Posts Tagged ‘adolescent lit’

I’m not sure about you guys, but I would hardly call myself a fan of modern art. I mean, between Andy Warhol’s neon florescent soup cans and Jackson Pollock accidentally spilling paint onto a canvas, I’m not sure I really grasp the meaning here. Is there even one? Is it one of those lame, modernist takes on “the meaning is there is no meaning, maaaaaan!” Maybe it’s above me.

Or, maybe, as Scott McCloud would have me believe, I’m looking at it the wrong way.

Copyright Jackson Pollock – I call this one, “condiments a la mode” 

The Book

This week, I finished Scott McCloud’s aforementioned “Understanding Comics: The Individual Art,” and the last few chapters dropped some pretty big bombshells on my conventional way of thinking. Just a few heavy-handed bulletpoints that may or may not have anything to do with graphic novels:

  • a single, still picture is a cartoon, not a comic. Comics = sequential art
  • Cultures cut off from the world-at-large tend to develop stylistically independent (like Japan’s manga vs. conventional comics)
  • Creation is a 6-step process, beginning with an idea and ending with the surface of the creation
    • However, the order people take this process in is often non-linear!
  • Comics (or at least cartoons) are an ancient artform, cave paintings and hieroglyphs do count!
  • Human instinct has 2 critical components: Reproduction and Survival. Anything outside of these is… art

I think any teacher hoping to include graphic novels in their courses, even just a few, could stand to throw in a few chapters out of this book. It offers some interesting commentaries on the relevance of cartoons and comics in society throughout different periods of time. Besides that, though, it also offers some interesting perspectives on artwork, and the manifestation of ideas into creative formats.

Regardless of whether or not I think Pollock’s “paintings” count as artwork, McCloud makes an interesting assertion: anything that doesn’t fulfill our primary human functions of surviving and reproducing is art. It’s self expression, even if nothing is being created. McCloud says that if anything aside from our basic animalistic instincts are cutting through, that’s artwork. It’s an interesting and perhaps radical way to look at creativity. This little bit of the book is worth the price of admission in and of itself. Scott has done his research. He’s scoured artists and contrasted their styles, done historical and sociological research, the whole nine yards. There’s a textbook’s worth of knowledge in here, cleverly hidden behind

The Artwork

The six step process of creation, Copyright Scott McCloud

McCloud hides genuine research and good information deep within each line and panel of his book. His art style throughout the book varies wildly depending on the chapter. When McCloud wants the emphasis to be on the information, the art style often takes on an extremely simple look, so we pay more attention to what’s being said. When an emphasis is being placed on the art style, the necessary touches are added; for example, the only chapter of the book to feature any color is a chapter on.. color.

Rather than opt for the lazy way out, when McCloud makes reference to hieroglyphs or the artwork of another famous painter, he does his best to draw these things himself. He emulates the style of other cartoonists (sometimes directly referencing their own panels), and points out the stylistic differences between artists. When discussing the importance of panels and shading, McCloud toys with those particular aspects to demonstrate their importance. The same can be said about most other topics Scott touches on. When he describes the collaborative process between writer and artist, he doesn’t simply opt for panels of himself speaking to us. He shows us:

The Verdict:

McCloud’s book was surprisingly dense for a 9 chapter graphic novel. A little research helped me discover that it’s part one in a trilogy, with the other two dealing with Reinventing and Making Comics. It’s hard to really compress parts of this book down into a blog post, at least for me. McCloud hammers the reader with a wealth of information in an easily digestible format. However, a lot of what he says is augmented infinitely by the panels and drawings that accompany it. It isn’t enough to summarize his points, they have to be seen for one’s self.

Ars longa vita brevis

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You know, I’ve never been on “vacation.” Not in the idyllic, get-away to a beach or a cabin in the woods sense. I’ve had time off, and I’ve travelled, but I’ve never been able to just laze about on a beach. It’s a dream of mine to be able to take the ladyfriend and I on a cruise or something like that eventually, but right now the moths in my wallet are starving.

All that being said, Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s graphic novel “This One Summer” is quite the one-two punch. In a nutshell, it deals with the coming-of-age tale of Rose Wallace and her friend Windy at their summer cottages at Awago Beach.

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Photo CC- by Kim Seng – is this really paradise, or just what we’re tempered to consider paradise?

The Story:

I’ve gotta give it to Mariko Tamaki, I was never a teenage girl, but she nails all the struggles of the transition between being a kid and a teenager / “young adult”. Rose has been going to this cottage with her parents since she was five, but something’s different about this year. The rose colored glasses are starting to crack. Rose’s parents are fighting, her dad is immature, her mom is reserved and on-edge, and her friend, Windy, is a bit immature for her tastes. The book is filled with its fair share of carefree summery fuckery; Rose and Windy take an affinity to horror movies, swimming, the freedom of being able to spend their own money (on candy, but still), but for every carefree moment there are three that are emotionally exhausting.

