Thursday, June 30, 2011

Memories, All Alone in the Moonlight

I first learned about high school from books. And a little bit from tv. I read about Mia feeling awkward and nerdy at Albert Einstein High during the Princess Diaries. I watched Rory Gilmore master Chilton on Gilmore Girls. I laughed at Lindsay Lohan get destroyed by the North Shore Plastics in Mean Girls. I thought I knew what it was all about.

I thought it would be about boyfriends and drama and backstabbing and cliques and popularity and extra credit assignments. It wasn't really about any of those things. At least not for me. High school isn't nearly that exciting. It's the same thing everyday. You drag yourself out of bed, force a meager breakfast in your mouth because you don't want to be starving in second period. You sit through two boring classes, talk to your friends during lunch, and then endure two more periods. Then you go home, do homework, eat dinner, do more homework, go to bed, and start it all over again. That's most days in high school. Most days are nothing special. They don't write books or make tv shows about those days. No, they like to tell stories about the few days that are special.

Well, I wasn't a typical high schooler. But I still have some stories. I thought I'd share them with all of you, before I forget them. I graduated yesterday. Everyday and every minute they are moving away from my present, and further into my past. 

I'll start with the bad days, the bad memories. They're always more fun. 

1) I was taking a theatre arts class in grade 11, where we would put on productions for the school. At the end of each production, we would all sit down and give each other reviews on how well we acted and how well we contributed backstage. It was supposedly anonymous, but we all knew each other's handwriting. 

Now, I don't lie. I mean, I tell white lies. But I won't say something nice about someone if I don't mean it. I won't be insincere. And that's really hard sometimes. Like when I had to give my friend a review for our final production. Her acting was fine, but her backstage work had really annoyed me. She had been bossy and controlling, and, in my opinion, a detriment to the production. So, I told her that. In nicer words I hope. 

I thought she would know it was me. We'd been in classes together for three years. But no, she assumed another boy in the class had written it. A boy I hated. It was very tempting to let him take the blame. This boy had certainly done that to me, time and time again. But no, I had to be honest. It wasn't right. So I told her. And boy, was she mad. 

Now, I understand that anyone would take offence at what I wrote, regardless of whether it's true or not. It's hard to hear bad things about yourself. But this wasn't just hurt or mad. This was Angry, with a capital A. So much that she ran down the hall yelling at me. Her speech ended by saying "F*** you" right to my face. 

For a second, I didn't even react. I remember thinking "this is going to hurt later". And it did. It hurt a lot. I don't swear. People know that. They know I don't like it. So, while this would have been no big deal for a lot of people, this comment was a huge deal to me. 

We made up. We're friends now. But I never forgot it. I never really trusted her or truly felt comfortable with her after that. And, I also lost faith in my other friends. I thought they would stand by me. Instead, they sympathized with the other girl. That fact hurt me much deeper, in a way that lasted much longer. 

2) This next story is from the same theatre arts class. And, believe it or not, I actually look back on this class pleasantly. Though it gave a world of trouble. 

It was our first major production, and I signed up to be the stage manager. I thought it would be fun. I would get to organize stuff and be a large part of the production. Cool. But then I found out the director was a boy I kind of didn't like. Not so cool. But I tried to roll with it. Tried to adapt. I tried as hard as I could to be polite and professional and productive. And yet. 

This boy turned on me. He gave me a speech telling me how awful and controlling I was. Then, everyone had a complaint about me. But that alone wouldn't have been so bad. The bad part came when we did the post-production feedback. Everyone had something to say then. Every problem in the production was blamed on me. Every fault in my personality was dissected by each person. It was a roast, plain and simple, a two-hour torching of me. People I had liked, people I respected, people I considered friends, they all said awful things about me. 

Going home that night was awful. I had a history essay to do, but I just couldn't. I was destroyed. Decimated. My emotional state was on par with a country flattened by an earthquake. I had no idea how to go on. I had no idea how I was going to face everyone the next day. Because these people weren't just in my theatre arts class. They were in all my classes. I couldn't escape them. I was terrified of them. 

But I braved it. Looking back, I don't know how I did it. But I moved on. I never forgave any of them, and I never forgot it, but I moved on. I went to Cuba with these same kids last week, no issue. But sometimes, when I'm feeling down, I can still hear their nasty comments reverberating through my mind. 

3) I had just started real, official, grade 11 IB. I had new english teacher, who I didn't really know that well (who, coincidentally, was also my theatre teacher that semester. And no, event though he had a hand in all three of these stories, I don't hate him! I hugged him last night!). We had to do a creative assignment on Hamlet. I made a magazine. I thought it was great. 

Now, you have to understand, that when I am confident in my work, I'm usually right. I have a 95% average, for heaven's sake. And I have always excelled in creative projects in particular. And english has always been my best class. So I thought I would get at least a 90%, if not higher. I got a 81%. Now, I know, that doesn't sound like much difference, especially to anyone who's been out of school for a while. But to me, it was huge. I had gotten a 96% in my last english course. I wanted to beat that this year. I couldn't do that with an 81%, not on an assignment I liked so much. So, for the first time ever, I challenged the grade.

