Tag Archives: art

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin (with bonus songs)

Memoirs

“You forget all of it anyway. First, you forget everything you learned– the dates of the Hay-Herran Treaty and the Pythagorean theorem. You especially forget everything you didn’t really learn, but just memorized the night before. You forget the names of all but one or two of your teachers, and eventually you’ll forget those, too. You forget your junior year class schedule and where you used to sit and your best friend’s home phone number and the lyrics to that song you must have played a million times. For me, it was something by Simon & Garfunkel. Who knows what it’ll be for you? And eventually, but slowly, oh so slowly, you forget your humiliations– even the ones that seemed indelible just fade away. You forget who was cool and who was not, who was pretty, smart, athletic, and not. Who went to a good college. Who threw the best parties. Who could get you pot. You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They’re the last to go. And then once you’ve forgotten enough, you love someone else.”
-Grant Porter

Depending on how long you’ve been following my reviews, you may or may not remember my previous attempt to review this book. Sadly, as I had just finished writing and was about to post, the entire thing erased itself, save for the “bonus playlist” I added at the end. So here I am, ready to review this book over again.

After losing a coin toss and having to go back to school to retrieve a camera, Naomi fell down the stairs in front of her school and hit her head. She awoke in an ambulance, confused and scared. By the time she got to the hospital, she discovered that all of her memory from the past four years was gone. Now, Naomi struggles to fit in and figure out everything she’s forgotten– including her best friend, boyfriend, her parents’ divorce, and the birth of her younger sister.

My review probably didn’t do this book justice, but trust me, it was a great book. It’s clear that Gabrielle Zevin did her research, because everything seemed very believable and accurate. Her character development was great, and the slow memory regaining made me not want to stop reading. I think the best thing about the entire book, though, is the tension between Naomi and the three guys she has to pick from– her boyfriend Ace, her best friend Will, and James, the boy she just met who saved her during her accident.

Since I can’t add the playlist (it’s still posted here), I’ll add my favorite song of the entire playlist in the back, which somehow didn’t make it onto the first list. It’s called “A Certain Romance” by the Arctic Monkeys, one of my favorite bands of the moment. And, just for a little something extra, I’ll add a link to the song I haven’t been able to stop listening to for about a week now: “Evolution of Get Lucky” by PV Nova on YouTube. Basically, he took the song “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams, and he did one of those “how music changes over the decades” things with it. It’s hard to explain, so it would probably be best if you just listened to it. I promise, it’s incredible.

Thanks for reading, guys, and I’ll see you soon!

-J

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time. You’d be shocked at how many adults are really dead inside– walking through their days with no idea who they are, just waiting for a heart attack or cancer or a Mack truck to come along and finish the job. It’s the saddest thing I know.”
-Mr. Freeman

Speak tells the story of Melinda Sordino, a freshman at Merryweather High who, just before school started, called the cops at a party. Everyone hates her– she’s left alone, desperate to fit in with someone. But they don’t know what really happened at the party, and when the story gets out, nothing will be the same.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s nearly impossible to talk about this book without doing so, so this will be a fairly short review. This is one powerful book. It says so much, while Melinda says so little. But getting this look inside of the mind of a girl who has been through everything Melinda has– it’s powerful stuff. This is one of those books that really makes you think about how you treat other people, and it should not be missed.

Speak also has a Lifetime movie adaption, which I’m unsure whether to watch because A. I hate Lifetime and B. I don’t know if it’ll be worth it. The cast includes Kristen Stewart as Melinda, that kid from Sky High, and Steve Zahn, which I find to be a very strange cast, so yeah. If I do watch it, I’ll let you guys know whether it’s worth it.

And although I really like the story, I think the most powerful thing about the entire book is Laurie Halse Anderson’s little poem at the beginning. I don’t think all of the versions of this book include the poem, considering it’s about people’s reactions to the book, and it has some spoilers, but I’d like to share it here:

LISTEN

You write to us
from Houston, Brooklyn, Peoria, Rye, NY,
LA, DC, Everyanywhere USA to my mailbox, My
Space Face
Book
A livejournal of bffs whispering
Onehundredthousand whispers to Melinda and
Me.

