Wild

mourik-web1I’ve loved Cheryl Strayed since before I knew who she was. While her work moved me profoundly, the name “Cheryl Strayed” meant nothing to me. To me (and countless others), she was simply “Sugar.”

“Dear Sugar” to be precise.

The now famous letter “The Truth That Lives There” was one of the very first I’d read, and I remember the way it shook me to my core. A collection of readers all looking for a way out, wondering if they deserved one, if they were right to want one, and instead of judgment or rationalizations, Sugar boldly says,

“Go, even though there is nowhere to go. Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay. Go, because you want to. Because wanting to leave is enough.” (Emphasis mine.)

In one letter I understood that readers spilled the darkest parts of their hearts to Sugar because Sugar would do the same. She’d talk about her past, her divorce, her parents’ divorce, her mother’s death and the rocky road it took to get her here, to you. Her words were mesmerizing. Her responses were always more than just advice; they felt like poetry. So who was this mysterious woman who could tell strangers baring their souls to her what they needed to hear all while baring her own as well?

Finally, in 2012 she revealed herself to us and the world as Cheryl Strayed.
In 2012 she released Wild.

I read Wild, Strayed’s debut memoir, in about three days, though “read” is putting it mildly. I devoured it.

Wild is the story of Strayed’s experiences on the Pacific Crest Trail—a 2,659-mile hike that winds its way from Mexico, through the Colorado Desert, over the Sierra Nevadas, all the way to Canada. Her decision to hike it is made almost on a whim. She sees a travel book in the grocery store and can’t stop thinking about it until before she has time to second-guess herself, she’s buying gear at REI and selling off her belongings in preparation for three solid months in the wilderness. Too little time to hike the whole distance, but enough to still be a mind-bending feat.

The real “why” behind it all is the most interesting part. Having just entered a particularly dark period of her life, Strayed is looking for answers anywhere she can find time. Instead of being a recent college grad with the world at her feet, she’s a young college dropout whose marriage has disintegrated, whose mother is dead from a sudden and aggressive cancer diagnosis, and whose self-destructive behavior has her spiraling downward fast.

In short? She’s lost and it’s clear that it’s the trail she hopes can ground her, whether she realized it at the time or not.

And so her adventure begins. As she takes one heavy step after another, stumbles on one obstacle after another, falters at one crossroad after another, Strayed uses her trademark style to put us there right alongside her. Her writing is effusive and lyrical and it never lets up, which made every moment of her journey a joy to read.

Her words wormed their way into my heart in just the same way that her responses would when she was Sugar. I felt like I was growing with her. It felt like we were in it together.

“Until now, I hadn’t even truly understood the world’s vastness—hadn’t even understood how vast a mile could be—until each mile was beheld at walking speed.”

It’s hard to express just how much I loved this book. Watching Strayed go from this terrified and confused woman to someone braver and stronger and more confident and accepting of herself than she ever thought possible resonated with me profoundly. This book made me want to live. It made me proud of my own journeys. It made me feel a kinship with the author. It made me want to get out into the wild and breathe the same air she did.

I would read it again and again. Maybe one day I’ll even read it on the PCT. When I was done, anything seemed possible.

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The Sympathizer

nguyen-sympathizer-jacket-artViet Thanh Nguyen’s first novel The Sympathizer was one of the most surprising books I read last year. It’s told from the perspective of a Vietnamese communist sympathizer—a spy who has infiltrated the South Vietnamese army. The story begins with what should have been an ending: the fall of Saigon. The nameless spy follows his general to Los Angeles, all the while reporting back to the Viet Cong and struggling with his own feelings of guilt, loss, and loneliness.

Everything we see, we see through his eyes and his alone. Everything we know is only what he tells us. And there’s a thought rests at the back of your mind: how can we trust anything from the mouth of a double agent? This is his confession, but who is he confessing to and how can we know if he’s telling them the truth?

Reading The Sympathizer was a true roller coaster ride. From the start, I found the style of writing, and thus the narrator’s voice, somewhat cold. Distancing. I was enraptured with the descriptions of the last days of Saigon, then as the dust settled and I heard more from the narrator, I found myself frustrated with him. I found him unlikeable and irritating.

At times selfish and even sexist, I couldn’t help but pull away from him. His Communist leanings I could understand, his spying I could understand, instead it was his oftentimes shitty behavior that grated on me. But just when I thought I knew what I was in for, I would suddenly find myself sympathizing with him, rooting for him and against some other oppressive force.

