her. When she did, that little spark reminded Margot that she had it within her all along as well. That’s when they realized that girls can awaken the skein (that’s what they called the part in the collarbone where it is said The Power lies) of their mothers and grandmothers. At first, I was excited about this because I thought this would be a mother-daughter relationship discovering The Power together. Nope. Margot cared more about her position than her own daughter. Yes, she cared…but she cared more about work. Margot was the person to whom we get to see how greed and fear really affects a person. Which I guess makes sense that she’s a politician. It’s satirical. However, for the sake of interest, I believe it would have been better if she was a regular mom (because how cute would it be having to discover the power together?), a scientist (because it would be interesting to find out more detail about the skein and the power instead of just the blurbs here and there), or even a teacher witnessing the change of behaviors (but I guess there would be no use if the school shuts down….oh! Maybe a police officer seeing all the different crimes or a doctor seeing all the different victims. Seriously her parts were so boring that I would rather read about gory barbecue cases than about her power-hungry driven thoughts). For the most part, she just seemed pointless to the progression of the story. At least with Tunde, who had no power, served as eyes to the story.

Allie was my favorite character…up until she became Mother Eve. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the transition of Mother Eve, but after a while, she just became a symbol rather than a person. But Allie herself was really cool. She is a foster kid who had the misfortunes of the system. She winds up running away and in her adventure, she finds an aquarium with an eel and learns that eels have the power to control the nerves of they prey to do whatever they wish. That’s when Allie gets the idea that maybe, she can do it too. Allie is the only one who experiments with her power to that extent. What Roxy has in energy, Allie has in intelligence. What also makes Allie interesting is that she hears a voice. What that voice represents is up for debate (I included my thoughts in the In-Depth section of my review but it does contain spoilers so I didn’t want to include it here).

The momentum of the story was really slow. I started reading this book on Dec 29, which was the first annual Book Fairies Day of Reading. The rules are simple, read all day (or for the majority of the day) and don’t go online. Because I didn’t have the distraction of my phone, I was able to gain some distance in the book but the first half was brutal when it came to transitioning. There is a pleasurable way to do multiple person points of view, and then there’s a rough way. This one was the latter. Because the characters were spread in different parts of the world going through different things, and for the most part, their only correlation was The Power…there was no real connection. The second half was a little easier with the character change although the story was more gruesome.

I would recommend this book if you like to challenge your thoughts, beliefs and if you generally love contemplating a world where women take over. It’s  I would not recommend it though if you don’t have reading discipline. The subject matter gets repulsive and there is a lot of controversial topics.  Contrary to the storyline, it’s not a fun book. I felt physically tired reading it (but I have an overactive imagination).

IN-DEPTH REVIEW (CONTAINS SPOILERS)
(if you are an Our Shared Shelf member and you read the blog threads, some of the content might seem familiar because I posted it there as well)

I don’t even know where to begin. This book was so much. SO MUCH!

I’m still questioning whether or not I like this book. On the one hand, women being walking tasers is pretty great. Women having power is pretty great. But calling it a feminist book when it basically represents gender inequality doesn’t seem fitting. It’s gender reversal. It’s still the “patriarchy” as we perceive it now, but now vaginas are in charge. That’s why Naomi (from the book, not the author) asked if Neil would believe that the world would be better if men ran it since they are gentler. It’s satirical. It’s supposed to be “eye-opening” but I find it hopeless. Yeah, an overwhelming amount of power would become easily corrupt. I get that. I agree with her decision.

My thoughts on “The Voice”
It could be a mental disorder activated as a coping mechanism to survive all the trauma. It could be a way of her separating herself from herself in order to get comfort, especially since she didn’t have a trustworthy adult figure. Which would imply that Allie is extremely intuitive, which she was since she was able to sense fake people. So when she met Roxy and her voice was silent, she found a companion to trust. That’s why she was surprised she had a friend. Another evidence is that she, at first, thought it was her Mom. Whom do we turn to when we’re afraid? Our parents (well…if they were loving anyway).

