TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Little kids

*sigh*

Writing in dialect is difficult. Getting dialogue to sound right is difficult.

Just…

If I could…

One suggestion…

JUST DON’T WRITE OUT HOW LITTLE KIDS TALK, OKAY?

I do not believe this FOUR-YEAR-OLD is having this conversation, even with her cutesy (if inconsistent) speech impediment. “Aw, it’s cute because she says words wrong.” NO! FALSE!

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MAKE-YOU-CRY MONDAY: What I Did For Love

I’ve written before about A Chorus Line, its tear-producing powers, and the excellent documentary Every Little Step which chronicles the audition process for the show. I loved today’s song before watching the documentary, but the explanation behind the song gave it new meaning for me.

Toward the end of the musical, one of the characters sustains a career-ending injury. Everything he’s worked for becomes nothing in one second–the thing he loves doing most, he’ll never be able to do again.

In Every Little Step, Charlotte d’Amboise’s father has severe arthritis as a result of his dancing career and was told by doctors that he had to stop dancing lest he destroy his body. He, too, had to give up his favorite thing on earth.

Some of this song’s greatest lyrics:

  • We did what we had to do
  • The gift was ours to borrow
  • It’s as if we always knew
  • Kiss today goodbye and point me toward tomorrow

Every line in this song kills me–it’s about leaving great things behind, but looking forward to even better. All the dancers–both in the show and outside of it–think the pain and the loss were worth it because for a brief time they got to do what they loved. I thought about this song a lot during my senior year because it felt like I was giving up so much. I like this song because while it acknowledges the pain of loss, it has hope for the future.

This is only part of the song, but I got to see this cast live and wouldn’t dream of posting another version:

You go, Morales.

Need cheering up?
Settle in, girls, it’s story time!:
This song was playing once when I gave my friend a ride home. Before getting out of the car, she told me, “I really like your Christmas CD,” forever giving me reason to play this at Christmas instead of Manheim Steamroller.

Top 10 Walk the Moon lyrics

In 2012, my brother and I were walking around in Old Navy when we heard this song. We loved that it was upbeat and had a crazy time signature and most of the lyrics were “oh oh oh.” It was basically the song described in One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” and we thought that title was fitting. Unfortunately, it was over before William could Shazam it.

Fortunately, William found the song, “Tightrope,” a few months later. Both of us were surprised to find the band, Walk the Moon, had also written the song “Anna Sun,” which played nonstop on the radio that summer. That Christmas, I bought him Walk the Moon’s first album. Countless road trips, 2 matching mohawks, and 1 awesome concert later, Walk the Moon is our favorite band.

Walk the Moon is awesome. Lead singer Nicholas Petricca has said the band’s goal is “to make people dance and feel good,” which is both noble and all I ever want from music. The four band members are excellent musicians with shockingly great hair.

Hair comparison
Eh? Ehhhh?

While working on a DIY project, I trolled the internet for ideas and found a list of inspirational Walk the Moon lyrics. I am nothing if not a copycat, hence this post. While I tried to be diverse in my choices, some lyrics spoke to me more than others, and I ended up drawing from my 5 favorite Walk the Moon songs. So here are my top 10 favorite Walk the Moon lyrics, lack of variety and all.

Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

The premise: At the start of the book, fraternal twins Noah and Jude are best friends despite being opposites; Noah is shy, likes to draw, and folds in on himself, while Jude is more outgoing, feels comfortable around others (especially boys), and prefers making sculptures. Three years later, the two no longer speak and have almost switched personalities: Jude is on a boy boycott and Noah is now popular and athletic. Both are miserable. Told in alternating perspectives chronicling the past and the present, the twins figure out how to love their messed-up family, each other, and themselves.

Go buy a copy of this book immediately. Immediately.

I’m always amazed by Jandy Nelson’s writing. She is full-stop, italicized-and-underlined, jaw-drop, face-plant awesome.

She’s better at expressing emotions than I am at verbalizing them. She nails the most obscure emotions by writing off-the-wall descriptions about planets or moons or flying into the ceiling. When I read her books, I feel everything her characters feel and more without having to be persuaded. And she makes it seem easy (it’s not).

To be honest, it took me a while to get into this book, which starts in Noah’s perspective. Being in Noah’s head is so bizarre I thought for a while he had synesthesia. Despite its weirdness, the first chapter sets up Noah’s odd worldview and his family dynamics.

Then Jude’s chapter–taking place three years later–hits and everything is terrible.

