45 Pounds More or Less

Book:45 Pounds More or Less

Author/Authoress: K.A. Barson

Cover: 3/5

45 Pounds (More or Less)

This cover could never be called beautiful. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Being the shallow person that I am, I fully confess that this is the reason this beautiful book sat around on my goodreads recommendations shelf for more than a month before I got around to read it. There’s no apology I can make that’s good enough. But I’m sorry- a million times and more. The cover may not be pretty but it is meaningful. From the green dress at the top to Ann’s pudgy calves in the middle to her flip-flops at the bottom the cover symbolifies most of the important part of the books. And that’s why the cover gets the redeemable score of 3/5.

Plot:4/5

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:
She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.
Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons,  embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.
And there’s one more thing. It’s all about  feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!

This description is deceptively ordinary. One of those ‘you should be happy with who you are blah blah blah’ kind of book.  It’s not. I would describe it more as a ‘you can always strive to be a better person but weight shouldn’t be one of the factors you take into consideration’ kind of book. I haven’t read that many contemporary young-adult books but I can safely say that I enjoyed the plot. Loved it even.

Characters: 6/5

Yes you read that right! Six on five!  Where this book really shines is the characters. I have never met characters who are more realistic than the one’s in the book. They have their virtues and their flaws and they are never anything less than three-dimensional.

Ann is obese (at 185 pounds, she’s 47 pounds heavier than the prescribed upper limit for her range) . And she knows she is. She doesn’t shy away from the fact or whine that it’s not her fault. She doesn’t sidestep responsibility by saying that it’s her Mom’s fault for making amazingly tasty food (I’ve heard that excuse used in real life). She acknowledges the fact that her obesity is a direct result for eating too much and exercising too little. Ann’s no Katniss Everdeen but she’s still a book character I admire and respect for this reason solely. It takes a lot of courage to face the facts, sometimes and even more to change those facts. What I like most about this book is Ann’s reason for losing weight. She wants to be a healthier person, look better and be able to wear certain clothes- all for herself. She’s not changing herself for anybody else, she’s growing (or shrinking) herself into a healthier, happier person. But she has her moments where she doesn’t exactly… well, shine. There’s no way I can say that I understand what she went through. I don’t have anything close to her complicated family situation. But let me tell you what I could feel. I cringed for her when she got stuck in a dress in a dressing room and I felt outrage on her behalf when a customer at her workplace made a crude remark about her getting hungry and eating all the pretzels.  I felt annoyance on her behalf when her mom constantly berated her for her weight and her embarrassment when her (sort-of) best friend took a dig at her weight.

Ann’s Mother. Oh my god. She’s one complicated character. Picture perfect from the outside. Decidedly not from the inside. You can tell that she loves her kids and she tries doing what’s best for them but it’s not always really the best for them. Almost half of this book portrays her in a less than favourable light. The perfect mom whose a bit embarrassed about her daughter’s weight problem and is very  vocal about it. She’s not above guilt trips, buying swim-suits as ‘inducement’ or barking at her daughter whenever she eats something even mildly unhealthy. Worse, she calls herself fat (even though she’s a perfect size 6) making Ann wonder what exactly her mom thinks of her. Is it any wonder that Ann resents her and is frustrated with her?

Mike: The politicky step dad. Diplomatic and nice to a fault. But at the end we see that he’s definitely dad material.

Libby is the adorable four year old sister who observes much more than her mother and sister notices. My heart broke for her when I realized that she was developing an eating disorder just from watching her mother and sister obsess over their own weights. Her twin brother doesn’t do much to help either, constantly ribbing her and calling her fat but he’s just as adorable as she is.

Rayne(e) is the nice, pretty popular girl who just so happens to become the protagonist’s best friends. She sounds like a walking stereotype but I promise she’s not. She’s a bit naïve, unwilling to believe what her (old) friends can do and annoyingly relentless in persuading her new best-friend to try new things.  She sews her own  clothes (how cool is that?) and she helps a lot in mending her new best-friends sense of self-esteem and confidence.

Jackie and her ‘bride’: Jackie is Ann’s aunt. Funny, bold and totally in love with her fiancé, Jackie acts as the catalyst for Ann’s want to lose weight. Although we don’t see much of her in the book, Ann repeatedly tells us about her support.

