Words Like Silver

one girl's passion for books

Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Hey y’all!

It’s Grace here to do Waiting on Wednesday. Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine where bloggers and readers showcase upcoming books that they’re looking forward to reading! I’ve just recently decided to partake in it (partly due to the girls over at Lit Up Review, where I also blog) and I’ve discovered so many reads that I’m putting on my to-read list. Without further ado, here’s this week’s pick!

trial by fire Novel: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini | Goodreads
Release Date: 
September 2, 2014
 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan)

 Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted…which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily’s life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem – one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily’s identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn’t understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

My Waiting on Wednesday pick is for Trial by Fire by the lovely Josephine Angelini. While I still haven’t had the chance to finish her first series, I adored Starcrossed and the gorgeous mythology inside of it. Hearing that author cover the Salem witches? Sounds amazing! I think Angelini’s graceful writing will do it perfect justice.

I’m sick all the time (I actually have bronchitis right now) and so I can definitely identify with Lily missing out on a lot because of her allergies. A relatable main character plus an enticing paranormal element means that I think I’ll love this one.

I just read Conversion by Katherine Howe (review to come soon!) and that made me really want to read The Crucible, which put me in a witches mood. I love paranormal and I’m looking forward to a bit of a revival! It’s a trilogy and it has a fresh spin.

I can’t wait for this one!

What books are y’all looking forward to?

The Issues Behind Book Hype

SHOP(Check out the new graphic! Originally posted on Lit Up Review. And shoutout to Tripp Holland)

This post is brought to you by Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. No, before you Grisha-loving, Darkling-frenzied fans descend, I love the book. I really do. I had the chance to read Shadow and Bone as an advanced reader copy a few months before release. I fell in love with the fantasy aspect and the writing; I thought it was an all-around solid start to a series. You can actually read my review here actually.

But then the book came out and that’s the only book I heard about for a few months. If you follow Lauren DeStefano on Twitter, you know that she is head over heels in love with the series.

Honestly? I don’t get it.

I don’t understand why it’s so larger-than-life. I was the same way with quite a few other books, in fact.

I had this issue with The Fault in Our Stars (which I reviewed here) too. Not so much with the actual book because I loved it, but with recommending it to other readers. Quite a few people were repelled by John Green’s novels because of the rabid fan obsession. The frenzy elevates them to an almost divine status, which ends up disappointing readers.

Reviews and ratings are swollen — many end up finishing it and disliking it because they don’t have the blissful ignorance that allows them to objectively enjoy it. With words like “phenomenal” and “mindblowing”, with legions of fans lined up around the block to read it, the average reader has the predicament of already knowing that so many people love it.

With so many exclamations and proclamations of its brilliance, they don’t have the luxury of being able to decide for themselves when the public already has. Some boycott books on bestseller lists; others live for them to tell them what to read, drawing from the same pool of material as everyone else.

It’s why I often dread books being turned into movies. I love the fact that readers are drawn to adapted books. I love that people get to experience Green’s Hazel and Augustus, Dashner’s maze, Forman’s gorgeous family dynamic.

The side effect of this is that it overhypes all those books. It makes it difficult for one to objectively read something and form their own opinions.

Things like that make me think.

Do we ever go into a book objectively? Whether it’s from the cover or the blurb or the buzz, we always come in with some pre-destined opinion about it.

It’s why being a publicist is important. Recently, I’ve been weighing the merits of editorial vs. publicity within publishing houses as related to what I’d like to work in, and I’ve been leaning heavily towards publicity and marketing. So it’s led me to think about the market itself a lot, the intricacies of media and hype as we process the books that come out.

Being a publicist means that you have the chance to create a book’s mood, its perception before people actually see it. You’re crafting the image of a book and the idea of the book, while editorial deals with the book itself.

I’ll be honest, sometimes I go back to books I read previously and find myself claiming that I enjoyed it more than I actually did when the frenzy escalates. Not consciously, but I find myself excusing previous flaws and issues with the narrative because so many other people have.

It’s why it can be tricky to be a reviewer sometimes. Are we agreeing with a positive view of a book because we agree or because it was the most-requested book on NetGalley for the month? Sometimes the allure of a buzzed-about book can overshadow the words of it.

Unfortunately, J.K. Rowling experienced it when she came out with The Casual Vacancy. The Harry Potter series is one of the actual foundations of children’s literature and is absolutely timeless. But how do you follow that up? What do you do once you reach your peak?

