Book Review – ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ by Riley Redgate

Love the themes and experiment in formatting but the delivery was lacking.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 343

From Goodreads:

Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

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I really struggled with this novel, and it’s doubly disappointing because I really loved all her other title. The pacing as just so slow. I put the book down repeatedly due to lack of interest. It sort of picked up in the second half, but I still didn’t get that hook I was hoping for. I even felt the amazing writing style that I have come to expect had dimmed significantly.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe formatting of the novel also threw me off big time.

I loved the diverse cast, the concept of the seven deadly sins as a theme for each characters struggle. The characters were beautifully flawed and realistic, but I struggled to relate to, and care about any of them. I don’t understand how I was so detached? Maybe the fact we were dealing with so many big issues – slander, drug dealing, drug use, bullying, abuse of power, suggested statutory rape, divorce, abandonment, alcoholism, autism, gender identity, sexual orientation, and so on – it was a bit much to stomach from such a small group of high schoolers. The teacher in me arcs up and struggles to swallow the narrative. I guess it’s a good thing to have a strong reaction to the subject matter. Like I said, I loved the premise of ‘Seven Ways We Lie,’ the cast are amazing… but the uber-slow pacing just about did me in.

With run on sentences and dialogue in chapters I found difficult to read, and prose driven narration in others ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ is a great experiment in presenting tone in the layout of words. I can appreciate the attempt, but wasn’t sold on delivery.

I had given up on predicting the novel, I was just focusing on finishing it. Granted the last third is much more palatable, and that benchmark Redgate writing style started to shine through, but it was too little too late for me.

I hate to say it, but ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ was a big flop for me.

Maybe it was also because we follow so many perspectives?

Overall feeling: Oh no.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Film vs Novel – The DUFF

Mean girls and pop culture clash with friendship and first love…

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This review and comparison comes as a massive surprise for me – mainly because I had such polar opposite emotions concerning each, and the outcome as these two duke it out have bucked the trend…

The novel was both fun and frustrating; where the film was hilarious, engaging and intelligently comedic without being offensive.

I liked the sarcasm and comedy in both mediums. As well as some of the issues it tackled – like slut shaming. And the ending for both was pretty cute too.

My frustration came because some of the characters were stereotypical in the novel, and a little swearing that felt like it was included on purpose to give the book an edge… And its approach to sex. We don’t get any of that in the film. I know many adaptations tend to sanitise aspect of the book for a ‘G’ rating and wider audience appeal, but this time it was a matter of social responsibility. Additionally, the book is very much ‘white-washed,’ where we get greater diversity in the film. *hoorah!*

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I didn’t really connect with the written version of Bianca at all – her casual approach to sex at such a young age. It was self-destructive (and yes, that’s the point) but I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my nieces and nephews read this book in their pre-teens unless I could engage them in an intelligent conversation over sexuality and intimacy. It pitched the characters into situations they weren’t emotionally prepared to handle. I’m not naive, I know this situation can be very real and happens in a real high school setting, but I felt as though there wasn’t a strong enough emphasis placed on the decision to engage in no strings sex with a random partner/s. It was fickle and frankly, distasteful. The movie kept the relationships (minus the sex) grounded in something tangible, which added depth and realism to the characters and story line. I appreciated and applaud the topics ‘The DUFF’ tackles.

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Bianca spent the entire novel kidding herself – it was so frustrating. I literally shook the book at one point trying to get her to wake up and stop acting like a flake. Which is great that it is so engaging, but all for the wrong reasons. When I got to see her played by one of my favourite actresses on screen, Mae Whitman, I was elated. She was genuine, approachable and socially inept in a geeky-girl sort of way, more reflecting the age when girls grow up and become aware of the social mechanics of the sexes; as opposed to an ugly duckling story.

Wesley was just as bad with his attitude from the book. Seriously, if this is the calibre of teens and role models, I really worry about society. Couldn’t Keplinger have rounded them out with some redeeming features at the start of the book to stop me feeling like I was hanging out with a pair of lame-assess? Thank goodness the screen version, played by Robbie Amell added some boy-next-door qualities, making him likable and a more grounded human being.

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I did not appreciate the parental story arc in the novel – it lacked something organic to make it feel believable (for both of the main cast) and the plot twist, though I can appreciate the drama of it all, was not written all that well in the aftermath. The films twist on parental roles only enhanced the tone of the story, and added a much more poignant message to tug at your heart strings.

Keplinger’s writing style is pretty easy, but a little flat. For a teen narrative, and an ironic one at that, I was expecting much more humour, one liners and brilliantly timed coincidence… but there was none of that. We get it in spades with the film. The plot, though interesting and engaging meandered a bit and left the climax with a soft punch instead of some big dramatic event we have come to love in YA. Again, the film resurrected the tone and climax in true (if somewhat spoony) style.

I have already purchased the sequel to the novel ‘Lying Out Loud,’ and hope this will redeem Keplinger for me, otherwise, if I get another lack-lustre impression, I will abandon any interest in any of her titles for the foreseeable future.

The movie adaptation was sooo much more sophisticated, had better comedic timing and pop culture references, and dealt with the DUFF phenomenon in a much better (socially responsible) fashion. I don’t think I want to recommend this book to my friends, unless you’re a big book nerd and curious to see the origins of the screenplay to the Hollywood blockbuster. But a big nod to the movie. It’s everything a fun teenage comedy should be. Film for the win!

