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Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review - Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

A few words: So this is my first book review - yay for getting my behind in gear! Better late than never, right? I'm hoping to do one of these per week in the future, but we'll see how it goes. After seeing the rating systems others have for their reviews, I decided to do mine a bit differently. I'll be giving two ratings - one from a reader's perspective and one from a writer's perspective. Now at some level these ratings are intertwined - most really good books are well written. But as we all know, there are plenty of good stories out there that are terribly written. In truth, there's a huge difference in how you look at book from a reader's perspective and a writer's perspective. Writer's pay more attention to characterization, plot and the writing itself, whereas readers generally just want a good story they can connect to. Hopefully this system will help differentiate the two. Linky for my review system is here.

Book Review 1: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
 From the inside cover:

"Dead girl walking", the boys say in the halls.
"Tell us your secret," the girls whisper one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. Now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way --thin, thinner, thinnest -- maybe she'll disappear altogether.

On the reader's side: Wintergirls is a powerful depiction into one girl's struggle with anorexia. But it's not really a story about anorexia, it's a story about what drove Lia there in the first place. Very little attention is devoted to how she drags herself out of her self destructive behavior. And we don't get to see the difficulties she encounters once on the other side. What we do get to see is that Lia isn't really a likable character. She's spoiled, lazy, lies constantly, puts all the blame on her parents and is not really interested in seeking help.When we see how much her parents want to help her and how sweet her step-sister is, we feel like we want to shake this girl silly and tell her to snap out of it. But that's the compelling part of the book. We can't. And it's that feeling of frustration which makes the book so good. I have to admit that the latter half of the book had me crying. I did put it down once in a while early on, but not after I got past the halfway mark.You just have to see what's going to happen to Lia, even if you don't like her.

Score: 4.5 because it was a little slow in the beginning.

On the writer's side: The thing that Laurie Halse Anderson does better than 99% of YA writers out there? Voice. Really she couldn't get away with writing a book like this without it. This book is all about voice and characterization - it's literary so I suppose it has to be. Certain events happen that plunge Lia further into her downward spiral, but really the events are trivial to the bigger picture.  Lia is in a delicate state as it is when we arrive on the scene and the things that trigger her relapse into anorexia are circumstantial.The whole story is about Lia's character, her inner struggle and how she got there, something which Anderson excels at.

Adding to that, Anderson's imagery is beyond comparison.There were times when I was simply in awe of her choice of words and metaphors. Anderson also isn't shy about trying something new. There are places in the book where she literally scratches out Lia's thoughts and re-writes them, just as if we were reading her diary (although technically the book is not in diary form). Some people may have found this annoying, but I actually liked it. Though, I have to admit that it was a little irritating to look at a page and a half of: MUST. NOT. EAT. repeated over and over. Waste of paper, IMHO.The pacing could have been better, but in the end it's forgivable because the climax is so good.

Writer's score: 5 characterization, voice and imagery outweigh the little nitpicks

Book Review Score Sheet

Angie's book review score sheet:

Reader's score: 1-5
5. This book was so deliciously wonderful that the kids could have set the house on fire and hubby could have danced around in a tutu and I wouldn't have noticed!
4. Thoroughly engaging, but it took a couple days to get through it.
3. Ok if loaned from the library, but not worth shelling out the money.
2.Slogged through this in a week or two.
1.Snoresville. Don't bother.

Writer's score: 1-5
5. The writing here is so good it makes me tear-streaked with jealousy. :=(
4. Writing is good, excellent even, but there are a few things that could be improved on.
3. Several important elements are missing and there are lessons to be learned here.
2. Someone somewhere liked this for certain.
1. This was published? Someone actually got paid to write this? Bah!!!

