Friday, 16 May 2014

Love Letters to the Dead

Laurel is a teenager drowning in grief for her sister who died a few months earlier, when she is asked to write a letter to someone who is gone as an English assignment she begins a process of trying to understand and come to terms with her grief.Each letter is addressed to a dead star like Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse although the book reads more like a diary as Laurel uses the letters as a way of trying to understand her life.

I first became interested in this book when I was intrigued by the title and then further intrigued by the cover quote from Stephen Chbosky. 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' is one of my very favourite books and I'm a big sucker for being influenced by who is quoted on the cover.In this case I was right to be influenced like this.Despite my love for YA in general I haven't been very inspired by anything I've read recently,which made the discovery of this book that much sweeter.

What I loved:

I found the writing very evocative and there was real emotional depth to the letters,I could really feel Laurel battling with her feelings.While she is an understandably sensitive teenager she can also be wilfull and rather reckless which serves to make her seem like a real teenager.Similarly,her relationship with Sky is developed in a realistic way through the initial flood of hormones which then give way to more difficult matters.

Although I assume the book is set now there was  an enjoyable sense of the retro thanks to the references to Nirvana and River Phoenix. I love books with pop culture references and a lot of the references here were ones seeped in nostalgia for my own teenage years.I also liked the absence of references to modern technology and the fact that the teenagers don't speak in slang or text speak.

I always enjoy reading about sisters and their relationship and so I loved reading about Laurel and May although at times it made for heart wrenching reading.Towards the end of the book Laurel becomes increasingly honest about May's death and when the events begin to fit together it was with a building dread that I became aware of what had been happening.

The ending.Although I could anticipate what the very end would consist of I thought it was carried out perfectly and although I was sad it had to end I couldn't have been happier with how things were tied up.

This is an excellent debut and for me it's up there with the best the genre has to offer.Aside from Stephen Chbosky I would recommend this to fans of David Levithan,Tabitha Suzuma and Elizabeth Scott.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird

I'm not someone who really subscribes to the notion that there are certain books you 'should' have read.For me reading is all about what's enjoyable and will maintain my interest, I couldn't really care less about the  '100 Books you should Read before you Die' type stuff.However,there are a handful of books I really don't understand why I havent read by now,and 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is one of them. After seeing a review on a blog recently from someone else who'd owned a copy for several years but hadn't read it I decided to finally do it.

I won't bother with a plot summary because I'm sure most people gave an idea what it's about.This book deals with all manner of issues surrounding tolerance as well as the realities of small-town life and how difficult it can be to operate outside the norm.It also does a great job at showing how integral you upbringing is in terms of the values you are introduced to and the lessons you are taught via your family.

When it is done well,using a child as a narrator can be a skilful technique,something which may well have begun with this book.Scout is an excellent filter through which to experience the world of this book.She is charmingly honest and never afraid to question actions she cannot comprehend.She is also very wilful and a bit of a smarty pants which I love.These characteristics really make Scout feel alive on the page and I have such a vivid image of her in my head as a result.Her innocence also gave me the needed distance from the depressing nature of many of the events in the book.Scout won't allow herself to be beaten down by all of the cruelties that unfold,and that stops things from ever feeling bleak or depressing.Many of the things that happen are sad,infuriating and avoidable yet they are also exceptionally believable.

I am always fascinated by the insights a book can provide into the dynamics inside the family and that's something which is dealt with expertly here.I really felt like I got to know the Finch family and although at times it felt hopeless I was really rooting for Atticus.I admired him a lot as a character and I never felt like he compromised his family and their wellbeing despite the enormity of his job.So often in books I find fathers are barely developed stoical figures or controlling, so I loved Atticus all the more for being a Father that was really setting an example.

I would definitely recommend this book as a timeless story with themes that still resonate today,and is a very memorable tale with a great moral core.