Episodic Memoir – Episode 8

The Kamakura Buddha was built in 1252. It took ten whole years to build him. It had taken ten whole years to build me, too. We had a lot in common.

I placed my palm on the cool interior shell and said a prayer for world peace.

Then I fed the koi my lunch, even though the signs said Please Do Not Feed The Fishes With Your Private – I didn’t understand the English, and pretended not to understand the Japanese, either.

World Peace means no fish go hungry.

Orbiting Jupiter – Gary D. Schmidt

People have been raving about this YA novel and it is even one of the official picks for the 2016 Global Read Aloud. I read it over the course of two days. I give it a 4/10.

Before I tell you everything I didn’t like, let’s touch on the good stuff: The content is interesting and not common for a middle grades novel. Foster care. Teenage dads. Runaways. Implied physical abuse by a parent. There is a lot of inferring that goes on in the story – inference of swear words, inference of character interactions/intentions, etc. That’s super interesting and I liked it. There are some sassy cows in the story, too. Who can dislike a sassy cow?

But aside from that…the story is geared at a middle school audience, but reads much younger. While Schmidt has put out some extraordinary stuff, this book just…falls short.

The narrator is 12. The writing feels like it was written by the 12 year old narrator.

I don’t like that.

There is a lack of vocabulary in the story that makes my skin crawl. How many times does Jack swear someone is going to cry? How many times does Jack have to use the same freaking word to describe a series of very similar situations? It’s annoying.

Joseph has so much potential to be a really cool, really complex, really interesting character. He is [] right there. Right There. But, he falls short. I get it, teenage boys in the foster system can be closed off and hard to get to know. Are we left wanting more from him because this comes from Jack’s perspective?

Annoying. Develop him. Do something with him.

Lots of stuff just kind of happens with no explanation.

I don’t like that.

The book takes place in winter.

I don’t like that (lol).

There isn’t a whole lot of change of scenery in this story. The house. The walk. The school. The sky. The barn. Over and over, the same routine. We get it. They can’t go somewhere else? Maybe if they did something other than milking cows we’d learn more about these people (like when they randomly ice skate. That was a good call.)

Lots of people said they cried their eyes out reading this novel. So did I. Because I was so bored. I was glad it was over but not glad with how it ended.

I’ll have students reading this novel in October and hope they are able to bring some sort of perspective into it that I just lack. If it hadn’t been hand picked by GRA16, I would stay far, far away from this novel.

Like, as far as Jupiter maybe.

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

So, I loved Eleanor and Park. Loved it. That’s why I decided to venture back around after Night Circus and pick up another book by Rainbow Rowell. I chose Fangirl and went off on my merry way.

Overall I give the book a 6/10. The writing is solid. Rowell has a way of constructing stories that I wish I could emulate. I liked that Cath is struggling to write outside her comfort genre. I can relate there. I can relate to being a freshman and just wondering what is going on in my life. There’s a lot to relate to and the dad is weird and kind of unexpected. That’s why I give it 6 points.

Here’s where the book lost me. Levi. He is so stereotypical. A blonde, blue eyed, tall, perfect male figure. Why are love interests always perfect? And white? And blonde? I get it. Alejandro (who would go by Ale and not Jandro in real life) is the other love interest, but he’s not a prominent figure at all. I get bored with the love interest always being the exact same.

Then we have the twin sister – Wren. She is a stereotypical female college freshman, too. Discovers life outside of living at home, starts drinking too much, ends up in a few questionable circumstances. She’s incredibly flat when juxtaposed with her sister. Cath does grow throughout the story, but not in any way that surprises.

Also, I know that the fan-fiction she and her sister are dying over is actually a book written by Rainbow Rowell, but I have zero desire to read it. Every time I came across the excerpts, I found myself writhing with impatience. I didn’t enjoy them, didn’t find the fan fiction story compelling at all.

So, all in all, it’s not a book you feel like was a waste of read. I’m a better literary consumer for it, but I think I’ll be taking a break from Rainbow Rowell for a while. After the glory that was Eleanor and Park, I don’t think I’ll be able to find another text of hers that I like as much.