Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Debut of the year? Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Everyone and their neighbour have already read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Now I have as well, but did I like it?

As a side note, don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I’m just saying.

My short, unfair and spoiler free synopsis:

Simon is gay. No one knows, except Blue. Blue is also gay, and the two boys have a secret, anonymous email exchange going on. A wonderful friendship is in the making. Only trouble is on the horizon. One day Simon forgets to log out of his email at school and the mistake will soon throw Simon’s world into chaos.

Well let me start by using the phrase “all the feels” for the first time ever, because truly Becky Albertalli writes the most genuine scenes. It was not a sad story, but the parts that were borderline sad, the happy scenes, the angry scenes and every other emotional evoking scene all felt so genuine. By the last part of the book I was a bit frustrated, angry, I laughed, laughed again, cried a few tears, laughed some more and then I cried again. I told my significant other that I would think myself a bit emotional unstable I had observed myself from the outside as he did.

All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.

Believeable characters

Simon is a great character. He is not without faults, but he has this admirable ability to look back and reflect upon incidents where he did wrong. I loved that about him. Along with Simon, there are plenty of other well fleshed out characters. Even the ones just doing a guest performance in the story felt like real people. Well done, Becky!

There is a lot of love, caring, support and empathy between these pages, as well as there are a handful of people who contribute to evoke the opposite kind of feelings. Like in the real world, Simon have some encounters with people who are narrow-minded, but he slays them with his bravery (yes, that was just a silly metaphor, this is not a fantasy novel).

My limbs feel really heavy. I kind of want to go home and crawl into bed with my iPod. But the curtains start to open. And I keep moving forward.

It’s not easier. It’s impossible. Because even though it feels like I’ve known Abby forever, I really only met her four months ago. And I guess there hasn’t been time for her to have any set ideas about me yet. But I’ve known Leah since sixth grade, and Nick since we were four. And this gay thing. It feels so big. It’s almost insurmountable. I don’t know how to tell them something like this and still come out of it feeling like Simon. Because if Leah and Nick don’t recognize me, I don’t even recognize myself anymore.

Becky Albertalli have created a fictional contemporary world that I fell in love with. The wonderful friends, loving family, the cutest love interest and a truly amazing teacher, I could have read on about them all for hours and hours. I was sad to let them go.

For those who find it of importance: there are some swearing, a tiny scene of underage drinking and references to sex. All addressed with the loving care, concern and advice of Simons parents. In my opinion, nothing to hide from a seventeen-year-old living in the real world. Then again, I live in one of the Nordic countries and scenes like described above very rarely shock us – is that an American thing? Some might find us weird, I mean we rarely to never ban books even. A real live book utopia that is ;)

I could have written more in depth about this novel, but I do not wish to do so. I just want the world to know, if in doubt, that I LOVED Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda! It is an important novel for young adults and adults alike. Not only does the books address the challenges of being gay and the huge deal everyone makes the “coming out” part out to be, it also addresses what it is like to be a teenager and how a parent/child relationship evolves through the years regardless of whom you love.

Book source: I bought the book.

Friday, August 7, 2015

In short: Rivers of London and wisdom of life from Peter Grant

Some might know the name Ben Aaronvitch from Dr.Who. I myself am familiar with the author for his excellent Rivers of London (in US known as Peter Grant) series. In this series, we met young cop and wizard in training Peter Grant.

The UK covers reminds me of the BBC series called EastEnders.
The show aired in Norway during the 80's when I was a kid.

If there's something strange in your London neighborhood. Who you gonna call?
Peter Grant of course!

Rivers of London is a well-written, funny and smart urban fantasy series for adults. The books contains references to music and literature, I like finding hidden treasures. I just discovered the other day why Kansas is a reference used a countless number of times (thanks to my American friends). I have not read or watched The Wizard of Oz yet so that reference has been flying over my head for years, I guess I should consider being embarrassed because of this, but hey, I am just thankful for adding some useful knowledge to this brain of mine.

I am rather sad that I have not written about any of the four books that I have read. I guess I am trying to make up for it with this post. I have devoured all four books in audio book format, purchased on Audible. The reader of these books is the magnificent Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, he adds an extra dimension to the novels with his talent.

