Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Toen ik klein was zei mijn vader altijd tegen me: ‘Will, je kunt in je neus pulken, je kunt in je neus pulken waar je vriend bij is, maar je kunt niet in je vriend zijn neus pulken.’

Wat was dit leuk zeg. De term YA is flink ingeburgerd, maar lijkt vaak in het verlengde te liggen van fantasy. Terwijl er toch genoeg Young Adult literatuur (en lectuur, maar waar ligt die grens?) is zonder vampiers, zombies en elven er bij te betrekken. Zoals Will Grayson, Will Grayson. En die doet het nog gelijk goed ook, een boek voor tieners zijn.

De ene Will Grayson lijdt onder zijn luidruchtige, homoseksuele vriend Tiny, zijn onvermogen om compleet onzichtbaar te zijn en zijn wel/niet verliefdheid op Jane. De andere Will Grayson is depressief, heeft een zielige moeder en leeft eigenlijk alleen voor zijn chat gesprekken met Isaac.
Ze ontmoeten elkaar. Dingen blijken heel anders dan verwacht. Ze leren en er volgt een feel good einde waar Hollywood een puntje aan kan zuigen, alleen omdat het compleet ongeloofwaardig geloofwaardig is. En er ruimte is voor een sequel.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson tilt niet een klein puntje van de sluier over tienerleven op, het trekt de sluier er compleet af. Het is zielig en frustrerend en absurd en verslavend. YA proberen? Ga op zoek naar de Graysons.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green & David Levithan, Lemniscaat 2010

The Song of Achilles

My father was a king and the son of kings.

Another book club book. The Song of Achilles is about the ‘heel-guy’ (although that particular weakness isn’t mentioned in this book) but not the arrogant surfer dude that people might remember from the movie Troy. Here we see Achilles grow up through the eyes of Patrocles, an exiled prince that grows up to be his best friend, human half and lover. Yes, the age old question of did they/didn’t they is firmly answered here.

Yet this book is as much as a story about the familiar story about Helena of Troy, the myths (there is an amazing centaur-mentor involved and the gods are never far away) and growing up as it is about two boys recognizing themselves in each other. Love sometimes barely covers the (desperate) feelings of Patrocles. Madeline Miller manages to show in small, sweet ways that it most certainly isn’t a one-way relationship, even though Achilles is very busy with his destiny of eternal fame and following death.

Everyone familiar with the story will know how it ends and I wouldn’t recommend it to people who think they can breeze through a piece of Old Grecian myth. Miller sneakily manages to get the characters under your skin and springs emotional traps. If you’re up for a relieving sob after a great, colourful and detailed story: go for it.

The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller, Bloomsbury 2011

Lord Sunday

Arthur fell.

After little over five years I had to say goodbye to this book series. And with a series like this one, it’s just one of the reasons to feel a small tugging at the heart strings.

The Keys to the Kingdom are categorized as fantasy for children (12 and up). But, as with any good author, it’s barely noticeable that only kids are supposed to be attracted to these stories. With its rich world building, colourful details and sweet story line (our unlikely hero suffers from asthma and carries his elephant plushie everywhere), it will appeal to anyone with a taste for original fantasy.

After battling, puzzling and venturing through the worlds of six “Days” (all lords and ladies with their own plane), Arthur (true heir of the worlds’ Architect) has to victor over the most powerful ruler, Lord Sunday, while the world falls apart around them. Yes, that makes little sense.

This review is little more than an obvious hint to just try the seven books of this series. But pace yourself, before you finish too quickly and fall victim to Nothing.

The Keys to the Kingdom: Lord Sunday, Garth Nix, Scholastic Press 2010

Various Pets Alive And Dead

The whole world is deranged, though most people haven’t noticed it yet.

This was very entertaining. Marcus and Doro are people of the seventies, people of The Change with capitals T C. Their children ..not so much. Serge hides from his parents that he is a very successful (until the economical crisis of 2008 hits) banker, Clara is trying very hard to break free from being over-controlling and always in charge (it’s who she was in the commune, after all) while Oolie-Anna desperately wants to break free from her mother.

Various Pets Alive And Dead shows how permanent the marks left behind by your childhood are. Not just in case of the children, but for Marcus and Doro as well. Capitalism is evil, jealousy is ugly; yet she still wants to keep her own allotment and doesn’t want to hear about her husband’s free loving back in the day.

The book starts with everybody quite happy, but it quickly unravels. Kewycka manages to write down the ordinary in an absurd yet believable way. Every character is a real human being and yes, you may enjoy some schadenfreunde, but in the end you’ll be rooting for their happy ending. If Kewycka makes that happen ..that’s for the reader to discover.

