[REVIEW] The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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As someone who has struggled with depression and is also attending the same women’s college as Plath did, this novel was very real for me.  Sylvia Plath struggled with depression and ultimately ended her life, so it makes sense that she would be able to write about the mental illness with such veracity.  From the reactions of those around Esther to the way she can’t get out of bed to go visit with friends, these are all things I have experienced and really appreciated in the novel.

Aside from the strength of this theme, this novel is an excellent exploration of the social conditions at the time and sadly, now.  Esther has many different encounters with the men and women in her social group.  Through these encounters, she sifts through the complexity of what it means to be a woman in her society and the disparities for men and women in themes of sexuality and class.  The writing was very simple which I enjoy as it is able to get the point across much more effectively.

What I really appreciated about this novel was the disconnect and isolation Esther goes through.  Starting off in a very social setting with friends, she slowly descends further into a state of isolation and dissociation that I have experienced myself.  Her experiences with suicide attempts are all very detached.  Often, storytellers tend to want to make suicide attempts very emotional and overdramatic.  This is not the case most of the time, and in my experience, this detachment to the experience that Esther describes is much more real.

Obviously, The Bell Jar is a classic, and I am only restating what everyone else has said when they implore you to read this book.  If you have struggled with depression, this book might be triggering, but it could also be a reminder that you are not alone in this struggle.  If you do not know what it is like to suffer from mental illness, I recommend you read this book to understand a little more.

My Rating:PINK STARPINK STARPINK STARPINK STARPINK STAR

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Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer.
Known primarily for her poetry, Plath also wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The book’s protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is a bright, ambitious student at Smith College who begins to experience a mental breakdown while interning for a fashion magazine in New York. The plot parallels Plath’s experience interning at Mademoiselle magazine and subsequent mental breakdown and suicide attempt…more.

 

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[REVIEW] Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

In Red Queen, people are divided up by the color of their blood: those with red blood and those with silver blood that have special abilities.  Mare Barrow, a poverty stricken Red, lives under the rule of the Silvers when she finds herself working at the Silver Palace.  She soon after discovers a silver-like ability of her own.

The beginning of this story was the highlight for me.  I really liked the dynamic of Mare’s relationships with her family.  It really felt like she had a clear goal from the beginning of the story.  The plot points before the big Palace scene were interesting and felt like they really kept the story going.

Then Mare discovers her power and the plot points after that felt like too much, and I didn’t really understand what was going on.  Maybe it was a lack of interest that kept me from understanding because I felt like I’ve read a much similar story before in YA literature.  I found the characters, setting, and plot interesting, but not compelling enough to really care much about them.  And I really wish this weren’t one of those stories where the main character has no female friends because they’re all fighting over the men.  I just always find it really hard to believe that not one female side character is not on the main characters side.  Evangeline was an interesting character, but Mare was always so jealous of her.  I just find the fighting over a guy thing so boring now. /End rant.

The one thing I truly appreciated in this story was the romance subplot.  It’s very much not what you expect it to be. I would have been annoyed by it in the end, but once everything is actually revealed, it is a lot more complicated than you expect.

In the end, I just feel that this book was the wrong one for me at this time.  Had I not been semi-spoiled for the ending, I might have enjoyed it much more.  That said, this book is great for anyone interested in reading a YA fantasy right now, just not me.

Rating:

PINK STARPINK STARPINK STAR

[REVIEW] A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I haven’t been affected by a book like this for a long time, nor thought about one for this long after finishing it.  This story that spans 30 years between two generations is one of  brutality of women under different regimes in Afghanistan.  Mariam and Laila share their separate stories before they come together to help each other through the darkest part of their lives under the Taliban. This unrelenting story about sacrifice and hope is one that I will hold close forever.

I am so grateful to Khaled Hosseini for giving this insight into a land I know so little about, for within the story giving the cruel history which I can understand a little bit better now.  And he does it in a way that makes my heart ache for the destruction of these cities and lives of these women. His writing is seamless and really manages to somehow put me in a country and culture I’ve been so ignorant of.

This story was hard to read a lot of the time, I’m not going to lie.  Of course, I had heard that Hosseini’s novels were usually depressing, but as time went on, I kept waiting for a turnaround that felt like it would never come.  It was hard to read this novel, but Mariam and Laila gave me strength to keep going, as weird as it sounds.  They brought hope through their bond and the bond of the children that even through the worst of times was enough to keeping waiting for a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Hosseini understands somehow so clearly the extreme fears, and in this case not so extreme, of women.  He showed this through these two characters, and I will respect them forever.  Laila for her outspokenness and her desire for change and Mariam for her sacrifices and endurance of her life.  They are true heroes that I am so, so grateful for.

Khaled Hosseini is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, and needless to say, I’ll be picking up his other books very soon.

Rating:

PINK STARPINK STARPINK STARPINK STARPINK STAR

[REVIEW] I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak’s I Am The Messenger is a truly unique tale of what happens when ordinary Ed Kennedy receives a card with just three addresses which spurs his journey as the messenger to those in need.  It is a touching novel that really makes you see just how connected all our stories are

I was wary going into the book.  I did not want to be disappointed after reading The Book Thief, and while the writing styles were the same, the narrative in this novel was refreshingly different and suited the story.  How Zusak could take all my favorite aspects of his writing but still make it wholly new to suit a different tale is a real testament to how his writing really puts the reader in the setting.

There was so much truth in the characters of Ed and his friends.  They were so believable as new adults struggling with their own way and backgrounds.  Each one was extremely interesting, especially with the way they tied into the story.

