Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week’s topic is a post I was going to do anyway, so why not do it TTT style?
Top Ten Books I Read in 2011
[not counting re-reads, in no particular order]
This list is all about the lasting effect each book had on me. Divergent was one that I liked enough when I read it, but it grew on me over time. We aren’t talking beautiful prose with this one…or even amazing characters. But it’s action-packed and dystopian, and it definitely stands out among the pile as one of the most fun, un-put-downable reads of the year. I will be waiting patiently for Insurgent to come out in May! (read my full review here)
This one also grew on me over time. When I first read it, I focused on the sexual tension. However, Cassia’s world has stuck with me over the months and I’m ready to learn more. The world-building here was excellent, and I think Condie has a big plan in mind with this trilogy. I’m not buying that Ky is the one for Cassia, even if I was rooting for them to make out in this installment of the trilogy. I’ll be reading Crossed on my Nook as soon as the library gets to me on the wait list! (my full review)
3.) Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
This one could easily have been named “why did I wait so long to read this?!” I’m so glad I finally did! Maybe it’s a good thing that I read it at this point in my life, because I appreciated the beautiful writing and settings. I also can identify with Anne so much right now. Though she’s a dreamer (I’m more practical), she’s focused more on her pursuit of knowledge than just staying around her little town and getting married, settling down, etc. And Gilbert will be there when she’s ready, so it gives me some hope in life. (read my full review here)
Have I said enough about this book yet? Or the whole series? I haven’t read the final book yet, but part me realizes I’m just putting it off so I still have the some un-read Ruby Oliver to look forward to. Ruby is smart, funny, ridiculous, realistic, and independent, all qualities that I admire in a teen protagonist. I’ve said it 100 million times, but the feminist message throughout the quartet is spot on for modern girls. (read my reviews here, here, and here)
IT’S FRIGGIN’ TINA FEY! I love Tina Fey. Have I said that enough this year, also? I still say it’s a shame that woman is straight…but she addresses that in her book. This book is just like her in book form. I love Tina Fey’s comedy and her style, so I found myself laughing constantly as she took me through her journey in the business. Most of all, I appreciate her push to get more strong women in comedy and transform comedy out of being a boys club. FYI, I’m watching 30 Rock on Netflix while I write this. (read my full review here)
Religion fascinates me, and that fascination led me to this book. What brought the book to the Top 10 list for 2011 was the refreshingly open-minded approach Roose took to his experiment and his writing. I think sometimes liberal-minded folks forget that understanding is a two-way street — we want others to see and appreciate different ideals, views, and cultures, but we forget to apply that to the “religious right.” Roose showed how important it is to understand the different cultures that exist in our own backyard. (read my full review here)
I cry tears of sadness in books, but this one made me cry tears of joy. So much emotion was stirred up in this novel. It’s kind of long and slow, but it never felt cumbersome. The slow pacing actually turned out to be immensely rewarding in terms of emotional build-up. I didn’t think much of Doug Sweiteck in The Wednesday Wars, but he’s now a character that will stay with me for a very long time. I just LOVE him. Not love like I love Tina Fey, but more like the love I have for Harry Potter. I’m crossing my fingers for this to win at least a Newbery honor. (read my full review here)
One of my more recent reads, but also one of the best. It was equal parts contemporary YA boarding school-book and sleep-with-the-lights-on creepy book. Luckily it’s a series (trilogy? I’m not sure) and I will be reading the others. I appreciated that the action took place only over a few months, instead of dragging the story out over a whole school year (*cough* Anna and the French Kiss *cough*). Maureen Johnson is awesome and I’ll be reading more of her work in 2012 for sure (read my full review here)
Such a beautiful book! As a music lover, I appreciated the use of both classical and indie/punk music throughout this terribly heartbreaking story. The scene with Mia’s family’s car accident was very memorable, and I still think it would make a great movie (and the music has already been decided on!). I haven’t had a desire to read the other book (the fact that it even exists is kind of a spoiler, I think) because I like this one on its own. I recommend it and book talk it to students all the time, and they seem to agree that it’s a good read. (my review)
Room was the very first novel I read on my brand-new Nook, so it has a special place in my heart. I had been wanting to read it since I heard about it, and it was worth it. This is a heartbreaking and fascinating story that sounds like it’s ripped right from the headlines. Though it’s an adult book and told from the point-of-view of a five-year-old, I can still see it appealing to a sophisticated young adult reader. The concept of a five-year-old only ever knowing one room is an interesting one to see unfold. (read my review here)
Faves of TwentyEleven is the creation of Nomes over at Ink Crush. This series of five posts will focus on my favorite books, characters, scenes, covers, and other random favorites from my 2011 reads in my
52 60 Book Challenge. I’m participating in the Faves of TwentyEleven because the award categories looked like fun! I’m spending much of the end of December writing up lists and reflecting on my reads.
