Jojo Moyes: Maybe She Writes for Young Adults Too.

Here’s to a bloody brilliant British author who, with her gaining popularity might actually be able to convince those Americans across the pond that their cousins aren’t really all crisp accents, 5 O’clock teas and prim and proper (admit it fellow star spangled banner-ers: you heard it as prop-uh in your head).
And how does she do that? With her mind-blowing honest-feeling, sweet  and believable books, of course!

I know I usually stick to YA books and Jojo Moyes is traditionally considered an adult romance writer, but I think that Jojo Moyes books are something that YA fans would appreciate.
First of all, her characters are believable and natural. Don’t resist sympathising and empathising with the characters- it’s futile. Maybe it’s poor, harassed cleaner and single-mother of two who’s fast losing track of her morals but it still so beautifully hopeful and loving towards her children or the computer geek (turned millionaire), trying hard not to disappoint his military father and whose awful luck with women end with a lawsuit against insider training in One Plus One. Or perhaps it’s the precocious 10  year old girl who desperately wants to go into the water where the marine animals she loves are and is keeping a terrible secret for her mother or the British executive who’s scoping out the land for a watersports hotel (also because he’s having doubts about marriage) but falls in love with the beach, a family of tough women who live there and the whales who migrate there in Silver Moon Bay. It could be the copywriter living in a glass house with a striking painting who’s still half in love with her dead husband or the great painter’s brave wife running a bar and hotel during German occupation during WW2 in the Girl You Left Behind. Whoever it is, you can’t walk away from these books without the characters touching your heart- no your soul. They are just that colourful and vibrant but worn and tired and relatable at the same times.
Second, it deals with moral conundrums that will leave you reeling. Is it okay to steal if you really need it, you know the person won’t miss it and you plan to pay it back? (No.) Can you sleep with a Nazi commander with a strange fascination with art to save your husband from a camp? (Yes, if that’s what you believe). At what point do you choose your personal convictions and moral beliefs over your job? (When you know that something that will haunt you forever if you don’t do what you believe in). Non-preachy and thought provoking- most YA novels wish they did the whole problem-solving thing this well.

Third, she does great side-by-side comparisons of the characters. It’s not a common plot device, but Jojo Moyes often tells two love stories in parallel: one historical and one contemporary, with a common thread linking the two stories together like family, a letter or a painting. It’s whimsical and beautiful, and the juxtaposition really highlights the differences. However, at the same time it shows that human character and things like love, friendship, family, loss and change remain the same- no matter the time period. And that may be the most brilliant thing of all!

Fourth, Jojo Moyes writes about ‘real’ men. Yes, the teen guys in YA books have chiseled jaws, six packs, brooding countenance and smouldering green eyes, but let’s be honest- how many guys have you seen like that? The guys in Jojo Moye’s books are less perfect and are more beautiful for it. With thinning hair, or slightly thicker abdomens than ideal- the love interests in her book could be anybody you know. They may not look perfect, and they’re not perfect- by any stretch of  the imagination. But the men (for these are men, not boys or guys) are principled, skilled, intelligent and patient with hearts of gold- people you’d want in a long-term relationship.

If I had to start you off with one Jojo Moyes book, I’d suggest the Girl You Left Behind. With half the story set in France during WW2 and the other half set in modern-day New York, it’s about love and loss and belief and art-appreciation. The book absolutely wrecked me, because at times it was so, so, sad. No spoilers, but there was a  HEA ending (It wouldn’t be chick-lit without it).  Read the prequel, Honeymoon in Paris. It showcases a different side to the characters, gives you some backstory that you’ll really appreciate after reading the Girl You Left Behind and will get you attached to the characters.
The Girl You Left Behind

Honeymoon in Paris

If you dislike WW2 stories, read Me Before You. It’s no less hard-hitting or tragic, dealing with life debilitating injuries, hopes, real falling in love, bitter rich men, family and suicides.  It’s one of her best-known books for a reason, you know.

