The Unwritten Rule

Boy was I grumpy last night and this book is to blame….. I will explain but let me give you the set up first.

You know what the unwritten rule between girls is right?  You do not, I mean do not, steal your best friend’s boyfriend (yes connections to recent read – 6 Rules of Maybe).  You don’t crush on him, and you most certainly do not KISS him when he is still with your best friend, and maybe not even after.  Now we can debate this rule – and I suppose it has been, but it is the unwritten rule, at least of this title.

Sarah has a crush on Ryan, she has since the 8th grade, but no one really knows that, not even her best friend, Brianna.  Which might be why when Ryan turns up totally hot at the end of the summer Brianna turns her full wattage on him and now they are dating.  And since a) Sarah never said anything its not like Brianna broke that unwritten rule and b) since Sarah assumes no boy would like her over Brianna she just accepts this fact.  But it isn’t that easy, because there is something there – between Sarah and Ryan, and Ryan and Brianna may not be working out.

So grumpitude….. here is the thing about the story.  Brianna is both casually mean and totally fragile.  She has pretty much destroyed Sarah’s self esteem over the years, although Sarah’s personality allowed that to happen.  And it wasn’t on purpose.  The situation with Brianna’s parents (bitter divorce, working all the time, and casually and not so casually mean themselves) has left her self esteem pretty f’ed up too.  Sarah has the loving family that Brianna has slowly become a part of, but Brianna has all the attention.  The constant “brush your hair” or “we can find you a freshman to date” are what I mean by ‘casually mean’.  So you hate Brianna just a bit, but you also feel sorry for her.  And while the inevitablity of the ending is obvious to the reader, it is going to hit Brianna like a freight train, and because ultimately she is fragile you feel a little sorry for her.

I had this friend.  She could make you feel like the coolest, most important person in the world one minute, and like nothing the next.  She had unwritten rules she wasn’t afraid to break, but Lord, you didn’t want to be the one to break them.  And the thing is for a vast lot of people I don’t have an identity separate from that relationship, and frankly we haven’t talked in 20 years but I am still guilty/angry/sad/insecure about all of that.  So reading this book just dredged a whole lot of crap up – hence, grumpitude.

I am not sure what this book is – romance? well sort of.  friendship? yes that too.  Finding yourself? yep.  Families in all their glory and horror?  Oh yeah.  I’ve been reading mean girls lately (here for example) so it was interesting to read a mean girl who wasn’t intentional, at least at first.

I really like Elizabeth Scott, and in some way this reminded me of The Boyfriend List in similar theme.  The casual meanness, the girl relationship, etc. but boy was I grumpy.

Others thoughts:

The Bookologist liked it.

So did Insanity of Writerhood

An interview:

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North of Beautiful

I woke up (or sort of woke up) in the middle of the night claiming that I had finally gotten it right.  Through the haze of what was moments before a quite deep sleep I heard my husband asking me what in the world I was talking about.  “My cartouche*”  I said adamantly (I remember being very adamant), “I finally got it right” – and then my sleep addled brain caught up to my mouth and I realized – it was the dead of the night and I had been dreaming – “Nothing I said, just the book I was reading” (Teach me to go to stay up late finishing a book).

That is what North of Beautiful is about though, Terra getting her cartouche right, making her mark rather than letting her birthmark make her.   Oh there is more – the abusive father filled with his own humiliation and anger, the mother who eats rather than standing up for herself, the brothers that scatter, the careless best friend, the charming old lady, the boyfriend who doesn’t listen, and the boy who does, a journey – both physical and metaphorical.

I  am not a fan of the extended metaphor and Headly wields it throughout the book with all the cartography, and artistic maps, not to mention the geocaching.    it, I get it, it is all about finding yourself.

Oh plot?  you wanted some plot points?  Well Terra is beautiful, except for the port wine birthmark on her face.  Or so she thinks – she is probably beautiful with the mark.  In her house not being perfect is grounds for verbal abuse that just skates along the edge of violence.  All she wants is out – away from her parents, and small town.  But no way is her father going to assist with that dream.   So what now – how does she plan for her life now?

Really this is a character piece, a bildungsroman.  With a little romance and a whole lot of metaphor.  Oh and symbols, an English teacher’s dream – and mine apparently.

*Map cartouches may contain the title of the map, a dedication, the printer’s address, date of publication, the scale of the map and legends. Terra uses it as an artist signature, a statement of here I am.

before I fall

And it makes me feel, weirdly, like maybe all of these possibilities exist at the same time, like each moment we live has a thousand other moments layered underneath it that look different.

The physics teacher likes science fiction so I watch science fiction television shows with him.  There is a theme in the shows we watch – parallel universe theory. As a physics teacher I guess it is not weird that he likes that stuff.

In some ways this book is like a parallel universe story, although it also has a Groundhog Day connection as it is the story of the same day lived 7 times.  Sam, is a popular girl, a mean girl with four ‘fabulous’ friends, and a boyfriend she thinks she loves.  It changes one night after a party, an accident leaves Sam dead.  And living that day over and over.  There is the hope – can she fix this?  can she live each day in a different way so that the outcome changes her fate?  And why?  why does she live the day over and over?

