‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I’m glad I didn’t give up on Rainbow Rowell. But I still think it’s a stupid name. Some of you may remember my absolute horror at reading ‘Landline’ earlier this year. This was Rowell’s first attempt (and I use that word with heavy sarcasm) at writing adult fiction. It won Goodreads book of 2014. I read only good reviews. I read it. Hated it. Boring, adulty, nonsense. GOD ADULTS ARE BORING. And I am one myself. Mostly.

Then I read ‘Fangirl’, and the Rainbow Rowell fanclub made a lot more sense. Rowell has captured the epic reader’s life in 460 pages. In my version of the book anyway. In a nutshell: life is just something that happens around books. Sometimes it can appear to be dull and grey and frankly messy. But life in your perfect little book is just that. Perfect. I have never related to a character so perfectly as I did with Cather and Wren. The utter obsession with a book, the desire to live in it’s pages, the disdain for people who like the Great Outside.

Our protagonist Cather, is an antisocial fanfic writer. She’s a nobody in the real world, but online? Bitch is famous. I can’t imagine the pressure of having thousands of people read your posts every day. When I make a spelling mistake, chances are no one mean enough to point out my spelling mistake is going to tell me before I get the chance to fix it myself. And even I sweat it out seeing the little “beep beep boop” that says your post is live. Still isn’t enough to make me read over what I’ve written before I post it though. Such effort am I right?

I stopped reading for about a month and sunk into the depressive state of: real job – five days a week, eat, sleep, bang head against a wall, repeat. It happens often. It happens when I stop reading. Then, on an accidental burst of internet through my crappy phone, I discovered I was two whole weeks behind schedule of my 50 books a year goal. And I had read in advance just in case! Enter the panicked Amy reading five books in two weeks. I read and I read and I didn’t blog because INTERNET, also because CBF M8.

I wandered aimlessly around Dymocks trying to catch a title that would pique my interest. It’s sort of hard when you have no internet and no subsequent internet friends to rely on for reviews. Current-boyfriend-Peychaud was no help with advice – handing me ‘One Direction’ colouring books and Japanese phrase books. Then I thought: I’m just going to have to read Fangirl and be fucking done with it aren’t I. If it doesn’t work out, at least I have Japanese for Dummies to fall back on.

Thank god. Because Fangirl did what the other books (even some seriously great ones) couldn’t. It spurred me to write again. Mostly out of the necessity to reassure Rainbow that she wasn’t a total waste of space. I know it’s been keeping her up at night.

Despite your stupid name…Rainbow, I think you’re alright. Now go and get some rest. Four months of thinking some nameless internet-hoe (that’s me) doesn’t like you, has got to be exhausting. And I’ll post this as soon as I get even a fraction of internet. I promise.

So thanks to all the internet-humans out there for making me read Fangirl. I guess I’ll give Eleanor and Park a go now.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

You’re missing the world… It’s pretty ordinary

If there is one thing that having no internet for a solid month has taught me, it’s that you feel mighty stupid writing blog posts and then saving them into a folder instead of sharing them with the world. I’m pretty much just writing a diary at the moment. Hopefully my internet will be connected soon and then I won’t feel like such a loser. Either that or I should go out and buy some smiley face stickers and doodle love hearts on my computer screen and really commit.

Dear Diary.

You are an inanimate object with no regards or knowledge to the fact that I am writing in you.

No wonder people don’t often do this.

A-wol. (That’s my hood name)

 

Calm down Amy, this is a diary – no room for street cred here.

See this is why you can’t have a diary. You know you’re just talking to yourself.

I’m out.

There is also a secondary teaching in having no internet and that is my having been forced to interact with the outside world. And by that I purely mean having coffee outside and glaring at everyone who walks past. I normally don’t notice people judging my short skirt if my nose is in my phone. I normally don’t have to watch people bicker in public when I can easily go to the comments section of any viral post to witness a decent (occasionally well-structured) argument. Does anyone else notice how bright it is out here? I think my skin is hyperventilating from the large amounts of Vitamin D it’s sucking up. I also think our O-zone layer is definitely thinning because I don’t remember it being so bright outside in my childhood.