The result was awful. Another teacher marked it and gave me a 68%, telling me my work was awful. Suggesting that I was having a hard time transitioning to grade 11. She didn't know who I was, what I was capable of. She thought a 68% was pretty good. And, as result, she saw me cry. A lot. 

That day was humiliating. But I learned from it. Looking back, my assignment wasn't that good. And I could have recovered from the 81%. I did! I ended the semester with a 90% in that class. And I got a 97% in english this year, so it's all good. But, back then, I thought it was the beginning of the end. I didn't know things would get better. 

Now, I have some good memories for you. High school wasn't all bad! (in fact, all of those bad memories occurred within six months! I had 3 and a half years without anything that bad!)

1) The day my best friend first called me her best friend. We had been close for three years. In my head, I considered her my best friend. But I didn't dare say it allowed. 

Then, in may, we were studying for exams together--well, studying some, talking a lot. And the topic of friends came up. And she called me her best friend. I had waited for that, wanted that for so long. It felt so good. Official. The world as I saw it in my head was finally becoming the world everyone else saw too. 

That's it. Short and sweet. But I'll never forget it. 

I have other good memories. Those aren't all my stories. But they're most of my defining ones. I'm sorry they're so long. I know, most people have probably quit reading by this point. Not a lot of people started reading in the first place. Thanks if you're still with me. Thanks for letting me share these pieces of me with you. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Dream Team: A Review of the 2011 TV Season

The Emmy season is in full swing. The nominations aren't announced until July 14th, and the ceremony isn't until late September, but the internet is already a buzz with nomination predictions, nomination dreams, and possible winners. And while I didn't let myself invest in the Oscars this year, I am totally buying into the 2011 Emmys. I've been reading every article, and I'm counting down days until the nominations are announced. 

Now, before anyone poisoned my mind with nomination chances or anything, I thought I'd write up a little bit about who I think should win in each category, however unrealistic that idea may be. Since I don't really watch any worthy dramas (read: the only drama I watch is Gossip Girl, which is not deserving of any awards, ever), I am only considering the major comedy categories. So, without further ado, here are my favourite comedic actors and tv shows of the 2011 season. 

Best Actor

Sheldon Cooper - The Big Bang Theory (2007)

Over the last year, I've fallen out of love with the Big Bang Theory. Part of it is the simple fact that I had too many other shows to follow--Parks and Rec, Gossip Girl, Greek, etc--and I got distracted. Part of it is that I watched too much, too fast--Sheldon can get annoying fast. But the biggest thing is that this season wasn't very good. I thought Amy Farrah Fowler would be a fun character, for a few episodes. Oh, look, we get to see Sheldon date! But instead she turned into a regular character that I hated. She's the female Sheldon--only less funny. And the addition of Amy as well as increased screen time for Bernadette meant that Penny was squeezed out. Which really annoyed me. After Sheldon, Penny has always been my favourite character. I miss her! I want her back!

But no matter how much the show annoyed me or how little I watched by the end of the season (I don't remember if I made it through the entire finale episode), I always loved Jim Parsons. For a while here, this became the Jim Parsons Blog, where I'd do a post of him every other day. Nowadays, I'm not quite as obsessive, but I still think he is giving a great performance week in and week out. Sheldon Cooper is not someone most people would want to be friends with, and yet all the fans love him. Part of that can be credited to the writers, but I think a larger part can be credited to Jim Parsons himself. He takes a mean, egotistical, selfish guy, and he manages to make him loveable. Most of all, he makes him hilarious. Sheldon's character did not have his best season this past year, but he was still better than any other actor on tv, in my opinion. And so, I pick Jim Parsons as my Best Actor in a Comedy.

Best Actress

I don't watch The Office. I didn't really like Baby Mama. I've never taken to SNL. So there was nothing that suggested that I would like Parks and Recreation. But I did. By the end of the season I came to love it, in fact, and I think a large part of that is due to Amy Poehler herself.

She brings such life to her performance. So much energy. Like Sheldon, Leslie is a character that has the potential to be annoying. But in Poehler's hands, she's so much more than that. She's annoying, but she's also endearing. She's loveable. She's hilarious. I enjoy Leslie when she's paired with any character on the show--be it Ben in Road Trip, April in Fancy Party, Tom in the online dating episode, or Ron in the birthday episode. Again, give credit to the writers, but also give credit to this amazing actress, who works so hard and deserves to be rewarded for it.

Best Supporting Actor 

For this one, I have a near tie. One actor is absolutely hilarious, and wins hands down in the number of actual laughs he produces per episode. The other is an amazing dramatic actor who makes me love him even when I hate what the show makes him do. I'm going to give a shout out to both, since I think they both deserve the praise.

The first is Nick Offerman, aka Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation. That man is absolutely hilarious. Many of the lines he's given wouldn't be funny if they were written on the page. But the way he delivers them, they're absolutely freaking hilarious. He adds so much to the character, and his character adds so much to the show. There are so many classic scenes--Ron's pyramid of greatness, Ron's speech at the art gallery, Ron's cooking competition with Chris, etc, etc. That's because Nick Offerman is a genius. The funniest actor on tv right now.