Cassie’s the obligational friend that we’ve all had. The one who we used to think was cool but now we wonder ‘Were they different then or just did we never notice how mean they could be’ kind of friends that we’ve all had once or twice in our lives.

Courtney’s the rampaging, raging mean girl of this book. She lies, she cheats and she makes Ann feel frumpy and fat. She spikes Ann’s drink at her party (causing Ann to act unmistakeably weird in front of her crush) and she lets Ann take her fall for the missing food at work.

Regina… she shows up in only one scene of the book and I think I laughed non-stop throughout it. Passively aggressive describes her to a tee. She’s always finding fault with something but never saying it straight up, only implying that things could be better. We can see where Mike gets his incredible politic skills although I don’t think he would like the comparison too much.

Jackie and her ‘bride’: Jackie is Ann’s aunt. Funny, bold and totally in love with her fiancé, Jackie acts as the catalyst for Ann’s want to lose weight. Although we don’t see much of her in the book, Ann repeatedly tells us about her support.

Romance: 5/5

This book doesn’t revolve around romance and I’m glad. I’m just saying that the message in this book wouldn’t have been as strong if Ann had decided to change herself for a guy.

There’s not much I can say about the love interest. In fact I can not even remember his name. I just remember that he had dimples and was taller than most people and Ann had a majorly sweet crush on him. He’s the guy next door and that’s something rare in most YA books.

The romance in this book was the awkward, first-love sort of romance. Sweet but not overpoweringly so.

Plotholes: 5/5

Surprisingly there were no flaws in the logic. Nor were there any unhealthy messages conveyed. If it wasn’t so pure and real-sounding, I would say that it was preachy because of the message it conveyed: eat healthy; don’t try to fit into clothes, make clothes fit you.

Overall rating:5/5

If you read the entire review, I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised that I rated it five stars. Buy this book. Buy it in hardcover. You’ll be reading it over and over again.

 

Green: Do you think he’s a genius or does he make you want to commit genocide?

When you think John Green, you think of Young Adult fiction and when you think of Young Adult fiction, you think of John Green. This Indianapolis born author has become a major part of modern young adult literature. Harsh critics everywhere praise this middle-aged man (yes, he’s actually as old as my dad) for creating stirring books about teenagers but there are some people like me who are not ready to bow down to John Green and his mighty prowess.

After four of John’s books-The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines (read in that order), I think I’m qualified enough to answer this question. Though I definitely don’t think of John Green as a genius, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that he makes me feel like committing genocide. I’m still completely anti-genocidal. But John Green’s books do make me want to bang my head on a desk repeatedly. Why?

Characters:

John Green himself has admitted that his main characters tend to be ‘white washed’ while his supporting characters of other races do little more than act as sidekicks over here but that’s not even the most unforgivable part. What really gets my goat is the fact that all the characters are so interchangeable. They’re usually male (TFIOS is the sole exception) and on the brighter side of the spectrum (read, they’re smart cookies) but sometimes I feel like John’s trying too hard to make them sound smart. They lust unforgivably over a hot female friend. And they’re as straight-laced as they get, while they’re friends are decidedly…not. Cigarettes, under aged drinking, etc. etc. the protagonist is usually dragged into all of it by his friends. Which, if you think about it, is not really a healthy message. The sidekicks…ahem, I mean the supporting characters, exist for no reason except to tempt our lovable protagonist into becoming more ‘fun’ and to endure racial jokes. Another unhealthy message. The love interest just sits there looking pretty and shares a couple of witty and supposedly ‘profound’ lines with the protagonist (which must have taken them hours to think up). Yet another bad message.  John Green has a formula and this is it. There are almost no deviations from this formula. For someone who claims to be pretty bad at maths, John sure does love his formulae.

