Month: January 2017

Sleeping Freshman Never Lie: High School Happiness and Horrors

For me, freshman year was about seven and a half years ago. That’s probably when I first picked up this book at my local Barnes and Noble. I can’t tell you what I thought of it back then but now. Oh boy. Now at the tender age of 22, I found this book to be incredibly enjoyable.

For high school freshman and non- freshman alike, David Lubar’s Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie is a fun and interesting perspective on what it’s like to be a freshman through the main character’s, Scott, eyes. Throughout his year at J. P. Zenger high he comes to terms with the fact that he’s going to become a big brother, tries to get the girl and makes new friends. In order to either cope or pass on some older brother knowledge, he creates a high school survival gui- manual.

While that is basically the plot in a nutshell, the writing was absolutely fantastic. I enjoyed reading it because it made me think back to my own high school experiences. The fear of upperclassmen, the quest to make new friends, falling in love with a certain subject and taking the steps to find out who you want to become. Also Scott’s voice was not only loud and clear but funny too.

Also this book was published at what I believe was the perfect time. A couple of the sensitive issues discussed in this book were reaching national prominence in the years after its publication. Also, like I alluded to earlier, this book came out right around the time that Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide did which added another layer of enjoyment to this book.

All in all, it was the story of a somewhat universal high school experience. Because of that it is pretty unfortunate that there were no explicitly diverse characters. This places readers, and myself, into a pickle. Those vying for representation might see themselves in this book only to be met with violence when they express their thoughts in a public forum.

This book was certainly enjoyable and I would recommend it to my friends but due to the lack of diversity and representation, the most I can give this book is a 5.

 

 

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Geek High: A Writer’s Thoughts

I mentioned in my review of Piper Banks’ Geek High that I initially had a different understanding of it when I was younger. To a younger Jq, Geek High was a modern spin on Cinderella which is part of the reason why older Jq was so disappointed.

From memory, the climax of this book was completely different. Miranda’s knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time kicked in and she mentioned that it was weird how Peyton never ate anything, probably at a dinner party or something similar. Her father pulled her aside and mentioned that he’s been helping Peyton recover from an eating disorder and as a result, he says she isn’t allowed to go to the Snowflake Gala. Miranda after all her hard work is genuinely disappointed. Peyton, realizing how hard Miranda worked on the Gala, comes to Miranda’s room, they talk, get to know one another a little better and Miranda gets permission to go.

Personally, I believe that this ending would have been more fulfilling because it shows that Miranda is a flawed character. Yes, you could argue that Miranda’s foot-in-mouth-edness gets her into trouble with Dex, but were there really any consequences? I’m not saying that my suggested ending is amazing but my point is that authors shouldn’t be afraid to let their characters suffer a little bit as it can promote growth and inspire change.

If you were to tell me that Miranda experienced character growth because she made up with her mother and father and became a little friendlier with Hannah, I won’t disagree with you there but I thought that her two biggest conflicts were with Felicity and more importantly Peyton. Had the book addressed this maybe we as an audience could have seen Miranda grow more as a character. Granted, this is a book series and, as such, there is time for Miranda to develop a relationship with Peyton and put her feud (if you could really call it that) with Felicity to rest but it would have been nice to see some of those steps taken in this installment.

-Jq

Geek High: A Picture Perfect Story

So this, like a few of the other books I’ve reviewed so far, is a book that I read in my youth. As years go by, one’s understanding and perceptions change. So when I initially read this book in high school, I loved it. I thought it was a cool modern twist on the classic Cinderella story. Now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking.

In Piper Banks’ Geek High our protagonist is Miranda Bloom, also known as The Human Calculator. Her friend makes a blog which in turn gets her into trouble with the school headmaster. Now she has to plan a prom with her worst enemy, all while getting used to living with her dad, step-mother, and step-sister.