Rose and Windy (moreso Rose) take a fascination with some local teenagers who run a c-store. They’re your typically crude, bumbling teenagers, but the mysterious of their romances and where their crude behavior / vocabulary comes from fascinates the younger girls. I remember being a kid and incorporating certain.. uh.. explicit words I didn’t quite understand in my vocabulary, and being red-faced when I was caught using them.

Largely, the story tackles the conflicts people come across in their life, despite being in “paradise.” Pregnancy, puberty, relationships, issues everyone deals with one way or another. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the story after I first finished the book. I had to chew on it for awhile. There are some loose ends that are never tied off, but that’s how life is. There is often no answer to the question. It was interesting to peer into the world of a pre-teen girl, though. While the book is by no means “feminist,” it is very new-wave, demonstrating how certain sexist misconceptions get placed into girls’ heads, featuring non-conventional characters (adoptive parents, lesbians, larger women who don’t look like Barbie dolls). The story really has to be read to be appreciated.

Copyright – Jillian Tamaki

The Artwork

This is where “This One Summer” really shone. Jillian Tamaki has made some of the best artwork I’ve seen in a graphic novel to date. Her style consists of some very stylized backgrounds, with some simpler looking characters – a technique Scott McCloud in “Understanding Comics” mentions is often used to make it easier to substitute yourself into the character’s shoes. The colors are very de-saturated, mostly blue line shading that makes the entire book feel like a memory.

Copyright – Jillian Tamaki

And that’s precisely what the book is – a memory. Not just of Rose, but of any of us who have experienced some difficulty coming into adolescence. Tamaki makes frequent usage of some interesting techniques, including crazy shaped speech bubbles, written out sounds in true comic book fashion (click, splash, whif, etc.), and a really great shot of the ocean that, after a page turn, becomes the sky for the next scene.

When it’s necessary, characters are drawn in more fleshed-out detail to add some weight to the seriousness of certain scenes. The artwork of this novel is what kept me page turning, perhaps even moreso than the story. I love it. It’s simplistic enough when the mood is light, like when Windy dances around Rose in what is surely a Calvin and Hobbes throwback panel, but when Rose’s parents (Alice and Evan) are going at it, the detail becomes much more surreal.

The artwork is highly non-conventional in that there are multi-page spreads, often no panels at all, and often entire portions of blank page sectioned off for text. It helps to break up the pacing of what is actually quite long for a graphic novel.

Copyright – Jillian Tamaki

The Verdict

“This One Summer” evokes this feeling from me like there’s so much under the surface that I’m not quite scraping up. It’s there. I know it is. It’s hidden right under the sand. But even just looking at the surface, I enjoyed “This One Summer” thoroughly. I think it would make a great staple for Young Adult lit classes, as well as those looking to break into graphic novels. It’s more serious (to me) than something like Laura Lee Gulledge’s “Page by Paige”, has an art style I’m in love with, and despite having weighty elements, isn’t serious to the point of inspiring depression. I’d say give it a go. It was, after all, one of Dr. Ellington’s favorite books of 2014. 

To close, here’s this:

Aestas

Hey boys and girls, did you miss me?

Yes, yes, the prodigal son returns much to the chagrin of all 20 or so people that actually follow me. I haven’t updated this blog since roughly September, when my first publication(s) were headed out. Annnnd a lot of new things have happened in my life since then. With a little encouragement from a certain special someone, I decided I should breathe some life into this. Especially considering that I haven’t written for “The Eagle” (our College’s newspaper) more than once this whole semester.

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above: semi-accurate representation of me this semester

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say, “holy shit I’m almost a senior in college.” When I walk out of this place next year with a Bachelor’s in Literature with a minor in Music, how unemployable do you think I’m going to be? Here’s a shocker for you (that some people will hate me for), I’m pretty sure I’m going to get my first few B’s of my college career. Granted, that doesn’t upset me. There are people that will be disgusted with the fact that I’ve lasted this long with all A’s, because, you know, <sarcasm> I wake up every morning with the thought “I’m just going to put everyone else to shame.” That’s just how I operate. I’m kind of a dick. </sarcasm> I knew going into this semester it would be a transitional one for me.