Getting over the hump

Do you have a hump in your book? A chapter that you revise over and over again, trying to get it just right and feeling like you can't move on until it is? Well, I do. It's called chapter 8 (guess I should be glad it's not chapter 13, eh?). Chapter 8 sits about a quarter way through the book and it's been the stitch in my side for the past three weeks. I'm in my third round of revisions and there really is no skipping over the chapter now to move on to other stuff. I've been there and done that. I need to revise this chapter close to the way it will be when it gets sent out for querying so that the chapters which follow all fit nice and neat. So why has this chapter been so tricky? Well, for starters it's kind of slow moving. The premise has been exposed and now it's time to introduce some background and ordinary day stuff. Can anyone say BORING!! Yep, this is the problem. There really is no way to get around it because I do need to show Nikki at school with her friends - she's a rebel, but even rebels have to go to class. :) This is also the first time that we'll meet her ex and the ever-present side kick, best friend, Kay. Part of the problem is that it can be done in so many ways, AND while all of these characters are introduced some background needs to be included as well.  Up until this point I've been pretty good at sprinkling in the background as unobtrusively as possible, but now at a quarter of the way through the book, some explanation needs to start happening. Of course, I don't want to do too much telling (ahem, draft 2), and I don't want the introduction of the minor characters to take up too much time (ahem, draft 1) but at the same time, these things need to happen. Hence, the hump.

The good thing about humps? Once you get past them, you can coast for awhile, and this is just what I did over the weekend. I got through chapter 8 and then revised the next three chapters in quick succession. I'm now halfway through draft three (woohoo!), and hoping that this is the last time I'll have to revise this chapter to this extent, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

In other news, the stock market has been nice to me lately. I picked up 5 new stocks last week and three of them have gone up roughly 7% (one almost 20%). That's suh-weet! But I'm not going to buy anything new again for a while because I smell a correction in the making, plus summer is near. Big time investors take vacations over the summer, so I don't think there's going to be much upside once we get past May. For those of you not into the market, sorry for the non-writerly rambling - it's a thing I do.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Teaser - March 23rd, 2010

Haven't done a teaser in a long time as I'm heavy into revisions for Nikki's Wish. This is the beginning of a short story that I started writing a couple months ago. Hopefully will get back to it at some point.


It was a short trip, and I had all the survival gear that a girl needed - cell phone, chewing gum, lip gloss, and a tampon. Still, the elevator looked monstrous, it's double doors opening and closing like the jaws of a Great White. It was a box, and things get trapped in boxes. Things like little girls with pigtails and mean looking men who spit on sidewalks and smell like smoke and never, ever say please or thank you. Elevators were the worst kind of boxes too. Six walls of solid steel with no way out. Who knew what could happen? 

I shivered, spit out my old stick of gum,and took a new piece from the pack. I unwrapped it with shaking hands and chomped on it. The lighted numbers above the elevator door switched from one to the other every two seconds. 15...14...13...12... On and on and on it went. Slow and monotonous. But nothing could convince my heart to follow suit. 

Come on, girl. You're fifteen. You can't avoid riding in an elevator for the rest of your life. What will people say? Boo hoo, little claustrophobic Clarice can't stand a half minute ride in a cubical. Well, they wouldn't say that anymore. It was time to get over this irrational fear. 

I licked my lips, feeling the bumps and bruises of split, peeled skin. Chewing on them was a nervous habit, but I sort of liked the pain, the little trickle of blood-salt that would tingle against my tongue when I bit or pulled too hard. It was metallic. Raw. Sooo not attractive. I whipped out my lip gloss, smeared some across the gravely skin and capped the little tube shut. 

Ding! The doors slid open and for a second my eyes diverted to the left where a sign said STAIRWELL in huge black letters. I felt an urge to run to it when a voice startled me.

"Going down?" I snapped my head back to the elevator where a boy with sandy brown hair, baggy jeans and a Raider's jacket stood questioning me. I relaxed. There was something...easy about him. Passive. Come on in, his eyes said. I'm not scary. I don't even shave yet.

A quick glance around confirmed there was no one else in the elevator. So it would only be the two of us. That was better for my sanity too. 

I locked away my fears and threw out the key. 

I stepped forward - into my nightmare.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring fever

Yes, I admit it. I have spring fever. The weather yesterday was so gorgeous. All the snow has melted in our backyard, the irises are coming up and I even spotted a few crocuses near the house. We walked around Lake Como in the evening and took pictures of the ducks. Anyway, to celebrate spring, i thought I'd share my favorite spring poem by e.e. cummings. Also, I entered a first 250 words contest hosted by fellow Awer Amanda Plavich. Head on over and vote for your favorite!

in Just-
spring       when the world is mud-
luscious the little lame baloonman 

whistles       far       and wee 

and eddyandbill come 
running from marbles and 
piracies and it's 

when the world is puddle-wonderful 

the queer 
old baloonman whistles 
far       and       wee 
and bettyandisbel come dancing 

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and 


baloonMan       whistles 



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