Showing posts with label middle grade. Show all posts
Showing posts with label middle grade. Show all posts

Friday, March 17, 2017

[Review] Optimists Die First - Susin Nielsen: Anxiety and Amputees

In OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST, Petula meets and falls in love with a disabled boy whom she meets in therapy.

What intrigued me: I always enjoy reading about neurodiverse and disabled characters!

Juvenile and strange narration

Welp. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is a classic it's not you, it's me pick when it comes to the writing.

I really enjoyed the whimsical narration at first, but very much did struggle with the extremely juvenile writing. And with juvenile I mean that it doesn't read like YA, but like Middle Grade. I'm not a MG reader, so this was extremely exhausting for me and severely impacted my reading experience, considering that Nielsen writes in very short repetitive sentences that do not complement the story or POV in any way.

Petula is a quite interesting main character, but unfortunately the voice is absolutely unable to reflect that and just makes this read weirdly staccato-like, throwing you out of the story all the time.


Problematic Disability Rep

Beyond that, I had issues with the disability rep in this one. I neither have anxiety nor am an amputee, though I do have a disability, so take this with a grain of salt. 

Petula's anxiety is very much portrayed as this quirky thing that she can turn off and on whenever she wants, which is in itself very problematic. The problematicness gets doubled knowing that her relationship with love interest Jacob is the thing that enables her to do things she couldn't do before and basically turn off her anxiety. 

This is a "love cures all" kind of story, that I think has no business in the hands of marginalized readers or people who aren't versed in disability discourse, because it provides dangerous misinformation. This is bound to do immense harm. Beyond that, neither the story, the writing, or the characters are even remotely intriguing enough to warrant me giving this one a star more. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is one of those stories about anxiety that make it seem quirky and cool and capitalize on disabled characters instead of actually representing.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST could've been great with a fabulous premise and anxious and disabled characters, but at the end of the day very much ventures into romanticizing territory and strikes me as having pretty harmful representation. Be careful with this one.



Additional Info

Published: March 2nd 2017
Pages: 272
Publisher: Andersen
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781783445073

Synopsis:
"Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she'd kept an eye on her sister, if only she'd sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only... 
Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula's ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together – ideas like remaking Wuthering Heights with cats.
But Petula and Jacob each have desperately painful secrets in their pasts – and when the truth comes out, there’s no way Petula is ready for it."
(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read books with great disability rep?

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

[Review] Elsewhere - Gabrielle Zevin: Afterlife and Aging Backwards


In ELSEWHERE, Liz dies in a bicycle accident and goes to Elsewhere, where everyone ages backwards until they are reincarnated on Earth.

What intrigued me: Amazing premise. Wow.

Quiet and comforting

Stories about the afterlife are very tricky to write in my opinion. Zevin decided not to play into any of the expectations I had, let them be religious or not. The concept of death being just another life, this time in reverse, is strangely comforting. Comfort is definitely the first word I'd use to describe ELSEWHERE. It's a very quiet, almost shy story that absolutely lives from its beautiful premise, but is also, sadly, crippled by it.

Beyond the neat idea of a utopian afterlife, there isn't anything memorable about this story unfortunately. The voice is very reserved and the main character Liz strikingly colorless and forgettable. Most of the novel is spent exploring Elsewhere, without actually gaining much insight on the world. The world building is almost non-existent, the interesting bits happen within the first 50 pages and from then on it feels like you're just observing awkward mundane tasks. ELSEWHERE has a nice premise but absolutely relies on this.

More of a MG read

The writing is extremely simple and plain, lacking descriptions, but nevertheless I had images in my head non-stop. The concept is definitely powerful enough to make you think up your own expectations of the afterlife, and I really love that. ELSEWHERE's approach to life after death is open, but still imaginative. I longed for every piece of information about this world.

I would definitely say that this is lower YA, even upper Middle Grade because of the language and the approach to the topic. You won't find any typical YA tropes in this.


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ELSEWHERE has a nice concept, but that's about it. I think this could really appeal to Middle Grade readers more than it did to me - I expected typical YA, and was disappointed.



Additional Info

Published: May 15th 2007
Pages: 277
Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: YA / Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780312367466

Synopsis:
"Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It's quiet and peaceful. You can't get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere's museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe's psychiatric practice.

Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver's license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she's dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn't want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?"(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite book about the afterlife?

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