Book Review

Don’t Go Crying to Your Mama

Fall Far from the TreeFall Far from the Tree by Amy McNulty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don’t go crying to your mama, ’cause you’re on your own in the real world. —Paramore

If you’re fond of teen angst and political intrigue, then you should definitely pick up this novel. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to get over that blasted ending. I humbly demand a sequel!

Fall Far from the Tree is a very unique exploration of the parent-child relationship. In fact, its title alone may be interpreted as a command to children to be different from their parents. Pursuing that line of thinking, this book illustrates how we should be critical enough to identify and learn from the mistakes of our forebears.

Parents, given their abundance of experience, are universally given the right to rule over their children, who are often deemed as too naive to make their own choices in life. I do not intend to sound like an advocate of disobedience or rebellion, but I liked this book because it challenged the latter ideology. However, let me qualify my statement by saying that the parents in this book did not deserve their title. This might take you by surprise, but they were basically the antagonists of the story, the powerful obstructions to attaining their childrens’ respective happy endings.

Rohesia, Fastello, Cateline and Kojiro did hold their parents in high esteem and affection. However, when they began to see that the corruption and destitution in their world was happening all because of their parents’ insatiable hunger for power, these empowered teenagers did all they could do to make a difference and set things right. They knew that their disobedience would further cleave them from their parents’ “love” and “protection.” Nevertheless, they persevered and eventually found true love and companionship in one another. It was admirable that they did not let fear break their resolve to fall far from the tree.

What I liked best about this book was its character-driven plot. I was initially quite confused by the four alternating perspectives, but I soon began to appreciate the characters’ diversity and development. Rohesia, Fastello, Cataline, and Kojiro were unified in that all of them had influential yet despicable parents. However, each of them faced their own struggles, which were realistic, relatable and heartwarming. Although I was not able to fully sympathize with their plight because my own parents are anything but cruel, I was still moved and inspired by their journey to maturity and independence.

Overall, I can say that Fall Far From the Tree is one of the most unique and refreshing books I have read this year. It’s possible that my library simply needs more variety, but it was my first time to encounter a story that featured children justifiably rebelling against their parents. I ardently hope that the author will bless us with a sequel because I desperately need to attain a sense of closure.

P.S. Thank you Patchwork Press for sending me an ARC of this book (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review. 🙂

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

Book Review

Potterhead Feels #2

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, well…if you had died, you’d have been welcome to share my toilet —Moaning Myrtle

Harry Potter is inarguably the most empowered kid I’ve encountered in literature. In this sequel, his life is at risk once again, and the stakes are higher than ever, all because of a mythical monster hiding somewhere within Hogwarts. Add into the picture a house elf with a twisted messianic complex, and Harry’s miserable initiation into puberty is complete. It’s a good thing that our dear Harry isn’t a typical twelve-year-old, and he has two best friends who will protect him at all cost. I’m so thrilled to have experienced another unforgettable adventure in this beautiful world of magic.

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

Book Review

A Literary Bundle of Nerves

When In Rome...Find YourselfWhen In Rome…Find Yourself by Lena Mae Hill

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

*Thank you Speak Now for sending me an ARC of this book (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.*

I am quite afraid as to how I should write this critique. The urge to be harsh is boiling in my veins, demanding to be unleashed through the written word. However, given that the protagonist of this book has a mental problem, I shall try to be objective and at least tone down my flaring disappointment.

If I were to be honest, what really persuaded me to read When In Rome…Find Yourself (the title’s such a mouthful) was its supposed similarity to one of my favorite novels this year, Love & Gelato. Both of these books are love stories set in beautiful Italy, but that’s where the similarities end. To simply put it, my feelings for them are on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Rory, the former’s protagonist, suffered from a debilitating case of anxiety. Consequently, although she was already 21 years old, she still acted like an immature teenager. Throughout the book, readers are bombarded with Rory’s irrational and overwhelming worries. She continuously worried about what other people think of her, whether they be close to her or not. To make matters worse, her mental disorder caused her to assume the worst of her peers. Thus, she never hesitated to compromise her entire identity according to their wishes just to prevent any form of altercation. Basically, Rory had no backbone, and it was utterly pathetic, if not downright annoying. I couldn’t believe how she went to such drastic lengths to attain a sense of belonging.

When Rory started to fall in love Ned, her handsome and stoned housemate, I began to hope that I would finally become invested in the story. Unfortunately, any positive feelings I had were immediately crushed by the frivolity of their romance. Although Rory and Ned’s relationship wasn’t another manifestation of instalove (it was more like a case of delayed gratification), I had a difficult time processing their reasons for eventually wanting each other. It was briefly explained that Ned was the only person with whom Rory could finally be herself. However, I beg you to answer this question: is that really enough to warrant the blessing of falling in love? I’ve never had a girlfriend, but I believe that there’s this group of people who will (should) always love you for who you are: your family.

Looking at the bright side, this book had character development. Be that as it may, it was very frustrating because it only happened in the last three chapters. Rory suddenly grew a fragile backbone, finally capable of standing up to her paranoid family and fake friends. And for goodness’s sake, her maturity was WAY OVERDUE as an adult. I was expecting more substantial kinds of growth to happen, and it was all to no avail.

Overall, I would not recommend When in Rome…Find Yourself to my fellow fans of Love & Gelato. The comparison is honestly misleading and preposterous. I was happy to have another vicarious glimpse of Italy, but I really did not feel so concerned about Rory and her collection of exaggerated problems. If this book was meant to evoke sympathy for people with mental disabilities, then it succeeded in doing the opposite.

