1. Beautiful Creatures
Here's the story- Ethan Wate lives in a sleepy Southern town where every morning is the same. His life includes memories of his dead mother, his reclusive father, his eccentric believer governess-of-sorts and a wannabe rockstar best friend. He can't wait to get out of his boring life till Lena Duchannes, neice of the town shut-in Macon Ravenwood, comes to his school. The two fall in love, but there's one problem- Lena is a Caster. And not just any Caster. Due to a curse upon her family, every female of her family is claimed on her sixteenth birthday by either the Light or the Dark. And Lena's birthday ddraws closer with every passing day.
The only bad thing about this book, in my opinion, is that it's about a boy who falls in love with a supernatural creature, a Caster to be specific. I mean, we get that a lot these days, right? But the good part is the way it's handled. First of all, I love the male voice. It's so adorable, without being too mushy. Second, there's a sweet Southern USA setting and you can feel the monotony of the place, the way it's somehow stuck in the past and nobody new or different is ever really welcomed. Also, in these books, being a Caster is not always shown as a good thing, as Lena yearns to be a normal girl. It's a fun read for young adults and I just might pick up the sequel.
2. The Catcher In The Rye
This one's a classic. Holden Caulfield, a cynical sixteen-year-old, is kicked out of school. The novel follows his adventures in New York streets after he leaves school without telling his parents. There is less story than you would expect because this story is character-driven, with Holden's cynical commentary and descriptions explaining everything that happens around him.
This is a great book, very 'my taste'. Holden is obviously grieving the death f his brother, but he won't let that show. He's also in love with his old friend Jean, but doesn't know it. These are the things that make Holden likeable, even though he mostly just criticizes everyone he meets.
What I also love is how Holden sees the 'bad' in grown-ups, things people seem to attain in the process of growing up, things that children don't have. For example, he talks about smart people and says they never want anyone to say anything smarter than them. When talking about his sort-of girlfriend Sally, he says she is actually very vain. He observes how she can carry on a meaningless conversation with people she barely knows and is repulsed by this. He sees the world as a mature child. He sees that adults are often self-absorbed and act according to social convention, things that children would never do. What's best is that even though he can be very irritating because he hates everything, you can tell that he's actually right in hating them. But then there's nothing that can be done, because after all, the grown-up world just is very 'crummy' sometimes.
The novel ends with Holden in a psychiatric facility, with no explanation as to how he got there. He says he's ready to move on because he's actually missing some of the people he brutally criticized throughout the novel. This, in my opinion, is the most beautiful emotion in the book.
3. Why We Broke Up
This book is written by Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket who wrote 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'. First of, I salute Handler for writing something that is such a departure from Series of Unfortunate Events. Second, this book is not just for young adults, but for all those who've ever liked the popular guy/girl and then experienced disappointment (that means everybody)
The story is about a box that Min gives to her ex-boyfriend Ed. In the box are things that they had or shared or gave each other during their short-lived relationship. Min uses these things to tell Ed why they broke up.
The beauty of this is that from the very beginning, Min knows her relationship with Ed won't last. It's the same old story- girl meets gorgeous guy, falls in love instantly, hopes it stays that way. But Min's no cookie-cutter girlfriend- she realizes this is not going to work from the very beginning. She doesn't enjoy Ed's basketball games, doesn't like the bonfire parties he goes to, likes old movies that Ed will never understand. But she still hangs on to hope because she loves him, but that really doesn't count for anything sometimes.
The book can get a bit hard to read sometimes, with sentences being very long and running into each other on several occasions. But there's lots of dialogues to make up for it. Extra points for the great illustrations of all the things in the box.
Min is very insightful. She mostly realizes that little things can be signs of incompatibility. For example, Ed carelessly tears a flier Min pastes for her best friend so he can write his number on it. It's a small thing that she can't complain about, but she understands that Ed never really got that the flier was important to her and that's one of the reasons they broke up. Also, Ed is a basketball playing dude, but he's shown as more than that- a guy looking for an interesting girlfriend, a guy who's good at math.
It's a very beautiful book. Incidentally, I wrote something like this last year but romance was never my thing, so I stopped writing it midway. I don't think I could have done as good a job as Daniel Handler, but maybe I'll post some excerpts sometime.
4. Mortal Instruments- City of Bones
I didn't like this one. I actually stopped reading it mid-way. It's about Clary Fray who discovers she's a Shadow-Hunter like her mother. It's the same old story- girl finds out she's not normal or mortal and she has to defeat someone or fight something because something/someone dear to her is at stake. This was not for me. But I will recommend it to those who like YA supernatural.
5. Ella Minnow Pea
See how the title-cum-protagonist's name sounds like L-M-N-O-P? This is the story of Ella, a girl living in the fictional island of Nollop, an island named after the creator of the infamous 'The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog'. The Island's Council has a statue of Nollop with the pangram under it. As each letter of the pangram falls off from under the statue, the letters are outlawed from the island, that is, nobody is allowed to say or write these letters. By the end, only the letters L, M, N, O and P remain. Ella finds herself fighting for her freedom of expression against a totalitarian government. The challenge? To find a pangram of 32 letters containing all the letters of the alphabet, something which seems impossible with only a few letters in her disposal.
Idea and concept wise, this was the best book of my winter. It's a light-hearted take on totalitarianism, freedom of expression, freedom and good expression. The only downside I can think of that Nollop is shown as an island where language is an art, so everybody, from teenagers to the elderly, speak and write in an overly formal, highly articulate manner, something that might be hard to digest for a lot of people out there who are looking for a quick read. Also, there is very little dialogue. Also, an American character, Nate Warren, uses the same language as the Nollopians, something I thought qualified as an discrepancy. However, if you're looking for a read which is both fun and serious, this is definitely the book for you.
If Ella Minnow Pea is ever made into a movie, I hope the makers keep it simple and funny, instead of trying to go all serious and revolutionary, because that's the beauty of this work- it's a very funny situation alluding to more serious situations.
6. The Book Thief
In Nazi Germany, Liesel Meminger is orphaned and left in the care of foster parents. One day, she discovers a book, 'The Gravedigger's Handbook', and with the help of her foster father, she learns to read and write. Thus begins her journey as a book thief, as she steals books from the most dangerous of places in the most dangerous of times.
This book doesn't have much plot. It is more of an account of life in Nazi Germany. It's a lovely book. It doesn't try to judge what's good or what's bad, doesn't make any political statements. It tells about different people whose lives are interconnected by the time they live in. There are instances which make the characters seems so full of life. For example, Liesel's best friend, Rudy, is a big fan of Jesse Owens, so he paints his face black and goes for a run. But his father says he's blessed to have "safe" blue eyes, blonde hair and skin, and he must never try to have anything else.
A lovely book. I think everybody should read it at least once.
So that's my list for now, but I read a lot of books these days and could have missed some out. If I remember any more names, I'll do another post. Till then, keep on reading.