I eventually believed that it was the skein. And Allie just happened to be more in tune with her inner self. She didn’t always have that voice, and by the time she had the voice, she was aware of her powers. She was also the only one who was able to manipulate her powers to do as she wanted….the power led her to that information. The Power needs a strong host to get stronger. But then again, the book reference Allie speaking to her heart a lot. So it could be her heart and not her skein.

But towards the end, it just felt too Godlike. I could believe that the skein was able to sense the coming of Roxy since like I said earlier, she seems to be more intuitive than most, and Roxy tends to be the strongest. But then wouldn’t she sense the skein alive when she was speaking to Darrell? Unless the skein changes DNA to match, which is possible and that’s why people have died from the operation. But then why would Allie’s skein bring up Samuel? And how did the skein know that Jos was supposed to get in trouble? And why would the skein be so opposed to her reconnecting with Eve unless of course, the skein is still recovering from the trauma of the past? But would skeins even have emotions? Allie’s seemed sympathetic, especially to her needs and desires. Which makes sense because a skein needs a host. But doesn’t anger help it become stronger? And didn’t that realization help her come to grips with what the skein wanted her to do all along? And why would the skein say I’ll see you on the other side? Is the skein a spirit? Was the skein being funny? Was that God saying she would have to face death (like Jesus, maybe? Or in war…we never did hear what happened, we just know the women won). But if it were God, why would God be surprised when Tatiana goes crazy and has her servant lick the liquid from the floor?

My thoughts on Jocelyn
I liked Jocelyn from the moment we were introduced to her. She is the daughter of Margot. On page 231, we finally got to read her own POV chapter. What made her interesting were that her powers weren’t as powerful as others.  Different is interesting. At first, I thought it was due to self-esteem. That the power was connected to your energy. Her’s sounded more bi-polar. Sometimes it was strong, sometimes it was non-existent, and pills tend to help balance it. Also, Roxy’s power failed at first. Roxy. The most powerful woman with the Power. Yet, when she was scared that her mom was being kidnapped, it failed her. That’s why I associated with esteem.

But then Ryan (her soon to be boyfriend) e-mailed her about gender-bending confusion. Turned out he had a skein as well. I started thinking it could be about identity. It could be gender-identity and she is not sure about hers and her skein works when she feels more feminine. Then on page 171, the author writes “Jo quite likes girls. She quite likes boys who are a bit like girls” meaning that Ryan kind of looks like a girl. So then maybe that’s why Ryan had a skein too. But looks are different than identity. But if that’s accurate, it would make sense why when men were trying to get their skeins implanted, it would fail. Because it didn’t register with the masculine mentality. It could be a symbolism of how out of place LGBTQ people feel even when the power shifts. Or it could just be that Alderman wanted to have an imperfect character because statistically speaking, some things do fail and not everyone can be so fortunate. Genetics doesn’t always get it right.

Or maybe it’s the stress of her mom. Having a family that is being under watch. The pressure she has on not getting to be a reckless teenage girl. That perfectionism taking hold and limiting her abilities.

There was a comment on page 235, after Jos accidentally overcharged the man that was trespassing that said: “She has the sense that if she starts to think about it she’ll tumble down into the deep, dark water; there’s a black ocean waiting for her now, it will always be waiting.” I wish Alderman would have elaborated on what the deep, dark water represented to Jos. I feel like it could be depression. Or it could be an inescapable truth.

My thoughts on the Newscasters and Urbandox
From time to time, Alderman squeezed these newscasters in the story. It was weird at first because 1) I wasn’t expecting it and 2) it wasn’t part of the setting. It was quite well accomplished. The newscasters represented the thoughts and gossip of the community at large. Basically, they were voicing the questions we would be asking if we were part of that society. It’s a perfect way to get answers and to feel involved in the story.