For 367 pages, I teetered back and forth on this emotional seesaw. I wish I could say the ride was a joy, but it was so often frustrating for me. It was so difficult to be engrossed, and even harder to want to pick it up again every time I set it down. I was thankful with every page turned because I knew I was one step closer to the end.

I wanted off this ride.

The thing carrying me through as I read this book was the sense that I was getting something out of it. I was learning something, and not just anything, but something I needed to know. The Vietnam War is another area in our history where my knowledge is woefully lacking. (I’m pretty sure watching the first half of Full Metal Jacket doesn’t exactly count as an in-depth study.) It’s fiction to be sure, but there was something that felt sort of . . . important about reeducated myself through the perspective of the Vietnamese.

I might have hated the way it felt to have my emotions yanked back and forth, but there was never a doubt in my mind that it was being done with purpose. Nguyen hammers it home just how hard it is to understand where you loyalty truly lies as he toys with your own.

I think it was only in learning about the war this way that I could have stumbled upon the single, obvious truth that was so perfect, I was shocked at not having encountered it sooner.

Simply, that history is written by the victor . . . except when it comes to Vietnam.

Vietnam’s history was written by the losers.
It was written by us.

It’s in contemplating Hollywood that our narrator realizes,

“I naively believed that I could divert the Hollywood organism from its goal, the simultaneous lobotomization and pickpocketing of the world’s audiences. The ancillary benefit was strip-mining history, leaving the real history in the tunnels along with the dead, doling out tiny sparkling diamonds for audiences to gasp over.”

This was of course, one of those moments where I was on the uptick of my teeter-totter. Disgusted with Hollywood and even with myself for letting Hollywood educate me on this war, I was rooting for our narrator. “Fuck Hollywood,” I heard myself say—turning on one of my own passions without even realizing it.

I of course came crashing down again with his next repulsive move.

Finally—thankfully—I reached the conclusion, the culmination of all my emotional work, and I could hardly believe what I found. It was almost like a different book entirely.

The last few chapters were such a whirlwind of emotion for me. I was compelled and repulsed and overwhelmed all at once.

My god. The ending of this book pushed it from three stars to four. It made the nightmarish roller coaster and all the dragging of my feet to finish this thing worth it. In The Sympathizer, Nguyen proves he’s one of those voices truly worth hearing—just don’t expect him to do the work for you.

2015: Year in Review

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My last post detailed the success of my project, but I wanted to give an overview of the works themselves. It’s hard to admit that I once again failed in my attempt to post reviews of everything. I know I was wavering in my commitment to this blog sometimes. It was never that I wanted to abandon it, but more that I had a difficult time getting myself to sit down and write.

But I was always happy to be reading.

Here’s the full breakdown (comics included) of everything I read in 2015:

  1. The Terror by Dan Simmons
  2. The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
  3. Ultimates 2: Volume 2 Grand Theft America by Mark Millar
  4. Sula by Toni Morrison
  5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  6. Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness by Alfredo Corchado
  7. Secret Avengers Volume 1: Let’s Have a Problem by Ales Kot
  8. Secret Avengers Volume 2: The Labyrinth by Ales Kot
  9. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  10. The Wicked + the Divine Volume 1: Faust Act by Kieron Gillan
  11. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  12. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  13. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  14. Secret Avengers Volume 3: God Level by Ales Kot
  15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  16. The Round House by Louise Erdich
  17. The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad
  18. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  19. The First Bad Man by Miranda July
  20. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  21. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  22. Native Son by Richard Wright
  23. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  24. Sexcastle by Kyle Starks
  25. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (spillover into 2016)

Most thought-provoking: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Most disappointing: The Intuitionist
Funniest: The First Bad Man
Most surprising favorite: Native Son
Least favorite: The Wandering Falcon
Most over hyped: Station Eleven

All-Time #1 Favorite: Everything I Never Told You

Overall, it was a very good year for me. Though there were a handful of titles I didn’t especially enjoy and only one that I actively disliked, there weren’t any that I found truly, objectively awful—a marked improvement considering I had to contend with both The Good Girl and Hell House last year.

As for next year? I plan to continue making a serious effort to read more POC, though with less stringent rules. (No more hardcore tracking of percentages!)IMG_4111 (2)

The book I’m looking forward to the most is certainly Mark Danielewski’s 
The Familiar
. It’s currently sitting next to me at the moment, just waiting begging me to finish The Sympathizer or cast it aside and start reading it immediately.

