two way street

I’m a traitor to my generation.

The feminist side of me cringed several times about the clichés on how men and women should act, the little super romantic teen inside me could only squeal with pleasure with every high school dream that came true. two way street is not up there with other recent YA I read, but definitely entertaining enough for a quick summer read.

Courtney is going on a road trip to her college. With her ex-boyfriend. Of course when all this was planned he wasn’t an ex, there was no MySpace girl he broke up with her for and she thought she had a happy life. Now it’s hurt feelings, trying hard not to show those feelings and all the annoying quirks you can only like in a loved one. Locked up in a car.

Of course things aren’t completely what they seem and is the ex-boyfriend not the bad guy. The ending is a bit abrupt, but the fuzzy feelings will probably linger.

two way street, Lauren Barnholdt, Simon Pulse 2007

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Eleven Days

The United States Navy SEALs came out of the Teams that served in Vietnam; they in turn came out of the Navy Seabees, the Scouts and Raiders, and the Underwater Demolition Teams used during World War II.

‘What happens to those that are left behind?’ is regularly asked when military families are the subject. In case of Eleven Days, the question applies to both sides. It’s not only the mother getting left behind by her son and his father, it’s the son being left behind by her, his father, and the possibilities of ordinary life.

Sara and Jason aren’t a conventional mother and son and their relationship is similar. That doesn’t mean that when she gets the news of him being missed, she deals with it any differently than anyone missing a loved one. This mother just has a large safety net made by neighbors, military men and her son’s godfathers to catch her.

The novel tells not only Sara’s story, but also Jason’s. His need to become a part of the American army, his silent suffering because he never knew his father, the feelings of finally belonging somewhere when he finds his place in his team. Him ending up missing is almost a side plot, this is about war and peace, wrong and right, family you’re born with and family you create yourself.

It’s not a happy story, and it takes a bit of work to get through it, but if you want to ponder these subjects, I’d tell you to give this a chance.

Eleven Days, Lea Carpenter, Alfred A. Knopf 2013

Schroder

In dit verslag kun je lezen waar Meadow en ik sinds onze verdwijning zijn geweest.

Hoe vaak zal het gebeuren, een vader die uit wanhoop zijn kind ontvoert na een scheiding? Dat een man en een vrouw zulke vreemdelingen van elkaar worden dat ze niet meer met elkaar kunnen communiceren?

Schroder is het verslag van een vader die op een dag besluit niet genoeg te nemen met de tijd die hij met zijn dochter mag doorbrengen. In plaats van een net afscheid aan het einde van de dag, gaat hij er van door met zijn dochter, voor een ‘kleine vakantie’.

Natuurlijk gaan hier allerlei dingen aan vooraf, overgoten met een groeiende wanhoop. De hoofdpersoon schuwt het zelfbeklag niet, maar heeft ook (soms pijnlijke) momenten van inzicht waardoor het alleen maar duidelijker wordt wat voor een fouten hij heeft gemaakt.

Schroder laat zien dat het niet alleen de moeder is die emotioneel en irrationeel kan worden door een scheiding en het gemis van kinderen. Hoofdpersoon Eric is niet het meest aantrekkelijkste karakter, maar hij is wel een mens.

Schroder, Amity Gaige, Faber and Faber 2013

A Monster Calls

The monster showed up just after midnight.

A fairy tale, not Disney-fied, about a boy and his mother and a monster in the shape of a yew tree. Patrick Ness took the idea from the passed away Siobhan Dowd and ran with it wonderfully. Another YA book (it’s advised for 13 and up) that delivers and shows there’s more than Twilight or Divergent.

Conor’s mother is ill, seriously ill. She knows, he knows, his whole world knows but they all ignore it and that’s the thing he can’t handle. And than there’s a nightmare attacking him at night and a monster in front of his window, every night at 12:07, making not even his own bed a safe place.

Patrick Ness keeps his honest brutality away from this story that winds and weaves like a wisp of (fairy tale) mist. Something is building, and it will be tough to not keep turning pages until it’s clear what precisely.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness, Walker Books 2011

Telegraph Avenue

A white boy rode flatfoot on a skateboard, towed along, hand to shoulder, by a black boy pedaling a brakeless fixed-gear bike.

What an incredible load of ‘manpain’, good gracious. I know that a (main) character doesn’t necessarily has to be likable, but the amount of self-pity combined with a very flowery prose (not a comparison-possibility missed) makes Telegraph Avenue (an American High Fidelity) tough to work through.

The main characters come in pairs: old friends and music store owners Nat and Archy, old friends, wives of the music store owners and colleague-mid wives Gwen and Aviva and Titus and Julius. The second is Aviva and Nat’s son, the first is Archy’s son, returning to him after fourteen years of no relationship. Gwen doesn’t know about him and is carrying their first child together. Besides that there’s a big competitor threatening the music store, something happens during a delivery and Archy’s no good father returns to just add to the mess.

It’s not like there’s nothing happening, nor that the things happening are badly written. It’s just that all of the adults, with more weight on Archy’s side and less on Gwen’s, are so incredibly full of self pity and anger and a paralyzing lack of motivation that it pulls you down in a dark hole of frustration. Where is that machine that you can use to kick fictional character ass into gear?

Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon, Harper 2012

what happened to goodbye

The table was sticky, there was a cloudy smudge on my water glass, and we’d been seated for ten minutes with no sign of a waitress.

From time to time a bit obvious, but so very sweet. I’m repeating myself, but this is just more proof about how there are good children/teenagers books around. This time it’s about new beginnings, identity and whatever happens when parents divorce.

Mclean follows her father around the country for his job, fixing badly functioning restaurants. In every new location, she invents a new identity. Drama queen, student council girl, loner. Her father fixes the restaurant, she makes sure that they can have an easy, domestic life.

Of course this time, things go differently. She forgets to give herself a new identity, the friends might be real friends and the high-strung relationship with her mother finally comes to an explosion. It’s giving, living and learning as an adolescent. A nice look into the teenage mind.

what happened to goodbye, Sarah Dessen, Viking 2011

All The Light We Cannot See

At dust they pour from the sky. 

Usually I’m not very fast with reading books from the ongoing year, definitely not those that are on lists and are nominated for prizes. They’re (too) popular in the library and the standardized blurb doesn’t really tickle me anyway. 

But this was a present. And you don’t neglect a gifted book. 

All The Light We Cannot See starts out as a pretty standard, nicely written, World War II story. There are good people on both sides, there are bad people on both sides.This time the main characters are a blind, French girl and a German, orphaned boy. They both experience things and grow up while the war grows worse. 

The addition of a MacGuffin turn Anthony Doerr’s wonderful visuals and sweet, rounded characters, sadly enough, into something flat. Suddenly the book turns into Indiana Jones in Europe, instead of carrying on with the world-building and filling out backgrounds. 

There’s nothing wrong with All The Light We Cannot See, but it could have been something epic instead of this mix-up. 

All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr, Scribner 2014