My other contender is Chris Colfer. Now, I hated Glee this season. It was awful. Preachy. Cliched. Inconsistent. Boring. Irritating. A truly terrible piece of television. But for me, the one bright spot was Chris Colfer's character Kurt Hummel. Kurt had many great moments, but his stand out episode was clearly the prom, where he got to fun and funny and also heart breaking, all within forty minutes.  He made me feel for Kurt. He made me love Kurt. And, of course, he made me love Kurt and Blaine. They are such a cute couple! I loved their first kiss, their I love you's, pretty much every moment they were together this season. Credit to Darren Criss, credit to Ryan Murphy and gang, but biggest credit to Chris Colfer, who managed to stand out amongst all the slush.

Best Supporting Actress 

I almost didn't include this category. No one immediately came to mind, and I thought it would be a waste to pick a sub par actor to this list. Then I remembered Christa Miller, the brilliant Ellie from Cougar Town.

In the Emmy discussions, Busy Phillips usually gets thrown in. And, don't get me wrong, I love me some Busy Phillips. Hello, she's Audrey from Dawson's Creek. Plus she's funny and sweet and she has such a great relationship with Travis/Dan Byrd. But to me, she is second banana to the incomparable Christa Miller.

I love Ellie. She is absolutely hilarious. Again, here's a character who is constantly mean, and easily dislikable. Yet, Christa Miller makes her great. She makes her hilarious. Ellie scenes are always my favourite on Cougar Town. I love Ellie and Andy, and Ellie and Laurie, and even Ellie and Jules. I love her always. She refreshingly mean, and always hilarious. Christa Miller deserves more love for making this character someone you love to hate so much.

Best Comedy

Glee was terrible. How I Met Your Mother was boring. Big Bang was weak. 30 Rock was fine, just above average. Cougar Town was pretty good, but not great.

Parks and Recreation was amazing.

It's a great ensemble show, without one week link in the cast. I've already singled out Leslie and Ron, but I could easily considered most of the other characters, be it Tom (Aziz Ansari) or April (Aubrey Plaza) or Ann (Rashida Jones) or Ben (Adam Scott) or Chris (Rob Lowe) or even, heck, Jerry (Jim O'Heir). I loved them all, and I loved this season of the show.

The first I'd like to spotlight is romance, because, well, I'm totally obsessed with romance (Hi, my name is Katherine, it's nice to meet you). I so admired how the show handled both romances this season. April and Andy's courtship was adorable, but also realistic. I find Andy to be a trying character, but when he's with April, I love him. They are so sweet. I loved when they got together, and I loved when they got married. They are so low drama, yet still so awesome. That's really an achievement.

The other romance that I loved was Ben and Leslie. It was developed so well. It felt like these characters would actually be together. They were well developed as individuals, and they actually seemed like genuine friends. That's such a great foundation. From there, I loved how Ben got jealous and vulnerable about Leslie. I loved how they got together. I can't wait for the next season, where they'll finally figure out their future. They are a great couple, and I really hope they stay together.

So the romance was great. And I think it goes without saying that the comedy was amazing. I mean, this is the best comedy category. This show made me laugh more than any other on tv right now. The entire Harvest Festival, L'il Sebastian, the flu episode, the online dating episode, pretty much everything. There wasn't a bad episode in the bunch. That's amazing.

As of this moment, I love everything about this show. I love that they were able to integrate two new characters--Ben and Chris--so well. I love Ron effin' Swason. I love how everything is always blamed on Jerry. I love Donna's confidence. I love Chris's enthusiasm. I even love the freaking theme song. It's just so happy and upbeat. As is everything in this show. It's a great half hour of television, the best comedy on tv right now.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Review: Sisterhood Everlasting

I wrote a whole post introducing it. Now, as promised, I have the review, of the next, but maybe not last, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novel, Sisterhood Everlasting.

This is the first review where I'm going to institute a new format. It has always bothered me that reviews are so limited. You can talk about the book, but only in general terms. Well, what fun is that? I want to talk about the whole book! I want to analyze it all! I want to discuss how the couple got together, and how the story ended! But I still want to be able to write normal reviews, where people can read about the book and then go buy it themselves.

I don't know how this is going to work, but I'm going to try it. A compromise of sorts. I'm going to insert a line break. Before the break there will be a normal review: summary, my general thoughts on the book. Then, if you choose to click on it, you'll find the full review after the break, where I discuss everything, spoilers be damned. Sound good to you? We'll see how it goes!

Summary: A surprise sequel to the popular Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series by Ann Brashares, this book picks up ten years after the last one ended. Bridget is still with Eric, but is as flighty as ever, eager to keep moving, never settling. Lena is living a quiet life, teaching at RISD, still continents away from her true love Kostos. Carmen is now a popular actress living in New York City, engaged to the insufferable Jones. Tibby moved to Australia with Brian two years ago, and her whereabouts have since been unknown to the rest of the Sisterhood. The story begins as the four girls are set to meet up in Greece, when tragedy strikes.


I thought I was going to hate it. I didn't. I thought it was going to be so bad that it would make me hate the entire series. It didn't. But it wasn't great.

