real-talk YA book reviews

Monthly Archives: December 2013

katherines Enjoyability:     smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 229   Copyright: 2006

        Colin Singleton has been two things all his life: a child prodigy, and a dater of Katherines. He has been romantically involved with nineteen girls over the course of his existence thus far, and all of them have been named Katherine– there just seems to be a correlation between the name and his compatibility with them. But now he’s been dumped by K-19, devastatingly ending the longest and most serious Katherine situation yet, and with his high school diploma in hand, his prodigy status is quickly becoming a thing of the past. 

      Seeing his emotional deterioration, Colin’s best (and only) friend Hassan, an overweight wise-cracking Muslim with a slacker attitude, peels him off his bedroom floor and takes him on a road trip. They have no idea at the start that they’ll end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, living in a pink mansion, working on an amateur oral history project, and in Colin’s case, attempting to formulate a Theorum of Underlying Katherine Predictability that will explain why he’s a perennial Dumpee, and might finally transform him from has-been prodigy to legitimate genius. 

     This is it, folks. The John Green book that I can unconditionally love. No death or destruction. Just pure unadulterated writing prowess, loveable characters, and quirky, unforgettable plot. I love premises that make you go “wow, I’ve never heard that before!”, and a guy dating only Katherines fits that bill; even better, the rest of the story lives up to the premise and matches it in originality. It doesn’t rest on those laurels like some flashy-premise books do, but keeps on bringing it, with Colin’s prodigy-hood and his fun footnotes1, Hassan and his constant jokes about his religion, the people of Gutshot, etc. Also, I think one of my favorite things about John Green is how he writes male friendships. Hassan and Colin has excellent friend-chemistry.

     I’ve been reading complaints that people thought Colin was whiny and unlikeable, but I disagree. Whiny, yes, but that’s the point. He has enough good qualities and supporting characters (and people calling him on it) to balance it out. I thought he seemed like a good guy at the core, and I was rooting for him. I also really enjoyed the Katherine stories that were smattered throughout the book– it was artful of John Green to do it that way, rather than just info-dumping the full Katherine lineup in the beginning. It was a good framework to keep things moving.

     If I have one big criticism for the book, it’s this: if I was a girl named Katherine, and a guy asked me out only to later admit that he’s dated as many as eighteen other Katherines before me, I  would run. I don’t believe that those girls would hear that and not assume he was some creep who ONLY liked them for their name. I could be talked into it with the magic of suspension of disbelief, I guess, but the book never addressed the issue even once. Maybe it was an issue of an adult man not being able to entirely sense the viewpoint of a teenage girl. But ah well.

     An Abundance of Katherines was short and sweet, and it’s definitely my favorite of the John Green books I’ve read. I hope he does more like this in the future and steers away from Depressingville. But that’s just me.

Special Awards:

comedy mask  ROFL award– Okay, it didn’t actually make me roll on the floor, but it did make me chuckle.

music notes Lyrical Award, just because John’s writing is always so slick. It disappears into the story.


1Incidentally, I’m currently reading ANOTHER novel that uses footnotes (I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella). How strange is that? I like them; they really add whimsy.


DSCF3986                   I was sitting down with chips and raspberry salsa yesterday, enjoying my first day of winter break, when my friend called me to say something very confusing.

                “Ned Vizzini died.”

                There’s really no moment in which it makes sense to hear something like that. And as we both looked around on the news sites and received the sickening news that Ned Vizzini not only died, but committed suicide, neither of us was really sure what to say or how to process the information.

                I’ve never met Ned Vizzini, and I probably couldn’t even identify him in a photo. And yet, knowingly or unknowingly, he has been in my life in a very real way. I own and loved his books Teen Angst? Naaah and Be More Chillthe former of which he published when he was only nineteen, how’s that for an inspiration? Ned’s writing style is so genuine and honest, and his stories have a way of sticking in your memory in subtle ways. No other writer is quite like him, and his fans could probably pick out his work even without his name attached to it.

                And then, of course, there’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story. It’s impossible to read this book and not connect with it and be changed by it. So many people have, and I know that it has meant the world to countless readers, young and old, in this country and beyond. Even more people were reached and moved by the movie based on the novel. It’s Kind of a Funny Story has a special way of giving hope. It is truly a gift to us all.

                His existence has been a quiet presence for me at all times, one of those names that make you perk up and pay attention when you hear it, like an old, well-established friend. Glancing up at his books on my shelf when I’m running around my house always makes me just a little more content, a little more secure.

                I don’t know why Ned Vizzini chose what he did; but his loss is a true tragedy for the genre of young adult fiction. To all those who knew and loved him, you’re in our thoughts, and may you find peace and comfort somehow. And know that Ned will not be forgotten, either by the countless readers and moviegoers who have already benefited from his gift, or by the generations still to come who will discover him anew.

          Hello, world. Happy Saturday. Today is pretty booked up for me– this morning I had callbacks for my school’s production of a cute rom-com play called Almost, Maine (this is the first show I’ve ever had my heart set on a specific part in. It’s stressful!!), and later I’m going to a big holiday party.