You:
I was raped, too
sexually assaulted in seventh grade,
tenth grade, the summer after graduation
at a party
i was 16
i was 14
i was 5 and he did it for three years
i loved him
i didn’t even know him.
He was my best friend’s brother,
my grandfather, father, mommy’s boyfriend,
my date
my cousin
my coach
i met him for the first time that night and–
four guys took turns, and–
i’m a boy and this happened to me, and–

. . . I got pregnant I gave up my daughter for adoption . . .
did it happen to you, too?
U 2?

You:
i wasn’t raped, but
my dad drinks, but
i hate talking, but
my brother was shot, but
i am outcast, but
my parents split up, but
i am clanless, but
we lost our house, but
i have secrets– seven years of secrets
and i cut
myself my friends cut
we all cut cut cut
to let out the pain

. . . my 5-year-old cousin was raped– he’s beginning to act out now . . .
do you have suicidal thoughts?
do you want to kill him?

You:
Melinda is a lot like this girl I know
No she’s a lot like
(me)
i am MelindaSarah
i am MelindaRogelio i am MelindaMegan,
MelindaAmberMelindaStephenToriPhillipNavdiaTiara-
MateoKristinaBeth
it keeps hurting, but
but
but
but
this book cracked my shell
it keeps hurting I hurt, but
but your book cracked my shell.

You:
I cried when I read it.
I laughed when I read it
is that dumb?
I sat with the girl–
you know, that girl–
I sat with her because nobody sits with her at lunch
and I’m a cheerleader, so there.
speak changed my life
cracked my shell
made me think
about parties
gave me
wings this book
opened my mouth
i whispered, cried
rolled up my sleeves i
hate talking but
I am trying.

You made me remember who I am.
Thanks.

PS. Our class is gonna analyze this thing to death.

Me:
Me:
Me: weeping

With the exceptions of the first and last stanzas, this poem comes from lines and words taken from the thousands of letters and e-mails that Laurie has gotten in the past twelve years.

That’s all. I’ll leave you to digest that. Thanks for reading!

-J

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story

“It’s so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself. That’s above and beyond everything else, and it’s not a mental complaint– it’s a physical thing, like it’s physically hard to open your mouth and make the words come out. They don’t come out smooth and in conjunction with your brain the way normal people’s words do; they come out in chunks as if from a crushed-ice dispenser; you stumble on them as they gather behind your lower lip. So you just keep quiet.”
-Craig

After nearly committing suicide one night, depressed teenager Craig Gilner decides to check himself into the hospital. He is given a few days to stay in the adult psychiatric ward, where he meets a schizophrenic, some drug addicts, and a girl who scarred her face with scissors. (I don’t want to say too much else for fear of spoiling anything, so I’ll just awkwardly stop this summary here.)

Once again, I’ve forgotten to write a review. It’s been a few days since I’ve finished this incredible book, but I can still recall it rather well. No matter how messed up he is, Craig is relatable to everyone in some way. His thoughts and opinions generally make sense, even if they’re a little far-fetched. He’s a really good guy, despite the bad decisions he may make, and I think we can all relate to that somehow.

It’s rare that I truly find a book funny. Sure, I have a sense of humor, but finding an actual laugh-out-loud-funny is an unusual thing for me. This book was one of the few exceptions so far. Similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, It’s Kind of a Funny Story pokes fun at the mentality of the people in the ward without being offensive or rude, and I admire Ned Vizzini and Ken Kesey for being able to do that.

Now, just today I found out that this book has a film adaption. How I didn’t know beats me, especially because the cast includes people like Zach Galifinakis, Jim Gaffigan, and Emma Roberts. As of now, all I know is I need to see this movie.

And since I took so long for this review, the next review will most likely be up tomorrow. One more book to go and I’ll be book-hunting again, so please leave me some recommendations! 🙂

-J

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Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List

“We all got to be winners sometimes. But what he didn’t understand was that we all had to be losers, too. Because you can’t have one without the other.”
-Valerie

Valerie and her boyfriend Nick, two outsiders who are picked on by virtually everyone in their high school, compose an ever-growing list of people and things they hate as a method of venting frustration. But one day, Nick brings a gun to school and starts to shoot many of the students on the list. After months of interrogation and recovery, Valerie is ready to go back to school for her senior year– but will her fellow classmates hold her actions against her?