After the time skip, Noah and Jude’s worlds are drastically different. I was shocked that so much happened so quickly without knowing why. The book’s organization sets up an intriguing mystery that lets readers slowly piece together exactly what went wrong with Noah and Jude’s family.

Nelson’s writing benefits from having two drastically different narrators. It was fascinating to see how each twin dealt with romance and grief and to compare their differing–and often faulty–perspectives on the same events. The title comes from a game invented by the highly competitive twins where they divide up the world–Noah takes the oceans but keeps the flowers, Jude keeps everything but gives up the sun, etc. The game underscores their complicated relationship; the twins love each other and have fun together, but always with an underlying spirit of intense competition.

The twins make poor decisions yet remain likeable. In other books, I can be overwhelmed by the amount of tension and conflict. Every event in this book contributed to the tension, ruining relationships and sometimes killing characters, but nothing that happened felt unnecessary. Each thing that happened tied into the eventual conclusion, leading to satisfying resolutions to every plot thread.

The plot thread that stuck out to me was Noah’s relationship with his dad. Gay, artistic, and sensitive, Noah has never felt accepted by his sports-loving father. In the latter half of the timeline, they bond over animal documentaries and tennis. Noah is both elated and worried that their fragile peace will be ruined when he comes out of the closet. Of all the storylines–romance included–this one was my favorite because it was treated with such delicacy. Noah’s dad isn’t a bad guy–he’s just a stranger in his own family, at a loss at how to interact with his two gifted kids. The culmination of Noah’s coming out story provided one of my favorite endings in recent YA history.

This is a book I want everyone to read and talk about, and one that has earned a spot on my shelf. Here’s a list of instructions inspired by one of the books best quotes:

  1. Buy this book.
  2. Read it.
  3. Make a wish.
  4. Take a (second or third or fourth) chance.
  5. Remake the world.

TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Derailing love interests

Goodness. Gracious. The problems with Pride and Popularity abound.

My biggest problem with this book is that everything was told to me. I was never shown what characters are like or how they interact–the heroine summarized events after they happened. So as the book neared its climax and the romance came to a conclusion, the author had to work with two characters she hadn’t developed by making one the obvious right choice and one the bad guy.

She wasn’t exactly subtle in her efforts.

Suddenly we hear of all Taylor’s previously unmentioned good deeds and accomplishments from Chloe’s dad, a pretty unlikely source. APPARENTLY, Taylor is involved in charities and is a doer of good deeds, all with a smile on his face. It’s not that this characterization is unlikely, and the point was to be surprising…it just seems abrupt. I can’t say, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming, but it makes sense,” because up to this point I haven’t gotten to know Taylor. At all. I just know he plays basketball and gets around. Also he’s rich, so there’s that. Honestly, he seems like kind of a tool.

Blake’s character derailment I can believe, sadly. Taylor reveals in his e-mail to Chloe that Blake went on trial for rape.

I have so many feelings about this:

  1. NO ONE REACTS APPROPRIATELY TO THIS. Chloe is mildly horrified, but doesn’t think too much of it. Later, she is amazed at what a great family the Andersons are. You know, the family who COVERED UP BLAKE’S RAPESCAPADES AND PRETENDED THEY’D NEVER HAPPENED. THAT FAMILY. GOOD. AND. WHOLESOME.
  2. Author Jenni James prides herself on writing “clean romance.” I have feelings about that genre I won’t go into, but that’s not the point. The point is, in a squeaky clean romance where people are ambiguously Mormon and say “sugar” when they stub their toe, you can’t bring up RAPE. That’s pretty heavy for a light-hearted romantic comedy.
  3. If you’re going to go there, go there. I don’t need graphic details or tons of trauma, but at least say the word. James sticks to the euphemism “took advantage of” and calls Blake a “pervert.” Call him what he is: he’s a rapist. And let the emotion go there. Make me feel afraid. Being wishy-washy and euphemistic does not allow me to connect emotionally, so in the climax, when Chloe and Taylor are frantically trying to find Cassidy before she goes off with Blake, all I could think was, “Oh please. What could he possibly do to her?”

The whole thing feels rather extreme. Taylor couldn’t be a good guy with faults; he had to be a saint. Blake couldn’t be a jerk; he had to be the MOST EVIL, DISGUSTING, IRREDEEMABLE PERVERT WHO EVER WALKED THE PLANET. You could have sold me on a less drastic twist.

