Jellicoe Road

Hello, World!

This week, I read Melina Marchetta’s YA novel, Jellicoe Road, also known as On the Jellicoe Road in countries outside of the USA. It follows two very different stories that come together at the end to create a beautifully devastating full circle.

The main one of the two is about Taylor Markham, a girl who is abandoned by her mother and attends a boarding school where she leads one of the parties in territory wars against two other groups–the Townies and the Cadets. The leader of the Cadets is Jonah Griggs, with whom Taylor has a unique history with. Marchetta was able to make me fall in love with Jonah Griggs and make me more invested in his character than I care to admit. JUST A WARNING: There are several love stories that are being followed and each play a key role in this book, so if you’re a sucker for that kind of thing like I am, read Jellicoe Road.

There are many recurring ideas of being lost and left behind and the experience of losing others. It started off as confusing and hard to follow in terms of plot and information, but I am willing to give Marchetta the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps, she was trying to convey the complex, lost feeling of the characters in the novel. It also struck me as one of those pieces with complicated plots that need to be read/watched multiple times (like Inception) to really answer all your questions. I have no doubt that this book will be just as amazing and brilliant the next time I read it as it did the first. I also want to point out that as the plot progressed, the middle and ending became increasingly predictable, but that was also forgivable. I loved the characters so much by then that I didn’t care.

I made the mistake of reading this book in one day (which resulted in me finishing it in pools of my own tears at around 1 AM). I woke up the next morning with the puffiest eyes EVER.

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This book is well written and an easy read if you want a good cry. This isn’t the typical cliche YA novel we’re all used to seeing. Marchetta has made a masterpiece for YA fiction and her telling of Taylor’s story is near-perfect–tragic yet not overdone with an over-dramatic plot.

See you next week,

Jeannie

P.S.- If you have any book suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!

Blog Updates! New summer, new me?

Hello, World!

This is Jeannie, one half of the epistle-loving duo that runs Vox Populi. It’s been many days, weeks, and months, since we’ve uploaded, and I want to say that we’re very sorry. Life and its shenanigans have made a roller-coaster of the last year!

That being said, there’s good news and bad news:

THE BAD:

Crystal has encountered the ~work force~ and as a result, her time seems to be more and more limited. From now on, it’ll just be me, Jeannie, writing to all you lovely people on this lovely site. You all are becoming the recipients of my letters.

THE GOOD:

I’ll be updating weekly for now (this is subject to change later, but I’ll let you know when/if I do). SUMMER HAS ARRIVED (which means more time for books and book reviews, since we can’t have one without the other on this page). I will begin this Wednesday with the first (revived blog) post.

I’ve missed you all and hope to continue to grow this page!

Back for good,

Jeannie

Everything, Everything

Dear Jeannie,

HahahAHaha, so it’s been a good few months since I last posted and I am so sorry. Somehow College has gotten even more hectic this year. It’s now reading week (our study week before finals) and I guess in honor of that, instead of studying, I actually read a book! A rare occurrence this semester, indeed.

Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything is a book I desperately wanted to love, for reasons I’ll get into below—don’t get me wrong, I did mostly enjoy it—but it fell far short of my expectations. It’s one of those John Green books. You know the type (and if you guessed okay then it must be getting its own movie, you’d be absolutely correct and here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42KNwQ6u42U).

It’s got the protagonist, a teenage girl named Madeline, who has read more books than anyone and also loves haikus, and who is incurably ill with SCID (basically you don’t have a functioning immune system and any germ or bacterium can get you deathly sick). Which means she can’t leave her sterile house. And of course how can it truly be like The Fault in Our Stars if there’s no star-crossed lovers shtick? Indeed it can’t. Meet Olly, her new next door neighbor and a very hot boy, if you buy what Madeline is selling. And who thinks she and her freckles is the sh*t.

[gif from The Fault in Our Stars; which is basically the same thing as having a gif straight from this book right? :)))))))]

And guess what?