I loved the original series. Correction: I loved the first three books, especially the third one, Girls in Pants. I didn't really like the last book, Forever in Blue. I thought Carmen's acting thing was stupid. I didn't care about Leo. I found Tibby quite annoying with the whole Brian/pregnancy thing. But on the whole, I loved the series. I loved these girls.

I love them so much that I know what kind of potential they have. I knew that this new book could be great. I think that may be my biggest problem with the novel--the wasted potential. Ann Brashares could have gone anywhere with this. It's ten years in the future--anything could have happened. The direction that she chose was so predictable. Frustrating. All the characters had gotten ten years older, but they hadn't gotten years wiser. They were all stuck in place--Bridget was still running from life, Lena was still running from Kostos, and Carmen was still trying to find a good storyline. That's not even dealing with the whole Tibby disaster.

By now everyone knows, but I should warn this is a spoiler. Stop now if you're the type of person who likes to be 100% spoiler free. If you're still with me, you probably already know that Tibby dies. She drowns in Greece. They don't know if it's a suicide or not. They don't know anything. All they know is that they've lost Tibby. It is their grief over this event that drives the rest of the story.

The death was terrible. It was just so lazy. A flimsy plot device, a cliched move to create drama. It expected us to be sad, but it didn't earn that sadness. I wasn't sad because of 30 year old Tibby died, and I didn't feel bad for her 30 year old friends. Instead, I mourned the old Tibby, and had sympathy for her 20 year old friends, the ones I had loved so much in the original books. The original series had made me invest in these characters. This book didn't. The plot assumed that you would feel sad, but it didn't work for that emotion. It was lazy, and unoriginal, and I really, really wish it hadn't happened.

I hate reading about grief. I find it so boring. I was so freaking bored in this book that I actually skipped thirty pages. Yep, that's right. And I'm not a skipper. Ever. But I just couldn't do it. I was bored to tears! And it was so easy to just flip forward. I didn't miss anything. I wasn't confused at all. That's really a weakness of the book is not one plot point moves forward in thirty freaking pages!

For a book I didn't hate, I've really been hating on it. What was good about it? It's hard to remember. I liked the writing. It was the familiar, sentimental Brashares style that I've always liked. And I'll always love the characters, of course. That's a given. And I liked the ending.

Overall, I don't think this was a very good book. As a standalone, I don't think I would have been able to finish it. The plot was lazy and unimaginative. The characters were stuck. But, as a longtime fan, I enjoyed it enough. I hated Carmen's storyline, and I was annoyed by Bridget's, but I liked Lena's. I thought the resolution to Tibby's death was pretty good. But again, none of that was earned or particularly well developed in this novel. I only enjoyed it because I would enjoy any scene between these girls.

This is a book for longterm fans. Anyone else, please, please, waste your time on something else.

And that's what I have to say to anyone who hasn't read it. If you've already finished it, please join me after the break.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Wow, what a great thing to come back to. I'm away a week, and when I log into blogger, I find a ton of new comments (which I promise to respond to ASAP!), an awesome shout out from an awesome blogger, and tons of page views! 

Plus, I come back with so many new posts, just waiting to be written. A review of the new Sisterhood book is next on my list, followed by a discussion of Gossip Girl, and many, many more exciting things. But first, I just have to tell you about my trip. 

I have to admit, I was not looking forward to this vacation. I did not want to spend a week with my class in Cuba. I know that sounds ridiculous, but when you're shy like me, spending that much time with people in a confined area can be really stressful. So, my expectations were low. On top of that, my nerves were high, since this was my first vacation without any parents. First plane ride without supervision. First time going through customs alone. First time having to be responsible for myself like this. That's a lot of responsibility. And a lot of stress. 

It was so much better than I expected. Not perfect, but pretty darn close. 

I normally don't share pictures of me or my friends, but here are a few, to give you a little taste of my week in Cuba (and make you salivate just a little bit):

The ocean! So bright and beautiful. 

Reading by the pool. I did a ton of this--meaning tons of reviews in the very near future!

Do you see how blue that water is?

Hotel room. Best part? Air conditioning!

We got in the morning, ate breakfast, went for a swim in the ocean, read by the pool all day, and then "partied" all night. I say "party" in quotations because we're really straight laced kids, so all we really did was play truth or dare or, at worse, strip poker. 

The days were so relaxing. The food kind of sucked, but the snack bar was good. The heat was awful towards the middle of the day, but the pool could quickly fix that. A perfect balance. Reading, swimming, talking with friends. 

The nights were a little bit less relaxing. My classmates are known as the "good kids" at school, meaning that they don't drink or do drugs or anything. So when they were finally done with exam hell, and finally free of parental supervision, they really let loose. Many of them got drunk many times. One of them smashed their face in because of a drunk accident. Many of them puked. I stayed sobered and watched all that, laughing at their crazy antics and worrying for their safety. 

But I was daring, by my standards at least. I went to a club! It had flashing lights and incredibly loud music. It was fun. Hot. Tiring. An interesting experience. I also played spin the bottle. Now, I know, normal people play this game at twelve or thirteen. I played it for the first time at eighteen. Because that's what good kids do. Actually, no, that's what nerdy academic kids do. Or, at least, that's what I did. It Different. Cliched. It got old fast, but it was fun while it lasted. 

