Book Club Pick: April 2017

ThirteenReasonsWhy

Book Details:

Title: Thirteen reasons why

Author: Jay Asher

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Penguin Group

First Published: 2008

Pages: 288

Publisher’s Description:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decide to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and he follows her recorded words throughout town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Review:

Thirteen Reasons Why (stylised as Th1rteen R3eason Why) follows shy high school teenager Clay Jensen.

Clay has received a box of with seven cassette tapes. Upon listening to them he learns that they were recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate, workmate at the local cinema, and his crush, who recently committed suicide.

Hannah instructs the listener that there are thirteen reasons as to why she decided to take her own life – and if they received these tapes their ‘name will pop up’.

Clay is the ninth person to receive the tapes and when he is finished he must mail them on. The novel opens with Clay posting the tapes and then cuts back to the day before, one hour after school, when Clay opens that box that will change his outlook on life.

The rest of the novel follows Clay as he travels around his small town with a Walkman and a map Hannah left with starred locations, as he listens to her final words.

The novel has a dual narrative with transcripts of Hannah’s tape recordings italicised amongst Clay’s first person narrative.

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It reads very much like a thriller with the reader learning about Hannah’s pain along with Clay. There is the suspense that one has to listen to the tapes and send them to the next person otherwise all tapes will be released publicly.

As well tackling the tough issue of teen suicide the novel addresses rape, bullying, gossip, peer pressure, underage drinking, and survivor’s guilt.

On the Thirteen Reasons Why website readers can listen to Hannah’s tapes.

In 2016, a 10th Anniversary Edition entitled Th1rteen R3asons Why: A Novel was released. It featured a new introduction by Asher, the novel’s original ending, reproductions from Asher’s notebook that he used while writing, deleted moments, the synopsis he sent to publishers and a reading guide.

In 2011, Universal Studios purchased the rights to the novel with the intention to develop it into feature film starring Selena Gomez as Hannah. In 2015 it was announced that Netflix was developing the novel as a series with Gomez serving as an executive producer.

The series 13 Reasons Why went onto Netflix on March 31.

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Links:

Jay Asher Official Blog

Jay Asher on Facebook

Jay Asher on Twitter

Jay Asher on Instagram

 

ThirteenReasonsWhy.com

Thirteen Reasons Why on Facebook

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

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This month’s book club pick is Rachel Cohn and David Levithan‘s 2006 novel Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. A film adaptation was released in 2008 directed by Peter Sollett.

The film follows a group of teenagers over 24 hours in New York City.

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We first meet Nick O’Leary portrayed by Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) in his Hoboken, New Jersey bedroom. Nick still clad in his sleepwear is leaving an awkward post-break up message on his ex-girlfriend Tris’ phone.

Next we go to Sacred Heart, an all girls school, where Tris (Alexis Dziena) has one of Nick’ mix CDs entitled ‘The Road to Closure: Vol. 12’. After Tris dumps it in the bin Norah (Kat Dennings) is quick to retrieve it. She clearly has a connection to this mysterious musio Nick.

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Nick (Michael Cera)

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Nick’s ex Tris (Alexis Dziena)

Back at Nick’s, his gay bandmates Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron) have arrived to pick up mopey Nick for a gig that night. Nick is the bass player in an queercore punk band ‘The Jerk-Offs.’

At the gig Tris turns up with new beau Gary (Zachary Booth). After Tris mocks Norah for not having boyfriend Norah asks Nick, unaware who he is, to be her boyfriend for five minutes. This is different to the novel where it is Nick who asks Norah.

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Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Norah (Kat Dennings) and Nick (Michael Cera)

Norah’s best friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) is getting increasingly more drunk. Norah just wants to take Caroline home. Nick’s bandmates hoping that Norah can get Tris off his mind offer to take Caroline home, so Nick and Norah can spend the time getting to know each other better while searching for elusive indie band Where’s Fluffy’s secret show.

