Monthly Archives: February 2013
A lonely obese boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make history. He is going to eat himself to death–live on the Internet–and everyone is invited to watch. When he first makes the announcement online to his classmates, Butter expects pity, insults, and possibly sheer indifference. What he gets are morbid cheerleaders rallying around his deadly plan. Yet as their dark encouragement grows, it begins to feel a lot like popularity. And that feels good. But what happens when Butter reaches his suicide deadline? Can he live with the fallout if he doesn’t go through with his plans?
The premise of this novel sucked me in right away. I guess in that respect I’m not much better than the people who torment Butter. I, too, had to find out if he was going to go through with his plot or not. This was such a fascinating book to read because the characters are so complex. Obviously coming up with a plan to kill yourself is bad, and it’s horrible that people encouraged him to do it and made a game out of it, but at the same time the popular kids in this book were just sort of, well, likeable eventually. Obviously I don’t like the way they treated Butter before he became a celebrity (or after, for that matter), but I could see why people like them, and I could understand why Butter wanted to hang out with them. I can also understand why he starts to feel like he has to go through with his promise to kill himself. (Don’t worry – you’ll have to read for yourself to find out if he actually does or not).
I definitely saw a lot of myself in Butter. Not necessarily the suicidal part, but the lonely, insecure part that wants to change but doesn’t really know how and blames the world for everything and doesn’t want to risk being rejected, so he never really puts himself out there. I can’t help but wonder what Butter’s life would have been like before this point had he just acted like himself and not been so afraid of rejection, which was undoubtedly one of the issues that the author was trying to bring up. Or at least that’s what I took from this.
Weight issues in novels is always a touchy subject. In fact, there was just a discussion here a few days ago about it. I liked the way it was handled in this book. There were talks about Butter losing weight, but that wasn’t the main point. Also, it addresses the fact that many people commented on, which was this: losing weight doesn’t suddenly make everything better. As Butter’s story shows, what’s in your head matters a lot more than what’s on the outside, and until you’re ready to accept yourself and start seeing the world in a different way, it doesn’t really matter what the scale says.
This was a very interesting novel to read. The voice is so clear, and I couldn’t help but keep reading, even when what I was reading was disgusting me (often for different reasons).
If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss. She wouldn’t have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn’t have hit her head on the steps. She wouldn’t have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia. She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place. She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her “Chief.” She’d know about her mom’s new family. She’d know about her dad’s fiancée. She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her. She wouldn’t have wanted to kiss him back.
But Naomi picked heads.
This book was recommended to me on Goodreads, and I found it at the library while I was looking for another book, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. I’ve read several books where the main character gets amnesia and forgets several years of her life. I enjoyed the way it was handled in this novel. There are no secret plots that she was in the middle of. She doesn’t suddenly realize she’s become a completely different person. She changes, yes, and she does have to figure out where she fits in this world that she doesn’t remember. But the entire thing seemed realistic to me. It didn’t feel like a soap opera, which is what this type of book often feels like to me. It read as one girl’s journey to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life.
I liked the characters in this novel. They all had their little quirks and seemed like real people, even those we didn’t see that often. I disliked Ace a lot in the beginning, but I liked that we eventually learned a little more about him. He seemed more like a real person by the end of the novel. James definitely had his issues, and my least favorite scene in the entire book involved him and what I consider Naomi’s completely unrealistic reaction to something he did, but other than that I could see why she liked him. I liked Will and his loyalty and determination to make the yearbook something memorable. I liked how Mr. Porter didn’t really have any idea how to discipline Naomi when she did something wrong.
I had mixed feelings about Naomi toward the middle of the novel. I liked her at first and felt sorry for her when she lost her memory. I could sympathize with her as she realizes that she doesn’t really fit in with her boyfriend or his friends, and when she feels like she’s been abandoned by yet another mother. But then she starts to act rather selfishly, and I stopped cheering for her for a little while. She lies and treats her best friend like crap, and I didn’t like some of her decisions. Fortunately, by the end of the novel she had figured herself out, and I was cheering for her again.
There was a brief conversation on Twitter tonight about novels that use body size as the main plotline, and how that’s horrible and shouldn’t happen. I respect both of the people who were having this conversation, and I know one of them reads my blog, so I hope she doesn’t read this as an attack or anything, because that’s not at all what this is. I fully respect people’s right to disagree with me. I just thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject. I was going to respond on Twitter, but there was no way that I could share my feelings in 140 characters. Thus, I decided to write a blog post on it.
