Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wintergirls Review

Anderson writes teen novels on intense subjects that need to be addressed. Wintergirls tells the story of Lia's life after her best friend Cassie passes away alone in a motel room. Lia and Cassie had been friends since childhood and they made a pact with each other to be the skinniest girls in school. After years of starving, cutting and hospitalizations, Lia still doesn't give up o her quest to be skinny. She learns ways to hide her real weight from her divorced parents. Her mother is a doctor that always tried to "fix" her so Lia ended up moving in with her father and his new family. Lia loves her stepsister Emma and often tries to cheer her up when her mom is getting on her case. As Lia unfolds the mystery of what exactly happened to Cassie from the time they stopped speaking six months ago until her death, she sheds pound by pound without anyone noticing. 

Anderson really captures what the mindset of an anorexic teenager must be like. She portrays a teenager in a vivid way that almost makes the reader forget that the author herself isn't one. Lia's family situation is complicated and without Cassie she doesn't have anyone who understands her and her obsessive need to be thin. Anderson portrays this emotion realistically but also intertwines it with rich and slightly disturbing imagery. She uses the sense of coldness that Lia feels to really define the title of the novel. Lia has spent so much of her time becoming a Wintergirl that she doesn't know how to get back to the surface and start living her life without Cassie and their pact. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Glass Castle Review

The Glass Castle is a memoir by author Jeannette Walls. In this novel she tells the story of her childhood in poverty. She vividly tells the story of her family's life in the desert and then later in West Virginia. She details the complicated relationships between her parents and siblings.  She has such an interesting family and even though their lives were completely ridiculous compared to what I'm used to I could also relate to them. I wanted a little more about Jeannette and her brother Brian as they grew up though. Their relationship was strong in the beginning but then faded towards the end. Brian was a prominent person to me and I missed him in the end. Jeannette's little sister Maureen surprised me as she got older because I didn't really feel her presence in the rest of the book but that's because she actually wasn't there. She practically lived with her rich friends and was wildly popular despite her family's reputation. I often forgot about her though. Jeannette's parents sometimes annoyed me but it just shows that real life people are irritating which some fiction novels don't really get at. Jeannette's father was at times lovable but also infuriating in his drinking habits. Her mother's unwillingness to divorce him for the good of her children was sweet but I could also see Jeannette's frustration at this time. I don't read too many memoirs but they are my favorite form of nonfiction and I loved Jeannette's writing about her life. Overall, The Glass Castle went through a spectrum of emotions that are real and relatable. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Naming Characters

While fumbling with writing a few short stories over break I became aware that I rarely ever name the characters in my shorter pieces. I often distinguish them by a certain characteristic and let their stories speak for themselves. When I do decide to name a character in a story I spend a great deal of time researching the origins and meanings of names.

In my book, I tried to find names that would go well together as well as stand out on their own. I looked through pages and pages of names to find meanings that would fit together and sound well in each other's company. The process was exhausting but I knew it would be important in the long run whereas in a short story names never seemed as dire. 

The problem I usually have with naming characters is the stereotypes that come along with certain identities. For example, a friend of mine told me that the name Hilary to him implies the attitude of a wealthy brat. Unfortunately, many people have preconceived notions of the behaviors of people with certain names. For this reason, I try to stay clear of any common names. I think characters are more interesting when they have unusual names anyway. Part of the reason I like the Hunger Games is because Suzanne Collins broke the boundaries of character naming while keeping the names cohesive. I've strived to have the same result.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Main Struggle of Novel Writing

I have learned that the enemy of an author is continuity. In writing I have struggled to keep the attitudes and personalities of my characters both genuine and consistent. I don't want them to sound robotic. I want them to be relatable to the audience. However, since I don't write every day and it is hard to remember every detail that I have typed I am struggling with these concepts. 

I recently began editing the first 60 pages of my book and in doing so I was enlightened on various particulars that I had overlooked. For example, I had forgotten that my main character had mentioned her sister's favorite food was mashed potatoes. While I haven't needed this information since the page I mentioned it, it is helpful to know. For this reason I began to keep a journal with such small information. This journal also contains character descriptions and quotes to use later on. The keeping of this notebook has helped me greatly in the process.

Continuity is the single most important aspect to look for when editing. It keeps readers from feeling confused and thinking that they don't really know the character that they have spent so many pages trying to know. It is frustrating to reread my earlier work and know that I haven't been keeping my characters and their details straight. My biggest goal is to make my book enjoyable to its audience but before that can happen I need to leap over the obstacle of my mediocre continuity. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece Review

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is a short novel about ten year old Jamie and his family. His older sister Jasmine is fifteen. She had a twin named Rose that died five years earlier in a traumatic explosion. Muslims had hidden several bombs in garbage cans around London and Rose just happened to be near one when the bombs were planned to go off. Her body, and her family were torn apart in the aftermath.  

Now, five years later, Jamie can't understand why his mother has left his family for a man she met in a support group. He also can't comprehend why his dad drinks all the time and sets food next to his sister's golden urn on the mantelpiece.

His dad decides to relocate so they move away from London and their mother. His father still drinks and he hardly hears from his mother. Soon Jamie is faced with a terrifying decision. Ever since Rose was blown up his father has had a burning hatred for Muslims. Whenever they are around he screams that Muslims killed his daughter and that they should go back to their country. Jamie doesn't carry any of his father's hatred because he was so young when Rose died that he doesn't even remember her or feel sad about her death. At his new school the only person who pays him any positive attention is a girl named Sunya who is of Muslim faith. 

Throughout the course of the novel Jamie struggles with liking Sunya and trying to keep their friendship from his father. He goes through periods of time where he second guesses his friendship with Sunya and treats her as badly as the other kids in their class. He is confused about whether to accept her or stay loyal to his father. His sister has similar burdens since she remembers Rose and is constantly having to live up to her parents' depiction of her sister because they were twins. She completely changes her appearance in an attempt to shed Rose from her life.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece raises many questions about discrimination. While Jamie's father justified his hatred of Muslims, he never really took the time to think that not all of them were terrorists. He harbored the opinion that all Muslim men sat home every day constructing bombs in their bedrooms. This book also raises questions of abandonment since Jamie and Jasmine's parents both checked out on their parenting duties when Rose died.  

This novel is a powerful story and has helped me in my own writing because of its intensity and clarity. It raises important issues and at the end it all comes together when Jamie finally understands why his father is still so upset by Rose's death. His father also understands that he has neglected Jamie and Jas and has to let go of Rose because his living in the past has only harmed his family.