This book does not play fair. This was my mantra for most of the time I was reading History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. It was one of those books that messes with your emotions in a way that makes your head spin. One minute I was laughing, then a sentence later it was like someone had let the air out of my balloon and I sank to the ground, head in my hands. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked this book up.
Griffen is a young man dealing with something many hope to never have to deal with; the death of someone he cared about. His first love, Theo, passes way suddenly and Griffen is left to pick up the pieces of his life and heart.
Unfortunately for Griffen the only person who really knows what he is feeling is Jackson, the boy that Theo was dating before he died. Together they aid each other in dealing with their grief. But Griffen learns he has to find away to put Theo in his past, to live with their history but to not let that history rule him.
I read Adam Silvera’s other novel More Happy Than Not and that book nearly destroyed me. (Full review here). So I knew that Silvera knew how to ignite intense emotions in a reader. I knew he was a writer that could make you severely ache for the characters. I thought I was prepared for the rollercoaster that this book was going to be. I was wrong.
More Happy Than Not was a book that had a constant dark cloud hovering over it. It was rarely one where you smiled. Things started off dim and sad and you only continued to dig into that hole over the course of the story.
This book started off sad but didn’t stay that way. The way it is told is it switches between Theo and Griffen’s past, from the beginning of their relationship until their break up and Theo’s death and the present where Griffen is dealing with Theo’s death and his grief.
One minute you are reading about a cute date they had, laughing at their jokes about the “zombie-pirate apocalypse” and then something is mentioned about the future and it is like a wave has hit you. As a reader you know that, that future does not exist. You know those plans will never be fulfilled, all those promise are broken. You go from laughing to feeling hurt and sad. You keep going up and down almost afraid to turn the next page.
In Silvera’s last book it was the ending that spun the whole story into a different direction. That book smacked you over the head with a brick. This one didn’t hit that hard but it still changed the feel of the story. I am not sure if this is going to be a thing of Silvera’s but I like that there is a pull at the end that deepens the story.
Griffen has to learn to move on with his life. He learns that Theo will always be a part of his past. Their history will always mean something but it can’t consume him. History has to be just that history. You can reference it, learn from it and revel in it when you need that nostalgiaia but you can’t live in it. If you do you risk losing yourself.
Griffen finds a way to add this to who he is as a person and move into his future. It is a future without Theo but is one that he learns to live in. History is all they have now but Griffen learns that, that is okay.
I have passed by this book on the bookstore shelf a number of times. It piqued my interest but never quite enough for me to choose it over whatever other book I was there to get that day. I then started seeing countless reviews for this story when the trailer for the movie came out. I was getting closer to getting it. Then my mom got it from a student as a gift and my chance to read it was in front of me. I am so glad I was finally able to read this one. It will be added to my list of top books this year for sure.
Jacob Portman has grown up on his grandfather’s outlandish stories about the children’s home that he lived in during World War II. These were tales of the children he lived with all who had some extraordinary power, such as levitation and invisibility. As he grows, Jacob is taught that his grandfather’s stories are just tales used to help his grandfather cope with is rough childhood; one of leaving home and his family in order to save his life from the Nazis.
It isn’t until his grandfather dies that Jacob learns that all his stories are actually true. The children, the island, and the house are all real and they are in danger.
Jacob journeys to the island and is swept away in a new world. It is dangerous but exciting. He must decide which path his life will now take.
Just from looking at the cover I had a feeling this book was going to be on the darker side, which is one of the reasons I avoided it for awhile. While I like dark stories they have a tendency to make me feel a bit scared and apprehensive. As I was reading the word unsettling was used to describe the home and other aspects of the island and it clicked with me. While this novel is darker, it is also unsettling. Turning off the lights after reading at night made me feel a bit nervous, as if there was something waiting in the shadows for me. It actually gave me quite interesting dreams as well.
I think the atmosphere of this book was helped along by the old photographs that were peppered throughout the novel. I loved this aspect. I felt myself become even more emerged in the tale by being able to glance at the faces and look into the eyes of the people in those pictures. You get another level of connection that can only be achieved by including these vey real photographs.