The novel that I just finished writing is called “For Real This Time,” and it is about a fourteen-year-old girl who’s trying to lose a bunch of weight before high school starts. There are several subplots – there are issues with her parents, there’s a cute guy who moves in across the street that she really likes, and she has to deal with unpleasant interactions with her friends and classmates – but the main plotline is her attempt to lose as much weight over the summer as possible. She starts the novel at 223 pounds, and she wants to get to a “healthy” BMI, which would put her weight around 155.
Now, the people on Twitter were partly complaining because the “fat person” in the novel was her size, and I can agree with them that that’s ridiculous. I’ve seen one novel out there about someone who’s struggling to accept herself, and she starts the book weighing 168 pounds or something like that. I can completely agree that it’s annoying to see thin people complain about being fat. Of course, fat is always a matter of perspective. For instance, if your weight starts with the number 1, I don’t think you should complain about your weight. Of course, that’s coming from someone who hasn’t weighed less than 200 pounds since ninth grade.
And that’s where my novel comes in. There’s a huge number of overweight children in the United States, and they’re constantly demonized as stupid and lazy and gluttonous. People act as if losing weight is easy and that anyone who can’t lose weight must not be trying very hard. Young girls especially are treated like crap if they don’t look like society wants them to look. Looks and body image are such an important part of today’s society. They shouldn’t be, but they are. It’s ridiculous to try to pretend that they’re not.
And that’s part of why I wrote this novel. I wanted to write a novel about a young girl who hates what she looks like and show how she eventually realizes she’s just fine the way she is. I’m sure a lot of people have no interest in reading this sort of book, and that’s fine. But I would have wanted to read a book like that. I still want to read books like that. I think this is especially important since everyone’s currently so worried about childhood obesity. Everyone’s so concerned about the number on the scale, not what they’re putting in their bodies or how much exercise they get. I want to read stories about fat people who feel out of place but eventually learn to be comfortable with who they are. It’s easy to look at someone who’s ten pounds “overweight” and say that of course they should be happy with who they are. It’s harder to look at someone who’s seventy pounds “overweight” and say the same thing.
I’ve always tried to what the sorts of stories that I would like to read but that no one else seems to write. Maybe I just haven’t found the books for me. Maybe I’ll never find an agent because most people don’t want to read the same sorts of books I’ve always wanted to read. But I have to write them anyway. I’m used to being the minority opinion on most topics. This is one of them.
Body image plays a huge role in people’s lives – even if they don’t realize it. If you’re happy with yourself, you have so much more confidence than someone who hates what they look like. There are tons of stories out there about “plain looking” people, or “fat” people who wear a size 8. I want to read about a high school student who wears a size 18/20. That’s where I was in high school, and I hated what I looked like. Now I wish I had just stopped worrying about it then, because now I’m even bigger. I wish I had realized back then that dieting doesn’t work.
I know that it’s important to show fat people as main characters without having their weight be an issue at all. Just like it’s important to show gay characters without making their being gay be the main focus of the novel, or minority characters without their race being the main issue. I understand, and I agree. But I think it’s also important to have some novels address issues that those people face. Some novels should show the struggles gay people face coming out, or the struggles that black or Hispanic people have in a society that’s not always quite as progressive as we seem to think that it is. And some novels should show the struggles that fat people face in a world that only seems to value thin people. Should all novels with fat characters be like that? Of course not. But I still think some should.
Hopefully my novel is a lot less preachy than this blog post is, but I’m not really trying to be subtle in this post. I just wanted to share my views on the subject. If you disagree, I’m open to discussion. And, again, I hope no one took offense to this post. That certainly wasn’t my intention.
As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another’s only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she’s lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she’s popular, happy, and dating, everything “Jennifer” couldn’t be—but she still can’t shake the memory of her long-lost friend.
When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.
This was an interesting book. I really enjoyed most of the characters. They seemed real to me. They made fun of each other and talked about stupid things and kept secrets and had fights. I really enjoyed the secondary characters. I didn’t really like Ethan, Jenna’s boyfriend, but he didn’t seem completely unrealistic, which was nice. I also liked that Jenna’s mom and stepfather played an important role in the novel. I’ve read so many books where the parents are either horrible or never around, and it was nice to read about a character who actually does tell her parents at least some of what’s going on in her life.