Keep going. Rowling wrote another book. I didn’t finish it because it wasn’t my thing, but I appreciated the amount of planning and the subtle notes that she wove through it. I felt awful for her though because she got crushing reviews and horrible interviews afterwards.

Obviously, The Casual Vacancy couldn’t live up to Harry Potter and it was unfortunate that people felt the need to compare the two. They weren’t even the same genre. I loved J.K. Rowling for even braving the market afterwards and continuing to write what she wanted to, rather than what the public necessarily wanted to read.

She continued doing that when she wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling a while later under a pseudonym. When the book originally released, it got glowing reviews from a small amount of readers. The writing was praised but it didn’t sell the booming numbers of copies that books with her name did, until she announced her pseudonym. It was her little experiment, to see whether she was actually any good or whether the Harry Potter series was a one-hit wonder of her career. For the record, it was a success. Critics praised the writing and the story, speaking of it as an emerging new voice with promise, proving that Rowling is as awesome as everyone says. (I’m biased.)

Back to Shadow and Bone, I’ve been hearing a lot about it recently because the final book came out and I decided to reread it. I loved it the second time around whole-heartedly but I was really wondering about whether I had different feelings because of the hype. I don’t think my views changed, but it’s interesting to see how my perspective does.

What do y’all think? Do you gravitate towards over-hyped books or prefer the quiet reads that often make an impact? How much emphasis do you put on pre-pub buzz?

The State of Things

Hey y’all!

I’m typing this on the road trip back from Canada. It’s a twenty-five hour drive with two dogs and five people. Usually, I’d pass the time by reading.

Right now, I can’t. At the moment, I’m (mildly) concussed so a lot of text gives me a headache. Up in Canada, my family passes the time by reading, playing cards, and wakeboarding. It’s not official, but after a nasty wipeout, we’re pretty sure I have a concussion so I’m banned from much screen time or reading.

I’m did manage to write about fifteen reviews of books I read before my spectacular clumsiness took me out of commission so y’all will have plenty of company. I’ll try to pop in on Twitter a few times but I also have to attempt to do online Latin without dying, so that’s first priority.

I’ll be blogging live before my blog design goes up, but for now I have some posts to keep you company that were meant to go up while I was in Canada.

(Forgive me if this post made no sense at all.)

Happy reading!


Changes to the Blog

Hey y’all!

I’m writing to you from Canada. In case you haven’t noticed, there hasn’t been any new content on the blog for a few days. Why?

I’m currently in the process of transferring from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. The transition is trickier than I expected, but I’m hoping great things happen because of it! That means that my domain name (www.wordslikesilver.com) is currently switching servers. If you look at the URL above, it probably forwarded you to my temporary domain (www.wordslikesilver.wordpress.com). If you’re looking into self-hosting, I’m with GoDaddy and they’ve been so helpful throughout the entire process, so I highly recommend them!

I haven’t scheduled anything for this week or next, because I had blog posts ready to go but it’ll be pointless until I know when the domain will be set up.

Until then, I’m also on vacation so it’ll be a short week or two long hiatus. I’ll start up again at the beginning of August, and I have plenty of reviews, discussion posts, and fun for y’all. If you’re looking for some good blogs to read in the meantime, check out a few favorites below!

By the time school starts (middle of August for me), I’ll have brand new hosting and a gorgeous blog design courtesy of Squeesome Design Studio. I’m head-over-heels in love with their portfolio and can’t wait to see what they cook up for Words Like Silver.

There are big changes for the blog this summer, and I couldn’t be happier!

My Reading List

The Perpetual Page Turner

Anna Reads

Stacked Books

Vy’s Blog

Lit Up Review

Top Ten Blog Confessions

Hey y’all!

I’m here today to do Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by the lovely ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they choose a different topic and bloggers pick ten reads related to the prompt. This week’s prompt? Top Ten Blog Confessions!

I’m going to have a lot of fun with this one. I’ve been blogging since April 2011 (three years so far), so I’ve built up a pretty solid list. Without further ado, here are some of my reading and blogging confessions!

1. I struggle with reviews.

Last year, I went through a major review slump. This year, it’s better but only because I’ve majorly changed my format and my length. While my reviews used to be 1500+ words, now they’re around 800-1000 words. I take notes while I’m reading certain books if I know I might struggle to articulate my thoughts later. I’m working on it, I swear!