They see each other through her window and it’s basically insta-love. But anyway, they can’t do anything together besides email and “IM” (I love when older people try to get with the teen lingo), since Olly gets to live in the world, Outside, and Madeline can’t. Some unexpected plot twists occur (I spoiled the book for myself while reading goodreads reviews unfortunately) although Yoon does a passable job in dropping enough hints that the plot twist seemed less like a Deus Ex Machina case and more like a plot point that drives the book to a more interesting place.

One of the things about this book that I was very excited for was that Madeline’s mom is Asian and her dad was African American, so she’s a very rarely represented ethnicity in YA lit and indeed in all literature probably. Unfortunately!!! And I’m so mad about this, the movie made her mom African American instead. Her being of Asian-African-American mixed race was, I felt, integral to who that character was in the novel, and was belabored by Yoon as well. This travesty of film casting is just another example of Hollywood’s “allergy” to Asian actors/actresses and I’m fricking angry about it.

Sorry for that aside into my feelings about the movie industry. But URGH SOCIETY!

I did love how the novel incorporated illustrations and incorporated the emails and “IMs” (lol). These non-text additions really helped make the novel more interesting and whimsical. See two examples below (ignore the top and bottom black bars those are from my phone when I screenshotted these):

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Anyway, despite my sarcasm laden complaints, and general grouchiness with how Madeline (and clearly the English language public, since John Green is still out there writing) buys into that whole “love conquers all” farce (Like it’s all the same!! Isn’t it boring by now? Or maybe I’m just getting old…), I felt like this was a fun enough read.

3/5 Would not read again, but I’m left with a net positive impression of the novel so…

Wish me luck on finals!

Love,

Crystal

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Dear Crystal,

First of all THANKS FOR NOT RESPONDING IT’S BEEN FOREVER. Firstly, I’m soo sorry for being MIA for so long. School is hard. Mostly bio is hard. 😦
This week I read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I’m going to try to make this week’s review short and sweet and mostly spoiler-free, but we’ll see how far I get with that LOL. The novel is an engaging and beautiful story about two Afghan women in different generations who struggle to find feminism, happiness, and love in the political turmoil from the 1970’s to the early 2000’s. The women, Laila and Mariam, face shocking horrors and hardships and spend their lives looking for a way to escape the oppression. Hosseini’s story is also very enlightening and educational regarding Afghanistan’s troubles during that time. Just an all-around great book.

Often times I’ll get bored by the plot of books like this. Not ONCE did I want to put the book down. A Thousand Splendid Suns is the perfect pace for someone who enjoys a surprising and fresh plot as well as phenomenal writing. I love love love this book (I mean, let’s be real here– any book that can make you sob nonstop for an hour is a good book). I finished the book ten minutes before I had to go to a class so I showed up looking something like this:

 crying cry feels hurt feelings GIF

Anyway, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a touching and devastating novel. It’s like Hosseini sat down intending to create step-by-step the saddest story for the main characters. I will grant it a 9.5 out of 10 because no one is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. I look forward to reading The Kite Runner soon, a very very very popular book also written by Khaled Hosseini. I can’t wait!!

Love,

Jeannie

A Glass Castle

Hi Crystal,

OKAY I’M BACK!! I’M SO SORRY! I had midterms and then a bunch of other competitions and whatnot. UGH BUT I’M HERE. You can stop writing book review to yourself. :))
Over the holidays (I know, it was a while ago) I read The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeannette Walls. It had me SHOOK (and not in all the good ways). She writes about her upbringing by two unfit parents. It’s a very depressing read, but it makes you reevaluate your life and count your blessings. HOWEVER, brace yourself; this is probably going to be a pretty harsh review.

THIS IS A MINI-RANT SO I’M LETTING Y’ALL KNOW BEFOREHAND IF YOU GET TRIGGERED EASILY:

This book made me angry and annoyed for pretty much the entire duration. Basically her mother really doesn’t want to have children but ends up having FOUR and the actual WORST mother ever. She’s self-centered and just doesn’t care about them or make an effort to do anything to help her children. The father tried at least. Although he was a drunk. So that kinda sucked.  In some chapters I’m like, how have they not been arrested yet for this??

