Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

How good for there to be a sweet little book about Christmas in New York City for me to read after my first Christmas season in New York City (the first of many!). I found this book for $1 at the Strand, which is all very fitting for a book that starts with its protagonist finding something unexpected at the Strand. I selflessly gave it to my mother and didn’t even read it before giving it to her because that’s the kind of angelic saintlike daughter I am. But then I swiped it from her two seconds after Christmas and read it before she had a chance to.

Left to his own devices for Christmas, a holiday he deeply dislikes, Dash is spending a lot of time in the Strand, the massive bookstore near Union Square. As he is checking out J.D. Salinger, he finds a little Moleskine notebook with a message challenging him to a boosktore scavenger hunt. Lily, a Christmas junkie with an enormous family, has left this notebook (by the instruction/coercion of her brother) in the hopes of finding a boy. She and Dash write to each other in the notebook, back and forth, leaving it for each other all over the city and growing more and more intrigued with the idea of each other with each successive dare.

I enjoyed (ish) Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by these same authors, but at times the writing was a bit much for me. I didn’t have the same response to Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, which was a sweet little book that hardly annoyed me at all. I liked seeing Dash and Lily’s interest in each other, as well as their reservations —  people who have met Dash keep telling Lily that he’s “Snarly”, and Dash isn’t sure he wants to spend all his time with a girl as wild about Christmas as Lily is.

(BTW, I am crazy about Christmas. I love it so much. You want to cheer me up, tell me how short a time it is until Christmas comes back around. Only eleven months! Then, a week with my family and my puppy and my beautiful, gorgeous home state, and everyone giving presents to everyone else!)

I liked it that although the notebook makes it possible (easy in fact) for Dash and Lily to romanticize each other, the book doesn’t give them an out on getting to know each other as real people (with flaws). If I may make a slightly spoilery comment, their first meeting is, yeah, not everything they might have hoped it would be. This is a book about romantic expectations and the way people change you, and it was the perfect Christmas read. I knew the places they were talking about sometimes! Yay me! Yay New York!

(Yes, it would have been nice of me to tell you about this during the Christmas season. But I hadn’t read it then. Too bad for you.)

Other reviews:

things mean a lot and Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
Erin Reads
Bart’s Bookshelf
Take Me Away
Consumed by Books
The Perpetual Page-Turner
Marjolein Book Blog
Books by Their Covers
YA Book Nerd
The Story Girl
Words on Paper
Book Chic Club
Eating YA Books

Did I miss yours? Tell me! I will add a link!

Review: White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi

In White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi has done the thing I was afraid she wasn’t going to manage, which is to become EVEN BETTER YET in her third book than she was in her second.  She can’t keep this up much longer, right?  I mean she has to plateau at some point, right?  Helen Oyeyemi!  What will you do to stagger and amaze us next?

White is for Witching is about a set of twins, Eliot and Miranda, who live in a haunted house.  Miranda has pica, and the house hates foreigners.  As the book goes on, we come to realize that there are people in the house apart from those that its inhabitants can see, people that the women of Miranda’s family have sometimes been able to perceive.  Miranda and Eliot go off to Cambridge and South Africa (maybe), respectively, and still they are bound to each other and to the house.  Spookiness ensues.

Simon’s review of this book suggested Helen Oyeyemi might have got too experimental for her boots with this one, which filled me full of fears that she had given up on interesting plots/characters in favor of using too many words in unorganized word salad sentences.  In fact there’s just a hella lot of ambiguity and uncertainty about the sort of evil the house is wreaking, and what all the characters’ true motives are.  Which is the sort of ambiguity I can see why someone would mind it, but I do not, when the book is about a sinister haunted house.  A haunted house is scarier if you can’t lay the ghost.

Another reason I liked it (but someone else might not) is that there are multiple narrators, in varying degrees of reliability (one of them is the house.  You really can’t rely on the house to tell the truth).  I love multiple narrators.  I have done ever since I was in fourth grade and my mother bought me Caroline B. Cooney’s Among Friends, and I thought it was the coolest idea ever and swiftly went off and wrote a book my own self with multiple narrators.  One of them was a unicorn, and one was a talking book.  And at the end?  The army of men and the army of women all decided to get married, so they didn’t have to have a war after all.  Lesson learned: It is rather lame to pretend like you are going to have to have a Major Event (like a war) at the end of a book, and then for some silly reason not have to have the Major Event after all.  [Thinly veiled subtext: I learned this lesson before I left elementary school, while Stephenie Meyer never learned it at all.]

That unnecessary slighting reference to Stephenie Meyer brought to you by: Embarrassment at my nine-year-old self’s idea of what constituted a good story.

Anyway, multiple narrators.  I am a fan.  If you are not, this may not be the book for you.  Ditto for if you need to be perfectly clear on the spooky haunty happenings and what’s real and what’s not.  Otherwise, hit this up immediately.  It is damn good.  I’m only sad that Helen Oyeyemi has no further books for me to read right now.

Other reviews:

A Striped Armchair
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
Stuck in a Book
Torque Control
Coffee Stained Pages
Fantasy Book Critic
The Indextrious Reader

Tell me if I missed yours!

Tricked, Alex Robinson

My graphic novel experiments continue!  I checked this out because I opened it up and I liked some of the things the artist did with panels.  I still do actually – there’s a page I remember, where the whole page is the character’s face, and it’s broken up into panels with dialogue across it.  It’s a good effect, how the dialogue washes across the character as he’s deep in thought.  Maybe it’s because I read Scott McCloud’s books, or maybe it’s because there were some rather flashy art choices (not flashy in a bad way!), but I noticed panel divisions and art tricks a lot more, reading Tricks, than I have in past graphic novel readings.