Plot:

Plot? What plot? Oh I’m sorry was the long car trip supposed to be the plot? They sit in a car. Crack a few lame jokes. The sidekicks need to pee…a lot. Oh, and somehow they all bond over it? Let me tell you something. Car trips are not as romantic as John Green makes them sound. 8 hours in a cramped car is enough to drive a saint to the devil. Screaming, tantrums, weird music turned up to unbearably loud levels, etc.  If you’re lucky enough to do it in the middle of the night, the passengers sleep in awkward positions with cricks in their necks while the driver woozily stares towards the high way (day)dreaming of sleep. And when they get to their destination (or non- destination) they meet a bunch of people who are magical clones of them-just of the opposite gender.

Writing/Dialogue

One of my friends commented that John’s books are kind of pushy. They try to force you to think in one way and instantly condemn you if you don’t think the same way. It’s like the cliché clique in high school but worse because it’s a middle aged man who is advocating it all.  It’s something remotely philosophical and deep wrapped up with excessive amounts of attitude and then shoved down your throat instead of being handed to you politely.

Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.

When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.

At times, I felt like I wasn’t reading a book; I was listening to a supposedly philosophical sermon. Maybe I’m not-so-smart and maybe I hang out with people who are not-so-smart but I have never heard real teenagers sprout out these beautiful pearls of wisdom in quick succession. If I’m lucky, I say 3 wise things a day, not a conversation.

So wrapping it up, I know that a lot of people like John Green. And that’s great but his books are not really my cup of tea. I like more realistic, original characters, More realistic, wholesome plots and more realistic, down-to-earth dialogues. Basically I want my realistic fiction to be (you got it) realistic.

Not a Drop to Drink: A Book Review

Book: Not a Drop to Drink

Author/Authoress: Mindy McGinnis

Cover: 3/5

Not a Drop to Drink

The picture’s accurate, I guess but what I don’t understand is the differentiation between the faded half and the yellowish half? What is that supposed to symbolize?

Plot: 5/5

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

The plot is petty original. Survival. The end of the world doesn’t have to be dramatic. It doesn’t have to be chock full of demons and monsters, teenagers with freaky powers or inter-dimensional rips. Sometimes the biggest threat to survival is a lack of that which so many of us take for granted. Water. Air. Electricity.  A dystopian world doesn’t have to consist of  of guns, bombs or fallen angels. Simpler (probably more realistic) problems could happen.  Not a Drop to Drink is the perfect book to show you how something so easily available can become scarce and the world on its head. And honestly Lynn is the best possible character I can think of to show you this. Water’s scarce but it’s a necessity. Lynn’s been brought up in a harsh world and has had a tough childhood but she acknowledges the fact that she’s luckier than most. She does hard labour. She’s killed.  But at least she has water.

“Do you want to die like this?” Mother had asked that night and every night since then.
Lynn’s answer never changed. “No.”
And Mother’s response, their evening prayer. “Then you will have to kill.”

This book is the ultimate survival world. Mindy McGinnis’s book doesn’t have monsters, vampires or a cool technology. No it’s strength lies in it’s sheer ordinariness. Lack of water’s something that all of us have to worry about. Even though 75% of the world is covered in water, only 3% is drinkable. And of that 3%, only 1% is accessible.

Characters: 5/5

Like I said, Lynn’s been brought up in a harsh world. She has killed, she has hunted animals for food, she harvests her small farm’s crops, she has to haul in and purify the water. She spends hours sniping invaders from the rooftops of her home. Get a break? Which strange planet do you come from?  For 16 years, she’s lived in isolation with only her mother. Her mother’s strict and she’s a total bad-ass. I guess the bad-assery runs in the family.

Lauren is Lynn’s mom. mother. She remembers the time when things were normal, when water ran freely from faucets. She has an English degree, which is rendered completely useless right now, except as a tool for educating her daughter Lynn when time allows for it. Lauren is tough. She has killed before, she will kill again, and she has taught her daughter to do the same. It’s not meaningless, they have to live, and if they don’t kill the invaders, others will kill them. There is a small question regarding her morals and her trigger-happy fingers but…she’s a pretty cool character.

Lynn finds it hard to trust so I think her relationship with her neighbour, Stebbs worked out really well. It’s a gradual, paternal-type of relationship .  Their relationship grew from outright distrust to an uneasy one, at best, to one that is more complex than either would have initially guessed.

