Friday, April 25, 2014

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

(Jacket design: Liz Dresner Jacket Photo: Michael Frost)

Hannah and Zoe are best friends. They live in a two star town in New Jersey that offers nothing more than a future attending the community college and landing an unrewarding job nearby at best. Both want more than what they were given and what lies ahead for them, but both go about it in different ways.

Hannah is girl aware that she deserves more but keeps her expectations low. Her parents, divorced, focus more on their issues rather than trying to make Hannah’s life easier or even better. Her dad, an alcoholic weatherman, told her from a young age that he isn’t paying for college and instead give her a small rolling hot dog stand to sell hot dogs to save for school. Her mother is completely uninvolved with Hannah, because after a divorce and midlife, it seems her mother thinks this is as good as it gets, with her job at the DMV and watching Dr. Oz. Hannah herself does have dreams to one day visit Sweden and to have a chance with Danny Spinelli, her crush since that time he kissed her back in 6th grade. Danny drives the ice truck around the lake’s beaches where Hannah normally sets up her hot dog stand making it possible to see each other from a distance but Danny is with a cheerleader, Rebecca, making it not possible for her to muster the strength to speak to him.

Zoe is your typical beautiful girl, who you learn early on has bipolar disorder, that be due to her age or the disorder is overly flirty, wild and free. Despite that, she is perceptive and supportive of Hannah and her eight year old brother, Noah, who due to his Asperger’s speaks nothing but the cosmos and fails to grasps emotions.  Zoe creates the Museum of Intangible Things, a collection of installations she made depicting emotions like Pride, Sadness/Depression, and Sloth/Laziness for Noah to learn these said emotions.

While at a party hosted by Zoe’s current object of lust, Ethan, the girls get drunk. Hannah has an encounter with Danny, and in the morning realizes that Zoe is missing. Hannah finds her at the other side of the lake, and that’s when it is notable that something is wrong with Zoe. This, along with an incident involving her drunk father, Hannah and Zoe (more so Zoe) decide that road trip is what they need. On road trip, Zoe begins to show Hannah her version of the Museum of Intangible things like insouciance, audacity, gluttony, and a few others in order to get Hannah to stop catering to others. However, it apparent to the reader that Zoe isn’t in the best frame of mind the further they go on with the trip, ultimately leading to a startling ending.

Where to begin! I really wanted to like this book and kept reading thinking it has to get better. The cover is a bit misleading, looks a lot more soft and whimsical than it actually is. I am disappointed that the author made the ending as she did, and overall more disappointed that she brings in Danny Spinelli as a crutch for Hannah later on in the book. Hannah was self-reliant and her only real support was Zoe and then the author swoops Danny in to rescue Hannah and Hannah just curls up in his lap like a kitty and in doing so leaves her friend Zoe out to dry. So much for friendship. Which is even more annoying given that the author ends the first chapter saying, “And we vowed: never to let each other down. There is no stronger bond than the one that gets you through childhood. This is our story.” 
If you read it, I think you’d agree that the ending of this book could have been altogether different if Hannah wasn't distracted with Danny. What I hope people take away from this book if they do read it, is that mental issues are real and not as prettily packaged as they are with Zoe. Also, that you don’t need a boy to rescue you.


Friday, April 18, 2014

The Hit - Melvin Burgess

A drug called Death is hitting the streets of Manchester, England.  When you take Death it gives you the ultimate high for seven days and then you die.  Adam and his girlfriend Lizzie are at a Jimmy Earle concert.  There have been rumors going around he took Death a week ago and tonight is when he's supposed to die.  When Jimmy dies onstage there are riots in the streets.  Death is being handed out freely to everyone including Adam and Lizzie.  They decide to live their lives and not have just a week left to live, so they throw the Death away.  They make it back to their homes where the rioting in the streets is the main news story.  Lizzie is grounded by her dad, but that won't stop her from seeing Adam the next night at a party her cousin Julie is throwing.  While Adam looks forward to seeing Lizzie again, a note is dropped off saying his brother Jess is dead.  His parents are devastated and all Adam has left to escape this life is Lizzie.  After Adam and Lizzie arrive at the party Julie pulls Lizzie away and tries to get her to dump Adam for a rich boyfriend.  Lizzie doesn't want to dump Adam, and can't convince Julie otherwise.  She goes and finds Adam who took a big hit of XL5, which has made him high as a kite.  As they leave the party Adam wants to go and have sex with Lizzie.  Lizzie wants their first time to be in a romantic setting instead of some random place.  They get into a fight and Lizzie gets a ride home.  Adam goes and finds Garry, a friend of Jess's, to see if he knows what happened to Jess.  Adam takes a bag of Death from Garry and heads home.  He feels like there's nothing left for him and he takes the Death pill.  The next morning he wakes up in a euphoric state because of Death.  He heads over to Lizzie's and she realizes he took Death.  Adam has a bucket list of things to do in the next week.  Lizzie agrees to help him do everything on the list.  After they have sex Adam gets a call from Jess, who he thought was dead.  Jess wants the bag of Death Adam stole from Garry.  Adam gives it back and tells Jess he took one of the pills.  Adam asks if their is an antidote.  Jess tells him no there isn't.  The next day Adam and Lizzie rob a liquor store.  Adam gets caught and taken to the police station where his parents have to bail him out.  Lizzie escapes and contacts Christian, a guy she met at Julie's party, to find out if their truly is a cure for Death.  Christian tells her that she has to sleep with him and the antidote is hers.  Lizzie heads over and Christian holds her hostage.  He forces her take Death.  Is this truly the end for Adam and Lizzie, or is there really an antidote out there?