At the same time: the story kind of came off as like a self-pat on the back from Walls. She spends the first 80% of the book just stating strangely specific details from her rough childhood and just having a pity party. The last 20% is the not-so-humble brag part: I got into an Ivy-League college, I’m a successful newspaper writer, I have a rich boyfriend, yada, yada, yada. OKAY JEANNETTE GOOD FOR YOU.

I know, I know, most people think, “I was never in that situation,” “I wouldn’t know,” “it’s a beautiful story,” whatever. The book just doesn’t feel genuine. I want to feel happy and proud for Walls, but the way she wrote it just doesn’t let me.

The writing itself isn’t the best, but the story is decent enough for it to barely pass by without a really good writer behind it. I just think there would be a lot more potential. I honestly don’t get why people are so into it. It’s an iffy 5/10—I guess I would recommend if you’re looking to be sad/mad/mostly irritated for a few hours.

From,

Jeannie

The Winner’s Curse

Dear Jeannie,

Okay so I’m going to cut you some slack since it’s midterm week for you but bruh, post already.

Now that the obligatory chiding is out of the way, instead of getting ahead on/doing problem sets and whatnot this week, I read a bunch of YA novels (the others of which I’ll be reviewing in the upcoming weeks). The one I finished most recently is The Winner’s Curse (which I will be abbreviating with TWC because I’m not about typing the same thing over and over) by Marie Rutkoski. (First of all, it’s still so strange that when I read YA now, all these characters are younger than me?? Like smol child, please stop doing these things before you get actual PTSD.)

TWC is mainly about star-crossed lover pair Kestrel and Arin, (Arin starts out as Kestrel’s slave before we find out they are on opposite sides of the political situation–Romeo and Juliet on steroids?). Kestrel, a Valorian, is part of the currently ruling faction, in fact her father is the general of Valoria’s military, while Arin hails from the conquered people, whose houses and land Valoria has seized.

I will say that to its credit, TWC actually reads like a plausible historical fiction novel, if you know, you made Valoria (I hate these stupid made up fantasy names) France during Napoleon’s reign or Genghis Khan’s empire. And there was a surprisingly low level of emotional constipation from the leads once they figured out their own feelings (obviously pre-confession there were still tense moments). But for sure the highlight is Kestrel’s intelligence & deviousness. Unlike many YA novels where the heroine is “like super smart while still kicking sooo much a$$” Kestrel actually has a believable talent for strategizing and scheming. It almost reminds me a lil of good ol’ Artemis Fowl.

While not mind-blowingly awesome, it was a fun read. Would recommend.

Love,

Crystal

A Man Called Ove

ove

Dear Jeannie,

This time I’ll be reviewing A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. So the biggest tip about reading this book is don’t do it in a public place! I read it on the plane and see below:

sobbing

Literally, tears & snot all over the place. I had to ask for more of those tiny napkins they hand out with the pretzels and every single time the flight attendant looked at me with a pitying shake of her head. In fact I had to take reading breaks so I could get the sobbing under some kind of control.

But don’t feel like you should be giving second thoughts to reading this novel, it’s not at all like the gratuitous tearjerkers of YA fame (I’m looking at you, The Fault in Our Stars). It’s a book that doesn’t try for emotional pretentiousness, it knows what it is and operates within that realm in a believable, realistic manner. It simply recounts the story of an old man who thinks he no longer has anything to live for.

Backman is an incredible writer. He manages to turn what seems not universally #relatable (being a lonely grumpy, uptight old man) and maybe what seems not even interesting into an experience that is heart wrenching and tear-inducing. The reader grows to love Ove by the end of the novel despite the distance between the reader and Ove at first.

10/10 highly recommend.

Love,

Crystal