Romance: 2/5

Well it wasn’t insta-love. But I guess that’s the best I can say about the romance in the book. Eli’s a city boy. With little-to-no survival skills. He’s good at the violin and has a sense of humour (which Lynn doesn’t fully get, anyways).  I just don’t get the attraction. And I don’t see the chemistry either.

Worldbuilding: 5/5

An amazing worldbuilding (like I discussed above in plot). What’s unique about this book is that we see only a tiny slice of the world. We see Lynn’s world. We see her house, her pond, her forest, her gun and we get a few hints about the City. That’s it and that’s enough. In this case, less really is more.

Plotholes: 2/5

Lynn is a girl who’s known only her mother for her whole life. She briefly knew of Stebbs, a cripple who used to live in her neighbourhood but she’s never actually talked to him. Her mother  taught her to think of all strangers as enemies and trained her to kill without remorse. Not exactly someone who’s a hit at parties.  And if she suddenly finds herself orphaned, I think the social skills will take a deeper dive. After her mother’s death, she should have become tougher. More distrustful of people around her. Scared. Confused. Right?

Wrong? Instead she starts going soft. She starts talking to Stebbs, looking after a young girl that a stranger gave to her and falling in love with said stranger. If this isn’t OOC, I don’t know what is.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Other than the obvious plothole, this book was amazing.In fact it was so good, I put it in my special ‘books-I-loved’ shelf on Goodreads. A must for people interested in dystopia for the first time and for the old hands as well.

 

Well this will be my last post for a week or two. Hopefully this one was good enough. 🙂

Pure: A book review

Book: Pure (Pure #1)
Author/Authoress: Julianna Baggot

Cover: 5/5

Pure (Pure, #1)

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Breath-taking, even. Can you blame me got wanting to read this? Although the covers’s not exactly accurate (why is the dome so small?)-it’s pretty damn close. Symbolism.  I like it Yeah you get 5/5 for your gorgeous cover, Pure. Pure beauty.

Plot: 4/5

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it’s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again

So what makes this book a dystopia? Obviously the stark difference between the Pures- the people who escaped the Apocalypse (mostly) unscathed and are living it up, and the Wretches- the people who couldn’t make it to safety when the Apocalypse happened and now live disfigured and scarred in horrible condition. But then there’s this whole conspiracy theory that’s underfoot anyways.

This book’s original. Scary, creepy, dark, disturbing and somehow beautiful at the same time.

Beauty you can find it here if you look hard enough.

This book both pays homage to and reminds us of the terrible Hiroshima- Nagasaki atomic bombing that the Japanese suffered through. It’s a deep, dark topic. And well, the images that Julianna Baggot uses…well, they’re disturbing to see the least. (More about this under Writing). I don’t mean to make light of the tragedy but parts of the book are disgusting to visualize. I’m 14- I thought I was done with nightmares, yet somehow this paragraph seems to bring them all back

Three women step out – all fused – a tangle of cloth hiding their engorged middle. Parts of each face seem to be shiny and stiff as if fused with plastic. Groupies, that’s what they’re called. One of the women has sloped shoulders, a curved spine. There are many arms, some pale and freckled, the others dark.

A lot of this book deals with descriptions of disfigured people and it’s just hard to imagine all the suffering that’s going on.

You know how they say most Young-Adult books have little to no substance in them? How they try stretching plotlines too thin? Like bulimic, half-starved models?  Not this one. Now imagine that model growing up to become an obese, middle aged women with frizzy hair. This book’s too stuffed with information. There’s too much going on, too much of flesh and meat.  And no skeleton to support it. I’m just saying that this book is like the woman. It would have been better off being divided into two.

Characters: 4/5

There was a lot of bouncing around of Point of Views in this book but that didn’t help much in revealing much about the characters.  I got a good feel of Pressia and Partridge but I didn’t really get much about their ‘love-interests’ (more about that under romance).

