The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

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Paperback, 231 pages

First Published 1999 by MTV Books

IBSN: 9781847394071

Blurb:

I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they’re here. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day . . . Or wondering who did the heart breaking and wondering why.

Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through unchartered territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and the rocky horror picture show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The reason I used the books blurb instead of writing my own is simply because this is a really hard book to write a summary of. Perks doesn’t really have a plot so much as it just being a slice of Charlie’s life. Which I suppose it is. A one year sized slice to be exact.

He’s an interesting guy. Very smart, but quite naive and innocent. His new friends, seniors Sam (who he immediately develops a sort of crush on) and Patrick, are step brother and sister, and introduce him to a whole new world, a world of first dates, mixed tapes, etc, etc, etc.

The story is told through letters, from Charlie to a ‘friend’. So it’s one of these books that don’t have a huge amount of dialogue. He talks about books a fair bit, as his English teacher Bill is always giving him stuff to read and then write reports on.

Perks is one of these books that appears on just about every must read young adult novel list, and I can see why. It is really good, but at the same time I probably won’t read it again for a long time, if ever – if that makes any sense to you. On the front cover, the little snippet of a review compares this to Cather in the Rye, and I had similar feelings there. Only I liked that a lot less than Perks. To be honest, when I read Catcher, I was very underwhelmed. But I was younger, and this is not a review for that book, so I shall stop mentioning it.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is only a shortie, so why not read it, even if it’s only once?

7 Clues to Winning You by Kristin Walker.

Paperback, 317 pages

Published April 26th, 2012 by Razorbill

IBSN: 9781595144140

Blythe’s dad is gunning for the superintendent role, so he is moving her family from the prestigious Meriton high school district to the more ghetto Ash Grove school district, as he is principal of the high school there. Blythe is less than thrilled. Having your dad as the principal is not cool. Neither is the fact that last year, a photo of Blythe doing something undignified circulated throughout the Ash Grove student body. Basically, she’s doomed.

Sure enough, after only one day, Blythe has become an outcast. And there is a face to put to her pain: Luke Pavel. The guy who runs the online newspaper. He’s the one to blame for the aforementioned photo doing the rounds yet again for the entire month before Blythe’s arrival. She wants him to suffer, so she goes to daddy and dobs.

Her father cancels the Senior Scramble scavenger hunt (the seniors set it all up, the juniors compete against each other to win an amazing prize) on the grounds on ‘bullying’. This is exactly what Blythe wanted, but now everyone hates her more, and she feels incredibly guilty and stupid. She works together with Luke to secretly get the Scramble going again.

When you pick up a book like this, you don’t expect a masterpiece. I read these kind of books every now and again because they’re easy to read, short, usually funny, and often have a good message and an overall feel good quality to them. I suppose that 7 Clues to Winning You succeeded in these respects. The main reason behind me reading this was because I read Kristin Walkers previous novel, A Match Made in High School, and found it to be better than I expected. Truthfully, I’m not sure that I would have picked up 7 Clues if not for this fact.

The cover is terrible. Okay, not the cover so much as the choices for the main people on the cover. Is that tiny teenage boy supposed to be Luke Pavel? Luke is a geek senior with glasses. Not a twelve year old. The main girl looks pretty young also, but she’s not as terrible a choice as he is. Yikes.

Still. This has some laughs, a cutesie romance, a mostly likeable main character (once she gets past her whinging ways, she’s okay) and a cool scavenger hunt (when are they not fun?).

If you have a day/afternoon/evening that you want to knock out and this book happens to be near you, then get into it. Especially if you are a bit younger than I (I’m getting old and my tastes seem to be maturing – ugh). I’d say this was written for mid-teens.

Fire by Kristin Cashore.

Paperback, 461 pages

Published January 25th, 2011 by Firebird

IBSN: 9780142415917

Book Two in the Graceling Realm series

Monsters are beautiful, brightly coloured creatures with a taste for other monsters and an alluring power over non-monsters. There are monsters in every species. Cat monsters, raptor monsters, horse monsters, bug monsters. Fire is a human monster, the last remaining human monster in a land teeming with other kinds of monsters. She is very beautiful, with the ability to control humans to varying degrees of success (depending on their mind strength). All her life, she has seen herself as a true monster – an evil thing – because of her father, Cansril (who was evil and used his powers for bad) and because of the way people see her.