The children all have a peculiarity to them. (Side note: I loved the use of the world peculiar instead of strange or odd. Right away you get the idea that things are a bit off but you aren’t given the preconceived idea of thinking of this kids as freaks or being wrong. They are just different and intriguing). Some of these peculiarities seem quite harmless, such as levitation and invisibility. But others seem more sinister such as the ability to reanimate the dead.
This aspect also enhanced the unsettling atmosphere. I found myself wondering how I would react to meeting these children. I think I would be apprehensive and nervous at first. As I read I found myself not quite sure how to read some of them. Some seemed positive and helpful right away while others made me pause. I wonder where these abilities will go as the series progresses. Are all peculiarities good things? Or will we learn that some can cause harm? I feel it will be more about the person who possesses these abilities and not the abilities themselves.
The book starts with Jacob putting his life into two categories, Before and After. Life as it was before his grandfather died and his life after his grandfather was killed. Before he lives an ordinary life and After he now lives a life full of questions and danger.
Jacob is a teenager and as many teenagers he is at a crossroads. But unlike other teenagers he is not choosing career paths and colleges, he is trying to decided between living in two very different worlds. He is an asset in one which is not only dangerous but requires him to leave all he knows behind him. While staying in his current life is quieter, calmer but not all that much safer, it would be full of paranoia. Jacob is being given a choice. He has to decide where he wants his life to go, how he wants to live. He has no one to answer the question for him and we watch as he struggles with the choice.
Who is Jacob meant to be, seems to be the ultimate question of this book if not the series. He is not weak as he once thought. He is not worthless. He has an ability that can save many and now he has to make the decision about what to do with that ability.
I was wrapped up in this story. I found myself being pulled along even during moments when I was a bit nervous. I wanted to see what happened next. I wanted to see what choices Jacob would make. I am excited to start the next book and to see where this story goes!
On the cover one of the featured reviews just says, “Poignant,” (Entertainment Weekly). This is the perfect word to sum up this novel. It is a novel with a glimpse into triumphs and struggles of a handful of young gay men. David Levithan writes a story where you as a reader slip into many lives and feel a distinct connection to every one of them. You feel their struggles and their triumphs. It is a book that gives you a very real and important glimpse into the lives of these young men.
The story revolves around two teenage boys named Craig and Harry who are out to break the world record for the longest kiss. They are ex-boyfriends who have remained good friends. They choose to break this record to make a statement and as a sign of solidarity for a friend of theirs who was assaulted for being gay.
Orbiting their story are three other stories. There is Peter and Neil. Two teenagers who are in a well established relationship but are struggling to determine what the future holds for them. Avery and Ryan have just met at a dance. They are in the process of getting to know one another and deciding what, if anything, is going to happen with them. And there is Cooper a young man who is lost and desperately looking for a place to belong and feel like someone cares.
The story is mostly told in the second person view point. The narrators are the spirits of those gay men who have passed away. It is heavily implied that they are the spirits of them who died from AIDS. At first the voice may throw some people off, since it is an uncommon point of view to use for a narrator. But it is what makes this novel. These voices are speaking not only to these young men but to us as readers as well. They want to tell us how their lives were and to show us how far things have come. They also want to make sure we understand how important a struggle is and how it important it is to never hide from your emotions. They want to pass on the lessons they learned during their own lives. They express what we need to see, understand and takeaway from the story.
The viewpoint also makes it easier to connect to our characters as well. For me it felt like the narrators were caregivers or parents of these teenagers. They want to tell them so much, to make them see that their low points will not last forever. I wanted these teenagers to be able to hear the narrators. To be able to hear them tell them that life is getting better even if at times it doesn’t seem so. The narrators are passing on hope and telling the characters to not give up. They fought and struggled and the fight is not over yet.
