meg says read this, Read This

Read This: The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas’s debut novel The Hate U Give has spent  about 24 weeks on the NYT Bestsellers list. That’s not a coincidence. If you haven’t ready this story yet, you’re missing out. I suggest you settle in for the roller coaster of emotions you’re about to experience when you finally dive into this heart wrenching, powerful, giant chunk of truth you’re about to devour.

I honestly believe this is one of those books that everyone should read, a book for all ages. Don’t let the category of “young adult fiction” turn you off (though, let me just say if it does? Get over it!) It’s a punch in the gut and a squeeze in the heart, but Thomas doesn’t shy away from anything. I wholeheartedly agree with John Green’s “stunning.” Seriously. (It’s heavy for a beach read, but anything is a beach read if you bring it with you right? I was just glad to have my sunglasses to shield my ugly cry.)

Starr Carter is just a teenager hanging out at a party, catching up with old friends, when a fight breaks out and everyone scatters. She catches a ride with a childhood buddy, and next thing you know – they’re getting pulled over by a cop. There’s so much aggression and tension in the situation even though neither of the teens were doing anything wrong. The situation escalates, and next thing you know Starr is holding the lifeless body of her friend as he dies in her arms at the hands of a cop.

Thomas explores such a tumultuous terrain in the story. Starr at first doesn’t want people to know she was involved. She doesn’t want the media attention. She doesn’t want her friends at school who don’t really know the reality of her life, to judge her. She starts to question everything around her. Whether her friends actually see her for who she really is? When I say Thomas explores a variety of terrain I mean – she goes down paths that lead to questions about applying stereotypes, preassigned notions to people or their actions. Do you think about what might lead a kid to sell drugs? One who doesn’t even do drugs himself? The options people have based on their living situations, but the desire to turn their lives around. Think about the undeniable link of family and the lengths that people will go to to help each other survive, at all costs. There are a lot of things to consider here, things to think about without making snap judgements and I think Thomas leads the reader through these – gently, but with the rush of reality. The wave of emotions – fear, hope, uncertainty – you pull for these characters, you see how they get backed into corners at time and feel stuck. You understand the decisions. Then there’s also the media portrayal, odd details that are emphasized even if there’s nothing to back them up – and then all of the pertinent information that’s excluded.

We live in wild times. Countless people have lost their lives for absolutely no reason. Maybe you have your own thoughts about this before hand. I think that by allowing you to get to know characters, their backstories, their families, their aspirations, their struggles – Thomas adds a layer of compassion that hopefully opens readers’ eyes to multiple sides of a story. Hopefully it makes them consider angles they haven’t before.

The Hate U Give made me cry, but it’s probably not for all of the reasons you might think. I cried because here was the story of a girl who had lost so much, got caught in the middle of an awful situation, wanted justice for her friend, wanted those she loved to be remembered for the amazing people they were. I cried because Starr finds her voice, and Thomas makes you feel like you’re standing next to her in the street as chaos rises all around them. I cried because maybe the Carters are a fictional family, but this story is real and it’s happening around us right now. I cried because it sucks that anyone has to experience this. I cried because it’s a shame that we’re having to fight to remind people the importance of human lives. That we’re all equal. I cried because it’s 2017 and why are we still here? But we are. And it’s important not to pretend that we’re not. It’s important to understand where people who are different than you are coming from. It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, despite differences in circumstance, socioeconomic status, etc. – we all have feelings, we all have friends and family, we all have more in common than different at the end of the day.
I most definitely, 1000% recommend this one. Read it, share it, talk about it. Go in with an open mind. Think about it.

The Hate U Give is now being made into a movie (with an amazing cast,) but I would definitely recommend reading the book before you watch!

meg says read this, Read This

Read This: Everything Everything

I guess you could say I’ve taken a bit of a break from young adult novels in the past few weeks, (well, in terms of usual ratio,) but I saw the movie trailer for Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything, and thought to myself “why the heck haven’t I read this yet?” Too impatient to wait on the library’s hold list, I picked up a copy at Sam’s Club, and dove right in. Maybe I’m off my game, but I was thrown by the plot twist. And I LOVE that. I genuinely love when I’m surprised by the words on a page, and am so overwhelmed absorbing the information I didn’t expect to see, I have to pause. Everything Everything tells the story of teenager Madeline who has lived her whole life in the same house, breathing filtered air, with only in-person contact with her mom and her nurse (who takes her stats and vitals all day,) and a time or two a visit from a teacher – because she is allergic to everything. Can you imagine? Though, maybe it’s like some things in life – when you haven’t experienced them yet, you don’t know to miss them. You can’t miss the smell of the ocean, if the salty air has never wafted below your nose, and you can’t miss the taste of a steaming hot slice of pizza burning the roof of your mouth, if those ingredients have never touched your tongue. You probably won’t daydream all day about holding hands with a boy, if you haven’t interacted with one in real life. Maddy lives life vicariously through the pages of the books she devours, and is entertained by movie nights, and made-up board games with her mom. Life as Maddy knows it, changes when cute, mysterious, Olly and his family move in next door. How convenient their bedroom windows face one another. What starts with hand gestures, and condensation notes on window panes, leads to e-mails and the ole trusty instant messenger, and then opens to a whole other world of experiences beyond what Maddy could have imagined on her dreamiest days. Armed with a credit card, and a mischievous streak of braveness not to let her life pass her by, Maddy makes some huge decisions – taking her life and all of it’s possibilities into her own hands. Everything, Everything is a story of love and friendship, trust and betrayal, adventure and risk, and listening to your gut. I know I’m late to the game, but this was a fantastic read, and I found it refreshing. If you haven’t yet, check out this great novel. (I have to admit, I’m excited to see what they’ve done with the movie adaptation!)

