Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Beginning of Everything… (does not necessarily happen at the beginning)

oscar wilde

“Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them, […] That everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary — a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen.”

Thus begins, Ezra’s tale about the tragedies in everyone’s life, and how that can really throw your previously predictable life for a curve. His best friend’s (Toby’s) tragedy was catching a severed head on a Disneyland ride at the tender age of 12 — he was forevermore an outcast. Ezra’s tragedy was catching his girlfriend in a compromising position with another guy, which sent him rushing to his car, and soon after a horrible car accident. Before the accident, Ezra was the most popular guy at his school, played tennis, and pretty much had everything handed to him on a silver platter. But after the accident, his fake friends continue to be self-absorbed, he no longer saw himself as the cool tennis-player (is there such a thing, anyway?!), and joined the nerdy table with Toby. This is a lot to take on during one’s senior year of High School.

However, the silver lining (at least until the “tragic” part) is that Ezra meets this new girl who transfers to school — a pretty little red-head who is completely different than anyone he’s ever met. Suddenly he’s okay with being distanced from his former life… because his new life with real friends, and the debate team, and being able to use big words and speak his mind, is so much better than the superficial world he used to live in.

Still, I had issues with this new girl, Cassidy, all along — sure, she was smart, and sassy, and fun, and unpredictable. “As always, she left me wanting more, and dreaming of what it would be like if I ever got it.” … but it was also pretty obvious she had issues and that things were not going to end well for Ezra and her! She was full of half-truths or simply didn’t want to say anything about herself — I didn’t feel that made her mysterious, it made her kind of irritating! But Ezra clings to her and her tragedy for dear life — he not only wants to make amends, he wants to fix her… and he can’t… and for a long while, this troubles him greatly.

“It was as thought I’d gone off on epic adventures, chased down fireworks and buried treasure, dance to music that only I could hear, and had returned to find that nothing had changed except for me.” He seems sad about this revelation… but it seems to me to be a good thing at this point in his life. He’s simply growing up — unfortunately, no one else is. And even though he seemed to think Cassidy was the reason for his sudden maturity and self-realization, she was’t. “She lent a spark, perhaps, or tendered the flame, but the arson was mine. Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spent a long time existing, and now, I intend to live.”

In the end, this is not your typical YA love story… it’s not even a tragic love story, as we might first assume from Ezra’s introduction. It’s really about how his life took a turn, and so he changed. It might have been painful, it might have been difficult, and at certain points, it might even have been heartbreaking… but it simply allowed him to grow up and start to live.

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Filed under Book Review, Young Adult

Middle Grade Summer Reads

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Two more wonderful books to add the this summer’s read:

Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan by Sheila Agnew:

Evie Brooks has just lost her mom. With no father to account for, she must choose between living with her uncle Scott, in New York, or staying with her godmother Janet, in Dublin. “That’s kind of the whole point of having a godparent; that’s the person who brings you up, you know, if something happens and your parents are not on the scene.” As much as Evie would prefer to have things not change, her mother’s dying wish was for Scott to become Evie’s guardian, and “a guardian is basically the chief godparent,” – so she must at least give that a try.

Thus, Evie’s journey half way around the world begins. She has a lot to learn when she gets to New York—like how to help Scott in his veterinary office and how to tell the difference between heading Uptown or Downtown. She also learns that she’s not too smooth when talking to older boys, and that Scott’s girlfriend, Leela, is pure unadulterated evil.

Sheila Agnew’s Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan provides a humorous outsider’s perspective about life in New York, filled with touching moments about loss, family, and true friendship; but not without adventure and mischief in the Big Apple.

A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder:

Luna and Willow are sisters who live in a small village by a toxic swamp, which once used to be a beautiful, life-giving, free-flowing, river. Because of the dangers of the swamp, the wicked creature that lives deep within it, and the incurable wasting illness that succumbs to those who drink from the water, Mama has three never-to-be-broken rules:

“Don’t go past the bend in the river.

Don’t go below the dam.

Steer away from the slick.”

Luna’s rational nature and thirst for adventure prevent her from believing too deeply in these silly tales about such nonsense as “sprite magic.” But when Willow accidentally drinks from the black swamp water, Luna must break every single one of Mama’s rules to save her baby sister… or to at least be able to say, “I did everything I could.”

Through alternating perspectives between Luna and the water sprite, Perdita, Melanie Crowder weaves a magical story about sisterly love and devotion. A Nearer Moon is a mesmerizing fairytale told in poetic prose and rhythmic descriptions that transport the reader to a magical place with playful sprites, supernatural powers, and evil curses. It is a captivating tale of self-sacrifice, perseverance, and the true meaning of love.

Both reviews will be on the San Francisco Book Review… so much to read, so little time!

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Filed under Book Review, fantasy, Middle Grade Fiction, San Francisco Book Review, Summer Reads