Every Exquisite Thing

I don’t quite know how I feel about my latest read, Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick. This book, which will be released next month, is the first Matthew Quick book I’ve read, but I doubt it will be the last. (Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock has been on my TBR pile for quite a while.) Even though I’m still pondering what I think about the book, the most important thing is that it did make me think. I have a feeling many other readers will feel the same way.

Nanette O’Hare is a girl who has it all together. She’s a good student, a star soccer player, and a rule-follower. She thinks she knows exactly what path her life is going to take…until her favorite teacher introduces her to The Bubblegum Reaper, a book that changes everything Nanette believes about herself and the world around her.

Nanette quickly becomes obsessed with The Bubblegum Reaper and its author, and, for the first time in her life, she questions the path she’s on. What if she doesn’t want to play soccer? What if she doesn’t want to hang out with her superficial friends? What if she doesn’t want to go to college? Suddenly, it’s okay to ask these questions and break free from everything she’s supposed to do.

While Nanette is rebelling against the life others have chosen for her, she’s joined by Booker, the reclusive author of The Bubblegum Reaper, who never wants to talk about his only published work; Alex, another fan of Booker’s novel, a boy who maybe takes the whole “rebel against the norm” thing too far; and Oliver, a kid who is tormented at school and needs someone to fight for him. Nanette believes she’s found kindred spirits in all three of these people, especially Alex.

Nanette and Alex grow closer, united in their rebellion against the status quo. But what will happen when Alex begins to lose himself, when he gets into trouble that he can’t talk his way out of? How will Nanette cope? Will she lose herself, too? Will she revert to the girl she once was–just going through the motions of “normal” life–or will she find a way to remain true to herself?

Read Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick to witness how a book changes one girl’s life, helps her find her voice, and makes her really look at the world around her and begin to find her own place in it.


When I was reading this book, I sympathized with Nanette, worried about her, and kind of wanted to be her. When she finally asserted herself and demanded that others see the “real” her, I cheered…and wished that I could do the same thing. When Nanette was both drawn to and repelled by Alex and his almost manic sense of rebellion, I wanted to shout at her to run away from what would surely be a destructive relationship. (In many ways, I was absolutely correct.) When she did what was expected of her, I did a bit of internal screaming, raging at her to wake up and live her own life. Suffice it to say, this character–the whole cast, really–elicited a lot of feelings, and most of them weren’t particularly comfortable.

Throughout the course of this book, I wanted those around Nanette–especially her parents–to see just how lonely she was and find some way to truly understand her. While that only sort of happened, Nanette did gain a greater understanding of herself. She was no longer content to simply do what everyone expected of her. Yes, some people got hurt, some judged her, and even those closest to her didn’t get why she was, in their eyes, throwing everything away. Nanette didn’t care. She eventually learned to live her own life instead of the one others wanted her to live. That’s something that many adults–myself included–still struggle with.

I guess, thanks to putting my thoughts into this post, I’ve realized just how much I really did like this book. It isn’t a happy-go-lucky book, and it’s not something you can read and never think about again. This book, like The Bubblegum Reaper, makes readers think and examine their own lives and who they’re living for. To some adults, that’s a dangerous concept to present to teen readers (and may explain why The Catcher in the Rye is still one of the most banned books around).

I do think Every Exquisite Thing is a book for mature teen readers. It deals with some adult situations and language that the vast majority of middle grade readers (and some teens and adults) are not ready to handle. This is a novel that invites some fairly intense philosophical questions, so be prepared for that.

For those that want to learn a bit more about Every Exquisite Thing, which will be out on May 31st, and other novels by Matthew Quick, check out the author’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here on Knight Reader, and I’m sorry about that, but many of you know at least some of the reasons why. I won’t go into all of that here, but I’m hopeful that things have taken a turn and that my reading (and blogging) will get back on track.

One of the books that’s been helping me get through some tough times is one that I’ve been meaning to read for a while but just never got around to. That book is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I know I’m late to the party when it comes to this book, but it just seemed like I needed to read this book right now. (For those who care to know, this book was originally published in 1999. I like to think I would have devoured this book if it had been released when I was in high school. Alas, that was not the case.) I guess reading about someone else’s issues made it a little easier to deal with my own.

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Stephen Chbosky’s moving tale of Charlie–told in letters to someone only known as “Dear Friend”–give readers a glimpse into what life is like for this rather troubled young man who is starting his freshman year in high school in 1991. (I started high school in ’93, so the time setting was rather familiar to me.) Charlie starts off the year friendless, but he soon grows close to a couple of people who will change his life forever. Patrick and Sam, a couple of seniors who happen to be brother and sister, kind of take in Charlie as one of their own. Charlie finally belongs somewhere, but he is still dealing with a bit of darkness within himself…and he’s learning more about his friends and life itself.

Patrick, Sam, and their group of friends value Charlie for his ability to take in the things around him without judging anyone. They call this being a “wallflower.” Charlie simple calls it finally being part of something.

