Let’s Talk Books — The ttyl series by Lauren Myracle

Warning: Spoilers!

Or Internet Girls series as it’s apparently known. I kind of did  a double take when I first saw ttyl as Internet Girls #1 on Goodreads and thought maybe it was a mistake, but nope. Even on ttyl‘s Wikipedia page it says this is part of Lauren Myracle’s Internet Girls series of books. That’s nice and all, but I’ve been calling the trilogy of ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r the “ttyl books” for ten years now so you’re gonna have to forgive me for if I continue calling it that.

2016 was a pretty rough reading year for me. It was a year of trying out a lot of books that made their way onto my to-read list one way or another, and a lot of them didn’t hold up very well. Many of these books were usually all right at best, straight up hating at worst, but either way most didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I even decided to break out of my comfort zone and start reading a new genre altogether, biographies, which I didn’t care for before, wanted to give a fresh fair chance with, but only proved to myself that I still do hate reading biographies. Usually I write posts about each book I’ve read lately, but I started skipping posts about many of these books. Sometime last year, reading just stopped being fun for me. It felt like a chore more than anything else, and I honestly just wanted to do other things with my free time rather than read.

I started thinking about why I wasn’t getting as much value from reading anymore, and I think a big part of it was because of how literature itself operates as a medium. It’s just words. With movies, television, and video games, the story and how it’s presented to you is still there, but there’s also many other factors that contribute to your overall enjoyment of them, like the use of music, lighting techniques, special effects, and acting. With books, if the story doesn’t interest you, you’ve only got the writing style to fall back on. And if it doesn’t stick out, then that’s it. When I was in my fiction workshops in college, I always felt in some ways, writing literature was one of the hardest forms of writing entertainment because all you have to work with are words, so you really had to bring your A-game with how you use them. And I found that to be especially true after this past reading year.

I guess that’s part of the reason I wanted to revisit the ttyl books again after… six or seven years, I guess? I’ve changed a lot since then, and my genuine love for cheesey YA books has long since passed, but one thing I always have and still admire about this series is how the book is written. ttyl is most famous for being told entirely through instant messages. The page format is like an early 2000s era Macintosh window, the entire narrative is dialogue by the three main characters, each girl’s username is presented before their lines, and they all even have different fonts and colors to help develop each character’s personality. It’s like looking through old Facebook or text messages, only there’s a story built around it. This presentation, from a writing perspective, completely stands out to me and enhances my reading experience. More experimental forms of storytelling like this are exactly what I’m looking for in books. I loved rereading these not just for the nostalgia, but because of how they were written.

Which was good, because the stories had their fair share of incredibly cringey moments.

The ttyl books follow three friends, Angela, Maddie, and Zoe, through a few months of their high school lives. ttyl takes place early in their sophomore year of high school, ttfn takes place during the middle of their junior year, and l8r, g8r covers a good chunk of their senior lives. Each book has a new problem for each girl to overcome, and those problems often mix together or bleed into the other girls’ lives, effecting their friendship in some way.

In ttyl, Angela starts dating a guy that’s more into another girl, and after they break up she becomes so delusional that they should be together she starts developing stalker-like qualities. Maddie initially can’t stand what a bully their collective nemesis Jana is, but when Maddie gets her license Jana starts pretending to be her friend for the use of her car. Maddie becomes so blind and defensive to what’s happening, she ignores her friends completely for the last third of the book when she convinces herself her real friends aren’t trustworthy and don’t like her. Zoe starts developing a weird relationship with her teacher, Mr. H. It starts off with him inviting her to come to his church activity days, which Zoe initially embraces as she develops more of a spiritual side, but it turns creepier as he starts picking her up, making lewd remarks to her in private, and finally inviting her over to use a hot tub at a place he’s house-sitting for. Maddie ends up saving the day by crashing their weird date and saving Zoe, and the three resolve their own conflicts by the end.

ttfn starts out with the girls in a happier place, but things get shitty when Angela learns her father’s taking a job across the country and her whole family’s about to move. The girls’ friendship is about to be put to the test again, as the time zone and the physical distance between them makes it harder to keep in touch. Angela’s miserable in her new place, but while this is going on, Maddie is starting to experiment with drugs to impress a boy she likes, and Zoe starts dating Doug, who in the previous book was a dorky kid that was in love with Angela who never had his feelings returned. Maddie gets into some trouble with the police, and sheltered Zoe becomes extremely confused as her moral compass and her body’s needs are in constant conflict while exploring the physical sides of a relationship with Doug. Angela eventually runs away, using all of her savings to take a bus cross-country in the hopes that her desperate action will convince her aunt back home to let her live there.

Things wrap up nicely again, although I’ll admit ttfn was just a little bit weaker than ttyl, partially because this book didn’t really have as much conflict as the first one, at least between the three girls. They all sort of had self-containing issues that didn’t affect the other girls as much as the first book’s problems did, except maybe Angela moving cross-country. But even then, Maddie and Zoe’s life moved on while Angela seemed like the only one to be really effected by her distance from her friends.

l8r, g8r takes place in the girls’ senior year of high school, a year that I certainly dreaded back when I was in high school and always get uncomfortable whenever I read stories about it. All the usual senior tropes are here: fear of going separate ways, deciding whether or not to break up or make long-distance relationships work, stressing over college applications, prom drama — it’s all here. In some ways this makes l8r, g8r my least favorite of the three, given that I have a bias against a lot of the subject matter here, but in other ways I think the problems the girls face are the most interesting in the series.

Angela started dating a nice guy that she legitimately has fun with, but she starts feeling like he’s better as a friend than boyfriend. When she’s about to break up with him, he gives her a jeep and she spends a lot of the book struggling with herself and what to do. She doesn’t want to break up with him because of the extremely generous present, but she doesn’t want to date him, yet she doesn’t want to lead him on — I’ll admit she feels a little shallow at some points, but I feel like this is a problem that many people have to some degree and I can appreciate her trying to do the right thing, even pin down what the right thing even is.

Maddie struggles with Ian, a guy she started dating in ttyl but broke up with between the first and second books. Her actions in the first book made Ian hesitant to see her anymore, and I guess after the first book things just weren’t working out and they went separate paths. Angela and Zoe always voiced their opinions that she still had feelings for Ian and how they want them to get back together, but Maddie always resisted. Ian shows up in her life again, and they hang out again, but she doesn’t want to admit to herself that she has feelings for him. Again, struggling to accept feelings for someone for whatever reason is something I also feel like a lot of people deal with, and I can appreciate it seeing represented here.

