Monday, April 15, 2013

Michelle's Reviews: Eleanor & Park

Welcome to another one of Michelle's Reviews! If you are interested in hearing more of what she has to say about books, check out her Goodreads!

by Rainbow Rowell
Published February 26 2013
by St. Martin's Press

"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."
"What about Romeo and Juliet?"
"Shallow, confused, then dead."
''I love you," Park says.
"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be."

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

Rating: 2 / 5

I wanted to like this. It definitely seemed like my kind of read, but I just couldn't really connect to the characters at the start, and by the time I did (or could have?), things were way too sappy and cutey even for me.

I'm pretty sure the story was meant to parallel the tragedy of Romeo & Juliet minus the death and poorly planned out life choices, and on that front, it does succeed. The story is about two teenagers who fall head-over-heels for each other in a short span of time despite their starkly different lives and are later separated by circumstance. But while I can appreciate the approach and the way it made that tragedy more realistic and with more of a contemporary edge (and while also toning down the speed of things a bit), I just didn't get engaged with the story.

It was nice to read Eleanor and Park's relationship build gradually, which is always a welcomed change of pace in YA for me, but once they were officially all in, things quickly switched to the usual over-the-top YA relationship trend with big declarations and generally silly arguments resolved mostly by making out. I just feel like the romance was meant to be written subtly--the cautious hand-holding, the hesitance before the first kiss, all that stuff that I absolutely love--but somehow, it reads as being forced. Like, it was trying too hard to show the gradual relationship form, especially with how quickly the switch flipped once their relationship became officially boyfriend/girlfriend status.

There was a more serious plot about an abusive home life, but it's used more as just a catalyst to separate Eleanor and Park from each other and reason to complicate their relationship and opportunities to see each other, rather than really being something that Eleanor actively tries to save herself (and her family) from, which was slightly annoying given the fact that not only is it just the home life she is forced to bear, but she also has four younger siblings who are stuck in this home, and as far as we know, they are not rescued from it and what happens to Eleanor's family at the end of the book is not really resolved in the slightest (and to be fair, neither is Eleanor and Park's relationship, really, but that is at least given more closure to an extent).

I feel disappointed since so many people loved this book (some of my all-time favorite authors included!), but it just didn't resonate with me. But I can see people who love Perks of Being a Wallflower really enjoying this book. It has the same introspective type of writing style with a lot of the relationship being stemmed from a connection built on similar musical tastes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: Deadly Cool

by Gemma Halliday
Published October 11 2011
by HarperTeen

Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he’s pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren’t enough, now he’s depending on Hartley to clear his name.

But as much as Hartley wouldn’t mind seeing him squirm, she knows he’s innocent, and she’s the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school’s resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer’s next victim.

Rating: 3.5/5

She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts...

I had that song running through my head through a lot of reading this book. There's actually a scene I think has to have been a nod to the song -- where Hartley looks at the girls and laments just how not like those other girls she is. I stopped, reread the passage, and giggled a lot. Like everything in the book, it's light-hearted, embraces the cliched, and doesn't take itself seriously at all. And despite the rampant girl-hate that turned me off, I didn't want to stop reading. There's just something compelling about a mystery, even if you think you know the whole time where it's going.

Hartley is a spunky, inquisitive girl who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her heart is big, and somehow she manages to still care about her ex-boyfriend despite the evidence that he's cheated on her. One of the big surprises comes later in the novel, when she doesn't actually take him back. She tries to prove his innocence because she believes him, but doesn't let it get to her head. She has another love interest (cookie-cutter "bad boy" Chase) that pops up, and that's good enough for her. Paired with her incredibly positive friends and some help from outside sources, she investigates the murder of the girl her boyfriend cheated on her with.

Which is weird, but okay. There isn't much new or different about the characters, the story, anything -- aside from Hartley's mom. She's the weirdest character of them all, strangely absents-but-not-absent. I don't know if her exercise obsession was there for a reason I didn't catch, but it kept coming up anyway.

Be expected to be surprised and maybe even a little bothered by this weird aura of "is this modern day?" throughout the book. There are some things (like the existence of a Chastity Club in the first place, seriously, do those even exist anymore?) that made me wonder how contemporary this was meant to be. There's mention of modern technology and everything, but really, the whole Chastity Club thing threw me off. I have a hard time believing those actually still exist and are as strong (and not a school-wide joke) as presented here.

A lot of the circumstances surrounding the clues are stumbled on or handed over, which made it a little less intense of a mystery, and a lot more leisurely. If that's what you're interested in, and if you like quick, engaging reads that you can finish in a day, I'd give it a read.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wow, She REALLY Let Herself Go

from tumblr
trigger warning for eating disorder talk in this post.

This morning I stopped at my usual Starbucks for my usual drink, an Americano. Why Starbucks? The coffee in Arizona sucks, and they're at least consistent about the bitterness and over roasting. So I'm looking at the pastry and food case, remembering I'd once again forgotten to pack my lunch. It's happening a lot more recently.

Some guy behinds me -- someone I don't know, have never met, have no connection to, let out a long sigh as I reached for the chicken & hummus box. When I decided I'd rather have a croissant, and the girl went to grab one, he sighed again.

