The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Maureen Johnson is an author I’d enjoyed in the past, but kind of forgot I liked. I saw The Name of the Star mentioned on another book blog some time ago and purchased it on my Kindle. I started it when I found in need of some distraction during my lunch break.

Johnson has a very engaging style that is every bit in evidence here. I really enjoyed the character of Rory… From her first chapter, I loved her stories about her eccentric family in the south. She was overall a great lead.

The storyline was intriguing and great… Someone is repeating the Jack the Ripper murders. I loved the mix of history in this YA, set in an old city, at a boarding school (honestly, she had me at boarding school). The time period of the history is also one of my favorites… Victorian.

Supernatural twist: Did not see that coming/ was not prepared for it. But it totally made the book great.

I’m stoked to read the next books in this new series. The Name of the Star was pretty addicting and I’m sure the others in the trilogy will be as well, knowing Johnson’s writing.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Dealing With Tough Subjects

As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic: top ten books dealing with tough subjects. Rather than choose a particular subject, I chose a variety of books about difficult subjects. I don’t read a lot of these types of books so my list is a little short. Generally, I like my books to be more escapist and won’t usually pick something up if it specifically deals with a difficult subject.

1. Cancer

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

2. Homophobia/Bullying

Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne

3. Rape

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

4. Cancer

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

5. School Shootings

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

6. Abuse/Neglect

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

7. Teen Pregnancy

Plainsong by Kent Haruf8. All the issues!The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

I am steadily working my way through the entire canon of John Green and David Levithan. I think I’m somewhere at five each.

This book had a great premise and it didn’t disappoint. For the most part. I really enjoyed this book, but I had the same issue with it that I did with Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. It seems a terrible thing to say there’s not enough anti-homosexuality sentiment in the two books, but there’s not. While I love that these characters get to exist in a world where no one is constantly insulting them and bullying them because of their sexual orientation. It’s not realistic. And as there aren’t a heck of a lot of YA novels about homosexual characters, it’s hard to defend a complete departure from realism. People love to read characters they can relate to. I’m not sure what gay teenager can really relate to Tiny Cooper, except as maybe something to aspire to? I’m not sure.

With that out of the way, I can discuss the things I liked. One of the things that was really great about this novel was that, despite the title, the novel is really about Tiny Cooper. Will Grayson and Will Grayson narrate the whole thing and have their own stories, but only in the intersection of the two characters, do we see the protagonist beyond.

I liked how Will Grayson and other Will Grayson (o.w.g.) ended up being very different, but sort of the same. Will Grayson tries to repress all his feelings about everything and o.w.g. is depressed, so his social life is so non-existent he seems as if he’s repressing everything, too. The interesting thing is that, once o.w.g. meets Tiny Cooper, his life starts to flip around and much faster than one would expect. So suddenly you get this idea of Will Grayson as the more destructive individual, instead of o.w.g.

Another nice touch in the novel is that o.w.g.’s sections are written either in AIMspeak or the lingo of the internet. So, run-on sentences, no capitals, little punctuation, certainly no quotes. This helps to make the contrast of the latter part of the novel that much more apparent.

John Green is so great at writing these absolutely insane, larger-than-life characters. Tiny Cooper is such a character. Like Augustus, Alaska, and Margo, Tiny Cooper is one of those characters you wish were real so you could be their best friend. Seriously, these characters are fantastic.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a solid offering from two of YA contemporary fiction’s best authors. Also, the version I took the image of, includes a commentary from the two in the back, which is just fabulous and so worth reading.

Matched

Matched by Allie Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I finally got around to reading this book.

Why the hell did I wait so long?!

This was on my spring break TBR list.

It’s now October.

*sigh*

Anyway.

Matched was fantastic. It’s been awhile since I’ve been so taken with a YA book. Some people hate that the Hunger Games have made dystopia novels an “in” thing. But I love it. I love dystopias. I’m glad there are now so many for me to read. I remember when all I really had was 1984 and Brave New World. Somehow, I’ve still never gotten around to reading Utopia by Thomas More. But now, I have so many books to read!

Condie’s novel is the true successor to 1984 and Brave New World. This is a straight dystopia, born of a society that dictates every instance of its citizens lives. As in Orwell’s novel, the trappings of culture (art, music, poetry) are virtually outlawed, except for One Hundred of each that were selected to be saved. In an effort to promote equality, the citizens routinely find that the rules shift and new things become outlawed. The heroine, Cassia, seems to find these things arbitrary. In the least spoiler detail, the Society one day decides to cut down all the Cottonwood trees.