Zoe, unfortunately, is the most irritating part of this book. In ttfn she starts to lose herself in Doug and their relationship, but eventually gets some of her identity back by the end. In l8r, g8r, she loses all of that character development and becomes obsessed with her boyfriend. Throughout the entire book, she is constantly going on about how great Doug is, how perfect Doug is, how worldly Doug is, blah blah blah blah blah. Even Angela and Maddie are like, “shut up Zoe.” She puts off spending time with Angela and Maddie for Doug, and a huge part of this book is Zoe hyping up when they’re eventually going to have sex, which I’ll admit is a relatable issue for most people, but always left me feeling creepy while reading about it in YA books as a late-20s guy. Zoe is the complete manifestation of why reading about honeymoon phases in relationships is really irritating, and although she realizes how obsessed she’s become and how much of herself she lost by the end of the book, that’s not enough to make her particularly likable in this particular entry.

If it feels like this series has a lot of teenage melodrama, that’s because it does. Like, a lot of it. But honestly, I can say the same about so many YA books. The big thing I take away from the ttyl series (besides personal nostalgia) is the writing style. Like I mentioned earlier, the entirety of the series is written in an instant message format and I absolutely adore this. I’m still kind of surprised just how well Lauren Myracle built up the subplots by slowly yet gradually introducing them into extremely natural sounding dialogue between the girls’ IM conversations.

A lot of the criticism I hear about these books is how there’s not really a story — not an interesting one, anyway. And I can kind of see where they’re coming from. These books have a lot of conversations that don’t really contribute to the plot. Many of them are like actual instant messages, like just shooting the shit, bringing up stuff that happened in class earlier that day, talking about crushes, and dumb things teachers did. It all sounds like natural dialogue — honestly, this is probably one of the best instances of natural sounding and natural paced dialogue I’ve ever seen in literature — but I know many people follow the school of thought that dialogue like this, that may help with world building or character development, is a waste of space in terms of plot. Personally, I feel like you can’t call it right or wrong because it’s more of a case by case situation. But I do think that these books are built around this type of dialogue and are actually one of the great parts about them, so I think it more than works.

I feel like most of the content in these books, however, only holds up well for teens. It is a YA book, so I guess that’s to be expected, but for this series in particular the subject matter almost always feels relevant to a certain stage of life. And once you’re past that stage, well… you know. 😛

However, if you get more from reading than just another story to pass the time and find value in experimental writing, I totally recommend at least checking the first book out. Again, the IM conversations that make up the entire narrative provide a unique reading experience that feels surprisingly natural. I’d love to see more experimental storytelling like this, only from books that target a demographic a littler closer to my age. Like maybe the same exact concept, only taking place in college…?

Oh. I guess that happened a couple of years ago? Yeah, to my surprise, a fourth book in the series called YOLO was released a couple of years ago. Now the original trilogy was released between 2004 and 2007, so my natural hesitation of all things sequel-related is gnawing at me to not check out this fourth book released seven whole years later. However, if it’s more of a writing style like this, then I honestly want to go find a copy. Like I said, I’ve grown so sick of reading lately, and I hate it. I really want to explore more books that play around with how they present their stories, especially if that’s what’s going to peak my interest again. I’ll let you know how it is if I ever read it!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re having a great week! 🙂

Info for my editions of ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r:

301023

ttyl by Lauren Myracle — Published 2005 by Amulet Books — Paperback, 209 pages — ISBN 978-0-8109-8788-3

301024

ttfn by Lauren Myracle — Published 2006 by Amulet Books — Paperback, 256 pages — ISBN 978-0-8109-9279-5

2439543

l8r, g8r
by Lauren Myracle — Published 2008 by Amulet Books — Paperback, 274 pages — ISBN 978-0-8109-7086-1

 

Advertisements

Let’s Talk Books — A Series of Unfortunate Events #1-3 by Lemony Snicket

After trudging through Dracula for a month (and a half), I felt like reading through something significantly lighter. There are a few faster books from my collection I’ve been wanting to reread lately, but before I dive into them I felt it was time to give this series a try.

I’ve never read any of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books when I was a kid. In fact, I don’t think I’d even heard of them until the movie came out in 2004. I barely remember it at all, though. At some point I ended up having a box set of the first three books in my house; whether it was always there and I just didn’t notice, or someone gave it to me as a gift for Christmas — I’m not sure. (Although I found my ticket stub in the first book, so I’m assuming it was the latter.) Either way, I never read any of them, and I think I know why. I probably opened one of the books up, skimmed a few pages, and thought to myself that these seem a tad too childish (I was 16 or 17 at the time).

It wasn’t until the past year when one of my friends actually recommended reading through them. She was a big fan as a kid, but said she enjoyed reading through them again as an adult. Was it nostalgia, or was there something in them for adults, too? I dug out that box set and put it aside, intending to read at least the first book at some point. I mean, if I can enjoy cartoons and video games meant for kids so much, it’s possible to enjoy a children’s book series too, right?

Each book was short and pretty basic, so I’m going to combine the first three for this one post. The first book, The Bad Beginning, introduces us to the three Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. Violet’s 14, and she’s interested in mechanical things and inventions. Klaus is a couple of years younger, and he’s a heavy reader. Sunny’s a baby, and she has sharp teeth and likes to bite things. I don’t want to say these are their only personality traits, but…

The three Baudelaire kids lived a pretty nice life, doing their things while living with their wonderful parents in a nice mansion. One day, however, their house burns down and takes their parents in the fire. The children were out for the day when it happened, and their parents’ friend Mr. Poe was burdened with sharing the unfortunate news.

According to their parents’ will, the children are supposed to live with the nearest relative, which unfortunately happens to be Count Olaf, a cartoony villain who will do anything to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune. But unfortunately for Count Olaf, none of the children can even touch the fortune until Violet turns 18. So in the meantime, Count Olaf treats the kids like garbage, making them do horrible chores while verbally (and in one case with Klaus, physically) abusing them.

The kids try to tell Mr. Poe what a terrible person Count Olaf is, but, for lack of a better word, he’s a turd. He can’t focus on one thing for more than like two sentences and ends up shushing the children or telling them generic advice instead of taking them seriously.

Being a turd, Mr. Poe calls Count Olaf and tells him the children came by his office to voice their concerns about their living arrangement. Count Olaf appears to show a change of heart and begins acting nicely towards the kids, even offering them roles in his upcoming play. Even though it sounds fishy, they go along with it.

Count Olaf’s character is supposed to marry Violet’s character in the play, and his neighbor, a real judge, will be the judge (or pastor? I forget) in the play as well. The two are wed, and although his plan was revealed, it was too late; by law Count Olaf has access to the Baudelaire’s fortune. Or he would, if Violet would have made her vow with the proper hand. Saved by a technicality, the kids exposed Count Olaf but he escaped.

In the next book, The Reptile Room, Mr. Poe finds their next closest relative. His name is Montgomery Montgomery, and he’s an eccentric guy that studies snakes. He’s very friendly, gives the children what they need, and they’re very excited to begin researching snakes with him. In fact, they’re supposed to go on a trip to Peru for their research soon, but there’s only one problem.