What I’m trying to say is… What’s so wrong living through the rose coloured glass of a laptop screen?  The internet loves me more than the real world anyway!

I don’t like to think how much people become addicted to the internet and branding themselves to the world at large but it becomes glaringly obvious when you have to witness people doing the day to do day things. Instagram is filled with glammed girls and boys who look nothing like my friends Facebook is filled with these life events – look how in love we are, look how fancy vodka-lime-soda’s make me look, check out my selfie of the day that comes with the literary quote of a book I’ve clearly never read.

We got obsessed fast and accepted it like it was cute. Nope, this is the generation of narcissists – and while I may not be the selfie queen like some of my peers – I do essentially write a diary and put it on the internet like it’s everybody’s business. You tend to forget there is a whole world continuing on out there that isn’t going to change because another hundred people think you got cute since high school.

So I guess it doesn’t really matter if you participate in the world, because it’s only going to end up twisted in the archives for future generations. The official records for nearly everything is just a load of makeup and filters on an otherwise plain corporation.

I love this time for the sake of Netflix, literature, and really excellent red wine jus. But the state of social standing is a bit of a laugh. And we all know it. But we will still do it.

How to pacify the ghost you live with

Let me just start by saying, this isn’t a metaphor.  The ghost I live with isn’t the regrets I have or the things I never accomplished or the fears I’ll never face. It is an angry, door slamming, tapping on the table and calling my name from the kitchen. WHAT IS IT GARY! WHAT DO YOU WANT! I named the ghost Gary.

Rule 1: Don’t name your ghost.

No one wants to be named Gary. Not even people who are actually named Gary want to be named Gary. It may have become easier to reference him in real time, but it wasn’t worth the doors slamming at two in the morning, or the airconditioner breaking in the midst of the hottest week of the summer.

Rule 2: Don’t smoke it out.

I tried a few things to smoke him out and on to the afterlife. Incense, Glen 20, burning chicken chippies so badly they reverted back to their original carbon based form. To be honest, most of those things were to get the smell of no-longer-chicken-chippies out of my house. You could live with the ghost of Jack the Ripper but it really wouldn’t be as bad as having your house smell like wet cigarettes.

Rule 3: Remember that it is human

I made him a Netflix account. Netflix came to Australia last week. It was extremely convenient because the next week the Australian government passed the data retention law. In an effort to ‘catch the terrorists’ they can now track all the things we do online faster than you can say “double plus good”. But obviously I have NOTHING TO FEAR BECAUSE I HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE.

Side note: how super hard is it to be sarcastic in 2D?

But I digress.  I found myself with the OPPORTUNITY to download the Australian version (read: subpar) of Netflix. You come to this little section after they lure you in with the free for month trial where you can make four different accounts. “Who will be watching” they ask. And you are encouraged to make four accounts for the four people who live in your house.

“Drat” say I, out loud because no one was home and I was starting to hear the blood rushing in and out of my head in the immense silence.

“What can I call the third account! Guest? Other?”

Then came the breeze on the back of my neck. In a house that was the air version of a swamp. Seriously nothing in and nothing out. There may have only been three people living in the house, but there were four people in the house.

Shani (housemate/sister) didn’t approve. Her coping method for living with a malevolent spirit is to pretend it doesn’t exist. You can imagine how well it went down when she discovered that Gary had become so fully fledged as to have a Netflix account. She’s going to faaaareak when she discovers he has been watching David Attenborough, Clueless, and That 70’s Show for the last week.

How to get things for free

Step 1: Stop trying to get things for free.

There is a certain expectation, a necessity, of getting the most you can for least you can. From a purely selfish point of view, I can understand that. Some of us aren’t made of money, and some people can afford to not have as much money. BUT! No matter how many people do half the amount of work as you and receive twice the amount of money doesn’t mean you are entitled to anyone else’s. They found a way to beat the excessively flawed system. Good on them.

