I am a teen of the 90s. We were many things – the last generation to have to call a house phone and just hope that your friends showed up where and when they were supposed to. The ones who went to the school library or the internet café to check our email with the hopes that our friends had gotten on the same page. Grunge. Angst. We didn’t create it all, but we sure did embrace it.
Some of our fashion was awesome (dresses and combat boots and plaid or just all the girls from The Craft).
Some was questionable (remember Kriss Kross – not just the backwards clothes, but also the obsession with baseball jerseys). Continue reading
One of the most infuriating tropes in YA literature, or crime fiction in general really, is the protagonist knowing a giant secret and deciding that they will do a better job investigating than the police. Now, I’m not going to say I never read these books. Hell, I’ve written them. I even understand why this exists, but it gets overused and often quite badly. You spend most of the book yelling at the characters to get their heads out of their asses and talk to the cops. But in Freaks Like Us, Vaught is able to tell this exact type of story without the reader ever really feeling that way. You actually understand why our protagonist never tells the police what he knows.
Jason (Freak), I’m going to call the kids by their real names instead of their nicknames, is a high school student with two best friends – one boy, one girl. They’ve been friends most of their lives. They live close together. They ride the same bus. They take the same classes. They’re members of the alphabet kids – each with their own classification. Each with its own symptoms and behaviours. Derrick has severe ADD/ADHD. Jason is schizophrenic. Sunshine is selectively mute. I didn’t even know that was a thing until I read the book, but I was explaining the premise to a friend who teaches these types of classes and she assured me it absolutely is.
Derrick is always moving, always talking, always producing energy. Even though he is a part of the trio, he’s sort of a background character. He’s their friend, but the big relationship here is Jason and Sunshine. These kids are pretty self-aware. They know what they have. They know what happens when they don’t control it. They know how other people feel about them. They even have their own hierarchy of disorders within their class – even if no one outside their classes recognizes it. Kids prone to violence are stuck in with kids who aren’t. It’s just the way it is. One alphabet is the same as another in the view of the school. Let’s blame this on the fact that schools are treated more like daycares than centres of learning and often have to do whatever they can to make their budgets work. School budgets… it isn’t the point of this novel, but (and there are spoilers from this point on, accept it) they are part of the plot. The lack of funding leads to a convicted child sex offender being put in charge of a group of minors. Unacceptable! Continue reading
Human nature insists we assign intention to the events in our lives. We assume we know why someone else does the things they do. And we make judgements about them because of the images we shape. But no matter how hard we try, or how much we believe, we can never really know someone else’s story. In The Absolute Value of -1, Brezenoff demonstrates how our minimalist perceptions can not only narrow our views, but can detrimentally impact others’ lives and relationships. How we influence and change the people around us. How every relationship changes the fabric of our being, even if we never recognize that it is happening. The remove between us, our people, and the truth.
I’m not a huge fan of the first person, multiple pov structure. It often feels confused, frenetic, and kind of shallow. Honestly, I relate this style with terrible YA romances. I much prefer my novels in the third person omniscient. That being said, when the first person switch is done well, it serves to highlight the depth of the novel. I think Brezenoff does it really well. We get each character’s story in a complete chunk. Lily’s version. Noah’s version. Simon’s version (I’m not sure how I feel about Suzanne’s part. I will ponder while I write this). Each story builds a little more on the one before until we finally have the mostly complete picture. From the outside, these three kids are easy to write off as stoner slackers. They seem like the type of kids that don’t care about anything – not their families, not their friends, definitely not school. But we don’t know their story. And the reviews I’ve read that still make those claims after they’ve finished the novel… I don’t know what those people were reading, or if their lives have just been exceptionally blessed, but I think they’ve missed something crucial. Each of these teens has something different, but so very similar, that drives their actions.
Based on the book blurb, I was a little uncertain going into this book. Although the blurb is direct quotes from the novel, it highlights the potential love triangle more than the evolution of self on the way from adolescence to the cusp of adulthood. The space between who we are and who we want to be. The deep inner turmoil that either forces us to grow or shuts us off entirely. How hard it can be to ever be certain of anything. Even when we think we have everything down. Continue reading
Sometimes, I find an author I initially like a lot, but as I keep reading, my interest starts to wane. This is what happened to me with Bolton’s books. Sacrifice was excellent. The first two Lacey Flint novels (with one exception that I’ll get to in a minute) were decidedly fun. But the third one kind of lost me. It felt like it was drifting. I couldn’t really put my finger on why, and that bothered me more than anything. I hate not being able to articulate what bothers me about a book. I’m not sure what prompted me to finally pick up Blood Harvest, but I did, and I’m glad. It was an enjoyable book, but more importantly, it helped me figure out what bothered me about the previous books.
First, the good stuff (so, obviously, spoilers). The book comes right out of the gate with a weird creepiness. Multiple dead children buried in an old grave. Strange voices seeming to come from nowhere. Inhuman looking children no one can see but other children. Little text inserts of something watching the family. Creepy and delightful! It actually felt a bit supernatural, which wasn’t what I was expecting. It was a great way to start the book. Initially, we get a lot of short chapters flipping between the different povs. It took me right into the book. Is there anything more entertaining that creepy ass kids in a churchyard? Okay, yes, the trope is overused, but it can be super fun, and I hadn’t read one of these in quite a while. One of the things I really liked was that a huge portion of the book took place from the perspective of the kids. Tom was the one telling us the story of his family. Every adult perspective is from outside the family. So instead of the typical story where the parent is telling us about the weird things their kids are doing, we get to know exactly why the kids are doing where they’re doing. The parental input is irrelevant. Tom’s innocence gets to drive the story. Continue reading
You may have noticed that there haven’t been a lot of book reviews on the blog lately. Some of this is because I’ve read a number of books lately that haven’t been worth reviewing. Some reviews are in progress (there should be a couple in the next few days). But the biggest reason is because I haven’t been reading at all. One of my pets got very sick recently and the taking care of/worry, combined with the eventual decision to put him down and end his kitty suffering meant I wasn’t in the mood to read. I couldn’t concentrate. I mean he was just so cute. Look at his adorable face.
And he liked books, too. Well, he liked to sleep on them.
In my grieving period, I needed a distraction. My lovely friends spent time with me and we went to the fabric store and the library. But there comes a time when you have to be alone. And I know that pets are pets. They are not people. But they are part of the fabric of your life, especially if you’ve had them for a while. I look for him in the places where I used to trip over him all the time. And then it’s a fresh reminder. So, I tried to read, but that didn’t work. It was too quiet. I tried watching tv, but I got too easily distracted. So I decided to sew. Continue reading