Let’s Talk Books — Like We Care

Warning: Spoilers

I picked up an interesting-sounding book from my library’s book sale not too long ago. It had a broken CD on the front, with the title Like We Care written on it like someone would label a burned CD. I read the inside flap’s description — basically a couple of angry teenagers get fed up with consumerism and stop buying stuff — and thought it would be a fun read. It was 50 cents, at any rate, so if worse came to worse I wouldn’t have really lost much except time by reading it.

And… eh. It was okay.

And that’s a little bit of an understatement. It’s actually one of the most “okay” books I’ve ever read. Right on the verge of being equal parts entertaining and boring, fun and a chore to read, interesting and non-interesting characters, etc. Even fans on Goodreads seem to be split down the middle; some of them adore it, others couldn’t stand it.

So why bother talking about it at all? After all, it’s pretty obvious I don’t have a lot to say about it, so a post dedicated to talking about the book seems a little dumb. Well many times when I finish reading a book, I look online to see what other people have to say about it. Sometimes it helps me solidify any wavering opinions or questions I had while reading it, and maybe even help explain why I felt the way I did about the book.

But when I went to go look up any kind of review for Like We Care, or even any info about the author, Tom Matthews, I found virtually nothing useful. The Goodreads comments provided more insight than anything I found elsewhere. And true, I could have spent more time looking into it; I only did a couple of Wikipedia, Google, and YouTube searches after all.

But man, this book came out in 2004. In 11 years, no one had anything to say about it? I dunno… it made me kind of sad. A bad book would have gotten more talk, which makes my feeling that this is one of the most “okay” books I’ve read really become more apparent.

So I guess I felt like sharing my thoughts on it, on the off chance someone else out there is scouring the Internet looking for someone else’s opinion on the book.

The story is basically about two teenagers, Joel and Todd, who conspire to stop buying from a local convenience store chain once they realize they’re being taken advantage of with overpriced merchandise and shitty customer service. They discover that the CEOs know they’ll keep spending money on their products no matter how much they raise the prices or how poorly the staff will treat them, and they end up boycotting the store.

The boys get a decent following going and catch the eye of Annie, a frustrated producer of sorts for a TV station that follows similar lines of thinking that the CEOs of the convenience store chain have. She catches the boys for an interview about what they’re up to, and other kids across the nation start doing the same thing. Annie wants to stick it to her company as well and eventually stages a protest against the company starring one of the boys.

Joel and Todd also plan to get one of their only respectable teachers, Frank, to run for council after seeing racial issues being ignored in a public meeting. Since most of the adults in town don’t care enough to vote anyway, Joel and Todd use their powers of influence to get the rest of the recently-turned 18-year-olds to vote for Frank, if for no other reason than to fuck with the adults.

While they make a decent impact on their respective targets for a while, the adults win in the end. I guess the main thing was that the kids proved they had a voice and could make an impact if they wanted to, but it was still a little sad to see it didn’t seem to matter much in the long run.

If you’re a fan of teenagers or other types of characters raising a fuss or outcry over not being heard, you’ll probably find something in this book to like. Same goes for people that like criticism against corporate America and consumerism. The book is more or less a critique against those things. In a way, it reminded me a lot of Fight Club, only with the volume turned way down.

There were a lot of cool ideas here, but unfortunately they didn’t always flow smoothly. For example, each chapter is supposed to focus on one of the four “main” characters: Joel, Todd, Annie, and Frank. The book is written in third person, and I’m assuming the main thing was to focus on one character’s POV at a time in the third person. However, there are many times when that POV will switch within the chapter itself to a completely separate character and it feels weird.

The dialogue itself kind of blends into the narration. In addition, this is one of those books where there’s maybe a little more narration than you’d care to read about and you wish a scene would get to its point rather than taking the long way around. The book is only 250-ish pages long, but the way it’s set up makes it feel like reading takes longer than it should. Thankfully the chapters are short, so even if it feels like it’s taking a while to get through the book, you’re almost never in a situation where a convenient stopping point is too far off.

At the end of the day, it was an entertaining read. But I’ve seen other stories similar to this before, and unfortunately this one doesn’t do anything particularly different to stand out. I’m also not exactly sure who the book is supposed to be for. It sort of falls into the gray area between young adult and adult fiction for me. More than anything else, I guess it’s for anyone who likes critiquing consumerism, as that’s the strong point of the book. As a side note, I also think it’s important to remember the book was released in 2004. References to music television, stereotypical views against rap music, and the lack of any kind of social media may make the book feel a tad dated. I’d even go so far as to say the book often feels like it takes place in the 90s.

But still, an entertaining read. Nothing to write home about, unfortunately. If you find it in the library or cheap somewhere, I’d say pick it up. But don’t hurt yourself going out of your way for it.