This article isn’t going to be on ways that the world is unfair and how discrimination is still prevalent in our society. You already know that. And we do have human rights activists and feminists and every man and his dog working to smooth out the playing field – but the reality is – in this lifetime, we will not see equality and as bitter as it can make you, you have to find a way to not hate everyone, and continue leaving your house.

Scenario: I work in hospitality and every day I have to combat people trying to get things for free. A few months back a man attempted to get a 100% refund on food and beverage an entire month after the night in question. I can only assume his boss saw the tab and lost his shit. I guess you can see the logical jump that makes this my fault. Oh you can’t? Neither.

Unfortunately for me and most Australian’s in my position, this is the norm. I have one thing to say to you. I hate you all. I know for you this is that one night where your steak wasn’t cooked to your exact specifications, or you felt that your tequila sunrise didn’t have a standard measurement of alcohol, or you felt that it was too windy to put up the decorations you wanted. So you want a refund, and a $500 credit. You want a written apology from upper management. You want to leave a scathing review online because – that will show them.

Certain industries, such as hospitality, are looked down upon by people with ‘real jobs’. Some people believe that because they can do it themselves (by a bottle from the bottle shop and pour it, cook their own damn fettucine) that they are being ripped off by everyone who supplies it. Forgetting of course, that it is a business. A business that has rent and wages and electricity bills to pay for. And some whinging lady that says: “I can buy this for $40 in a bottle shop. Why are you charging me $100!”

Just. Shut up.

In creative writing at the very end of our three or four year degree we are informed that actually no-one will want to pay for your service. <insert clients name here> can write sentences, they are just too busy so they want you to do it. But they don’t want to pay you.

“Do it for experience.”

“At least you’re getting published”

“You have to do it for free while you’re getting started so you can build a reputation.”

No.

Do you think I pay my electricity bills that way? Can you imagine if I wrote to Origin, “thanks for providing me with three months of electricity. I can’t actually afford to pay you now, but if this works out for me, I may consider paying you next month.”

“Hey Coles, this is a great product. I’m going to eat it and tell all my friend about it, and seeing as I’m doing you a favour by marketing your product, I won’t be paying you for it.”

“Thanks for fixing my sink plumber, but I know that you would do it just for the experience.”

It sounds a lot more ridiculous now doesn’t it?

The way to start fixing the system isn’t to try scrounging money out of other businesses and people. It’s to be the fucking change you want to see in the world. Pay for things so that people will pay you for things.

JEEZ!

Romance is for saps. And other things I dislike about lit love.

Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, the day for lit list lovers. This week’s theme on The Broke and the Bookish is the Top Ten things we dislike in literature when it comes to romance. Now I could be all judgmental and begin with the obvious – ‘falling in love because he buys you pasta’ is just not realistic. But that’s too easy – and I think Twilight has been picked on enough. So here is the top ten irritating things about love and love interests in my books.

  1. When they get Honour and Stupidity mixed up

For example: “Ill protect you!” – runs straight into a scene where the far more capable and intelligent heroine has everything planned and he fucks it up trying to save her. Pretty much everything Chaol (from Throne of Glass) does. Every time. Eugh I hate that guy.

  1. When he has long hair

Please tell me I am not alone in finding the windswept shoulder length hair the least dimitrisexy thing ever? Tied at the nape of his neck? Thick braids? Tucked behind your ears? Are you a female? Why are you making me question whose hair is bowing in the wind in every scene when the two of you are together?  I don’t care how many muscles you have. Cut your damn hair son! <waves cane at uncouth youth>

  1. When they make you mad! IBXBUETU!

This is different from them being stupid. They have a good reason but you can’t help but think – surely there is a better way of addressing the issue. Now I loved Will Herondale, but in Clockwork Angel when he tore up Tessa’s heart to make her hate him I was back to square one. I remember thinking at the time – ‘I know you’re going to have a good reason for this, but I don’t want to f*cking hear it! I really must find that scene to see if it was as dreadful as I remember.