MAKE-YOU-CRY MONDAY: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

This book was not what I was expecting. I’m guilty of skimming a book jacket and coming home with a completely different book than the one I bought (“Regency England!? I thought this was a sci-fi novel!”)

So I thought this was a love story about two teens who could only communicate honestly via the interwebs.

Not exactly.

Gifted teenager Amy has Cerebral Palsy, which has left her unable to speak and makes it difficult for her to walk. She communicates via a computer, but requires assistance for everyday tasks such as dressing and carrying school supplies. These differences have isolated her from her peers, leaving her friendless. To counteract this, she and her controlling mother work out a plan to have peer aides so Amy can be exposed other kids her age.

The rest of the story unfolds as a love story between Amy and Matt, one of Amy’s peer aides who struggles with OCD.

This book went in a direction that I didn’t expect but liked. Amy and Matt’s struggles were dealt with honestly, and McGovern avoided making Amy an angelic, inspirational disabled person. She treated her characters like real people and didn’t sugarcoat the fact that real people have ugly thoughts sometimes.

The part I loved most was that there were so many quotable quotes about life, love, and growing up that I’m having trouble picking just a couple.

One that I loved is featured on the back of the book:

I’ve decided that it’s possible to love someone for entirely selfless reasons, for all of their flaws and weaknesses, and still not succeed in having them love you back. It’s sad, perhaps, but not tragic, unless you dwell forever in the pursuit of their elusive affections.

The “not-dwelling” part speaks to me. I’ve been stuck longing for relationships–romantic and platonic–that are never going to happen, and I’ve seen other friends refuse to move on from the same thing. I thought the book did a good job of walking a dangerous line–Amy and Matt chose to move on and yet still had hope that they could be together. In this book’s case, I didn’t feel like the characters were holding out for something unrealistic or unhealthy. The ending didn’t offer up a cruel or codependent relationship and try to cover up the bad parts with shiny romance.

Moving on was explored in a scene where Matt discussed giving up on Amy with his therapist:

When he got to her office…[h]e talked about what happened with Hannah. That night behind the screen when she leaned over and kissed him. For a long time he hadn’t let himself remember it, and now he couldn’t seem to forget it. It got bigger in his mind, and worse. What if the bad things that were happening now were proof that the voice was right all along? See? I told you. If you aren’t careful, Amy might get sick and [spoilers omitted]. If you aren’t careful, anything can happen. Logically, of course, it didn’t make sense. His voice didn’t care about girls trying to kiss him.

But he couldn’t get his brain to understand the difference. Being scared of kissing felt as big and panicky as being scared of germs and death. “Well,” Beth said when he tried to explain this. “They both mean something dies. The person you once were–the boy too afraid to kiss a girl–dies when you do it.”

He almost reminded her that he had kissed girls, back when he was fine, but that wasn’t the point. Beth was right. Something did die every time you changed. Amy wasn’t the same person she used to be. Neither was he. Maybe it had already happened.

I love, love, love this passage. There’s freedom in moving on, yet in it you lose part of yourself. Letting go of something bad doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Need cheering up?
Normally, when I write the “Need cheering up?” section, I like to find things that are at least marginally related to the topic of the day. A lot of times I have trouble finding such a thing and choose the first happy/funny/strange thing I come across.

This is one of those times, but this is too good not to share.

BOOK REVIEW: Defy by Sara B. Larson

The premise: Alexa Hollen has been disguising herself as Alex Hollen for years to escape the king’s ominous “breeding house.” She and her twin brother Marcel are part of the prince’s guard, sworn to protect Prince Damian above even the king. A series of events results in Alex being kidnapped, along with the prince and her fellow guard, Rylan. Alex must deal with a terrorist group, a royal conspiracy, and her feelings for both men, all while trying to keep them–and herself–alive.

My favorite book growing up was Alanna: The First Adventure. Alanna did all the things I was nowhere near ballsy enough to do: disguise herself as a boy, train to be a knight, protect her prince, collude with thieves, and fight mythical beasts. My favorite part was that she posed as a boy for years–I couldn’t believe she was able to pull that off to fulfill her dream. It struck me as impressive and brave. Prior to puberty, I was convinced, if given the chance, I could pull it off.

As an adult, I’m less positive I could do it. But that’s not the point.

Alexa, the protagonist of Defy, also chooses to pose as a boy and join the king’s army to avoid a life of constant rape and pregnancy. I applaud her decision, but would have found it more meaningful if I hadn’t hated her SO. MUCH.

