Book Club Pick: November 2018

HateUGive

Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United the States of America

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

First Published: 2017

Pages: 464

Publisher Description:

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is caught between two words – Garden Heights, her predominantly black impoverished neighbourhood, and Williamson Prep, her affluent, majority-white private school.

She has a white boyfriend Chris from her school that she is keeping a secret from her father. But this secret romance is only a minor subplot in the story.

The focus is the events in Starr’s life after she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her unarmed childhood friend Khalil, following a routine traffic stop.

Thomas splits her 464 page novel into five parts: Part 1: When It Happens, Parts 2: Five Weeks After It, Part 3: Eight Weeks After It, Part 4: Ten Weeks After It, and Part 5: The Decision – Thirteen Weeks After It.

This is a powerful piece for a debut novelist. Thomas began the project as a short story for her senior project at Belhaven University. Her project was in response to the 2009 police shooting of Oscar Grant.

The novel features strong language and drug references, which I believe is appropriate for the nature of the story, but as a result the novel is controversial and appears on challenged / banned book lists.

A feature film adaptation directed by George Tillman Jr. was released in the US last month. It stars Amanda Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Algee Smith, Lamar Johnson, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, and Anthony Mackie.

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Book Club Pick: October 2018

Tweak

Book Details:

Title: Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines

Author: Nic Sheff

Series: Stand alone memoir

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

First Published: 2007

Pages: 322

Publisher Description:

Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge into the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It’s a harrowing portrait—but not one without hope.

Review:

Tweak is a memoir of the author’s recollections of his journey with drug abuse, treatment, relapse, and recovery.

The memoir is written in a conversational style as if Sheff is speaking directly to the reader. This gives the writing a very raw feel. Each chapter is labelled with the day e.g. Day 1, like we are reading his diary. He also peppers the book with flashbacks to his childhood.

Sheff does not glamourise his drug addiction nor does he sugarcoat it. It is gritty and graphic in its detail and language. It is marketed and published as a young adult book. I would recommend it for older high school students.

Nic’s father David Sheff has also written a memoir Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. 

It is these two memoirs that the upcoming film Beautiful Boy featuring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet is based on.

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Links:

Nic Sheff on Twitter

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: September 2018

TwoBoysKissing

Book Details:

Title: Two Boys Kissing

Author: David Levithan

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

First Published: 2013

Pages: 196

Publisher Description:

The two boys kissing are Craig and Harry. They’re hoping to set the world record for the longest kiss. They’re not a couple, but they used to be.

Peter and Neil are a couple. Their kisses are different.

Avery and Ryan have only just met and are trying to figure out what happens next. Both of them worry that something will go wrong.

Cooper is alone. It’s getting to the point where he doesn’t really feel things anymore.

These boys, along with their friends and families, form a tapestry that will reveal love of all kinds: open and eager, tentative and cautious, pained and scared. New York Times bestselling author David Levithan has sewn together their lives into a redemptive whole that will captivate, illuminate, and move readers.

Review:

Two Boys Kissing follows four separate stories that focus on seven gay teenage boys that are all coming to terms with their sexuality. These four stories take place over a period of about 48 hours in a small American town.

The title comes from a World Record that Harry and Craig are trying to set – the longest kiss. They use to date but are now just friends. This part of the story is inspired by a real life event when college students Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello kissed for thirty-two hours, thirty minutes, and forty-seven seconds to break a Guinness World Record for the longest continuous kiss.

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Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello

There are two other stories that focus on couples. Peter and Neil are a couple and have been dating awhile. On the other hand blue haired Ryan and pink haired Avery have just met and are beginning to date. Avery is a transgender teen and personally would have liked to have seen more of Avery and Ryan’s story.

The last story follows Cooper, who is closeted, alone and lives in a world where he pretends to be other people online. His story is probably the darker of the four.

The novel is narrated by Greek chorus of gay men who lost their lives during the AIDs epidemic and recall a time where society was less accepting of homosexuality. That is not to say that Levithan’s world is entirely accepting – there are protests against Harry and Craig’s kissing record, and other characters experience instances of homophobia or people not being accepting.

Click here to read my review David Levithan’s novel Boy Meets Boy.

 

Links:

David Levithan Official Website

David Levithan on Facebook

David Levithan on Twitter

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: August 2018

Flipped

Book Details:

Title: Flipped

Author: Wendelin Van Draanen

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

First Published: 2001

Pages: 212

Publisher Description:

The first time she saw him, she flipped. The first time he saw her, he ran.