Various Pets Alive And Dead, Marina Kewycka, Fig Tree 2012

Wreck-it Ralph

108 min.

“Bad guy” Ralph wil ook wel eens wat waardering voor zijn werk (een gebouw vernielen en vervolgens toestaan dat hij door een groepje mensen van het gebouw af wordt gegooid) en gaat op zoek naar een manier om een medaille te verdienen.
Tijdens zijn zoektocht door verschillende games (Ralph kan via de stekkerdoos reizen, elk karakter met aansluiting op die stekkerdoos kan het) ontmoet hij niet alleen zichzelf, maar ook vreemde figuren, (nieuwe) vrienden en natuurlijk een echte, redelijk enge bad guy.

Disney
Disney

Aangezien de bad guy hier een game karakter is en zijn leefomgeving alle games in de arcade hal, kan de kijker er wel vanuit gaan dat dit geen zielenroerend drama is. Wreck-it Ralph laat met zijn animatie wel de mooiste kant van verschillende games (van first person shooter tot glazuur-vernietigend zoet racespelletje)  zien.  De Levenslessen van de film liggen er duimendik bovenop, daarin is het meest te merken dat dit een film voor kinderen moet zijn.  Ieder heeft zijn eigen plek in de wereld, durf groot te dromen, vriendschap en liefde zijn in de vreemdste hoeken te vinden.  Het wordt nog net niet in intervals (kleurrijke letters, zwart scherm) letterlijk op het doek gebracht.
Negeer dat gewoon een beetje en knijp ook een oogje dicht voor het compleet nutteloze ware-liefde plotlijntje, want Wreck-it Ralph is erg leuk.  De games zijn kleurrijk en gedetailleerd, de karakters geven een giechelige bite aan al het zoete gedoe en de pret is besmettelijk.

Wreck-it Ralph is ook een aanrader voor buiten de kerstvakantie en kinderen boven de zes jaar.

Wreck-it Ralph, Disney 2012

Brave New World

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.

One for my Why Are They Called Classics And Are They Worthy Of The Name list. I read 1984 quite a while ago and thought that would do when it came to covering books from the (distant) past about the (distant) future. But as always it was my library that changed things; Brave New World (with the added Brave New World Revisited) was in plain view and here we are. I liked the story telling, the story scared and disgusted me. Which is -I hope- not new to anyone who reads it.

In Brave New World we see life in the 26th century on planet Earth. There is no such thing as love, families or traditional education; it has been replaced by reproductive technology and sleep-learning. Society is divided into different castes: Alphas on top (bred most successfully), Epsilons at the bottom (little more than factory workers with no identity to speak of). This world is introduced to us through the eyes of Bernard Marx, an Alpha but a stunted one. Because of this he feels an outsider, but he realizes what being a real outsider is when he takes home a Savage and his mother.
Because not every place on planet Earth has been civilized like the western world. No, there are small spaces, reserves, where the savages live. Humans who still believe in gods, monogamy and family. Of course the “civilized world” is blown away by this Savage (he quickly loses his name). So is the Savage by “civilization”, but not in the way the people expected it.

The ugly thing about this story is that a lot of it is believable. Ideas that are possible to grow in people’s minds. What if we make humans only loyal to capitalism and consumerism and nothing else? What if we take away all flaws and dump the humans when they’re not “necessary” anymore?  I’m not saying that I expect Brave New World to be reality by the end of this century, but I do believe that there are people out there thinking it. The people that don’t think about it and will fight for the right of being an individual just need to stay the majority.

I think Brave New World is worth of the title Classic.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, HarperCollins 1932

A Catered Affair

My mother opened the front door, kissed me hello, rearranged my fringe and pincered an imaginary piece of lint off my jacket without missing a beat in her phone conversation.

I liked this chick lit. For the first one-third of the novel it isn’t exactly sure with which man she’ll end up, the side-characters are funny without being bizarre characters (I’d like to read a story about Grace and Scarlett) and instead of endless descriptions of outfits, it’s about food. Much better.

Tallulah is being dumped at the altar. She thought her fiancé had finally grown over his commitment-fear, but of course he didn’t (how else would you get a plot-starting problem). Tallulah (Tally) drowns herself in alcohol, propositions her caterer and tries to rebuild her life without Josh. Her grandmother tries to set her up with numerous dates, her already in-your-face mother gets worse and her sister Scarlett tries to get pregnant. A lot is going on.
A previous love of her life shows up, the caterer turns out to be a great friend ..what will happen, what will happen.

A Catered Affair follows the well-trodden paths of chick lit, but Sue Margolis has an enjoyable, self-mocking tone that prevents the story from turning cavity-inducing sweet. It was all I needed after the horror of Afraid.

A Catered Affair, Sue Margolis, American Library 2011