There are a handful of book clubs I have my eye on (including a tiny one of my own), a host of new titles that I missed in 2015, and—thanks to Christmas—some fantastic comics with my name on them.

I’m feeling reinvigorated. I feel more ready to tackle this blog with the dedication it deserves, and I’m looking forward to it all.

I hope you’ll stick with me.

Happy reading!

-S

2015: The Experiment

2015 books collage

I began 2015 with a singular goal in mind: I wanted 75% of the books I read to be written by people of color. When I realized that the only book I read in 2014 written by someone who wasn’t white was The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, I saw that something was terribly amiss. One out of 19 books—that’s a measly 5%. I went out of my way this year to do better. A lot better.

So, you might be wondering, where do I stand now?

[Drumroll, please!]

With 14 out the 19 books I read this year written by people of color, I am achingly close to my goal, but no dice. I fell just shy of the mark at 74%.

74%! I can’t believe how close I came. I probably wouldn’t be so frustrated if I didn’t know for a fact that it would have been 79% if I hadn’t been seduced by the lure of a book club that I didn’t even end up attending. Instead of reading the next diverse title on my list, I skipped it to read Station Eleven (which I hated, by the way) under the impression that I could do so and still reach my goal. Gah. So irritating! But oh well. I still came damn close.

I should also add that I’ve continued my practice of not including graphic novels or comics in my final count. I didn’t count them last year as part of the total number of books I read, and continued that this year. Mostly because I can read one in about an hour so it feels like cheating somehow?

I admit that’s an arbitrary distinction. I think I’ll have to look into changing that for 2016, but for now, I haven’t been counting them in my tally.

Numbers aside, the real question at the heart of this experiment is… did it work? Did I notice a difference in reading mostly people of color for an entire year? Do I feel different for having done so?

In this I am happy to report only complete, unabashed success. It changed everything. Americanah opened my eyes in ways no book ever had. Everything I Never Told You literally strengthened a friendship. The Sympathizer and The Wandering Falcon highlighted my own ignorance about two completely different parts of the world.

Never has reading left me feeling so incredibly, incredibly alive.

And I don’t mean to say that as a way to disparage any of the amazing books I’ve read in the past. Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, and Cormac McCarthy will always hold a special place in my heart. They’re brilliant. There’s no questioning that for me. It’s just that it’s impossible to see the ways in which your picture of the world is incomplete until you start hearing the voices that had been silent to you.

This little project has completely changed the way I intend to read for the rest of my life. I realized that I just can’t afford not to consciously seek those voices out. I can’t afford not to think about it.

I really encourage you to attempt this project in your own life. If 75% seems daunting (maybe you only read five books year), then try seeking out just one or two. When you add a book to your to-read pile, take the extra second to see if the author is white. If they are? Then go out of your way to add a book by someone who’s not.

And if you ask me why? Then I answer, to add new sounds to the symphony of your literary canon. To hear the full orchestra of the world.

And because it’s worth it.

Trust me.

The Looming Tower

On September 11, 2001 I was 14 years old and largely disinterested in politics. Aside from the quick rundown of the headlines on the morning news, I didn’t pay much attention to the world at large. I was intensely self-absorbed, as most teens are at that age. My own life felt so overwhelming that I didn’t have time to worry about the rest of the country.

Then came the a.m. announcement that the towers had fallen, that we were under attack, and that people were dead. Something was changing, but I didn’t know what and I couldn’t know how much.

Today, I’m happy to say I’ve become a moderately well-informed adult, even if I’m still far from as knowledgeable as I want to be or, perhaps, as I should be. Yet when I look back on the War on Terror, I once again find myself realizing that I don’t know why we’re here, and that I don’t really know how any of it happened. But this is the central question that Lawrence Wright’s 2006 book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 attempts to answer.

In order to get to the bottom of it all, we start at the beginning:

“This is the man, then—decent, proud, tormented, self-righteous—whose lonely genius would unsettle Islam, threaten regimes across the Muslim world, and beckon to a generation of rootless young Arabs who were looking for meaning and purpose in their lives and would find it in jihad.”

A perfect description of bin Laden, no? Except Wright isn’t talking about bin Laden. He’s talking about Sayyid Qutb, a man who I’d never heard of until I picked up this book. A 1950s Islamist radicalist, Qutb is Wright’s patient zero, so to speak. Angry, conservative, and anti-modernism in almost all its forms, Qutb’s writings seem to be the domino that start a horrifying chain reaction.

