The Giver

Het was bijna december, en Jonas begon bang te worden.

Dit is een boek waarvan ik snap waarom het verfilmd is, maar ik denk dat het boek juist sterker is omdat de lezer langzamer ontdekt wat er allemaal mis is. Beeld verklapt makkelijker sneller iets.

Want dat er iets mis is, is wel duidelijk. Geen emoties, geen ‘wild gedrag’, relaties die worden toegedeeld en ingedeeld door een raad? En dan zijn er ook nog fysieke ervaringen die de hoofdpersoon niet mag hebben.

Gelukkig wordt hij uitgekozen voor iets heel bijzonders, en zoals wel vaker met iets bijzonders komt het met wat lelijke realisaties. Het brengt wat vragen mee over persoonlijke vrijheid, het grotere goed, en hoe emoties en (onderbuik)gevoelens de samenleving beïnvloeden.

Het einde is nogal abrupt. Natuurlijk zijn er vervolgen.

The Giver, Lois Lowry, Lannoo 2015

A Wrinkle in Time

It was a dark and stormy night.

This was a cooler experience than expected. I expected a children’s book from another age, not a mix of Abarat, Narnia and love of science. There’s discussions of religion, space travel and personal development.

And it all starts with a missing father and strange creatures asking Meg, her weird brother, and a popular boy for help. All three of them are essential – for different reasons – in the fight against the scary dark. It’s all very visual and vibrant, and I’m quite curious about how and how much it will be shown in the movie that’s made based on it.

It’s a children’s book like one of those that are mentioned in fiction, and reading it as an ebook somehow felt like I was missing part of the experience. Yes, there are some questions raised, but they are the kind you accept as unanswered because they don’t sabotage the story and/or we know an answer might follow (there’s a lot more books in the series).

I read this for a Book club, and I didn’t even feel like it was a waste of time. Which sounds like little, but means that I feel like it added to my Books Read, instead of subtracted.

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, Farrar Straus Giroux 1962

The Wizard Returns

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses, the Wizard thought as the rolling green fields of Oz dropped away from his balloon.

I think I will add a new category: snack reads. Will you learn something from it, walk away a changed person, gain new insights, be blown off your feet? Nah, but it’s fun/entertaining/delicious.

The Wizard Returns is a prequel to the Dorothy Must Die series (another twist on the going ons of the Oz world and its inhabitants) and a novella, so not too large either. It is as it says on the tin, Dorothy and other familiar characters are mostly mentioned in passing, this is for the Wizard.

Paige uses this as an excuse to give/show more history to/of Oz and the Wizard, and to just go – once more – completely all out on technicolour descriptions on this strange but sort of familiar world. The Wizard is a brat, the monkeys fly, the reader is entertained for a hop and a skip.

The Wizard Returns (A Dorothy Must Die prequel novella), Danielle Paige, HarperCollins 2015

The Burning Sky

Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys.

Stories don’t have to be original to be entertaining. Unlikely hero? Absolutely beautiful, but cold-hearted-because-of-plot-point prince? Cruel authorities? Cross dressing for safety? Pompous names? Now I come to think of it..where’s the adorable pet/companion animal in this story?

Iolanthe has been warned by her guardian to not do certain things. With her listening to him, there wouldn’t be a story, and suddenly Iolanthe turns out to be a threat and a treasure to the powers that be. Good thing there’s a handsome prince that won’t let them get her. Instead, she should stay close to him, hidden away on Eton.

Emotions, hormones, friendships and a book that’s a gate way, a training room and a virtual reality of royal history all make sure that there’s nary a dull moment. Is the will-they-won’t-they sappy? Yes. Does Thomas go off on a much too long description of all the beautiful people around? Definitely. But sometimes someone wants a story you can race through without feeling like you have missed out on details, plot and information. I’m even interested in the other two books (of course this is part of a series), even though I wouldn’t know what they could be about. Sacrifice? More angry kisses? Good thing the trilogy is already completely published.

The Burning Sky, Sherry Thomas, HarperCollins 2013

Smoke

‘Thomas, Thomas! Wake up!’

Well, Dan Vyleta got the Victorian-feel of it down pat. Several times I paged back to the front to check the year of first publication.

This could be viewed as a compliment, but as I expected something else going in, it took me a long time to adapt. Smoke is as straight-edged as its characters, afraid of anything that could be viewed as sin or a wrong emotion, any form of entertainment that could ‘evoke’ something.

This element makes the novel dystopian, a strict society in which something or someone will give sooner than later. Not just that, but on top of the societal mystery, there’s a mysterious group that’s kind of powerful, but not powerful enough to have a clear enough message. Or maybe the smoke just got in between.

Even when adventure is added, the feeling doesn’t get very urgent. Power hungry people want to keep things the way they are, maybe some light sins aren’t that horrible, okay, okay. It could have been a short novel, a foundation for a television series, but as a hefty book there’s just not enough spark.

Smoke, Dan Vyleta, Weidenfeld&Nicholson 2016

Cherry

To be honest, the sex pact wasn’t always part of the plan.

Female teenagers decide that all of them are going to lose their virginity before graduation. Surely nothing can go wrong (and cringe worthy).

The thing is, it almost doesn’t. For once girls are shown as sexual beings as well, for once there’s focus and care about body positivism, self-development and orgasms. They’re allowed to be characters instead of clichés, and it’s easy to start caring for the group.

So what did go wrong? As usual, the b-word in between homosexuality and heterosexuality seems to be non-existent, and I hope not too many readers get their hopes up about the eagerness of teenage boys performing oral sex. Some chapters are saccharine sweet, but by then you have already been reeled in to support everyone.

It’s a good one for a glance behind the girl teen facade.

Cherry, Lindsey Rosin, Simon Pulse 2016

All You Never Wanted

She gets into the car and then she can’t drive it.

As if being a teenager isn’t hard enough already, both main characters in All You Never Wanted get to deal with disease. Alex as the carrier, Thea as the younger sister who can’t handle the big changes it brought to their lives.

It’s never explicitly mentioned what happened to Alex. Is it anorexia, bulimia, something physical over mental? No matter what, it’s crippling. Alex can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t live. While Thea needs bigger and stranger stories to flee in, to be someone besides the sister of the sick, strange girl.

Each share their point of view, without any resolution or relief. The only way this story might leave you with some kind of good feeling is for the fact that you don’t have it as bad as them. It’s a slice of life to remind you that adolescence is more than love triangles and doubts about the future.

All You Never Wanted, Adele Griffin, Alfred A. Knopf 2012