Pressia’s the kind of girl who’s an idealist. She hasn’t been sheltered, exactly but she hasn’t been exposed either. So at times she’s very, very naïve and trusting. While, at others she seems to be a bitter cynic. And sometimes she’s confident and self-assured while at others she follows other people, taking their lead before trying it out for herself. Now, it might sound like Julianna Baggot did a horrible job creating a character who’s split into two. But in the book, it doesn’t read like that. In the books, she’s a teenage girl. A teenage girl who grew up in a complicated, dangerous, deadly world. She’s comfortable with the familiar aspects of her life but when tossed into new situations, she’s hesitant. She’s self-concious about her looks (she has reason to be, she has a doll’s face for her hand and her face is scarred) but is there any teen age girl who isn’t? And like any teenage girl, she hopefully (and naively) waits for her Prince Charming to carry her off on his white horse… No, wait she just wants the world to go back to normal and be safe. I have a few friends who would probably be just like Pressia if an apocalypse happened.

Partridge. Stupid name. Not a stupid character. Since he lived in the Dome for most of his life, he’s considered privelaged. But he’s lost a lot- his mother and his brother (or has he?). His father’s an important, busy, manipulative man who’s emotionally-distant (and maybe just a little bit evil too). Not only is his father unapproachable, he makes it hard for other kids to approach Partridge. So Partridge grows up isolated and alone (although considerably better off than Pressia). He constantly lives in the past, trying hard to remember his mother and his life before the Apocalypse. When he gets the opportunity to run out of the Dome, he grabs it with both hands and seizes the chance to find his mother (who may or may not be alive). Having lived in the Dome, he’s more morally….ahem, inclined then the other characters in the book. He has a high sense of honour but runs around most of this book envied and hated (and maybe a mixture of both) by the ‘wretches’ who’re probably just jealous.

But don’t tell Bradwell that. He’s a bitter revolutionist who buys into the conspiracy theories. Fiery, angry, not exactly likeable- he’s everything we want the love interest of our story to be. And he’s got the coolest disfigurement ever (not to be insensitive or anything). He’s got live birds attached to his back which flutter their wings whenever he gets agitated and angry. Much cooler than a tattoo, isn’t it.

Partridge’s love interest is boring. So boring, I can’t actually remember her name. She goes kind of crazy and she needs to be saved ALL THE TIME. Frankly speaking, Partridge, you could do so much better.

And the supporting characters are pretty cool. For example, El Captain is attached to his brother. Literally attached to him. And he resents his brother for it. But deep down, he really loves him too.

For the first time in as long as he can remember, El Capitan is proud of his brother. “Damn it, Helmud! Shit! You’ve been planning to kill me.

Romance: No rating

There’s only some romance if you squint and tilt your head to the side. No, not like that. Just a little bit more. There you got it. And now it vanished. You didn’t see it? Did you blink? Of course, that’s why.

The romance in this book is just like that. A few measly confessions like ‘I like you’ and a (maybe) pity-kiss and the romance in this book is pretty much done with. It would be unfair for me to judge this book on the romance on the book.

Writing: 1/5

I think it was the multiple POV’s which killed this book for me. There were more than four of them! And they all sounded so similar. Then what really buried the books were the long, in-depth (and maybe even incorrect) technical scientific explanations. Worse than world-building info-dumping, this is real info-dumping.  The writing in this book makes it confusing to read. Not an easy read at all.

World-building:3/5

Julianna created this magical, dark, dangerous scary world. And kudos to that for her. But her writing style and her uninteresting character- I’m looking at you Partridge’s sort-of girlfriend who’s name start with a ‘L’ made sure that this book wasn’t spectacular. I guess if an author gets one thing right, he/she’s going to mess up the other.

Plot Holes: 2/5

I don’t fully understand what the OSR did. It’s a military group that snatches people outside the dome away when they turn 16 to be drafted into their ranks. But wouldn’t that mean that everyone over that age should be part of the military?

And there’s a lot of gross imagery in the book. At first it’s kind of a novelty, but halfway through the book I’m like ‘Ew. No more please.’ As far as emotions go, I’d say the book evoked mostly digust and fear from me. I think it’s kind of shallow that Julianna Baggot has to depend so much on these cheap visuals to get us to remember the books.

Overall Recommendation: 4/5

Read it. But only if detailed descriptions of disfigurements won’t disgust you or bore you. And if you can handle the multiple point of views. Read it because it really does have an interesting plot premise and cool characters.