The voice also provides us a time frame of the struggle for gay rights. For some it may seem like we have not come far but these narrators tell us otherwise. Many of them died alone. Many of them lost their families and many were never able to be out. Always had to hide away a very important part of themselves. Yes, many of these problems still exist today and unfortunately will probably exist for quiet a while. But the narrators give us a context of how far this fight has come. The fact that these boys can even attempt this kiss in a public place is a testament to that. They know the fight is far from over but they implore us and the characters to never give up.
The other aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was the variety of characters. Every one of them faces a struggle and portrays a significant type of story. Neil is in a relationship with Peter which seems ideal. But we see that his life is not. His parents “accept,” him but they are reluctant to speak out-loud about their son’s sexual orientation.
Ryan lives in a small town. He has friends and accepting family but he is struggling against a bully. One classmate is out to get him and make his life miserable. Ryan is struggling with not allowing the actions and words of one ignorant bully define him. He is angry and he lets this anger control his life too often. He is desperate to escape and find a life where he does not have this daily struggle.
Avery is transgender. He is struggling to find a place in the world. We see that he is somewhat comfortable in his skin and life but also has many insecurities. Avery is desperate to find a way to have a life that he enjoys and one that doesn’t involve him questioning everything all the time. His character is interesting because his story isn’t about him transitioning or making the decision to transition. He has been living this life for a while and we get to see that the struggle to find a way to belong never goes away.
Craig is not out to his family until the attempt to break the record begins. His family finds out in the middle of it and do not react well. They are confused, lost and upset. Craig can’t explain and talk it out with them. He struggles to find a way to deal with their reaction. He wants them to be on his side and he has to find a way to accept how they reacted. He also has to find a way to understand their position and a way to make them understand and see that this does not change who he is as a person.
Cooper’s story is the hardest to take. Cooper is a closeted young man. His parents discover his sexual orientation and react in a negative fashion. Cooper runs away and spends the novel searching of a reason to continue living this life. He is like so many of the lost youth who do not see where they can do or what is left for them in this world.
Levithan does a fantastic job at giving us a glimpse into multiple lives. We do not need to have an entire novel for each of these characters. This brief looks gives us what we need to understand the struggles and lives of gay youth.
I enjoyed the emotional impact of these story. I enjoyed the multiple story lines and the ability to see what other lives are like. This novel tells us that everyone has a story and that every story matters. It also tells us that the fight for equal rights and acceptance is far from over but it has come far. Things have changed and will continue to change.
“The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,” by Gabrielle Zevin,is the story of man who thought there was nothing else left for him in the world and through one event learns otherwise. A.J. has always defined his life by books and the stories he reads. He uses books as his lens to view the world. He judges those by the books they enjoy and he is critical of everything that he reads. He owns a bookstore and in the beginning of the story it seems like he has trapped himself inside his store. He doesn’t make it the most welcoming place. Until a child is left inside the store and he is forced to opened the store and himself to the world around him. Once he opens himself he makes the store a more welcoming place. Slowly the bookstore allows him to connect with a number of people and to bring himself back to life. He goes from a cold and bitter widower to a content, happy father, husband and member of the community.
At the beginning of the novel A.J. has recently lost his wife in a car accident. He has closed himself off from the rest of the world and the community. He owns a bookstore and it is his only way of connecting to the world anymore. But we see that he is cold and not easy to talk to. Amelia comes to his store to pitch her publisher’s most recent book list and A.J. turns down every one of them. He has an excuse for why he doesn’t like every single book she suggests. He is critical of his literary choices, believing little that is published can be considered literary and decent. He is someone who spends his life around books everyday but at the beginning of the novel it seems like he hates most of what he has to sell.
Then a young child is left at his store and he instantly feels a connection to the baby. He adopts her and she begins to open him back up. He closed himself off when he lost his first wife. But Maya makes him realize that there is so much more to the world that is around him. One of my favorite parts is that when he first adopts Maya he is intent on trying to make her act like a grownup. He states frequently that he can’t stand Elmo but it is not long before he changes his mind about the little red monster. He states “The most annoying thing about it is that once a person gives a shit about one thing, he finds he has to start giving a shit about everything,” (76).
