Friday, February 4, 2011

CUWAC: Sense and Sensibility

Title: Sense and Sensibility

Author: Jane Austen

Pages: 406

Rating: ***1/2

Summary: 'The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!'

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Review: I realize it has been a while since I've done CUWAC, but I'm trying to bring it back! I read this book last fall for AP English, and it was my first Jane Austen novel. I loved it!
I loved the characters. I feel that I am a mix between the two sisters, so it was easy for me to relate to both. Elinor is a strong older sister, but she sometimes puts her family in front of her own interests. Marianne is the exact opposite: thinking only of herself and her love.
This book completely turned my ideas of love on their heads. I've always been a hopeless romantic, convinced I'll be swept off my feet and fall passionately in love someday, when I meet that one person. As I get older, the more that fades. This book tells a strict lesson about losing yourself to passion, and the different types of love one can feel. I wasn't completely satisfied with the ending of this book, but it was still good. I would have preferred different couples, but Jane Austen chose differently!
I won't go into too much more here. A friend of mine SPOILED the ending of the book when I had barely started it, so I am trying extra-hard not to do that to you guys! All in all a great novel, a well deserved classic. Jane Austen writes with excellent humor and fun, along with an insight into 19th century society (which really isn't so different from ours today!)

Recommended for: romance lovers

P.S. I am currently reading Pride and Prejudice, and I am absolutely in love with it. In case anyone was wondering.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

13 Reasons Why

Tile: Thirteen Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher

Pages: 288

Rating: *****

Summary: Clay Jensen arrives home one day to find a package for him on the front step; inside are seven audio tapes. Upon listening, he discovers they are from the girl he loved, Hannah Baker--who killed herself a few weeks ago. The tapes tell the reasons why she committed such an act.
And Clay is one of them.

Review: Ah. May. Zing. I absolutely love this book. There are a few books that define a generation--Harry Potter, Twilight, Dear Alice, etc--and Thirteen Reasons Why belongs in that category.
I have never actually read the text for this novel, I've only listened to the audiobook, and I highly recommend it. I think by hearing the tapes in Hannah's voice, I can better understand her emotions and keep the story straight. This is the best audiobook I have ever listened to; the first time I listened to it, I finished it in a matter of days. The same for this time around. You are simply drawn into the story, and I don't want to turn it off until I hear the end, even if I know what happens.
I could focus on the story and the characters for this review, but I've decided I want to face off those reviewers who think Hannah's reasons for killing herself are "dumb" or "not serious enough."
High school sucks. It's a fact of life. Luckily, it only lasts four years. However, those four years can change your life for the better or for the worse in many cases. I don't know the ages of you blog readers, but I want to let you know that I am currently in high school. If you are older, maybe you don't remember the effect cruel words and the lack of friends could have on a person.
But I do.
I'm going to get personal on you guys. I have thought about what it would be like if I was, shall we say, out of the picture. I've never actually told this to anyone; every high schooler feels depressed at times, right? Anyway, I've felt that way, and I have a seemingly easy life--great family, good grades, friends--so why have I imagined this? Because it just gets to you sometimes. I don't have many close friends, and when they seem to turn on me, I feel so alone. And that is terror to a teenager. It feels like no one cares about you, and if you were gone, no one's life would really be affected. And that is exactly as Hannah feels.
Hannah is having a rough time. She's in a new school, a new high school to make matters worse. She doesn't know anyone. She has one friend. And every time she tries to open up to someone, they turn on her. Every time she decides to try to bridge the gap and trust another person, they slap her across the face (metaphorically, of course). She really feels like she has nothing to live for. Everyone at school spreads vicious rumors about her. She has a terrible reputation based on no truth. No one really knows her, and no one tries to. She is completely alone, and afraid to trust anyone, afraid they'll turn on her again.
Do you see now? Are you imagining your high school experiences? Maybe you had a fun time in high school Maybe you had a million friends and everybody loved you, and that's why this seems so stupid to you. To understand the reality of Hannah's story, you need to step outside that plastic bubble of perfection and see what it's like for the rest of the teenagers. Crappy.
I hope this has shed some insight on Hannah Baker's mind and why she would commit suicide "just because some people said some mean things." Because otherwise you're just ignorant.
Sorry for that emotional rant. This truly is a beautifully written book with an important message. Clay is an important character, and his actions are affected by Hannah, even now. I highly recommend this book, because it shows the truth behind rumors, betrayal, and solitude. And the truth ain't pretty.

Recommended for: everyone high school age+

Here's a cool video (well, cool is an odd word for it I guess) where a girl reads Hannah's intoduction. It isn't the same girl as the audiobook, but her voice does fit very well. This can show you what the audiobook is like, and if you want to try it (I would!)