In just the first chapter, we can already see that the road leading to 2,977 dead Americans and our longest war is longer than I ever expected. Wright’s book was beginning to answer questions I didn’t even know I had.

When we look at Looming Tower through the lens of a post-Arab Spring world, a world Wright couldn’t have begun to imagine yet, it tells us so much more. It explains (although briefly) the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, how radicalism spread from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, and the trail of assassinations and regime changes leading up to those that would be overthrown in 2010.

When I finished it, I would describe the book to friends as “the most balanced a book about 9/11 written by an American could be.” What I mean is that it’s obvious that the author was affected by the tragedy in 2001. It’s obvious that he believes violence against innocent civilians is unjustifiable, that radical Islam is misguided, and that al-Qaeda was wrong. Common thoughts, but also largely secular, Western thoughts. At the same time, Wright isn’t shy about pointing the finger where it’s due.

He shines a light on bureaucratic bumbling by the CIA and FBI, our failure to recognize an obvious threat, and the irreparable mistakes of the US Military and the Clinton administration in the Middle East. There were even moments when key anti-American players are assassinated, but the bloodshed is so terrible that I couldn’t help but feel empathy, not elation. And that’s something I deeply appreciated about the book. It’s not blindly pro-American just because we happened to be the victim of this one particular tragedy.

By the time I reached the end of the book, my understanding of bin Laden, the attacks, and the war had increased tenfold. So many questions were answered, but at the same time there was still so much more I wanted to know beyond the falling of the towers. 2006 feels so long ago at this point—so much more has happened. It’s easy to imagine a sequel, another few hundred pages explaining how we got from there to here, filling in the rest of the picture. But for that, we’ll just have to wait.

[This was re-edited from a review originally posted on November 13, 2013.]

The Good Girl

Where do I even begin with Mary Kubica’s debut novel, The Good Girl? Touted in its back-cover copy as written “in the tradition of Gillian Flynn and Tana French,” The Good Girl does bear some similarities to Gone Girl and The Likeness in that it is certainly a book and it certainly is filled with pages.

But that’s about it.

I don’t mean to be glib, though, so let me give you the gist.

The Good Girl is a thriller set in Chicago and centered on the kidnapping of twentysomething school teacher (and daughter of a prominent judge), Mia Dennett. Detective Gabe Hoffman along with Mia’s mother Eve enter into a desperate search to find her. The story is told from alternating points of view, flashing forward and backward in time from chapter to chapter. It attempts to be a type of “whydunnit” in the style of The Secret History, but with the pop-culture feel of Gone Girl.

None of this on its face is a necessarily bad idea. The unique storytelling provides some freshness in what could be a potentially stale or straightforward concept, and the general plot could easily make for an entertaining beach read. But when The Good Girl starts going off the rails, it jumps off the tracks at full speed.

Kubica’s descriptions of Chicago read as if told from a complete outsider’s perspective. I found some of the description tedious, and in one or two cases, just plain incorrect. This would become a kind of running theme with the novel. There are even several excruciating scenes meant to depict a modicum of detective work, but which actually just define basic terms and ideas (i.e. a page-long definition of the word “hypnosis”) at length. More than just uninventive and dull to read, I actually found some of these passages a little insulting to my intelligence. But still, I plugged along.

Unfortunately, The Good Girl became more than just a mediocre story–it morphed into a sludge-like cocktail of sexism and racism. It got to the point that I hated every second I was reading it. I dreaded picking up the book, knowing I would enjoy nothing.

To be clear, I don’t mean to say that the characters in the story were sexist or racist (though that is certainly the case as well). That’s never an inherent problem. A few years ago I read Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee, which is from the perspective a completely vile human being. But that character is used to explore the complex realities of post-apartheid South Africa. The novel knows that the racism and violence it depicts is deplorable, and we, as readers, feel this too.

That story, despite being much more graphic, was much easier to stomach than The Good Girl, which is subtly complicit. South Side Chicago neighborhoods and later, the nearby town of Gary, Indiana are consistently disparaged, their large black populations negatively highlighted (as if the mark of a shitty neighborhood were merely the fact that black people lived there), all without any understanding or empathy. And while those areas do indeed suffer from higher rates of poverty and crime and do have a mainly African American population, Kubica treats the issue as if it’s a given that such places would be the only refuge of criminal activity. As if all crime stems from there, and there alone. We never see these neighborhoods from the eyes of their inhabitants, only through the negative judgments of our protagonists.