A.J. does start giving a shit about everything. He doesn’t just open himself up to stories and muppets for Maya but he also opens himself up to the rest of the community. People start showing up more at his store at first to check on Maya but ultimately find it a place where they can feel they belong. A.J. lets them into his store and ultimately his life. The town sets up a number of book clubs ranging from one for cops to one for mothers. Children come to the store and read. A.J. has to open up his tastes and his selection to begin to accommodate the new clientele.
In the beginning of the novel A.J. makes the bookstore seems like an intimidating place. He stocks only what he likes, he stocks only what he himself can sell and he rejects almost everything else. This makes his store limiting and uninviting. But once Maya comes into his life and shows him what can happen when you open yourself up a little, his life and store change. He realizes that books are not meant to be just for him to enjoy. He realizes that he has a special place on his hands. A store where the community can come and gather around. He learns that books can be a unifying force. They have always helped him define the world and he begins to help others learn that joy as well. A.J. starts the novel as a man very few people knew or cared about. By the end his store is a place that the town revolves around and A.J. himself is someone people enjoy being around.
I enjoyed this novel because of the way it shows how important stories can be for one life. Books don’t just provide an escape for us to another world. Books can helps us be able to understand and interact with those around us. We can join book clubs and find a place to belong. There is so much that a few books can do and this novel tell portrays that power. The story will make you laugh and cry as you watch this man learn how to live again.
I had heard of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak but hadn’t thought too much about it until I went to dinner with my aunt and uncle and one of my aunt’s friends raved about it. I was intrigued by her enthusiasm and wanted to find out if it was as good as she said it was. I actually wasn’t entirely sure what the book was about but I am very glad I picked it up. It grabbed my attention from the first page and made me feel deeply for the characters through every chapter.
The Book Thief is the story of a young girl named Liesel. She is taken in by a family named the Hubermans. It is hinted her mother is giving her and her brother up (who dies on the journey) because she is a communist and can’t take care of her children any longer. Liesel quickly bonds with her new foster father, Papa. He begins to teach her to read from a variety of books that she steals over the course of the story. Book and stories become her refuge in a time that is confusing and ultimately tragic for such a young child. Her parents take in a Jewish man and hide him in their basement for a while. It is the story of one family trying to not only protect this young child but to raise her with respect of all people no matter where they come from or what their religion may be.
What really grabbed my attention was the POV of the story. The story is actually told from Death’s POV. He found this book and is telling us the story of Liesel that he has read from The Book Thief that she wrote about her life. Generally when we get a omnipotent narrator, they are nameless and faceless. When I was in school this type of narrator was always referred to as Godlike. I loved Zusak’s take on the idea. That the character watching and being able to see all is not God but Death itself. It makes you think about who is watching over us. Death is someone who is with everyone because no matter your beliefs, choices or mistakes you will one day meet Death, no matter what. Which is an idea that we better understand by the end of the book.
Death seemed like a kind soul in this story. He wasn’t some hooded creature out to take lives and destroy hearts. (I saw Death as ‘he,’ throughout though it is never stated what Death’s gender is, if gender can actually be attributed to this abstract idea). He was someone who just had a job to do, a job he wasn’t a big fan of. He constantly states how busy he was during WWII and had it hurt him to see so many lose their lives so early. The image of him cradling the young souls in his arms, was bitter sweet and one of my favorite images from the story. For a concept that we see as harsh and cruel much of the time Zusak was able to personify Death into someone we understand and actually feel bad for at times.
Death is a common theme in this novel. Not only does it begin with Death speaking about the war and the story we are about to hear but one of the very first events in the novel is the death of Liesel’s brother. A death the haunts her for a very long time. It is the first time that this young girl is thrust into a world where things are harsh and hurt. She is taken out of a protective bubble and showed how much the world can cause pain.
