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Book Review: Auggie & Me

Title: Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories

Author: R.J. Palacio

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In book Wonder, we read about a boy named Auggie, who was born with a facial deformity and starts attending a new school.

This book consists of three different chapters – Julian chapter, Pluto, and Shingaling. Julian chapter is told from a perspective of Julian, who bullied Auggie in book Wonder. Pluto chapter is told from a perspective of Christopher, Auggie’s best friend since early childhood. And the last chapter, Shingaling, is told from a perspective of Charlotte, who is now Auggie’s classmate.


This book is not a sequel to Wonder, it’s a companion novel with three different points of views on Auggie from Wonder. Each view has its own chapter within the book and can be read completely separately from other two.

First, it’s Julian chapter. Julian is a spoiled kid and he couldn’t accept Auggie and soon it’s clear why. He simply repeats the behavior patterns of his mother, who also had troubles accepting Auggie. She’s scared of Auggie and with her behavior, she’s encouraging her son to behave likewise. Julian (as his mother) always justifies his behavior, defending himself he’s only joking and that people shouldn’t felt so offended by his jokes. It was hard for me to read this story because Julian was mean and I didn’t like him at all. Not to mention his mother who was supporting, encouraging and justification Julian’s unacceptable behavior.

Next one is Pluto chapter, where we met Christopher, who is/was Auggie’s best friend from early childhood. They drifted away because of his moving to some other place. This story, more or less, represents Christopher’s memories of Auggie and how friendship with him affected his life. I felt that during growing up, Christopher started feeling ashamed of Auggie’s look. This aspect is the only thing that I found interesting in this chapter. It’s a reflection, how are we accepting social prejudices and how we submit to the opinion of others while growing up.

The story Shingaling, Charlotte’s chapter, is the longest but while reading it, I was surprised, there was almost no Auggie in it. Basically, it’s a story about growing up girl, her daily life, and problems in school. Maybe there was some secret connection of her story with Auggie’s but I couldn’t find it.

I enjoyed reading this book but it was far from what we got in Wonder. It seemed to me, that author just wanted to extend the success of it. At first, I was truly curious to read what other has to say about Auggie and how he affected their lives, but I think it was simply not best managed. Of all three stories, I enjoyed reading Julian’s chapter the most, even though I found characters unbearable. Because the other two stories are mainly just a description of the lives of two people, with occasional references to Auggie.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Did you read this book? If so, what are your thought about it? And what about the book Wonder?

 

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Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie693208

Fourteen years old Arnold Spirit, also known as Junor, is growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Junor is an artistic guy who likes drawing and drawing also helps him facing every day’s problems. His life is not wonderful but it gets even more complicated when Junor starts to attend a school outside the reservation. Attendance of High School, where he is the only non-white person is challenging, especially because he doesn’t feel accepted. Not only he’s not accepted by his new friends, but because of his retraining, he also becomes a target in a reservation.


I could say that this book really let me down. I heard amazing things about it, I saw that it also won a few prizes and I was so happy when I saw it in my local library (it was not translated, I read it in English).

Even while reading, I struggled with it. It was a slow read which really surprised me because it’s such a short book, full of illustrations.

I liked the idea of a book – a young Indian boy from the reservation is facing his origin while trying to cross the boundaries of his world. No one from his reservation has attended school outside the reservation before, let alone a school where all people would be white. Junior is aware that he would end up like all the other Indians if he doesn’t step forward and educates somewhere else. Despite the problems that this would bring him.

Arnold seemed a funny and nice guy, slightly lost in this world which is logical, according to his age and the period in his life. I really liked, how the author tried to show off Junior’s artistic side with “his” illustrations. Comics did really variate reading and they were the funniest part of the book. All the other characters were a little bit strange, each in his own way.

The story mainly focuses on Junior’s searching his place in the world – he doesn’t feel well in a reservation, he’s feeling guilty because he turned back to his tribe. But in the same time, he also doesn’t feel good outside the reservation, because he’s aware that he doesn’t belong there either and that people don’t accept him. Even though he’s more than successful by finding new friends.

Presentation of Indians in this book seemed grotesque to me. I admit, I don’t know much about the situations in reservations or about Indians in general. But yet, I had a feeling that it was too much humiliation in this book. Resorting to alcohol and consequently to violence, poverty and complete resignation, yes, it was shown through the humor, but it still left a bittersweet taste. But not the one it should. It all seemed too unreal and as a big joke.

I also found this book overambitious. The author included too many serious topics that were not developed further. Bullying, alcoholism, bulimia, first love, rejection, poverty are just one of them. Those were all the topics that have somehow lingered in the air.