Urbandox is a conspiracy website. Just like every huge moment, there are the conspiracy theorists. Although I personally disliked the leader, I appreciated his presence in the story. They represented the resistance. They represented the people who were not okay with life-changing without their consent. The people who are scared and unable to accept that they are not in control anymore. But given at how fast-paced the change seemed, I don’t blame them. I think I’d like the leader more if he weren’t an entitled prick. This is the quote that just rubbed me the wrong way:

“They’ll only keep the most genetically healthy of us alive. See, this is why God meant men to be the ones with the power. However bad we treat a woman–well, it’s like a slave.
See, people got slavery wrong. If you have a slave, that slave’s your property, you don’t want damage to come to it. However bad any man treated a woman, he needs her in a fit condition to carry a child. But now…one genetically perfect man can sire a thousand–five thousand–children. And what do they need the rest of us for? They’re going to kill us all.”

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Eye roll after eye roll. Then he says that men need laws to protect them (which I agree) and that women need to have curfews (right, because historically speaking, the people in charge are the ones with curfews…usually it’s the minorities that have the curfew for their own protection, not the other way around. The exception: criminals have “curfews” when on house arrest. But these women haven’t broken the law…yet) and that the government should try to find a cure (because it’s a sickness? It’s a genetic trait. They just don’t understand it so they treat it as a disease or illness. Well, given that it is somewhat “contagious” I can see his confusion. Well, that’s the wrong word. He is not confused, he does not like it).

I am totally against killing all men. But if someone were to execute this guy, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. I might actually cheer. This guy is making slavery seem like the owners did the slaves a favor! Abusing a situation doesn’t make you a hero, bro!

Day of the Girls
In the book club I’m in, someone made a very important observation, that the “Day of the Girls changed the power structure but not individuals” (see the thread discussion here). My argument to this was that The Day of the Girls was a global acknowledgment that the power exists…and in girls. They weren’t aware that it can happen to all women (well, the majority of the women, and some men). I don’t think it would have a huge change in character.

Think of it as Women History Month. We still go to work. We still do the same things we normally do on a regular basis, we just celebrate that we have more freedom now than we did then. Then over time, we make our dreams come true if we’re lucky. But rarely does a person do a complete 180 because of a day, unless that day happened to be rock bottom.

My Thoughts on Mother Eve
Firstly, I love the symbolism of Eve. I may not like the character because she’s boring, but I liked her significance. I thought it was funny that she chose the name of her former foster mom (and how later that backfired on her). But also thought it was cool that it was the name of the first biblical lady and how she turned the Bible into respecting and celebrating women. I really liked that Mother Eve used her electric eel knowledge to help heal and cause “miracles.” Although she was going after what she wanted, so she was a very selfish selfless person. But I will say this, she sure is patient. Unlike all the other women with power, she took her time establishing her plan. She did so well, no one saw it coming. I knew Allie would be special when the grey fox accompanied her for 3 days. I took the fox as a foreshadowing of her future leadership. It’s interesting that it’s a fox because, in some cultures, a fox represents wisdom…in others, it represents a trickster. So her role is perfect. I don’t know if I should take symbolism in the 3 days aspect.

Favorite Quotes
e347628b-985f-422c-ad22-d45f36805c74-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1“She listens at doors and around corners. She has always had this habit. A child in danger must learn to pay more attention to the adults than a child loved and cherished.”

“There is a noise that is different to grief. Sadness wails and cries out and lets loose a sound to the heavens like a baby calling for its mother. That kind of noisy grief is hopeful. It believes that things can be put right, or that help can come. There is a different kind of sound to that. Babies left alone too long do not even cry. They become very still and quiet. They know no one is coming. 

“It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could, if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.”

“‘They have said to you that man rules over woman as Jesus rules over the Church. But I say unto you that woman rules over man as Mary guided her infant son, with kindness and with love.'”

“‘The day someone else knows where your money’s going better than you do, that’s the day you’ve lost.’ It’s like a magic trick, money. You can turn money into anything.”

“They’re waiting for something to happen. We’re only pretending everything is normal because we don’t know what else to do.”

