Tag Archives: road trip

Crash Into Me by Albert Borris

Crash Into Me

“Self-esteem is overrated. Anyone will think they color great if enough people tell them. Artificial praise. Down inside, compliments like that are hollow… Real self-worth comes from mastery, from getting good at something. It doesn’t matter what. Then you don’t have to worry about empty compliments. You don’t worry about what other people think. You have self-respect.”
-Mr. Clark

Frank, Audrey, Owen, and Jin-Ae are four suicidal teenagers with one common goal: a cross-country road trip to visit celebrity suicide sites ending in Death Valley, California, where they will kill themselves together. They spend the rest of their time completing bucket list items and sharing secrets, knowing that death is final and this is their only chance to finish what they’ve started. But will time during the road trip change their minds before they reach their final destination?

This is and always will be one of my favorite books, for a few reasons. One, the suspense. You just don’t know what will happen at the end. Everything is so completely unpredictable, even when you think you know exactly what’s going on. Two, the awesome subject matter. I’ve always been attracted to books about suicide (I’m not obsessed with death or anything, I promise), and this is a perfect choice for someone like me. Sad? Of course it is. But not as sad as you’d think, and it’s not an all-out tear fest. It’s just like any other book, just with a much darker subject matter.

And finally, number three deserves its own paragraph. This is one of those few books where I like all of the main and supporting characters. Owen, the narrator and main character of the story, is quiet and easily lovable boy you wish you knew in real life. He seems considerably more vulnerable compared to the other characters. Frank, the other male of the group, is mainly described as an awkward-looking “jock” who really likes beer and hates his father. Jin-Ae is the only gay member of the group, and also a cutter with a love for poetry. Audrey, the youngest member of the group, is an extremely outspoken Nirvana fanatic with a buzz cut and a large scar across her forehead. Despite their total oppositeness, together they make one awesome pack.

I’m kind of rambling now, but you get the main idea. As a whole, the book is great, and I believe everyone should take the time to read it at least once in their lifetime. This book is very underrated, so if you do read it or have read it before, please let me know what you think of it. (I haven’t found one person yet who has read it, and everyone I try to convince thinks it looks too depressing.) Have a great night, and happy June! 🙂

-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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Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen

Jerk, California

“Even at six years old I knew I was alone.”
-Sam Carrier/Jack Keegan

First thing’s first: I apologize for taking so long to finish this book; I had a busy weekend and didn’t even get to start it until Monday. I finished the book yesterday, but fell asleep very early without writing the review. Okay, now let’s focus on the book.

Sam Carrier has struggled with Tourette’s Syndrome since he was six. He’s never forgiven his father, who died when he was only two, for passing his Tourette’s onto him, and making his stepfather, Bill, hate him. But soon he meets George, an old friend of his father, and who teaches Sam he’s not who he thought he was. Unsure even of his own name, Sam goes on a road trip to Jerk, California with his crush, Naomi, to figure out anything he can about the life he never knew about.

This would’ve been a great book if Naomi didn’t exist. All I could focus on was how much I hated this girl. Jonathan Friesen makes her seem like the most perfect girl you can think of, but I really can’t imagine someone being that perfect. And that’s just her looks; her personality isn’t worth anything. She treats Sam/Jack like crap, exploits his syndrome, and flirts with him teasingly, knowing that he likes her. Not only that, she’s also a bit of a slut. But I won’t go into detail, since this is a spoiler-free review.

Otherwise, I really liked this book. With the author himself having struggled with Tourette’s throughout his life, the character of Sam/Jack was much more realistic. Also, this book squashed Tourette’s-related stereotypes that even I believed, having never met someone who has this disorder and not knowing much about it.

Sorry again for keeping you waiting, and thanks for reading. I hope the six-day wait didn’t disappoint too much.

-J

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Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Going Bovine

“The dark does not weep for itself because there is no light. Rather, it accepts that it is the dark.”
-Balder

After being diagnosed with mad cow disease with no hope for a cure, loser Cameron Smith becomes everyone’s hero overnight. While staying in the hospital, an angel named Dulcie visits him in the middle of the night and tells Cameron he has to search for the cure in order to find it. He takes with him a Spanish dwarf named Gonzo and they travel across the country, meeting all sorts of unusual people, villians, and Viking gods as they look for not only a cure for disease, but a cure for the end of the world.

This book poses the possibility of so many different things, such as “What would happen if there were nothing but happiness?” and “If you only had one wish to base your life on, what would it be?” It’s definitely the kind of book to make you think right up until the end.

I know you guys probably hate my nerdy comparisons, but I can’t resist this one. This is the only way I can think of to make you understand what reading this book is like. Going Bovine, to me, is a lot like the movie Total Recall (both the Arnold Schwarzenegger one and the Colin Farrell remake)– the best part about it is the fact that throughout the whole thing, you don’t know if most of it was real or not. I’ll provide you with some examples–without spoilers, of course:

In Total Recall, Douglas Quaid uses a sort of memory-implanting device called Rekall to see what his life would be like as a secret agent. Just as it’s about to take effect, the people who have set up the device for him learn that he’s not who he appears to be and try to kill him. The basic plot of the movie revolves around the whole idea of “Is this whole thing really happening, or is it just part of the Rekall?”

In Going Bovine, Cameron is diagnosed with mad cow disease and told the symptoms he will face, incluidng dementia and hallucinations. After a few nights in the hospital, he is visited by a punk-rock angel and told he needs to search for the cure if he wants to find it. Everything he encounters on his crazy adventure could very well be a hallucination from his disease, but who knows?

This book is pretty intense. You have to be open to all possibilities while reading it, or you probably won’t like it at all. I was really skeptical about reading this, but now it’s within my favorites of my new books (and yes, I do say that a lot, but I truly believe this one passes up almost all of the others). It’s definitely an adventure you won’t want to miss out on, and an adventure I’m glad I decided to take.

-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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