Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

It’s a weirdly subtle conversation.

It’s always a risk to accept a recommendation from someone you don’t know their reading history of. But curiosity is a powerful thing.

Simon is gay and nobody knows, except for an e-mail contact. And except for Martin, who discovers the e-mails and starts to, awkwardly, sloppily, blackmail him.

The reader reads about Simon’s thoughts, daily lives and his e-mails with Blue. He’s a very put together teen, with insights that sometimes made me wonder if teenagers can come up with them. On the other hand there are plenty of fears and doubts and cock ups that will probably cause you secondhand embarrassment (because of how recognizable it is).

It’s nothing mind blowing, and for someone that gets some subjects very right (privilege, trans* people), there is the same time a bothersome misogyny that the author could have prevented. YA that’s best for teenagers, who still have to learn.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli, Penguin Books 2015

The Road of the Dead

When the Dead Man got Rachel I was sitting in the back of a wrecked Mercedes wondering if the rain was going to stop.

The Road of the Dead doesn’t fit in just one box. It comes from the YA section, but it’s brutal enough for an adult read. It’s about family and being different, but it’s always a detective, trying to discover how the main character’s sister died. And with main character Ruben being able to ‘feel’ people out, there is a hint of fantasy as well.

It’s a stubborn book, demanding some of the reader’s investment before it curls open into a story about small towns and big egos, grown rotten through capitalism. It’s uneven as well, like sometimes the author was unsure about something and works extra hard to convince his reader.

Not bad, not good but yet slightly compelling, this is for quick readers with a nose for detectives.

 The Road of the Dead, Kevin Brooks, Scholastic Inc 2006

Abandon

Anything can happen in the blink of an eye.

I know it’s an incredibly easy shot,  but: please abandon your ideas about reading this novel. I’ve heard about Meg Cabot before, possibly even read some of her work, and I had the faintest memory of people recommending this series to each other. I have to stop trusting my memory or other people’s recommendations.

Abandon  used the myth of Hades and Persephone and dumps it on two very moody teenagers. The not-Hades love interest can’t communicate if he can’t use violence or moping, while the not-Persephone is an incredibly naive, slow-witted, klutz of a girl. Possibly up there with Twilights Bella.

Main character Pierce has died once, and returned. People around her die, she doesn’t know what John wants from her and she can’t adjust to her second chance at life in a whole other place. He tries to warn her with unclear hints while she blunders through everything.

Can you like a story when two of the main characters are so incredibly annoying? Because Cabot gives a nice set of ideas, written nicely. She’s just using the wrong poles to hold it up in the air.

Abandon, Meg Cabot, Scholastic Inc 2011

Citrus County

Toby took his tacos outside and crouched on a curb.

“This book makes you laugh even as it breaks you heart”, one blurb on the back says. I disagree. There was no laughter, only frustration and discomfort. I was already put off by the text on the back, but the title and cover still pulled me in. Sometimes that turns out right, sometimes it turns out like this: you struggle to get to the ending of the book.

There are three main characters: the teenagers Toby and Shelby, and their teacher: Mister Hibma. With the teenagers it’s a bit easier to accept their “No-one Understands Me, I Am Alone In This World” perspective, but mister Hibma gets very little sympathy points for the same attitude. Of course, there is no age limit to feeling lost and without direction, but it’s all so ..whiny.

Toby has no family besides his uncle. Shelby tries to break through his shell, so he kidnaps her little sister to make her feel as vulnerable to the world as he does. Shelby tries to get her aunt in Iceland to invite her, so she can leave Citrus County behind. Hibma doesn’t want to be a teacher, doesn’t want to star in his own life and thinks that killing a colleague might give him the feeling of being someone, fitting somewhere.

I at the same time wanted to save these characters and run away from them. They can’t get away from the swampy, choking atmosphere of Citrus County and its people and it’s effecting all of them. Maybe this book should be viewed as stories on how you really not want your life to be(come).

Citrus County, John Brandon, McSweeney’s Rectangulars 2010