Sunday, June 29, 2008

Holes - Louis Sachar

another one to add to the list of books it took me way too long to get around to reading. "holes" was awarded the prestigious newbery medal in 1999. it's remained consistently popular over the years and my library definitely ensures we maintain a circulating copy. so, with the knowledge of the aforementioned list in my mind, i decided that i want to make a concerted effort this summer to spend some time catching up on blockbuster junior and young adult titles that i never read at the height of their popularity. "the golden compass" is another one of these. "eragon" was another one. i tried to get through it back in april, but i have to admit (and this will probably set me up for attack by legions of rabid paolini fans) i just didn't dig it. probably has something to do with the fact that although i do enjoy fantasy, i don't tend to like dragons. go figure. much more into elves and vampires. but oh well, it takes all kinds.

back to "holes". what a great book! i can't believe i put off reading it for so long. it definitely deserved the recognition it got. "holes", in case you are slow getting around to it also, is the story of stanley yelnats, who is wrongfully convicted and sentenced to a juvenile facility for stealing a pair of running shoes. the juvenile facility possesses the seemingly facetious name, "camp greenlake", is located in a barren texan desert. the kids serving time there are expected to dig a five foot square hole every day in the blistering texas heat. i'm pretty sure this cruel and unusual form of punishment would be considered illegal, but for the sake of the book i am willing to let that slide. suspension of disbelief if you will. "holes" is about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of injustice, but is told with sachar's dry dark humour (which i've just made sound inaccessible, but really it isn't). i can absolutely see why nearly a decade later "holes" continues to maintain the interest of young readers.

Submarine - Joe Dunthorne

is it possible for a coming of age epistolary set in britain to not put the reader in mind of a certain adrian mole, aged 13 3/4? something tells me it isn't. young mole has so permeated most people's consciousness that even the authors of such books do not attempt to mask the fact that their work will be compared to townsend's and have a (not unfunny) tendency to make comparisons themselves within the text. this is of course the case with joe dunthorne's "submarine".

oliver tate, "submarine's" main character and narrator parallel's the eponymous mole in various ways. however, despite this, oliver is a unique character unto himself. i can't help but like him, even though i think him a bit of a freak. oliver seems to be absorbed in a world all his own. it's a world peppered with obscure vocabulary, daytime tv self help talk shows, sexual awakening, imperfect parents, and several slightly bizarre instances of stalkerish behaviour. i think i would have like to have been oliver's friend in high school despite his somewhat serious case of social awkwardness. it seems that his self-directed melodramas never fail to keep his life interesting. i recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed adrian mole. but remember, this is a bit more of a modern take on the teenaged experience and as such is prone to be somewhat more honest and graphic.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Last Exit to Normal - Michael Harmon

i really liked this book. i liked it so much that when i got home from work the other night i pretty much just sat on the couch and rad until it was done. "the last exit to normal" is a coming of age story told from the pov of 17 year old ben campbell. ben's life has been rather difficult the past few years due to the fact that his dad came out and his mother left. since then ben has had to accept the fact of his father's homosexuality and come to grips with his mother's abandonment. mostly, he has chosen to do neither of these things and has let his anger lead him on a downward spiral of drugs and skateboarding. at 17 ben suddenly decides that enough is enough and that he's ready to clean up his act and make peace with his dad. this seems to be a rather mature decision for a 17 year old to make, but what the hey, i'll let it go. unfortunately, ben seems unable to keep out of trouble for very long and he is soon involved in a car chase with the police that culminates with him driving into a house. understandably his dad is unimpressed and he decides to uproot ben and move to rough butte montana, ben's momdad's (the name ben uses for his dad's partner) hometown.

ben's move to rough butte sees ben having to come to terms with many of his prejudices. as a city boy he views the inhabitants of rough butte as hicks and rednecks. ben's skate punk style is severely out of place among the more conservative population in his new town. in terms of his dad's sexual orientation, ben assumes that everyone in rough butte will be homophobic and that things for him as well as his father will be rough. this provides an opportunity for ben's own homosexual prejudices to show themselves. and finally, there is the boy next door who ben believes is being abused by his father, but he is told time and time again to let it slide because people in rough butte have their own ways. i could take tonnes of time and space here and go on about deeper meanings to all of this stuff. however, i will instead suggest that you read this book and make up your own mind.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Maid Machinegun - Aaliyah

ooookay. i did know that this novel was set in a maid cafe in tokyo's akihabara district (apparently the place to be if you happen to be any kind of otaku living in japan). so, it's a bit of a weird concept to begin with, but considering how hot japanese culture (manga/anime culture specifically) is right now, i thought, 'what the heck, could be fun". to be honest it wasn't quite as fun as i thought it would be. the narrator is a 15 year old girl named aaliyah who is passionate about dedicating herself to doing the best she can working as a maid. her dream is to see her cafe one day become very successful. she seems to have no life outside of the cafe, and doesn't appear to attend school or have a family or any friends aside from the people in the cafe. the word "maid" is used almost to excess in order to convey her obsessiveness. and then, right at the end, we get a rather bizarre twist. now all that said, it's pretty good for explaining various details about manga culture that some people aren't familiar with and introducing the world of japanese manga fandom and cosplay. but i'm just not too sure about it, am i?