Without further ado, here are a handful of quotes full of wisdom for you from Peter Grant :

...good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport - like base-jumping or crocodile-wrestling.

Keep breathing,’ I said. ‘It’s a habit you don’t want to break.

Despite what you think you know, most people don't want to fight, especially when evenly matched. … That's why you see those pissed young men doing the dance of "don't hold me back" while desperately hoping someone likes them enough to hold them back.

From Rivers of London(Peter Grant/Rivers of London #1) by Ben Aaronovitch.

Every male in the world thinks he's an excellent driver. Every copper who's ever had to pick an eyeball out of a puddle knows that most of them are kidding themselves.

We were aiming for a cross between Kafka and Orwell, which just goes to show how dangerous it can be when your police officers are better read than you are.

I decided to invent some rules just so I could add a new rule to the rules: Never diss somebody’s mum, never play chess with the Kurdish mafia, and never lie down with a woman who’s more magical than you are.
Moon Over Soho(Peter Grant #2) by Ben Aaronovitch.

Like young men from the dawn of time, I decided to choose the risk of death over certain humiliation.

It was a good plan, and like all plans since the dawn of time, this would fail to survive contact with real life.

Fra Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant #3) by Ben Aaronovitch.

“That which does not kill us,” I said, “has to get up extra early in the morning if it wants to get us next time.”

A lifetime of disappointment had made him cynical, but you don’t stay an activist without a core of stubborn belief that things can get better – it’s a bit like being a Spurs supporter really.

From Broken Homes (Peter Grant #4) by Ben Aaronovitch

Have you read any of the books in this series or are you tempted to do so in the future?

Happy Friday, make the best of it =)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

#bookreview - Golden boy by Abigail Tarttelin

I read Golden Boy by
Abigail Tarttelin
last summer.

Now even a year after reading the book
the story is still fresh in my mind.
To me that is a sign of quality.

Golden boy in my words:

On the outside Max is a boy, but biologically he has both male and female reproductive organs. Max is born intersex(there are various kinds of the condition this is just one of them). Even if he might be different underneath a few layers of clothing Max leads a life no different than other teenagers. That is until one day when his best friend from childhood oversteps all boundaries. A friend who knows everything about Max turns his world upside down and shatters it. To Max intersex has been his normal, as well it should, and he lives just fine with the condition. Now Max starts to doubt himself and wonder if he is a freak of nature. 

A golden boy

First of all my heart bleeds for those who in real life experience the difficulties of feeling that they are born different and those struggling coming to terms with the fact that we are not all made the same way. Luckily each day shows us that 'normal' is a concept far broader than the world perhaps initially defined it as. Max is intersex yes, he happens to be biologically parts boy and girl, but that does not define who he is as a person. Max is portrayed as generous, loving and kind - if he were a living, breathing human, and not letters on paper, I would love to have Max in my own life.

In the news:

As I am sure you have picked up on by now Abigal Tarttelin made sure that Max is a character the reader cannot help but fall head over heels for. Max is such a sympathetic and strong boy, even when people try to break him down. When Max is brutally forced into learning more about his condition he is quite shocked by what he learns and also to discover what has been kept from him all his life. Some of the people in Max life,that loves him dearly has made some less than wise choices in the name of love and for what they thought would protect him from harm.

Multiple point of view

The story is told to the reader through the eyes of Max and those closest to him and that makes it possible to view things from several angles and to understand some of the choices that was made. I am glad for it and in my opinion it works quite well. Everything is illuminated, so to speak. Things have been said, done and kept from Max out of love and good intentions, but there is a time and a place for everything. A parent cannot protect his or her child from difficulties forever, especially not when the problems are related to the child's physical and psychological well being. Sometimes on has to face the difficulties and work it out in the best possible way, teenagers has a right to be heard in matters concerning his or hers future.

No justice

Golden boy was an excellent novel, one I cannot do justice by mere words from the English vocabulary of a Norwegian. I enjoyed the writing and the theme(s) addressed in this novel, it makes a person more able to understand and empathize with the difficulties that can arise concerning gender identity. In addition this book is important for those who might be intersex, you are not alone and you are not abnormal. Like I said I cannot do this story justice but I will treasure it forever. One of the best books I have read in the past year. I recommend this book to young adult and adults alike.

Have you read Golden Boy or will you sometime in the future?