Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

Okay, even before I get to the book, isn't this a fantastic cover?!

"Wonder" is about August, a special 10-year-old boy. Auggie is special because of a chromosomal abnormality that affects his face. When the story opens Auggie's mom introduces the idea of him going to school. The idea frightens Auggie. Because of his medical background he's been home-schooled by his mother through the 4th grade. August's dad wants to protect him from the cruelties he'll encounter in a school setting, but they decide to go through with a tour of the school. The reader meets August's new friends, sees his new school, and experiences the joys and pains of the 5th grade along side with him.

This book is such a wonderful exploration of the human heart. We have so many fears and the capacity to hurt, but also beauty within to love more than ourselves. You'll get to see this as you see the story through several different perspectives: August, his sister Via, Via's friend Monica, August's friend Jack, and a few others. Each voice is so unique, I was startled when I realized Palacio created all of them to tell August's story. She definitely has the gift of word-crafting.

This is one of those heart-warming stories that will be loved for decades. And one of my favorite things about it is that it's a book about a 10-year-old that I can proudly give to my own 10-year-old and know she can read it without offensive material creeping up here or there (that's the prudish side of me, again).

Please pick up "Wonder" next time you're looking for something soul-nourishing to read!

Friday, July 11, 2014

"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green

I'm trying to get back in the swing of things, my friends. My whole life I've been a reader. I'm typically reading 2 or 3 books concurrently, always obsessed with the next must-read, and highly dissatisfied if I finish a book and I don't have a new one on hand to bite into. But recently I discovered it had been a long time since I read a new book, and what was worse, I didn't care that I wasn't reading anything. What the heck happened to Amy?! So I grabbed the first pop-lit book my friends recommended to me. I think I'm making my way back into the game!

So, just in case you have not heard about this book (what rock have you been living under??), let me give you the scoop. I have not yet seen the major motion picture, so I'm just going with what I read. 

This story is about Hazel, a 16-year-old girl with terminal lung cancer, and Augustus, a 17-year-old boy in remission from osteosarcoma. They meet through a mutual friend, Isaac, another cancer-stricken teen, at a support group for youth battling cancer. Of course, it's a novel about teenagers, so a relationship develops. But Green's story is about teenagers who are staring straight at death, living with the fact that their infinities are much smaller than other people's infinities. It's a book about kids with cancer, so it's sad. But I laughed far more than I cried. Oh yes, I did shed tears. I find that the older I get, tears are more prone to fall.

There are a lot of words in this book I had never heard before. Thank heavens for the built-in dictionary in my Nook app. 

Sometimes the book seemed a bit pretentious, but then again, it's told from the POV of a snarky, dying, 16-year-old girl. I don't think most normal teenagers talk like that, but I was never anything close to a normal teenager, so I can't count on my own experiences to guide me here.

I will openly admit I can be a bit of a prude when it comes to my literature, and a lot of my friends I recommend books to are also on the prudish side. So I will state for the record that there is some swearing in the book, mostly mild but at least one f-bomb. Also, there is an intimacy scene between Hazel and Augustus. I'm not really wild over the idea of two minors getting it on, but as far as sex scenes go in books, this one was tastefully written.

If I had to rate this book on a scale of 1-10, I'd give it a glowing 8.9. I have never read Green before, so I don't know if his literary flavor is the same for all his novels. But I thoroughly enjoyed his writing voice. Let me give you a few examples that resonated with me. Or maybe more than a few!

"Congratulations! You're a woman. Now die."
"Republic of Cancervania."
"Caroline is no longer suffering from personhood."
"Come over here so I can examine your face with my hands and see deeper into your soul than a sighted person ever could."
"Her brain cancer was of the variety that makes you not you before it makes you not alive."

Okay, so out of context those passages weren't as stimulating as they were in the story. I really did enjoy the book, despite my prudish tendencies.