So after much thought I've decided to revise how I do my reviews. The problem for me is that I've read so many books over the past year and my thoughts on writing have developed so much that it's become difficult for me to separate a book that I love just for the story from a book that I love for the writing. I felt like I was repeating myself by doing it in two parts because it became so hard to distinguish the two. I still think there are books out there that are well done story-wise (the author is a great story-teller, aka Stephenie Meyers) that aren't written very well, and where this case applies I'll be sure to point it out. And I still plan to pick out the things that I think the author has done very well in regards to writing, but I'm going to try to mesh the two of them together more.
The other thing is that after reading so many books, I think my standards have risen, and as a result, I'm going to have to be a lot more stingy about rewarding five stars. Books like The Hunger Games and The Book Thief are just in a class by themselves and deserve special recognition. A score of four stars is still a winner in my opinion, but it's just not as eye-popping as those fives. I'll be going through and adjusting some of my scores based on this so it's all consistent, but I probably won't go back to change those reviews that I've already written.
And now, for a review of my favorite book that I've read so far this week (not including MJ), Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly.
Sixteen-year-old, music- and sound design-obsessed Drea doesn’t have friends. She has, as she’s often reminded, issues. Drea’s mom and a rotating band of psychiatrists have settled on "a touch of Asperger’s.”
Having just moved to the latest in a string of new towns, Drea meets two other outsiders. And Naomi and Justin seem to actually like Drea. The three of them form a band after an impromptu, Portishead-comparison-worthy jam after school. Justin swiftly challenges not only Drea’s preference for Poe over Black Lab but also her perceived inability to connect with another person. Justin, against all odds, may even like like Drea.
It’s obvious that Drea can’t hide behind her sound equipment anymore. But just when she’s found not one but two true friends, can she stand to lose one of them?
I. Loved. This. Book. Whenever you come across books like these where the main character has a disorder, disability or something else unique about them, it automatically makes you think that you're going to get a lesson in how to accept people who are different. Not so the case with Harmonic Feedback. Even though Drea is different, there was so much in here that I could relate to, she didn't seem all that different to me. How many of us have had those moments of embarrassment where we thought that someone liked us (because they told us they did) only to learn that wasn't the case?
I sat with them every day that week, but they talked to me less and less. Finally one girl rolled her eyes. "God, Drea, cain't you take a hint?" she asked.How many of us have felt odd for having unique interests?
"What do you mean?"
She exchanged glances with her friend and they giggled. "Why do you keep sitting here?"
I remember my stomach tightening up in these knots. "You invited me..."
"Yeah, once. We didn't know you'd be such a clingy freak."
"Have you ever Googled Asperger's? There's--"
"Yeah, it listed a bunch of random symptoms. Bad social skills, lack of eye contact, can't understand tone of voice, being overly interested in something ---which makes no sense to me. Isn't wanting to learn a good thing? I think everyone should be passionate about something."
How many of us have had a friend who dragged us into an uncomfortable situation and we felt like we just wanted to run and hide? *raises hand and waves frantically*
"Thought you were staying over." Scott raked a hand through his shaggy blond hair and motioned in my direction. "Your friend can take the couch. Or she can join us." He poked at her ribs and laughed.Naomi flipped him off. "Why do you have to be such a pig?" She pushed past him and settled in to the leather couch.
I backed into the cold wall, wishing I could disappear.
This is harmonic Feedback. Does Drea have a disorder? Yes, she does, and yes the book is about how she deals with that, but after listening to Drea's experiences, I found so many things that felt familiar. Drea calls herself a geek, but if she's a geek then I think I am too. In Drea's words:
Lie about this, but don't lie about that. Smile-- even when you aren't happy - but don't smile too much. Too much is weird. Look people in the eye but, again, not too much. That might freak them out.
She's right. People and all of societies "invisible" rules are strange. Even people who aren't diagnosed with a neurological disorder have trouble - or maybe I just need a diagnosis. That was what was so great about this book. It not just that you can understand, you can put yourself in Drea's shoes and experience her discomfort, frustration and pain because it is so familiar.
About the characters -- I loved them all because like Drea, they're just so real. Drea's crazy friend, Naomi, reminded me of a girl I knew in high school, and Justin. Oh gosh, if ever there were a prize for sweetest guy in a YA novel, he'd take the prize. Seriously, I felt he was more sugary than Peeta from HG, only not quite as nauseating because he has a past. And he's a musician. With cool tats. Can anyone say yum? Drea's grandma - hilarious! And her mother - caring and yet a little messed up herself. So real, because you know, us adults don't always have it all together either.
As for the writing itself -- there was nothing to criticize here. Kelly writes with a strong voice and a simple but effective plot line. The ending is a little...oh, sorry, no spoilers, you'll just have to read it yourself. Final score - 5 stars. Yep, this is definitely one of my favorite books of the year.
Now for the big reveal. Here once again is the picture I posted. I took this on the confocal laser microscope at 20x magnification.
And what is it??
Surprising huh? What you're looking at is the epidermal layer (think skin) of a tobacco leaf. Those things that look like puzzle pieces are epidermal cells and the little dots here and there are nuclei (remember nuclei are where the cell's DNA is contained). But here's the cool part, the cells light up green because they express a transgenic hybrid protein that I constructed. Part of it is the protein that I've been studying and the other part is Green Fluorescent Protein from jellyfish. We use these transgenes to figure out where in a cell the protein is expressed - whereever the cells light up green under fluorescent light, this is where my protein normally resides. So by this picture, my protein is expressed in the cell membrane and the nucleus. Personally I think the whole thing looks like glow in the dark brains, but Mel's answer of a sponge seemed most logical to me so I'm going to give her an extra entry in the contest. Congrats Mel! Mel suggested that I do more of these - maybe. Most of the pictures I've been taking lately are of plants, so more of the same. I'd have to dig around my grad school stuff for more interesting pics. We'll see.
Here's FIC's enhancement of the stomata "eyes"
I promise that tomorrow I won't be quite so long winded - or stray so far off the topic of writing. :)