Wallflowers [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Reviews

I genre binge. Historical fiction, short stories, memoirs, chick-lit, YA, and literary fiction are on my obsessive genre cycle. Lately I’ve taken a liking to short stories, I love how much can be said in so few pages. I love knowing only a fraction of the character’s life, probably a very significant section of their life. I love that when I’m busy I can read one story at a time, as slowly as I need to. I love short story collections because the stories share an overarching theme, but have many different settings, characters, and sometimes even genres. I’m still plugging away at Wallflowers by Eliza Robertson. I read the entire collection once and am reading over the stories that I loved, as well as, the stories that went right over my head.

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Eliza Robertston has created a cast of unique and wholly engaging characters. Here are the swindlers and innocents, unlikely heroes and gritty survivors; they teach us how to trap hummingbirds, relinquish dreams gracefully, and feed raccoons without getting bitten. (From back cover flap)

Eliza Robertson has the kind of impressive writer’s resume that I can only dream to have. She won the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, has an M.A. in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia (where she received the Man Booker Scholarship and the Curtis Brown Prize for best writer), she was a finalist for the CBC Short Story Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2013 Journey Prize. Intimidating right? I haven’t the time to gush about all of the praise her collection is getting but you should probably Google it. 

After reading several reviews and articles about the collection, I knew that it would be very literary, eloquent, and tough. Robertson’s short stories demand focus and attention. They are deep, highly metaphorical (almost poetic) stories that capture your attention and keep it. Once you get over how intense and wonderful the writing is and really sink into her words, you get a kind of reader’s high. The high you can only get from well-written, visually stunning words. Where you’re learning new things about the world, understanding basic human conditions in a new light, and delving whole-heartedly into each and every story. I found it to be a vast and sometimes challenging read, but one that I would recommend to any lover of fiction. 

Here two of my favourite lines from my favourite short stories in this collection. I hope it gives you a taste of the wonderful visual writing and character profiles that Robertson creates. They’re beautiful, even out of the context of the story. 

“PS — I think she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I think this is what redeemed her. She lived by a wild, unreasoned, breathless devotion to beauty. And not just her own.”

Roadnotes (122)

“The living room bulb was dull, but light filtered in from the window, from the street lamps and rolling headlights, which grazed their shoulders toward the wall. Neither of them spoke. She wanted to stay here, in the hinge of this moment, before it tipped into the future or back into the past.” Electric Lady Rag (164)

Do you know of any awesome short story collections I should pick up?

 Let me know!

Talk soon,
Vanessa

Eleanor & Park [Book Review]

Book Reviews

 

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I hadn’t planned on writing a review of this book but after reading the last sentence over and over and over again, I had a feeling I’d be sharing my thoughts with all of you. Eleanor & Park is the kind of novel that makes your heart feel bigger — bigger, redder, and full of love. At first it reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars but Eleanor & Park is so special that I couldn’t even copy quotes from it. I always write out my favourite lines from novels, I keep them for a rainy day or to add a little pizzaz to a blog post but with this book I just couldn’t do it. I don’t want to share it, I don’t want to share those deeply moving lines with anyone. I want to hold them in my heart forever.

You may think it’s silly to feel so deeply about a YA novel, a YA novel about falling in love for the first time at the age of sixteen but I can’t help it. I fell in love for the first time at the age of twenty. I fell in love with my first love at a fairly ripe age compared to Eleanor and Park, but their love reminded me what it feels like to fall in love. They reminded me what it feels like to be in love. All of their descriptions, the way they banter back-and-forth, the way they pick fights when they’re bored, the way that they love each other is so real that you can’t help but feel it too. You can’t help but smile, you can’t help but love the one you’re with even more after reading this book. You can’t help but realize certain similarities between the way Park loves Eleanor, the way he accepts her, and the way that you are loved.

I effing loved this novel and I think you might too…

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Love Always 

Vanessa Xo

Creeps [Book Review]

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal

When a copy of Creeps by Darren Hynes showed up in my mailbox I was ecstatic! I love YA novels, particularly ones that are REAL or depict high school in a true light. Creeps is The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets The Fault in Our Stars meets Invisible — three books that I love dearly, so you can only imagine how I feel about this one.

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Fifteen-year-old Wayne Pumphrey wishes he were courageous enough to actually send the heartfelt letters he writes to friends and family. He also wishes his father would drive on the right side of the street, his mother would stop packing her suitcase to leave, and his sister would stop listening to Nickelback. But most of all, he wishes that Pete “The Meat” would let him walk to school in peace. After all, how many times can one person eat yellow snow?

Then one morning, while facing Pete and his posse, Wayne is rescued by Marjorie, the girl with a dead father and a mother who might as well be. Together, the two of them escape Pete’s relentless bullying by rehearsing for the school play, and an unlikely friendship is formed. As they grow ever closer to one another, they begin to dream of escape from their small town and restricted lives. But Pete now has plans for both of them—and after a moment of sudden violence, nothing will ever be the same again for Wayne, Marjorie, or Pete himself.

Creeps is a tough book to read, in that it hurts you your heart. For a fifteen-year-old kid to feel so helpless and so alone, to be picked on to the point insanity, whose only comfort is writing un-sent letters, your heart bleeds for this child. The language, scenes, and bullying leave very little room for imagination. They are what they are and there’s no sugar-coating it. Some kids go through hell in high school and this novel is a testament to that. It’s an eye-opener for anyone who doesn’t believe that there are real bullies out there. Bullying seems to be worse now than when I was in high school. It’s harder to ft in, it’s harder to stand out, it’s harder to be accepted.

…I’ll take the job anyway because it’s good to have somewhere to go and something to do and someone other than the wall to look at and say stuff to.” (Page 59)

Wayne, is a character I won’t soon forget, he is everything I was in high school. The kind of kid who likes the quiet, who writes instead of speaks, who knows that the day will come when he or she has to get LOUD, has to stand up for his or herself. His words and his letters will stick with me for a long time. His fears and his insecurities are things that I would never wish upon anyone. He is a great character that can teach readers many things. He can teach you by showing you. He shows you that we all have problems, even if we try to keep them inside. He shows you what it is to be brave in ‘silly’ little ways. He shows you that you’re not as alone as you think you are. He shows you how big of a difference one person can make.

…he wonders how it could be that yesterday he felt so young but now feels like a man and it occurs to him that something begins at the same time something ends, so he’ll always be in motion, moving towards and away from things.” (Page 180)

With his raw and sincere writing style, Darren Hynes has crafted a book that should be on the TO READ list of every ninth-grader.

Creeps will have you turning pages, shedding tears, and hoping for the best possible ending, because Wayne deserves it.

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Love Always

Vanessa Xo