          So, I kind of feel like I’m in the middle of a booknado right now, except without the peaceful eye-of-the-storm part. I have Allegiant (the end of the Divergent trilogy) out from the library, finally, and I have Ned Vizzini’s new book The Other Normals out from my school library, which I’ve had for quite some time, and I’m not really sure when it’s due back. So clearly I should be reading those. But then there are two books that I recently bought, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and those two, especially the latter, just keep calling my name more loudly. Which is causing a lot of stress, because I know my time is limited to read the library ones. I guess I just have this feeling like Allegiant is complex and intense, and The Other Normals kind of is too, while the ones I own are lighthearted, easy realistic fictions, and I’m more in the mood to relax than to sit on the edge of my chair.

            I’ll try to persevere with the library ones, if for no other reason for the sake of reporting to you all about them before they’re taken away.

            If you’ve been following my monologues especially carefully over the months, you’ll know that it’s newsworthy that I’m feeling so positive about a John Green book— not that I haven’t enjoyed his work a lot, but there’s always been that sense that I’m not as 1000% obsessed as the rest of the reader world is. But a friend told me that An Abundance of Katherines was her favorite, and I sense already that I may be inclined to agree. I only have one major beef with it, and that is that I cannot buy for a second that nineteen girls named Katherine would have zero problem with the fact that their boyfriend only dates Katherines, refers to them by number (Katherine IV, Katherine XI), and has dated as many as eighteen of them before her. Why should they believe he likes them for them and not for their name? Huge red flag. But whatever. It’s a really fun book, well written like his stuff always is, and I don’t sense any awful tragedies lurking ahead. Hopefully.

            On a maybe-unrelated note, I’ve been messing with drawing a lot lately. I’ve always called myself “the artistic type” while avoiding sports and suffering through math homework, but for the most part, that’s manifested itself more in writing than in visual art. But I’ve always been partial to drawing people, maybe for the same reason that I like to write. Drawing someone is like creating a character, but it gives you a lot of abilities in that creation that you don’t have in writing, and can convey your vision a lot more efficiently and powerfully (a picture is worth a thousand words). My preferred medium has always been plain old un-colored pencil on paper; it’s very no-fuss and I can focus my energy without worrying about mastering a lot of tools. So I’ve been drawing a lot of people, and more than anything, pushing myself to do different body positions, other than straight-on views of a person standing in rigid mountain pose. And to add another level, being on Tumblr with all the jaw-droppingly talented art that gets posted there makes me want to add my humble attempts to the mix, so I’ve done some ink-outlining (my lines are never dark enough) and scanning. And naturally seeing a drawing in photoshop makes me want to color it, but the tutorial to do anything more than basic unshaded colors seemed to go from a scribble in step 1 to the Mona Lisa in step 2, so… yikes.

            But anyhow, it’s been fun, and I guess if I just keep making tiny advances, I can only improve. Hopefully.

           Notice that I haven’t said anything about the fact that I’m hearing back from my top-choice college in four days. Or actually, you didn’t notice, because you didn’t know. Because I don’t want to talk about it. So I guess that closes that subject. *muffled screaming*

           Is your shelf overloaded? Or are you in a book lull?


Enjoyability:       smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp half gray

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain2brain2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 224   Copyright: 2011

                     Surprise, surprise, I’m talking about David Levithan again! Confound the man, he just can’t seem to stop being worth talking about.

                     The Lover’s Dictionary is literally written in dictionary format, moving through the alphabet with each letter standing for a word, followed by an entry based on that word that adds, not necessarily chronologically, to the story the unnamed  first-person narrator is telling about the ups and downs of their relationship with a significant other, addressed as “you”. The entries vary in length and tone, some funny, others emotional, melancholy, or sweet. It’s not entirely clear for most of the book what their relationship status is at the time of the writing.

                  I have this theory about poetry— that bad poetry happens when people try to elaborate and adorn their thoughts and emotions by Writing Poetically, the way they think poetry is “supposed” to sound, and good poetry happens when people do the opposite, letting go of the parameters of prose and logical language to just put out their pure, raw thoughts and emotions, the way things actually feel and make sense to them, which isn’t always communicated in scientifically logical images and phrasings.

                  I complained in my review of The Realm of Possibility— or at least, I would have if I had been more articulate at the time. I really need to toughen up— that the verse format seemed forced and, confusingly, less poetic than his prose, which has always had its own natural music to it. It’s in The Lover’s Dictionary that, in my opinion, David has found his true poet’s voice, using his naturally elegant style and stripping away the prose structure to really let it shine. The Lover’s Dictionary felt so natural and universal. It was touching and grand, but not in the way of things that are trying to be touching and grand (which is one of my pet peeves); in the way of something that is so quietly and unassumingly true and honest that its beauty can’t help but shine through.

                  The Lover’s Dictionary is a short book. It’s a simple story, lacking certain specificities in order to fit its mission of depicting love in all its shades and in a way that resonates with everyone, although the characters and their romance are not blank slates by any means. It never technically even specifies the gender of either character. But it’s a book that will always stick with you, in its subtle way; and if you’re anything like me, you won’t regret giving it your time.

                   I kind of want to go re-read it now. And yet my TBR list is a mile long. Hm.

Special Awards:

music notes  Lyrical award for lovely writing.

sqee And a squee for romanticness.