A quick roundup of what I read last month and whether I liked it. Click on the title of the book to open a new tab and go to my review/recommendation if it isn’t underlined then I haven’t got around to writing/posting the review yet.
I’m a bit behind on the reviews at the moment, but expect quite a few in the future.
This is an anthology collection of six word memoirs that focus on the topic of sex, love and relationships.
This is obviously a very quick but contemplative read and because it can be picked up and put down a lot it would be great to read on the commute. I found it amazing how each story evoked so much given the economy of language the writers were given to work with. (Obviously I’d particularly recommend this collection to people who like minimalist works or six word stories in particular.) Although this only took me minutes to read I feel like I am going to be re-reading this book often.
I feel like the best way to recommend this book to anyone is to show you some of my favourite examples:
Plot: This book covers Trisha’s first few days of summer after 9th grade, (I think this makes her 15 I’m not overly familiar with the american grades and what they need). Trisha’s family consists of a Mum who is a hypochondriac, her Mum’s slob of a boyfriend Donnie and her bossy big sister who is obsessed with the idea of getting on the reality tv show called ‘Real World’. The main plot of the novel is Trish getting a summer job at the mall, meeting Rose. This is a bad ass coming of age story fueled by drugs, alcohol and the sense of indestructibility only a teenager has as well as a love story between two loners/weird girls.
Talking about her Mum: ‘I have found that thinking about Ma like she’s another girl in the world, like any of the girls going on about their boyfriends in the bathroom at school makes me less horrified that she is in the fact my mother. When I start thinking of that word, mother, its when I can start to feel empty and panicky and filled with big scary nothing feelings’.
I really enjoyed this novel, as well as being a great coming of age story it introduced me to a world I’ve never experienced. Although I have read quite a lot of Queer YA books (particularly when I was younger) I don’t know if I’ve ever read something that was so different to my own experience growing up that I enjoyed as much.
Trisha’s home life is incredibly unstructured, she has no rules which has led to a regular alcohol use. Her mother doesn’t seem to care about her because she essentially lives on the couch due to her hypochondria and her Mum’s boyfriend doesn’t work except to move stolen goods. Her sister is in some ways the antithesis of her in that she cares a great deal about her appearance and is very driven towards her goal of being on a reality TV show. (Without spoiling the plot I’m going to have to be vague). Other experiences that are touched upon in this book that I didn’t expect going in but I was actually really interested in were, shop lifting, using crystal meth, getting tattooed whilst high and a dramatic event involving a used tampon. (Also coming from a non-American perspective I also felt like I learnt about the US mall culture which I had seen on TV and Movies but never quite got how significant they were to socialising for some American teenagers, so that was interesting)
This book takes place over a few days, the short time frame means all the actions of the characters are exacerbated and leads to some really intense character development. This along with the fact that these aren’t regular days in Trish’s life (in many ways these are some of the most important and defining few days in the young woman’s life, because of her sexual awakening ).
First Description of Rose: 'She was holding a big army bag and wearing a bizarre outfit of bright stripes. The top was striped with orange and green and yellow and the bottom was stained khaki and the whole thing was too big for her. Her hair was dark but it was all smashed under a hairnet like an old lady. She looked greasy. Her makeup, mostly eyeliner, had pooled around her eyes like liquid, and her facehad a sheen to it. She spoke real low, in a voice that sounded so deep and scuffed-up it was like she was was a fifty-year-old bartender in a thirteen-year-old's body'.
Trish isn’t entirely likable at times but I think this gives the character an authentic feeling. Because her attitude is understandable given her home environment and I would say even at the points in which she was losing some of my sympathy she was still very relatable. An example of this is when she is cynical about teenagers mental illness and self-harmers, as well as using ableist slurs but when talking about her Mum she is says of mental illness that it ‘is worse than having kidney infection or a gallstone ‘cause it can go on forever, and in the process you lose all of your friends for being crazy’. But I can understand how as a kid growing up in that environment she learn’s to care for her Mum/try to understand her and might become isolated develop a very cynical tone towards the rest of the world.
In the description of this book it talks about Trish as being ‘gender blurring’ so I was expecting gender identity to be explored in some way (maybe through non binary identity). However Trisha (who is described using female pronouns throughout) ’gender blurring’ is more in terms of presentation, i.e how she dresses. So if your’e looking for a book about a teenager figuring out their gender identity this is not that novel.
Who would I recommend this book to?: If you like YA literature with loner characters finding themselves, in a stream of consciousness style like The Catcher in the Rye then this book might be for you. I believe when i purchased this book it was classified as adult but I think it share a lot of themes with YA literature, with teen protagonists and an unconventional YA romance. Its definitely on the darker side of contemporary YA and also deals with a lot of difficult subjects such as alcoholism, drug taking and shop lifting. I know personally teen me would have enjoyed this book as much as early twenties me does!
Also if you don’t like romance I would say that although Trish and Rose’s relationship is a big part of this story , the reader/Trish only meet Rose halfway through the novel so you get quite a while to get to know Trish. I would say this book is more of a coming of age story than a Romance.
Would you read more by the author?: Yes definitely, the writing style really grabbed me and I’ve heard good things about her other works especially Rent Girl.
Have you ever read this book, what did you think of it?
Plot: A retired artist, Masuji Ono reflects on his life, and his changing environment in post-war Japan. This book focuses on the artists changing perceptions of his own past as well as the changing cultural landscape of Japan as a whole.
Favourite Quote: (This is also the opening of the novel). ‘If on a sunny day you climb the steep path leading up from the little wooden bridge still referred to around here as ‘the bridge of hesitation’, you will not have to walk far before the roof of my house becomes visible between the tops of two gingho tress. Even if it did not occupy such a commanding position on the hill, the house would still stand out from all the others nearby, so that as you come up the path, you may find yourself wondering what what sort of wealthy man owns it. But then I am not, nor have I ever been a wealthy man’.
Firstly I should just say this is one of my new favourite books so this is probably going to be less of a review more of just a post full of gushing praise. So with that in mind:
What I really loved about this novel was how beautifully/subtly written it is. This is particularly true of in regards to the shifting opinion the reader has of the unreliable narrator, (I would say in many ways that this book is a character study of the narrator/protagonist). You get a sense from the beginning that the narrator/protagonist is presenting his version of the truth. Especially when he directly talks to the reader using ‘you’ he begins to second guess the readers perception of him and you begin to notice how his importance in the world is different to other peoples sense of his importance. This is seen also when people are angry at the old ways of Japan he sees it as a direct slight to him. In many ways he is representative of many aspects of pre-war Japan and is therefore really distrustful of how prominent America and American heroes are becoming in both Japan and in his grandsons life.
The more I think about this book more layered I think it is and the more I have to talk about but to keep from spoiling the plot. I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did and I can understand why people would find this book difficult to get into or even slow. All I can say is that I personally found the writing beautiful and the protagonist so compelling tat I breezed through this book and even if you find it difficult to into I believe its a really rewarding read.
Who would I recommend this book to?: Anyone who is interested in a quiet contemplative, (this book mightn’t be for you if you like plots that thunder along at a mile a minute) and skillfully written book. in particular I would recommend it to people who like reading books written from the perspectives of unreliable narrators as this is the best example of that style of writing I have ever read. Personally I found this book much better than the previous Ishiguro book I had read ‘Never Let Me Go’, but if you have read and liked the unreliable narrator aspect to that novel I would also recommend this to you.
Have you ever read this book, what did you think of it?