Saturday, August 31, 2013

Northanger Abbey Review

The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.

Northanger Abbey is a prime example of how tastes in reading have changed.  This book has a lot of description in it and has a very slow pace. In fact, cut out all the tours and the long descriptions of the locations and the book will be half its length. This means readers are probably skimming a lot, unless you're weird like me and believe you were born in the wrong century. I like the descriptions and the old-fashioned way of speaking because I love the time period. However, in this case, they weren't things the author put in in addition to the story. It is how they spoke at that time. Authenticity guaranteed.

The romance in the story is completely different from modern ones.  There was no real spark, no "take me" physical attraction, no chemistry between the heroine and her suitors. No sex. Sex isn't even hinted. I'd be curious to know whether that is how courting was supposed to be during that time or if it was a "Oh, no.  She can't have *feelings* like that for him. No one will ever publish the book if she did." Maybe I'm slow when it comes to picking up the mutual-attraction thing, but I didn't see it in Northanger Abbey, other than through Catherine's insistent search for Mr. Tilney after she meets him. That got on my nerves after a while. It was a dance. He probably left. Why obsess over the guy?

Even if the book were modernized, so the characters had chemistry, so a simple kiss resulted in a near orgasm, and the long descriptions removed to the basics...I'm not sure the book would have enough to survive as a modern novel. The only real intrigue is in Catherine's mind and it's short-lived. And the novel, most likely, would read like a teenage drama without the paranormal elements.

I think it's a good book. But modern readers need to consider that the book is not the fast-paced googly-eyed romance of modern times. It's a slow story, told as a parody on society. And, as I don't live in that time period, may never fully realize what it parodies.  I normally don't read parodies as a rule either.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan

Have you ever been haunted by the feeling that someone is spying on you, lurking around your house and yard, even entering your bedroom? Are your friends plotting against you when they say they've seen you do things you know you haven't done? What's going on -- and does Laurie really want to find out?

Once I looked over the list of books Lois Duncan has written, I remembered having read one or two of her books and having watched a movie based on her book, Hotel For Dogs. Before that point, I hadn't recognized her name.

Stranger with my Face was a slow read for me. It wasn't boring, but it was one of those books where I could have put it down and never returned to it if need be.  If I read the book at 12 or 13 years old, however, my  opinion would probably be different. The book was predictable for me. In fact, when my grandmother saw me reading it, she asked about it. Based on the cover and the title alone, she figured out the entire story. No need to read it for her.

Their were things I liked in the book. I like the descriptions of life on an island and how that compares to the mainland. I liked the fact Laurie did research with books and friends. Despite the predictability of the book the story drew me in with the little details and the relationships between the characters, namely Laurie's second boyfriend in the book. I liked the fact that the father, a SF writer, and the mother, an artist, did not believe Laurie's paranormal "story". Her sister, however, does. The exploration of Native Americans, though how accurate the information is, I'm not sure, was interesting. But the fact that Laurie is Navajo is a big bonus!

The predictability is obviously my biggest dislike about this book. But I must also say that I felt some of the characters were too cliche, caricatures. I wanted Laurie to break convention and figure out why her sister wanted her to learn how to astral project. With that new knowledge at hand, I wanted her to stop Lia in some other way than she was and I wanted Laura's mother's "feeling" about Lia to be wrong. I wanted Lia to have lead a miserable life, but be a good girl. Instead, we got the cliche "evil twin" thing.

The book is good for some light reading, and it may have been unpredictable when it was first published. I can't be sure. Now it's an outdated book with little to add on the subject.

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because Grammarly is Hungry For Words.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Perks of Being A wallflower