2. I don’t review books I don’t like (although I’m completely honest about every book I review.)

In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t post negative reviews. I post mixed reviews, but I always try to find something positive to say about each book I review. For this reason, there are a few DNF reads and books I didn’t like that never find their way to the blog. I don’t understand the point of going on rants about books that just didn’t suit me; I’m sure somebody else loves them, and there’s no point in making an author or another reader feel bad if I bash them. If I negatively review something, it’ll only be something I can talk about articulately.

3. I don’t blog all the time.

Last week, I posted once because I didn’t have enough time to schedule more than one post while I was in Alabama on a mission trip. This year, I made it one of my blog goals to schedule in advance more often. Thankfully, that’s been going pretty well! I’m currently scheduled review-wise until the end of August, although I still have some other posts to fill in throughout the weeks. Once I have a structure of about three posts per week, I’d love to increase it to five.

4. I get pretty bummed out that I’m not a bigger blogger.

I understand it’s hard to boost my stats when I’m also balancing APs and lacrosse and all that, but I still wish my blog was more of a name. There are so many excellent, excellent bloggers out there and I’d love to still do more and be more. I’d love to go to BEA next year and have people recognize me.

5. I don’t tag or categorize nearly as often as I should.

This year, I had a bit of a revelation that I don’t tag or categorize that much. I’ve been trying, but it’s a bit overwhelming to search through all the posts and do it all now. It’s a work in progress!

6. I rarely ever request ARCs or review copies.

There are so many upcoming releases that I would love to get the chance to review ahead of time. But I never actually request them. Why? I’m never convinced that my blog is perfect, or that any publicist looking at it would approve me. I’ve had luck with the publishing houses that I’ve contacted and some steady mail from them, but I’m always scared to breach a new contact! A lot of my contacts from the past few years have changed houses or professions, which is why I’m having a bit of trouble reconnecting.

7. I reread books even when I have a stack of reviews to write.

I’m a mood reader. I have confessed this before, in a previous post. I love rereading old favorites, even when I know I have to write reviews for the upcoming releases.

8. I’m actually terrified to go to BEA next year (although insanely excited!)

I’m officially BEA 2015 bound! I’m pumped, and saving up for New York City expenses, and could not be happier to be going to such a magnificent conference. I’m scared though. BEA 2012 was amazing, but 2012 was also a spectacular book year. What if I’m not as excited about the books releasing? What if I haven’t reconnected with my other houses by then? What if my blogger friends don’t go and I don’t know anybody? What if I don’t have time to fully plan out my schedule or I miss something or I regret not doing something? AHHH. BEA is so much fun, and also so stressful! Even now, I love planning it. But I have a recurring nightmare in which I go to BEA last minute and have no idea what’s going on.

9. I wish I could vlog!

I have a secret wish to be a video blogger, or BookTuber, in addition to my regular blog. I think videos would add a little extra touch, and also give me some more presence. I don’t particularly have the camera skill or the ability to go five seconds without going “um” on camera. It may be a work-in-progress over the next year if I decide to try it!

1o. I’m really bad at working technology.

As told above, I’m hopeless with a camera. I’m really bad at coding HTML and it took ages for the Lit Up girls to teach me how to format well enough. I think I’ll take AP Computer Science next year which might help a bit with working programs. I’m pretty good at some, but I’d love to be a technological whiz!

Are you a blogger? What are your blogging and reading confessions?






Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Hey y’all!

It’s Grace here to do Waiting on Wednesday. Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine where bloggers and readers showcase upcoming books that they’re looking forward to reading! I’ve just recently decided to partake in it (partly due to the girls over at Lit Up Review, where I also blog) and I’ve discovered so many reads that I’m putting on my to-read list. Without further ado, here’s this week’s pick!

falling into place2 Novel: Falling into Place by Amy Zhang | Goodreads
 Release Date: September 9, 2014
 Publisher: Greenwillow Books

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

At first I heard about this book and was interested, but not overtly so. After hearing that it’s one of Jamie’s (The Perpetual Page Turner) favorite reads of the year, I knew I had to read it! I looked into it a little more, and now I’m obsessed. While I was expecting it to be more like Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan (which I enjoyed – review coming soon!), I’ve heard it’s actually more like If I Stay or This Song Will Save Your Life.

I have a weakness for poignant books. Sometimes, I just need a tearjerker, or one that’s beautiful or sad or lovely in a strange way. I’ve heard it has a mixture of different aspects in each chapter, with snapshots and moments interspersed in a nonlinear fashion. I’m interested to see how Zhang would pull that off and still keep the story clear.