My favorite part of this novel was the premise.  It was such an inventive and completely unprecedented one, unlike anything I’ve ever read before.  The way Ed gets sucked into this adventure and completely absorbed by the mystery of it in turn captured my interest, making me want to keep reading.  Even the first scene captures you with its equal parts drama and humor.  It certainly sets the tone for the novel.  Every single story was important to the message as a whole, and I loved every one of them.  Each one had a role, and though seemingly unrelated to each other, came together in the end to make the message. 

The story is witty and poignant and sometimes emotional, and Zusak certainly does not disappoint for my second of his novels.

Rating:

PINK STARPINK STARPINK STARPINK STARPINK STAR

[REVIEW] I Was Here by Gayle Forman

This Young Adult novel follows Cody as she deals with the suicide of her best friend Meg.  When  Cody finds something off about the suicide of her best friend, it takes her on a journey to discover the parts of Meg’s life kept hidden that led up to her death.  It is an emotional experience of forgiveness and relationships – platonic and romantic.

I found Cody to be very relatable in dealing with her grief and the unknown life of her best friend.   Her relationships with other characters were interesting and complex, especially because the romance of the story took a backseat.  And the way she dealt with these new and old relationships after the death of her best friend was very authentic and felt true to Cody’s character. 

Although it was nice to see the romance in the story taking a backseat in the beginning, I felt that in the end it was too rushed.  Maybe it could have been actually more developed and worked with the story or left more open-ended to fit better.  In general, too, things of import were rushed or skipped over.  You could easily miss information that we were meant to be looking for or that maybe should have been fleshed out in detail. 

The mystery of the novel was compelling and really made me want to keep reading.  The mystery and the story of the suicide was a very unique one, unlike any other one I’ve read before.  The messages of mental health and forgiveness of oneself and others are also ones I appreciated most about this story, and why I read stories like it.  Though I wish the story and some relationships could have been developed more, it was an overall enjoyable read.

Rating:

PINK STARPINK STARPINK STAR

[REVIEW] Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab is the at times gruesome tale of how two friends, Victor Vale and Eli Ever, become enemies and the villains. It starts with a thesis about ExtraOrdinaries, people with super powers. It jumps back and forth from 10 years in the past at university to present day when they are enemies.

It almost seems that Victoria Schwab’s writing was made for this kind of otherworldly or supernatural story. I think I would truly read her grocery lists. It is smooth and concise but still extremely interesting. It just flows.

The third person perspective and multiple points of view give insight into many complex and compelling characters, which works well when working with a cast of especially flawed characters. This is a story that cannot take time to learn about more minor characters, so the way perspective jumps from different characters is a perfect way to develop them while also moving the story along.

In the vein of flawed characters, this novel is all about anti-heroes. Stories of anti-heroes are so rare where romantic literature is the standard. I found it so interesting how my opinion of Victor and Eli changed so drastically when reading from the perspectives with a 10 year gap. I was so conflicted and had no idea who to root for, which is why I love stories of anti-heroes so much. They’re so unpredictable, and this one did not fall short.

The only reason I cannot give this book 5 stars is because I enjoyed the first half of the book considerably more than the second half. I think the novelty of finding out how the two anti-heroes got the way they was much more interesting than finding out how their story actually ends. The second half of the novel was interesting and I wanted to keep reading, just not as much as the first half. The ending, though, makes up for this and did shock me just one last time.

Rating:

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[REVIEW] One Day by David Nicholls

Two very different people, Emma and Dexter spend just one day together after they graduate.  One Day tells the story of how they go through the rest of their lives in and out of the others’.  It is an emotional journey of their relationship, and how growing up changes a person.

Emma and Dexter were great main characters in that they had so many flaws, and at times I was so angry about their decisions, but I could not help but root for them throughout their whole story.  As the years went by, they evolved just like people do into different versions of themselves, but never losing the main trait that made them truly them.  These characters felt so real and never idealized, something that is very much appreciated.

One thing I loved about the writing in this novel is the way the thoughts flowed.  It felt as if you were actually thinking in time with the characters, instead of after the fact, something that is not easily done even when the writing is in present tense.  It also was reduced as they both got older, which felt very genuine to reality.  And, while it was very easy to put myself into the minds of Emma and Dexter, I also found myself as a sort of middle-man between the two.  I was so involved with their story, but I was at the same time an observer which I found interesting.

This tale is witty and it is heartbreaking, and it is one that makes you want to rip your hair out at times.  This novel has everything it needs to tell a beautiful story of the complexities and tribulations that lie in having and keeping relationships. It is equal parts bleak and hopeful, something I believe is very authentic to growing older.

Prepare to shed tears for these two characters and their story.

Rating:

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[REVIEW] All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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The story of a boy called Finch and a girl named Violet . . .

Violet, who’s sister has died in a car accident, and Finch, who is obsessed with death, meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school and end up saving each other.  All The Bright Places is the story of how their lives come together, and the mark that death and mental illness leave on the lives of those who are around it.

This story is one that is so important, and I felt that it was dealt with so well. It was not this romanticized thing, but something that could be helped and needed to be helped.  The way it was portrayed, as this ruthless disease, was so real and it was heartbreaking.

The relationship between Violet and Finch was very organic, and reading about each from the other’s point of view, the way they grew on each other was very believable.  They were not dependent on each other, but were two separate people that helped each other grow.  The two separate point of views were also very well done, each voice coming through clearly each time.

Violet and Finch were strong characters, with an abundance of charming qualities as well as flaws.  Their flaws are what made them more relatable and believable.  I was amazed at how much I loved all the background characters.  Almost all of them were three dimensional and developed.  And the parental presence for each main character was so different, but so important in shaping their characters (something you don’t see often in YA).

There is also a Help Line Resource Guide included in the back of my hardcover copy.

Overall a heart wrenching and very authentic story that I could hardly put down.

Rating:

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