A person can achieve everything he wants as only he has a desire and will to change things – I understood that this was the main topic in this book. However, I got a feeling that book gives a false hope for younger readers. Junior comes to a new school and things are going great for him. Everything is (almost) perfect suddenly. Yes, he may still have some problems but still he’s suddenly successful in everything (finding friends, popular girlfriend, success in school). It just seemed too perfect.

And, what I most blame the author for is that because everything was going so well for Junior, he just entangled a few totally unnecessary events (deaths) in the story. Why? Just to break a monotony? And that story continued like nothing happened? Nonsense.

I really felt this book a cliche story and too American. You know…. If you dream and you dare, you will also succeed.

Rating: 2/5 stars

What did you think about this book? I would love to hear your opinions in comments!

 

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Book review: Love Letters to the Dead

Title: Love Letters to the Dead

Author: Ava Dellaira181400471

Laurel is high school student and one day they get an assignment to write a letter to a dead person. However, she never wrote it for a school work, but she started writing letters in her diary. She’s writing them to famous people who died too soon, just like her sister May.

In her letters, she describes her life in new high school, new friends, first love and her sister May, which she can’t forgive for leaving her. Through letters she learns a lot about herself and in particular, she can write about secrets from her past that she never told anyone and strongly affected her. Just like her older sister May, who Laurel misses so much and don’t understand why she’s gone and left behind only pain of mourning and broken family.


Meh. I have mixed feelings about this book. The first half was completely boring and I was thinking about quitting. What disturbed me most, was writing style which is completely childish and immature. There were moments when I thought that letters were written by an eleven-year-old girl and not a high school student. The sentences are so simple and idiotic but they are good reflection of Laurel character – she’s a childish, dumb and terribly boring person who’s main goal in life is (obviously) to be a cool person.

It all begins with new school year when Laurel starts attempting high school. She picked one, where nobody knows her and a family tragedy. Because she’s a new kid, nobody notices her but she desperately wants to fit in. And she’s doing this in a very strange way if you ask me. For example, all students are buying some specific cookies for lunch and she starts throwing away her lunch so she can also buy them. For some reason, she’s accepted by two girls who are not popular kids but they’re cool. And she also falls in love in such a boy – Sky is a mysterious kid, who’s not popular but everyone thinks about him as a cool guy (and I’m not joking here – as long as you’re cool everything will be ok, obviously). And for some reason, he noticed her right away although she’s far from being cool. And then begins the story about plain Jane discovering the joys of high school life, from drinking, smoking and making out. Doing everything, just to be cool.

But her dead sister’s shadow is following her everywhere. Laurel’s older sister May had varied life, she was beautiful, popular, smart and, above all, she was cool. Recently, I read quite a few books, which, in my opinion, exposes excessive idealization of older siblings or best friends which make me very annoyed. Ok, I agree that it’s not unusual that younger siblings are idolizing older because, after all, it’s logical they’re searching for a role model, but exaggeration is bothering me. And it bothered me strongly in this book also. It felt like Laurel doesn’t have her own life or personality. She always tried to be just like May and she’s still doing this after her death. And instead of figuring out who she is, she’s trying to be someone else. All the time she’s writing about May and how beautiful/perfect she was but yet I didn’t have a feeling that she’s mourning her death. I felt like she just wants to be like May was and grieves for someone who enabled her to do cool stuff. Which is a shame because I thought this would be a book about mourning and accepting someone’s death.

But at the same time, Laurel was angry when they compared her with May. When she finds out that Sky liked May, she’s angry with him, because she thinks she’s in love with her just because she’s so similar to May. Seriously?!? She’s constantly trying to be just like her, she wears her clothes, listening to same music as May, but suddenly she doesn’t like being compared to her? She was also furious when she found out, her new friends knew from beginning, she’s a sister of a dead girl. She didn’t want to tell them because she was afraid they would treat her differently but at the end, she got mad because they knew and treated her normally. It’s difficult if you don’t know what you want. And Laurel definitely doesn’t know what she wants, which indicates her immature character and writing style. At times, however, she begins to philosophize in letters which made me confused because it was really not her style – like she would suddenly become a mature, grown up women.

The second half of the book was better since things started to complicate and reading becomes more interesting. Besides notes about everyday life, Laurel starts to uncovering dark secrets from her past and starts writing about them.

Nevertheless, this book was not so good that I would recommend it on. Perhaps younger girls could relate more with Laurel and her “writing” but I really couldn’t enjoy in this book.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Did you read this book? What did you think about it? Do you agree with me or you think this book was good/amazing? I would love to hear your thoughts about it!