Me Before You

So Rainbow Rowell, Elizabeth Wein and John Green fans looking to move towards books targeted towards older audiences, Jojo Moyes is the author for you. Chick-lit lovers and romance fans, Jojo Moyes is the one you’ve been looking for. Hell, if you’re above the age of 14 and female (I don’t mean to stereotype, but…I don’t know many guys who are into the chick-lit/romance scene).

Quotables:

 “All I can say is that you make me… you make me into someone I couldn’t even imagine. You make me happy, even when you’re awful. I would rather be with you – even the you that you seem to think is diminished – than with anyone else in the world.”
– Me Before You

“I was once told by someone wise that writing is perilous as you cannot always guarantee your words will be read in the spirit in which they were written.”
-The Last Letter From Your Lover

“Some mistakes… just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let that night be the thing that defines you.”
-One Plus One

Vicious: A Book Review

…because having superpowers doesn’t make you a great hero.
Or even good.

Vicious

‘Vicious’ by V. E. Schwab (the pseudonym Victoria Schwab writes under when the book is less young adult and more gritty, dark and intense) is one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read.To be honest, I’m nervous about doing justice to the book in this book review.
My problem: How do you capture about 500+ words of sheer awesomeness in about 500 words?

Story in short

Two pre-med students. Best friends and room mates. Brilliant, arrogant, ambitious.
Hidden jealousies. Rivalry.
Then- a thesis.
A theory that works.
An experiment that works too well.
And now, they both have super-powers.
But there’s something vitally human missing in them too.

Ten years an d a jailbreak later-
Two sociopaths- each convinced they’re less evil.
Two sociopaths and their superpwers.
Two sociopaths determined to see each other end.

The question is: How does it all end?
The more important question is: Who are you rooting for?

The Cast:

The whole cast of this production is certifiable…If the certificate was for the asylum, of course.
Right from the villain to the ‘protagonist’ to the supporting characters (read: sidekicks or lackeys) all of them are deeply and intensely insane.
Eli who goes by the name Eli Ever (he likes alliteration, folks) is firmly convinced that God gave him the task of killing  removing ( sorry, killing just sounds so messy)  all the other extraordinary people (people with superpowers) because they’re plain WRONG.
His sidekick/love interest/ manipulator (God only knows who or what she is), Serena hates the thought of  her little sister being ‘wrong’ so much, she’s willing to have her boyfriend murder her (the sister that is).
The aforementioned sister’s name is Sydney. She’s a necromancer who looks up to Victor with almost puppy-like devotion. The hero-worship (haha, no pun intended) is seriously unhealthy.
Our protagonist Victor (riiiight… the guy who has no compunctions about killing, torturing and lying to achieve his goals) is out to ‘get’ the villain. The two had a serious bromance going on, but becoming EO’s totally killed that.
Matt, Victor’s friend (not his bodyguard) is a buff,non-violent, criminal hacker (trust me, he really is). He’s the closest to normal but come on, if he’s hanging out with this group he can’t totally be right in the head.

The Writing:

Vicious is hands down the creepies book I’ve read in the last 365 days. It surpassed the Madman’s Daughter and even Unwind on the Shivers-Down-My-Spine Scale. And I loved every single second of it. Maybe even every fucking word.

Part of what makes this book so compellingly creepy is the fact that it’s written in 3rd person POV with several flashbacks. Normally, I shun these things like I would shun the plague or a misogynist.  But not only did Mrs. Schwab make it work-  she actually made me admire the writing style ( I am so jealous. I wish I could write like her).
The third person POV and the flashbacks gave us just enough information for us to get a good idea of the background and thoughts of the characters while allowing us to be detached enough to identify with ALL the characters; I’m  a bit horrified actually that I could relate to people so mentally disturbed.

No young adult author (although I would hesitate to call this book young adult since there’s all of one character who’s below the age of 20 and she’s 12) is as good as Victoria Schwab in hitting that perfect balance between lyrical and efficient. Take this quote for example:

…something about Eli was decidedly wrong. He was like one of those pictures full of small errors, the kind you could only pick out by searching the image from every angle, and even then, a few always slipped by. On the surface, Eli seemed perfectly normal, but now and then Victor would catch a crack, a sideways glance, a moment when his roommate’s face and his words, his look and his meaning, would not line up. Those fleeting slices fascinated Victor. It was like watching two people, one hiding in the other’s skin. And their skin was always too dry, on the verge of cracking and showing the color of the thing beneath.