Prince Brigan, for example, sees Fire as her father’s reputation. Back in the day, Cansril and King Nax – Brigan’s father – used to stomp around the kingdom together. Cansril led him to some very dark places in his search of entertainment, I suppose. The next high, etc. That was a long time ago, and both men are dead now. But Fire is left with the burden of Cansril’s reputation. And Brigan, when they meet, hates her deeply.

Meanwhile, the land is heading to war, with rebel leaders aching to take the throne all over the place.

Ever wondered what lay on the other side of the Seven Kingdoms in Graceling? Want to know more about the origins of the evil king Leck? Then read Fire, a companion novel  (with a splash of prequel) to Graceling.

I must admit that I wasn’t as enthralled with this as it’s predecessor, but I still really enjoyed it. I love the premise of the monsters. Kristin Cashore once again created another female lead character who is a bit of an outcast. Unlike Katsa though, Fire is not particularly strong or powerful (note that she has the capacity to be powerful, she just isn’t, in the beginning at least).

Her romance with Brigan is set up really well, because they have these entwined pasts and are kind of enemies. So I was thinking, “okay, this is going to be awesome”. But in fact, when the romancing came around, it wasn’t very climatic. Which could be seen as a negative, but when you take into account that how they got together was probably  much more realistic, then it’s kind of a positive.

It took me a very long time to read, which in my case is often the kiss of death for a book, but I do really love Fire. I think it took me a long time to get through because I’ve been sick (the kind of sick where reading sounds lovely, but holding a big book for long periods of time seems unfathomable, so you just watch movies instead) and working a lot.

So far, this series has proven to have great world building, awesome and inspiring characters, and a general feeling of ‘mm, I’ll like some more of that, please’ when you finish one of the books. I can’t wait to crack open Bitterblue. 

Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

 

ImagePaperback, 370 pages

Published September 3rd, 2009 by Gollancz

IBSN: 9780575085305

Katsa is a strong, independent woman, who kicks serious butt. She has a strange graceling – a gift – that enables her to kill people very well. Her uncle, King Randa, takes advantage of this, essentially using her as a trained attack dog – someone who travels around and threatens or kills his enemies. Katsa resents this, and has founded a secret council, who’s job it is to undermine and ruin her kings nasty plans.

It is during one of the councils missions to rescue Prince Tealiff – the father of the Lienid KIngdom’s King –  that Katsa meets Po, who is also graced, but with fighting (I’ll just tell you now – he is the love interest (and a good one, at that!)). But who kidnapped the elderly prince? and why? Katsa’s council work on unravelling the mystery, while Katsa plans of leaving her Uncle Randa’s court, and his power over her.

So, the gist of a graceling: it’s basically an ability that some people have. It can be anything: fighting, swinging from trees, baking, reading minds, etc. A graced person can be identified by their two different coloured eyes, which settle in months after birth (your baby’s born like any other baby, but watch those eyes – that baby may just turn out to be a graceling soon!). I love this premise, by the way. Kristin Cashore follows through with it fantastically.

There is such beautiful imagery in Graceling. An awesome kings and queens type backdrop. This is a lot of fun to read. I will go one step further and tell you that it’s a delight to read. I don’t think I could fault it if I tried – not that I would want to! The characters are great, the story (which expands and changes from what you gather from the blurb), the setting – everything is great! Listen to me: I’m gushing! See the exclamation marks?!

Wait, I do have one problem, and that lies in the quote on the front cover that mentions Twilight. Ugh. I like Twilight. I love The Hunger Games. But I have an issue with the way that critics always say: ‘read this if you liked [insert name of latest young adult book/series to hit the big time and get a movie deal here]’. I wouldn’t mind it if the two books are actually similar (I recommend books in this way as much as I can), but saying Graceling is for fans of Twilight is a joke, because they are so different. They are literally worlds apart. I suppose that these critics mean well – getting the non readers to read more books by mentioning the books that non readers happen to read (if that makes sense). Generally, I ignore quotes such as these, but it remains a pet peeve of mine.

So check out this amazing, rich, adventurous, fantasy. Especially if you enjoy books like the Narnia series, or P.C. Cast’s Goddess series (particularly the first book, Goddess by MIstake, and the two young adult companions, [who’s titles I seem to have forgotten]). Or if you enjoy fantasy in general, or even if you haven’t dabbled in fantasy much, read it anyway.