Day Four: The Random
“The summer between fifth and sixth grade, something happens to your mind.” (Alice McKinley, The Agony of Alice)
This sentence basically sums up my life’s work. It also opens my favorite series, the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
2. Fave book title
By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
The title is what made me want to read the book.
3. Fave reading experience (ie: created a great reading memory)
Reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead with my sixth grade book club.
They were so wonderfully excited and enthusiastic about this book and we had some really great conversations. It showed up on a lot of their “Favorite Books Ever” lists and they still talk about it. I love knowing that they are getting some exposure to challenging books and conversation about books outside of their classrooms, where the “high-stakes” testing has all but eliminated novels from the curriculum.
4. Book with the best food in it (made you so crazy-envious-hungry)
Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
The mom in the book was a pastry chef, and recipes started each section. Kind of made me want some tasty treats while reading.
5. Book with the most sensual weather (made you shiver/sweat)
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
I LOVE LOVE LOVE me some Mt. Everest books (and I wrote one of my big grad school papers on a bunch of K2 books), and this one is quite representative of the genre. Whenever I read these books, though, I can’t help but layer on some extra blankets and be really glad that I’m not stranded in a massive snow storm at 28,000 ft.
*Honorable mention to Trapped by Michael Northup and This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer for also having REALLY FRICKIN’ COLD settings. Apparently I like books about surviving in the snow (and I just finished Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys and I’m currently reading Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle…also books about bitter cold situations. Wow. It really is a thing.)
6. Most embarrassing book cover (feeling sheepish in public or just plain ugly)
Amelia Rules: The Tweenage Guide to NOT Being Unpopular by Jim Gownley
How could I read a book with a title like that in public? I can’t explain to people, “I’m trying to take an active interest in graphic novels because I’m a middle school librarian.” Luckily it was a quick read and I didn’t have to drag it around with me.
7. Can’t believe you waited this long to read the book (!)
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
I should have just read it in my childhood. I do still plan on reading a few others in the series, but it may take me some time to get to that.
8. Book you’d give your mum/sister to read
An Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner Semester at Americas Holiest University by Kevin Roose
She would be interested in this, since Liberty is in Virginia (where I grew up) and she’s interested in religion.
*Honorable mention to The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz…but only because I ACTUALLY gave her this one to read. And Harry Potter. But I think she’d like Unlikely Disciple more.
9. Book you’d give your dad/brother to read
I’d give my brother A Whiter Shade of Pale by Christian Lander
Because it’s funny and he’s seen Stuff White People Like. There’s pretty much nothing on my list that I think my dad would like.
10. Book you’d like to give your past-self to read (ie, me, when I was 15)
If she existed then (it was the year 2000, and The Boyfriend List was published in 2006).
11. Book that lived up to (or superseded the hype)
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Such a good book, I understood right away why I’ve seen it discussed as a Newbery contender so much. It’s got my vote (if I had a vote).
12. Book you stayed up the latest to finish (confess!!!)
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
…and then I was crying so hard that I couldn’t sleep.
13. Book you were *dying* to get your hands on the most
This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
I haven’t talked about this one much on my end-of-year lists, but I was dying to read it when it came out. The first two books, Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone were AMAZING, but this one was just weird. Don’t get me wrong — I liked it. But the romance kind of ruined it for me calling it a “best” book this year.
14. Biggest brick of a book you read (by page count)
Wonderstuck by Brian Selznick
608 pages. It was a big one, and I lugged it around in my purse for days!
15. Killer cliffhanger award
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
I really like how she did this cliffhanger. The books still felt very satisfying and could be read alone, but there was a moment at the end where I thought, “I must read book #2.”