Book Review

When Stories Are Beautifully Short

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic NovelMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After two pathetic attempts to finish the actual novelized form of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I finally decided to read its graphic novel.

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but the novel was downright boring and dragging compared to this mixture of wonderful illustrations and direct-to-the-point dialogues. Even though I was sometimes confused by the sudden and rushed flow of the plot (i.e. Jacob and Emma’s romantic relationship was rendered so INSTANT by the text’s format), I still had a great reading experience. The pictures and drawings were so vibrant and vividly detailed that I kept on rereading pages just to fully appreciate their beauty.

When I come to think of it, the only major problem I encountered was the slightly overrated nature of the plot. My bookish friends were right when they told me that the story was basically a darkened version of X-Men. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the overall quality of the graphic novel, and I look forward to purchasing its sequel.

Book Review

It Was Only Just a Dream

DreamologyDreamology by Lucy Keating

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was thinking ’bout her, thinking ’bout me
Thinking ’bout us, what we gon’ be
Open my eyes yeah, it was only just a dream.

Gleaning upon the aforementioned lyrics, Dreamology was exceptionally dreamlike. It’s the love story of Alice and Max, two lonely teenagers who have been dreaming about each other nearly every night since they were kids. On one fated day, they finally meet in real life, and they are forced to question the authenticity of their feelings, as well as their own sanity. After all, everything that had passed between them was only just a dream. I had never encountered a book with this kind of premise, so I did not hesitate to get my hands on it; when I went to my local bookstore, I was delighted to find the very last copy in stock, as if it were meant for me.

I had a very euphoric time reading this standalone novel, and it was most probably because of how it occasionally tugged at my heartstrings. Although I have yet to experience the blessing of falling in love, I was moved by Alice and Max’s tumultuous relationship. They were genuinely attached to one another, but their connection was plagued by uncertainty nonetheless. When I come to think of it, I myself would be flabbergasted to meet the literal girl of my dreams, the epitome of all my unrealistic expectations. As I read (devoured) this book, I was struck by the sad realization that people nowadays are just too rational to believe that even the most ridiculous of dreams can come true. Yes, I acknowledge the fact that Dreamology is indeed a work of fiction, but I am grateful because it has filled my heart with this blissful feeling called hope. I’m sorry if that makes me seem like a hopeless romantic. Trust me, I am definitely not. Hahaha.

Another enjoyable element of this book was Alice and Max’s dream life, which was adorably quirky. Since both of them had a very powerful imagination, their shared dreams were about fantastical experiences like attending balls at the Museum of Modern Art, “playing” on top of clouds, and riding Cheerios on rivers of fresh milk. It was amazing to witness them have so much fun in an almost stoned condition. Ultimately, I guess Alice and Max were “high” on love, if there is such a thing.

In retrospect, the only problem I had with this book was that it did not fully explain why Alice and Max dreamed of each other. I initially perceived their connection as magical, but it turned out to be psychological instead. Many scientific reasons were given to enlighten readers, and although they were quite informative, they were unfortunately insufficient. To be honest, many of my questions remain unanswered, so am I quite confused until now. However, it is possible that the ambiguity was intentionally done to make the story last longer in our bookish minds. Nevertheless, the following truth remains: unsatisfied curiosity sucks.

All things considered, I definitely loved Dreamology. It featured a story unlike anything I’ve read before, as well as characters whom I never expected to be so authentic and heartwarming. This novel had a perfect balance of humor and drama, and I am more than willing to add it to my shelf of favorite books.

Book Review

Me and my Mixed Bookish Feelings

Orange: The Complete Collection 2Orange: The Complete Collection 2 by Ichigo Takano

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have finally finished reading my first manga series, ever! Har-har-har. The overall premise of Orange was very promising, and I flew through the first collection in a frenzy since I was looking forward to a very satisfying resolution. My friends affirmed my excitement, telling me how the final pages nearly moved them to tears. With that in mind, I’m sorry to say I prepared a pack of tissue paper for nothing. The only emotions I had after reading the last page were confusion and mild disappointment.

Unfortunately, I now have mixed feelings for this manga. The beginning and climax of the story captivated my interest, but the “healing” of Kakeru’s suicidal tendencies was just too rushed or anticlimactic. After all that Naho and the others went through to prevent/alter his tragic future, I just couldn’t fathom how everything became fine in an instant. What a way to burst my bubble!

Thankfully, I encountered no other serious issues with Orange. The drawings were so stimulating, the dialogues were thought-provoking, and most of the characters were naturally endearing; I especially loved Naho and Suwa because of their consistent selflessness, but I was slightly annoyed with Kakeru. Honestly, he was the manga’s fountain of conflict, yet he did so little to reciprocate his friends’ efforts to save his life. I really don’t intend to sound judgmental in light of his psychological problems. However, it would have been better if Kakeru used his critical thinking instead of constantly blaming himself for his mother’s death. As for the supporting cast of characters (Higata, Azu, and Takako), I highly appreciated them for bringing more fun and diversity to the story.

In the end, regardless of its imperfections, I am still happy to have read Orange. I would definitely recommend it to manga neophytes like myself and to readers who are fond of friendship-centered stories. If anything, it’s admirable how Ichigo Takano deviated from our stereotypical notion of a “happy ending.”

P.S. The featured image was downloaded from Orange‘s Facebook page.