"Do you really need that croissant?"


I'm fat, but I'm not as fat as I could be, and not as fat as I have been. At under five feet tall, and with a large bone structure, anything over about 120lbs looks pretty big, and I'm somewhere between 30 and 40lbs bigger than I'd like to be. But you see, it doesn't matter. I could be 5lbs overweight. I could be at a healthy weight. I could be underweight.

This guy would still find it his business.

I mean, look at the world around us. Look at those gossip magazines at the top. Look at any gossip magazine, listen in on a bunch of people talking about someone who's left the room. She's fat. She's let herself go. Did you see her eat that extra slice of pizza?

Women aren't allowed to like food. We're not allowed to eat without having people question what goes into our bodies. But if we take too much consideration? If we watch what we eat closely, if we count calories, if we diet, if we pick "the healthy option," then you know what? We're just high maintenance. We're vain. We care too much about appearances. We're not the right kind of woman.

Society tells us that if we aren't perfect for the men in our lives, we are worthless. We must always be on the verge of effortless perfection for men, because everything we do is for them. Right?

The right kind of woman is effortlessly flawless. We can't win. The only way to win is to shut out the media, shut out the people passing by, and sometimes, shut out your family and friends. And that's hard. People like to throw around things like "just live for yourself!" "ignore the bad and focus on the good!" "don't let them get to you!"

I mean, let's talk about the amazing Christina Aguilera. It's all over the web -- ew, gross! She's so fat now! How come she isn't as skinny as she was when she was a teenager? Women never gain weight or round out when they're adults! Ever! ps that's sarcasm, I love you, Christina. 
But that doesn't always work. And it doesn't make you weak if you can't ignore them. Because sometimes it's in your face -- sometimes it's in your head. How many of those of you reading this equate fat with bad? Unattractive? How many of you flinch at it? How many of you opened up a second tab to find a picture of me when I said "I'm fat" so you could counter with "no you're not!" to see?

People test you. They ask you to rationalize the reason you don't fit their personal specifications for beauty or even normalcy. I've fallen into the trap too many times, being quick to say "Yeah, I'm fat, but I also go to the gym almost every day after word, lift weights, and eat better than most people I know." But they'll ask you to clarify -- wait, just what do you eat? How many calories? How often? How heavy are the weights? Do you use white flour? Do you eat after 8?

Because I must be doing something wrong, right? In truth, there's a lot more to the story. I have an eating disorder. I've had an eating disorder since I was a kid. It's caused a lot of problems with my body, and not just mentally perceived problems. I'm talking permanently borked metabolism, heart issues, thinned out hair, vitamin deficiency. I'm not in treatment for a number of reasons.

The guy behind me at Starbucks doesn't know this. He doesn't know I wake up in the morning and already start worrying about calories. Doesn't know I stand in my kitchen and talk myself into and out of eating a handful of grapes. Doesn't follow me into the grocery store where I intend to splurge and buy myself a piece of cake and walk out with peanut butter and the entire trip takes me forty-five minutes even though the store's five minutes away. He isn't there the nights I make myself throw up my dinner because I ate one slice of tomato too many. Or when I wake myself up in the middle of the night to work out at home.

But does it really matter? He doesn't know.

Right. Exactly. He doesn't know. So why should he say anything at all? Why should any one of us make comments like this about anyone else? People in line, celebrities. What business is it of yours if they gained five pounds, lost ten, ate a snack at 9pm?

Why do you care?

What makes you feel that level of entitlement? What makes you feel like it's yours to comment on? Shut up. I'm serious. SHUT. UP.

Last week, Fizzygrrl wrote a great blog post about getting revenge on a woman who made a really nasty comment about her in a grocery store. Read it. Understand it. It really informed what happened after the guy said something.


I turned with a big ol' smile on my face. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear you. Did you ask if I really needed that croissant?"

He looked embarrassed. Fiddled on his phone. When I didn't turn away, he threw up his hands. "What? Do you want me to apologize or something?"

"No." I didn't want his apology. He's just some neckbeardy douchebag who probably cries himself to sleep because his favorite anime didn't end the way he wanted it to. "But if you could stop commenting on what other people are eating and maybe mind your own business, that'd be great."

Of course, as soon as I turned around, he muttered "bitch" because of course he did, because that's what they do. When called out on misogyny, resort to even more misogyny. It's in the neckbeard handbook.

As much as I wanted to make a scene and call him out on it, I let it slide. Because that's another battle for another time.

The point of this post, really, is to get you to shut up. All of you. Everyone. About bodies. About who's fat, who's skinny, who eats too much, who might not eat enough. Stop. I'm serious. It's none of your business. The second you open your mouth to make a fat joke about someone, you're doing no better than the scumbags who run those gossip magazines. You're helping an entire sect of our culture get away with trashing people.

Women, we are allowed to like food. It doesn't matter if you're fat or thin, it's okay. We are allowed to talk about it. We are allowed to diet. It doesn't mean we're high maintenance -- but if we are, that doesn't have to be a bad thing. We are allowed to be proud of our results when we work out. Strong women are wonderful. We're allowed to be proud of our bodies if we don't work out.

You are allowed to eat whatever the hell you want to eat for breakfast, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.