Posted in 2018, Fiction, LGBTQ, Romance, young adult

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This is the second book of Sara Farizan that I’ve read. I wasn’t too impressed with the first one, but I gave this one a shot anyway. I’m glad I did because I thought it was great (at least in comparison with Tell Me How A Crush Should Feel).

In this book, we have Nasrin and Sahar keeping their love a secret because, in Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death.  But since they are best friends, no ones thinks any differently that these girls love hanging around each other.

Conflict: Sahar’s parents have arranged her to marry a man.

Solution: Nasrin attempts to try to change her gender (because being a transexual is legal in Iran, did not know that) so she could marry Sahar instead.

This books is funny, emotional, entertaining, slightly annoying (it’s not uncommon to be annoyed of a character when you are binge reading first person point of view.) but overall educational on the experiences of a teenage Iranian coming to terms with the injustice.

One thing I did like about this book is that both characters loved each other equally, although they showed it in different ways. There was no pity love. There was no “I’m better than you, and I can have anyone I want so you better be good to me (which is how I first thought Sahar’s character would be like).” Both character were committed to each other, but circumstances got in the way.

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 Becky Albertalli, Fiction, LGBTQ

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Leah on the Offbeat was hilarious to read. Not because it was funny, but because I guessed the plot before even reading the book. I remember texting my friend what I thought it should be after I read the synopsis. I can’t say what it is because of spoilers.

Anyway, happy feelings aside, this book was different than Simon Vs The Homosapien’s agenda because (besides it being from the point of view of Leah) it wasn’t as happy…or innocent. Unlike Simon liking Blue, Leah liking her crush posed complicated ethical dilemmas. Also, Leah was not the way she was described by Simon. In Simon, Leah was this easily angered friend…whereas here, she was just sensitive (and no wonder, she had to deal with a lot of obstacles).

Leah and the Offbeat also slightly connect to Albertalli’s other book “The Upside of Unrequited” but it is not necessary to read in order to know what is going on.

Because I can’t write more without disclosing spoilers, I will go straight to quotes.

It’s that girlfriend feeling again, not that I’ve ever been anyone’s girlfriend. But I imagine it feels like this. Like I’m this tiny precious wanted thing. I can’t decide if I feel gross about that, or if I only think I should feel gross about it.

This feeling….I have never read it in a book before so it was…cute.

There’s a tug in my chest. Because when Bram says Simon’s name, he pronounces every part of it. Like it’s worth being careful over. It’s really sweet and everything, how wow, I get so jealous sometimes. It’s obviously not just Simon and Bram. It’s couples in general. And it’s not about the kissing stuff. It’s just — imagine being Simon. Imagine going about your day knowing someone’s carrying you in their mind. That has to be the best part of being in love–the feeling of having a home in someone else’s brain.

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I think I hate the concept of needing space. What it really means is that the person’s mad at you, or hates you, or doesn’t give a shit about you. They just don’t want to admit it.

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I used to think boners literally pointed in the direction of the person you’re attracted to, like a compass. That would be helpful. Mortifying as fuck, but at least it would clarify things.

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Let your guts hand out. I don’t even get that. Why would anyone want to live like that? Why would anyone want to live like that? Like it isn’t bad enough I’m always one breath away from falling apart. I’m supposed to fall apart under a spotlight?
It’s too much. And I don’t want to embrace the suck. I want things to not suck. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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“Do I want to love him enough that leaving him would wreck me? Yeah”

*speechless*

 

 

Posted in 2018, Becky Albertalli, Fiction, LGBTQ

Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

NON-SPOILER REVIEW

Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a fun read. It’s also a fast read. I spent a whole day trying to be productive only to find myself back in bed with the book unable to spend more than an hour away from it. If this were a relationship, my friends would have an intervention to stop my clinginess. In short, it’s addictive.

What makes Simon Vs The Home Sapiens Agenda different than most LGBT books is that Simon isn’t ashamed of being gay. He is more afraid of someone outing his online love interest: Blue. The reason he doesn’t want to come out himself is that he doesn’t want to be treated like a different person. He knows his family and friends will accept him but he doesn’t know how it will affect how they act around him.

I love Albertalli’s version of coming out. It’s not about declaring your sexuality, but rather, any change of your personality is a version of coming out. Whether you suddenly decide you’re going to be in a band or you started drinking coffee, anything that alters the perception of you is a form of coming out to the world. It’s neat that it’s comparable to little things because sometimes, coming out as gay seems like a monumental change when in reality, in this day and age, it is far more accepted than a decade ago (depending on where you live and your belief system, of course).

Simon has three best friends; Nick, Leah (Albertalli announced a sequel called Leah on the Off-Beat), and Abby. He has a younger sister who goes to the same high school and an older sister in college. His parents are happily married. The story basically centers around him trying to find out the identity of Blue while keeping it secret from his friends and family. The storyline might sound boring but because life happens, it’s actually interesting. Since he is not constantly beating himself up, like most LGBT books, it’s not as emotionally draining.

