Tag Archives: sisters

Free Verse – about One and Two

AKA Do They Have To Be About Twins?
Also AKA One – Sarah Crossan

AN78152238OneThis year’s YA Book Prize winner, One, is by Sarah Crossan, and is a widely-acclaimed bestseller which follows the lives of conjoined twins Grace and Tippi. Written in free verse, the whole book is a series of poems which describe the lives of the two girls as they venture out of their home-schooled bubble and into the (frankly, terrifying) world of the American high school.

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

From Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this moving and beautifully crafted novel about identity, sisterhood and love ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

Funnily enough, One isn’t the first free verse book I’ve ever read. It’s actually the second. And that other free verse book I read – Identical, by Ellen Hopkins – was also about twins. Although admittedly, they were identical, not conjoined, twins. Even still. Do all free verse books have to be about twins?

I didn’t really enjoy One. Having thought about it for a few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a style which works for me. I think the story, characterisation, etc of One would have been much more effective, for me personally, if it had been written in prose, not free verse. But I think that does actually just mean that I’m judgemental. I also didn’t like Identical.

Beyond the free verse element of One, there was one other big thing I didn’t like – specifically, that I found the plot predictable. I saw from the beginning where it was going, and therefore went through the whole book with the expectation that this would happen, which rather marred my enjoyment of the story as it developed. I was always waiting for the plot to get to where I assumed (correctly) it was going. Again, that might be my fault.

Even with my dislike of free verse, and my disdain for the predictability of the story, it packed a powerful punch. Perhaps it was because it was about sisters. I’ve mentioned several times that I’m close to my sisters, enjoy reading books about sisters, and am affected badly by emotional books about sisters (The Alphabet Sisters, which I have read several times, never fails to make me bawl ugly tears). For that reason, One did manage to still pack an emotional thrust that left me crying as my boyfriend looked at me in bemusement.

Even with that, though, this wasn’t a book that I’d go back to. It has won numerous awards and accolades, but it absolutely didn’t do it for me. I do think, though, that it was mostly down to my own personal reactions, and it’s still a very powerful book.

Three Stars
***

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Book #106 – Love Letters to the Dead

18140047I found a recommendation for this book on a blog, and it percolated in the back of my mind until I decided to act on it and actually read the book. Unfortunately, I cannot find the blog where I picked up the recommendation, which is disappointing, but alas! These things happen.

Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?

It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

I don’t know what it was about this book – at times it was beautiful, and heartbreaking, as you saw one young girl try to deal with something no child should ever have to endure – the death of her sister and the grieving which followed. It read, at times, like the best of Sarah Dessen’s novels, and for that, I would happily give it a good rating.
The issue with this book, however, was that it was utterly forgettable. A few months on, I’ve lost most of the major plot details and I don’t retain any of the feelings which the book evoked. Even the relationship between sisters, which for me is normally an instant thumbs up, was nothing to really write home about.
I thought this book had a lot of potential, and perhaps for someone who has gone through something similar to the narrator, it would resonate more, but for me this book was one of many gentle, friendly books this year, and doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself from the pack.
Nothing to complain about here, but nothing to rave about either.

Three Stars
***

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Books #97 and #101-104 The Sisterhood Series

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Full Series The Sisterhood series is one of those series of books which both my sisters and I all ready – so much so, that I’m not actually sure which books belong to whom in the series. The first four sisterhood books were a complete arc, four books, four girls, four summers, and they resolved (or so I thought) the YA series which I was so fond of (although I always felt that Lena got shafted with the same storyline four times). So I was surprised when, last year, having discovered GoodReads, I realised that there was a fifth sisterhood book. It’s set ten years after the fourth one, and it promised some drastic changes…

In any case, I’m starting at the end, when I should start at the beginning!
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood

Girls in Pants
Forever in Blue
Sisterhood Everlasting – all by Ann Brashares.

The Sisterhood series follows four very different girls, who are the best of friends since birth. Lena, Tibby, Carmen, and Bridget were all born within seventeen days of each other, their mothers meeting at an aerobics class. The summer they all turned sixteen, the first they would ever spend apart, they found a pair of magic pants, which fit all four of them – from Tibby’s short stature to Lena’s classic Greek beauty, Carmen’s Latina ass to Bridget’s athletic build – not just fit them, but made them all look beautiful. Clearly a sign, the pants were what would hold the four of them together over their summer, passed between the girls like a magic bonding, a tangible sign of their sisterhood.
Over the first four sisterhood books, all of which are classed as YA fiction, we see the girls grow up, fall in love, have sex, make friends, lose friends, lose family members, gain family members, start college, find their callings, and stick closely to their September sisters.
The fourth book was published in 2007, when I was sixteen (although I was probably seventeen by the time I read it), and I considered the series done, a happy reminder of something my sisters and I shared, sitting in Sinéad’s bookcase. I enjoyed them all, although I considered Forever in Blue the weakest of the four, and would happily recommend them to anyone. I even had the first film on DVD, although I never managed to watch the second.

So I was surprised when, last year, I realised that there’s a fifth Sisterhood book. Called Sisterhood Everlasting, it’s set ten years after the fourth book, and the Septembers have grown apart. Living different lives, they’re called back together by Tibby sending them tickets to a holiday on the Greek island of Santorini, which played such a big part in their sisterhood before. But on their trip, the girls don’t realise that their lives will change forever.