The idea of whether Valerie is guilty of anything is for you to decide, but regardless of your decision, her story is a remarkable one. Valerie goes through so much throughout the span of the novel, from watching her fellow classmates and boyfriend die to being interviewed by persistent police officers to trying to lead a normal life once again. Her story is inspiring and hopeful, with an ending that is absolutely beautiful.

I was going to tell you guys about my theory that Bea is an angel, but I’ll skip over it and instead talk about the author’s note, specifically how Jennifer Brown named her characters symbolically. The examples she used were as follows (direct quotes, not my words):

Valerie’s last name is Leftman because she was “left” to take the rap for Nick’s actions. Nick’s last name is Levil, which is almost “evil,” and may even look like “evil” at first glance, but if you go back and look again… it’s not quite “evil.” Principal Angerson was an angry kind of dude. Angela Dash was a crummy reporter, just “dashing” off stories without double-checking her facts. Bea had no last name. She was just Bea (or Just Be). Detective Panzella was named after an Italian bread salad (panzanella), because he was about as plain as a bowl full of day-old bread. And, of course, Dr. Hieler, pronounced “healer,” is pretty self-explanatory.

So there you have it. Everything makes much more sense if you know the characters, of course, but you see where I’m coming from. The idea of imagery or symbollism hidden in names is really cool, in my opinion, and it gave me a great idea for my writings. (Yes, I’m thinking about writing a book or two. Go on and laugh; I don’t blame you.)

Sorry it took so long for me to post this review. I sat down to write it at about eight, then got distracted and watched the new movie Side Effects (which was incredible, by the way). Then, after the movie was over, I began writing again, explaining my entire theory on Bea. I deleted it shortly after finishing it, realizing how awkward it sounded, and was once again distracted by all of the fan theory articles I’d found across the web. Oh well; hopefully the review was fine, regardless of my constant distractions and revisions. Have a great night, everyone, and I’ll see you in a few days. 🙂

-J

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13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes

“I like you because you were mad. And you’re pretty. And pretty sane for a mad person.”
-Keith Dobson

Although it seemed interesting, this was another of those books that I thought I would absolutely despise from the very beginning. It seemed a little too girly for my taste, and the review on the back that said something like “fairy-tale ending” didn’t help. But I was wrong, as I usually am with books I’m unsure about.

The summer before she starts her senior year of high school, Ginny Blackstone receives thirteen envelopes in the mail from her Aunt Peg, who died of brain cancer while travelling across Europe. The instructions in the envelopes are simple, leading Ginny on the same route her aunt travelled on. As Ginny follows her aunt’s directions, she wonders why she was sent to Europe in the first place, and what the last envelope will contain.

It was upsetting to see the book end so quickly, but I enjoyed the experience. Throughout her travels, Ginny meets so many kind and strange people that you already know she’ll never see again after the trip. Some of the envelopes make her do odd or unusual things, all while making you question the purpose of the trip.

I do have one small complaint about this book, though. I saw one review on GoodReads that criticized Maureen Johnson for not developing the character of Ginny more. The review said something along the lines of “Even at the end of the book, I still knew nothing about her.” And it’s true, kind of. The only things I can say to describe her is that she’s tall, according to another character named Keith, and shy, judging by her reluctance to ask a boy out or sing karaoke. That’s all. So, yes, I believe Maureen Johnson really needs to work on character development.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say. I really, really hope this review actually publishes, unlike the last two I tried to publish that completely disappeared. If anything does happen to this review, please comment or email me to let me know.

-J

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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin – Bonus Playlist

(I included a bonus playlist with my review for Saving June; if you enjoy this one, you should definitely check out that one as well. It’s mostly the same type of music, but that one has a lot more classic rock songs. Also, if you’d like the full list, contact me and I’ll send you them.)

-J

J’s Top Ten Songs from Memoirs

1. “Learning To Fly” by Pink Floyd
2. “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
3. “I Will” by The Beatles
4. “Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
5. “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve
6. “Baba O’Riley” by The Who
7. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
8. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” by Arcade Fire
9. “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional
10. “1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins

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Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson

Accidents of Nature

“Here, people understand.”
-Jean

(WordPress wouldn’t work for me again last night, so the review’s a day late. Sorry!)

