I’ve said it before, and obviously, I’m about to say it again – I do not like zombie stories. Every so often, I have to swallow my pride and admit that I’ve found one I like. It happened with The Forest of Hands and Teeth. And then again with World War Z (the book – Not the movie). And again with The Girl with All the Gifts. And now, it’s happened again – this time with This is Not A Test. What all these books have in common is that they’re not really zombie novels. They’re character studies that happen to contain zombies. TINAT is the most non-zombie, and the one I like the best, in the aforementioned novels. There are zombies in like 20% of the story and even then, they’re mostly background noise. Literally, sometimes, all that’s there is their ragged breathing. What this is, is a story about destruction. The slow, systematic removal of a person’s strength and self. The inability to feel safe in the one place a child should feel the safest. If you’re planning to read this novel, just stop here and go do it. I’m going to talk about the content, there’s no way to talk about anything in, or before, this novel without giving away the stuff that makes it good.
Sloane and her older sister, Lily, have been under their father’s control for years. Not the way most children are. Not in a strict parent kind of way. But an unbelievable abusive father. Who inspected their bodies to make sure their bruises didn’t show. Wearing his daughter’s down slowly and brutally. But they had a plan. A plan to get away as soon as they were old enough. Both old enough that their father couldn’t do anything about it. That plan, the prospect of getting away, was the only thing keeping Sloane sane. They just had to wait until Sloane turned eighteen. And then Lily left her. Ran away. Put the plan into motion – early and alone. Leaving her younger sister behind. And Sloane took the brunt of all of their father’s anger. He lost control until he beat her so badly she couldn’t go to school. Sloane is destroyed by Lily’s betrayal. Even more than she is by the physical abuse. All of this happens before the novel even starts. It’s all the background noise to Sloane’s life. The things that have brought her to the side of the tub, contemplating suicide, where she sits when the novel starts. We get no slow build here. Summers just throws us right into the centre of Sloane’s misery. Continue reading
“Tragedy is ugly and tangled, stupid and confusing.”
This book. Oh man. This book! It was not what I expected. So not what I expected. It did me in. It’s fresh and new and yet unbearably familiar. Before I get into what I was expecting from the book, I’m going to address something right up front. If you have any interest in reading this book, just go do it. Go in blind. You shouldn’t know what to expect. Let the story build as you read it. Just ride the wave. I’d noticed in reviews that people weren’t really talking about the book content in their reviews. I didn’t really understand why. They were all saying what I’ve just said – go in blind. I didn’t really understand why so many of them were saying this. Now I do. You just can’t really talk about any part of this book without ruining it for the new reader. Even I won’t talk specifics, and I am an unapologetic spoiler reviewer. I’m not going to do that here. I’m only going to talk about the concepts in the book. But you shouldn’t even read those. Just go get it and read it. It will take you somewhere if you let it. Continue reading
This book was both exceptionally easy and exceptionally hard to read. Easy from the perspective that it’s short, the font is large, and the chapters are a few pages at most. Hard from the perspective that this minimalist style of writing gives you nowhere to hide. And hide is what you want to do in this book. Hide from the nightmare this girl has been living in for so long that it’s just normal for her now. So normal that when given the chance to escape, she doesn’t take it.
Alice has been living with Ray for about five years, starting when she was almost ten. She knows he’s not her father, no matter what he says. Even though she thinks the story of her life before is a lie. He’s the man that tricked the old her. The girl that used to be. He’s the man that made Alice. She’s now fifteen, and she no longer fulfills his ideals. She’s too tall. Too heavy. Too old. Too everything. She no longer fits in the tiny white dresses with the ruffled trim. Keeping her weight under 100lbs has become a constant struggle. He’s turning her into an anorexic – which she has no desire to be. When she gets the chance to eat, she does. As long as she can brush her teeth before she sees Ray again. She knows it’s not worth the pain she will feel if he catches her with food. Continue reading
When I’m on vacation I like books that I can really get into, but that aren’t overly… um, mentally taxing. What I’m looking for changes depending on the season I’m reading it in. I was recently on a very relaxing vacation at a mountain resort in the off season. There was literally nothing to do except for read books and watch tv in front of the fire. It was exactly what I was looking for. There was more movie watching than there should have been, but I didn’t have to think about work for 10 whole days – perfection. I started the vacation with a really heavy book, and when I finally finished that one, I turned to Weirdo. It was exactly the kind of book I was looking for. A two fold murder mystery being told simultaneously. It’s a super fast, super easy read, but for the most part, it’s entertaining.
I don’t normally write about thrillers. They tend to be pretty generic – even the good ones. It’s part of what makes them enjoyable. Also, it’s nearly impossible to really talk about them without giving away the things that make them intriguing or unique. This one follows the expected format, but with the twist needed to make it interesting. There’s no possible way for me to talk about this book without talking about the specifics, so, if you’re one of those people that reads reviews before the book, turn away now. Beware all ye who enter here. Etc. Etc. As I mentioned above, there are two storied being told simultaneously in this book. The twist is that they are occurring in two different decades and one directly impacts the other. Continue reading
Can you ever escape yourself? That’s the question behind Catherine Lacey’s debut novel. I suppose the answer is a fairly obvious no, but Lacey gives it to us in the most depressing way possible. I found this book through a Joss Whedon tweet, second time this has happened, and much like his first recommendation, this book is expertly written. I wish I’d read this book before the Top Ten Tuesday post on October 7th. This is a great character driven novel. There’s almost nothing in this book except character. There is very little action. You’re not constantly waiting to see what happens next. Instead, you’re waiting to see if the protagonist ever figures out her shit. That’s what makes this book relatable, but not necessarily enjoyable. If you’ve ever had someone in your life who suffers from depression, you’ll immediately recognize Elyria’s actions and see how she got to where she is.
I’m not sure I can say that I liked this book. I enjoyed the ideas. I liked the writing – to a point. But man, this book was bleak. Depressing. Depressing. Depressing. The short story – Elyria, a twenty-eight year old woman finds herself in a loveless marriage and decides that she doesn’t want to be in it anymore. Instead of divorcing him, she drops off the grid, takes a one way flight to New Zealand, and ends up at the home of a man she met once. One of the things I really liked about this book is that Elyria’s life isn’t all doom and gloom. She’s not trying to escape a life full of one terrible event after another. Everything isn’t going wrong. Sure, she’s suffered, but who hasn’t. And she’s not just bored and trying to find adventure. Instead, she’s just a person who isn’t sure how her life got to where it is. Continue reading