Liesel lives in Nazi, Germany and we all know how dark and scary that time was for many people. Though Liesel lives in a world that can destroy you at every turn, if you say the wrong thing or show sympathy to the wrong person, she is sheltered by her foster parents. They are the light to the darkness that surrounds her life. They show her that everyone deserves to be treated well, no matter who they are or what religion they follow.
One moment that really stuck out to me was the moment when Mama found out that Papa had taken Max in and was going to hide and protect him. Mama’s character until this point was harsh and seemed a bit cruel at times. I expected her to refuse out right and make a statement about how they couldn’t put their own lives at jeopardy for this man they barely knew. But she didn’t, she gave him food and accepted him into her house with barely a fight about it.
This moment solidified that these two people were good people, they were the type of people that would keep this world from crumbling and becoming full of hate. That they were people who could not sit around and watch people be tortured and killed without doing what they could to save some of them. They had little money and no power but they took in this man and not only protected him but became his friend. Not only did they become friends with him but they allowed Liesel to get close to him as well. She got to see that no matter what they posters said or what Hitler spoke about, the Jewish people were the same as any other German. This was such an important part of this story.
Max was not hidden away from the young girl. They didn’t make it so it was an adult thing that she could not understand. They treated her as an equal just as they expected her to treat Max. Mama and Papa are the epitome of good parents and good people. They are what all of us need to embody. They treated someone just as they would like to be treated if their places were reversed and they taught their daughter to do the same. A lessons she could then pass on to her own children and anyone else she meets in life. If you there is nothing else you take away from this book then take away that lesson.
Unfortunately for Liesel she had to watch her innocence die. A small series of events shocks her system and throw her out of her safety bubble that her foster parents had created for her. Papa gives a small piece of bread to a starving and sick Jew who is being paraded down the street and as a consequence for his action he is forced to join the army. Max leaves as well afraid that he is going to get the family into trouble. Liesel watches as the darkness creeps into her life as a shadow. Now all she is able to do is worry about Max and her Papa. Her childhood is now gone. The shadows hovers over her shoulder making her worry and feel the cold of the cruel world before it completely consumes her life, for a time at least.
Liesel decides to write down all that has happened to her in a book called The Book Thief and it is doing this that saves her life. She is in the basement of her home when a bomb drops and kills both her foster parents and good friend of hers as well. Liesel goes into shock and her world becomes bleak and black for a while.
But we see that she is strong just as her foster parents raised her to be. She goes to live with the Mayor and his wife (someone she has struck up a friendship with). She becomes a strong woman and ends up moving to Australia and has a family of her own.
This book was a snapshot of one family trying to live in the very dangerous world of Nazi Germany. I liked getting this small take on this world and seeing it from this perspective. We got to see how one normal family had to fight to survive and how they taught their daughter how to not only survive but how to cultivate good in a world that at times seems dark and full of hate.
“The Maze Runner,” series by James Dashner is a post apocalyptic novel series. The first book, The Maze Runner, has been made into a movie recently. This keeps on the track of dystopian novels that have gained popularity since “Hunger Games,” came out. What this series does differently is that it is extremely action packed, there are very few moments where the main characters aren’t running from someone or trying to save themselves. It also keeps us in suspense for the entire series. You get small tidbits of information, and believe that by the end you will have all the answers you desire to fully appreciate the choices made and the course of the story, but unfortunately you get few answers and are left hanging at the very end of the series.
The series starts with Thomas showing up in the maze. He is brought in like many of the others through a metal box. He has no memories of his life before the maze. He is in this place, and has to survive with a number of other boys; all who are determined to find a way out of the maze and back home. What we learn is that the maze is only the first trial on the list. They are all being used as experiments to help find a cure for what is called, the Flare, a diseases released after sun flares devastated much of the planet. Thomas and his friends spend the series trying to survive in order to get to some type of safe life back.
Dashner knows how to write very plotted out action and suspense. I kept turning page after page because I had to see what was going to happen next. I had to make sure everyone got out of the current situation or that we might get some type of valuable answer. Someone was always on the edge of danger. Every chapter ended with a moment where you were holding your breath. I went through each book always waiting for that moment when we were going to lose someone else.
