Tag Archives: Laura Harrington

Where’s Alice Bliss?

26th October 2011

Alice Bliss. I first noticed this book on Pop Culture Nerd’s blog back in June. She gave it an amazing review, and as I trust her taste, I knew I would have to pick it up. Then the author contacted me about joining in her campaign Where’s Alice Bliss?, where different people read and review the book and release it into the wild through Book Crossing. If you haven’t checked the site out, it is so cool and a great way to track books after you’ve dropped them somewhere.

 

So, the book. 15-year-old Alice is a daddy’s girl. She and her mom don’t see eye to eye, but she and her father Matt have a really special relationship. They tend a garden together, and her dad just gets her. When her dad decides to enlist and is sent overseas, the whole family – Alice, her mom, and her sister Ellie- have to deal with the stress, the anger, the sadness, and the fear of having a loved one on active duty. Matt is the anchor of this family, and untethered, the three have to learn how to connect to one another in his absence.

What Laura Harrington does so so well is to write authentic characters. One of my biggest complaints with young adult books are unbelievable characters, but Harrington’s characters are spot on, and several have a chance to talk in their own chapters. Alice is conflicted and doesn’t want to show her emotions. I was very like that at her age (and to be honest, I still am), so I could understand her need to shut down and retreat to the spaces she and her father frequented such as the garden shed, sleeping in there when she feels furthest from him. Her little sister was funny and extremely intelligent. Mrs. Bliss is so perfectly human. She wants to be there for her girls, but after her husband goes MIA, she has no idea how to cope amid her conflicted feelings.

Lest you think this is simply a tearjerker, the book is actually quite funny. Alice and her relationship with Henry, her lifelong best friend, changes as each realizes he or she has feelings for the other. Also, Alice’s uncle is such a bright spot, and the scenes with him and Alice are fun and touching. It was really refreshing to see a novel about a real family – slightly dysfunctional but full of love and fun, even in the really bad times.

Read this: and be prepared to tear up and laugh out loud.

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As for the book drop, I waited and waited to release this book because I wanted it to be somewhere special, so when I headed to Austin for the Texas Book Festival, I grabbed it, knowing book lovers would appreciate a free book. My mom helped me prop the book just so on the head of this longhorn, and the next time we passed, the book was gone! I hope the recipient enjoys it as much as I did.


There’s No Crying in …Reading!

20th September 2011

I have read – count it – three (3!) books in the last two weeks that made me cry. And, boy howdy, I fought against it. I hate crying. It makes my eyes puffy, makes my contacts dry, and makes me feel like a dope.

It’s not that I inherently have something against crying. It’s just that nine times out of ten, I think tears are a waste of time. Plus, if I cry while reading a book, I become really suspicious: what was that author doing that made me cry? Huh? Were they, heaven forbid, manipulating me??

I use the word manipulate like some use four-letter words. I believe this fear of manipulation stems from a lot of writing and literature classes I had where the profs loved to talk about manipulative writers (check it, this may mean writers who made more than the profs), so I have an abhorrence of sad books, and to be honest – ditto for sad movies. I ain’t watching The Notebook, no way no how. Don’t even go there.

So after I read those three crazy books that made me first, get a lump in my throat, and second, grudgingly admit that the wet stuff on my face was saline dripping from my eyes, I had to stop and think: Are these writers bad writers because they made me cry?

In a couple of instances, the material itself was simply sad: dead children, a soldier leaving for war never to come home. I don’t ordinarily read these types of books, and by types, I mean material guaranteed to make you do the ugly cry. For one of them, Alice Bliss, I was forewarned. Elyse over at Pop Culture Nerd warned it was a tearjerker, and it was. I don’t think that makes it a bad book, partly because it was well balanced. There was enough humor that I didn’t feel overly emotional.

However, this other book (which shall remain nameless) starts out sad, goes to gut-wrenching, and leaves you, wasted and spent with tear tracks down your face. In other words, I hated it. Is that just my taste? Probably. Am I being harsh? Possibly.

Maybe I just don’t want to borrow grief. I’m the girl who, in elementary school, cried about the plight of the manatees. I can become maudlin at the drop of a hat. Books that have sadness or grief in them don’t trouble me; however, books whose entire schtick is sadness and grief? No, thank you.

You can probably tell I’m torn on this, so I’m asking you guys: What do you think? What constitutes manipulation in a book? And is that a bad thing?