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The Week in Books: 2010 Summer Edition Part 1

May 21, 2010

Yes, I’m back to this!  I’ve decided–one of the last days of the week, I’ll try to post everything I’ve been reading.  And since I’m planning on spending the summer being incredibly lazy when I’m not job hunting, I plan on reading A LOT.

Thanks to the magic of Goodreads, I can tell you I read for books this week.  Pffft.  Ah well, it IS almost the end of the term.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but my book club is reading dystopian fiction this month, with an emphasis on the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld.  I’ve read this series before and reviewed it (or at least commented on it) and you can find that here.  This week I reread Pretties, the second book in the series, and I felt like the first half of the book did not capture my attention at all but the second half I blew through.  I’ve read a few reviews on Goodreads of the book in order to come up with some topics for the book club, and the two main issues that people appear to have with the book is that, structurally, it’s the same book as the first and the lack of female friendships.  I didn’t even notice the former, and as for the latter, I think Tally is too fixated on Peris and being the last of her dorm-mates to get the surgery for it to matter.  Tally has that is-it-friendship-or-is-it-more thing going on with Peris, and they’ve been best friends since they were toddlers, so it doesn’t bother me that she doesn’t really reach out to other girls until Shay.  Then, of course, their complicated love/hate relationship ties them together, which is very teen-y and doesn’t surprise me a bit.  I admit I’d like to see a better balance, but I also don’t expect Westerfeld to GET that.

I also re-read Fahrenheit 451, which I hadn’t read since I was in 8th grade.  I truly believe that Bradbury’s metier is the short story, but that doesn’t make this book bad.  It has that weird “old science fiction” feel to it, in that you can always tell because of the women and the men’s relationships to and with them, but unlike most sci-fi authors, Bradbury doesn’t have his hero fall in love with the teenage blonde girl, so he’s still a cut above the rest.  I did NOT remember the ending, like at all.  I think I had it confused in my head with other dystopian works I read around the same time, most likely 1984.  All in all, it was a surprisingly up ending, for a downer, and I can see why schools study it, although I prefer that one creepy story about the automated house after the nuclear war, with the shadows of the bodies, as if they were still in play and leisure…

To take a break from these dystopias, I decided for a little L’Engle.  I’d reread House Like a Lotus for the book club’s Nostalgia Month last month and wanted to finish up with Polly in An Acceptable Time.  However, the two books are startlingly different, so much so that I had a problem reconciling them.  Lotus is about Polly living in the regular world, dealing with regular aspects of growing up, and generally my favorite type of L’Engle book as I get older.  Time is about Polly living in the world of her mother, one with strange things that happen and time- and space-travel.  Zachary, Polly’s suitor as well as Vicky Austin’s old suitor, seems to have no character growth up to this book, and what little he gets is completely not within the realm of understanding.  It’s just too much.  Zachary has always been selfish, but in sort of an understandable way.  He crosses the line here, beyond the level of denial that would be acceptable.  L’Engle wants him to hit rock bottom, I get that, but it just doesn’t seem right.

I remember when this book came out, I said “FINALLY!”  I loathed how Polly’s parents left her in the dark as to the supernatural (ish) events they’d been through when they were even younger than her.  (Actually, reading this book made me sympathize with how angry my fiance was over Buffy not telling her mom she’s the Slayer, although in that case, I feel an argument can be made in like three different ways.)  But now, re-reading this book?  I could’ve lived without it.  And I understand their decision.  If millions of people in the world don’t know what they know…

I am sad that L’Engle didn’t ever write again about Charles Wallace, but I can understand now that that kind of Indigo Child thing just doesn’t lend itself to much.  Like Polly, I’ve had to grow to accept that adults–that is, the authors who were grown-ups when I was just a child–have flaws in their writing.  This does not make this book bad, and it was enjoyable all the way through, but I would suggest that if you haven’t read it, to read it with the Time Quartet and not as a Polly book.

Finally, I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  OMG, I haven’t enjoyed a new book this much since…February or March.  This book is AMAZING.  It’s Battle Royale minus the gore plus the moody genius of like a Blood & Chocolate-type book without the supernatural or the writing flaws.  (Blood & Chocolate wasn’t perfect.  But it was DAMN good.)  Katniss lives in a post-apocalyptic American-ish society where, in order to punish a rebellion from over half a century ago, the government takes two teens from every district and pits them together in a fight to the death.  There’s so much going on here–the Roman feel of the Capitol, the despair of Appalachia, the feeling out of friendship vs. romance that the main character has to go through with her suitors.  (Yes, I know, no YA book can exist now without two suitors, but it’s either famine or feast when you’re a teen, I think, so I don’t care.)   I am SO PSYCHED to read the next book, but I hate the idea of waiting for the third.

So that was my week.  It was pretty light in terms of numbers, but that will pick up after school ends.

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