It really irritates me when a convention I like is done poorly. The two conventions in Defy‘s case are the aforementioned girl-dressing-as-boy plot point and a reaaaallly half-hearted love triangle.

I wasn’t super girly as a kid and didn’t feel feminine, so I like books where the heroine relates to and feels comfortable around men. I didn’t like Alexa, though, at all–something about her really bugged me. Her issues seemed off. I can understand how confusing it would be to pretend to be a straight male in order to gain respect while hiding sexual feelings for your male companions. Alexa’s reaction, however, to this event was, “What is wrong with me? Why am I feeling this way?”

Not, “I can’t afford to feel this way,” though that was explored a bit. No, her main question was, “Why am I feeling this way?”

…because you’re straight. You like guys. You are actually a woman and you are attracted to men.

It just struck me as a strange reaction and/or focus for the author, and it made Alexa seem reaaaal stupid.

Alexa also repressed a lot of her emotions to keep up the man facade, even after multiple of her peers told her it was okay to grieve. I didn’t feel it was consistent with her character; I felt it was an assumption about how her type of character should act. I think my irritation is personal; I don’t like “non-girly female” interpreted as “unemotional female,” because those don’t always go together. Case in point: a short-haired, uber-casual female blogger who cries once a week about entertainment.

My face is turned to hide my tears.
My face is turned to hide my tears.

The love triangle was the other part that didn’t work for me, which is unfortunate. I understand why people have problems with love triangles, and I should be horrified by them on principle…but I secretly love them. And, sometimes, love triangles can wooooork.

This one did not.

Defy‘s love triangle can be summed up as, “Alexa found herself drawn to Prince Damian more and more…and also Rylan was there.” It’s hard for me when love triangles are uneven. If you can’t write one side of the triangle convincingly, why not cut it? Then you could have a convincing romance instead of wasting pages on a weaker one.

And UGH. I hated Rylan. So, so much.

He came across as very entitled. I get how frustrating it is to love someone who loves someone else, especially when that other person is unworthy. “Grand Theft Autumn” is one of my favorite songs, and I have earnestly sung, “You need him?/I should be him,” many a time. You are allowed to feel this way and even express these feelings if the person you like has been stringing you along. It’s best to get everything out in the open.

HOWEVER.

It is not okay to shame the person you like for not liking you and/or liking someone else. You do not deserve their love because you’ve loved them for a long time. If someone is not interested in you, despite your good qualities, that sucks…but you HAVE TO GET OVER IT. PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE.

Rylan throws tantrums and guilts Alexa the entire book. Even though he was intended to be a sympathetic character, I did not find him sympathetic in the least, and was even less invested in the love triangle because of his childishness. He hurt the story rather than helping it; if he had been written differently, he might have been sympathetic. As it was, he was awful and useless and I wish his actions had been framed as selfish.

Characters aside, the situations they found themselves seemed laughable and sort of fanfic-y. “Oh no, here I am as a prisoner in the jungle, and I have to share a tent with both the guys I like! What a dilemma!” At least the shojo animes I watch have the sense to play this event for comedy!

Also, for all his good qualities, Damian kept trying to get in “quality time” with Alexa while Rylan was sleeping. That’s gross and also SUPER RUDE, and would be even if the guy in question wasn’t in love with your girl! Alexa would tell him to stop, because she didn’t want to hurt Rylan’s feelings. Um, how about IT’S COMMON COURTESY NOT TO BANG IN FRONT OF SOMEONE YOU SHARE A TENT WITH?

The book wasn’t all bad. I finished the whole thing. Larson kept me guessing with the plot, constantly bringing up twists that I in no way anticipated. She didn’t flinch away from harsher material; while dark and hard to read at times, I appreciated that she didn’t sugarcoat what reality was like for women in the kingdom. She also dealt well with grief and sacrifice and the loneliness of keeping up a pretense. Unlike Tamora Pierce, she didn’t shy away from killing off important characters (note: I say that with regard to Lady Knight specifically.) And, perhaps most admirably, she didn’t offer romantic resolution. I don’t love the way she went about it, but I felt that choice was purposeful and improved Alexa’s character. The ending was sort of a sequel hook and while I have no intention of reading the next book, I felt the hope of the characters as they looked forward to a new start.

To sum up, while parts of this book were good, the elements that failed brought the whole book down. It’s one I’m glad I got from the library instead of buying. Give it a read if you want interesting ethical dilemmas and some good fantasy action; also check it out to see how NOT to write a love triangle.