Holy crap, right?

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anyone else who’s so supremely good with the plot twist. Mrs. Schwab has a tendency to write out a huge build up which has you on the edge of your seat and forces you to draw some pretty obvious conclusions.  Then, she suddenly yanks you out of your seat by refuting everything you thought was true with a plot-twist. It’s brilliant and kind of sadistic (trust me, I don’t use these words lightly after reading this book) .

Vicious is Megamind (the movie), Steelheart and American Psycho on stereoids. It creeped me out totally and absolutely.
But then, I loved it totally and absolutely too.

Ratings:

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Ending:5/5
Plotholes: I’d have liked a more hashed out backstory for Eli but other than that, this story was flawless.
Would I read another book by this author: Are you kidding me? Yes!

Overall Rating: 5/5

Pearls of Wisdom from the Book:

“When no one understands, that’s usually a good sign that you’re wrong.”

“The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren’t always protracted, heavy with meaning.”

“―We could be dead- said Eli.
―That‘s a risk everyone takes by living.”

“Anger flared through him, but anger was unproductive so he twisted it into pragmatism while he searched for a flaw.”

“I don’t want to be forgotten.”

White Lines

Currently Reading

Book: White Lines
Author: Tracy Brown

White Lines

How Much I’m Done With: 164/497 pages (33%)

Why I Picked It Up:
It was an  accident. An honest-do-goodness accident. I was actually looking for a book by the same name by Jennifer Banash. However even after I realised my mistake, I continued reading simply because of the super high rating goodreads ( 4.49/5 which is astronomically high).

Blurb:
Jada left home at the age of sixteen, running from her own demons and the horrors of physical abuse inflicted by her mother’s boyfriend. She partied hard, and life seemed good when she was with Born, the neighborhood kingpin whose name was synonymous with money, power, and respect. But all his love couldn’t save her from a crack addiction. Jada goes from crack addict and prostitute to survivor and back again before she finds the strength to live for herself and come out on top. And her stormy romance with one of the fiercest hustlers on the streets makes White Lines one of the most unforgettable urban loves stories of the year.

My Thoughts So Far:
So far, the book seems unnecessarily long. The main message is ‘Just say no to drugs. They hurt everybody.’ but Tracy Brown spends an inordinate amount of time describing the poverty, violence and vulgarity of the seedy areas of Brooklyn and nearby places. I guess it’s important but neither the setting nor the characters captured my imagination or made me invest in them. The detailed description of the drug business was uncomfortable the first time but by the seventh or eight time, I was desensitised to it and it almost seemed repetitive. And trust me, desensitisation is never a good thing for books; especially when an author wants to show just how terrible it is.

Another thing that bugs me about this book is that all of the characters seem to lack something vital to every human being- a conscience. They never seem to regret the fact that they have murdered and left a path of destruction behind them or that their wealth has been derived from murders and violent acts. I don’t know if she based her characters on stereotypes or if the present-day stereotypes were formed based on the actions of black gangsters in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but to me these characters seem laughably cookie-cutter and unbelievable. Of course, you should keep in mind that I’ve never actually experienced or seen this much poverty and addiction so I can’t really say what a person like Jada or Born would think or act like.

The writing makes this book even more annoying to read. This is a textbook example of telling instead of showing (and we all know how that hurts a book’s enjoyability). Also, there is way too much cussing in this book. I’m not that sensitive about swearing in books but I maxed out my limit in this one. I have yet to come across a page in this book that does not feature a three letter, four letter or five letter curse word (or several). I can appreciate a well-placed curse word but when these words are repeated so many times, I lose faith in the vocabulary abilities of the author/characters.

Continue reading?: No. This is a definite and irrevocable no. While I thought the basis of the storyline was quite good, the execution of the idea was…lacking.