Read This

Read This: The Book Thief

I’m big on reading books before seeing a film version, (if I plan on seeing the movie.) When I found The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was being made into a film, I knew it was time to give it another try. You see, I’ve had a paperback copy of the book on my shelves for years. Senior year of college, I tried to read and I was so confused by the narration in the beginning (I couldn’t figure out who was narrating, and I was fifty pages in and I just felt like the story was being lost on me.) So instead, when my housemates asked me for book suggestions and they’d borrowed a few others, eventually I passed on The Book Thief. I didn’t preface it with my difficulty (pretty sure this was/is a “me” thing.) I’d read so many great reviews online that I figured they’d probably love it, and what do you know? Of course, they did. This was 2010, and now here we are a few years later and stills from the movie pop up on Tumblr, and then came the trailer (which I tried to avoid as not to give away crucial plot points,) and I knew it was time.

A few weeks ago, I had my first consecutive days off that weren’t part of a busy schedule in quite awhile (it was Thanksgiving, my parents live at the beach and it’s pretty low key and chill – we ate, drank, watched football, and I read.) So it opened the perfect amount of time to finally return to The Book Thief. Even though I slightly recalled where I’d left off because my brain is weird like that I, started from the beginning. I hadn’t remembered it being 550 pages, though- I had my work cut out for me!

This is one of those beautiful, heart-wrenching stories, that just digs out a spot in your soul and then settles down to stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. The characters feel like a part of you. At least for me. It’s one of those stories that I’d hate to let my rambling self go into detail and ruin any small piece of it because it’s…such a delicate story. It deserves for the pages to surprise you. But I’ll tell you this – I was all “oh! I haven’t cried yet” telling my friend about it last Sunday afternoon in a relay of text messages, but then about twenty minutes later I found myself sobbing silently. Kind of like the time I read Jo Knowles See You at Harry’s but kind of worse. I had to lay in my bed and wait for the haze to clear from my eyes so I could keep reading.

So, there’s that -at least you’re warned of the possibility it might shatter your heart a bit.

This story is more than a German girl, Liesel, learning to read during World War II. It’s more than what the crimes of hate that were committed looked like through a child’s eyes. It’s more than childhood crushes. The Book Thief is a story that so preciously intertwines love and loss, friendship, death, life and and all of the things that make it magical and painful. The many, many facets that make up a personality, and each person’s unique story. The way we can form bonds with people that we never see coming. The power of language and words, and how we can build people up and make things better, or we can just as easily violently destroy.

I can’t recommend this beautiful novel enough. I can promise you it’s worth the read. I even saw it categorized in a book store the other day under, “Books that Will Change Your Life.” I have to say, they’re probably right. If you’re looking for a new read this year, and you haven’t checked this one out yet – give it a try!

Watch This

Watch This: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This week I finally got the chance to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Tallahassee actually had this film in the theatre for a little bit back when it was first released, so it’s my own fault for missing out but now that it’s on DVD (and it caught my eye in the new films section at the library) I jumped on the chance. My house mate Alex had already seen it before, but she told me how cute it was a few times and gladly watched it again on a rainy Wednesday night.

My word. I had high expectations for this film, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. It really is top notch. I think they found the perfect balance of heartwarming and reality. It really felt uplifting. I didn’t even cry! (Though there were some moments where I teared up.) I laughed several times throughout the film, and it was one of those where I could feel a slap happy smile spread across my face. Basically this is a story of a random group of people who all travel to a “resort” in India to spend their retirement. The random group who start as strangers, soon become friends and an eclectic family of sorts.

The cast is just fantastic and won me over in the opening scenes. The scenery is beautiful. There isn’t one thing I didn’t like about the movie. (Although, at one point when Evelyn and Douglas are walking through the city streets together at night, it occurred to me how wonderful it would have been for this to be a TV show instead and each person’s story it’s own little episodes if only for the fact that I didn’t want it to end yet!)

The film was based on a novel by the same name written by Deborah Moggach, which probably needs to go on my to-be-read list. Why this didn’t get nominated for more awards, I’ll never know. But me oh my, it’d be foolish of me not to recommend it to you! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a softer side of Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson reeled me in the moment he told the boy in the street how to better his cricket batting. Maggie Smith is a delight in everything I watch her in, and this wasn’t any different! Also might I add that Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) lit up the screen in all of his scenes – his youthful energy was a joy and his optimism and gentleness was inspiring. The film vaguely reminded me of Love Actually in the way the characters stories overlapped and intertwined. I am a sucker for those type of scripts! If you’ve yet to experience this great film, I highly recommend you check it out this weekend!