And from the second grade to the seventh, that’s how it was. She says: “My Bryce. Still walking around with my first kiss.” He says: “It’s been six years of strategic avoidance and social discomfort.”

But in the eighth grade, their views of the world – and each other – turned upside. He says: “I’d spent so many years avoiding Juli Baker that I’d never really looked at her, but now I couldn’t stop.” And she says: “I felt a cold, hard knot tighten in my heart. I was through with Bryce Loski.

Is there hope for happiness in junior high? Have you flipped?

Review:

Bryce Loski and Juli Baker have known each other since he moved in across the road the summer before second grade. When Juli first sees him she knows that he will be her first kiss. Bryce has been trying to avoid her ever since.

This continues until in the eighth grade when the characters views of each other begin to change. Bryce begins to look at Julie in a different way and realises she is not what he thought. Unfortunately Julie’s view is also changing – she is beginning to realise that this Bryce is not the boy she thought he was.

The narrative is told with Bryce and Julie alternating chapters each giving their perspective – a he-said-she-said narrative. This can be risky for an author to do because it can slow down the pace of the novel with characters retelling the same points of plot. Van Draanen does a good job at offering two different perspectives in an entertaining and often amusing way. Also at just over 200 pages it is a relatively quick and easy read.

Flipped is going to most likely appeal to younger teens. Although an older nostalgic reader might recognise something in the characters and think was I like that at that age?

A film adaptation directed Rob Reiner and starring Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll was released in 2010.

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Links:

Wendelin Van Draanen Official Website

Wendelin Van Draanen on Twitter

Wendelin Van Draanen on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

It is definitely on my bucket list to do the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Studios Orlando, Universal Studios Japan, Universal Studios Hollywood). I have been to Universal Studios Hollywood twice, when I last visited in May 2015 construction was underway – sadly I missed out by a year as it opened officially in April 2016.

I have over the years experienced the world of Harry Potter film in smaller ways.

Last year I saw Dumbledore’s Will from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Draco Malfoy’s paper crane and one of Harry’s Hogwarts acceptance letters at Trekcetera Museum, a small film and television museum in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada.

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In 2015 I did the a studio tour at Warner Bros. in Los Angeles. Not to be confused with the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London. On a side note, this is one of the best studio tours in Hollywood. Highly recommend it.

There was a small museum as part of the tour that has costumes and props from Warner Bros. television shows and films. When I visited the focus was on the Batman franchise but there were some cool props and costumes from the Harry Potter series. My favourite a petrified Hermione Granger from Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets.

This has since been updated to be The Wizarding World: Harry Potter & Fantastic Beasts Exhibit. Another reason to go back.

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The biggest exhibition of Harry Potter I saw was back in 2012 at the traveling exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition, which first debuted in Chicago in 2009 arrived in Sydney in 23 shipping crates. The exhibition had hundreds of props and costumes covering over 1400 square metres of museum space. The exhibition included props like Harry’s glasses and his Nimbus 2000 broomstick, the golden snitch, Marauder’s Map, and Hermione’s Time Turner. The exhibition is currently in Milan, Italy until September 9th.

Book vs. Film

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A film adaptation can never be exactly the same. Often for timing and pacing reasons not everything can be included – it can be disappointing for book fans to learn that a favourite moment or character has been cut.

That being said I feel that the film is a reasonably faithful adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Below are some differences between the book and the film. This is by no means comprehensive.

Mr. Dursley’s very weird day

The first chapter of the novel is from the viewpoint of Vernon and Petunia Dursley, before their infant nephew Harry turns up on their doorstep. The film skips this and begins with Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hagrid delivering baby Harry to the Dursley’s.

‘Young Sirius Black’

In the novel Hagrid tells Dumbledore the he borrowed the motorcycle from ‘young Sirius Black. Good foreshadowing on Rowling’s part for when Sirius appears later in the series. This line is omitted from the film.

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Baby Harry

Mrs. Figg

The book also mentions Mrs. Figg who looks after Harry occasionally. This character has importance later in the series. She is also not mentioned on the film.

Harry’s blue eyes

In the book Harry has green eyes in the film he has blue eyes. The film did attempt to have Daniel Radcliffe wear coloured contacts but he was unable to because they irritated his eyes.

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Harry has blue eyes in the film

Dudley and Petunia have dark hair

In the novel Mrs. Dursley is described as ‘thin and blonde’ in the film actress Fiona Shaw has very dark hair. Dudley is also described as being blonde in the book. He also has darker hair like his mother in the film.

