113. The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier: This book was so misleading—I thought it was about football somehow, when it's actually about chocolate as a tool of oppression and the sweet, sweet taste of conformity and the pros and cons of. Football is an extended metaphor that worked for me, but toward the end of the book it got kind of repetitive—it was saying the same things over and over. The copy of the book my library has is from the 1970s, and has nothing but vague blurbs and a sad picture of Jerry on the front in his football jersey. It's no wonder I was misled. Also, I expected there to be way more talk of masturbation in the story. Everything I've heard about this book complains about the fact that teenage boys are touching their cocks and how that's terrible and we shouldn't even mention it but hey, let's ignore the end of the novel where the books takes a turn from the sexually charged and swerves into Mafia-esque boy's club leader gets off on watching people beat each other down. Archie? As much as he protests, I think he loves it—he just doesn't want to dabble personally.
This book surprised me because of the resolution or perhaps lack thereof. I didn't expect Cormier to have the balls to do what he did and he went one better. This isn't an easy book to read at all, but it tells a lot of truths about greed—for money and power and influence—that can't be undone with a happy ending. The room nineteen thing was great, though, if the reader ignores the implications of the event (painful).
It makes me wish that I was in school and could still pull pranks like that. Then I come to my senses.
114. Whale Talk, Chris Crutcher: The cover of this book, if it's meant to be T.J., got white-washed. I can't decide if it was meant to be him or Chris, but if it was meant to be him: FAIL.
I never expect to like sports stories, but so far Chris Crutcher is 2:0 with me on making me love them so much I want more. I've only read Deadline, so this is just the second book by Crutcher but he can really make sports and their rules interesting. Better yet, he is great at showing how they matter to the narrator as something other than just a sport. It's like he's tapping into how I feel about fandom and showing me these guys feel the same way about the sport featured. It's not just athletics, it's Athletics. The best things this book has going for it is T.J. and his charm as well as his ability to be opinionated. I fell in love with him by the time he had started recruiting swimmers, and my crush just got worse as the book went on.
Oh, I saw the end coming. I saw it and I rejected that reality and even when I read it I was shaking my fists. On one hand, it's perfect in how broken it all is. On the other, you want it to be perfect without being broken but then the story would be lame. It's like learning that lesson over why happy endings aren't as emotionally fulfilling as bittersweet endings.
I remember when I fought to get the band letter jackets. I lost miserably. You don't screw with the letter structure in some schools, no matter how bad you want it. Alas.
115. Unwind, Neal Shusterman: I couldn't help but feel that the suspension of belief this novel requires reaches too far away from what people opposed to abortion would be able to handle and learn from. So as much as I loved this book, it's harder to imagine someone pro-life and severely close-minded going in and being open to the experience of what the book is saying. I disliked how the pro-choice side was demonized into the pro-abortion army, too: it's one thing to show how both sides are flawed but another thing to frame pro-choice arguments and choices in the "oh hai women are having babies just to sell parts!" way. This is especially galling when considered in the context of how the world has integrated all these forced births. Oh, yeah, man! Prevention in this world is also nil. Why bother with that pesky business when all births are forced, anyway? That was just, frankly, insulting. I'm still not sure why Shusterman spent all the time building the dystopia in this book but then left out the most logical solution. Maybe because it would have left him with no story unless he addressed it. Otherwise, the last I heard the pro-choice movement was trying to defend our rights and keep access to birth control and sex education in order to not have babies. Possibly this was a tool for Shusterman to make the war between the sides more logical to lend to his spare parts shtick, but it fell apart for me. The sides in the war are a very shallow reflection of the sides of the current reproduction rights war; the two shouldn't be confused with each other, and this should be taken less as a social critique and more like a SF book with outrageous premise using current social issues about woman's rights.
I enjoyed the book as I was reading it for the implications of self and memory, mostly. Lev's sections before he hit the underground railroad were intriguing. The ties between Shusterman's war and the Civil War were mined and mined and mined and by the end of the book that particular cache for inspiration was striped. The main characters were interesting and the romance, I thought, was fairly well-done. It's just...the premise. It falls apart if you consider it too closely, because it's hinged on such a weak idea that boils a movement down to the least common denominator. I did think Shusterman was pretty clever to work the ending the way he did, besides the silly coincidences in the last pages. It would probably be a great discussion novel and is pretty awesome brain candy. Just don't think about it too closely.
116. Bunker 10, J.A. Henderson: This book is all action with stock characters, one of which includes a ghetto-white character Henderson spent hours siphoning dialogue through a inner-city dialect translation script for. This story was all over the place and the farther I went the more annoyed I got with how we were supposed to care about the teens. I couldn't manage much sympathy toward them. It's just a really weak SF novel where a lot of things blow up and some nameless, faceless military grunts get killed and it tries to tug on your heartstrings but fails pretty badly. Henderson tries way too hard to establish a romantic couple that we should root for and fails. Threads are introduced and dropped so many times this story is like a frayed cloth. At least I enjoyed it while the mystery was still intact, so for about half the book. Better than nothing.
I have purchased several books recently. Havemercy, a hardback, first edition copy of Looking for Alaska, Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones, which Dewey and I are going to read together and co-review. I used a 15% off coupon to buy the paperback copy of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party because I've really wanted to reread it and look up all the worlds and sink in without having to worry about returning it. It's such a good book.
Do the Math, a post about the economy under Democratic and Republican presidents/Congresses. Pretty stark.
Is Palin Ready? Please. I haven't been able to watch the Couric interviews, honestly. Watching either McCain or Palin hits my embarrassment squick hard and I don't know why. I do know I am going to force myself to set through the VP debates, provided McCain's campaign allows it to happen without faking her kidnapping or something. I read a lot of FiveThirtyEight, even though I have to block out the polling data because I will go crazy, but this post was pretty intriguing. I honestly didn't know there were enough people going, "drop out! drop out!"
I get annoyed when people say she should drop out and cite her family. That just pisses me off.
YA Connection! I love that project hard.