*Honorable mention to Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Her cliffhanger saved the book, and I will read the second one. And another honorable mention to Matched by Ally Condie…I’m on the wait list for Crossed at the public library and I can’t wait!
Again, I like that this list forced me to talk about some of the books that I’ve talked about much this year. Every book brings something special to my life, even if I don’t like the book that much overall. There’s memorable scenes, emotions, characters, and moments that add up over time. Making all of these lists has also forced me to think hard about which books will go on my “Top Ten Books I Read in 2011″ list that I’ll be writing for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. It’s a very hard list to write!
Faves of TwentyEleven is the creation of Nomes over at Ink Crush. This series of five posts will focus on my favorite books, characters, scenes, covers, and other random favorites from my 2011 reads in my
52 60 Book Challenge. I’m participating in the Faves of TwentyEleven because the award categories looked like fun! I’m spending much of the end of December writing up lists and reflecting on my reads and this is just the beginning. Get ready.
Day Three: The Scenes
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
I was hooked from the beginning with the first Will Grayson as the narrator. I was laughing from the get-go and thinking, “John Green is SO brilliant.”
2. Best climax
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
After many, many pages of (sometimes very) slow-moving plot, the climax of the story made it all worth it. Darcy was a gentleman, love was found, and I saw glimpses of why everyone loves Jane Austen so much.
3. Best ending
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
I’m trying to do this as ending and not climax. Ending is a bit trickier. I picked Wonderstruck because the ending is one of those fabulous endings where the two stories are woven together in a surprising way.
4. Best plot twist/revelation (no spoilers!)
Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
They said no spoilers, so I can’t say much more about WHY this was the best pick. But, c’mon, it’s Agatha Christie!
5. Scariest/most disturbing scene
When Rory talks to the bald man outside of her dorm at 2am in The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
THIS was the moment when this story got creepy for me, and it’s quite early on in the story. I felt uneasy for the rest of the novel, knowing that something super-abnormal was going on and Rory was not safe.
6. Steamiest scene
Mary Lou Novak (with herself) in Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
I’ve read a lot of sex scenes, both explicit and implicit, in YA lit — but this was a scene I was not used to reading in a YA book. However, it was probably the best scene I read all year because it is important for girls to not be afraid or ashamed of their own sexuality. They also need to love and understand themselves before they can love and understand someone else. If I could give Libba Bray a medal, I would.
7. Best swoon-worthy moment
When Adam asks Mia to “play” him in If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
This could have been super-cheesy. Even when I type it, it looks super-cheesy. However, it worked. It was this perfect, intimate moment of music-nerd love where two very different people found common ground in something they both love and understand.
8. Biggest nail-biting moment
The ending to Delirium by Lauren Oliver
I knew, from reading all the fabulous book blogs that I read, that the ending to this was going to be a shocker. So when Oliver started setting up that ending, I was biting my nails in anticipation of shit really hitting the fan. Turns out, the ending was exactly how I would have written it and I think it saved the book for me.
9. Most hilarious scene
When the girl (I don’t remember her name) make mini-marshmallow Jesuses on little pretzel crosses for the school bake sale in The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart.
Even Ruby Oliver (especially Ruby Oliver) was looking at this girl, going, “Are you FREAKIN’ kidding me?” I laughed really, really hard. It was hard picking my best Ruby Oliver moment, but this was it.
10. Most heart-breaking/tear-jerker moment
The ending to Before I Die
If said it before, I’ll say it again: JUST RIP MY HEART OUT AND TAKE IT. I will never forget that ending, and I read a lot of books with sad endings in the past couple of years.
BONUS: Favorite meet cute
Zoe and Vanessa in Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult. They win above all others because they are the only real lesbian love story I read this year (what a shame!).
The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan
Audiobook from audible.com
[#60 in my
52 60 book challenge]
I did not like this book. But middle school kids will (and do) love it. In case you don’t know the story, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There’s little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.
If Harry Potter were poorly written and about mythology instead of magic, it would be this book. I thought it was extremely derivative of the Harry Potter series, and it didn’t meet the expectations of JK Rowling’s series. This book represents everything I thought that Harry Potter would be when I initially refused to read the series.