  1. When they are both awful people

frankly my dearAaaand they don’t even end up together. I got all the way through ‘Gone with the Wind’. It was no small feat. I thought it was all going to be worth it, when SPOILER Rhett and Scarlett broke up. They were both awful, tacky, mean spirited, bastards individually and I thought at least they have each other and they can love each other in spite of the wretched flaws they both possess. Some physical violence ensued, I’m pretty sure Rhett pushes her down the stairs, she wants him to stay, he’s says: no fucks given… COME ON! This is not a romance for the ages.

  1. When they initially loved someone else to breaking point

You know how you know when you’re reading a romance novel? Because the main character has found their soul mate. Its romance, it is meant to exist. So it just shits me beyond belief when one of the characters has multiples. The biggest example of this is in Romeo and Juliette. At the beginning Romeo is head over heels, suicidal for Rosaline. How fickle is this lad? Did he really love Juliette or was he going to go die for any old girl off the street?

  1. When the sex scenes are so vague you don’t realise it even happened

When the author wants to handle the deed so delicately so as not to offend anyone – girl witheither that or they think their parents will read it and judge them… Then they will reference it later in the book and you’re all – wait one moment sir! That never happened. But yes. All those metaphors and beautiful dancing, or twister, or piercing someone’s ear was the sex. Wow. Why even bother.

  1. When sensual descriptions rub you the wrong way

I don’t know if I’m alone on this or not but irks me beyond belief when something is described poorly or in a way that gives you the complete opposite effect. ‘Sensual, sculptured lips’ – on a man. Now I’m picturing him with lips that look like he has been through a bee attack. ‘Creamy brown hair’? Now I feel like his hair is made of cream. I’m not attracted to this sensual-cream man. Is this a Cadbury ad?

  1. When they spend more time apart

jace hugI know it is all part of the suspense and they have to go on their own journeys to prove they love each other – or whatever the hell it is they do. It’s just so frustrating when someone is held captive for three books, when they have been magicked to forget love, or when they think they are brother and sister…

  1. When someone is immortal

You can’t help but calculate how long before shit starts to get really awkward. And it will obviously end sadly – with one immortal person roaming the earth alone forever, heart broken, never dying.

  1. When they leave them to die anyway…

There is one thing I really don’t understand in supposed YA love, and that’s when someone sacrifices themselves (usually stupidly) and the other will spot them dying/being captured/etc and then run. RUN! Do you even love that person?! Isn’t love when you care about someone more than yourself? Jeez…

‘The Sky so Heavy’ by Claire Zorn

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

There is something about a book that hits too close to home that makes reading uncomfortable. And

Photo by Peychaud

Photo by Peychaud

I’m not talking about emotionally, or intellectually or situation-wise – I mean an Australian book that name drops shopping centres. It makes me feel ill.  I’m not sure if Americans or the English feel the same way. I feel like they don’t. They have had centuries to get over their home towns being named dropped, their shopping centres globalised, and their plant life used for literary scenery. In Australia we basically only just came out of the water and evolved into hotties last year. We don’t have many books written about us – and the ones we do and shoved down our throats by every proud Australian, trying to convince their youth that: ‘Hey, we matter too, see!!! It’s in this actual-published-book!’

Get out of my face.

Some Australian books do it right. Tomorrow when the War Began, Seven Little Australians, Deadly Unna? And some do it extremely wrong. At a first glance I thought this would be one of those books. An awful – hey lets go to Westfield after school – instead of hey let’s go to the shops after school. It started off that way and I thought to myself – this will not be a fun night for me. Then it got good.

The Sky so Heavy got real pretty fast. It’s a dystopian fiction, set in Australia. We don’t have anything but dystopian here because we are a depressive people… Or violent. Pretty much sad or mad describes most Australians. Anyway – some bombs go off somewhere and suddenly everything shuts down. No power. No internets. No water. Then it starts snowing… radioactive snow. I thought I would settle down to read a chapter before I crashed – then I realised I had finished the book and my alarm to get up for work was set to go off in 4 hours. Worst feeling ever.