Worse yet, The Good Girl has only a single non-white character: Dalmar. Dalmar is an African immigrant whose skin is described as “black, like the blackest of black bears, like the blubbery skin of a killer whale, an alpha predator with no predators of their own”–not exactly a flattering portrait. On top of that, he is, of course, also a suspected rapist, a murderer, and the leader of a dangerous crime syndicate. He is given no other qualities.

Again, it isn’t the fact that Dalmar is a villain that’s troublesome. It’s the way the writing ties his blackness to his villainy, and it’s the complete lack of any other non-white character to act as any kind of comparison point that makes this more than just unfortunate, but genuinely upsetting.

In fact, when black people appear in the background of Kubica’s novel, their blackness seems to be the only thing she points out, and it’s pointed out repeatedly. If their skin color is all that matters, how can they even begin to feel like real people? How can they be anything but set decoration for an order-less and violent world? It’s utterly appalling.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

Her treatment of women fares no better.

Every woman (with a substantial role) in the book is a mother. The only women that get empathy are mothers. The only woman consistently described as bitchy is also constantly compared to her father and is childless. Women’s beauty is emphasized and prioritized. In an off-hand comment, Detective Hoffman makes light of the potential abuse of teens by their teacher–regarding it as “complaints by numerous teenyboppers,” which is disgustingly glib.

A chapter-long tirade against abortion even makes its way into the book, which would merely be frustrating to read if it were simply a character’s opinion, but everything in the novel reinforces this belief. The construction of the plot means that we never hear Mia’s point of view until the very end, which means most of this discussion happens without knowing or considering what she wants. I find this extremely problematic, regardless of whether I support a pro-choice agenda or not. What does Mia think and why? Shouldn’t that matter at all? As is, the bulk of the justification for the anti-abortion agenda comes from Mia’s mother, with Mia just sitting along for the ride.

Her kidnapping is also infuriatingly romanticized. At the end, the book takes great pains to insist that she suffered from no stockholm syndrome and that her kidnapper who constantly threatens to murder her and who strikes her repeatedly is “misunderstood,” which ends up making violence against women look like some kind of sick foreplay.

END OF SPOILERS

By the time the mystery is resolved, I couldn’t have cared less. I was fed up with the book and with the sloppy, careless writing.

I don’t demand that a novel reach epic heights of literary greatness to be enjoyable, but I do ask that it contain a basic sense of human decency, that any offensive ideas be written with a purpose. What I cannot tolerate, perhaps even more than thinking that she believes these things, is the thought that the author was merely far too lazy to consider the power of her words.

What a complete waste.

The Good Girl is published by Harlequin and goes on sale July 29.

A Word on Spoilers

Spoilers. They’re everywhere these days, aren’t they? I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone hates them. No one wants the book they’re about to read or the movie they’re about to see to be ruined because someone else couldn’t keep their mouth shut. But there are degrees of spoilers. Telling someone who’s never read Harry Potter how the final book ends is egregious and, in my world, unforgivable. But what if you don’t go that far?

What if you just mention your favorite joke from a story? Or your favorite scene? Is that still a spoiler?

Let’s try a specific example.

What if there’s a cameo in the middle of a movie that remained a complete surprise to everyone upon first watch, but you decide to let the cat out of the bag in your review? That’s not telling anyone how the movie ends or what happens to the main characters, so is it really a spoiler? I’d argue yes. This exact scenario played out on At the Movies with A. O. Scott and Michael Phillips in 2009 when they reviewed Zombieland. You can watch the clip here, but if you haven’t seen the movie and want to, I don’t recommend watching it. Basically, Phillips gleefully reveals the surprise to the viewers. What bothered me about this is the fact that when I saw the movie, it was so delightfully unexpected, I was almost giddy–why would anyone, especially someone who liked the film, want to ruin that experience for everyone else?

There’s a joy in discovering things about a piece of work like that. Can you imagine what The Godfather would be like if its scenes hadn’t so thoroughly permeated pop culture? Imagine seeing that movie unfold and genuinely having absolutely no idea where Sonny Corleone would end up. Or how about Star Wars? What would The Empire Strikes Back be like to watch if we didn’t already know who Luke’s father was?