Jenna was the most interesting character of all. I could really relate to her a lot of the time. I, too, was the shy, fat kid with no friends in elementary school (although, unlike Jenna, I never grew out of it). She talks about much effort it took for her to speak to a girl in the lunch line, and I could completely relate to that. I understand how she’s always getting lost in her thoughts and how much work small talk takes.
The only character I found sort of strange was Cameron. I can’t go into too many details about why he confused me without giving away the ending, which I don’t want to do, but I’ll just say that I didn’t really understand why he did certain things that he did. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to certain things in YA novels, but I didn’t really enjoy some of the things that happened in this book.
The ending of this book just seemed sort of anti-climactic to me. I kept waiting for things to happen that didn’t. I enjoyed the flashbacks to Jenna and Cameron’s past – in fact, those were the scenes that kept me reading every time I tried to put the book down. I wanted to see what had happened to them. In the end, though, I just felt like I had been waiting for nothing.
Overall, this was an enjoyable book with interesting characters. It probably won’t have any lasting impression with me, but I’m still interesting in reading more by Sara Zarr.
Most people seem to label this book as young adult, but Bria has graduated high school and is trying to figure out what to do with her life, so I consider this more New Adult. As such, I am also counting this as Book 2 of my New Adult reading challenge.
It all begins with a stupid question: Are you a Global Vagabond?
No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.
Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.
But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.
If you’ve ever considered going backpacking through unfamiliar countries, you should definitely read this book. If you haven’t, you should still read it, as it opens your mind to a host of new ideas and places. I’ve never really been much of a traveler, but this book makes me understand the appeal. The places Bria visits sound so beautiful, even though I know that I would have been even more freaked out at Bria at some of the things she had to deal with.
I also really enjoyed all the characters in this one. The only characters who weren’t all that three-dimensional were her friends from back home, whom we never meet. Everyone that Bria actually interacts with in this novel feels like a real person, not a caricature of a person. I definitely liked Rowan, and I can completely understand why people are so drawn to him. I didn’t really like him at first, but he grew on me the more we got to know him.
The most interesting person of all, though, was Bria herself. I enjoyed slowly getting to know more about her past and understanding why she acts the way that she did. She made a lot of stupid mistakes when it came to Toby, her ex-boyfriend, but I could still understand why she made those stupid choices. I can completely relate to the knowledge that you messed up your future for a boy, and I can definitely understand the anger that comes with that realization.
I really, really enjoyed this book. I read half of it at work and then stayed up late last night finishing it. I kept telling myself that I would stop reading after one more chapter, but that never happened, at least not until I finished the last chapter. 🙂
Finding love is simple with the One True Love Plan.
“If only life were as easy as your sisters.” Abby’s heard that one before. And it’s true —Shelby and Kait aren’t exactly prim and proper. Abby is determined not to follow in their footsteps, so she has created the One True Love Plan. The most important part of the plan is Rule #1: Find Someone New. This means finding a guy who hasn’t already dated Shelby or Kait. But when Abby starts falling for the possible father of Kait’s baby, she has to figure out if some rules are meant to be broken.
This was an overall enjoyable book that I had trouble reading at times. Abby’s family members are so self-centered that it was sort of hard to read about them. Abby’s the only one in her family who isn’t or hasn’t at one point been a teenage mother. She thinks about the consequences of her actions and is trying so hard not to make the same mistakes her family members have made. It’s just hard to read about some of those mistakes at times. That said, I enjoyed the way Abby dealt with most of her problems. She’s a fifteen-year-old with a dream. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she’s a believable character, and I enjoyed reading about her.
I also enjoyed reading about her neighbor and best friend, Cody. There’s an entire subplot dedicated to Cody coming to terms with sexuality, and I enjoyed watching him grow as a person. I didn’t always like reading about the things he had to put up with, but I feel like this book would have been a lot worse without that happening.
There’s a scene at the end of the book involving Abby and the father of both her mother’s and (probably) her sister’s babies that I felt was sort of thrown in and didn’t quite fit. I would have bumped my rating up a bit had this scene not been there. Overall, though, the book was enjoyable.
For those who don’t know, my February writing project is the zombie novella I wrote for Day One of NaNoWriMo – Choices. It was supposed to be 50k and ended up being 30k instead. I wasn’t thrilled with the length, but I think it works for this story. It doesn’t need to be longer. It probably would be if I went back and added in a bunch of stuff, but I don’t see that happening. There is a very simple plot to this story, and most of the action comes not from the zombies but by learning about the characters, and trying to drag out the story to fit some minimum word count would just be stupid.