It was an extremely fat paced, easy to read novel. It was obviously preachy, and a little predictable, and everyone’s parents seemed to be pretty sweet letting their children roam around by themselves in a rapey, murdery, violent landscape where they will starve, dehydrate, freeze, or die of radioactive snow… I think to make it more YA, Claire needed to get rid of their parents so that the characters could go and find themselves. Which is fine. But maybe just kill them off. Parents aren’t usually so chill about that.

Most dystopian novels have an enemy. They are usually fairly easy to hate, and are foreign invading country, or of a different species, or an oppressive government. In ‘The Sky so Heavy’ the neighbours are the bad guys. And it feel so very real and hopeless. Human nature is a truly awful thing – and I don’t think I fully grasped that until I read this book. We will kill people, steal the food from the mouths of babies, and whatever the hell else – just so it means we can live. Eugh it’s disgusting. I hope if I am ever in an apocalyptic situation, I get the first wave of sickness, or death so I don’t have to see how low the rest of the world will sink.

So the book was good for that. However I couldn’t help but pick up some similarities to ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’. It was like I had to. The characters where just the same characters rolled into one person, or different genders. I guess in Australia we have about six different personalities. Quiet Asian, Religious, Muck-around-idiot, Artsy-protective-narrator, Hot-girl-who-comes-off-as-shallow-but-is-actually-deep-and-insightful.

All-in-all, worth the read.

What Makes a Book ‘Young Adult’ (YA)?

Young Adult is one of those wishy-washy categories that no one really agrees on. Traditionally, Young Adult are ‘coming of age’ stories, with teenage protagonists for teenage readers. This creates a little too much wriggle room for marketers, and literary critics. For example in America, ‘The Book Thief’ is classed as an adult book, and in Australia it is considered Young Adult. Perhaps this is because the American market think young adults have no interest in war themes, or perhaps they don’t think it is relatable enough for teenagers. It’s anyone guess.

In my own opinion – Young Adult should not be categorised based on its readership age – just the content. Now I’m not one to go ahead and post a scholarly article to educate anyone, just my opinion. Though, now that I think about it… Theories are opinions only. So without further ado, see below for A. Wallin’s theories on categorising ‘Young Adult’ literature based upon content.

  1. Teen Problems aren’t Patronised

Young Adult differs from Adult in that the problems any teen character experiences, from running on no sleep and constant bitchiness, to mental disorders and traumatic experiences, aren’t belittled. In a lot of adult books I have read, the teenager is the theatrically irritable character that selfishly strives to create dramatics for the protagonist. In Adult Fiction – the teenager is almost sub-human. In Young Adult – nothing is trivialised, at least not to the audience.

  1. Raw Content Minus the Dets (jeez Amy this is a scholarly article, write the full word…)

There isn’t a lot that Young Adult won’t explore: rape, mental disorders, murder, incest, dating vampires… but everything is still a little censored. Nothing is described in the kind of detail that could scar a fellow. The truly gory stuff is danced around, hinted at, or made into metaphor. Authors and publishers want readers informed but not traumatised.

  1. The Protagonist Embodies the Teenage Condition

In an extremely general way of speaking, adults have gone on their journey of self-discovery – they know who they are, they know who they want to be, they are probably well on their way to becoming that person if they are not already. Teenagers and young adults – not so much. They (we) have self-doubt, they have desires to improve themselves or their situation. Notice how this doesn’t box in any particular age group – it is just prevalent in teenagers – and young adults.

As the current fandoms are aging out of the old YA target of 12-18 year olds, publishers have begun to market YA to 25 year olds. Which means the old definitions have to change also. The term ‘Young Adult’ has proven itself to be fluid in its definition and constraints. What has stood for YA in the past, now no longer applies. I fully expect my own definition to change as the reading environments continue to develop.

So let’s just say for 2015 at least, A. Wallin’s three conditions of ‘Young Adult’ literature based upon content are written in stone. On my couch anyway.