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!)
So, I did finally get to see Wish I Was Here this week, and it was everything I hoped it’d be. Braff did it again with his ability to capture the simple moments of life, but also what I like to think of as those, “feeling infinite” moments. If you’ve seen Garden State, to me I categorize that as a pretty intensely emotional film. I have probably shed some tears each time I watched it. WIWH seemed to find a new balance. There is still an intensity, emotional moments, and depth that will tug on your heart but I didn’t even cry once while watching it. When my friend asked me what the movie was about, all I could think to say was…”life.” As cliche as that sounds, I’m still pretty sure it’s fitting. The music was just as incredible as I hoped, and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on Spotify. If you’re curious I’d still say the themes center around death, and purpose, parenthood, relationships – how we grow up and figure out who we are and what we want out of life. There’s a particular scene I have in mind, between Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin at the hospital that just really stole my attention. She has a certain glow when she’s on screen, and she can just steal a scene but the conversation between the two characters was so genuine and so…true to life. Also, little Joey King captured my heart as always. (Ever since I knew she was cast as Ramona Quimby, I just lover her.) Wish I Was Here was funny, refreshing, and beautifully made, (plus the slew of familiar faces popping up throughout the film didn’t hurt either.) If I didn’t convince you last week, here’s my continued encouragement that this one is a definite, “watch this” recommendation.
OK if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that I have an extremely varied taste. Sometimes I post country music one after another, then I’ve got my throwbacks to some cheesier stuff, then you might see my piano rock love sneak in. One song I cannot get enough of? Like honestly I look it up on youtube and play it on repeat? And if I change the radio dial and it’s playing again even though I just heard it on the previous station, I belt it out like I haven’t heard it in weeks? “Stay” by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko (or clean version.) Love it. Can’t help it. It’s so.darn.good. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t really a huge Rihanna fan before, but now I seem to like every single track I hear on the Unapologetic album. Like no lie. I don’t know if my music taste is evolving or what, but it’s nice to have some new favorites in the library. And also, I never feel like this song is getting “overplayed” because I love it too much.
Warning if you haven’t seen the video yet, it’s a bit intense you know with Rihanna hanging out naked in the bathtub and all, but you could always just listen to the song. So, my lovely readers with this awesome jam I send you off into the weekend with nothing but positive vibes! Enjoy!
If you follow many of the popular YA authors on Twitter, you probably heard some buzz about Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Even if you’re not into Twitter, if you’ve walked through the new release section of a bookstore recently, or even browsed the homepage of an online bookseller the simple but beautiful cover art might have captured your attention. Even if neither of these happened, you might have noticed it appeared on the New York Times Bestsellers List this week at spot #6. Of course, if John Green or Maureen Johnson recommend something, my interest immediately peeks. Then when I found out this new young-adult fiction novel had to do with bus rides and mixtapes (it’s set in the 80s when kids still used Walkmen and recorded their parents vinyl onto cassettes, which I loved)? I was sold. Both of those are two of my favorite things from my own childhood memories. Unfortunately for Eleanor, her memories aren’t as great to look back upon. That is until she meets Park.
In this gritty, real, heart-wrenching story told from the alternating perspectives of two Omaha high-schoolers, slowly falling for each other we see the world through the eyes of Eleanor and Park. We also see what they look like to each other.
The thing about this book, is it’s not just the story of two angsty teens in puppy love. The depth of the struggles in Eleanor’s home life are described with such an honest intensity, such a no-nonsense frankness that it seems they would need to either be written from the perspective of someone who experienced such hardships in their own life, or had an extremely close relationship with someone who had. Eleanor’s side of the story isn’t written in an “oh take pity on me” way, even though your heart will probably break while reading it. The harsh realities of life appear in such a straight forward way, that is just the way life is. It’s not great, but it’s not the end of the world because that’s the life the character knows, (even if they yearn for a life outside of those boundaries.) Eleanor’s mom is beautiful but weak, and she’s trapped in a disturbing relationship. Richie, Eleanor’s step-dad is not a very good human being. He neglects the children, he’s controlling, he’s a drunk, and the people of the neighborhood are aware that it must be hell to live under a roof with him. Eleanor basically bides her time from day to day, and tries to avoid Richie at all costs. Even though every once in a while there are “good days” there’s not really any erratic behavior that would be out of the question when Richie’s temper flares. So not only is Eleanor’s home life ridiculously difficult, but she deals with being bullied at school. Eleanor is really smart, and insightful but her appearance and her non-conformist personality set her apart, thus making her not accepted by the majority of her snobby classmates. Let’s face it: kids can be cruel. But you know, there’s always a silver lining – to everything, no matter how horrible. And that’s the case with this story too. I won’t ruin the developments of the bond between Eleanor and Park, but what starts as two kids sharing a seat on their school bus rides blossoms into so much more. The bond grows over shared interests, and opinionated dialogue about music and comics, but it overflows into the rest of life, and is joined by a growing affection. You’ll remember what it’s like to hear the beginning chords of your favorite song for the first time. Or how you felt when the one person you think about all day and night is breathing on the other end of a phone line. Or the electricity that zaps straight through the veins of your arm to your heart when your fingertips collide with someone you really like.