As the year progresses, Charlie, Patrick, and Sam experience the highest of highs (often quite literally) and the lowest of lows. Charlie even comes to grips with something that happened as a child that, even without him knowing, has had a huge impact on his relationships with others. All throughout this tumultuous year, Charlie learns more about himself, his family, his friends, and what it means to really “participate” in the world around him. Even he can’t go through life constantly being a wallflower.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Fans of John Green will adore this book (if they already don’t). I wish this book had been around when I was in high school. Maybe then I would have felt like I wasn’t so alone when most of my friends went off to college and left me behind. (Most of my closest friends were two years older than me.)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower provides a rather frank look at a year in the life of one teenager who is dealing with some major issues and trying to figure out who he really is. As such, there is some swearing, sex, drugs, a lot of (pretty awesome) rock and roll, drinking, homosexuality, smoking, and dealing with situations that no one–child or adult–should ever have to face. This is not a book for the weak-minded. The literary allusions alone are enough to make this book one to take seriously. (How many YA novels introduce readers to novels like The Fountainhead? Really?) Some teens will be able to handle this book. Some won’t. The same is true for adults.

I look forward to finally seeing the movie adaptation of this fantastic book. I just hope it does justice to its amazing source material.

Ash

It is no secret that I love fairy tales.  I especially like retellings of these tales, particularly when they have a twist.  My latest read, Ash by Malinda Lo, is a retelling of Cinderella, and it definitely has a twist (many twists, in fact).  I’ll get to the changes soon, but I must say that this story is beautifully written, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fairy tales.  Malinda Lo has crafted a timely version of the Cinderella story that is so haunting, so rich, and so vibrant that readers who take the time to truly appreciate the story will not be disappointed.

Ash seems to lose everything in the blink of an eye.  First, her mother dies.  A short time later, after remarrying suddenly, Ash’s father becomes sick and leaves Ash all alone.  Her cruel stepmother forces Ash to become a servant in her own home, and Ash grieves for the life she once knew.  Her only solace is in reading the fairy tales her mother passed on to her.  Ash wonders if the fairies are real, and, if they are, will they take her away from her current life and the pain that comes with it?

Her answer comes in the form of Sidhean, a fairy who seems to have a strange connection to Ash.  Ash wants Sidhean to take her with him to the realm of the fairies, but he resists and insists that she is not ready.  Ready for what?  Ash does not know, but she can feel Sidhean’s presence with her, and she knows that the time will come when he will claim her forever.

Everything changes, though, when Ash encounters Kaisa, the king’s huntress.  The more time Ash spends with Kaisa, the less she focuses on Sidhean.  She grows closer to the huntress and does whatever she can, including making wishes of fairies (which are never simple and always come with a price), to spend more time with Kaisa.  Ash and Kaisa develop a friendship, which soon evolves into something that neither young woman was expecting.

When Ash realizes that her time with Sidhean grows closer–and her time with Kaisa comes to an end–she knows that she has a choice to make.  Will she go with the fairy who has given her all that she has asked, or will she risk everything for the love she has always wanted?  Read Ash to discover what happens when one young woman must decide between the fairy tale and true love.

Although I kind of knew what to expect when I began reading Ash, I was not prepared for the absolute beauty of the story.  I was utterly captivated.  It did not (and does not) matter to me that the Cinderella in this story did not want the handsome prince.  She just wanted love.  I think that’s all that anyone wants, and I applaud Malinda Lo for telling a story that will resonate with gay and straight readers alike.  I look forward to reading Huntress, the prequel to Ash, and I know that it will be just as beautiful.

For more information on author Malinda Lo and her writing, visit http://www.malindalo.com/.

Matched

Oh, how I love dystopian fiction!  Some of my favorites include Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, The Silenced, and, of course, The Hunger Games trilogy.  I can now add a new book to this lineup–Matched by Ally Condie.  Matched is the first book in a promising new series that is sure to make readers think about just how much the government should control.  (Does anyone else hear Muse’s Uprising playing in the background?  Just me?  Okay.  Moving on…)

Cassia’s life has always been mapped out for her.  The Society has chosen where she should live, her future job, the music that is acceptable for her to listen to, her recreational activities, even what she should eat to maintain optimum health.  But the biggest event is about to occur.  Cassia is to be Matched.  On her seventeenth birthday, at a banquet for all who are to be Matched, the Society reveals who Cassia’s Match is.  This is the person who has been chosen as her ideal mate based on the Society’s standards.  Cassia is stunned when it is revealed that her best friend, Xander, is chosen as her mate.  It is extremely rare that Matches actually know each other.

When Cassia explores the information the Society provides her about her Match, she is shocked by an unexpected face that is shown to her.  It is not Xander but Ky, another boy from her borough.  Cassia is very confused by what she is seeing.  Has the Society made a mistake?  How is that even possible?  Who is her true Match?  Is it Xander, the boy she’s always known and trusted, or is it Ky, a loner with secrets the Society does not want revealed?

As Officials from the Society try to reassure Cassia that Xander is her true Match, Cassia begins to wonder…and not just about who her ideal mate is.  She begins to question why the Society keeps such tight control over its citizens, why some people are labeled as Aberrations and given few options in life, who decides what should and shouldn’t be done and when people should die.  As Cassia’s relationships with both Xander and Ky take off on new, and often difficult, roads, she is confronted with the choices she now has to make.  Should she accept the life the Society has chosen for her, or should she follow her grandfather’s advice and refuse to “go gentle into that good night?”  What would you do?  Would you take a life of safety where all of your decisions are made for you?  Or would you fight for the things and people you believe in?  Find out what Cassia decides in Matched by Ally Condie.

If it’s not already clear, I thoroughly enjoyed Matched and am thrilled that it is the first book in a trilogy.  (I was also pretty happy with the references to one of my favorite Dylan Thomas poems.)  The second book, Crossed, will be released in November of this year, and the third book (title unknown) will come out in November of 2012.  For more information on author Ally Condie and the Matched series, visit http://www.allysoncondie.com/.