It’s easy to judge this on many different levels and scoff a bit, but remember the target audience, and try to find some joy in your heart. I did.
This is the sequel to To All The Boys I loved Before. Mild spoilers for that one follow.
How long can a happy ending last? As everyone involved here are teenagers, the question might be a rhetorical one. Another crush shows up, and he seems much more nicer and attentive than Lara Jean’s boyfriend, oh no!
When not dating, worrying about dating and thinking of how to keep her boyfriend happy, Lara Jean has to deal with friendship, family and school as well. Actress Lana Condor makes sure she carries it well, even with those eye-rolling moments in which you just want to shake every teenager involved.
All of it is very cute and bright and sometimes very quirky, and all of it completely fits the bill and the people this has been made for. And – I admit almost with shame – for me as well.
To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, Netflix 2020
Most of recorded human history is one big data gap.
Good gravy, just when you thought you already knew, things turn out to be so much worse. Next to a sexist gap in pay, safety and health there is a huge one in the thing that drives pretty much all of society: data.
Why is the default ‘he’? Why is there still a riddle about a doctor whose husband died, and why do too many people involved with design viewing women as ‘men with boobs’? Well, because societies worldwide have made it so, and not enough people in powerful positions protest it. And it turns out to be lethal for women.
Invisible Women isn’t particularly uplifting material: there’s just so many numbers and anecdotes on things that went wrong and are going wrong and men not giving a damn about it. How do we rally for change when the entire history of humanity is against us?
Because in some cases and in some countries things have changed and are changing. And you can never change something you don’t know anything about. And because it might save your life to know.
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez, Abrams Press 2019
The job at Paradise Lodge was Miranda Longlady’s idea.
‘Teenager in seventies’ England gets a job at a seniors home and learns things about life, herself and others’ must have been a curious plot to pitch, but Nina Stibbe manages to land it with a homely, gentle feeling to the story and everyone involved. Even Matron.
Lizzie Vogel is a bit of an onion; she’s got layers. Starting off this job with ‘better shampoo’ as a personal motivation, she quickly starts to see that both seniors and the people providing for them as individuals as well. Her work at the home is more exciting and interesting than school, there’s a cute guy who’s someone else’s boyfriend, and her mother isn’t all that stable through all this; all of which causes issues in a domino kind of cascade.
That might make Paradise Lodge sound severe and dire, but even though there are deaths, it’s all on the lighter side of things. Teenage problems, without being teenage disasters. Lizzie really is an onion: she goes with many things.
Paradise Lodge, Nina Stibbe, Penguin Books 2017
What a surprise: female teenagers can be shortsighted, crude and bad decision makers as well! With this film coming from the people behind Superbad and similar material, I was honestly a bit surprised that there weren’t more nudity, body-parts, and/or poop related jokes.
In Booksmart two very devoted school-going and study-religious female teenagers and best friends are shocked when they discover that you don’t need to deny yourself a life to achieve the best grades and highest accolades. Even students that *party* turn out to have great grades, which means that the two feel like they’ve wasted their high school years and need to correct it before university. Luckily there are plenty end-of-the-year parties, and a party is what will change everything (they’re still teens, after all).
What follows are American Mr. Bean-like situations that sometimes go on too long, but at the very least gives the young women involved (and one man) room to show that they’re people with flaws and ups and downs and that sometimes you have to do something to discover if it’s someone you are/want to be or not.
That’s also what gives the film its charm: stereotypes are (slightly) dismantled and there are enough believable situations and actions that won’t make you wonder how far away writers are distanced from teenagers and high school.
Booksmart, Annapurna Pictures 2019
5 x 30 min.
Licht vermaak nodig in een omgeving waar het hoe dan ook altijd warmer is dan hier, zelfs tijdens een hittegolf? Open voor een mythologie die eens niet Noors is? Met net tweeëneenhalf uur in totaal is Jinn waarschijnlijk de zomersnack voor u!
Nou ja, er zijn ook argumenten tegen. De tieners hebben zeer tienerige problemen en het acteerwerk daarin is niet van je van het. De folklore komt er een beetje bekaaid van af, en het tempo ligt zo hoog dat er geen ruimte of zin is om zowel folklore als de karakters die er onder lijden, enige diepgang te geven. Ik noem het een snack voor een reden.
Jordaanse tieners (jawel, de voertaal van deze serie is Arabisch) gaan op schoolreisje naar Petra, maar daar gaan dingen Mis. Goede en kwade jinn beginnen zich met hen te bemoeien, en natuurlijk moet dat recht getrokken worden. Of het de leeftijd of de origine is, maar dit wordt redelijk horror-vrij gedaan, waardoor de show nog makkelijker (door) te kijken is.
Wel eindigt ze met een cliffhanger – was het budget op of wilt men zo graag een tweede seizoen? Hopelijk wordt daarin de folklore verder uitgediept: anders is er weinig om de aandacht vast te houden voor nog tweeëneenhalf uur.
Jinn, Netflix 2019
Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell.
I should have known that an impatient wait would only lead to disappointment, but I guess such repetitious mistakes make you human. This novel got plenty of accolades, but the summary didn’t particularly appeal me. After one review – one I didn’t even recognise the previous summaries read in – I changed my mind. Blow me away, Rooney.