Unfortunately Thom, Dev and their new beefy friend (Richard B. Wright) lose Caroline. Nick and Norah must join the search for Caroline, and find out what they want from each other.

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Dev (Rafi Gavron), Lethario (Jonathan B. Wright) and Thom (Aaron Yoo)

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Nick (Michael Cera), Caroline (Ari Graynor) and Norah (Kat Dennings)

Part of the magic of the novel is the dual narrative – Cohn writing chapters from Norah’s perspective and Levithan from Nick’s. This magic is lost in translating the book to film.

Cera and Dennings have good chemistry together and thanks to witty dialogue the film is a little bit better than your average teen-rom com but overall it does not offer anything new or special.

Book Club Pick: March 2017

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Book Details:

Title: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Author: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

First Published: 2006

Pages: 183

Publisher’s Description:

Nick’s just seen the girl who dumped him walk in with a new guy. What else can he do but ask the strange girl next to him to be his new girlfriend for the next five minute?

Norah would do anything to avoid conversation with the not not-friend girl who dumped Nick . . . and to get over the Evil Ex whom Norah never really dumped. What else can she do but answer Nick’s question by making out with him?

With one electric, unexpected kiss, the five-minute couple of Nick and Norah set off on an unchartered adventure called the “first date” that will turn into an infinite night of falling in and out (and in and out, and maybe in and out) of love. Theirs is a first date of music, laughter, heartache, confusion, passion, taxi driver wisdom, and a jacket named Salvatore. And of course a killer soundtrack.

As Nick and Norah wander through the middle-of-the-night mystic maze of Manhattan, they share the kind of night you want to never end, where every minute counts and every moment flickers between love and disaster.

Review:

Nick O’Leary, the straight bass player in queercore punk band, is playing at a club in downtown Manhattan when he spots his ex-girlfriend Tris with a new guy. So he asks a random girl dressed in an oversize flannel sitting nearby to be his five minute girlfriend. The random girl, Norah Silverberg, surprises him by kissing him.

Little does Nick know that Norah and Tris attend the same school, and they are not on friendly terms.

This five minute date turns into an late night adventure around New York City, which includes a Subway ride, visits to a Russian eatery, a Korean grocery store and an encounter with a Playboy Bunny bouncer.

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Map of Manhattan in the front of book

It is the first collaboration novel from Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Cohn writes the chapters from Noah’s perspective and Levithan writes the chapters from Nick’s point of view.

Cohn and Levithan went on to co-write Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (2007), Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (2010), The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily (2016). Further collaborations are in the works.

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A word of warning this book does feature quite a lot of coarse language and sexual references.

A feature film was released it 2008 directed by Peter Sollett and starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings as Nick and Norah.

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

Links:

David Levithan Official Website

David Levithan on Facebook

David Levithan on Twitter

 

Rachel Cohn Official Website

Rachel Cohn on Facebook

Rachel Cohn on Twitter

Rachel Cohn on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

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This month’s book club pick is James Dashner‘s 2009 novel The Maze Runner. A film adaptation directed by Wes Ball was released in 2014.

The film opens in pitch blackness. Amongst the shadows we can see a young man traveling upwards in a metal elevator cage. He is breathing deeply and the sounds of the metal elevator are clanging. The sound design and visuals in this opening provide a strong start to the film.

The young man in the elevator is sixteen-year-old Thomas, portrayed by Dylan O’Brien (MTV’s Teen Wolf).

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Thomas (Dylan O’Brien)

Thomas has no memory and soon learns that he is part of a group of teen boys that have been sent to live in this artificial environment known as ‘The Glade’ (shot on location in a lush and green Louisiana).

Alby (Aml Ameen) leads this group of boys with his right hand man Newt (Game of Thrones’ Thomas Brodie-Sangster). It is Brodie-Sangster that has the difficult task as an actor to deliver the backstory. This exposition does slow the pace at the beginning of the film.