This story came about based on a dare that my region sent out for NaNo. There’s a game that (I believe) one of the MLs came up with called “Make it Sadder,” due to his love of writing depressing literary fiction. Last October, as everyone was scrambling to plan (or not) for NaNo, someone came up with the idea of “A man goes to the grocery store. Make it sadder.”
I don’t normally use the dares that my region sends out, as I usually have enough ideas to work with on my own, but this one caught my attention. I had already been thinking of zombies lately, and this idea mixed with zombies perfectly. A man goes to the store because they ran out of food during the zombie apocalypse. How could I make that sadder?
Marcus, the main character, came to me fairly quickly. Usually my characters introduce me to them a little bit at a time, but he was much more forward. He told me that he was a college graduate with no real career prospects who was trying to take care of his wife and baby daughter. He lived with his friends from college, a group of nerds who managed to survive longer than everyone else they knew.
This is a zombie story, yes, but the zombies aren’t really the main focus of the story. I would compare this novella to Courtney Summers’ This is Not a Test in that way. The characters have their own issues and secrets outside of the zombie problem, and those issues are the main focus of the story.
I’m a bit late to the zombie party, I know, but this story wouldn’t let go of me. For a novella that I wrote in 24 hours, it’s actually quite good. Obviously it’s not perfect – there are so many inconsistencies with some of the characters that it’s probably easier to just delete several sections than to try to fix them. There were thousands of typos. I need to rearrange a few scenes and provide more information in others. I definitely need to add more description, as there’s not enough even for me, and I usually hate description.
But I still like it. I like the characters. The inconsistencies that I mentioned aren’t that crucial to the plot. They definitely need to be fixed, of course, but once I delete a bit of text, it won’t be that hard to fix. I finished the new outline on Friday, and most of the scenes are going to stay in the same order. I can only think of a few scenes that I need to completely rewrite or add. For the most part I just need to clean up the text and fix the typos and inconsistencies. I don’t need to completely trash the whole thing, or even half of it. This is definitely an exciting moment for me.
I just finished fixing the first chapter of the novella. There are six chapters total. The second chapter is the one that is going to require a lot of fixing, as I have almost no description at all, and I’ve decided to reveal one of the major plot points later, so I need to fix that. I’m looking forward to it, though. I’m hoping to finish the second draft this week. Of course, I also just got six new books from the library, so I might be a bit distracted. I’m going to try to find a healthy balance between reading and writing, though.
Meghan Ball is both the most visible and the most invisible person in school. Her massive size is impossible to ignore, yet people freely spill their secrets in front of her, perhaps because they think she isn’t listening. But she is. Now her attention has turned to a new girl: Aimee Zorn, with her stick-figure body and defiant attitude. Meghan is determined to befriend Aimee, and when she ultimately succeeds, the two join forces to take down their shared enemy.
This provocative story explores the ways in which girls use food and their bodies to say what they cannot: I’m lonely.
This is definitely one of the most poetic books that I’ve ever read, and I’m not just saying that because much of the plot revolves around poetry. The descriptions are fantastic, and I think George did a fantastic job of describing high school – particularly being an obese girl in high school. Meghan is super aware of everything that is going on around her. She knows things about everyone because they stuff in front of her like she’s not even there, like she doesn’t speak the language. This part felt extremely realistic to me, as I always felt like I knew more about people than they thought I did. People think that obese people are more noticeable, but we’re actually less visible in some ways because people often don’t seem to think of us as real people. It’s horrible, but it’s definitely a feeling I can relate to. I think that George went a bit too far with the invisibleness in some scenes, but overall I liked it.
I can also relate to how quiet and alone Meghan is all the time. She doesn’t have any friends. She wanders around on her own. She’s humiliated when people make fun of her, and George did a fantastic job of describing how it physically feels to be made fun of. I also feel like she’s done a decent job describing Aimee. I’ve never really understood anorexics, and while Aimee doesn’t admit that that’s what she is, George definitely brings up the subject in an interesting way.
I like how Meghan and Aimee are physically so different and yet actually have a bit in common. They’re both overlooked. They’re both at the extremes of BMI charts. They both have issues with food. They’re both people who want to be liked by others. I liked that that’s what this books was mostly about: two girls who find comfort and friendship in each other. It doesn’t talk about weight issues except to describe the characters. It doesn’t try to fix them. It just talks about them like human beings.