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – I’ll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip by John Donovan

Unassuming New York brought to its knees by a dachshund!

I'll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 228

From Goodreads:

When the grandmother who raised him dies, Davy Ross, a lonely thirteen-year-old boy, must move to Manhattan to live with his estranged mother. Between alcohol-infused lectures about her self-sacrifice and awkward visits with his distant father, Davy’s only comfort is his beloved dachshund Fred. Things start to look up when he and a boy from school become friends. But when their relationship takes an unexpected turn, Davy struggles to understand what happened and what it might mean. 

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I have mixed feelings for ‘I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip’ because upon finishing this book, I was delighted; but while reading, especially the first half, I was bored. But this is definitely a masterful title and something that will resonate with intelligent readers long after it’s finished.

The writing style is very blunt and staccatoed, it’s not an entirely unpleasant to read. Though, it felt so foreign to the types of books I generally read. It reads like a child has written it – which is very true to the inner voice of our protagonist Davy.

The star of this book is definitely Davy’s dog, Fred! He completely captured my heart and had me chuckling in many places. Who can resist an adorkable puppy?

Honourable mentions go to the realistic character portraits of the new best friend, Altschuler and Davy’s alcoholic mother. Both were painted in raw gritty colours through Davy’s eyes, and a story behind their behaviour is inferred. This made an intriguing read, not to have all the facts explained.

I'll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleA breakdown for the mediocre rating and the reason I found the first half less than exciting lies with how it felt very much like a recount of mundane facts. And on the surface that’s all it is. The perspective you gain upon finishing the novel will switch that all on its head. There is a lot of symbolism and metaphors, and it did take me a while to switch on to it all… mainly because I repeatedly put this book down (due to afore mentioned waning of attention).

Given this novel was written over 40 years ago, the tale still stands the test of time. I loved the description of the streets of New York, and Central Park – they jumped from the page just as brightly as Fred.

I went into this book not knowing anything other than it was about a boy and his dog and was considered a classic in LGBTQI+ Literature. It was nice. I guess I expected more to happen. ‘I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip’ is quietly impactful. Much like life, it travels along innocently until something happens to shift your perspective: and that is the strong sense I garnered from this book.

It’s not necessarily a coming out story, but one of accepting loss and change. This fact alone sets it apart from the typical novel in this genre. At the beginning of the novel this theme is set up immediately when Davy’s Grandmother passes. The rest of the story line interprets the same narrative style in varying degrees.

It ends with a typical note seen in classic contemporaries, that … after a poignant moment, leaves you to draw your own conclusions. Which I like, and am starting to see a trend away from that in modern releases – not everything needs to be tied up in a pretty little bow.

A short novel with a lot of meaning, well worth the read – especially if you love dogs.

Overall feeling: I didn’t see that one coming!

I'll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I'll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

 

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Luna by Julie Anne Peters

She dances to the beat of her own drum in the moonlight

Luna Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance. 

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I loved the soul of ‘Luna’ and its message. There is valuable information in here. Attitudes to realise and live by.

On the whole this is such a cool story – shedding light on a family coping/not coping with Liam/Luna and the realisation she was born in the wrong body. The fact that it was in the setting of a family unit, even a dysfunctional one, shows that gender dysphoria, and relating to people starts at birth and it can be a long, awkward, and sometimes painful journey.

The cast of characters is what brought the rating down for me – they felt too much of a caricature. Additionally, flashbacks happened too often (a pet hate of mine). I know they were imparting vital knowledge to drive the plot forward, but towards the end of the novel I was getting tired of them. The content of these reminiscing’s also made me cringe – like events had been lifted out of a University study of typical gender dysphoric traits… it lost a personal edge, like it wasn’t connected to the characters at all.

With the story told completely from Regan’s POV, it helps shed light on the impact of a transgendered individual on family, and makes no apologies. I really enjoyed this aspect. At times Regan felt a little too politically correct, and others really hit the nail on the head. It is a difficult subject to wrap your feelings around.

Luna Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleLiam / Luna was the worst character in this book. She was written in a way to speak to a cause and left me not really connecting to her as a person. I love her message, but found myself rolling my eyes at her pretty much the entire time. In the famous words from ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way” – and that’s what I feel about Liam/Luna; she had the potential to be epic, but what I got was a cheesy afterschool special.

Chris felt like the most realistic of the cast, I would have loved to see him more involved in the main plot, I feel he could have balanced out all of the PC factoids and added a dash more authenticity.

With all of the issues I had with the characters, Luna illustrates a unique and important issue surrounding acceptance, how we treat others, love and gender identity.

I felt this was more a story of how far you can push someone before they snap, and that event causes a switch in perception allowing you to lose that baggage and become a better version of yourself. Like a cathartic cleansing of your personality.

Luna is ground-breaking, helps shed light on important causes and provides a story for anyone out there who identifies, or has someone in their life identifying as transgender. And I can’t praise this novel enough for tackling such a sensitive topic with aplomb (even if the characters fell short of the mark).

A fast-reading, light narrative easy enough to read in one sitting on over a weekend.

A quaint book with a universal message : don’t judge and be who you are.

Overall feeling: Amazing story

 Luna Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Luna Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.