Let me take a step back. I know Harry Potter is not original. JK Rowling borrowed almost everything in her novels from other great works, mythology, and literary archetypes. But it works. I wish I could articulate why it works, but I don’t know if I can…and I don’t have the room here to do so. However, I feel that the plethora of kids’ fantasy novels that followed the Harry Potter explosion were trying to ride on Rowling’s coattails. Percy Jackson, whether intentional or not, felt like one of those novels. I should have seen this coming when one of Riordan’s other novels, The Red Pyramid, ended up in my “gave up on” pile.
I’m not the only one who sees far too many Harry Potter similarities — read a couple of the reviews over at Goodreads to see that many of them agree (and they list out the similarities, if you’re interested). To me, this just felt like a middle school novel. The middle school kids like an action-packed story and the fantasy element, and they aren’t going to make too many comparisons or ask too many questions. That’s why I’m giving it two different grades…
Final Grade (for me): D I just don’t like fantasy, and think all of these Newberry-hopefuls are raising my personal bar for kid-lit.
Final Grade (for my students): B The kids will like this. I will keep buying it and recommending it. It is great for a study of mythology and getting kids excited about Ancient Greece, which is in our curriculum. And, of course, it gets them excited about reading!
The Name of the Star
by Maureen Johnson
Putnam, 384 pp.
Library book received from JLG
[#59 of my
52 60 book challenge]
Here’s what this novel has: Jack the Ripper, London, boarding school, ghosts, murder, make-out sessions, awesome best friends, mean girls, laughs, and fear. The scary/fear meter was running high with this one.
Rory has just left Louisiana to attend a London boarding school , where she’s learning to handle the academics and her new friendships. She’s also having to handle the news of the various Jack the Ripper copy-cat murders happening all over her side of town. Even with the CCTV cameras directly on the victims, no murderer has been seen and city is filled with both panic and morbid fascination. To make matters worse, Rory is directly pulled into the mess when she spots and speaks with a man whom the police later believe to be a suspect. But something isn’t right. Rory is seeing things she shouldn’t, and she has reason to believe she might be in real danger.
This was a good book. I looked forward to reading it every night, even if I had to double check the locks on my doors before getting into bed. The suspense was stellar, especially as Rory is trying to sort out what she’s seen. I know I criticize many female lead characters for not being three-dimensional and awesome, but I liked Rory. I don’t know what made her different from Anna in Anna and The French Kiss — maybe it was that she wasn’t so focused on boys? Rory had some light romance, but she was more focused on her friends, school, and situations bigger than herself (I can’t say more without giving away spoilers).
The Name of the Star is a departure from Maureen Johnson’s usual contemporary YA-fare because of the scary factor, but it does read like a contemporary YA novel through much of the story. The novel is the first the Shades of London series, and I will probably pick up the next book when it comes out. Though the ending was definitely satisfying, there was a mini-cliffhanger at the end that intrigued me.
Final Grade: B This book did what it was supposed to do, which was scare me AND make me laugh at the same time. I liked Rory, I thought the pacing was excellent, and the story was original. It was an enjoyable read, certainly a book I’d recommend to my students who enjoy a ghost story with some depth.
Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds
by Scott Berkun
[#58 in my
52 60 book challenge]
I might be slightly ridiculous at times. I dance around my media center, make stupid jokes, have Justin Bieber posters in my office, buy everything in pink, and watch waaaaaay too much reality television. However, at my heart I am a very logical, driven person. Everything I do is purposeful, even if I try to make life fun. Scott Berkun’s book speaks to that side of my personality. I’d like to give one big Jersey Shore-style fist pump to Scott Berkun for being logical, objective, driven, intelligent, humble, and awesome.
Mindfire is a collection of thirty essays organized into three categories: Gasoline, Sparks, and Fire.The essays were all previously published on his website, but he has handpicked from his many other essays to create this thematic collection. I’ve read short stories and non-fiction before, but this is my first experience reading an essay collection. Based on Berkun’s praise of essay collections at the end of the book, I may read more in the future.
He won me over with the first essay, “The Cult of Busy.” It’s like this man is in my head! Busy people like to say and believe that they must be more important because they are so busy, but sometimes it actually means they are not very efficient. I see this all the time in the education field! We’ve got these martyr teachers who stay at work until seven every evening and work on stuff all weekend and all break and all summer and never have enough time and are sooooo busy. I leave every day at 4:00 because I either A.) use my time wisely while I’m at school or B.) determine that some tasks are not important enough to spend my time on. Less busy people are not necessarily doing less and we certainly are not less important. I wish I had a copy of “The Cult of Busy” to hand to every person who ever snidely told me, “I wish I could leave every day at 4:00. Must be nice.”