Boa constrictor to Burmese python

In the film Harry talks to a Burmese python at the zoo in the novel it is Boa Constrictor. Also in the novel Dudley’s best friend Piers Polkiss accompanies the Dursleys and Harry to the zoo. The Piers character is not included in the film.

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The Burmese python

Harry and Draco’s first meeting

In the novel Harry and Draco first meet in Madam Malkin’s robes shop. They meet again on the Hogwarts Express. In the film Draco and Harry meet at Hogwarts before entering the Grand Hall for the Sorting Hat Ceremony.

Hagrid takes Harry to Kings Cross Station

In the book the Dursleys drop Harry off at Kings Cross Station to catch the Hogwarts Express. In the film Hagrid takes Harry.

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London to Hogwarts

Sorting Hat and School Song

In the novel the Sorting Hat sings a song. This and the school song are both cut from the film.

The Mirror of Erised

In the book Harry sees his entire extended family standing behind him when he looks at the Mirror of Erised. In the film only his parents are standing behind him.

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Mirror of Erised

Detention in the Forbidden Forest

In the novel Harry and Hermione are given a detention after being caught by Filch after hours. Draco and Neville receive a detention from Proessor McGonagall when she catches them in the corridor. In the film Harry, Hermione and Ron receive a detention after Draco tells McGongall that he saw them in Hagrid’s hut after hours. Malfoy also receives a detention because he too was out of bed after hours.

Norbert and Charlie Weasley

In the novel Charlie Weasley and his friends take Norbert to Romania. In the film it is briefly mentioned that Norbert was taken away by Dumbledore.

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Norbert, a Norwegian Ridgeback Dragon

Hufflepuff-Gryffindor Quidditch Match

The Hufflepuff-Gryffindor match that Snape referees is not included in the film. This means the part where Ron and Neville get into a fight with Draco, Crabbe and Goyle at the game is not in the film.

Professor Binns

Professor Binns is the History of Magic professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In the novel we learn that he died in his sleep in the staffroom and he has continued to teach as a ghost. This character was not included in the film.

Peeves

Another ghost not in the film is the troublesome mischievous Peeves. The late comedian and actor Rik Mayal was cast as Peeves but his scenes were cut from the film.

 

I would be interested of any other differences between the book and film that you may have noticed.

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This month’s book club pick is J.K. Rowling‘s 1997 novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In 2001 a film adaptation written by Steve Kloves (The Fabulous Baker Boys) and directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New YorkMrs. Doubtfire) was released.

The Philosopher’s Stone, which was the highest grossing film of 2001, kicked off a franchise of eight films (book seven Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was split into two parts) across 10 years.

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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)

The film opens with Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), and Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) delivering orphan infant Harry Potter to his mother’s sister’s family home.

On his eleventh birthday Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns that his Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths) and Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) have been hiding the truth about his past. He is of wizard heritage. His parents, who were wizards, did not die in a car crash like he was told but were killed by an evil and powerful wizard, Lord Voldemort.

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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)

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The Dursleys: Dudley (Harry Melling), Vernon (Richard Griffiths), Petunia (Fiona Shaw)

Harry survived Voldemort’s murderous attack and was left with a lightening bolt shaped scar on his forehead. Following the attack Voldemort’s powers were weakened and he went into hiding making Harry, ‘the boy who lived’, a celebrity in the wizarding world.

The film follows Harry’s journey as a first-year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At Hogwarts he meets and forms a friendship with fellow first years Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).

The adventure slash mystery plot is based around a mysterious object that is being hidden on the third floor at Hogwarts that students’ are forbidden from entering. Harry believes that someone is trying to steal this object and it involves Lord Voldemort. So with the help of Ron and Hermione, Harry sets out the solve the mystery of the philosopher’s stone.

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Hermione (Emma Watson), Neville (Matthew Lewis), Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)

An array of experienced British actors fill the adult roles including John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell), John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Maggie Smith (Minerva Dursley), Julie Walters (Molly Weasley), and Zoë Wanamaker (Madam Hooch).

They help guide the lesser experienced child actors through this film. There are some good performances particularly from Coltrane, Rickman and Smith.

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Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane)

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Snape (Alan Rickman)

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McGonagall (Maggie Smith)

Stuart Craig’s production design is amazing, particularly the scenes set at Hogwarts. He has really captured the magic of Rowling’s wizarding world.

The film comes in at over two and a half hours and is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the book with a few minor tweaks for pace.