Info for my edition of Like We Care:

  • Published 2004 by Bancroft Press
  • Hardcover, 261 pages
  • ISBN 9-781890-862367
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New Perler Bead Art!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I originally had a different post planned for this week, but I wasn’t really liking what I had written. So here’s some more Perler bead art instead! 🙂

DSCN1299

First up is Storm Eagle from Megaman X. He’s the boss of my favorite stage (a lot of people’s favorite stage, actually), and it’s my favorite because of the music. Anyone who appreciates retro game music who hasn’t heard it before should probably go look it up after reading this post. 🙂

Anyway, this is definitely one of my better ones. I’m learning how to iron together bigger projects more effectively, and I think this one didn’t have any issues whatsoever. Finding the right shades of purple wasn’t easy, though; Perler doesn’t seem to offer a great range of purple shades, so I had to improvise. If you look really closely, you can even see I used some striped beads to give the illusion of another shade of purple. It actually worked out pretty well! I have a bunch of spare striped beads, and while I don’t want to get into the habit of relying on them, it’s good to know they can get the job done if needed.

DSCN1320Next up is Cloud from Final Fantasy Tactics. Although I haven’t been pursuing it very well, I’d like to make each character from Final Fantasy Tactics out of Perler beads. I chose Cloud next because… well, it’s Cloud! Final Fantasy VII was a big part of my high school experience, and seeing the main character show up as a secret one in Final Fantasy Tactics blew my mind back then. These days I can’t help but wonder if his inclusion was shameless promotion for Final Fantasy VII, but…

… I don’t care. :X

Cloud was pretty easy to make. He’s not particularly big, so ironing went well too. It was kind of weird using so many browns and golds in the hair, considering he’s blonde, but in the end I think it turned out well. 🙂

DSCN1326The next few are all from Pokemon Sapphire, a game that also played a large role for me during high school. As anyone that’s read this blog for a while could tell you, Pokemon was a huge interest for me when I was a kid, as it was for virtually everyone else. When Red and Blue were released, every kid in school was super into it. But by the time Gold and Silver came out, the kids’ interest was fading. Eventually it came to a point where if you liked Pokemon, you were a loser. I still played Silver and my best friend next door played Gold, but a big part of the charm of Pokemon — the communal interest — had been lost. We had to like it in secret for a while.

Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire came out when I was a freshman in high school. To my surprise, one of my friends got it and really loved it. I actually saw a handful of people really interested in it. It wasn’t a popular thing to like, especially as a high schooler, but there was enough of a following that bounced back to make my interest peak again. I got Sapphire for my birthday that year and ended up putting close to 200 hours on the game by the end of high school. :X

Between learning the game’s new mechanics, training up level 100 Pokemon to battle against my friends, keeping an unnaturally close eye on growing berries, challenging the Battle Tower, attempting to fill up the Pokedex, and faffing around with secret bases, it’s no wonder Pokemon Sapphire took up so much of my time back then.

Like Cloud, the Pokemon trainer you play as (his name is Brendan, apparently) didn’t take long to make. He’s really small. So small, I’m thinking about turning him into a keychain. It’s the pose from when the trainer uses an HM move; back then, I thought it was the coolest thing.

Besides from Ralts, of course.

DSCN1329Early in the game, you take a new trainer named Wally out to catch his first Pokemon. Out pops this thing. I don’t know why, but I thought this was the coolest, most adorable little thing in the entire game so far (all 20 minutes of playing it). I searched for an hour in the tall grass before I found one of my own. Later that day, my friend told me it evolves into one of the best Pokemon in the game.

I’m not sure how this one came out, though. Something I’ve noticed about Game Boy Advance Sprites is that they’re more complex than Super Nintendo and surprisingly PlayStation sprites. There’s a lot of smaller differences in color shades that you probably wouldn’t even notice until you saw a sprite of one zoomed in. As a result, sometimes some of the Perler art I make from medium-sized Game Boy Advance sprites looks a little weird unless you’re looking at them from far away.

DSCN1331Ralts’ fully evolved form, Gardevoir, became an instant favorite of mine. Ralts took a while before he could hold his own in battle, but by the time it became a Gardevoir it was one of my best Pokemon. Not to mention this Pokemon looks classy. It’s so elegant, it almost looks like it’s wearing some kind of gown. It was usually my go-to Pokemon.

Maybe because it’s bigger, so more shades can spread out a little more, but I think Gardevoir came out much better than Ralts. It’s definitely one of my favorite Perler pieces so far, nostalgia aside.

Hope everyone’s having a good week. 🙂

Let’s Talk Books — Eleanor & Park

Warning: Spoilers

For whatever reason, I’ve been reading a lot of YA books lately. I used to like them a lot more, then I kind of drifted away from them, and now I’m at a point where I think I can enjoy them more if I go into one with the right frame of mind. Like, they’re meant for young adults, they’re not technically adult fiction, they may have mature themes but don’t be surprised if the book as a whole isn’t as polished as fiction aimed at an older audience. With that said, I think I’ve started to be less distracted by things in YA fiction that normally would have irked me.

