This is not from the POC Challenge. The author and all the main characters are white. I note that of the last three books I read, the two POC Challenge books were awesome, and the random white guy book was awful. The universe is encouraging me to continue the challenge!

I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaated this YA novel, which has won a number of awards which it totally did not deserve. Hate. Hate. Hate. Let me tell you why!

It opens with a creepily evocative piece of writing from the point of view of a child, Shine, living with her three younger sisters and their psychotic mother, who thinks she's the queen of a fantasyland called Fireless.

Then it switches to the same child, now a teenager named Frances, who is living with her adoptive parents in Alabama. Her birth mother and sisters are nowhere around. Anyone who follows the news can instantly figure out what happened, though Nelson doesn't reveal it until about a third of the way into the book. Frances seems reasonably well-adjusted, though with some residual PTSD.

She falls for the new boy at school, Nix, who is from New Orleans and is Quirky with a capital Q. He has an autistic brother and is great with the school's developmentally disabled student and takes her to a furniture store for a date and is just fine that everyone thinks he's weird because of all the great things he does for his autistic brother and is generally a saint. I hated him. Especially when he kept dropping "Mammy Ida," his Creole nanny, into the conversation. (Or is "mammy" totally not racially offensive in New Orleans and Alabama?)

Frances gets a message via a lawyer from her birth mother, now in a halfway house for murderers found not guilty by reason of insanity, to come see her. So she and Nix go on a road trip into her past.

Why I hated this book:

1. I have a problem with the use of autistic people as devices to show how wonderful neurotypical people are for being nice to them. If the autistic brother was a real character, that would be different, but he isn't. He's just there to show how awesome Nix is.

Frances has a climactic realization that all people are damaged and broken, from the brother to her mother to her and Nix. That does not work at all. If her PTSD was severe enough to EVER make anyone think she's scary or different or Other in any way, that could have worked... but it isn't.

2. Nix really rubbed me the wrong way. I think Nelson tried too hard to make me love him.

3. The climax was possibly the stupidest thing I've read all year. If the book had been a thriller, it... still would have been stupid. But at least it would have been less jarring. A mainstream novel should not climax with the discovery that...

rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
( Jan. 7th, 2009 05:11 pm)
The Borders at the Promenade had a 40% going out of business sale. People were rushing about with armfuls of books in a manner which made one think of predatory or carrion-eating life forms, like vultures and sharks.

I ran into an old friend and forced him to buy one of my very favorite books from last year (now out in paperback), Atul Gawande's Better, ostensibly an account of how excellence in medicine is achieved or not, but also a fascinating psychological and sociological analysis of how individuals and groups achieve success or failure. Unlike most works that supposedly provoke thought, this one actually does. I found it very inspirational, and also an extremely engaging read. Highly recommended.

For myself, I scavenged the manga shelves, sadly largely picked-over by the time I arrived, and got myself some volumes I'd been missing in series I'm already reading or have finished reading: Angel Sanctuary, Sand Chronicles, Afterschool Nightmare, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Hikaru no Go.

I also bought the first two volumes of High School Debut, which I have not yet read.

Remaining book purchases:

Sick Girl, by Amy Silverstein. Memoir of a woman who gets a heart transplant at the age of 24; this does not solve her health problems, but rather leaves her chronically and severely ill. Recced by [ profile] branna. I read this last night. A defiantly non-inspirational illness memoir, well-written, informative, and refreshing in its lack of "I am so glad that I have a chronic illness because it taught me so much about life and brought me closer to my family."

Breathe My Name, by R. A. Nelson. A YA novel, apparently about a girl adopted after her mother went insane. I liked Nelson's previous novel Teach Me, which had somewhat cliched subject matter but a great voice.

The Caliph's House: a Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah. Travel nonfiction. A British family moves to Casablanca, into a house reputed to be inhabited by jinns.

Eating India: an odyssey into the food and culture of the land of spices, by Chitrita Banerji. Food/travel/history nonfiction. Looks both informative and fun.

Early India: From the origins to AD 1300, by Romila Thapar. Looks informative and not fun. But hopefully a good resource.

The Last Mughal: the fall of a dynasty, Delhi 1857, by William Dalrymple. I've read a lot about this period but not from this angle (focused on the last Mughal Emperor.) I like Dalrymple's writing style, especially in his other book, City of Djinns, that alternated a memoir of his life in modern Delhi with a history of the city.

Babur Nama. The journal of the Mughal emperor Babur, beginning when he inherited a kingdom at the age of twelve in 1494 and continuing through his rule in India. Random flip-throughs revealed poisoning attempts, a resolve to try wine for the first time, battles, and other fun stuff.


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