Warning: if you read this book, you might develop a strong craving for Oreos.

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Favorite Quotes (some contain spoilers)

“Thanks, but I’m driving.” says Leah. But she wouldn’t be drinking if she wasn’t driving. I know that. Because there’s this invisible line, and on one side are people like Garrett and Abby and Nick and every musician ever. People who go to parties and drink and don’t get wasted off of one beer. People who have had sex and don’t think it’s a huge deal.

I like this quote because it perfectly sums out how I felt as a teenager. The outside of popular kids who go to parties and can talk to strangers without overanalyzing everything.

I know this is weird, but I make my bed every single day, even though the rest of my room is a hellscape of paper and laundry and books and clutter. Sometimes I feel like my bed is a lifeboat.

I like this quote because before I read this book, I saw a video where a soldier was saying “If you want to save the world, start by making your bed.” But I can also relate in the sense that if my bed is made, I feel like I can breathe when I walk into my room. There is something about it being made that brings a sense of calm. And if it’s unmade, I not only feel tired, I feel the overwhelmingness of my future that I was trying to avoid the whole day. Lifeboat, indeed.

My mom was the one who got obsessed with the idea that I had a girlfriend even though I had never had one before. I don’t know why that came as such a freaking surprise to her, since I’m pretty sure most people start out never having had one.

This was just hilarious. And true.

But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.

This twist on coming out has been comforting. He didn’t see his sexual preference any different than all these little changes in habits. “Before I didn’t drink coffee, now I do.” “Before I wasn’t sure I liked boys, now I know.” It’s a life-changing moment, but not in the typical sense of life-changing. Not in the way that it feels like EVERYTHING is going to be different…just a part of you. It reminds me of a study that I was told about where people assume the life-changing events are big, like moving to a new home or changing careers…but in actuality, life-changing events are small, like reading a good book or watching an impactful movie. These things that you can do on your leisure time that do not require much thought about how it is impacting your life. That might not be a fair comparison since Simon did think about it…a lot. But you get the point, I hope. Coming out is just an addition to your personality; not the entirety of your personality.

I actually hate when people say that. I mean, I feel secure in my masculinity, too. Being secure in your masculinity isn’t the same as being straight.

Funny. Never thought about it like this.

They don’t have a clue. They don’t even know I’m gay.
And I don’t know how to do this. Ever since I told Abby on Friday, I kind of thought it would be easy to tell Leah and Nick. Easier, anyway, now that my mouth is used to saying the words.
It’s not easier. It’s impossible. Because even though it feels like I’ve known Abby forever, I really only met her four months ago. And I guess there hasn’t been time for her to have any set ideas about me yet. But I’ve known Leah since sixth grade, and Nick since we were four. And this gay thing. It feels so big. It’s almost insurmountable. I don’t know how to tell them something like this and still come out of it feeling like Simon. Because if Leah and Nick don’t recognize me, I don’t even recognize myself anymore.

2d7202eb-7380-4e61-bb10-fe0cea0c76f8-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1That last sentence is heartbreaking. It’s also scary. But I get it, as a teenager, you aren’t really an individual yet (yes, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, we are a combination of our friends, families, and education.) Best friends are usually more important than family. Best friends are the family we chose to be a part of and if for whatever reason they stop choosing us…that’s just…emotionally scarring.

Trying not to think about something is like playing freaking Whac-A-Mole. Every time you push one thought down, another one nudges its way to the surface.

5b8bb193-be92-43af-8542-64710654691b-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1I know the feeling!

In this moment, all I want is for things to feel like Christmas again. I  want it to feel how it used to feel.

This reminded me of the post that I saw where someone wrote something similar to this and someone else responded by saying that “we’re growing up” as in Christmas is for kids. When I was in college I joked with my professor that I believed in Santa Clause but the reason he stopped coming is that once we hit puberty, we are naughty by default. So I understand how Christmas feels different. But I think what makes it different is a form of growing up. We lose some sort of innocence when we have to show up and own up to our lives. Essentially, that is what was happening to Simon when he started feeling like this. He had to come out. It made things different because he no longer had the blissful ignorance of wondering what the future would hold. Because he knew. Everyone at school would know. His friends would now know. Blue knew. Things changed. It was no longer an innocent interaction of e-mails with another gay boy from school. It became real. And realness ruins the magic of Christmas. It will never feel that way it used to feel…but that doesn’t mean it will always feel awkward or uncomfortable.

 

PS. The Oreo craving took a month to settle down.

Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19547856-simon-vs-the-homo-sapiens-agenda

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, 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! 🙂

——–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)