Sixteen people went in total, most of whom have been in all my classes for three or four years. It was really nice being able to talk to them outside the restrictions of school, to relax with them. I feel closer all of them, making even harder to say goodbye to them all when we graduate next week. 

I thought the trip would suck, but I really loved it. I didn't love the heat. And I got tired of all the drunken idiocy. And I missed home. But I'm glad I went. Glad I took the risk. Glad I know these people. Sad to see them go. 

And that was my trip.  Such a fun week. Soon to be a bittersweet memory. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are you what you read?

So, after doing an entire post on how I don't know who I am, I thought I'd follow with who I think I am. But not in some overly emotional monologue. No, instead, I have something much more fun for everyone--tv and book fans alike. 

I got the idea from an Entertainment Weekly article. You make an equation based on the personality traits of different characters. It sounded like so much fun, I knew I had to make one for myself. After some adding and subtracting and thorough soul searching (just kidding!) I made two. First, I used tv characters:

In case you can't read the photo, here it is (click on it to make it bigger I think):

Rory Gilmore's obsession with school and following the rules + Monica Geller's need to organize and control everything + April Ludgate's of hatred of people and life in general + Savannah Monroe's inexperience, naivete, and good heart

And, of course, I made one using book characters as well. I love when I can satisfy both my love of tv and books :)

Hermione Granger's love of books and academics + Lena Kaligaris's shyness and Carmen Lowell's raw emotion and passion + Mia Thermopolis's awkwardness and dorkiness + Becca Winsberg love of sappy romance

It's a fun game. And it took me a while to get it right. I have to admit, I did admit a few characters because they were too obscure. And maybe it's just wishful thinking to compare myself to Hermione Granger. She is, after all, the best book nerd of all time. 

But I am a book nerd too. I have evidence!

I was packing for my trip (to Cuba! With my class! So excited!), and even though I'm only going for a week, I brought more than a book a day. I couldn't resist. There's just so much I want to read. And what else is there to do on a beach really? (Answer: probably lots of things, none of which I am cool enough to know about. This is why I a nerd, in general). 

Here's a quick run down of the books, because you know I have to talk about them:

  • Looking For Alaska by John Green: Half way through it and liking it a lot. It's different from a lot of what I read--male narrator, for one, but also just a different type of novel, different type of writing. It's making me think a lot, which I like. So much so that I know I'll have to write a review of it when I get back.
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua: Heard about this one month's ago, and I've wanted it ever since. But it's a $30 hardcover! I just can't do that! But the combination of a coupon and rewards program and birthday gift card finally allowed me to get it! Yay! It looks fascinating. 
  • Abandon by Meg Cabot: This one was on a previous list. Still haven't read it. Still really want to.

Such a cute cover!

  • Moonface by Angela Balcita: I picked this one up while browsing the autobiography/biography section. Looks really sweet and real and romantic. 
  • Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegasar: Picked this one up from Goodwill. Oddly excited about it. I read the first page and it described Nate as "hunky",  so I know it's gonna be a funny one!
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: While I do want to read this one day, I'm actually bringing this one for a friend. 

So yes, so far, I think I'm living up to the book nerd title. And also the romance obsession (Bridget and Eric! Lena and Kostos! Nate and Blair!--just kidding on the last one). And I've been off academics for a while now--but I'm always awkward. 

In case you're wondering, this book nerd/blogger/general geek is leaving for Cuba tomorrow. I'm nervous for the flight--I really hate planes. So we'll see how that goes. At least I'll have a good book (and my best friend by my side). 

I'll be back on thursday. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your tv and/or book (and possibly movie) equations. Or your summer reading lists! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

I Was A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

Tonight, I celebrated my eighteenth birthday with my family. My actual birthday was a little less than a month ago, but due to exams and grandmothers and general life stuff, I hadn't been able to celebrate until now. Either way, happy birthday to me :)

I don't know who's dog this is, but I love it. One of my life goals is to own a Cavalier King Charles Cocker Spaniel, just like this one.

As I marked this momentous occasion, I realized that this is really the end of my teen years. The official cut off date, so to speak. I mean, I don't feel like an adult yet. I'm still in high school! I still live with my parents! But now I can vote and gamble and almost drink and get my name printed in the newspaper if I commit a crime. All big stuff. I'm still adjusting. I still feel like a teen, still talk like a teen, still have teen friends, and, of course, I still read teen books. 

I actually own this guide. It's quite helpful. 

But officially, according to the law, I am an adult. And so, I thought I'd take a minute to reflect on what being a teenager meant to me. Everyone makes such a big deal of the teen years. So many movies are made about it, shows centered around it, and, of course, books written about it. It's when you figure out who you are, apparently. I didn't. I don't know if I ever will. I don't know if anyone ever does.

Who am I? You're guess is as good as mine!

For me, being a teen was not awful thing that pop culture makes it out to be. But it wasn't great either. I think that's the way with a lot of things in life. It's not as exciting or dramatic as the movies, in a good or bad way. 