Montgomery Montgomery has hired an assistant, and it’s Count Olaf in disguise. The children immediately recognize him, but again, no one will listen to them. Count Olaf murders Montgomery Montgomery, staging his death to look like a poisonous snake bit him. Count Olaf still plans to go to Peru with the children, where he will “take care of them” where it’s harder to track his movements.

On the way to the harbor, Count Olaf crashes his car into Mr. Poe’s. Mr. Poe is as useless as ever, although his buffoonery buys the children some time while they figure out how to prove Montgomery Montgomery was murdered by Count Olaf, who Mr. Poe believes is the assistant. When his plan is foiled, he escapes again.

The third book in this collection is The Wide Window. Mr. Poe places the children in the care of their Aunt Josephine, who is afraid to do everyday things like turn on the stove. She’s kindhearted, but understandably frustrating to live with. While shopping for groceries, the children and their aunt run into Count Olaf again, who is in disguise as a sailor. He flirts with Josephine, who will not listen to the children when they tell her he’s Count Olaf. He eventually threatens Josephine, forcing her to write a suicide note that says Count Olaf (still under the guise of the sailor) will be their new caretakers.

The children find several issues with the note and determine that Josephine is not really dead, and eventually track her down. After rescuing her, Count Olaf runs into them again, this time throwing Josephine overboard into water containing fatal leeches. The kids once again prove who Count Olaf is to Mr. Poe, and he escapes again.

From what I understand, there are 13 books in the series. I’ve heard they get more interesting, shedding light on Count Olaf’s mysterious eye ankle tattoo and revealing more about the Baudelaire’s parents’ deaths. I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t anything like that in the three books that I read. They were fun, but they left me feeling like each book was self-contained, following a similar, predictable formula.

This series, at least from what I’ve read, definitely seems to be for kids. The print is large, the narrator constantly explains what bigger words mean, and the whole story sounds like it’s meant to be read out loud with a little gusto to a young audience. Honestly, I didn’t really see anything that adults would gain from it (although I think there were a couple of topics like a creepy uncle marrying a 14 year old girl or said creepy uncle murdering people that some parents may not find appropriate for kids).

That being said, there was something that grew on me while reading that made me curious to want to read more. I enjoyed that each book was about 200 pages and were fast reads to boot, so maybe something about finishing each one so quickly and being able to go into the next had something to do with that. I don’t know if or when I’ll read more, but when I do I might talk about them if I feel like they do anything different enough with their presentation.

I’d recommend trying a book or two out if you’re looking for a fast, light read. Like I said, these three books definitely felt like they’re meant for kids, but they were entertaining and charming enough for an adult like me to, at the very least, enjoy passing time with.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’re having a great week! 🙂

78407

Let’s Talk Books — Other Broken Things by C. Desir

I’ve got another young adult book to talk about today! And that book is Other Broken Things by C. Desir. I’ve been getting a little sick of YA novels lately (especially the last one I read), but I more or less liked this one. It had a couple of common YA issues that prevented it from being better, but I’ll get to those in a little while. For now, let’s get right into the story.

Other Broken Things is about a recovering alcoholic named Natalie. She’s 17 and after a car accident, she needs to attend AA meetings, do community service, work through her struggle with a sponsor, and, well… recover.

She has a boyfriend, Brent, who keeps trying to talk with her about something but she doesn’t want to deal with him. Brent’s kind of a weird character, because he acts like he’s only interested in Natalie for sex and partying but then does a 180 and gets serious about the two of them when he’s done flirting or joking around. He came off as a douche at first, but I wasn’t really sure what to make of him by the end of the book.

Natalie also only has two other friends, Amy and Amanda. Apparently the three of them were intoxicated at all hours of the day, bringing vodka and orange juice in water bottles to class and partying immediately after school. They’re not really good friends, and keep pressuring Natalie to go back to her old ways.

Her parents hooked up some kind of breathalyzer to her car so it won’t start without her passing the test. Her mom is a housewife who tries to help Natalie as best she can with positivity and support, although naturally Natalie finds her overbearing and obnoxious. Her dad is a rich doctor or some other wealthy profession who’s embarrassed of his daughter and the bad reputation he’s bringing to the family.

So aside from her mother, Natalie doesn’t really have anyone to rely on to help get her through her recovery. Which naturally frustrates the crap out of her and makes everything she’s trying to accomplish even harder. The only two people that really help her are fellow AA members: Kathy, her no-nonsense sponsor who meets with Natalie for weekly “therapy” sessions, and Joe, a 38-year-old man that acts more like a friend than any of the other people her age. Natalie is attracted to Joe, despite being twice her age, and flirts with him but he keeps his wall up and tries to be her supportive friend rather than a fuck buddy.

Most of this book involves Natalie physically and mentally struggling with her recovery while dealing with her relationships with these other characters. We discover more about her as new details are sprinkled throughout the plot. For example, she got into the accident because she was driving Brent home because he was drunk, even though she was too. We learn that she was really into boxing when she was younger, and that it began as a bonding experience with her father, but he forced her to quit when she became too good and that’s why she started drinking. We also learn she has a very addictive personality and is the type of person to either give all or nothing.

Which brings us to Joe. She falls for him and eventually convinces him to sleep with her. Joe had been developing feelings for Natalie too, but had kept his cool about it until she advanced enough. He immediately regrets it because he knows a relationship with her would never work because of the age difference, but Natalie has convinced herself that they belong together. Her parents find out and naturally flip out and ban her from seeing him again. Joe disappears and falls off the wagon for a while. Natalie eventually sees him again, but he tells her he’s going to accept a job overseas. Natalie’s heartbroken, but she’s taken up boxing again and is doing better in general so the book ends on a hopeful note.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Other Broken Things. I really like how the book explored alcoholism, especially with a teenage character. I also liked some of lessons explored in Natalie’s AA sessions, like how you can’t waste energy trying to change things out of your own control. Sometimes they’re really great universal pieces of advice in general, and I like how they’re used in the context of the book. They’re for Natalie in the context of overcoming her addiction, but I think people outside her situation can get something positive from here as well.

There were, however, some noticeable issues that ultimately became a little distracting for me. And they’re all universal YA literature problems. For starters, let’s start with the parents. They’re two extremes of typical YA parents. On one side, the mother is almost blindingly supportive of her daughter on almost every single thing she does. And while I don’t think it’s unrealistic for a parent to be extra supportive of a child going through what Natalie’s going through, I think the way she’s portrayed is still too much on the optimistic side.

To her credit, she shows some character development as she learns to stop acting blind and stand up to her husband, who’s the no-nonsense, only-cares-about-money, “villainous” parent. He treats Natalie like crap and only shows frustration and embarrassment towards his daughter’s struggle. But I don’t really understand why. I mean yeah, some parents are like that but in a work of fiction I need some additional or better reasons for his actions. He honestly just feels like an antagonist plopped into the story in the event Natalie’s alcoholism wasn’t a good enough one.

The side characters also aren’t particularly interesting. Amy and Amanda are literally interchangeable; they’re both heavy drinkers and partyers that only want to enable Natalie. I like how the book tries to show how toxic enabling friends are, but they’re not very important. Natalie honestly talks about them more than we actually see them.

Brent’s a little more interesting I guess, but he seems more like a way to talk about Natalie’s other issue. For the first half of the book there were a lot of allusions to some big, stressful event between Natalie and Brent. Usually this kind of thing in YA literature ends up involving a baby or rape. Here it’s an unplanned pregnancy. The accident killed the fetus and Natalie refuses to talk about it with Brent, who really wants to talk about what happened and why she didn’t tell him about it until the night of the accident.

This doesn’t feel like unnecessary drama in a story where Natalie already had enough to work through, but it did feel kind of weak. Since I kind of saw it coming the reveal didn’t have much of an impact on me. But beyond that Natalie honestly doesn’t seem bothered by it. It’s only Brent that cares, and Brent’s such a minor character. So why include this subplot at all? If it was more developed into Natalie’s character this would be a different story, but as it is it seems… meh.

Finally, there’s Joe. Joe brought me a mixed bag of feelings. There’s definitely visible chemistry going on between him and Natalie, but since the book was more or less playing it safe I honestly didn’t think they’d hook up. But they did. I really didn’t think Other Broken Things would make such a risky move like pairing up a 17-year-old girl and 38-year-old guy, but it did and I have to give the book credit for taking it that far. I was really excited to see how everyone in the story was going to respond to this. I thought this was where the most interesting parts of the book would be.

But sadly, it wasn’t. I mean her parents rightfully flip out, but… that’s it. Not only that, Joe sort of disappears from the plot for the rest of the book. I can understand the reasoning — he just slept with a teenager and that’s definitely not good — but he also kind of turns into a jerk. The supportive, older role model part of him just sort of disappeared. Like I get how awkward and guilty he feels, and that’s going to affect how he behaves but… I dunno. Something felt off about him after they had sex.

I didn’t expect them to stay together, but I believed they really did have feelings for each other. A while ago I talked about a book called Lolito, which had an adult woman and teenage boy have sex and become involved in something of a relationship. And despite it being morally wrong, I admitted that I ended up believing their feelings were real and was unsure how wrong it ultimately was since they both wanted what they were doing. I also wondered if it was because the teenager was a boy and questioned how I would feel if the genders were reversed.

But in the case of Natalie and Joe, I can feel the same way as I did with the couple in Lolito. They’re not nearly as well developed or portrayed as the characters in Lolito, but I honestly did believe their feelings and was rooting for them. Like I said though, I didn’t think it would work. Feelings aside, I know the age difference is going to kill the relationship at some point. But since the book took things as far as sleeping with each other, I really wanted Natalie and Joe to at least try dating for a while. Have Natalie see firsthand why they wouldn’t work out, you know? But Joe just disappears, shows up again to say they can’t be together, and leaves again. And it felt really weak.

I know I’ve been bitching about problems more than singing its praises, but I did enjoy Other Broken Things enough. I think it was a good YA novel, but it was one of those books that I really wish did more so it could be greater. I’d give it a read if you come across it. It’s pretty short and reads fast, and there’s enough in it to enjoy. But if you’re not into YA, then I’m not sure if you’d get much from it.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re having a great week! 🙂

25785726

 

Info for my edition of Other Broken Things:

Published 2016 by Simon Pulse

Hardcover, 256 pages

ISBN 978-1-4814-3739-4

Let’s Talk Books — Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Warning: Spoilers!

I… um…

… huh.

Carry On is a book that, honestly, I was baffled over. Why does it exist? Who asked for it? Lots of people, apparently. For those that aren’t familiar with Rainbow Rowell, she writes young adult novels about nerdy, particularly flawed characters and their romances. Carry On is an expansion on an idea from one of her previous books, Fangirl. In Fangirl, the main character Cath writes fanfiction about Simon Snow, which is more or less the Harry Potter equivalent in that novel. We’d see segments of her fanfiction throughout the book, most of which focused on shipping Simon and Baz, the equivalent of Draco Malfoy. Carry On is Rainbow Rowell’s own take on writing fanfiction of the world she made up and was briefly explored in Fangirl. And if that sounds like a little much to you, then you’re not the only one.

If you read my post about Fangirl, then you might remember that it hit pretty close to home. It came so close to becoming one of my favorite books of all time and spectacularly derailed midway through. But if you haven’t read it, I basically loved how accurately Rainbow Rowell portrayed a college experience that I and many others went through. It was refreshing to read something about a college setting for a change, and the fact that Cath took a creative writing course only hit closer to home for me. But halfway through, all of that dropped for a shallow, boring romance that the book mostly focused on for its remainder. It was a couple hundred pages of basically a honeymoon phase of a relationship and, well… if you don’t like seeing other people go through it, you certainly won’t like reading about it.

So it’s not surprising that the parts with Cath’s fanfiction of Simon Snow were the absolute least of my concerns. When I found out about Carry On, my main thoughts were, “Really? Of all the things to come out of Fangirl, it was the Harry Potter knockoff fanfiction? Was this what readers took away the most out of Fangirl? Not the confusing as fuck time period that is the transition to college, not discovering what you’ve always wanted to do may not be what you’re capable of, not drowning yourself in a romance to the point where anything else interesting in your life is immediately discarded, but the fucking Harry Potter fanfiction?”

I’ve mostly enjoyed what I’ve read by Rainbow Rowell. Some books were definitely better than others, but overall it was a good time. I was going to check out Carry On eventually, despite not having an interest in it at all. Reader reviews are praising the shit out of it, which I was honestly surprised to hear. But now that I’ve finally read it, did it turn out better than I expected? Does it hold up to the praise, justifying the endless screaming fangirls in love with Simon and Baz’s relationship on Goodreads?

Eh. It was okay.

I guess.

There’s a couple of things you should know before reading Carry On. First, you don’t have to read Fangirl before this. Carry On has literally nothing to do with Fangirl. This story isn’t Cath’s fanfiction, it’s Rainbow Rowell’s own take on her own made up characters that weren’t explored too deeply to start with. Second, if you aren’t familiar with the Harry Potter series, Carry On is probably going to feel like a confusing mess. I feel like too much of Carry On relies on the reader already knowing the world of Harry Potter and being able to see which character from this book is the equivalent of another character from Harry Potter.

That being said, here’s what’s happening in Carry On.

Simon Snow (Harry Potter) and his best friend Penelope (Hermione) return to their magical school, Watford (Hogwarts) after the summer. It’s their last year and they want to enjoy it, but the magical world is on the brink of war between the Mage (Dumbledore), the Insidious Humdrum (Voldemort), and the elitist magical families that want to change the world back to what it was before the Mage took over (like the Malfoys).

To make things more awkward, Simon’s arch nemesis and roommate (sitcom, anybody?) hasn’t shown up to school. That’s Baz (Draco), and he’s also a vampire (because I guess Twilight influences will never truly die out). Simon spends too much of his time trying to prove that Baz is a vampire while Baz torments Simon because Harry and Draco hate each other, so why not these two?

And to make things even more awkward, at the end of the previous year Simon caught Baz holding hands with Simon’s girlfriend Agatha and hasn’t talked to either of them for the whole summer about it.

Baz eventually returns to Watford, acting like he’s cool as shit and up to mysterious things, but in reality he was kidnapped by numpties (which I’m just finding out is slang for a stupid person, but I think they were supposed to be some kind of creature in this story) for six weeks. Simon thinks Baz has been up to something sinister, but first he has something important to tell him.

While Baz was away, the ghost of his mother visited their dorm room looking for him. When all she found was Simon, she told him to tell Baz to look for someone named Nicodemus so she can find peace in the afterlife. Baz’s mother is a hot button issue for him, so naturally he gets pissy when Simon tells him of her visit.

Baz tells Simon that he’s going to help him avenge his mother. Simon naturally thinks this is a plot to kill him, but they make a truce to solve this mystery. Baz wants Penelope in on this too since she’s the brains behind their adventures, and the three attempt to solve the mystery.

At some point a dragon arrives at Watford and starts making a scene. Baz tries to fend it off but he doesn’t have enough magic. Simon discovers that since he’s a magical bomb that can go off at any moment, he can transfer some of his magic to another person by touching them. He does so with Baz and they save the day.

Agatha and Simon break up at some point, and since Simon usually spends Christmas break with her family, he’s got nowhere to go (Penelope’s family is pretty hesitant about Simon coming around because of his magical outbursts). Baz invites Simon to stay with his family, and although he initially refuses, he eventually goes.

Baz and Simon decide to go looking for answers at some sort of vampire club, where they hope to find Nicodemus. They do, he doesn’t give much help, and they leave.

Baz flips his shit in a random forest and seems like he’s going to kill himself, but Simon kisses Baz to stop him. Because fanfiction.

And unfortunately, yes, I feel this entire setup is because of fanfiction. To the book’s credit, Baz mentions being gay and struggling with his feelings for Simon during several parts of the book (his chapter narrations, anyway; he doesn’t actually tell other characters this). But for Simon, this comes out of nowhere. At no part in the story up until now do we get any insight towards Simon’s attraction to either other guys or Baz. And love works in different ways for everyone. I get that. But I think from a combination of this entire book seeming like it’s a fanfiction of Harry Potter trying to ship Harry and Draco for the sake of shipping and, unfortunately, kind of weak writing on Rainbow Rowell’s part, I don’t think this is a very good scene. It doesn’t make sense and feels incredibly phoned in.

But hey, that’s just my dumb opinion. Apparently I’m in the minority for this one.

Anyway, Simon and Baz have a few more fan service moments over the course of the book but keep it a secret. The Mage eventually reveals himself to be the bad guy. Well, a guy whose good ambitions took a turn for the worse, I guess. The Humdrum is revealed to be a part of Simon. Simon gets rid of the Humdrum by pouring all of his magic into him (it makes more sense after actually reading the book). The Mage is killed in some kind of struggle. Simon and Penelope don’t return to finish school, but Baz does. Then Simon and Penelope get a place together. Simon and Baz are still dating and… that’s it.

Despite how unnecessary Simon and Baz’s relationship is, it takes up such a small part of the story that it further adds to my confusion about what so many people are going nuts over. The majority of Carry On is devoted to Simon, Baz, and Penelope’s quest to avenge Baz’s mother and defeat the Humdrum. Simon and Baz don’t start their intimacy with each other until at least two-thirds into the book, and we only get a couple of small scenes of them together sprinkled here and there throughout the rest of it. It’s been a year so I don’t exactly remember, but weren’t the Simon Snow sections in Fangirl mostly about Simon and Baz’s budding relationship? If that’s what Carry On is supposed to be about, then why is there so little of it?

It’s especially strange because Rainbow Rowell is really good at writing about relationships. Like, really good. In all her other books, the characters and relationships all felt real. As much as Fangirl disappointed me in how the relationship worked out, the journey there was still incredibly interesting and showed the confusing side of how people interpret things in different ways when it comes to romance.

Carry On, though — man, it’s weak. Simon and Baz aren’t particularly interesting. They’re really riding on the fact that they’re Harry and Draco equivalents. And the characters in Harry Potter weren’t exactly strong personality-wise, either. But at least that series had a ton of charm and it was more about the adventure and mystery than it was about character development.

I can give credit to Rainbow Rowell for at least trying to do something different by writing a more fantasy-themed story instead of a realistic one primarily focused on relationships. But the plot was average at best. You can’t help but compare it to Harry Potter and the entire time it feels either like Harry Potter fanfiction or something that took an excessive amount of material from Harry Potter. The romance between Simon and Baz is very weak and, quite frankly, unnecessary.

You know what would have been better? If Rainbow Rowell wrote a story about a gay romance in the real world. Have two high schoolers (they can even hate each other!) fall in love and explore their relationship and feelings more deeply. Show the struggles that real gay teens would face. Show how some parents don’t approve. Show how far the rest of the world, especially the younger generation, has come by showing their support for the couple. Write a real story about a real relationship. In other words, Rainbow Rowell should have done what she’s been doing all along, only with a homosexual couple instead of a heterosexual one. I love how her characters are nerdy, but in my opinion she’s much more effective writing about nerdy characters than the things nerdy characters are into.

As much as I’ve complained, Carry On was still an okay book. It was entertaining enough in its own way, it held an adventurous plot fairly well (even if most of it was too influenced by another series), and while some parts really annoyed me (mostly the weak romance that seemed to exist solely as fanservice and the average writing that seemed a step below Rainbow Rowell’s usual caliber), I never really hated any of it. One of the minor characters, Agatha, even became legitimately interesting for me. While she’s boring at first, there’s an interesting development where she doesn’t want to be involved in magic or the dangerous adventures that surround Simon. In a way, it’s a kind of funny jab at Harry Potter. It left me thinking, “Yeah, I’m sure one of those nameless students is pretty tired of the shitstorm that follows Harry wherever he goes. I’ll bet there are some students that would like a more normal life.” It even ends with her running away from the world of magic and living a nice, normal life she’s totally content with. And I liked that. It was a nice break from… well, everything else.

But that’s all Carry On ended up being for me. Okay. Not good. Not bad. Just okay. I’ve got a feeling that this book really wasn’t meant for me in the first place. But seeing as how much I’ve generally enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s work, I really can’t help but feel disappointed. And it’s not like I was expecting anything from this to start with. But even the writing wasn’t nearly as good as her other books, and it’s that that I’m the most surprised by.

If you haven’t read anything by Rainbow Rowell, I’d strongly recommend starting anywhere else. Carry On, in my dumb, obviously minority opinion, is her weakest book. The idea of parodying Harry Potter worked in Fangirl because it was in short segments throughout the book, wasn’t the main focus, and reinforced the ideas of a fandom. But as an entire book, it just feels like a joke that’s gone on for far too long. I’m desperately hoping her next book will go back to the realistic portrayal of relationships she’s successfully written about. And I’m hoping she’ll make it about a gay couple that’s more developed than Simon and Baz.

Oh well. At least there wasn’t a Ron Weasley in Carry On.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re all having a great week! 🙂

23734628

 

Info for my edition of Carry On:

Published 2015 by Saint Martin’s Griffin

Hardcover, 522 pages

ISBN 978-1-250-04955-1

Let’s Talk Books — Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson

Warning: Spoilers!

I’ve only read two other books by Laurie Halse Anderson. My first was The Impossible Knife of Memory, which I read about a year ago. My second was Speak, which I read last summer and wrote a review on. I enjoyed both, and while I often get frustrated with YA books, I feel like both were pretty solid experiences even as an adult reading them for the first time. From what I’ve read by her, Laurie Halse Anderson has definitely been one of the better YA authors I’ve come across.

So I can’t help but be a little disappointed by Catalyst. It wasn’t bad, it was just… okay. It was about a high school senior named Kate, who’s anxiously awaiting her acceptance letter to MIT. She’s a little uptight because she hasn’t heard anything in a long time, and it was the only school she even applied to so she feels like her future is nonexistent if she doesn’t get accepted. She runs as a means of escape for her everyday anxiety, which also includes a sick brother and slightly forgetful father she needs to take care of.

Things get more tense for Kate when her neighbor’s house burns down, and she and her brother are invited by Kate’s father to live with them until their housing situation is fixed. Her neighbor, Teri, is a combination of social outcast and bully while her brother, Mikey, is both adorable in the way most little kids are and gross in the way most little kids are. It doesn’t help that Teri is selfish, intrusive, and a theif. She steals a number of Kate’s belongings during her stay and is rude to boot.

And on top of all this, things are starting to fall apart for Kate’s relationship with her boyfriend for many of the same reasons high school senior couples start to fall apart. So needless to say, she’s pretty stressed.

The book as a whole feels like it wants to deal with Kate’s anxiety, but it feels more like it’s about Kate getting to know Teri. Her situation with MIT, with her family, with her boyfriend — they all feel like subplots that unfortunately don’t feel like they go anywhere. The stuff with Teri is interesting, at least. But still, I can’t help but be bothered that so many other subplots were started and never really explored as much as I was led to believe they would be.

We see that despite how obnoxious Teri is, she has a soft spot for her brother and takes care of him the way her own mother should. Her own mother is pretty out of it; I’m not sure what her story is, but she stays with someone else while Teri and Mikey stay with Kate.

I’ll admit I’m not really sure why Teri and Mikey don’t stay where their mother’s staying, as well. This kind of bugged me. Like, I get the whole setup of the book is to put Kate and Teri together in close quarters. But realistically, I’m not sure why Teri would even choose to stay with Kate in the first place. Why wouldn’t she go with her mother? Or anywhere else she might normally go on her own? I suppose you could argue Mikey’s not better off staying with her mother so he may as well stick with Teri, but in that case why don’t the three of them just stick together? Maybe she felt Kate’s home would be a better place for Mikey to stay? But in that case, why don’t all three of them stay?

Whatever the case, Teri eventually opens up a little about her family situation. At first it’s pretty standard YA broken family stuff: abusive father, broken mother, child who feels they need to pick up the pieces and carry the remainder of the family, that sort of thing. But then we find out that Teri was raped by her father before being sent to prison, and things begin to make more sense. I thought it was odd how Teri, a senior, had a two year old brother. But after revealing this fact, we can put together that Mikey is actually her son.

Well, I thought we could piece it together, anyway. The book flat out confirms this later on, and I wish it hadn’t. Her relationship with Mikey was subtle enough to feel like it was rewarding to put two and two together, but when the book tells us it feels less satisfying.

Teri has temporary character development. Kate’s dad organizes for the community to help repair the house, and Teri takes control. She’s actually really good at organizing everything, and she knows stuff about tools and construction, so it feels like her life is heading for a better direction. Things are good for a while before an accident takes Mikey’s life. Then Teri loses her shit.

The rest of the book is basically Kate trying to manage her subplots and trying to calm Teri down. Like I said before, it really feels more like the Teri show rather than a book about Kate. Like a snippet of things that happened during Kate’s senior year rather than a novel with a clear obstacle for the main character to overcome. The only thing I can really remember about the ending is that Teri and Kate are on the road to becoming friends but… eh. The buildup to it sort of felt like a mix between rushed and unfinished.

Catalyst wasn’t a bad book, and I’d still recommend it for a YA read. But it didn’t leave the same impact on me that The Impossible Knife of Memory and Speak left on me. It was okay, it was a fast read, it helped pass the time, but… unfortunately, that was kind of it. 😦

Thanks for reading! Hope you’re having a great week! 🙂

170171

Info for my edition of Catalyst:

  • Published 2003 by Speak
  • Paperback, 232 pages
  • ISBN 0-14-240001-7

Let’s Talk Books — Library of Souls

Warning: Spoilers!

Well here’s the last book of the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. If you haven’t read my reviews of the first two books, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children  and Hollow City, you may want to take a look at them before reading this one. Library of Souls picks up right where the last book left off, as will this review!

So at the end of Hollow City there was a pretty awesome series of events that led up to a cliffhanger I was incredibly impressed with. Even though I give a spoiler warning at the beginning of each review, I still felt like I had to spare spoiling what happened because it was probably the most exciting reveal in the series.

That was for Hollow City, though. Chances are you’ve read it if you’re reading a review for the next book. And since a huge portion of this book deals with this reveal, I’ve got to come clean with the spoiler.

Jacob can control hollows.

After finishing this series a week ago and giving myself some distance, it doesn’t exactly seem so impressive that I needed to hide it. But within the context of the story, it’s really, really cool. For two whole books we’ve been led to believe that the hollows are these mindless, terrifying monsters that only act on the behalf of the bad guys. And now Jacob’s abilities have evolved again, and he can share a mental bond with them. I don’t know, I think that’s really, really cool and fun and probably why this book was the most entertaining of the three.

Anyway, Hollow City left off with the bird the children had been carrying around all this time revealing itself to be not Miss Peregrine, but Caul, Miss Peregrine’s brother and leader of the wights. Most of the children and Miss Wren were taken away by wights, Addison (the amazing dog with goggles and pipe) arrives out of nowhere to save Jacob and Emma, and the book ends with a hollow cornering them only to reveal that it can understand and obey Jacob.

Jacob uses his newfound ability to have the hollow help them escape the wights. They eventually decide to try rushing into the wights’ home base directly to save their friends. It’s located in a lawless loop called Devil’s Acre, where peculiars are used and traded like prostitutes, a drug called ambrosia is used to temporarily enhance a person’s abilities and strength before leaving them addicted and craving more, and where most people basically live an oppressed, decaying lifestyle.