Not only was I always afraid of losing someone, I was also eager to get answers. What was WICKED’s ultimate goal? What did the trials have to do with finding a cure and blueprint? How would a blueprint cure the disease? What did Thomas do for WICKED before the trials? Why did he work with them? Why did he go into the trials without his memories? Did he know everything? Or only a part of the whole situation? What was his true relationship with Aris and Teresa?
So many questions and I was disappointed because I never got any answers to those questions, at least none that satisfied me. The end just left me hanging and confused. The actual physical ending was even a question in and of itself and made me scratch my head wondering what was the point? I am a reader who loves to have questions through out the novel that keep me wondering. I am perfectly fine wondering about something until the last page but I expect the last few pages to give me enough answers. Not all questions will be answered but I want most of them to be. Unfortuneatly this series gave few if any answers.
Dashner started off with two very strong characters. Thomas was lost without his memories but he was courageous and determined to do what he could to save everyone. He was caring and he was strong. Then the next two books never built on his strength in the first book. I felt like never knowing his true past made it very hard for him to grow. He was so determined to not remember that he became single minded. He wanted to save his friends and get away from WICKED and that was it. Though we kept being told that he had some part in starting the whole ordeal.
I really wanted to see Thomas have this crisis of consciousness moment. He did not have to think what he did in the past was right. He could have seen it with new eyes now that he survived both trials and could have changed his opinion. But without his memories he was just purely hating WICKED because of very little information that he had. I wanted to see Thomas have to figure out what to do with his past and present since they seemed so vastly different.
Teresa was the same way. She was the outsider in the maze, being the only girl and the reason that the whole place started falling apart. But she never gave up on getting out and she formed a connection with Thomas. A connection we know they had before the whole thing started. But then after they escaped that whole thing crumbled. We barely saw her in the other two books. They never had a real talk about their pasts, even after Teresa got her memories back. She drifted back and forth so much that I lost interest in her.
It would have been great to see these two stand together to overcome their pasts and rescue everyone. They knew what happened and they were the only who could be able to really relate to one another and understand what they did and why. I would have loved to see them play off each other and keep each other going. Instead of having Brenda randomly show up and sort of take that role. But again she had a significant past that we never got to truly understand. I was left wanting more from everyone.
Dashner knows how to write suspense and action very well. If you want a nail-biting novel series that keeps you wondering after every page this one is for you. Unfortunately I wanted more answers then I got, and got less character development then I usually like.
I was excited when I found out that Robert Galbraith was writing another Cormoran Strike novel. I had thought that Cuckoo’s Calling was a single book, not part of a series. It very easily could stand alone, but it also works very well for the start of a series about this man and his mission to make a name for himself. I really enjoy these novels, even though the detective genre is not normally my go-to place for a new book.
As I read this story I tried to determine what it is about detective stories that I can’t get into. I love puzzles/riddles and mysteries but for me there has to be more to the story then just who is the killer and why. I love shows like Bones because I love the characters while the mystery aspect takes a back seat for me. And I think that is why I love these books so much. The mystery aspect is important but it is not central to the story, the story is about Cormoran and Robin finding themselves.
We left Cormoran on a sort of high at the end of the last novel. He was getting over his breakup and he was starting to make a true name for himself. In this story we see that the image he is trying to create is very fragile, that high and happiness is a teetering tower that could fall over at any moment.
Strike is a very independent man. He does not need anyone’s help. When he struggles to get out of a cab Robin knows to let him struggle, he would not appreciate helping him in any fashion. He does not want to live off of anyone else’s charity. He is a veteran who lost his leg protecting his country and he does not want anyone’s pity. He will not see the limitations that stand before him.
Strike strives to cover up what he is lacking by showing the world his true capabilities as a detective. If he can get the world to see how good he is at his job, then they will not see what he is lacking physically. This become his goal in life to prove to the world that he is more than a man missing a leg and also that he is more than the son of a famous rockstar; none of that will define him. Strike is the only one who can define himself.