As hard as it is for Eleanor to grow up in her dysfunctional family life, Park is also wounded watching her and not knowing how to help. He knows her situation is bad, he just doesn’t know how bad. He can’t really imagine it completely because he comes from such a different background. But even still, no one likes to watch someone they care about suffer. Even though so many reviews talk about the story of two star-crossed misfit lovers trying to make a high school relationship last – I think that’s diluting the incredible bond here. Sure there’s romance, and there’s the kind of love that it seems is impossible to cultivate with the same fragility and innocence outside of teenage connections – but at the same time, this story is about so much more. Friendship. Communication (the kind in soul-bearing conversation, but also the communication that occurs when no words are exchanged.) I think it’s about survival. I think it’s about not letting the evil dark parts of the world destroy what’s beautiful within. I also think it’s about how valuable the thread of hope is in a miserable situation. That hope, no matter how thin can be life changing.
It seems some readers literally devoured this book, but I on the other hand had to read it in parts, take it slow as my heart literally ached while I read. I felt like it was hard to breathe. I felt like I wanted to reach within the pages and give the characters a hug. (I read the acknowledgements at the end of the novel, and those pulled on my heart-strings, too.) If you take my advice and do check this novel out (because even though it’s not sunshine-personified, happy go lucky, spring break beach read material – I am recommending it) I think you’ll appreciate Rowell’s genuine story telling of love, life, hope, and the kinds of bonds that can really pull us through the darkest times. The cool thing is, no matter how grim some parts are – just like life there were some really sweet moments when the light is let in, when human kindness reigns at the most unexpected times.
Have you read Eleanor and Park? What did you think? Please share with me in the comments!
Last Saturday morning, I went for an 8 mile run in absolutely beautiful weather and then I hurried up and got ready to go see an early showing at the theatre of…The Perks of Being a Wallflower, finally. (This isn’t the first time I posted about the film, you can read my first post anticipating its release here.) Perks tells the story of Charlie, a teenager trying to work through all the emotions and hardship that come with growing up. Navigating love, and life and our surroundings. The fascinating, incredible moments that make the rough times worth it. Finding the perfect song, on an amazing night. Staying up late, laughing with people who totally get you. What makes people tick? Finding a place to belong. Learning to be yourself, and enjoy it whoever you are. Charlie’s story is told through a series of letters written to a mystery person. This style allows us to see events from Charlie’s perspective, grasp the emotions he tries to describe through all the chaos. Many people say Perks is the modern day version of Catcher in the Rye.
Seeing the movie has been a very long time coming, and though part of me wished there were certain people on either side of me, that I could squeeze their hands in all of the parts that had meaning to us, (oh yeah that’s basically all of the parts) it’s probably a good thing I saw this one alone. I had impeccable luck, walking into the theatre just as Charlie was narrating his first letter. There were only three other people in the audience. I sat on an empty row, towards the middle, with a completely unobstructed view (doesn’t happen very often.) This work of art immediately puts me on a level of vulnerability that’s basically unparallelled. I’m not too embarrassed to admit, that tears sprang in my eyes instantly. I was flooded with an overwhelming amount of emotion. This is honestly one of my favorite books ever, and I had been anxious about it’s transition to the big screen. (Of course, I should have had faith in Chbosky that it was just as important to him to get it right.) I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest, this film is just…amazing. Executed fabulously. Logan Lerman captured the essence of Charlie’s character in a phenomenal way. Paul Rudd was a perfect Mr.Anderson. Emma Watson was a wonderful Sam. Patrick (Ezra Miller), though not necessarily what I would have originally pictured…awesome. Even Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) was just as annoying to me as she was in the book, (in a good way that mirrored those details.) I’m not even a huge Nina Dobrev fan, and she was a great Candace! I’ll admit, I have a certain envy towards everyone who was involved in the making of this film, what what an incredible experience to be a part of this project. The lucky thing about this movie, is that I could feel connected to it, without having to be in my own place that always made me feel like I related to Charlie’s letters. I could appreciate it, and be filled with gratitude that this masterpiece exists, but not have to be immersed in confusion or sadness to get there. My own infinite moments came in flashbacks pieced together as I sat in that big comfy seat. I thought of car rides to Ocala where the novel was discussed, or laying in the backyard reading it for the umpteenth time. Passing it to eager hands at a sleepover where it’d be highlighted and bookmarked to no end. (My copy shows a lot of love, haha.) My friend Katie got to go to an early screening in Chicago with a Q&A session with Stephen Chbosky, (and got to meet him!) She said he told her about some pretty exciting additional material that will be on the DVD, so that’s something exciting to look forward to! There is a lot of material from the book to cover, and I feel like it was done so well. The soundtrack and the score are both really great collections of music, and I would love to own the vinyl version! (Sam would tell you everything sounds better on vinyl.) When the movie was over, even though the other people left I stayed until the end of the credits. I tend to do that most of the time. There’s something peaceful about being the only one in a theatre, just you reflecting, and the glow of that giant screen. Even when I walked to my car, I had to sit there for a second, let it all soak in. I was so overcome by so many feelings. This movie reignited a passionate inspiration for life, reminded me of the intense depth of emotion, the ability to connect without caving in. The only downside is that I longed desperately to have a face to face conversation about it, and there wasn’t anyone for me to talk to. The majority of my Saturday I felt like I was bursting at the seams for just that…the desire for discussion. I kind of wish movie theatres had rooms like that you could go to once you exit a film, so you can chat with others about what you saw. (I’ll also admit to being emotionally exhausted after my viewing, but that might just be a me thing. I journaled and I took a nap because I was pretty much spent.) If someone asked if I wanted to go see this with them, I wouldn’t hesitate in responding “YES!” And I’ll be excited for its DVD release as well. If it’s playing near you, you should totally check it out. (Theatre listings and showtimes on the website!) But I highly recommend reading the book if you haven’t done so, yet.
If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, here you go! Are you wondering what that great song is playing in there? “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons!