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Assorted thoughts on several books

December 12, 2010

Because I’ll probably never get around to writing proper reviews of these books.

cover of Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David LevithanWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Two teenaged guys named Will Grayson meet at a Chicago porn store. Will Grayson is content to live outside the spotlight, avoiding attention. Yet his best friend—actually, his only friend—is a giant gay football player named Tiny Cooper who wants to convince the student council to fund a musical about his life called Tiny Dancer. It’s hard not to attract attention when you’re around Tiny.

will grayson has no friends, unless you’re willing to count maura, who is constantly annoying will with her attempts to get close to him, and isaac, whom he met on the internet. he writes only in lower case.

But really, who cares about the Will Graysons when you’ve got awesomeness that is Tiny Cooper? And, frankly, I don’t think the Will Graysons are interesting enough without Tiny to carry the book if you *gasp* don’t adore Tiny.

I suppose if I think about Will Grayson, Will Grayson not as a story about two guys named Will Grayson, but as contemporary realistic fiction about guys and relationships, the Tiny-ness of the book bothers me less. From this perspective, it doesn’t matter if Tiny steals the show because the most important thing the dual narrators do is allow us to see different sides of Tiny—with will’s chapters, dimensions that Will is unable to see because of his lengthy history with Tiny and the way their friendship often conflicts with Will’s stated goals of shutting up and not caring too much.

As for the rest of the book, this is the section in which I agree with lots of other bloggers (like Abby, Bookish Blather, Forever Young Adult, etc.): yes, I thought the ending was very abrupt. Yes, there are some absolutely hilarious moments. Yes, Will Grayson will seem familiar to anyone who has read any of John Green’s books. Yes, sometimes I wanted to shake will grayson and tell him to stop being so self-centered while also acknowledging that the self-centeredness is totally realistic. Oh my god, yes, I loved seeing Will’s realization (and admission!) that he loves Tiny—not romantically, never romantically, but in a platonic, you-matter-to-me way. And Tiny Dancer/Hold Me Closer! I need more of Tiny’s lyrics, too!

Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror edited by R.L. Stine
Thrill would be a more accurate title for this collection than Fear. Even if it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. There are a couple of stories that I would consider thrillers (fitting, since all the authors are members of the International Thriller Writers), which I enjoyed but weren’t particularly scary or chilling.

All the stories in this collection are short—the longest is James Rollins’ “Tagged,” at 33 pages—yet the majority are sufficiently intriguing. Additionally, there is a nice variety to the stories. Suzanne Weyn’s “Suckers” is set in the year 2060 on a planet called Lectus. The fear in some stories comes from supernatural creature or powers, like the boy who discovers that there really are dangerous creatures lurking in shadows or the babysitter whose new charge sees terrifying beasts. In others, there are only humans committing crimes providing the tension.

My favorite story in Fear definitely falls into the horror category, and is one of the few to do so: Jennifer Allison’s delightfully creepy “The Perfects,” in which Hannah discovers her new neighbors are hiding a sinister secret. I’d been meaning to pick up Allison’s Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator for a while; “The Perfects” is what finally made me do it.

Worldshaker by Richard Harland
I’ve seen a couple of reviews, like this one, by folks who share the same opinion I initially had. Basically, “It didn’t work for me but it’s not bad or anything and it will appeal to other readers.” Which now makes me wonder how many “other readers” will actually like it.

Anyway, for nearly 150 years, a Porpentine has been the supreme commander of the juggernaut Worldshaker. Col Porpentine’s grandfather is the current supreme commander, and Col is being groomed to take his place. The entire Porpentine family has a stake in Col’s success, because it is their history of commanding the Worldshaker that gives the Porpentines their elite status on the Upper Deck, second only to the queen and her consort.

Raised in luxury, Col has never questioned his place on the Worldshaker. The families of the Upper Deck are the are the wealthiest and most powerful, with Menial servants, and Filthies—whom they never see—powering the Worldshaker. The Col meets Riff, an escaped Filthy, who challenges what Col thought he knew about Filthies and for the first time, Col begins to question all of his assumptions. Eventually, he comes to the realization that his family cares less about him than they do his role as heir apparent to the supreme commander. Or more specifically, in maintaining the status that comes with being a part of the supreme commander’s family.

My major problem with the writing? Not Col’s naivete, which I was willing to accept, but the lack of subtlety to the storytelling. The upper classes literally live on the Upper Decks, with social status declining the further down you go, until you get to the Filthies. Exacerbating this, nearly all the characters lacked depth and dimension; the only one who revealed any complexity was Col’s older sister, Gillabeth, and even then her motivations were predictable.

Book source: borrowed all three from the public library.
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