Perks of Being A Wallflower

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is about a teenage boy, Charlie, experiencing high school. Although Charlie experiences a lot of “typical” teenage experiences throughout the book, Charlie is not the typical teenager.  Throughout Stephen Chbosky’s Young Adult novel, Charlie shows signs of being on the autistic spectrum.  Specifically, he shows a lot of signs of having Asperger’s. Asperger’s according to Medical News Today is “a developmental disorder that impacts on the individual's ability to communicate and socialize, among other things.”
According to myAsperger’schild.com, teenagers “may be uncomfortably blunt.”  We see this with Charlie, when, Within a week of meeting a high school senior, Sam, Charlie writes to his unknown friend: “I told Sam that I dreamt that she and I were naked on the sofa, and I started crying because I felt bad, and do you know what she said? She laughed (21 -2).”
To say he’s blunt is an understatement. To say he lacks finesse isn’t quite right either. He has the social understanding of a seven-year-old, blurting out anything that comes to mind, appropriate to mention or not.  This also matches up with what myAsperger’schild.com says:  teenagers with Asperger’s “may be immature for their age and be naive and too trusting, which can lead to teasing and bullying.”
Charlie also demonstrates a lack of control and understanding of his own emotions.  He cries at the drop of the hat for seemingly no reason.  One example of this is when he’s at a party with Patrick and Sam.

I was sitting on the floor of a basement of my first real party between Sam and Patrick, and I remembered that Sam introduced me as her friend to Bob. And I remembered that Patrick had done the same for Brad. And I started to cry. And nobody in that room looked at me weird for doing it. And then I really started to cry (38).

Again this is another Asperger’s trait.  As, according to Asperger Syndrome Behavior, “Individuals with Asperger syndrome have trouble recognizing their own emotions and especially expressing them in a proper way.”
Despite his social and emotional skills being that of a seven-year-old, Charlie proves to be quite intelligent. We see this whenever he mentions his Advance English Class. 

My advanced English teacher asked me to call him “Bill” when we’re not in class, and he gave me another book to read. He says that I have a great skill at reading and understanding language, and he wanted me to write an essay about To Kill A Mockingbird.
I mentioned this to my mom, and she asked why Bill didn’t recommend that I just take a sophomore or junior English class. And I told her that Bill said that these were basically the same classes with more complicated books, and that it wouldn’t help me.  (9-10)

“Bill” continually gives Charlie books and essays to write outside of normal class assignments to challenge him, proving that Charlie may be too advanced for even the advance class when it comes to literature.  But this is not necessarily unusual in children with Asperger’s.
According to myAsperger’schild.com , autistic  “adolescents may be extremely smart in specific areas, such as writing, math, or some form of the arts.”
             A lot of Charlie’s behaviors and “symptoms” can be very off-putting to the reader, especially the frequency of how much he cries.  But to discover there is a reason for these eccentricities would make these annoying quirks forgivable to most readers. However, Chbosky never reveals the reason behind these idiosyncrasies. He lets readers know Charlie was molested as a child. And boys who were molested are not likely, according to what I could find on boys who are molested, to behave the way Charlie does in The Perks of Being A Wallflower, leaving readers to wonder if Charlie has Asperger’s and was molested…or if something entirely different is going on with him.
            In the movie, Charlie doesn’t have these oddities in his behavior. He doesn’t cry at a drop of a hat. He’s smart. He makes jokes. He isn’t blunt.  He has the awareness of a neurotypical person his age. The only real oddity in him is the one or two times he blacks out in the movie. And that fits better with Charlie having been molested, as he could have easily been in a fugue state at the time.
            Chbosky had a great opportunity and did a great job setting up a story about a character who is on the Autistic spectrum but undiagnosed. Unfortunately, he fumbles it by not following through, or perhaps, simply deciding to go with the ‘shock value’ of a molestation.


Works Cited
"Asperger Syndrome Behavior." Asperger Syndrome Behavior. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2013.
Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Gallery, 1999. Print.
Hutten, Mark. "My Aspergers Child: Problems Experienced by Teens with Aspergers." My Aspergers Child: Problems Experienced by Teens with Aspergers. Mark Hutten, n.d. Web. 20 July 2013.
Nordqvist, Christian. "What Is Asperger's Syndrome?" Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 09 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 July 2013.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Dir. STEPHEN CHBOSKY and JOHN MALKOVICH. Prod. LIANNE HALFON and Russell SMITH. Perf. Emma Watson,, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller. Roadshow, 2013. DVD.