It sounds like one of those books that will softly impact you, the type that is distinctly sad and deals with some issues without being overtly heavy. Those are books that I tend to genuinely love, so I’m looking forward to it. In addition, I love intelligent main characters and coming up with science behind emotions like love or grief. I find it fascinating. The vivid look of it is appealing.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

open road summer Novel: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord | Goodreads
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Walker (Bloomsbury)
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

This addictive summer romp has everything it needs to top off your beach bag: surprisingly fiery romance, a feisty protagonist with plenty of wit, and a heartwarming relationship between two best friends. The fresh insight into the world of a country music superstar only adds to the allure; from meltdowns due to the paparazzi to the electrifying behind-the-scenes structure, it’s a fun read.

I love that Reagan was a full-blooded rebel, backing up that image with court-mandated therapy, questionable taste in boys, and struggles with vices such as smoking and drinking. Her personality- while seen before- was never cliche. I’d never realized before this book how many YA books use the “bad girl” archetype without actually having the action to back it up – we’ve been missing out! She both exemplified the classic archetype while still lending it her signature flair. She made mistakes but aggressively sought to fix them. She had a sharp tongue, a love for high heels, and a fiery temper.

I hadn’t realized how deeply Reagan’s stubborn streak went until some of her wilder antics ensued. Her clever solutions to things- namely arguments that she couldn’t stand to lose- led me to crack up. She was ferocious.

That ferocity made it even sweeter to read about her friendship and family issues. Her chemistry with Dee was nothing short of adorable. They could talk about surface level things and erupt into giggles over old jokes but they were quick to get each other’s backs and bail each other out from hard situations. That was a pretty darn cute friendship to read about especially as the pressures of their situations mounted and they were tested. It was absolutely precious.

However, I would have liked to see a little more of Dee’s personality, to be honest. Her music career largely defined who she was. Reagan claims in the book that Lilah Montgomery, country superstar, and Dee, best friend, were two different personas. Unfortunately, because the book focused on the tour, we didn’t particularly get to meet her or see where the two personalities diverged. She was kind and naïve and broken-hearted and cute, but I would have liked to connect with her more. Dee had her own issues going on throughout the book aside from Reagan’s, and I would have liked to see a little more exploration of those because there were some more potential threads!

Open Road Summer had about the same appraisal of fame that similar books offer: nothing extremely in-depth but still interesting to read because of the change in perspective. I would have liked a few more intimate details, but Lord still did a stellar job with smaller aspects of it, the paparazzi being a prime example.

Most of the publicity areas of the book dealt with the girls’ reactions to paparazzi. I found it interesting because to me, a lot of fame-focused books only focus on paparazzi as it exposes secrets. This related more to the day-to-day hurt that the reporters could cause the tour. Dee was the type of person who stalked her website comments and Googled her name to see what popped up. The effect that it had on Dee as her reputation fluxed between perfect and tarnished was realistic for sure. In addition, some related problems were wrapped up so smoothly. Some of the best scenes involved Dee and Reagan keeping cool under media pressure.

All these details and aspects of the book were lovely but the best part was the romance! The way that it was built was captivating. The bad girl and the lovable guy who’s too good for her. Classic, right? Yet another seen-before combination that Lord rocked.

Matt was a likable guy. He had all the sweet characteristics of the good guy but with a fresh feel that didn’t immediately degrade him to forgettable. Despite the sideways smile, the heartfelt lyrics, the act, he wasn’t obnoxious and he wasn’t a pushover either. He and Reagan worked well together and I couldn’t get enough of their relationship. Adorable, but with enough fire to keep it sizzling. It wasn’t inappropriate or anything but it’s blush-worthy simply because of the heat of their respective personalities.

The ending and the book itself were really predictable but that didn’t take away whatsoever from how much I enjoyed it. A few moments were on the verge of being cliche but Emery Lord pulled back just in time, which makes me even further interested in how she develops as a writer.

A cute debut with fierce characters and a swoon-worthy romance, this may just be the beach read you’ve been looking for.

Recommended for anybody who loves: The Museum of Intangible ThingsSpeechless; The Disenchantments

Calling Tampa Readers

YA Book Club - September-2

Hey y’all!

Today I’m here to talk to y’all about one of my most exciting developments. Recently, I got a call from my adorable local indie, asking if I could come in to talk about something. What about? Starting a young adult book club for teens around the area.