This is the first book I’ve read (or even heard of) with physical disabilities as the main topic. Lots of books have a disabled character, but it’s different when each of the characters has something that makes them different. The book is narrated by Jean, a soon-to-be senior with cerebral palsy, and the story of her attendance at Camp Courage, a ten-day activity program for people with disabilities.

I don’t know how to describe this book other than okay. There’s really no plot, and not much to look forward to. Everything related to the writing is great, especially Sara and her genius-talk, but the concept could use some work.

There’s not a whole lot else to say, so I’ll just leave it at that. Sorry for such a short review, but I’ll have another (hopefully longer) review for you within the next two days.

-J

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Saving June by Hannah Harrington (with bonus music)

Saving June

“He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you.”
-Jake Tolan

I absolutely love this book. Saving June is officially tied with a couple of other books regarding my favorites of the ones I got for Christmas. It’s hard for me to write this review without gushing, so please try to ignore it if anything slips out.

Harper’s sister June killed herself a week before her high school graduation. While her family, friends, and everyone around her is recovering, Harper holds it all inside, vowing to be strong and untouchable. But when her recently divorced parents decide to split the ashes, Harper decides to take the ashes and go to the place June had always dreamed of living: California. Along with her best friend, Laney, and a mysterious boy with an unknown connection to June, Harper travels across the country on a great, music-filled adventure and tries to let go of everything that’s been weighing her down.

First thing’s first: I love the huge element of music in this book. The quote I used above was taken out of a conversation about Eric Clapton and how he wrote “Tears in Heaven” after his four-year old son fell out of a window forty-nine stories to his death. Also, the whole book mentions classic rock songs, and even has three playlists in the back with incredible songs. I’d recommend listening to all of them after reading this book, because a great number of them are fantastic. (I’ve linked the first of the playlists at the end of this post, for any of you who are curious.)

Now, to the actual book itself. For this being her first novel, Hannah Harrington’s writing style is amazing. She seems to really understand everything that’s going on, and how each character feels after each event, as if she had experienced all of these situations herself.

I didn’t hate most of the characters like I do in a lot of books, either. Hannah Harrington isn’t one of those authors who makes every character sound the same in terms of dialogue and actions; she even took the time to distinguish the extremely minor characters. And even though this book probably doesn’t sound exciting or adventurous (I didn’t think it would be, at least), it totally is. The main characters end up in so many different places that you can practically feel the memories being made.

Well, I’m done obsessing over this book for now. Below are the links to each of the songs in one of the playlists featured in Saving June. I’ve bolded my favorites, so if you’re only planning on listening to a couple you know which ones. If you like what you hear, be sure to check out the rest of the playlists featured in this book (you can Google them or just contact me and I’ll send them to you). Hope you enjoy the music!

-J

Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum

1. “Start Me Up” – The Rolling Stones
2. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ “ – The Velvet Underground
3. “Nights In White Satin” – The Moody Blues
4. “Stairway To Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
5. “Gloomy Sunday” – Billie Holiday
6. “Where Is My Mind?” – The Pixies
7. “Asking For It” – Hole feat. Kurt Cobain
8. “Boom Swagger Boom” – Murder City Devils
9. “Train In Vain” – The Clash
10. “Under Pressure” – Queen feat. David Bowie
11. “If Six Was Nine” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
12. “American Girl” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
13. “Tangled Up In Blue” – Bob Dylan
14. “Wonderful World” – Sam Cooke
15. “Michaelangelo” – Emmylou Harris
16. “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” – Nancy Sinatra
17. “God” – John Lennon
18. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – Nirvana
19. “The Sounds Of Silence” – Simon & Garfunkel

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Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Hold Still

If you’re a fan of books dealing with recovery from a loved one’s suicide (ex. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, etc.), Hold Still is a great choice. Caitlin lost her best friend Ingrid and has fallen into a deep depression as a result. Everyone is treating her differently, even her photography teacher, and she feels friendless and alone. Soon she discovers Ingrid’s journal under her bed, and what she finds inside will change everything.

Hold Still is both heartbreaking and uplifting, and really shows you what it’s like to lose someone you love. I don’t want to say too much without giving anything away, but this is truly a beautiful and memorable book.

-J

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