But Eleanor and Park — wow. It’s good. Like really, really good.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading so much YA lately, but the first thing I noticed about the book was that the writing was good. Really, really good. It honestly didn’t even feel like a YA book at times, and for that I was impressed. There weren’t many sentences that had to stop what it was saying to explain something to the reader, the characters felt extremely real and relatable (no feelings of “this is an adult trying to write teenage characters and it’s coming off cliche), the places felt real and relatable, all of the subplots more or less went somewhere or ended properly, it was paced well — while I can still see how the story may not appeal to older readers past their twenties, I think Eleanor and Park is more than capable of sitting on a shelf with other adult fiction.

The story’s concept itself will probably be the deciding factor of whether or not you’ll be interested in reading it — two socially awkward teens find themselves in love with each other, and they try to make a relationship work even though it may not be possible. The book’s cover art and font will probably give you a good idea of the tone of the book, so if it looks like something you might like, it probably will be. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.

Too bad the book’s summary on the flap doesn’t do it justice. There was a lot more to this story than just that. Eleanor is overweight; Park is way too skinny. There are a lot of body image themes spread throughout the story. Bullying is also a big part of the plot, at least for Eleanor. She’s the new girl and everyone harasses her because of her appearance. Park is pretty different from most of the bullies at school too, but he’s got a weird kind of social status because of his relationship with a couple of the bullies and because of his family’s role in the town’s history. He’s got somewhat of a free pass when it comes to bullying, and it takes a while before Eleanor starts to feel the effects of that pass as well.

And then of course, there’s the domestic issues. Park isn’t strong like his brother and father and often feels inferior to them. He doesn’t get along with his father all the time and feels like he’s constantly disappointing him. While I do feel like Park has some home issues, the spotlight shines more on Eleanor’s house situation.

Eleanor has an abusive stepfather named Richie, who verbally and physically assaults Eleanor’s mother and siblings. I know that sounds pretty cliche, but I was actually surprised at how well the author made me feel uncomfortable and fearful whenever a scene with him played out. To make things worse, Eleanor is unfortunately in a situation where her mother is either too scared to leave Richie or is in denial about what’s happening, and her siblings are all young enough to accept him as their new father despite his asshat-ery. He kicked Eleanor out of the house for a year before letting her come back, and Eleanor desperately wants to leave again. She can’t have any friends over, or have a boyfriend for that matter. Her family is very poor, and is even forced to take baths in a small tub off the side of the kitchen, barely concealed by a sheet. Eleanor’s home life is depicted very well, and it’s very unsettling.

The story’s written in third person, with sections switching focuses between Eleanor and Park. I love multiple perspectives in stories, so consider that another personal reason why I liked the book so much. By switching between Eleanor and Park, we get a much better insight into what their personal lives are like, something I feel a good romance story needs. It also stops the story from getting stale, although I don’t feel like the book was ever in any danger of doing that. This perspective switch also helps show how Eleanor and Park feel at the same time. For example, when Park says he loves Eleanor and wants to lose himself in her, it’s much more interesting to see her thought process of trying not to get attached to Park for either fear of retaliation from her step-father or doubting Park because of her own self-worth issues.

Despite trying to hide her relationship (and coming to terms that she is, indeed, in a relationship), Eleanor’s siblings find out, and her step-father soon discovers too. She comes home one day to the sound of him screaming and breaking things because of the news, and she runs away. She and Park formulate a plan to get her out of town. She has an uncle that lives in a neighboring state, and Park is going to drive her there with his newly acquired license. They part ways and, well…

I love the last set of pages after their parting. It hurts, but it’s so real I can’t help but love it. Park insists that they’re not saying goodbye because they’ll still phone and write each other. Eleanor leaves Park with that delusion because she’s too afraid of becoming attached to him. All of Park’s last sections consist of him having a very difficult time moving past Eleanor. All of Eleanor’s consist of ignoring Park and trying to get used to her new life. I’d say it’s cruel of her, but after getting to know her throughout the book I can completely see why she does it. Although something changes in the last chapter, with Park receiving a postcard from Eleanor with three words on it. We don’t know what those three words are. It could be “I love you.” Could be “I miss you.” Maybe even “I’m sorry, Park.” Who knows? But that’s the last scene, and I guess it’s up to the reader to make what they will of the relationship.

If there was anything I didn’t like about Eleanor and Park, it’s that the author sometimes overused ellipses. But I’m not a fan of ellipses in general, so take that as a personal complaint.

Honestly, I’d definitely recommend this to anyone that likes YA fiction, or for someone wanting to give YA fiction more of a chance. For everyone else, if the book sounded interesting to you by reading this post, then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. As a side note, the book takes place in 1986, so there are plenty of references to that time period, so older readers can at least get that from the book if the story’s not for them (although they’re not so numerous that it becomes unbearable).

Info for my edition of Eleanor and Park:

  • Published 2013 by St. Martin’s Press
  • Hardcover, 328 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-250-01257-9