One of the worse parts of teendom was the change. Teenagers change a lot. A lot of my friends changed completely. They're different people now. Strangers, almost. The girl who I talked to everyday, the only girl who was quieter than me, now has a boyfriend. That blows my mind. The girl who always made a sleepover great, who always made me laugh, and was always there when I cried, apparently sleeps with so many guys that it becomes gossip at other schools. Almost all my friends drink now. A lot of them do drugs. They've all changed. And I've changed. We aren't friends anymore, because we aren't those people anymore. We don't have anything in common anymore. We don't have anything to say to each other anymore. To me, that's shocking and sad, and a really hard part of growing up. 

I was in a program where it was all academics all the time, yet there was still a lot of drama and theatrics. A girl swore at me for giving her a bad review on her project. My entire theatre class spent two hours burning me at the stake. A guy from my class hurt me, humiliated me, and never once apologized for it. Another guy spread rumours that I liked him, laughing as he told people. 

I never had a boyfriend. I never had a first kiss. I never had sex. I never drank. I never did drugs. I never broke the law. I never broke a school rule. I didn't do a lot of teen stuff. I did homework instead. But still, I feel like I lived my teen years well. I had the drama. And, yeah, maybe, I didn't experience everything I could have. But I gave it everything I had. And I'm coming out on the other side, happy with who I am. Still scared and uncertain, but still proud of what I've done, and, more importantly, what I'm going to do. 

I have a debate with my parents: If I had gone to a different high school, who would I be? They think I could have easily gone down a different path. A much more typical one. That was hard for me to believe, at least at first. But, upon reflection, it seems somewhat true. When I was thirteen, I was unformed. Undefined. I had ideas of who I was, principals of what I wanted to be. But really, I could have been anything. To use a really nerdy reference, I was a stem cell. I had all the functioning organelles, but I was unspecialized. I could still grow to be anything. A liver. A pancreas. A gall bladder. A heart. 

This was always my favourite diagram to draw for biology. And, it's the most important organ. The one I want to be the most. The thing I want to have the most. 

In the end, I think I grew to be something of a geek. A theatre nerd. An antisocial weirdo. An academically obsessed alien. A young adult book blogger. A crafter. I'm not fully formed yet, but I've started to specialize, deactivating certain parts of my personality and activating others. I could still turn out to be a lung, but I couldn't be a skin cell. 

You get to experiment a lot when you're a teen (and no, I don't mean drugs). You have an increasing freedom, with very few responsibilities. There are a lot of possibilities in your teen years. If I have any regrets (and I don't truly believe in regrets), it's that I didn't explore more of them. But oh well. We can't do everything, as it said in the poem from the IB english exam this year (another nerdy reference! Look at me go!)

There's a website I recently came across--Dear Teen Me--where people write letters to their teenage selves. What would I say to myself? Well, don't think I've had enough years to reflect, but I'll give it a try anyways:

Age 13: Treasure your friends as they are now. Because they're all going to change. But that's okay. You'll survive, I promise. But you can never get this time back, so appreciate it. Appreciate who you are right now.

Age 14: Good job. You survived the hard part--your first year of high school. And you've done fairly well--good grades, a really good friend. I know, things aren't perfect. But stop expecting them to be. You're not perfect. Your friends aren't perfect. Accept that!

Age 15: I know, it's hard right now. But I promise you, truly, from the bottom of my heart, it will get better. In the meantime, try to stop being so stressed. Stop putting so much stress on your friendships. Certain people are only meant to be in your life for a certain amount of time. That's okay. Move on. Accept your friends, and accept how things are now. I know, you don't like change, but you're going to have to learn to deal with it some time. 

Age 16: Good luck. One of the biggest challenges of your life is just beginning. I wish there was something I could say to prepare you for it, to help you get through it, but there isn't. It's hard. That's the truth. It's a lot of work. And you're not always going to succeed. But in the end, it'll be okay. More than okay. You'll do great, trust me. And yes, you will get hurt along the way. Really hurt. You'll cry a lot--because of teachers, classmates, and friends. But you'll survive. Somehow. Again, good luck. 

Age 17: You're almost there! Yay! But still, you've got a long way to go. But keep going. This will be the best academic year of your life, you'll see. Believe in yourself. But also allow yourself to feel things. To feel stressed. To feel hurt. Stand up for yourself. Enjoy yourself. This is your last year of being a teen. 

And so, here I am, eighteen. No longer a teen, not really an adult. It feels weird. But a good weird. Rachel having Emma weird. And I know, I shouldn't make an old tv reference right now. But maybe, just maybe, that's the nerd I am. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What's Your Favourite Book?

Ah, the eternal question. You say you read, and immediately people ask--what's your favourite book? (quickly followed by "who's your favourite author?", or, if they're feeling festive, "what are you currently reading?"). It's a tricky question. So many books. Some are well written. Some have amazing characters. And some are just inexplicably special to us, in a way that no one else can understand or appreciate.

But still, you must answer. Because it's a good question to ask. It tells you a lot about someone. If they quickly come back with Twilight, you know you've met a Twihard--and you know to get out of there, fast.