It seems to be I have a read a couple of stories recently about how the girl that stands by, or is the lieutenant to the head mean girl is ultimately just as culpable, but what I like about this that Sam never really disavows her friends while at the same time coming to understand how wrong they have been.  She grasps her responsibility, and that gives her understanding for why they act the way they do – particularly Lindsey.  I can’t say I didn’t like the girls, I know in some ways I was supposed to dislike them, and come to like Sam as she goes through that day – again & again.  But really I never did fully dislike them, Sam was right when she recognized that as much as there was to hate in Lindsey, there was also something to love.

Here is the Animoto video I created for this book

Before I fall.

And the PowerPoint
before i fall

Shiver

For all the buzz about this book I had a difficult time getting into it, although that may say more about me as a reader, than the story.

Grace, stolen by wolves from a swing in her backyard, bitten, and remarkably saved, has a connection, maybe an obsession with the wolves in the woods by her house.  When a classmate is killed, attacked by wolves, Grace fears for their safety.  When Sam appears on her deck, bloody from a gun shot, she is not totally prepared for what she learns and yet somehow, she is.

It is not giving a way a plot secret to acknowledge that Sam is a wolf, bitten as a child he cycles between human and wolf form based on the temperature.  Shiver is both the love story  of Sam and Grace, and the story of the wolves lives. There is danger in the form of new and old wolves, the worry of the coming winter, and the reality of the wolves lives.

It is inevitable that this book will be compared to Twilight.  It is a better written book, the characters more subtly and finely drawn.  HOWEVER, one of the successful elements of Twilight (not the rest) was the atmospherics of the setting.  It created a mood.  Shiver should have this element – with the frozen woods, and the coming winter, but it never really developed for me.

Leaving aside the obvious comparison – it is an all-consuming love story, made convenient by Grace’s relatively absent parents. It has the intensity of love at first sight romance, the fairy tale of soul mates, and the longing of troubled lovers.  Frankly for a sense of hot longing, I prefer Wake.

Other reviews:

Abby the Librarian liked it

Tale of a Pink Monkey

The Cajun Book Lady

Also check out the book trailer!

The Secret Life Of Prince Charming

If Sarah Dessen‘s books make me wonder about her mother issues (which she says she doesn’t have, and I believe her so maybe I should have said her character’s mother issues), Deb Caletti’s books makes me wonder about her father issues.

In The Secret Life of Prince Charming Quinn (my step daughter’s name btw – which she hates, says its a boy’s name but I’m thrilled a fictional girl has it) lives with her mother, grandmother, aunt, and sister after their father abandon them.  After a long absence he has become a part of their life, but all is not perfect.  When Quinn realizes some of her father’s prize objects belong to women he has dated, married, etc. (and some other traumatic events happen) this good girl contacts her half sister, and a trip to restore the items to their rightful owners, and maybe learn who their father really is materializes.

I have to admit I read this through adult woman eyes.  Which is to say I related to the older women’s stories of their loves more than Quinn’s journey.  I’ve had my share of the bad boys, the relationships that consume you even though you know they just aren’t right, and I have the “right one” now, and it isn’t what I thought it would be – its better.  And the stories and lessons the women left behind by Quinn’s father resonated with me.  At one point I thought – this isn’t really for teens, its for women my age.  But that isn’t entirely true because there is self discovery, what it means to be the child of divorce (which may be why I didn’t truly connect with Quinn, I have my own issues with that as a step mom), and a (predictable) romance.

One note – Sprout, the younger sister, while fun may have been a bit too precocious.  But I liked the other secondary characters.

Also the best “secret” being kept was Ivar, the dogs.  Laughted out loud.

My favorite Deb Caletti remains The Nature of Jade.

Also reviewed on my blog The Fortunes of Indigo Skye

What Others Thought:

A Patchwork of Books

Miss Print

Bookworm 4 Life

Ooops …. Wrong Cookie

and many, many more.

New Sara Zarr

Once was Lost

I love this cover – book isn’t available until October, but I am looking forward.

Jellicoe Road

Sometimes when I finish a book I need to write an immediate response – turns out Twitter is fabulous for this.  The problem is with books I love, the books that without sounding like a cheesy cliche – the ones that get into my soul I have this immediate reaction, and then I want to savor.  I want to think about them, and figure out what I liked so much, and then I never, ever blog the book.  This is what happened with The Book Thief.

So I finished Jellicoe Road, and I twittered, and then I did daily mundane things, and I knew if I didn’t sit down NOW I wouldn’t, and then I’d miss the opportunity to tell you to read this book.  It isn’t that the plot was so outstanding, I mean you know that Taylor’s life is entertwined with Hannah’s story of the five kids.  But I like the stories, Taylor and the kids.  It isn’t that the characters were so inviting. Taylor is a bit of work, and I wished for more of some the other secondary characters like Raffy and Jessa. Which isn’t to say that they were repelling.  It isn’t that I developed a bit of a literary crush on Jonah Griggs, which is to say that I did of course.

But Melina Marchetta loves language.  The book is lyrical in the way it tells the story.  In that way it reminds me How I Live Now.

I just randomly opened up the book and found this:

The world sways and I sway with it until it is like being in a hypnotic dance, almost enticing me to step over.

or

She’d get bored being good.  She’d get bored trying to go clean.  She got bored being my mother.

(I like the parallelism.)

So the story in a nutshell: Taylor’s mother left her in a 7-11 on Jellicoe Road, Hannah took her in.  But Hannah is gone. It is territory war time with the Cadets and the Townies, and Jonah Griggs is back and the Brigadier, and there is a story to untangle that may tell Taylor more than she wishes to know.

Very good, I loved it.


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