Tricked is about a number of people – a musician, Ray Beam, who hasn’t recorded an album in years; a pretty girl called Lily who becomes his personal assistant (with or without quotation marks); a waitress called Caprice who’s looking for luuuuv; a girl who comes to find her long-lost father; a fantastically boring forger in a pawn shop; and a schizophrenic IT guy called Steve who has gone off his meds.

I don’t know.  I enjoyed reading this, I guess,  but I didn’t really care what happened to any of the characters.  They were cardboard cutouts of Types, I thought, and not much happened to make them more interesting.  A lot of the situations seemed far-fetched, and just became more so as the story went on.  Even when the characters themselves acknowledged the craziness of their lives, it didn’t make their lives any less implausibly crazy.  When I finished the book, I felt like I had been waiting for better things.

The art was excellent though.  Really.  I think the reason I finished the book at all was that the art was very cool.  Lots of good tricks (tricks, Tricked, ya see what I did there?) with the panels, and with making the pictures and dialogue work together.  I love that stuff.

If you reviewed this let me know and I will link to yours!

The Wednesday Sisters, Meg Waite Clayton

This is another one of those I’ve read about on several different websites. Trish’s book blog, Caribousmom, SassyMonkey … probably more, but those are the ones I remember. Everyone kept saying how good it was, but the library hadn’t got it in, and I didn’t like Language of Light enough to finish it, so I put off reading it. The Wednesday Sisters is all about five women in the sixties (then seventies) who become very close friends and form a writing group. Which isn’t doing it justice, because there’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist.

There are things that could be changed for the better, yes. Sometimes there are weird, jarring shifts in point of view, that don’t seem to be happening to any reason except that it became inconvenient for Ms. Clayton that Frankie couldn’t read the minds of her other friends. And I found it annoying that the narrator kept constantly pausing and making little nods to the twenty-first century, like, Back then we didn’t even think of divorce as an option! I know it’s true, and it didn’t bug me the first several times, but after a while I wished she’d quit it.

On the other hand, I found myself surprisingly addicted to this book. For a book that isn’t big on actiony action (it’s more, you know, emotional things going on), it was quite engrossing. Every time I found myself doing something that was not reading The Wednesday Sisters, I got really cranky like when a baby gets fussy, and I kept thinking, Why am I not reading The Wednesday Sisters right now? This is so stupid, I don’t want to do this, I want to read The Wednesday Sisters some more so I can be contented.

So yup, I liked it a lot.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Aw, this book was so sweet.  I feel like I’ve been hearing about it everywhere I turn, but I think initially I read about it on Caribousmom – apparently ages and ages ago, as she reviewed it in July.  My mother owns a copy, and I borrowed it from her and lost it, so I was in a panic about where it could be, and then the other night I was at home and I saw it on her bookshelf.  Apparently I brought it over to my parents’ house to read and then left it there.  I’m such a spaz.

Well, this book was really very, very sweet.  It’s all about post-WWII England, specifically the Channel Islands, specifically the Channel Island of Guernsey.  Writer Juliet Ashton becomes interested Guernsey’s occupation by the Germans during the war, and decides to write a book about the people there.  The book is such a dear, nice book, with all these excellent anecdotes in it.  I love anecdotes from Back In The Day.  I love reading about the brave, brave, brave British during World War II.  I love epistolary novels.  There is no bad here.  I wish the author, Mary Ann Shaffer, had lived longer so I could have read interviews with her in which she could have said where she got all these anecdotes from.  Because I am interested.

So yeah, you should read this book.  It’s nice.  Not unflawed, but really such a nice book, it’s well worth reading.

I just had – I mean – well, okay.  You know how I said it was unflawed, and then I didn’t say what any of the flaws were?  That’s deliberate, because the flaws, you know, they were few and not distressing, and it was such a nice, nice, sweet, pleasant book that I didn’t want to mention them.  But I just have to say that the whole Oscar Wilde thing – well.  I mean, I’m thrilled, of course, for it to be more widely known that Oscar Wilde’s full name was Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde.  Insofar as that goes, I’m enchanted to have the subject brought up.  Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde.

The only thing is that – minor spoilers here, I guess? – the only thing is that those letters that they have that are written by Oscar Wilde, they’re supposed to be from 1893.  Ninety-three.  The man would not have signed a letter O.F.O’F.W.W.  Not in 1893.  He didn’t do that anymore.  It was a whole thing – he said he was born with five names and he had shed all but two, and he wanted to someday be just known by one of them.  (Darling Oscar Wilde.  His 108th anniversary of death is approaching.)  I’m not saying it’s beyond the realm of possibility that in 1893 he would have signed a letter that way, but he had stopped doing that absolutely by the time he married Constance (before that actually, but this works as a benchmark), and that was, what, nine years? before these 1893 letters were supposed to have been written.  And I mean, yes, fine, that doesn’t by itself make it impossible that the letters would have been genuine, but you’d think somebody would have said, Hm, this is curious.  I certainly thought it was curious, a word I here use to mean TOTALLY IMPLAUSIBLE.

I have now officially said more about the implausibility of the date of some letters that aren’t even a major plot point, than about the book itself.  But I can’t help it!  It bothered me so much!  After I finished the book I went upstairs and fetched my Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde – yes, I own one – and looked at the signatures on every letter from 1893, just to make sure I wasn’t wrong.  (I wasn’t wrong.)