Throughout this novel we see him constantly fight with his prothesis He should not have it on most of this book, since it is hurting him, but he will not let others see him without it. He will not be pitied. He will be respected for the man that he is. He also refuses to show how poor he really is. He takes cabs he can’t afford as well as paying for lunches he knows he doesn’t have the money for. Admitting he can’t afford these things is a sign of weakness, something Strike will not show the world. His body and pocket book might not be strong but his mind is sharp and he will get the world to respect him for that.
Robin sees the real Strike. She knows how fiercely proud and stubborn a man Strike can be. She doesn’t hold that against him, she understands him. She knows what is means to want to work to show the world your true self. Robin doesn’t pity Strike, she doesn’t let him off when he does things that piss her off. She stands her ground and fights him when necessary. She keeps Strike answering for his actions, which is something Strike desperately needs. He needs someone to put him straight sometimes, point out when he is being ridiculous.
Robin is a very strong woman. In the last book we saw her kind of searching for herself. She had just gotten engaged and started a new job. She was trying to fit herself into these new roles. Now she has determined how she wants to not only play these roles but how she wants the rest of the people around her to see her.
She wants to be a detective and she let’s Strike know that. At first she is hesitant about it, getting offended when he doesn’t offer to train her. But she doesn’t let that stay holed up inside of her for too long, she opens her mouth and tells him what she wants. She fights him when he tries to change her mind. She wants this and she isn’t going to walk away because of potential issues that might arise. When Robin wants something she goes after it.
In this book she puts her relationship in jeopardy because she is so focused on this one goal. Robin is not going to choose between being married and having this career. She will have both. She wants Strike and Matt to get along to make her life easier but when they don’t she doesn’t decide she has to choose between the two. She understands both sides and becomes determined to work with both of them. Robin really steps up in this novel, she finds herself and her voice which is always nice to see. I like Robin because she does not let the obstacles get in her way. She sees them, analyzes them and determines the best way to move them out of her way.
The actual mystery part of this novel was interesting. A writers goes missing and ends up dead. Everyone becomes a suspect after it is discovered that in his latest novel he basically destroys everyone that is in his life. I won’t reveal too much about the details but I will say it was an interesting take on how easily people will judge someone based off what they write. People sometimes have a very difficult time separating fact from fiction, and when there is any resemblance to a real person then latch on and run with the comparison. When things don’t fit they make them fit. It is an interesting take on the idea of separating an artist from their work.
I enjoyed this novel very much, because as I stated before you get completely wrapped up in the lives of Strike and Robin. Both of them are real, breathing people you could find in the street, the store or at the movies. You turn pages because you want to see what happens next in their lives. You root for Robin to get what she wants and you want Strike to show the world who he truly is. You become invested in their lives, making it simple to get lost inside of the pages of The Silkworm.
There is nothing I love more than a book that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the very last word on the very last page. A book that you contemplate when you aren’t reading it and are constantly wondering what is going to happen next, is the best. A book that makes you think, is even better. I haven’t found a book in a while that holds me captive, but with Ready Player One I found that magic once again. This book reminded me of why I love to read, it has a very intriguing storyline, a great protagonist and it leaves you thinking at the end.
In 2044 OASIS is a virtual world that is an escape for everyone around the country. The real world is a complete disaster. The energy crisis has destroyed the economy along with the planet. People are desperately trying to scrape by and make it one day to the next. Life just seems absolutely miserable. OASIS is where everyone goes to escape and hide from the deteriorating world around them.
James Donovan Halliday, an avid gamer, is the creator of OASIS. He dies and leaves the most epic of treasure hunts in his will. He sets up a contest where everyone who uses OASIS can hunt down three keys and pass through three gates to ultimately find the “Easter Egg,” and win his fortunate; which is billions of dollars.