Sadly, there were also some things that I didn’t like. I didn’t like how Meghan literally ate herself into unconsciousness. Maybe there’s a subset of fat people I’ve never met, but I know that I’ve never done that, nor do I know anyone who has ever done that, and that just seems like one of those fat people stereotypes that isn’t actually true. We don’t just sit there and shove food down our throats until we pass out. As a fat person, that scene offended me. I also didn’t like how Meghan followed Aimee around all the time. I couldn’t help but agree with Aimee that it was creepy.
The action of this book wasn’t as upfront as I would have expected. The whole “joining forces” thing doesn’t happen until the end of the book. I didn’t really mind the slow plot, but the description of the book made me feel like I had been misled a bit. If you’re looking for an action-packed book, this definitely isn’t for you.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed most of Meghan’s scenes, as it’s nice to see a character that I can relate to so much. Those moments made up for the parts of the book that I didn’t like so much. I don’t think I would have liked this book as much if not for that fact. I also feel like the ending was a bit rushed. I would have enjoyed to see that sort of drawn out a bit and maybe resolve a few more issues. Overall, though, I’m glad I read this book.
When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on…but are some questions better left unanswered?
At first, I wasn’t’ really sure what to make of this book, though for a better reason than for the last book of Summers’ that I read. You can’t help but feel horrible for Eddie. Her father committed suicide, and she has no idea why. Then, to make matters worse, her best friend’s keeping information from her, her mother’s shut off from the world, and her mother’s annoying best friend is staying with them, and she won’t leave Eddie alone.
I guess it shows how long it’s been since I’ve read a good lit fic, because I almost didn’t like this book. There’s the overarching plotline of Eddie trying to understand why her father killed himself, but there are no real answers, which is what I was hoping for. I wanted to understand why he killed himself. I think this book does a good job of showing how things really are. You don’t always find what you’re looking for.
I’m not sure if other people would label this literary fiction, but I think it is. The plot basically comes down to a teenage girl trying to deal with her father’s suicide. It’s filled with emotion and lots of scenes with her wandering around, emotionally lost, trying to find a way to connect with her father.
If you’re looking for a feel-good book, this novel isn’t for you. It doesn’t try to put a positive spin on a bad situation. It doesn’t try to excuse or justify suicide. It’s just a realistic (as far as I know) view of the people who are left behind after someone commits suicide.
My writing goal for January was to finish the second draft of For Real This Time, and I have succeeded. Well, sort of. I finished it two days after I was supposed to finish it, but I’m okay with that. I finished it, and that’s what matters.
The first draft was 72,000 words. The second draft is 48,857 words. I’m not really sure how that happened, but I’m trying not to freak out at how short it is. I’m sure that I’ll add more words when I edit it next time. Right now, the novel is in the proper order. I have included more of the characters that I was supposed to include, and I have taken out a lot that didn’t really fit with the story. It still needs a bit of work, but it’s a lot better now than it used to be.
I’m learning to edit in stages. When I write the first draft, I try to stick to my outline, but I allow myself the freedom to change the outline as I go. When I edit the novel for the first time and turn it into draft 2, I work on making sure that the events happen in the proper order. Then, draft 3 is when I make sure that I have all the right details and descriptions and conversations. I try to make sure all of that’s right in draft 2, of course, but my main focus is getting everything in the right order.
I’m rather pleased with how this draft turned out. I actually managed to keep a fair number of scenes from the first draft. I edited those scenes a bit, but I didn’t change all of them. That makes me happy, as it means I didn’t completely trash my first draft. I trashed half of it and then moved the other half around a bit.
I’m not 100 percent sure which novel I’m working on next. I promised my sister I’d work on my lit fic zombie novella next, but I also have a new plot bunny that I’m really interested in. It came to me in early January, and it won’t leave me alone. I don’t have all the details of that one worked out, but I’m really excited about it. The main character keeps telling me a bit of her back story, and I’m really interested in learning more about her. I’d feel better if she’d tell me her name, but I guess I can’t ask for too much too soon.
I’ll probably end up working on Choices (the zombie lit fic) next and make notes on the other one as it comes to me. Besides, this is the shortest month, and Choices is my shortest work, so it makes sense to work on that one now. I wrote Choices for my Day 1 NaNo novel. Some of you might remember that I tried to write 50,000 words on November 1. I did not succeed, but I did manage to write 30,531 words, and I finished the first draft of Choices, so I was still pleased with myself. Now I get to go back and see how much of that actually makes sense.