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Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and Alby (Aml Ameen)

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Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster)

From Newt and Thomas’ buddy Chuck (Blake Cooper) we learn that each boy in the community has his own role that he does in order to keep the society functioning. The boys’ ultimate goal is to solve a maze built beyond huge grey stone walls that are over a hundred feet high. Each night the entrance to the maze closes protecting the boys from the Grievers, a horrific monster that is a mix of metal and flesh that can bite, sting and kill.

The Runners, who are lead by Minho (Ki Hong Lee) run through the maze mapping it out.

Everything changes when a mysterious girl, Teresa (Skins‘ Kaya Scodelario), arrives in the elevator car. The boys were not expecting another delivery for another month – the pattern in the Glade. Teresa is the first girl to arrive and she will be the last.

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Teresa (Kaya Scodelario)

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Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and Thomas (Dylan O’Brien)

Teresa and Thomas are somehow connected to the mystery of the Glade. The group will need to work together in order to escape the maze.

They have an obstacle in the form of Gally (Will Poulter, from We’re the Millers) who clashes with Thomas from day 1.

The true villain is Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) the head of the mysterious organisation that has trapped these boys in this artificial world. Clarkson brings a presence of authority in her very limited screen time.

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Gally (Will Poulter)

First time feature director Wes Ball does a good job at encapsulating the spirit of Dashner’s novel. There are some changes, some which work for the better. For example, there is no telepathic communication between Thomas and Teresa – that would have been cheesy!

There is an open-ending, which sets it up for the sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, which was released in 2015. The third film Maze Runner: The Death Cure is due for release in 2018.

Book Club Pick: February 2017

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Book Details:

Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Series: Maze Runner series

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Delcorte Press

First Published: 2009

Pages: 371

Publisher’s Description:

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas can remember is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade, an encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible maze.

Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there, or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything to find out.

Review:

The Maze Runner is the first novel in a series set in a dark post-apocalyptic world.

Our central character is sixteen-year-old Thomas. When he wakes inside an metal elevator car, he has no memory of how he got there or who he is, except for his name.

Thomas learns that he is part of community of around 50 teenage boys known as the ‘Gladers’. The boys live in an artificially created environment that is managed by an unseen and unknown group simply known as the Creators, that communicate through deliveries via the elevator car.

The ultimate goal of the community is to solve a maze built beyond huge grey stone walls that are over a hundred feet high. Each night the entrance to the maze closes protecting the boys from the Grievers, a horrific monster that is a mix of metal and flesh that can bite, sting and kill.

Each boy in the community has his own role that he does in order to keep the society functioning. The Runners run through the maze mapping it out. A position Thomas feels himself drawn to.

Everything changes on Thomas’ second day when a mysterious girl, Teresa, arrives in the elevator car. The Gladers were not expecting another delivery for another month – the pattern in the Glade. Teresa is the first girl to arrive and she will be the last delivery – no more Gladers, food or supplies.

Thomas also feels that he has connection to her. Teresa and Thomas are somehow connected to the mystery of the Glade. Will they be able to work with the other boys and help everyone escape the maze?

The novel is written in third person, but the narrative strongly favours Thomas’ point of view.

The Maze Runner is followed by The Scorch Trials (2010) and The Death Cure (2011), and two prequel novels The Kill Order (2012) and The Fever Code (2016).

A feature film was released in 2014, directed by Wes Ball and starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, and Patricia Clarkson.

The Maze Runner series will be popular with readers of dystopian fiction.

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Links:

James Dashner Official Website

James Dashner on Facebook

James Dashner on Twitter

James Dashner on Instagram

 

 Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library

Book Club Pick: January 2017

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Book Details:

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie

Illustrator: Ellen Forney

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

First Published: 2007

Pages: 230

Publisher’s Description:

Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed.

Inspired by his own experiences growing up, award-wining author Sherman Alexie chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one unlucky boy trying to rise above the life everyone expects him to live.