“She shouts out, ‘Don’t you fucking touch me!’ and pulls at the thing on her head. And blood and iron bloom at the back of her skull because someone’s hit her as hard as she’s ever been hit and her last thought is ‘A leopard, as a pet’ as she goes down into night.”
I know this quote seems very messed up, and it is…but I like it because it’s Roxy’s own version of “Et tu, Brutus? Then fall Ceasar.”

“He has written in the scribbled notes for his book: ‘At first we did not speak our hurt because it was not manly. Now we do not speak it because we are afraid and ashamed and alone without hope, each of us alone. It is hard to know when the first became the second.'”

“This is the magic by daylight; tricks and cruelty. The magic is in the belief in magic. All this is, is people with an insane idea. The only horror in it is imagining oneself into their minds. And that their insanity might have some consequences on the body.”

“The kind of face her dad would have said was a bad bet for business. Never keep someone on a job who likes it too much. She knows when she sees the single flash of that gleeful and hungry face that they’re not here to raid for what they can find.”

“When did he get so jumpy? And he knows when. It wasn’t this last thing that made it happen. This fear has been building up in him. The terror put its roots down into his chest years ago and every month and every hour has driven the tendrils a little deeper into the flesh.” 
Welcome to rape culture, Tunde.

If there’s anything you want to talk about from the book, please leave a comment. I wish I could post all my thoughts but I don’t want to take any more of your time. It’s long enough as it is.

P.S. Did your heart hurt when Naomi asked Neil if he considered publishing his book in a woman’s name instead? Ouch

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(Featured Image was taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29751398-the-power?from_search=true)

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 Non-Fiction

Go Ask Alice

Since this book was based on an actual diary, I will treat it as if it were non-fiction. Non-fiction stories, in my opinion, are allowed to have scattered ideas because who’s to say what’s right and wrong?

I will, however, paraphrase what Sarah Silverman said in her autobiography, Bedwetter. Diaries are boring. When you’re accustomed to sentence structure, character development, and the works…diaries don’t fit. Mostly, because diaries are personal…not a work of literary art. And unlike a biography, you don’t need to edit yourself and rewrite aspects.

However, this book is considered great probably due to the topic. This book covers drugs, sexual abuse, LGBT, relationships…everything but racism really. There are even instances of prostitution and teenage pregnancy.

The short (semi-spoiler) version of the story: teenage girl accidentally discovers drugs, gets sucked into the hustling world, poverty, and the next hit. Quits. Returns to her family. Repeats a few times until she winds up in a mental hospital.

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An exhausting story, really. Especially when you read it in a period of 2 days.

However, if you do not know anything about the cunning world of drugs, perhaps this book would be somewhat educational. Not in a sense of understanding why people go back into drugs…she never understood herself. More or less on, just, how euphoric it feels to go back after the drought.

Like I mentioned earlier, she repeated the cycle a few times. We get to see her mind in the eyes of her diary. She writes to her diary, her only real friend, on a somewhat common basis (or at least that is what was published). Usually whenever anything interesting happens. Each time she found herself taking drugs again, she was scared. She knew that drugs ruined her relationship with her family, and her security in school…but the feeling was superb. She really did try to stop. It would just somehow manage its way back into her life.

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My take on our protagonist
Her name was never mentioned so I am referring to her as “protagonist.” Alice is actually a reference to Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland because…well…that doesn’t really need explanation if you know the story.

For some reason, probably because of TV, I imaged her having a high pitch voice. She kept repeating words like “fun! fun! fun!” The only times I hear that, in real life, comes from teachers trying to get kids excited about things.

For someone with her train of thoughts (I’ll quote some of her writings later), she was extremely emotionally immature and underdeveloped. Which given that she was a teenager, it is not surprising. The teenage years are hard to overcome, especially when everything is new and strong and uncontrolled. She needed a lot of attention, both physical and emotional, but because she couldn’t get that…she shut down. She wouldn’t express herself to anyone other than her trusted diary.

An example of her thoughts that proved her need for acceptance and lack of esteem can be found on pg 13, after being dropped off and kissed goodnight.