Let me begin the review with a note about diversity. While there are characters of color they are either stereotypical, relegated to the background character or both. The two most glaring examples are when Padma Paswan is first introduced and during the first Mu Alpha Theta meeting which Miranda does speak out against, to Banks’ credit.

Also upon rereading Geek High several times over it is clear that Banks is a little shy when it comes to letting bad things happen to Miranda which is incredibly clear in the unbelievably picture-perfect ending. Yes, while she does have to move in with her estranged father, her step-mother, and step-sister the conflict isn’t convincing. She has to plan the Snowflake Gala, her school’s prom, with her worst enemy, but neither one of them really butt heads. Ultimately, all of the conflicts in the book are resolved but not through Miranda’s actions.

Also, it is worth noting that the romance was unconvincing as well. Or rather, it would have been extremely beneficial for Banks to have developed it further. While Miranda and Dex did have a couple of conversations, they were superficial at most and it felt as though Miranda was telling (Zing!) us that she was smitten with Dex as opposed to showing us.

Because of all this, Geek High gets a 4 out of 10 from me. While yes, there were characters of color, I still wouldn’t recommend this book to my friends, nor would I jump at the opportunity to reread it any time soon. That said, I’d love to hear what other people thought about Geek High. I’ll be waiting for you in the comments.

-Jq

Green Angel: An insight into grief

Below is a quick literary analysis I did for Alice Hoffman’s Green Angel. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it!

Green Angel provides readers with an interesting perspective of grief and how it works. After the fire, every person, plant or animal goes through a type of metamorphosis. While it may be obvious that grief prompts change, what isn’t as obvious is how the grief expressed by the different characters in Green Angel are meant to highlight various aspects of Green’s grief and help her heal.

The fire that took the lives of Green’s family members also had an effect on the identities of each of her animal companions. “What’s a greyhound if it is unable to run, Sparrows if they are unable to fly and a hawk if it is unable to hunt?” Green asks. Much like the animals, Green’s identity is changed due to the fire.

The first of the animals is the greyhound, Ghost, with singed feet. While the fire had no effect on Green’s feet, she weighs herself down by wearing her father’s heavy boots. As the seasons change and as both Green and Ghost heal, Green begins to realize just how heavy her father’s boots are and removes in an attempt to keep up with Ghost on a walk. One could argue that as Green begins to heal the pain, or heaviness, begins to lessen.

While Ghost’s burnt paws mirror Green’s father’s heavy boots, the sparrows singed feathers parallel Green’s singed hair. The hair that was like her mother’s. It is important to note that the sparrows could also represent Green’s relationship with her mother. Initially, Green provides the sparrows with warmth and food. In turn, the sparrows exceed her expectations by quickly learning how to fly and making her a fishing net.

If Ghost is to Green’s father and the sparrows are to Green’s mother, then surely the hawk is supposed to represent Aurora who was “as beautiful as she was wild”. In the fire, the hawk’s beak was burned and Aurora is the only family member who speaks to Green in her dreams. Like the other animals, as the hawk heals, Aurora begins to help Green cry and take the final steps towards healing.

But what of the human characters: Heather, the Old Woman, and Diamond? What role do they play in helping Green heal, if any? Heather is essentially a foil to Green’s character. As Green heals and grows, Heather’s life becomes more chaotic and she wilts. (One should also note the symbolism within their names; Green equals growth and prosperity whereas deriving hearth from Heather isn’t too far of a stretch). The old woman helps Green realize that there are periods in life that are drastically different from one another and one might look like a completely different person after each one. Finally, Diamond, the boy who arrives “with a sheaf of white paper, burned at the edges.”  Green saw her future as something she could control. After the fire, she understandably felt a loss of control.  Diamond is just one of the many people who shows her that her future is still her own.

So what did everyone think? I’d love to hear about what you thought of Alice Hoffman’s Green Angel in the comments below. Thanks and until next time, which I promise will be sooner than you think!

-Jq