There was no blowing away, only dragging down and wrestling through (negative) emotions. These two people, the main characters Connell and Marianne, are just …incomplete(?) and manage to simultaneously make it worse and better in the other. So much low self-esteem, depression, (mental) self-harm and words that should be said to improve things, but never are.
I finished this an hour ago and still feel that kind of daze of finishing a story that doesn’t let you come up for air. Of course, no story has to be completely happy, or even have happy moments, but every other word is doubted and dissected. The story involves only a few months, making me wish for these poor people involved for it to be decades because surely everyone deserves to have a mental breather.
And underneath all of it, I couldn’t find anything the author wanted to do with this story. Share suffering? Show us that there is no such thing as normal people? Or that no matter what kind of train wreck, people just can’t look away?
Normal People, Sally Rooney, Alfred A. Knopf 2018
According to family legend, Ferguson’s grandfather departed on foot from his native city of Minsk with one hundred rubles sewn into the lining of his jacket, traveled west to Hamburg through Warsaw and Berlin, and the booked passage on a ship called the Empress of China, which crossed the Atlantic in rough winter storms and sailed into New York Harbor on the first day of the twentieth century.
The amount of times I thought ‘this would have been more interesting with a female protagonist’ was more than ten. The amount of times I wondered if Paul Auster has any kind of editing team or editor is even higher. Seriously mate, if you need fifteen-plus item lists to get to almost 900 pages, consider aiming a bit lower in page number.
Oh, and definitely change that ending.
What did I like about this story about a young Jewish boy growing up in fifties – sixties – seventies’ USA? Well, it’s one big ‘What if’ story. Every chapter starts with a new Ferguson, but some of them die, some of them grow up to be sterile, some have parents that divorce, some get into accidents. And Paul Auster shows the impact of all these internal and external factors on a human life.
But besides that, he shares a visual description of every woman in the boy’s life, and of every sexual encounter and masturbation session. And then there’s the lists.
If I’d be more aggressive about this time wasted, I’d create an abbreviated version of this book; instead I just want more ‘What if’-stories that won’t repeatedly tell me about a boy’s first erection.
4 3 2 1, Paul Auster, Faber & Faber 2017
6 x 25 min.
Ik weet dat ik recent nog iets heb aangeraden waarvan ik hoopte dat jongens/mannen het zouden kijken, maar ik denk dat dit echt té meisjesachtig is.
Terwijl het niet eens een show is waarvan ik zou zeggen dat het alleen maar over meisjesachtige dingen gaat. De vier meiden gaan naar een nonnenschool, proberen onder huiswerk, vervelende klusjes en straf uit te komen (op creatieve manieren), gaan naar feestjes, hebben ruzie, allerlei tienermateriaal. Het aanhangsel van de groep is zelfs een tienerjongen (arme jongen, hij is Engels tussen al de Ieren).
Het fijne is dat er geen moment excuses worden gegeven voor hun (vrouwelijke) acties. De vier zijn een stelletje tieners met verschillende motivaties, soms gruwelijk irritant, maar nooit “omdat het meiden zijn”. Combineer dat met de setting (tijdens de Ierse Troubles) en je kunt het bijna een antropologisch-geschiedkundig project noemen.
Maar eigenlijk is het vooral gewoon hartverwarmend en opvrolijkend, zelfs als ze irritant zijn. En met zo’n klein aantal afleveringen ben je er doorheen voordat je door hebt dat je ze allemaal lief vindt, zelfs Erin.
Derry Girls, Netflix 2018
I watched from the window as the boys tumbled out of the brick schoolhouse across the field from us.
This story sometimes feels a bit too much like those introductions to subjects in school books, but is enticing enough to not be bothered by that.
It’s a short story as well: I checked twice if I didn’t happen to download just the first book, or even an incomplete version (I’m so sorry library, it’s me that has the mistrust, not you that deserve it). In 166 pages Amal’s story is told.
She is a young teenager that lives in a small Pakistani village and dreams of becoming a teacher. Her entire life is turned upside down when she says no to a (blackmailing) landlord, moving her from future potential teacher to indentured servant.
This story is inspired by Malala Yousafzai, and as mentioned before, sometimes it shows. Through hardship this young girl learns things and acquires a new view of the world. For that second part (unless you come from a small Pakistani village as well), you should have a look at the novella.
Amal Unbound, Aisha Saeed, Penguin Books 2018
The end of our final winter break seems almost like the beginning of a victory lap.
Smartest title encountered this year or too thought through? Because y’all, this book is about two young book writers falling in love with each other! I think it’s cute, just as the story.
Tanner is a bisexual male teen that kind of goes back into the closet after his family moves to Utah, specifically a town with a Mormon majority. He’s not even out to his best friend, so how do you handle falling in love with the wonderful, beautiful, very Mormon TA?
It would have been easy to turn this into a pro or con story about religion and Mormons, but both authors stick close to the love story and darn, do they do it sweetly. Just like Tanner and Sebastian can’t seem to think about anything else, it’s sometimes a challenge to not discard the pages without them. Will they? Won’t they? In how many ways will organised religion ruin this?
Characters that aren’t these two sometimes get a bit the short end of the stick, but both secondary characters and surroundings make this a cute high school romance.
Autoboyography, Lauren Billings & Christina Hobbs, Simon & Schuster 2017