To get there, Jacob, Emma, and Addison enlist the help of a mysterious man called Sharon. He runs a small boat tour, but after discovering his relationship to the peculiar world, Jacob convinces him to take them to Devil’s Acre. He guides them deep into the loop and eventually teams up with them to find a way inside the wights’ fortress. After some searching, they arrive at the home of Bentham, Miss Peregrine’s other brother. Bentham lives in a particularly wealthy estate and has created a machine called the Panloopticon, which connects his loop to other loops throughout the world, including the one inside the wights’ fortress. However, it needs a hollow to work (still not sure why, to be honest). And while Jacob’s hollow has been tailing them this whole time, the residents of Devil’s Acre have captured it. It’s being held at this kind of underground gladiator-style ring where participants take ambrosia to try fighting the hollow as long as they can.

Jacob enters but refuses to take the drug. Instead, he mentally connects with the hollow and the two sort of stage a fight that’s supposed to be convincing enough not to raise suspicion. Unfortunately, Jacob hadn’t counted on a kid clean of ambrosia taking out a hollow was already suspicious enough, and they run into some trouble sneaking the hollow out. But they do, and they take it back to Bentham’s. He gets his machine working again, and Jacob and Emma sneak into the wights’ fortress.

Jacob and Emma eventually find their friends and after almost two books, finally reunite with Miss Peregrine. They escape back to Bentham’s, but Miss Peregrine is angry with him for creating hollows and wights in the first place, as well as tampering with Jacob’s grandfather’s soul, which caused him to lose his powers, encouraging his decision to leave pecuiliardom.

Perhaps it’s because of Miss Peregrine’s adamant decision to stay mad at Bentham even though he’s been trying to right his wrongs, but Bentham double-crosses Jacob and his friends and turns them over to Caul. With the Panloopticon working again, Caul takes Jacob, Emma, Miss Peregrine, and Bentham to the Library of Souls, a place where peculiar powers are stored in jars that no one can see except for those with the ability to do so.

I wonder who that could be.

Spoilers.

It’s Jacob.

Surprise.

Anyway, Jacob is forced to lead Caul down into the deepest parts of the Library until he finds the most extravagant power. When he does find it, he turns into a very boring, giant monster kind of thing you’d expect the villain from an animated Disney film to transform into at the end of the movie. And like said villains, Caul only lasts about five minutes in this form before he’s defeated.

Bentham, still wanting to redeem himself, takes some powers into himself and also transforms, leaving Jacob and the others to escape while the two monstrous brothers duke it out. Miss Peregrine and the other ymbrynes collapse the loop, destroying Caul and Bentham in the process.

With peculiardom saved, Jacob now needs to make the decision he’s been avoiding for the whole series (even though he already made it at the end of the first book): is he going to stay with Emma in the pecuilar world or go back home? Jacob still acts pretty wishy-washy about the whole situation, and in the end he and Emma sort of settle on being friends for now and to write each other letters until Jacob grows up a little.

When Jacob reunites with his parents, they’re extremely pissed that he’s been missing for so long. I kind of forget what exactly happens here, to be honest. With Jacob completely refusing to make up his mind about anything throughout the entire series, I don’t remember if Jacob tells his parents the truth about what happened (with Miss Peregrine and Emma backing him up) or if Miss Peregrine erases his parents’ memories of the whole thing and Jacob just continues his charade of being confused and depressed because of his grandfather’s passing, and he made up the peculiar stuff and they were all just imaginary friends.

Either way, he still gets letters from Emma until his parents intercept them and even go so far as to stop having the mail delivered to their home. Thinking that Jacob made up an imaginary girlfriend and is writing letters to himself, his parents decide to send him to some kind of treatment center. As they’re pulling out of the driveway, however, Emma, the peculiar children, and Miss Peregrine all miraculously show up and show off for Jacob’s parents, who are left speechless. Honestly, this whole final scene reminds me a lot of the James and the Giant Peach movie towards the end, when all the bugs come down and surprise the two evil aunts and give them their comeuppance.

If that wasn’t convenient enough, everyone’s internal clocks were reset when the loop holding the Library collapsed. Now Emma and everyone else will start living one day at a time, aging normally. She and Jacob can finally be together. Yay. ❤

Unfortunately, there’s not much more I can say about this book that I haven’t said about the previous two. It’s unfortunate that the peculiar children started developing more in Hollow City but are effectively missing throughout most of this book. It’s Jacob, Emma, and the new characters for most of this ride. Emma still remains awesome and has the most realistic personality of the bunch, and Jacob still remains as boring and main hero-ish as he ever was. The new characters were pretty interesting, too. I wouldn’t call Sharon or Bentham too complex, but they had more layers to them than most of the other characters in the series, and I appreciated that. Especially Bentham —  I guess you could argue whether or not he was a villain. He seemed pretty torn and ultimately just wanted to right his mistakes, even if it meant betraying people.

Complexity is something I wish Caul had more of. He was introduced at the very end of Hollow City, so I can’t exactly blame him if being evil was his only thing. But he pretty much remains the bad guy for the sake of being the bad guy throughout Library of Souls, and I guess I was hoping we’d get to know him a little better. At the end of the day, this is a YA fantasy series. It’s going to boil down between good vs. evil. But still, I like complexity in literary characters. I wish the main bad guy of the series was layered a little more, just how I wish Jacob was, too.

Overall, though, this was a pretty fun series. I really had a great time reading through these three books. And it was nice reading a trilogy that hasn’t been totally hyped up by Barnes and Noble, a film adaptation (although one is already planned), and tons of merchandise flooding Hot Topic. Yet.

That being said, I felt like it fell short just enough to prevent me from really loving it. I think because at the end of the day, it’s a pretty standard adventure/fantasy/coming of age teen series that plays it safe when I wish it had taken more risks. I’ve already mentioned I wished there were more developed characters, but other things just felt off, too. For example, in the first book there were some parts of the story that seemed like Miss Peregrine was hiding some dark secrets about herself and seemed like she was tricking the peculiars into staying within the loop. And I guess you can ultimately say it was because of the threat the wights posed, but I don’t know. I was kind of led to believe she had a darker side and was disappointed this wasn’t really brought up again in the other two books.

The one peculiar, Enoch, was such a prick throughout the entire ride I’m still honestly shocked he didn’t betray anyone. Which makes me think how much more interesting the children would have been if there were some bigger arguments that led to either temporary or permanent separation. Maybe have Enoch join the wights. Maybe have one of the wights join up with the peculiars, either voluntarily or as a hostage.

I also had a beef with chapter length. I’ve bitched about this before and I’ll bitch about it again, but I don’t like long chapters. It’s not always easy to find a good breaking point if I need to stop in the middle of a long chapter to go to work or take a break or something. I’d rather have a bunch of smaller chapters that felt like they ended at good points in the story. So when Library of Souls is giving me chapters that last 40, even 50+ pages, it gets a little discouraging when I need to stop at an inconvenient location to do something else.