Saturday, August 3, 2013

Let The Right One In Critical Review


Vampire Eli is Let In The Hearts of Audiences

John Ajvide Lindqvist’s “Let The Right One In” is a story about a bullied twelve-year-old boy who happens to meet a vampire.
The book gets into a lot of heads and offers a lot of different POVs: Tommy’s, Håkan’s, Oskar’s, Jonny Forsberg’s, a squirrel’s. There are even chapters from an omniscient point of view, illustrating things going on in the larger world, like the fear over a Soviet sub that runs aground on the shoreline, and the ongoing reaction to Håkan’s—Eli’s caretaker—murders. Although some segments are written from Eli’s point of view, little is revealed about her. Despite that, Eli is easily humanized in both the book and the movies.
The third time Eli and Oskar meet in the book Eli is hungry, needing blood. Oskar and she are alone in the courtyard playground, and he is easy prey, trusting he’s safe with her. The scene shows that Eli is prepared to kill him however.

His voice was not even a whisper. Only an exhalation. The girl’s face was close. His gaze was drawn to her butter-knife cheek.
That was why he didn’t see her eyes change, how they narrowed, took on another expression. He didn’t see how her upper lip drew back and revealed a pair of small, dirty white fangs. He only saw her cheek and while her mouth was nearing his throat he drew up his hand and stroked her face.
The girl froze for a moment, then pulled back. Her eyes resumed their former shape; the city of light was back. (70)

The fact Eli could kill someone she has met, spoken with twice before shows that she doesn’t think like a human. The interactions they had are not enough for her to hesitate, like a human normally would. After all, it’s one thing to kill a complete stranger, another to kill someone you’ve met.
In both movies, Let The Right One In and Let Me In, this doesn’t happen. Eli seems to recognize Oskar as a kindred spirit from the first meeting. She instead bonds with him, gives him advice on how to handle the school bullies Oskar is tormented by.  A few pages later, we even see their deepening bond when Oskar and Eli start walking home from a candy store:

They walked back. Before Oscar had even had any himself he held the bag out to Eli. She shook her head.
“No thanks.”
“Don’t you eat candy?”
“I can’t.”
“No candy?”
“Nope.”
“What a drag.”
“Yes, no. I don’t know what it tastes like.”
“You haven’t even tasted it.”
“No.”
“Then how do you know that…”
“I just know, that’s all.” (123)

 Eli doesn’t give into Oskar, because she knows nothing good would come of her eating the candy.  However, her interaction with Oskar also manages to humanize her, because most people know what it’s like to want to try something that they can’t have, be deprived of experiences, whether due to a health issue, circumstance or something else. At the same time, viewers know the reason she can’t eat the candy, is because she’s not human.
 In both movies however, the scene plays out differently.  In Let Me In, Eli, known as Abby, gives into Oskar, known as Owen:

Abby watches as Owen collects his candy, trying to hide his disappointment. She feels bad.
ABBY: Well... maybe I could try just one...!
Owen looks up, suddenly excited. He opens a package, gives her a piece. She puts it in her mouth. He watches for her reaction. She smiles for him, nods. He grins, so pleased --   (42)

Both movies show Abby throwing up after she eats the candy.   The movies allow readers to see Abby trying to please Owen, which is a very human urge. The effect humanizes Eli to viewers more than the book does, but at the same time, since she can’t digest the candy, reminds viewers she is in not human.
In traditional vampire books and movies, vampires are clean, efficient killers, the ultimate predators. Vampires are written differently in Let The Right One In and the movies. In them, Eli and her adult companion make sloppy and sometimes ineffective attempts at killing people. These slipshod attempts make the attacks seem more realistic, more possible, more frightening, and at the same time, humanizes Eli.  We see her not as the efficient killing machine we expect from vampire lore. She doesn’t have the practice of a skilled predator. And the fact audiences know that like an animal, she has to kill to eat, makes her sympathetic to readers, even as she murders someone.
Although the different mediums often use different techniques, both the movies and the books, remind audiences that Elli/Abby is a vampire even as she is efficiently humanized. The result is a well-told story that can easily stand up to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Work Cited
Ajvide, Lindqvist John. Let the Right One in. Trans. Ebba Segerberg. New York: St. Martin's Griffin/Thomas Dunne, 2008. Print.
 Reeves, Matt. Let Me IN. N.d. MS. Http://screenplayexplorer.com/wp-content/scripts/Let-Me-In.pdf. Http://screenplayexplorer.com/. Web. 29 June 2013.