It is nice. You should try it.
Other great essays included:
- “There are two kinds of people: complexifiers and simplifiers”
- “How to give and receive criticism”
- “On God and integrity”
Logic and objectivity run through each of the essays, but those three really stood out in terms of personal value. Some of the essays, though good, didn’t really hit close to home for me because they were about worlds that I don’t really live in. I guess they are applicable to education, but not as much is they would be applicable in the business world.
Final Grade: A-
It would be hard for a non-fiction book to reach a full A, but this one got bumped up from a B+ because of the sheer number of times I chanted, “AMEN! For real!” to myself while reading it.
Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
[#57 in my
52 60 book challenge]
Ah. Fluffy YA romance. Must be nice to be young, in love, and in Paris.
Anna Oliphant has been sent to boarding school at The School of America in Paris by her Nicholas Sparks-esque father. At first she hates it because she’s leaving behind her best friend, her crush, her ex-boyfriend, and all the fun things about being a high school senior in America. But while Anna is struggling to cope with living in Paris and not being able to speak French, she does manage to make some friends: Meredith, Rashmi, Josh, and St. Clair. British, swoon-worthy, sweet, troubled Etienne St. Clair. St. Clair with the dreamy eyes and perfect hair. Worldly St. Clair. Brilliant, charming, and beautiful St. Clair who smells SO GOOD. St. Clair who has a girlfriend at the nearby university…
See where I’m going with this? Have I made it clear who our love interest is supposed to be?
I have so many things that I loved and so many things that I didn’t like about this book that I decided paragraph form just isn’t going to work. The review would go on for ages and you’d quit reading. So I’m going to do this in the easily-digested form of a bullet list.
Things I Loved
- Paris. I love Paris. I went when I was sixteen and stayed in the Latin Quarter, just like Anna. The book was not wish fulfillment for me as much as it was a walk down memory lane.
- Anna’s love of movies. I’m glad the main character had a passion and was actively working toward her goal of being a film critic. She may or may not end up with this as her for-real-life career, but I thought it was realistic and made her more interesting.
- Friendships. I thought the friendships in the novel were realistic. Perkins could have done some cliche things with the friendships and conflicts between them, but she surprised me.
- Girl Scout cookies. There is a whole scene with Girl Scout cookies that made me laugh. Incidentally, Girl Scout cookies helped fund my own trip to Paris
- The love story. Not the greatest love story of all time, but cute. Fluffy cute. Sometimes angsty. Sometime frustrating. But cute and satisfying.
- Boarding school. I love boarding school books. They are my wish-fulfillment candy. It’s in good company with Mockingbirds, Looking For Alaska, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, A Great and Terrible Beauty, A Little Princess, and Harry Potter.
Things I Didn’t Love
- St. Clair. Please don’t throw things at me. He was okay, but I didn’t love him. At times I felt he was a little too perfect. At other times I wanted to kick him.
- Anna. Again, I didn’t hate her. Just didn’t love her. I think she’s realistic, but I don’t know that I would be friends with her. I’d be a friendly acquaintance. And sometimes I wanted to kick her, too.
- The Ending. The ending was fine in terms of the novel, but my cynical self couldn’t stop thinking, “they’re just going to break up in college!” Having characters get together in senior year just makes me think of how they’ll be cheating, frustrated, or broken-hearted as they enter the next stage of their lives in just a few months.
Overall, it was a good book. I’m glad I read it and I see what the hype is about. It was realistic and well-written. I love boarding schools and satisfying love stories. Anna and St. Clair were just a step up from Bella and Edward, enough to keep them from ruining the book. I’d give it four stars out of five for being fun to read and set in Paris.
A Wrinkle In Time
by Madeleine L’Engle
[#56 in my
52 60 book challenge]
I started this book in 1995. It took me sixteen years to finish it and move it from the “currently reading” pile to the bookshelf. I think I can rest easy tonight with a smug smile on my face because I have accomplished something great today.