“I don’t know if he doesn’t like me or just respects me or what? I guess I just can’t be secure no matter what happens. I sometimes wish I were going with someone then I’d always know I had a date and I’d have someone I could really talk to, but my parents don’t believe in that, and besides, confidentially, no one has ever been that interested in me. Sometimes I think no one ever will be. I really do like boys a lot, sometimes I think I like them too much but I’m not very popular. I wish I were popular and beautiful and wealthy and talented. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like that?”

Those thoughts aren’t really red flags or anything, but, they are very low. Oh, I forgot to mention, at some points in her story, she seemed to be attracted to girls but dismissed it because she thought it was wrong for her to like girls. She never really experimented. That’s not the point though, I just remembered that because she said she likes boys a lot. Not once, did she talk about having any talent. She never spoke of hobbies. I don’t know if she just didn’t write them down, or if the editors didn’t think it would be important to have them published. She acknowledged everyone else’s greatness. She had a good moral compass.

Her mood switched from gratitude and excitement to confusion and frustration. But how does that differ from other teenagers? It didn’t. So then, what made her prone to drugs whereas others her age were able to hold strong? Nothing other than opportunity. She had a good family, according to what she wrote anyway. Her mother and father were together. Her younger siblings weren’t a complete terror. She just felt left out because she couldn’t make friends fast and the boy she loved didn’t like her back. In a moment of vulnerability, drugs were there. Well actually, her first and last time taking drugs, were accidents. She didn’t know what she was consuming was laced with hallucinogens.

I’m not saying that is how addiction works, that’s just how it happened in her story. She liked the feeling. She started looking forward to having “friends.”

In page 96, she said “After you’ve had it, there isn’t even life without drugs. It’s a plodding, colorless, dissonant bare existence. It stinks. And I’m glad I’m back. Glad! Glad! Glad!” If you haven’t heard already, each time you get back on it, it gets harder and harder to stop.

She had a drug-dealing boyfriend that got her into pushing drugs to her classmates and middle schoolers. At this part of the story, she tried to act real hard. It’s funny. When she’s repeated words, I see her as this innocent girl, but then she starts trying to talk the way druggies in TV sound and it just didn’t fit her persona. Which makes sense because drug dealing wasn’t her thing. She hated it. She moved to San Francisco to get away from it.

After San Francisco, her life stops being stable, even when she’s back home, living clean, with her parents. As I mentioned earlier, she didn’t go out looking for drugs again…it just happened. Or at least, that is how she wrote it. Until suddenly, she was in the hospital again because someone laced her food and she started tripping and banging her head open. “A psychotic episode” they diagnosed it.

In the end (SPOILER ALERT), she commits suicide three weeks after telling her diary that she is not going to start another one because she thinks she can hold it together now. Remember when I said the only person she expressed herself to was her diary? If her life was overwhelming enough with her diary, can you imagine the insurmountable demons she faced without it? I’m not suggesting that this is a good excuse to commit suicide. This book was published in the 70s. Which means, the story took place before then. Back then, from my understanding, they didn’t have the resources we have now. She probably didn’t know she had other options.

I wish she would have left a note. Something to let us know what her last thoughts were. But unfortunately, in reality, we don’t get to have that. It was her choice. Truly controversial book. 

My Favorite Quotes
a790712f-94fd-4c40-95ab-fec033bd90e5-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1“The pill is harder to get than drugs–which shows you how screwed up this world really is!” I just thought that was funny.

“In the beginning, when they were telling me about their deep concern, I had the overwhelming desire to break down and tell them everything. I wanted to tell them! I wanted more than anything in the world to know that they understood, but naturally they just kept on talking and talking because they are incapable of really understanding anything. If only parents would listen! If only they would let us talk instead of forever and eternally and continuously harping and preaching and nagging and correcting and yacking, yacking, yacking! But they won’t listen! They simply won’t or can’t or don’t want to listen, and we kids keep winding up back in the same old frustrating, lost, lonely corner with no one to relate to either verbally or physically.” In the defense of parents, I find that a lot of people do this regardless. More people want to talk than listen. I know I’ve run into that situation where I forgot to listen. Or I am trying to talk about something extremely vulnerable but the other person keeps bringing the focus on him/her. It’s annoying, especially when you’ve been holding it in for so long and you thought this was a form of release. Or….this could have just been her excuse to not open up. Because I’ve guilty of that too.