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Book Review: I was here

Title: I was here

Author: Gayle Forman

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Cody and Meg are best friends. Or they have been until Meg committed suicide. Cody feels double-crossed, lonely and unable to understand why Meg would do something like that. Meg had everything, she was a young and successful student, and nobody would even think about her doing something like that.

When Meg’s parents ask Cody if she could pack up her things in her college room, Cody meets Meg’s roommates and discovers some strange encrypted computer files. She also meets Ben, a guy who broke Meg’s heart. Through Meg’s new friends and browsing through her computer, Cody discovers things about Meg’s life that she had not known before. And she starts questioning some things about Meg’s death.


The book attracted me because of the subject – suicide. I was curious how Forman will represent this problem and how, if at all, will include different aspects of this topic.

As I have already mentioned, the main topic in this book is the suicide of Meg and how her best friend Cody is facing her death. I was afraid that the book will be very cliché and at times it actually was. Meg is presented as the best, most beautiful and most hardworking person in the world who was without mistakes and imperfections. And of course, this is also the reason that her suicide was an even greater shock for everyone. I don’t know whether the author has here deliberately exaggerated the positive features of Meg, just to highlight this aspect, how even the best can give up. It seems to me that this was not necessary and that any death by suicide should be considered the same. For me personally, it’s the same if someone successful commits suicide as well as if it’s done by someone who thinks he’s full of mistakes and not worth anything.

Consequently, we get to the second cliche, that nobody is perfect and we’re not persons we appear outwardly. Each of us has their secrets, desires, fears. And of course, we do not share them with the world. And even that we have best friends, we keep some things for ourselves. But Cody can’t understand that. She thinks it’s unlikely that Meg would hide things from her, wouldn’t tell her about some things in her life and actually lived a very different life that Cody thought she’s living. But I noticed, that at the same time, Cody was doing same to Meg. She never told Meg how she felt when Meg left her, going to college and she couldn’t go. When she had to stay in a small town, working as a maid. And here author really managed to capture Cody’s feelings – by assembling pieces of Meg’s life, increases her sense of guilt that she started to felt right after Meg’s suicide. She’s angry because she apparently didn’t know Meg as good as she thought she did but at the same time she feels regret because they weren’t in touch as they promised they would be. Cody is constantly asking herself whether it might be different if she would try harder. But all characters in this book feels the same – Cody, Meg’s parents, her roommates/friends, even Ben, the guy who broke Megs heart. Of course, Cody, at first, can’t reconcile with her death and she’s blaming herself for what happened. And later she’s blaming someone else and trying to find a proof about it. But in this process, she learns a lot about herself and starts asking herself questions like, how it would be if she would die.

I liked how at the end they all come to the conclusion that Meg’s death was not their fault. Meg wanted that. Guilt can only be hers. And here author pointed out what’s important about suicides – people feeling guilty or angry. All are wondering if it would be possible to do something, anything, just to prevent a tragic act.

A thing that was totally unnecessary to me in this book was a romance between Cody and one of Meg’s friends. Perhaps it would be different if romance would develop in the first half of the book. But in this case, a reader has to wait until the end of a book, which I thought was pretty lame.

I still have mixed feelings about Cody. I would say she’s realistic and nice girl. But at times, I couldn’t understand her acts and behavior.

I can understand her rage after Meg’s death – Meg had it all, Cody almost nothing, and yet she gave up. But I am not able to understand how Cody has not grown beyond her child worship of her best friend. Even after her death, Cody still thinks she was the best and everything Meg has done was perfect.

“I was just basking in her glow.”

“But if that happens to normal, what hope is there for the rest of us?”

“It was secondhand through Meg. Like pretty much everything in my life.”

I also blame her for not appreciating herself at all. Everyone likes her (even when Meg is dead) but she just can’t see it and thinks that they like her just because she was Megs friend. But toward the end of the book, she starts to realize it’s not like that. I was also bothered about her whining of losing best friend and loss of a loved one but in the same time, she’s not able to appreciate the support of her friends. The love she receives. She’s constantly declining friendliness of Meg’s parents, friends, and Ben. Sometimes I had felt that she’s using them just to get what she wants.

Nevertheless, I thought this book was good. Because of the characters I gave this book fewer stars, but still I think that main topic (suicide) was well presented. Forman did a great job with showing how people are dealing with a suicide of loved ones, which I found very positive. We usually read only about the ones who committed suicide or wants to commit it.

Fortunately, I never had to face a loss of someone who committed suicide. And I can only hope that I will never have to. Yet, I think it’s good to read about that kind of topics because you start to questioning yourself and thinking about important life questions. Which after all is a point of reading.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Did you read this book? If you did, what are your thoughts? Like it or not? Do you know any other book that deals with suicide topic and you would recommend it?