My relationship of 4 years ended back in November, and with that came an entire paradigm shift that most people probably experience once or twice in their lives. It started back when I was in high school, persisted through some rocky times, and stupidly, I proposed because of the promise of a false sense of security. But, as a good friend of mine says, “a ring never plugged no hole,” and indeed, it did not. It takes two to tango, folks, but three’s a crowd. On the bright side, that paradigm shift allowed me to pursue a 2-year-long crush that happens to double as the love of my life, so, there’s that. Am I sharing too much with you people?

the above statement is false

In terms of writing, I’m in a really strange place. I have ideas for miles and miles, and unlike when I was just starting off, I actually believe I can do these ideas justice. That was why I never wrote before, I was afraid of the “loss-of-self” that would happen to the idea between my brain and the paper. To any other writers in this predicament, my best piece of advice is: get the fuck over it. Write it down. If you hate it, you can edit it and edit it until you don’t, or sometimes you just have to hate it. H.P. Lovecraft loathed some of his most famous works. Anyway, point being, I have ideas, and I have (enough) confidence to give them a whirl… I just need to actually sit down and write them out. Typically, about the time I feel “inspired” to write is the time when I’m tired enough to want to pass out. This is called creative insomnia, and I feel no strong desire to be an insomniac. As well as it would work with my “brooding author” image, I like sleep.

Since September, I’ve had 5 short stories published. 4 in the Demonic Visions series, books 1, 2, and 3, editted and compiled by Chris Robertson. 1 by the lovely ladies at Sirens Call Publications, a few of which join me in said Demonic Visions books. In June, Demonic Visions 4 will come out, and provided I can pull my head out of my ass, I’ll have a story or two featured in there as well. My goal over the summer, as far as my writing career goes, is to branch out a bit. I love the DV series, but I feel like I need to get around a bit more with my writing, so that I might not seem like a one-trick pony. Hopefully I’ve impressed a reader (*cough* publisher) or two with my work.

Is anyone really surprised that I have work in a book with this kind of cover? You knew what you were getting into.

Recently, I feel as though adulthood has slowly settled its way into my brain. I haven’t necessarily felt ostracized from my friends, just like we are growing in separate directions. I no longer feel the need to empty my wallet during each Steam sale. Instead, payday usually brings a new slew of books onto my shelf. This year, I made it a point to be sociable and a party kind of person. Now that I’ve experienced that and found my happy medium, I’m retreating back into cynic-mode. People here at Chadron are really big fans of compromising their beliefs or opinions depending on who’s around, and I hate that shit. I have a Metallica tattoo on my left shoulder, but don’t tell the music department. They’ll all laugh heartily and scoff at me, despite the fact that half of them are most likely Metallica fans themselves. But it isn’t the cool thing to do. Apparently, high school mentality dies hard.

Thoughts of post-college life used to petrify me. Now, I’m excited to see what it holds. Even if it’s sorrow or rage or whathaveyou, at least I will have lived and learned outside of the realm of my hometown. I’m gonna pass the mic to my man William Blake to close this one off: “Expect poison from the standing water.”

 

Vola libere, sed semper domum redi

 

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” – Winston Churchill

Some of you, my professor included, may have noticed my lack of a blog post on a professional development book. truth time: I didn’t read one! My week was insane, and I kinda didn’t wanna read it because as much good stuff as I’m sure was in there, teaching strategies, at least right now, are not my bag. MOVING ON

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30 books. 30 books is what I’ve read between January and today, if you count some rather sizable graphic novels and some over-arching comic books story arcs (a.k.a spanning several issues). For some time now, I had been down on myself for not doing as much reading as one would expect from a literature major. The classics were wearing me out, the 5 page papers were driving me insane, and I had had it up to here -invisible line- with obscure poetry about a certain red-f’cking-wheelbarrow. And just then.. a light at the end of the tunnel – an excuse to read novel after novel, not necessarily as brooding and complex as any Scarlet Letter, but much more readable, and definitely more relatable. Hell, sign me up!

And sign up I did, sign up for an “A” contract in a class called “Adolescent Literature”. After getting a look at a reading list including the likes of The Outsiders, the Hunger Games, and some graphic novels I’d never heard of, another class of reading Walden could kiss my happy, anti-transcendentalism ass. Thanks to this class, I’ve done some things I would not have before – such as start a Twitter feed, and this blog page! No one wants to hear the dumb crap I have to spew, I thought to myself. What good is a blog past me just talking to myself?
Little did I know – these blogs and tweets and crazy technological wonders were to be used as part of a learning platform – to network with other human beings. Damn! What a concept! And here I was thinking the internet was around for little more than cat videos and obscure, brooding facebook statuses (SARCASM).