I enjoyed this book and I was a bit surprised at the ending.  It was a good surprise to conclude the story.  The book gives us a reminder to live life to the fullest.  There will be pain, suffering, and/or loss in our lives, but finding a quick way out isn't the answer even if it seems like there is nothing left to live for.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Hysteria by Megan Miranda

Hysteria - panic, uncontrollable fear.  For Mallory, who had stabbed a young man to death, possibly to save herself, this means running anytime memories or memories of sounds associated with that fateful night come back.  Readers are just as confused as Mallory by her fleeting memory bits.  I was confused all the way to the very last 25 pages.  I think this was supposed to be a nail biter but I was mostly just confused.  Its easy enough to read and one feels compelled to keep going just to see if everything is explained.  It is, eventually.  Mallory is sent off to the same boarding school her father and grandmother had attended when the mother and brother of the young man who died begin to stalk her.  At the school she meets up with Reid, son of her father's best buddy.  She had met him years earlier and the memories return.  They do hit it off ok.  She also meets Jason, Krista, Taryn, Bree.  Something isn't quite right among the group.  There are secrets being held and lies being told.  Jason and Krista are particularly weirding out Mallory.  Then it happens again, another murder.  Mallory wakes up covered in blood, Jason stabbed to death on her dorm room floor.  This time she is sure she has had no part in the murder.  She was framed.  She is not allowed to go home while the murder investigation is going on so ends up in a motel near enough to campus for Mallory to run over there.  She does this several times, seemingly compelled to get the truth of both killings.  Her best bud from home, Colleen, is always there for her.  So it is that Colleen comes from home to visit at the motel.  Colleen gets involved with the attempt to figure out the truth of things and is nearly killed in the process.  This leads to those final 25 pages or so.  This is only an ok story but teens looking for a mystery that's a quick read may enjoy it. 
JDW 4/9/14

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

You Know What You Have To Do by Bonnie Shimko

This novel, while enjoyable and a quick read, seems to miss its potential. It has a great storyline, but it focuses more on the mundane rather than the intriguing.

Mary-Magdalene (aka Maggie or Mare) has this problem where she hears an evil voice in her head that tells her to kill people. The throbbing headache that accompanies the voice makes it so that the only thing she can do to alleviate the problem is to listen to the voice. When the novel starts, she has already killed one person. However, he was beating up his wife and Maggie's friend, so in a way, she was doing them a favor. While Maggie is dealing with this voice, she deals with typical high school things - like a boy who likes her but to whom she doesn't return the feelings, a best friend who is suddenly beautiful and more popular than Maggie will be, and the opportunity to finally get her driver's license. Throughout the book, Maggie tries to cope with the voice and life in general.

As I write the summary for the book, I struggle to create the appeal that the book jacket created because overall, the voices in her head were not as prevalent as I was led to believe - which is where the story faltered. Most of the book felt like Maggie dealing with being a teenager. She's going to therapy and is more concerned with the hotness of her therapist than doing anything to get better. True, admitting you've killed people because the voices told you to do it is basically asking to get locked up, but she seemed so desperate to get help you want to scream at her to actually do something about it. Maggie is more concerned about getting caught than bothered by the fact that she killed people. So are we supposed to feel sorry for her - which you do a good portion of the book - or is she just as bad as the voice in her head? But then, like I said, that whole dilemma seems at times secondary to life in general. Come the end of the book, when tragedy strikes and Maggie ends up in a psychiatric ward, it has nothing to do with her actual issue and it never even comes up until the end of her stay. Then the book ends and you're left wondering if she's embracing this issue or what. During at least one point in the novel (although I'm sure it was more than once) I completely forgot she had this voice issue. Then it comes back at the end and you're simply left wondering why the book didn't start here. This book could very well have been like a teenage Dexter, but that excitement gets muddled with the mundane life of a teenager. The suspense simply wasn't constant.

This book had a lot of potential. It had a great concept that drew me in, but it wasn't built up enough and you're left feeling "meh" about the book.