Because it had been so long since I’d read the first four books, and I was home anyway, I read books 1-4 while I was home in Ireland during August. Sisterhood Everlasting, then, I had on my Kindle, and read on the plane home.

I’m not gonna go too much into the story of it, because I’m not keen on spoilers. Looking back completely neutrally, as far as plot and character development go, I should probably have given it a lower rating than I did. A few of the girls seem stuck in the same ruts that they’ve been in for the last thirteen years (for the LOVE OF GOD, Lena and Kostos) and poor Carmen gets shafted once again when it comes to romance, plus Bridget seems to be the same kind of madcap girl she was when she was sixteen, prone to running away as soon as things get tough. But, that said, perhaps people don’t really change that much from when they’re teenagers to when they’re nearly thirty – I’m not nearly thirty yet, so I am no authority on the subject.

At the time, I really enjoyed Sisterhood Everlasting. Looking back now, I could certainly pick holes in it, and make criticisms, but as an experience, catching up again with the Septembers (although very shortly after the last time I had read the first four books), learning what they had been through in the ten-year interim (turns out, not much…) and going through a tumultuous time when they found their sisterhood again, I thoroughly enjoyed it (and cried buckets).
As a standalone novel, perhaps Sisterhood Everlasting wouldn’t have gained such a high rating from me, but it certainly was a lovely, poignant, and beautiful addendum to a series which I thoroughly enjoyed when I was younger, and did again when I read it last month. Overall, I would have no hesitation in recommending the Sisterhood to any of my friends, or my sisters (although they’ve obviously already read them).

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Girls in Pants
Four Stars
****

Forever in Blue
Three Stars
***

Sisterhood Everlasting
Four Stars
****

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Book #46 – Sisterland

16099180Darren was kind enough to give me this book for my birthday, in April of this year, and I read it not long after – hence the number being in the earlier end of the list. It’s taken me until now to get around to actually reviewing it, though.
Sisterland – Curtis Sittenfeld

From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.

I was a little disappointed in this book, if I’m quite honest – I thought that it would just be more than it was. There was nothing wrong with this book, per se, it just wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. There wasn’t as much of a deconstruction of the sisterly relationship, there wasn’t very much about the senses that Vi and Kate share, there’s no real coming to terms with the truths about herself that the blurb promised for Kate.
I thought this would be a sweeping, entrancing book about the relationship between two sisters set against a backdrop of a terrible tragedy, but all it really ended up being was a seedy little story of an objectionable, selfish, and really quite disagreeable woman, who doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of her actions. I actively disliked Kate by the end of the book, really. She’s not a very nice character, and her motivations are really just… mean and small.
That’s not to say that it was a bad book, just not a very good one – that’s why I gave it a very middling score.

Three Stars
***

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Book #69 – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

15749186Sinéad suggested I try this book. And I suspect she got the recommendation from Tumblr, because that’s where she finds lots of things. I love the cover of this book – it’s really simple, but really pretty, and the handwritten title is evocative of the mood of the book in general.

So!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han

This is a YA book about Lara Jean, who’s 16, and just about to enter her junior year. The middle of three girls, Lara Jean has always written love letters to the boys she loves – once she’s finished with them, that is, she writes all her feelings about them in a letter on her good, thick writing paper, seals them, addresses them, and then puts them in the hatbox her mother gave her, under her bed, never to be sent. Until, that is, the hatbox disappears one day, and her letters get sent.  The recipients of the letters then begin to come forwards, including her first kiss, the boy from summer camp and, horror of horrors, her sister’s ex-boyfriend. But dealing with her feelings instead of writing them down and forgetting about them may lead to some unexpected results.

So! Romance-wise, this was a typical, possibly a little dull, teen romance, with confusion, stolen kisses, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, intrigue, lies, and a hottub. There was nothing objectionable about it, but nothing spectacular either. Yet I’d rate this book pretty highly. Why is that?

Well, it’s actually because of Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters. She’s the middle of three girls, and I am too (although I have a brother as well), so she really resonated with me. Throughout the book there are loads of lovely descriptions of how her relationship with her sisters works, from her smartass younger sister directing when she drives (errr… yes, I need Sinéad to navigate for me) to her lies that everything is fine so as not to worry her older sister, even as far as little things like bribing her sister with cookies to get help with styling hair and her younger sister’s opinion on boys being very important. The relationship between the three Song girls really resonated with me, far more than the romantic entanglements (and they’re very entangled) between Lara Jean, her sister Margot, Margot’s ex Josh, Lara Jean’s first kiss Peter, and Peter’s ex Gen (who also happens to be Lara Jean’s ex-best-friend).

I really, thoroughly enjoyed this book. It wasn’t particularly deep, or thrilling, or in any way heart-rending, but it was cute, sweet, and loving, and did a wonderful job of depicting the relationship between three sisters.
One thing which irritated me a little was that it was written in present tense – lots of books which I’ve read lately are, but it grates a little on my nerves. Not enough to deduct a star though, just something worth noting.

It wasn’t quite all wrapped up neatly in the end, but I was satisfied with the ending. There have been a few reviews which I read on GoodReads who bemoaned the fact that it’s not a perfectly wrapped up ending. That’s in part due to the fact that there’s a sequel coming in 2015, called P.S. I Still Love You, and I’ll certainly pick that one up, too. However, I think the book is strong enough to stand on its own as well – there’s a definite sense of closure at the end of the book, while also retaining the possibility of future romances. And, let’s face it, isn’t that how most teenagers live their lives?

Four Stars
****

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