Otherwise, they may end the conversation by inviting you to get one of these. To match their own.

If they answer with something boring and literary, you know they're probably just trying to impress you. If they answer with a young adult romance, you know you met your soulmate.

For many years my favourite novel was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's a young adult novel, but it is also an issue book, so it felt appropriate and worldly, at least to my ten-year-old self. Eventually, I admitted I enjoyed Princess Diaries more, and sometimes this became my answer. I would be a little embarrassed to say it, but at least everyone has heard of it, with the movie and all. It also functioned as a sort of shorthand, instantly telling people that I like realistic romances, typically with teenagers.

Those books still hold a special little place in my heart, along with many others that I formed an emotional attachment to as a child--the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, a lot of the Sarah Dessen novels, the Shopaholic books, the Jessica Darling series. Those are the ones I pick up when I'm sad or homesick or just plain bored, happy to spend some time with my favourite characters. The phrases are so familiar; I could practically quote each first page (and, of course, each romantic ending). I love them all so much.

Yet, none of those would be my answer. No, my favourite book is not in that list. It's not even young adult romance! It's not YA at all! I know! It surprises me too! It is actually a literary novel! And I promise, I don't just say this to be snotty and stuck up. This is actually my favourite book:

Crow Lake, by Mary Lawson

Now, this book is not at all famous. It's by a Canadian author, for heaven's sakes (Canadian authors get no love. Ever. It's a rule.). It's set in rural Ontario. It's not flashy. It doesn't have vampires or werewolves or boy wizards or anything like that. 

The plot is simple. To quote the annotated bibliography I handed into my extended essay supervisor:

"Crow Lake is a fictional tale of the Morrison children are torn apart by the sudden death of their parents in a car accident. Luke, barely nineteen, is forced to take responsibility of his three younger siblings: Matt, seventeen, and a brilliant scholar bursting with potential, Kate, seven, serious and thoughtful, and Bo, the baby, the all-consuming centre of attention.
Through this tragedy younger siblings Matt and Kate develop a deep bond, of student and teacher, parent and child, hero and worshipper. He is her guide, and it is his passionate interest in the natural world that sparks an equal passion in Kate. This deep bond is shattered when, in Kate’s eyes, Matt betrays all his potential, and betrays her, essentially, by getting his girlfriend pregnant at only seventeen. Kate goes to on to university, and becomes a professor, leaving Matt behind to raise his child on the farm. She surpasses him in everyway she can imagine. Kate feels terrible about her success, guilty and unworthy of it. It was Matt who had all the potential, but it is her who is living his dreams."
 To me, this novel has everything a favourite book needs:

1) An interesting plot: The plot is simple, but yet so rich. It's not filled with action, and yet it's still fascinating.

2) Attractive characters: All the characters, but Kate and Matt in particular, are well developed. The relationship between these two is so powerful, and so heartbreaking.

3) An emotional connection for the reader: Every time I read this book, even if its just a quick reread, even if its just a light skimming for essay quotes, I cry. Crow Lake connects with me, always.

I don't reread it as often as I reread, say, the ending of Second Helpings (You. Yes. You.). But that's only because I don't have the energy. Some nights, I don't have the emotional capacity to handle Crow Lake. Some nights, I don't want to cry, so I pick up Anna and the French Kiss. But on those rare nights when I do pick it from the shelves, I'm always amazed by it. Awed by the simple yet striking nature of the phrasing. Heartbroken by the characters lives. In love with the characters themselves.

It speaks to me in a way other books don't. I know part of that is just a personal thing. I know other people might not get that, may not enjoy this book. But for me, there's just something there. I feel for Kate, connect with her in a way I don't connect to Mia Thermopolis or Bella Swan or Katniss Everdeen. I understand her relationship with Matt. I live those silences with her. 

I wrote a twenty page essay on Matt and Kate's relationship, comparing it to Jeanette's relationship with her father in The Glass Castle. So I could go on forever. Because I could read this book forever. Because I will love it forever. It is my favourite book, forever. 

And that's my answer. Thanks for asking. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mini Reviews: If I Stay and Where She Went

I was so consumed with exams, I missed so many new releases that I would have normally bought the day them came out. My personal reward for finishing exam insanity was to buy all these books. Yes, all of them. Can you imagine? Going into a bookstore, not just buying a book or two, but buying all the ones you want? At full price? If you're anything like me, it's exciting. Very exciting.

Of course, I didn't buy every book. That would have cost thousands of dollars. But I did buy a lot. As a result, I have an awesome to be read pile next to my bed right now, where nearly every book is a must read! Heaven!

Slowly, I've been getting through them. I thought I'd finish them within a week, but I'm trying to pace myself. Recently, I got a comment from a book blogger asking me my thoughts on two of the books from my stack: If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman, both of which I read last week. Now, part of me just wants to write full reviews. But I don't feel like I have enough to say about either book. Solution? Mini-Reviews! 

I'll start with If I Stay.