That’s what I want to preserve for you with my reviews. I know that if you wanted to learn more about any of the books I talk about, it’d be easy. But I like the idea that maybe I can convince someone of a story’s value without having to pull out all of its pieces. I like the idea that I can hate something without needing to ruin it in a way that might make it less enjoyable for you if you disagree.

My boyfriend takes things to the extreme, often refusing to watch trailers or read news about anything he’s interested in reading or watching in order to preserve a kind of “pure” experience for himself. I don’t think it’s necessary to go that far. But I do want you to know why it is that my reviews tend to be sparse on details when it comes to talking about plot.

I want to give you the same fresh experience I had, the chance to really dive in free from expectations about where the story will go. I’m not sure if I’ve been able to strike the perfect balance on this bog yet, but I’m certainly working on it, and I hope it’ll end up being worthwhile.

-S

Eleanor & Park

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You don’t have to read YA fiction to notice the trend that’s been going strong since Harry Potter. First came the boy wizard, and then came Twilight, Eragon, Percy Jackson, The Mortal Instruments. Even Hunger Games doesn’t stray too far from the path in its eschewing of reality for a horrific dystopian future. So when buzz about Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park started drifting my way, I noticed. Because what sets this book apart is that its title characters are, well, normal. They don’t have special powers. They’re not “the chosen ones.” They don’t save a nation from unspeakable forces. Eleanor and Park do something that felt much more magical than any of that—they fall in love.

Told from its title characters’ points of view in alternating chapters, Eleanor & Park explores the lives of two wayward teens in 1986 middle America and their blossoming relationship.

I purposefully chose to read the book in September, in the heart of back-to-school season, in the midst of my annual rewatching of My So-Called Life. I set the scene for myself because I had a feeling that the book would just fit into my heart better that way. And it did.

I found myself lingering over pages in this lightning quick read, rationing chapters, hesitating before turning the page, just so I’d get to spend a little bit longer with it. Just so I wouldn’t finish it too fast. Which, of course, is exactly what I did with all of my favorite books in high school. Eleanor & Park felt more honest than almost any other portrayal of teenage love I can think of. When I finished it, I wished I could have gone back in time and found this book when I was still 16.

It’s a supremely easy read. I don’t think I’d call it groundbreaking, either. It’s just refreshing. It’s like a comfortable old friend. Just seriously consider picking it up the next time you’re in the mood to remember high school without all the bullshit of having to actually be in high school.

[originally posted October 30, 2013]

An Experiment

I’ve been blogging consistently since I was about 14 years old. I had a Xanga. No one read it because I didn’t want anyone to read it. I didn’t tell anyone about it except my best friend, and it stayed that way until college. Then I prepared for study abroad and started a new blog, and a group of about five of my closest friends were aware of it, though I still kept a private blog just for myself (and again, maybe my best friend). What I wrote was a fairly thorough diary of my life and nothing more.

When Tumblr rolled out, I was a senior in college. Everyone I knew signed up for it, but I had no idea what to do with it. The format was foreign to me—it didn’t seem meant for writing and that was all I ever did. But I kept up with it, posting regularly and writing less until I hardly really wrote anything at all. It didn’t take too long to realize this, and for a long time, I hated it but did nothing. I had an audience there, albeit a minuscule one, and I didn’t feel I could go back to hiding everything I wrote.

But late last year, I decided to give myself a challenge.

I was reading more than I had in what felt like my entire life. I was an English major in college, yes, and literature was always my best subject. Yes, I remember being 6 years old and wanting to be a writer. But I never made enough time to read for fun, for myself. Then suddenly I found myself going through a book or two a month. I was always reading something, and it was the most consistent I’d ever been at anything. At around the same time, I was looking for something to dedicate myself to as a way to force myself to write again. I needed some kind of timeline. Some kind of deadline. Something—anything—to compel me.

And then it hit me.

If I reviewed every book I read, I’d post at least once a month. It was an achievable goal. It was realistic.
It was the push I needed.

And now here we are, a good five full months on the dot since I started that project for myself and I haven’t skipped a beat yet.

So where does this leave you?

Well, the experiment will continue. Everything I read, I’ll review, and I’ll review it here. I’ll also be moving over my existing reviews to get started. So everything from my thoughts on Jane Eyre to why I hated Hope: A Tragedy and where I think contemporary YA fiction is going will be here. These are reviews for no one and everyone, and if no one finds this little blog, that’s okay, too. Because most of all, these reviews are for me.

Welcome.

hello, there

This is me.