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Book Report – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

29 Sep

This is one of those topics where I feel a little silly contributing my voice to the discussion. At this point, what is there to say about The Hunger Games that hasn’t already been said?

But contribute I must. Because this book was awesome.

Imagine a future in which the government is so strict that once a year, it hosts a reality television show in which contestants must fight to the death. There can be only one winner. Contestants can be as young as 12. The contest is naturally biased against the impoverished, and contestants have no preparation for whatever challenges may exist within the arena. It’s simple kill or be killed.

When I was younger and fell within the target demographic for young adult fiction, YA novels like this simply didn’t exist. They were all about boys or shopping or social aggression or the various trials and tribulations of high school. I have no problem with books like that, in truth, but I was living it. I didn’t want to read about it too. Back then, there was simply no young adult fiction that was this complex, or this dark… and make no mistake about it, this story is dark. I have frequent nightmares, but they’re usually peculiar things… all my teeth falling out, or Seth Green chasing me with a scythe while spitting bees out of his mouth (seriously). Never before have I had a nightmare due to the book I was reading before bed. And never before have I had a nightmare quite so bone-chillingly awful, might I add. I dreamed I was in The Hunger Games; I dreamed I was losing, and I woke up in a cold sweat.

The one thing that caught me about this book: Toward the end, the remaining two contestants hatch a plot that, had it not been a ruse to begin with, could have devalued The Hunger Games and stopped it in its tracks. It would have come at great personal cost, but it would have been a fantastic coup. However, it would have left little room for a sequel. From what I understand, The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy. So, while I actually found it a little disappointed that the last two standing didn’t put an end to The Hunger Games once and for all, I also understand that the author has more of a story to tell. I look forward to reading the follow ups.

Buy it, buy it, buy it.


Book Report – The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

17 Sep

The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of those books that you hear about in passing, and find your interest semi-piqued, so you check it out of the library because you’re not sure you want to spend $20 on a book told from the perspective of a dog. At least, that’s what happened in my case, anyway. As it turns out, I could have just spent the money… but more on that in a bit.

Honestly, from what I knew about it before reading it, this book had a lot working against it. The idea of a story being told from a dog’s perspective is unique, sure… but it’s also a bit gimmicky. And the plot sounds melodramatic at first, involving love and death and custody battles and rampant accusations and court battles. And Ferraris. Because the lead human character is a race car driver. I’m not remotely interested in race cars, and I’m only moderately interested in melodrama. However, I am very, very interested in dogs, so that’s why I gave it a chance.

The story follows wise, charming Enzo, the aforementioned dog, and his master Denny, the aforementioned racecar driver. You learn right away that it will be a sad story, but Enzo sets you up for That Much More of an emotional reaction by detailing happier times first. I feel like I’ve already given away too much of the plot, so I don’t want to risk any serious spoilers… just know that this was a book where I was near tears at some points, laughing out loud at others. At one point, I was so angry with the story that I almost stopped reading the book, thinking that I didn’t like it. After a moment I realized it was the actual story that was provoking such a visceral reaction, not the book itself.

I love dogs. I’ve often looked at them and thought that they have so much to say; they just don’t have a way of communicating it all to us. Sometimes I think they might even be smarter than human beings. I get the impression Garth Stein thinks so too. If you’re looking for a good story that’s a bit of an emotional whirlwind, or you just enjoy reading stories told from unique perspectives, I think you’d probably like The Art of Racing in the Rain. Definitely worth buying.

Book Report – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

13 Aug

So far, the book reports I’ve written haven’t exactly been raves.

That’s about to change. Welcome to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

image via barnesandnoble.com

image via barnesandnoble.com

Hannah Baker has killed herself (don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything). However, before her suicide, she sat down and recorded a series of tape cassettes, each detailing a particular event that led her to the decision to take her own life. These tapes were mailed out to the individuals involved in said events, one of whom is Clay Jensen. Clay had a crush on Hannah, and cannot figure out how he could have possibly contributed to her death.

The story is told from two perspectives: The transcript of Hannah’s tapes, and Clay’s reactions to them. It’s a very unique format, in that these trade-offs in perspective do not happen from chapter to chapter (a la Nick and Norah… yeah, it was a book first), but rather from paragraph to paragraph, or even within the same paragraph. It’s a very natural flow. I think it was very smart of Jay Asher to use this format, as well, because had he devoted full chapters to Hannah’s thoughts, I think it would have read too much like a suicide note. Because he got the details so right.

There are people in the world who only read nonfiction, because they don’t feel like there’s anything to be learned from reading fiction. Those people should really read this book. Toward the end, it’s made quite clear that Hannah feels like nobody cares if she’s dead because she made it quite clear what her intentions were, and nobody stopped her. However, from Clay’s perspective, her intentions are only clear in hindsight, and the hints that Hannah considered to be obvious were in actuality quite subtle. I think this reflects reality for a lot of people. When you’re depressed, it can be hard to actually use terms like “depressed,” because there’s still a lot of stigma attached to it, or you might feel like you’re just overreacting to a given situation, or any number of things… but at the same time, you can feel like you’re practically screaming for help without actually saying the words “I need help.” Hannah’s perspective gives the reader insight into the feelings and experiences that a suicidal person may be living through, while Clay’s perspective reminds us not to take seemingly insignificant details for granted.

I also appreciated the fact that Jay Asher cleverly educates the reader about some of the lesser known signs of an impending suicide attempt. For example, he references Hannah giving away a prized possession (her bike), as well as her demeanor improving just before her suicide.

I’m not meaning for this to turn into some creepy rant about how to recognize the signs of a suicidal mentality… I just really want to bring home the point that this book is both highly readable and highly enriching at the same time. It’s one of those books that makes me sad at the end, because I didn’t write it. So it should come as no surprise that I think you should definitely buy it, buy it, buy it.