There are plenty of young readers around Tampa – I know, I talk to a lot of them on a daily basis – but so few opportunities to interact with other readers. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a few that I regularly swap books with and I love that – imagine if we could spread that and get a big group together.

On the second Monday of every month, we’ll camp out at Inkwood Books for an hour or two and talk the book of the month. There’ll be food, drinks, discussion, and even a few movie nights for those pesky book-to-movie adaptations. Between themed treats, author Skypes, and plenty of other surprises in store, I hope to see y’all there!

Everybody’s welcome – even if you think you won’t know anybody, it’ll be a fun chance to get to talk books! I’ll be hosting and moderating, with plenty of questions and a summary on the blog for those who missed. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to email or contact me and I’ll be happy to answer.

As of now, the tentative age group’ll be 8th grade and above. Have kids that are interested, but are too young? Don’t worry, Inkwood’s also cooking up a middle grade book club that I’ll hopefully be helping out with as well!

Our Schedule:

AUGUST: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
SEPTEMBER: Every You, Every Me by David Levithan
OCTOBER: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Our first book, The 5th Wave, is a thrilling sci-fi sure to appeal to kids still mourning the gradual descent of the dystopian trend. With strong characters, adrenaline-packed sequences, and plenty of suspense, it’s one that’ll keep you riveted. Despite its length, you won’t be able to put it down!

Hope to see y’all there!

The Beginning of Everything by Robin Schneider

beginning of everything Novel: The Beginning of Everything by Robin Schneider | Goodreads
 Release Date: August 27, 2013
 Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
 Format: Hardcover
 Source: Borrowed

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

This is quite a story. With vivid writing, clever characters, and a spirited plot, it’s a surprisingly tender coming-of-age with a resonance beyond the last page. Despite its laid back feel, it has a power beyond the puns and the tears and the humor. I loved it, whole-heartedly loved it.

First off, Ezra was the quintessential heartthrob. He had an intellectual demeanor, was social but not overtly so, and his Golden Boy perspective was delivered in a way that was appealing. In addition to his effortless charm, it was thoughtful and immediately propelled him to the ranks of narrators such as Miles from Looking for Alaska. It was almost conversational, but encompassed both poignant and dorky parts of the narrative with a refreshing grace.

I have a severe weakness for intelligence– if I can have an intelligent conversation with you, I’m yours. So reading a voice like that was surprisingly endearing, ensuring that I will definitely be ranking Ezra Faulkner among my favorite protagonists for years.

Cassidy herself was a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl- screwed up and colorful, exciting and mysterious- but not to the point where it was obnoxious. In fact, her pretentiousness got on my nerves at some points but her character was still charming. She was confusing and bright and also complex enough to make me feel sorry for her major struggles.

Major respect goes out to Schneider for not having the romance be the driving force behind character development. Cassidy definitely contributed but they fought and they had their ups and downs, and Ezra’s change throughout the book was not entirely dependent on Cassidy.

Toby was a riot. All the supporting characters were, but him especially. His friendship with Ezra was fluid and funny. It had its ups and downs with grooves and intricacies of a real, years-old friendship. Even with the consideration that they were reconnecting as friends, it was well done.

Their friendship reminded me a lot of my brother’s group of friends. I’ve always envied their collective foundation of pop culture references intermixed with a constant hilarious banter. That same banter was what made Toby and Ezra’s friendship so ENTERTAINING to read. While still cinematic, laugh-out-loud witty, and thoughtful, the characters still felt like people I could run into on the street. His friend group had a nice diversity- not of ethnicities but of personalities- but not one character felt forced or out-of-place with them.

Despite how easy it was to slip in with the characters, it was never boring. They did wild things but it was never beyond possibility or something that made me roll my eyes.

So many parts and details that I just straight up appreciated: the dorky puns, the relationship with his parents, his dad’s phone, Cassidy’s decisions when it came to hooking up, author’s choice of the tennis team – rarely focused on as a sport as well as the debate team. I’d never really thought about debate or tennis, and they were so put-together. And Ezra with his dog! I loved that relationship.

Eastwood as a setting and a culture reminded me of where I’ve grown up. The community, the sense of being well-off but not being ostentatious or glitzy, in a way that was simply inexplicably part of their culture. The standards of education and the schools were excellent (which pleased me). They were members of country clubs, expected to be involved for college, grow up to be executives and lawyers and doctors. All that Ezra grew up with was simply a part of his life and not exaggerated to the point of annoyance that so many other books do nowadays.

