Awarding Superlatives to my January Reads
Like I said a few posts ago, I've been a reading fiend lately. I read a whopping six books last month, which is unprecedented for me. Usually, I manage one or two, but not this month! I thought it'd be fun to see not only how these books stacked up, but draw out exactly what their strengths are the old-fashioned way--class superlatives. Like a high school yearbook. Maybe it'll even give you an idea for your next read.
I knew two pages in that I was going to love this book. Twenty-three pages later, I was already in love. I awarded Samantha Mabry's moving YA as most literary because of the impressionistic way she told this story. We read this story through the lens of three Torres sisters in third-person point of view; the fourth perspective comes from the boys next door and uses the pronoun "we." I'd only heard about this type of narration but loved seeing it executed in a published book. In fact, these bits of the story told by the boys were my favorite parts of the book. When we think about it, all readers are voyeurs, peering into the lives of people we've never met, watching them unflinchingly when they're at their best and worst. This narration emphasized that truth.
I also love that Mabry broke the first person, present tense trend we've seen in so many YA books lately. First-person offers that intimate glimpse into the characters' psyche, but a third person narration offers that dash of intrigue because it's a little more distant. That's certainly what this book did for me.
I already reviewed this book here, but Some Kind of Animal is delightfully disturbing. Not so disturbing that you need to put the book down and throw up, but disturbing in the way that demands your whole attention. It was the perfect in-between. In case you didn't read my review, here's the run-down. The protagonist's twin sister grew up in the woods, eating raw rabbits and other critters. They don't know who their dad is, and their mom is probably dead--probably because their dad killed her. One person almost gets his head ripped off and a couple other people die at the hands of the feral sister in the woods and her domesticated but troubled sister who will do anything to protect their secret.
Apparently, Preston got her start on Wattpad, so I don't know what I was expecting from this one. Not to knock Wattpad, but most of what's on there read like first drafts. It lacks the finesse of a published book, complete with a team of editors. Of course, this is perfectly fine. It's for writers of all levels of experience looking to connect with other writers. It's a welcoming atmosphere and is not meant to be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, my standards for published books are slightly higher than they are for Wattpad, and this book very much felt like a Wattpad book. There was very little set-up before the inciting incident (which occurred in the first five pages or so), very little character development, and high-speed pacing. Additionally, the plot was largely nonsensical, and the characters rarely made decisions that made sense. If some serial murderer was picking off your housemates one-by-one, would you really be going out to the club? Or taking walks "just to get some air"? Eh, I'm gonna go with no.
In spite of the ridiculousness, I have to admit I enjoyed this book. I just embraced it for what it was and chose to suspend my disbelief. In terms of prose, Preston is a capable writer. The death and gore were far more gruesome than I expected, and I respect that Preston did not hold back. I also was wrong about who the murderer was, so props to Preston for setting up a spicy ending.
Most Likely to Make You Go "Awww"
Here's another book that didn't meet my expectations--but not in a bad way. It's the coming-of-age story of a boy who grows up in a commune in the 1970s. He doesn't know who his parents are or what his real name is (he'd been dubbed Clover Blue by Goji, the leader of the commune), but his search for answers is stifled by the concealment of information. Blue must take matters into his own hands if he wants to discover who he is.
I expected this book to be much more sinister than it actually was. What it turned out to be was an episodic tale of life on the commune. Blue dwells on his identity and his family but isn't too proactive about finding the truth. His search is largely introspective. For that reason, this book is not a very plot-driven narrative at all, and most chapters are pleasant portrayals of his commune brothers and sisters. There are a few uncomfortable secrets that surface, but nothing sinister is going on here.
Regardless, this book still had my full attention. I listened to it on Audible as I walked my dog in the morning, and it was such a great book to sink into. I felt fully engrossed in the story and deeply invested in Blue, who is such an endearing character. I loved seeing him grow up and feel as though he is a close friend of mine. The ending couldn't have been more perfect (if not a little shocking) and had me "aww"-ing all the way through.
Most Likely to Give You Weird Dreams
I already reviewed this book too, so I'll be brief here: this book was weird. The best kind of weird, and totally not the kind of book I would normally read (I mean, fantasy? Really?). The last quarter of the book didn't merely feel like a dream--it felt like an acid trip. Not that I've tripped on acid, but after reading this book, it's safe to assume I know what it's like now. Probably.
It's not only Albert's world that's trippy, but her writing style adds to the whole reading experience. It's very descriptive and quite an acquired taste (as I could see from the reviews on Goodreads), but she has some of the most inventive and subversive vision imagery I've ever read. Her word choice is on another level.
Most Likely to Make You Slap Your Forehead
I awarded The Communist Manifesto with this superlative because Marx and Engels have some faulty logic going on. They're critical of the middle class (the bourgeoisie, as they call it), because of their innovation. If they keep upgrading stuff (you know, like the process for how stuff is produced) then some businesses are going to fall behind. People will stop buying from them and they'll go out of business. And that's not fair. How dare those conniving businessmen streamline processes by inventing new technology, and drive prices down so people buy from them and not the competition? How dare they have the nerve to advance society and make life easier for everyone?
I know starting and maintaining a business is hard, but if you're not doing anything to benefit the lives of those around you, then you have no business owning a business. We shouldn't stifle the creative and critical thinkers just because other businesses aren't smart enough to figure out how to compete with them. A competitive environment forces entrepreneurs to say, "How can I offer a more valuable product to my target market at an affordable price. How am I going to communicate that what I have to offer is superior to the competition?" Without competition--without the imminent possibility of being left desolate on the streets with no way to provide for the family--we can simply fall back on the incentive-killing system of communism, without any hope of bettering the world around us. Come on Karl, this is marketing 101.
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