Okay, that’s all a bit of a stretch, but I really did give up on this book in the fifth grade and I’ve always said I would come back to it one day and finish it.
Unless you live under a rock, you have at least heard of A Wrinkle In Time and the tesseract/time travel business. I was surprised to find that the plot was more simple than I had remembered. Meg Murry’s father, a scientist, has been missing for many years. One day three mysterious ladies come and take Meg Murry and her youngest brother, Charles Wallace, so save their father. A schoolmate, Calvin O’Keefe, is along for the ride. They tesser across the universe and across time to different planets and stumble across The Dark Thing and great evil while trying to get all the family members home safely.
My favorite part of the story was Camazotz, the weird planet where everyone does everything at the exact same time. It was creepy and mysterious, but also very close to the themes we see in dystopian literature about control. I also like Charles Wallace quite a bit and wanted to know what his deal was. The basic story was okay. It didn’t blow my mind and make me squeal, “OMG, this is my new favorite book!” I know sooooo many people that feel that way, but I just don’t get it. Do it need to read it twenty more times? Do I need to tesser back twenty years and read it then? Someone help me shed some light on this.
The big things I didn’t get mostly involve Calvin O’Keefe. Why was he even there? And what does he end up seeing in Meg? Yeah, Meg has this great quality to love, but she’s not all that special. I don’t doubt that Meg and Calvin could fall in love over time, but it seemed very quick to me. “Hey, I just met you and you are completely average in every way, but I’m going to hold your hand and make googley eyes at you, okay?”
Maybe I’m just too old for this. I missed the boat and missed the magic of this kids classic. Maybe I need to read it a few more times and revel in the liberal religious aspects of the story (L’Engle was an Episcopalian, it seems). My book club kids thought the story was okay, but they still far preferred When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I think I feel the same way.
Before I Die
by Jenny Downham
[#55 in my
52 60 book challenge]
It’s no secret from the title of the book that 1.) the girl dies and 2.) I knew I was going to cry like a baby. But I like books that make me cry.
I didn’t realize this one would make me cry quite so much.
Picture me, laying in bed at 11:45pm turning the last pages of the novel (because I just couldn’t put it down) and making awful weeping noises. I had to change my pillowcase. Yeah. It was like that.
The first 3/4 of the story was average. The main character, Tessa, has been fighting leukemia for four years and has finally been told that she’s losing the battle. The doctors stop the chemo and she has just a few months left to live. At first, Tessa is depressed and miserable. But she creates a list of all the things she wants to do in her last months to experience life before she goes and she sets out to do them. She has sex, says yes to everything for a day, does drugs, drives a car, breaks the law…and falls in love.
The idea was great, but I found the writing a bit hard to read at times. I had to force myself to pick it up and read each night. Understanding Tessa was hard for me. Sometimes things just happened out of the blue, and not in a good way. I really didn’t appreciate the continued disrespect she had for her obviously mentally and emotionally exhausted father, a man who generally supported the idea of Tessa’s list. She’d disappear and lie to him constantly without realizing why he worried about her. I also didn’t quite get the romance. Tessa’s love interest is so unrealistically perfect up until the very end. Is that how real teenage boys are? Because that’s not my memory, but they seem to be that way in many YA novels (the girls, however, can be as hot and cold as they want).
After forcing myself to read the middle section of the book, the ending rewarded me greatly. The last 40 pages make this book absolutely worth it and they will stay with me for a long time. The chapters get shorter. The spaces between the paragraphs get longer. The thoughts are shorter. Tessa gives the reader a first-hand account of dying from cancer. I don’t care who you are, you would have to have a tiny black pebble of a heart not to get emotional over that. It forced me to think about my own mortality and what it’s like to know that you’re dying and not being able to anything about it.
I think part of what I didn’t like was Tessa’s list. I’ve never had much of a rebellious streak, so rebellious activities would not have made up my list (even at 16). I can understand the falling in love and having sex. Even the driving. But my list would have included more simple things, travel experiences, and time spent with people that I love. To each her own, I guess. I have certainly been inspired me to make better use of the time I have today in my young, healthy life.
If you like terribly, terribly sad books or the like, this book is for you. Just make sure you have tissues so you don’t get snot all over your pillowcase…not that I did that or anything…