Wade is an orphan who is forced to live with his despicable aunt. He is determined to find the “Easter Egg,” and escape from the horrible reality that surrounds him. Wade ends up in a race to find the egg, where he learns what is means to have friends and learns what about the value of reality.
Halliday was a huge fan of the games, music and movies that he grew up with as a kid in the 1980s. I was born at the very end of the ’80’s, so much of things referenced in this story I only know about from my parents or from specials on TV. I imagine that if you grew up in the ’80’s with all of these things this would be a fun trip down memory lane for you. He references movies such as “Wargames,” and games like “Pacman.” If you know these games, movies or songs I assume it would be even more fun to find the clues and puzzles alongside Wade. Even if you are not from that generation, like me, it is still fun to go along on the journey. You can follow along and keep track of what is going on just fine.
I love these type of stories that have puzzles built in. I even like them more when I recognize the references and can make connections to what is going on. While this aspect of the story is fun and keeps the plot moving really well (except for one small portion in the middle), the development of Wade’s character is what really made me love this novel. The process of watching Wade change throughout this journey was very well done and was paced very well.
Wade, at the beginning, is a kid who has nothing left to him in the world. His parents are dead, he has no real life friends and no one to help or support him. OASIS is where he escapes to. It is the one place where he can feel like he belongs. He goes to school there and meets his one friend, Aech there. He is out to find the “Easter Egg,” initially so he can take the money and run away. He wants to be able to escape this world that he sees as dying and pointless.
Wade is the one who finds the first key, after five years of no one making any progress, and sets off this great race that becomes extremely dangerous for everyone involved. He spends the first half of his hunt driven by the desire to win so that he can get out of the life he is stuck in. Soon the tables turn and it is no longer just about him trying to escape. It becomes about him trying to save OASIS for everyone, as well as learning what reality really can mean.
There are a few points that are turning points for his character. One of the main ones is when he meets with Sorrento, the leader of the corporate bad guys Sixers. The Sixers are only out to win to be able to fully control OASIS and exploit it for their own purposes. They want to take it from being a sanctuary for people and turn it into a corporate controlled land. Wade refuses every offer they throw at him, even ones that will set him up with money for life.
I loved his interaction with Sorrento because we saw Wade stand his ground and refuse to give in. Even when he is given a chance to have what he always wanted; the ability to escape his miserable life. Here we see that he is out to win for other reasons. Even though he wants to the money he isn’t willing to sell out to get it. He still has morals and values and he isn’t willing to let those go just for money. I loved watching him stand up and fight back. I knew right away that he was going to be someone I could understand and stand behind throughout the whole book.
The other point where we see him changing is when he falls in love with Art3mis. She is another avatar that is out to find the egg, and is matched in skills with Wade. He almost stops hunting the keys and trying to puzzle out the clues because he spends more and more time with this girl. He wants to get close to her, even if it isn’t in the real world. For a brief time he seems almost willing to walk away from the hunt to have her. Though that falls apart when she rebuffs him stating that he doesn’t really know who she is. He then becomes determined to win, not only for the money but to be able to meet Art3mis in real life. Finally he has a reason to want to live in the real world, even if it is just to meet this girl face to face.
At the end of the novel there is a quote that I feel really sums up the story and what it is trying to tell us. “I created OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world… I was afraid, for all my life… That’s when I realized as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it is the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.” (Cline, p. 364). Wade learns by the end of the novel that reality isn’t the desolate land he always assumed that it was. Being able to escape, whether it is into a book or a video game, is great. We all need that escape and place to hide sometime but you can’t live in that place forever. Reality is where life happens and where life thrives.
This idea echoes so well for our day. We all can escape so easily into the Internet through our phones or computers. We hide online where it seems safe, which is again fine for a time but life is always waiting. The open air with real solid Earth beneath your feet and real people with all their emotions, good and bad, are waiting. Waiting to be experienced, understood and appreciated. Throughout the novel Wade learns, that yes, the world has its problems and can really suck sometimes, but it isn’t completely destroyed and hopeless. Reality is still valuable and irreplaceable and always will be.