My personal issue with chapter length aside, I also think too much happens in each chapter for events to stand out as much as they could. Each chapter can take you through multiple locations, significant events, and character interactions that ultimately blend in too much simply because too much happens in one chapter. Thinking back, this may have contributed to why I had a difficult time remembering specific events in Hollow City. Each chapter could have easily been split up into two or three, and I think those events would have left more of an impression if they had. This chapter length issue is admittedly something I’ve had a little problem with since the first book, but I hate bringing it up because I feel like a whiny baby. But it got worse with each book, especially this one, and I thought I should just go ahead and bring it up for anyone that can only read a little at a time or has to squeeze reading into a tight schedule.

The photographs also continued to seem unnecessary. I still admire that Ransom Riggs wanted to blend a narrative with photos and I still think there’s a lot of potential there, but they still feel forced at many points in the story. There were some more interesting ones than the photos in Hollow City, mostly the pictures of people, but they still felt unneeded at many parts throughout the series.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the series was good and fun to read. I just… I don’t know. I guess I couldn’t help but think of other possible opportunities to improve the series as I was reading it. It really was fun, but if you’re interested in getting into the series yourself, maybe consider borrowing the first one from the library or a friend to get a feel if you’d like to go out and buy the books. I still think it’s worth the read, just maybe not worth the price of three hardcover copies.

Anyway, sorry this post took a little longer to get out. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and have a great weekend! 🙂

 

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)

Info for my edition of Library of Souls:

  • Published 2015 by Quirk Books
  • Hardcover, 458 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-59474-758-8

Let’s Talk Books — Hollow City

Warning: Spoilers!

Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, starts immediately after the ending of the previous book. So because I can’t think of a better way to start this review, why don’t we begin in a similar way?

The book opens with Jacob, Emma, and the other peculiar children lost at sea, trying to find land and, ultimately, another time loop with an uncaptured ymbryne to heal Miss Peregrine. I don’t think I explained the term “ymbryne” in my last post, mostly because it was barely used in the story. But since it’s a pretty common term in Hollow City I’ll explain for those of you that haven’t read the book. An ymbryne is more or less the caretaker of a particular time loop and controls the repeating timelines. Without one, the time loop falls apart, and that’s precisely what happened to Miss Peregrine’s when she was captured by the wights. They’re also in charge of taking care of peculiars and helping them develop and control their powers, educate them, raise them — basically, act as their mother.

Anyway, not to sell this book short, but Hollow City is almost entirely focused on the peculiars traveling through 1940s London trying to find the supposedly one uncaptured ymbryne, Miss Wren. They make a lot of stops, and there are noteworthy events that happen within the book, but… I don’t know. I can’t remember too many details about what happened. They find a home for peculiar animals, which has hands down one of my favorite characters in the series so far if only for his appearance alone. They meet up with some gypsies that know of and sympathize with peculiars. They get captured by wights and make a pretty cool escape thanks to Hugh, one of the main peculiars that controls bees that live inside him. They find a raided loop and rescue a pair of peculiar twins that can see through the dark using sonar and a telekinetic girl. They find Miss Wren, she heals Miss Peregrine, then a ton of really awesome and surprising things happen that I don’t really feel like spoiling. But that’s it.

I’m not sure if it’s because Hollow City falls victim to the dreaded “middle book” of a trilogy syndrome or if it’s because the peculiars never stay in one place too long, but I’m having trouble remembering a lot of scenes that stood out compared to the previous book. Which is strange, because in many ways I enjoyed Hollow City more. It improved on some of the flaws I had with the previous book, which I really appreciated. For one thing, the characters felt more developed. They don’t evolve into anything too complex, but I appreciate what was done. For example, Bronwyn, the girl with superhuman strength, is shown having more affection and care towards the younger kids and the injured Miss Peregrine, almost treating them like a mother would. There’s a small hint towards a romance between Hugh and Fiona, the girl who can manipulate plants. And Enoch, the boy who can animate inanimate objects, becomes one of the most negative characters I’ve ever seen, possibly because of his anger towards Jacob for hooking up with Emma. I was sincerely surprised and almost disappointed he didn’t become a bad guy out of pure jealousy; his attitude through the entire book screams future betrayal.

Unfortunately, Jacob doesn’t get much more interesting from the last book. In fact, narration aside, Jacob feels like just another peculiar tagging along rather than the main character. Which I guess may be a good thing considering he’s still pretty boring. His shining moments come from saving the group from hollows, which only he can see and is slowly learning to become better at detecting. But other than that, he’s a typical main character saying typical main hero things.

Emma remained my favorite character and is still one of the more complex, realistic people in the book. Funny, remember last week when I complained about other people complaining about her relationship with Jacob and how it’s wrong because of the “age difference?” Well now she has a problem with it too! Even though she was ecstatic with Jacob’s decision to stay with them, for some reason, towards the end of the book, she suddenly decides that it’s wrong for him to stay with the peculiars and for the two of them to be in a relationship. This fight more or less gets put on hold, but I’m curious to see where it goes. Does Emma really have some sort of moral dilemma with their situation, or is this just one of those scenes meant to have Jacob rethink and ultimately reinforce his decisions that he already made?

The old photographs are back, and… well, if some of them felt forced in during the first book, then Hollow City is even guiltier of this. In the first book at least some of the pictures made sense in context. You know, like Jacob’s grandfather showing him photographs in the story? Here, though, that’s pretty much lost. The photos exist primarily to compliment what’s happening in the story, and unfortunately, more scenes feel like they have to go out of their way to introduce a photo. Like the previous entry, I don’t feel like they’re unwelcome, but considering that the photos seem to be the one unique thing from an outsider’s perspective of the series, they don’t seem necessary and mislead readers into thinking it’s scarier than it is. It’s a fantasy series, not a horror one. I think something like Harry Potter‘s quirky illustrations at the beginning of each chapter would have been more appropriate.

Except for this photo. This one’s amazing. I frickin’ love this dog.

DSCN1466

I still really enjoyed my read of Hollow City, but I’d be lying if I said some parts weren’t a little dull. The last chapter, however, was so exciting for me. A bunch of stuff comes out of nowhere and really raises the stakes for everyone involved. Normally I don’t really care about spoiling stuff in these reviews, but the end of this book was such a welcome surprise for me I want you to be surprised too, if you’re reading this to get a feel of whether or not you want to get into the series. That being said, I think in many ways this book is better written than the first, but something about it wasn’t quite as memorable. So if you’ve read the first and aren’t sure if you want to continue, I unfortunately couldn’t give you a good answer one way or the other.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the review. I’m really looking forward to the next installment and giving my thoughts on it. Hope everyone’s having a great week! 🙂

12396528

Info for my edition of Hollow City:

  • Published 2014 by Quirk Books
  • Hardcover, 399 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-59474-612-3