My oh my, I don’t even know where to start with the Judd Apatow’s incredible documentary on The Avett Brothers, May It Last. When it was first announced that the film would have a one night showing in theaters nationwide, prior to the release of the film on HBO in January, I was still living in Florida. The closest theater playing it was about two hours away, and it was a Tuesday. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to swing that, but the temptation was real. Well, I moved to Nashville Labor Day weekend, so it turned out that I was lucky enough to be about fifteen minutes from a theater playing it last week. From reading tons of posts of praise across social media, I knew I was in for something special, but I wasn’t prepared for how amazing it was. As a viewer in the audience, it felt like these people invited you into their homes (well, they did literally,) and gave such an intimate glimpse into their lives. The rawness and realness that is portrayed in the film is just something entirely unique. I have chills just trying to write about it. There are so many scenes in the film that made me love them even more than I did, prior to seeing it.
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 is now being made into a movie (with an amazing cast,) but I would definitely recommend reading the book before you watch!
2017 has been off to an interesting start. I mentioned before I started reading A Game of Thrones which is great, but I just really needed to read a book that would make me laugh. Books can expand our horizons, provide an escape, a distraction, and some books can entertain us. In comes Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody as my first read of 2017. I laughed out loud reading this, continuously, hard, and sometimes until tears sprung in my eyes. Oh, Anna did I need those laughs. But also her book made me think a lot about our preconceived ideas of celebrity, and Hollywood. I can’t imagine being in a film at Sundance, and your peers having no idea, or worse just not caring a bit about it! Kendrick shares stories from her childhood, (I loved the one about how she got her first Broadway gig), her dating life, apartment living, how she still gets star struck, and everything in between. I was surprised to learn that Happy Christmas was filmed in eleven days, on an $80,000 budget, with no script! And I guess, like Kendrick, I thought once you were famous people probably followed you around and basically made you keep yourself (and your house) together – surprise! They don’t. Kendrick writes with such ease, and honesty that it feels like it’s a friend telling you about her life. I felt like you could feel her anxiety about certain situations, or the frustration with nothing productive happening on press tours (even if they’re necessary.) If you’re a shorty, petite girl I think you could really relate to this too. She touched on a lot of points, of experiences I’ve had all my life. (At 5 feet tall, with tiny feet, and still being able to wear clothes from first grade when I was in fifth grade – I felt like I’d just use my noise level and energy to make up for my lack of size. Anna Kendrick sounds like she totally got this!) She talks about insecurities, but also about the things she knows she should just say “screw you” about if someone has a problem. She sounds like she really takes pride in her work, and invests in the relationships she develops with her coworkers but she’s super open about the time she’s not on a job she’s at home chilling in sweatpants, watching Netflix, eating take out. She sounds like the rest of us doesn’t she? (Adulting, hmm…) Kendrick mentions multiple times that she hopes while reading her book, the reader feels less alone – well girl, I think you more than accomplished that task. I would definitely recommend this book. It lifted my spirits a little, and it reminded me that although our paths might look different, we’re all kind of floating around in the same boats.
If you follow me on any form of social media, my Bobby Bones interest is pretty evident. They don’t broadcast the morning show where I live now, but I still listen to clips. Even more than that – I am absolutely hooked on the Bobby Cast podcast where he interviews different artists (musicians, songwriters, etc.) It’s always about the stories, or to get a little VH1 on you guys, the stories behind the stories. I love to learn what makes people tick, what events set in motion all the things that brought someone to where they are, I want to hear their climbs and stumbles, but also their passions. When you talk to someone who is passionate about anything, that drive and interest just pours out of them in a beautiful way. (At this point you’re probably wondering what I’m rambling on about, but hold on a sec.) All of this to say, Bobby Bones is propelled by stories – his own and the stories of others. That’s exactly why his new book Bare Bones: I’m Not Lonely If You’re Reading this Book is so dang wonderful. Bobby has always been open and real on the radio show, but it was really interesting to get the stories of his life in chronological order. (You learn about Bobby’s life, growing up in Arkansas. His mom got pregnant with him at 15, and had him at 16. His dad was only around for a few years. He had a sweet grandma that definitely did what she could to take care of him. He worked really hard in school, and tried to surround himself by positive influences. He talks about the way his childhood has affected his ability to open up in relationships. He shares how his background lets him to connect with people.) And my word…the obstacles he has overcome in life to get where he is? The drive he had to make something of his life, from such a young age? It’s inspiring. I’m an emotional reader (obviously,) but I’ll admit I had to pause sometimes while reading to let the weight of his words sink in. (Also, maybe to get it together and stop crying.) Sure there are definitely some pretty sad parts to this book, but it’s life and it’s real and it’s gritty. At the end I don’t think you’re going to walk away saying “man, I wish I didn’t read that book I’m so sad now.” Because you’ll laugh, out loud. You’ll be reminded how important it is to keep going and learn from mistakes. And you’ll probably take a closer look at your own relationships. It’s a real reminder about the lifelines of friendships, how big of a difference the little things make. When I was reading it, I was reminded that we all come to the table with our own battles and scars we’ve been carrying and they shape us, but they also allow us to connect with others on a deeper level. You never know what someone else is carrying. Sometimes the people who make us laugh the hardest, have the heaviest hearts. You just don’t know – but that’s what’s so important about sharing our stories. So if you haven’t yet, read this book. Laugh a little, cry a little, appreciate everything.
(Image via Amazon.)
So more about what Extraordinary Means is actually about. Seventeen year old Lane has been sent to special school, kind of like a boarding school, kind of like a summer camp – except here there is one link that bonds all the students together, and it’s not s’mores and kumbaya. All the kids at Latham have TB, albeit different strains so different levels of the way this diagnosis takes its toll on their bodies. On their good days the students might seem like normal teenagers, but whether it’s a fitful night of coughing that results in bloody pillowcases, or just the lack of energy and dark circles around their eyes – these kids are no longer able to lead something similar to their pre-TB lives. Away from their family and friends, sports and activities with no cure in sight their futures are uncertain.
Although what they considered “normal” lives are disrupted, and they can’t even continue a regular study path of school work – Lane and his new found friends have found a way to make the most of their time, and add some fun to their days. Who would have thought he’d find a familiar face at Latham? But why does this person seem to be so cold towards him? Even with a rocky start Lane will soon have new relationships develop, friendships evolve, and a spark of romance. The scary thing is no one ever knows how much time they have left – but Lane and his friends are cramming a lot of life in their days. Extraordinary Means is a heartwarming story that’s a reminder of the frailty of life, and the power of friendships in any circumstance in life. Schneider has shown us once again what a gift she has to leave such an impressionable story on the hearts of her readers.
(Image from Goodreads.)