One theme of the novel that comes up in different ways, explicitly and not so explicitly is this: “You don’t mess with other people’s lives”. Which is exactly what the Society does. To everyone, but especially to Ky and Cassia. This theme, while very evident in this society, is as pertinent in their world as in ours. People aren’t just things for you to play with. You can’t just mess with their lives because you feel like it.

Matched is the first in a series. While I’m interested in seeing where it goes, I hope that Condie remains true to an idea that really shaped Matched for me. That the love between people can be strong enough to bring down a society. Or at least, I think that’s where she’s going. I loved that the relationship between Ky and Cassia, while a small thing in the grand scheme of their world, is everything. This isn’t Katniss, the leader of a rebellion. These are just two kid who were never supposed to fall in love.

It’s beautiful.

Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Love is never easy. Especially if you’re Paul. He’s a sophomore at a high school like no other– and these are his friends:

Infinite Darlene, the homecoming queen and star quarterback

Joni, Paul’s best friend who may not be his best friend anymore

Tony, his other best friend, who can’t leave the house unless his parents think he’s going on a date…with a girl

Kyle, the ex-boyfriend who won’t go away

Rip, the school bookie, who sets the odds….

And Noah, The Boy. The one who changes everything.

I’ve been wanting to read another Levithan book since I read The Lover’s Dictionary. While I was at the library, I grabbed this and another Levithan book on the shelf. I was also hoping to read a book about the experience of gay teens and young adults. I haven’t read one since Absolute Brightness (which I need to re-read, so I can properly review it, but I remember it being exquisite!) by James Lecesne.

I’ll admit, I almost gave up on this book because it was so far outside of what I was expecting. It’s not really a spoiler since it says it right on the back of the book (which I didn’t carefully read), but Paul’s world is not really like our world. His school is populated by openly gay, lesbian, and bi characters. There are even characters who cross-dress. And nobody makes fun of them. There is none of the homophobia one would expect in a novel about teens outside the status quo.

If you think about it, it’s kind of sad that that was the reason I almost gave up. Because it was too idealized. Because it looked too much like how the world should be.

In the novel, the only characters who display any sort of homophobia, are Tony’s super-religious parents. I could dissect that as well, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, Boy Meets Boy isn’t your average book.

Once I got past the initial shock of Paul’s world, I was hooked by Levithan’s unique story-telling voice. Like his compatriot, John Green, Levithan knows how to create vivid characters. And to make first love appear every bit as poignant as we remember it to be.

As The Lover’s Dictionary was written for adults, this novel lacks a lot of that particular brand of charm. But where Levithan waxes poetic, one could easily decry it as melodramatic. Or, you could roll with it. As I did. And it’s beautiful.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that, contrary to this utopia-land Levithan drops us in, not everything turns up rainbows. Not everyone is happy or satisfied at the end. Not every relationship is repaired. Which makes this novel all the more delightful. The collision of idealism with realism.

Have any of you read it? What did you think? I was surprised I liked it as much as I did—I could easily have seen myself swinging the other way.

Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge— he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues— and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

This is only my second John Green novel. I read The Fault in Our Stars a couple months ago. After greatly enjoying it, I was more than ready to take on a second Green novel.

This one did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the relationship between Q and Margo. I understood Q, because I was a little bit of a Q in high school. Margo Roth Spiegelman is a great character: she’s adventurous and crazy. She’s even inspired me to have my own Margo-esque adventure. By the time you read this, it will be done and I will hopefully have not been arrested, fined, or otherwise penalized. 🙂

Most of all, I was again blown away by the sheer genius that is John Green. It would be a major spoiler if I told you exactly what a Paper Town is (of course, you could Google it). But it’s so perfectly obscure and clever and interesting that I am astounded. John Green is the perfect example of what writers try and cultivate: observant sponges. In the two novels I’ve read, both feature things that are so obscure they are only happened upon by chance. But of course, literally anything and everything can serve as inspiration. Keep your eyes open to the world around you. Anything can stumble in, if you provide the path.

The ending took me a bit by surprise. I didn’t really see it coming, but in retrospect, if Green had done anything else I would have been disappointed. It’s kind of hard to review this novel since so much of it would be spoilers. But suffice it to say, I loved it. Go read it. Just do it.