Saturday, August 27, 2016

From me to you and back again -8-

-This is where I talk about something. Something that comes to mind and sticks there and I want to describe so that it sticks in other peoples minds and makes them think, because that is what this is about. I want to be thinking. I want to be lit up and even alight. And I want you to leave this post with the memory of the thoughts it made you have-

When you love something (but also don't): and what happens when others feel differently.

I identify with Meg Murray (A Wrinkle in Time). I first met her in the graphic novel version of that book and the sense of recognition I got was practically instantaneous, overwhelming, and simultaneously one of the most magical things I had ever felt. She is insecure and fiercely protective of those she loves, but... it was more than that. It was her inner thoughts, the way she regarded herself and valued her actions, and how all of it was described, that made my mind yell that is me.
Meg is different every time I meet her, and when I read the novel and the sequel it was a different experience again, and while I was disappointed that I didn't see myself in her as vividly as I had in the graphic novel, it was okay. Because she was still there.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of my beloved books, but it isn't an all time favourite. It's not in my top ten, despite how much it means to me, and for all I love Meg I did still struggle with certain elements of the novel and areas the plot journied. I love it, cherish it, but I also... don't, necessarily, all of the time. Which seems a tricky kind of thing to navigate.

An alternate point to this discussion is what happens, what does it mean for/to me, when someone says "I hate/struggled with/was unimpressed by/didn't understand (ect.) Meg"? A distinct variation of not liking someone/thing but also not understanding them/it in the same way you do, and one that is infinitely closer to home, was the time I saw someone had stuck pins into a corkboard at my extracurricular activity place, spelling out the fact they hated me- I who was 8 or 9 at the time. The time, effort and perserverance of that act astounds me, still, and I wonder: what facet of me did they hate? What was there about a passionate child that made someone think I'll do this where everyone can see it? No one understands you like you understand yourself. Everyone sees everything differently. The point here is: can you not like the one character I see myself in almost absolutely (or a facet of them), and yet still like me? Do we see the people we read about in a unique light to every other person who reads about them (of course), taking them not only by what is there, on the page, but what we need there to be, what we pick up on, what we like and loathe about ourselves and others. I see myself in Meg Murray and it is a comfort, but maybe you see her as just a person, and there are elements to her that rile you- and should I automatically think you don't like me, or wouldn't want to know me, as a result of that? 
Would I look at someone who said a character I didn't like was basically them and give up all hope of knowing them?
I don't think so, to either of those questions, and that seems the obvious, reasonable answer. We aren't completely defined by a single thing, and just because you dislike a facet of something doesn't mean you dislike every person who has that facet (in most circumstances, there are definitely some exemptions here), who values themselves a certain way or thinks along certain terms regarding their dreams.

I think that with books, stories, characters, we have this amazing chance at finding ourselves in a way we might not otherwise be able to, and it is so exciting, thrilling, impossibly wonderful, and that also makes it shattering and personal when you see the thoughts of others on that character and they are not nice and praising and understanding of what this means to you. It's absolutely a personal experience, and one that we have a chance to share when maybe, before, if it was just us, we wouldn't have, and finding a way to cope with everything that comes from sharing and being open and exposed is something we must manage. Because even if it's distanced from you, the way a book is distanced from its reader, it can still be personal and it can still hurt.

So I come up with an answer: just because you don't like the character doesn't mean you don't like me. And yet I still think about this, on and off, semi-regularly, because it's an idea that fascinates me endlessly. Maybe because it's so impossible to compile all the ways you look at yourself, which makes it so tempting, and when you find a character that comes so close to matching you it's something to be indefinitely protective and passionate about. Maybe I think about it because I'm fragile, beneath a bit of a hard shell (like a turtle), and I remember that pinboard and how long I cried for after seeing it, and even when I don't care- even then- a part of me still thinks that it's important whether or not people like me.
And really, if I like myself, I don't know that it really is.

What character do you identify with so strongly it almost hurts? Any further ponderings?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Made you Up by Francesca Zappia.

Publish date- 2015.
Publisher- Greenwillow Books.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
As Alex makes her way through another awful year of school, she has to combat more than distinguishing reality from the hallucinations that make her see snakes hanging from the roof of her classrooms. She has to navigate friendships, and trust, and fear. Also terrible teachers.

What I thought:
It could be said that I am a fantasy dweller, and when I come out of my genre-built home it is infrequently and usually with lingering disappointment because what a mistake. Contemporary remains the trickiest genre for me to navigate, and also the one that produces the most dnfs-  but sometimes, maybe two or three times a year, I will slip into the pages of a marvellous, captivating gem. And it's contemporary.

Made you up had all the potential, signs and hopefulness attached that made it seem like I was about to read my next stellar contemporary; the reviews were applauding it, and I read many reviews. Also, lobsters apparently featured. And people seemed to really like the lobsters.
When I started reading, I wasn't so sure. The initial childhood memory (feat. lobsters) was cute, but then I had to get to know Alex as a teenager and she was very different.

Luckily, I liked her a lot.
Alex is snarky, doesn't like people, and is fragile- a fact she buries beneath snark and her dislike for people. She has schizophrenia and the up front portrayl of this, showing that it was hard every moment, every hour, making us see and hear Alex navigate the hallucinations her mind throws at her, was so well done. It gave me a perspective and insight to scizophrenia that I was sorely lacking. Of course, every novel will be as different as every experience, but Made you up was genuinely well done. Well thought out, well portrayed, and it felt so very honest.

As for the characters besides Alex, they're a bit of a mixed bag; Alex's dad and sister I liked a lot, but her mother was almost on the uncaring side of pushy and her behaviour was incredibly frustrating; there was a school bully who was the "unnecessarily mean" character, and although she was ultimately important to the plot I didn't really understand how she and Alex hated each other so instantly, and why, particularly, they did; there was the longtime friend, who we drift away from and I never liked much, and the new friends, only Miles of whom we really got to know. I was hesitant to like him, what with Alex's immediate dislike and mistrust, and there's always that lingering doubt: as he becomes more important, Alex questions (and forces the reader to question) whether he's real or simply too good (and unpredictable) to be true.

Going in, I was a little concerned because I had read that Alex is an unreliable narrator because of her schizophrenia and hallucinations, and I always struggle with unreliable narrators. But it turned out that I never actually felt like she was unreliable; for the most part, distinguishing what was real and what was hallucination was relatively simple for Alex.
The plot, while unexpected and enthralling, was also a little bizarre. A part of me wondered whether the whole thing was a hallucination, as things stretched into the realm of almost far fetched, which certainly makes things difficult for Alex and the reader; overall I'm not sure how I feel about that aspect of the novel, but the rest of it I throughly enjoyed.

Rating: Excellent.
A stunning novel. I was emotional and amused and I liked Alex a lot; her growth and struggles were so clearly written and the whole story had such an element of raw truthfulness to it. I do think a. people judged Alex's hair far too much, and b. not enough lobsters, though.