One complaint: cliche popular group.

Despite that, Robyn Schneider’s depiction of teendom was pulled directly from reality. Wow. I found it difficult to believe that she’s not a teenager herself. Homecoming, phone usage, parties, and lunch table dynamics and all of that. Highest possible compliment I can give. It was also really refreshing to read about all the ambitions that the kids have. In my area, maybe one out of every four conversations is about college or extracurriculars to get into college. It seems a little ridiculous but it’s true. Ezra and the lot were just so relatable and I want to be friends with them now.

Respect to Robyn also goes for keeping the accident scene absent of melodrama. The resulting trauma and after effects were felt, but with mixed emotions and a subtlety that made it much more powerful. It felt honest. Ezra’s injuries became an immense part of his personality and his character through all the struggles he faced on a day-to-day basis, all the stares he got from his classmates.

The Gatsby references were excellent! Reinforcing the intelligent natures of the characters were these incredible conversations about philosophy and science and ideas. When those were put into place, they didn’t feel obvious or pretentious. It was interesting and connected well, serving the profound nature of the book in a way that was larger than life. Between Cooper and the lights and the overall story, it worked really well.

I can’t decide whether I liked the ending but I didn’t dislike it. It wrapped up some things up cleanly and others were more ambiguous- that felt real.

The Beginning of Everything captured the exhilaration, the strangeness, that head-over-heels love that excuses any flaws. It was an emotional roller coaster to read but still always enjoyable. It’s bewildering and smart and thrilling beyond everything else and made me laugh about every other page. Realistic but also undeniably cinematic, ensuring that this is one I’m definitely going to remember.

Recommended for anybody who loved: Paper Towns; When You Were Here; This Song Will Save Your Life

Complex Characters

Silver Linings

A recent thought of mine in relation to young adult books is characterization. Especially because I’ve been getting back into writing, I’ve been thinking a lot about characters and what makes a character complex vs. simple. I’ve looked at a lot of character worksheets and templates, listing things like texture of hands and scent and reaction to fear. But that led me to think about the widening gap we seem to have, between what passes for normal with a character and what passes for normal in a person.

  • Is character development spurred by a romantic relationship immediately passé?
  • Is a character who lets her boyfriend order dinner for her at a restaurant anti-feminist or simply shy?
  • Is a character with predictable actions automatically boring or simply realistic?

A lot of reviews condemn characters as boring and predictable, including my own. I’ve stereotyped a character on more than one occasion and called what they’d do next. But to be honest, I think we hold characters in fiction to a lot higher standards than anybody else.

People can be a lot simpler than we give them credit for. Taking my own personality into hand, I think it’d be pretty easy for somebody to write me off as predictable.

There’s a lot of emphasis on contradiction, on having a character go back and forth between decisions to show their “realistic” flux as a teenager. Granted, I think that’s important because we have a lot of that too. In addition, this is a vastly different topic than diversity in YA. But wouldn’t it be nice to simply read a book with a character who might be struggling with exactly the same things we are, without the unrealistic gestures or skills or languages that they learned because they just happened to be a mixture of many different things?

In retaliating against popular tropes as seen in fiction, so many people condemn the usage of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl character. I agree with it to a certain extent; we can’t always have the protagonist’s character development spurred by some quirky girl who quotes Vonnegut and tap dances in her spare time.

But take Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars. The cigarette metaphor, the formal syntax, the over-the-top gestures of affection balanced with the calculated bewilderment. Part of me wants to roll my eyes and part of me wants to argue that John Green was making a statement about the ridiculous characterization of love interests in YA. I have so many different varying thoughts on the subject, but the main purpose of Augustus as a character was achieved: he’s memorable. Despite not being realistic, we view him as complex because of the varying personalities he displays throughout the book. The gas station scene where he wants to buy cigarettes? Vastly different from the Augustus who takes Hazel on a picnic earlier in the book.

A lot of nice characters that I read about – whom I most identify myself with – simply aren’t memorable. The emphasis on distinct narrators and explosive love interests is cinematic for certain but I can’t imagine stumbling upon a person like that in real life. The meaning of relatable seems to be lost within the spectrum of young adult – in getting characters that will pop when the book’s on the market.

But it never ceases to make me wonder when I read about a character so similar to myself and read a review that bemoans their simplicity or predictability. Some people act exactly the same throughout the time that you know them, but does that make them weak as a character? Or too simple?

What do y’all think makes a character complex?