Plot Summary: Mia is a normal girl. Adorable musician boyfriend Adam, who she loves, but who is pulling away from her as she thinks about going to an out-of-state university. Goofy parents, who she adores and actually likes to spend time with. A cute little brother, Teddy, who's many years younger than her. An obsession with classical music and a promising cello career. But in a moment, all of that is threatened, and most of it is taken away from her, as she barely survives the car crash that takes her family from her. If I Stay is the record of Mia's decision: Should she live or should she die? Live with the heartbreak and pain or die and give up all the possibility and all the love she has left? 

Review: I actually read this book after my last biology exam, before my french exams, so it seems appropriate to give it an IB score. I say 5MH. For any sane, normal non-IBer, that a 5 medium-high, which roughly translates to a 87%, or a solid A. So, pretty good. But not great.

I should say, as a disclaimer, this is not my type of book. It's much darker than what I usually read. I generally avoid books that deal so heavily with death. I only picked this one up because I really, really wanted to read Where She Went, which seemed like it was a lot more romance and a lot less death and despair. But I'm glad I read it. 

It was well written and well structured. I thought Mia's parents and Mia's brother Teddy were all well developed characters. I only knew them for a few chapters, but I was still genuinely invested in their survival. That's a hard feat, something I really credit Gayle Forman for pulling off. 

Mia's extended family was interesting for me. A little less successful, I would say. I loved her fearless best friend Kim. But I was less sure about Adam. There were a handful of Mia/Adam moments that I absolutely loved, such as the one where she goes to his concert on Halloween. But, on the whole, I didn't love Adam. I felt like he pushed her too much. I just didn't trust him. 

Overall, the book felt a little lacking. Like there wasn't enough there. Not enough meat, to quote my english teacher. But what it set out to do, it did very, very well. The characters were (mostly) brilliant. The writing was solid. The plot was well laid out, though I did get a little tired of all the flashbacks. And, of course, the ending was predictable--there is a sequel after all :) 

And now, Where She Went (Be warned: if you haven't read If I Stay and you don't want spoilers about it, stop reading now!)

Plot Summary: Three years after Mia decided to live, we reenter her world, this time through her boyfriend Adam's perspective. In the years that have passed, his band has skyrocketed to fame, and his personal life has been in tatters. He is tired, depressed, and miserable, turning to pills and causing tensions with his band. He hasn't seen Mia since she broke up with him, until one night in NY, he sees her perform. And it is there we begin again.

Review: 7MH (97%/ A++)! Loved it! Absolutely amazing. Everything I wanted it to be and more. Well done, Gayle Forman, well done (what else has she written other than this series? Because I want to get my hands on those books, fast!).

I commented that If I Stay was lacking. Where She Went wasn't. It's full, so full, just so amazing. I find that kind of odd, since the first book tackles a seemingly more serious subject matter (death) while this one explores what one would assume is a lighter subject (first love). But to me, If I Stay is one of many books that deal with death well. Where She Went is one of a handful of books that deals with the fall out of first love well.

And I didn't even like Adam all that much! Not in If I Stay. But I came to love him here. He's messed up, yes, but he's figuring himself out. He's confused. He's heartbroken. He's just amazing. I know, I should be more descriptive. But what can I say--I fell in love with this boy (Cappie/Michael Moscovitz/Wes/Etienne/ level love. I'm telling you, it's serious!). There are no words.

I also came to love Mia. I liked her a lot during If I Stay, but I found her hard to connect to. I just couldn't imagine wanting to die. But here, she felt so real to me. So vulnerable. I thought she'd be cold to Adam, shut him out. And she did for a little while. But eventually, she opened up to him, and she was so real.

Of course, for me, the romantic fanatic, the best part was the romance. Amazing. So well developed, and so earned. So freaking sweet. The moments in flashback and in present were just amazing. I already loved Adam and Mia, and those moments made me love them as a couple (can I just say--tent scene--Oh my freaking god. BEST THING EVER.).

The book was so well rounded. It looked at love from so many sides. It was realistic, but still satisfying. Sweet, but not too sappy. Nearly perfect.

Some parts bored me, I will admit. A good chunk of the beginning, before he found Mia again. Some of the long band flashbacks. I was less invested in the stuff that wasn't about love. But I understand why it was necessary, so it's not really a fault. Just a personal limitation--I only read for romance! (But we already knew that).

To me, this book has a few connections to Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series. One is personal, silly really. The reason I read Sloppy Firsts is similar to the reason I read If I Stay--because another book in the series sounded good (in that case it was Fourth Comings that I really wanted to read). The other reason is more literary, or at least legitimate--they both switched narrators. The first four Jessica Darling books are narrated by Jessica (hence the title of the series), but the last book is partly from the perspective of Marcus Flutie, just like these books switch from Mia to Adam narration.

It's an interesting technique. And I'm sorry to say, Ms. McCafferty, but I think Where She Went pulled it off better. A big part of Marcus's allure was his mystery, which was lost when we finally got inside his head. Adam's perspective was more interesting. I don't know how realistic it was for a boy's voice, but I bought it.

Conclusion: If I Stay and Where She Went are both good books. You should read them! To me, there less like a series, more like companion books, since the subject matter is so different, and the perspective is so different. Any way about it, though, you should read them. They're different books, not exactly what I'd call YA romance. But they're good, nonetheless.

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