Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, gave me “all of the feels.” I had been mildly interested in reading this book (as I am mildly interested in reading most YA books, and actually most books!), but it was the August selection for Forever Young Adult Bookclub. I read this book in one night, one sitting. Just a few hours of my time for a delightful, emotional non-cliched story about Simon, a mysterious penpal, and Simon’s real-life non-internet friends.

What I really liked about this book was Albertalli’s pacing and her ability to switch between light and serious matter non-abruptly. This novel revolves so much around the ups and downs of friendships in your teens. And yes, the novel is about being true to yourself. But Simon doesn’t try to be anyone he’s not. The hurdle is telling his friends he is gay, but he doesn’t have to break any hearts to do so. And when he finds out who he’s truly been conversing with online, there is the best meet-cute ever, followed by Albertalli describing Simon and Blue’s relationship as I imagine she would write about a straight relationship. Nothing seemed forced or over-compensated for.

I would definitely read this book again.

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The Cursed Child

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS AFTER THE STARS

Every review starts the same. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is “just fanfiction.” Well I am here to tell you that your review is not original or insightful, because of course it’s fanfiction. We KNEW JKR wasn’t actually writing this. She, along with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, have their names on the cover of this book. JKR was the creative consultant, the figurehead. The play is Thorne and Tiffany’s work… and they are probably fans. If you want to call the play fanfiction, then go ahead. But please also call any VC Andrew’s or James Patterson books fanfiction as well. (I know the Harry Potter demographic is not the James Patterson demographic but as a bookseller I can tell you that people of all ages buy both Rowling’s childrens’ novels and Patterson’s adult ones, sometimes in the same transaction, for themselves).

So yes, it is technically, in the loosest sense of the word, fanfiction, and observing that does not a critic make.

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Another note that’s important to make is that this book is meant for people in their older 20s and 30s and not for the 10 year olds who have been “Reading Harry since I was four.” (Also no one has been reading Harry Potter since they were four and if their parents read it to them, they weren’t comprehending it). The Cursed Child (as well as the rest of the series!) deals with very adult, deep, dark themes. Harry is now a parent, who doesn’t have parents to look up to or ask for advice. He and his friends have suffered through tremendous loss and despair. When his son is going through similar despair, he has no way to process it as a father. Ginny has her parents and older siblings to look up to as parental role models, as do Ron and Hermione.

To compare, Malfoy himself is going through similar issues as Harry. He has a cruel father who was a pawn in Voldemort’s game. Malfoy struggles with being a Malfoy and being a good person. And does he have a good person in him? In the end, I think he does. But the possibilities provided by the time turner show he could have gone much darker than we thought.

What some saw as an “over the top” plot about going through time, I saw as a way to show our beloved characters in different incarnations. It was so amazing to see our girl Hermione as Minister for Magic, but it was also fantabulous to see her as a wanted rebel or a hardened Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. We got to see an alternate reality where Hermione and Ron did not end up together – and it was sad. I think as adults they’ve matured into their relationship and are truly meant to be together. People don’t have to seem compatible on the outside to fall in love and be very, very compatible.

At the start of my read, I thought Albus was ‘the cursed child.’ And in a sense, he is. He is cursed by family legacy. Cursed with being the black sheep of his family. Then I thought Scorpius. He is plagued by family legacy as well, and is the white sheep of the family. But once Delphi came into the picture, I think I am not alone in saying, she seemed off right away.

The flashback scenes gave me tears at every twist and turn (well, Harry’s dreams). Cedric, Hagrid, Snape, and more all showing up gave me more tears. And after all this time, I was always wrong about Snape.
The Cursed Child was a gift, and if that gift was fanfiction, well, I’m a fan. So give it all to me.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng Sparkles Celestially ;)

Everything I Never Told You is a novel by woman of color, writer of color, Celeste Ng, that discusses the limitations of race and gender in the 70’s, but is sadly still relevant today. Although the character whom this book is centered around dies in the beginning (not a spoiler), it is evident that Lydia wants to do everything her mother ever told her… but what about everything Marilyn never told her, and vice versa?