“When I look around here at all the ass draggers, I really think that we are a bunch of gutless wonders. We get pissed off when someone tells us what to do, but we don’t know what to do unless some fat bastard tells us. Let someone else think for us and do for us and act for us.” That was an interesting insight. You hear that when someone is zoned out, they don’t care about what is going on around there. But here, clearly, our protagonist cared about what she was identifying with. And yet, she was admitting to the helpless pattern of the addict.

“I have just read the stuff I wrote in the last few weeks and I am being drowned in my own tears, suffocated, submerged, inundated, overpowered. They are a lie! A bitter, evil cursed lie! I could never have written things like that! I could never have done things like that! It was another person, someone else! It must have been! It had to be! Someone evil and foul and degenerate wrote in my book, took over my life. Yes, they did, they did! But even as I write I know I am telling even a bigger lie! Or am I? Has my mind been damaged? Was it really just a nightmare and it seems real? I think I’ve mixed up things which are true and things which are not. All of it couldn’t be true. I must be insane.” I am always amused by identity crises. This is no different. Not being able to tell who is the real you and the fake you. Is the druggie the true you, or is the clean one who wants to give up you? Are you really as happy as you think you are? Or are you pretending out of fear? It’s interesting to think. It’s horrible if you are that person…but…interesting, nevertheless. The brain is extremely fragile.

“Maybe I’m schizo. That often starts in teenagers when they lose contact with reality, doesn’t it? Whatever it is, I’m really screwed up. I can’t even control my mind. The words I wrote when I was out are just squirming little lines and roads with a lot of rotten crap and symbols in between. Oh, what am I going to do? I need someone to talk to. I really and truly and desperately do. Oh God, please help me. I’m so scared and so cold and so alone. I have only you, Diary. You and me, what a pair.” I like this quote because it’s raw. It’s honest. It’s….the illusion of rock bottom. But we always persevere. She was having a panic attack, and your first one is always hard to identify. I’ve struggled with panic attacks, and I still have trouble identifying them in the moment. But it’s extremely gruesome. You feel susceptible to your nonsensical notions that in a different life, would have seen silly and easily overruled.

“It’s terrible not to have a friend. I’m so lonely and so alone. I think it’s worse on weekends than during the week, but I don’t know. It’s pretty bad all the time.” This is a recurring movie on the cinema of her thoughts. I’ve known how that has felt before. That’s not something that’s easy to admit out loud…or in general.

“It’s strange how much sex I’ve had and yet I don’t feel as though I’ve had any. I still want somebody to be nice and just kiss me goodnight at the door.” See, it’s not quantity but quality. But also, drugs rob you of the moment. She was usually high whenever she was having sex. Although she said it felt amazing, she didn’t think it felt real.

“I looked at the sky this morning and realized that summer is almost gone which really made me sad because it doesn’t seem as though it’s been here at all. Oh, I don’t want it to be over. I don’t want to get old. I have this very silly fear, dear friend, that one day I’ll be old, without having really been young. I wonder if it could happen that quickly or if I’ve ruined my life already. Do you think life can get by you without you even seeing it?” The only worse than dying is not living.

Time for the last quote…I know I’m sad about that too.

“Anyway, this morning I was reading an article on identity and responsibility, and it said that kids who aren’t allowed to make any decisions for themselves never grow up, and kids who have to make all the decisions before they’re ready never grow either.” This quote doesn’t really need any explanation, just a simple digestion of information. Do you fall into a certain category? I know I do. Being a parent must be hard.

That’s my take on this book. I did not read the excerpt of Jay’s Journal because…there’s only so much drama a person can take. What were your thoughts?

 

Featured Image was taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/46799.Go_Ask_Alice