Review:

As the title suggests The Diary of a Part-Time Indian is written in a first person episodic diary format. The novel follows fourteen-year-old Native American Arnold Spirit Jr., known as Junior, over his first year in high school.

Junior is growing up on a Spokane Indian Reservation near Wellpinit, Washington. He was born with Hydrocephalus (a medical condition in which there is an build-up of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain). As a result Junior is small for his age, suffers from seizures, has poor eyesight, a lisp and a stutter. The poor guy is picked on by practically everyone on the reservation – his only friend is Rowdy, who is abused at home.

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After receiving encouragement from one of his teachers Junior decides to leave the reservation and attend Reardon High School, an all-white school where the only other Indian ironically is the school’s mascot. The downside he looses his only friend Rowdy, who sees the move as a betrayal.

At his new school he befriends a bright student Gordy and develops a crush on Penelope, the most popular girl in school. Through his interactions with Gordy, Penelope and other students at the school Junior learns both more about their culture and his own.

Junior is an aspiring artist and the novel features 65 of his comic illustrations. These illustrations by artist Ellen Forney add humour and reveal more about how Junior sees the world.

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This is the debut young adult novel by Sherman Alexie, who had previously written for adults. The novel is semi-autobiographical and is inspired by events from Alexie’s own childhood.

The novel tackles some topical issues including race, poverty, alcoholism, eating disorders, violence, bullying and loss of a loved one. Due to its content and language the book has been challenged and banned in some schools.

 

Links:

Sherman Alexie Official Website

Sherman Alexie on Facebook

Sherman Alexie on Twitter

 

Ellen Forney Official Website

Ellen Forney on Facebook

Ellen Forney on Twitter

Ellen Forney on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library

 

Book Club Pick: December 2016

Let it Snow

Book Details:

Title: Let it Snow

Author: Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle

Series: Stand alone compilation novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Penguin Books

First Published: 2008

Pages: 354

Publisher’s Description:

The worst blizzard for fifty years. Three wintry love stories. One magical night.

It’s Christmas Eve and Gracetown has been buried by snow. But the weather is more than just an inconvenience. When one girl unexpectedly steps off a stranded train, she sets off a series of life-changing events.

Soon fourteen pumped-up cheerleaders will descend on the local Waffle House, the Duke’s DVD night will be rudely interrupted for a Twister mission, and a lovesick barista will determine the fate of a single teacup pig . . .

As the three stories collide, strangers will cross paths and romance blossoms with heart-warming consequences.

Review:

It’s December and the festive season is upon us! As I live in New Zealand I have never experienced a White Christmas, so this month I selected a book set over the holiday season in the Northern Hemisphere. Let it Snow features three holiday romances by three authors – The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green, and The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle.

The three short stories are stand alone by they intertwine with each other with setting and characters appearing throughout all three stories.

A few characters from the previous story appear in the next story but it is not until the end until the all meet up.

In Maureen Johnson’s The Jubilee Express, sixteen-year-old Jubilee meets Stuart when her train breaks down during a snow storm in the town of Gracetown on Christmas Eve, the setting for all three stories. Stuart invites Jubilee back to his family home and tries to convince Jubilee that she needs a boyfriend who will treat her better.

John Green’s A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle follows Tobin and his friends Duke (a tomboy) and JP as they make their way through the snow with a game of Twister to meet 14 stranded cheerleaders at a Korean Waffle House.

The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle is about Addie, who has just broken up with her boyfriend and her search for a teacup piglet. This story finishes with the main characters of all three stories meeting up.

Wherever you are have a safe and happy holiday season!

Let it snow

 

Links:

Maureen Johnson

Maureen Johnson Official Website

Maureen Johnson on Facebook

Maureen Johnson on Twitter

Maureen Johnson on Instagram

John Green

John Green Official Website

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Instagram

Vlogbrothers YouTube Channel (with brother Hank Green)

Lauren Myracle

Lauren Myracle Official Website

Lauren Myracle on Twitter

Lauren Myracle on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library