Marilyn has had to make a painful choice between “right” and “wrong,” career (passion) and family (duty). Men often get to choose if they want to be fathers, but women still don’t get to choose whether they want to be mothers. Marilyn and James have three children – Lydia, Nath, and Hannah. Lydia is blue-eyed and light skinned, making her the favorite. She’s the one who is expected to go far, and make something of herself that her mother never could. Nath is an aspiring astronaut, but his parents often neglect his feelings and thoughts to set their attention on Lydia – who desperately does not want the attention. Poor Hanna is lost in the shuffle, but will she be found?

 

There are mother-daughter, mother-son, father-son, father-daughter, and mother-father/husband-wife, motifs to explore and more, not to mention the relationships between siblings.

 

Ng writes evocatively and completely understands show, don’t tell. She doesn’t say people are/were racist. She doesn’t say why Marilyn and James are constantly fighting the urge to let their kids grow, and try to change them and mold them. The reader has all of the context clues. I was born in 1990, long after the events of this novel take place, but through Ng’s writing I was able to acutely understand the culture and timeframe. My mother is a white woman, married to my stepfather who is a Chinese man. Together, they have my youngest sister. The subtle and not so subtle racism in this novel was on point. Towards the end of the story, I was a puddle. I cannot explain enough how perfectly Ng gets the family dynamic, the racial dynamic, and the time period, let alone how wonderful the pacing of the novel was. it never got boring, or too much too soon. I will definitely be picking up another Celeste Ng novel in my future.

 

Enjoy some quotes:

 

P137

 

“If her mother ever came home and told her to finish her milk, she thought, the page wavering to a blur, she would finish her milk. She would brush her teeth without being asked and stop crying when the doctor gave her shots. She would go to sleep the second her mother turned out the light. She would never get sick again. She would do everything her mother ever told her. Everything her mother wanted”

 

p 143

 

“As the young woman closed the gash with neat black stitches, Marilyn’s hands began to ache. She clenched her teeth, but the ache spread into her wrists, up to her shoulders, down her spine. It wasn’t the surgery. It was the disappointment: tha lie everyone else, she heard doctor and still thought – would forever think – man. The rims of her eyes started to burn… Marilyn blurted out, “I think I’m pregnant,” and burst into tears.

reading schedule for the rest of the summer

June:

  1. The Catcher in the Rye – Salinger – reread – in anticipation of Pretty Little Liars season 7
  2. Bad Feminist – Gay – new read
  3. Everything I Never Told You – Ng – new read
  4. Radio Silence – Oseman – new read

    July

  5. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell – book club read for Forever Young Adult Book Club
  6. Quidditch Through the Ages – reread
  7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – reread – in anticipation of The Cursed Child
  8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- reread – in anticipation of The Cursed Child
  9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – reread – in anticipation of The Cursed Child
  10. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – reread – in anticipation of the Fantastic Beasts movie
  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – reread – in anticipation of The Cursed Child
  12. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -reread – in anticipation of The Cursed Child
  13. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince -reread – in anticipation of The Cursed Child
  14. The Tales of Beedle the Bard – reread – in anticipation of The Cursed Child
  15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – reread – in anticipation of The Cursed Child
  16. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!!!!!!!!

    August

  17. Simon vs. the HomoSapiens Agenda – Albertalli – FYA book club
  18. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – new read
  19. Jane Eyre – Bronte – New Read
  20. The Nest- D’Aprix Sweeney – new read
  21. Wide Sargosso Sea – Rhys – new read
  22. The House on Mango Street – reread – research
  23. Jazz – Toni Morrison – reread of the first half, new read of the second – research
  24. The Bell Jar – Plath – reread – research
  25. The Virgin Suicides – reread – research
  26. M Train – Smith

    September

  27. Every Breath – Marney – FYA book club
  28. Smashed – Zailckas – reread – research
  29. Fury – Zailckas – reread – research
  30. Throne of Glass – Maas
  31. Illuminae – Kauffman – FYA book club

Summer Reading Program

Anyone have a summer reading list they made up for themselves?

I just finished When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanoithi and Lucy Kalanithi and will be reviewing it shortly. Spoiler Alert: This is a breathtaking, must-read.

Now onto The Great Gatsby. For me, this is a re-read… it’s one of my favorite stories despite its problems. The re-read this time is for pleasure, and in anticipation of the newest and likely last season of Pretty Little Liars.

Let’s talk books. Comment or send me a message!