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This class is unlike any I’ve taken before, in the combined sense that I not only enjoyed what was required reading (most of the time), but doing my homework was a bit of a relief. Being forced to blog every week means having to regurgitate my thoughts about a book or a theme, and if I thought the author was a jackass or the book was pretentious, being able to say so for the world to see felt kinda good (still waiting on Sherman Alexie to explain to me how owning a kindle makes me a fucking elitist. Genius.) If I thought a book was awesome, being able to compare reasons why with someone else was also awesome. I wish in-class meetings had either been more frequent or had more people, but that kind of thing happens with an online medium. I still managed to get some good back-and-forths going with people, and this blog has forced me to pick back up a once-frequent medium of posting angry things on the internet. While it’s not fiction writing, it is something. I’ve decided that I’m going to start calling myself a writer. Not pretentiously, mind you, and not in the sense of “I hang around coffee shops and write” writer. But it’s something I do, and it’s something I do well. Why not take the title? I feel like I meet the qualifications.

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With such a comprehensive reading list, one is forced to gain some perspective outside of the (typical) middle-class, white American adolescence. I do not know what it’s like to be an indian on a reservation, to be a raped teenage girl, a (fabulously) gay man, or anything else of the sort… and being able to glance into that lifestyle, even for just a little bit, broadens an otherwise small horizon. I won’t lie, when I first heard “adolescent lit”, I thought of some rinse-and-repeat franchise like A Series of Unfortuante Events or Goosebumps, I hadn’t considered works like The Hunger Games. This kind of literature can provide an escape point or a point of identification for adolescents – I’m just wondering where the drop off is between “young adult” and “adolescent”. Plus, what exactly is “middle grade”? Problems are not  specific to a grade level. I come from Alliance where parents can’t buy their children toys off of infomercials because they aren’t old enough to call the hotline – I know a thing or two about early onset problems. Problems in adolescent literature aren’t problems exclusive to adolescents, they just come from different perspective. Plus, every parent in every adolescent novel or horror story for that matter is a total douche. If you had just believed your kid in the first place, maybe you wouldn’t have gotten abducted by aliens.

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Above: Somewhat related.

When it came to my independent reading for this class, I tried my best to convince my fellow readers and compatriots that Superman and Captain America had just as much literary complexity as lame-ass Arthur Dimmesdale or Charles Dickens’s Pip. A good 3/4ths of my independent reading had to do with graphic novels and comic books, and the accompanying blogs were me trying to convince a class of mostly women to pick up a comic book. Did I fail? Most likely. But luckily, Dr. Ellington included 2 graphic novels in the syllabus, so I can hop on the bandwagon of the success of that week. This all culminated in my inquiry project being my own syllabus for a graphic novels course. If I changed even one mind, I call that success. If I didn’t, well, you can’t win ’em all. In fact, you lose most of them it seems. Seriously though. Break the stereotype. Comics aren’t just for teenage boys, aren’t just for nerds, aren’t just for dorks. Yeah, shows like “Comic Book Men” don’t do us comic readers any favors, but come on. Dudes dig chicks who read comic books! Fact.

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So I guess the question that remains now is will I continue to spill my brain droppings all over this page, even recreationally? It’s hard to say. I guess that really depends on if anyone else does. I definitely plan on continuing to skulk my Twitter account. I dunno if I’ll continue to update it, but too many people share too much cool stuff for me to just ignore it all together.

Either way, if you’re reading this, thank you for joining me on this ride. I don’t suspect it’s over – but for right now, we need to head to a rest stop. My brain can’t handle much more responsbility.

Excelsior!

“When life gives you lemons, chunk it right back.” ― Bill Watterson

I’m going to get this out of the way first and foremost: I neither loved nor hated Virginia Euwer Wolff’s “Make Lemonade”. For me, it had its touching moments, but on the whole, I wasn’t super impressed, nor did I walk away bleary-eyed. There were times when I was genuinely enthralled, and others where I felt my hands turning the page simply so I would have the necessary fuel for this blog post. Usually, a book I love (or hate) creates very polarizing feelings in me. This book left me with an “eh” and shrugged shoulders.

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I know what we’re going to do today!

So, what’s happening?

For the uninitiated (that is, anyone reading this not in my adolescent lit class), Make Lemonade entails the story of 14 year old Verna LaVaughn, who takes a job babysitting 17 year old Jolly’s two (fatherless) children. Jolly is barely managing to hold the shambles of her life together, scrambling to be able to pay for rent, bills, and the things that young Jeremy (3) and Jilly (no older than 2) need. Verna takes the job, despite the fact that it could possibly begin cutting into her study time. Verna fears nothing more than the possibility of not going to college and ending up like Jolly, and her mother finds no shortage of ways to make it known that she is skeptical at best about Verna’s decision. Oh, and for any of you wondering where “Make Lemonade” comes from as a title, 3 times over Verna plants some lemon seeds for Jeremy, the first two times yield no results. This, and also an anecdote from Jolly about an old blind woman trying to buy an orange for her children being knocked down by some thugs who replace the orange with a lemon (guess what she does with this lemon?). It’s all very symbollic, the whole “life gives you lemons” schtick, yadda-yadda-yadda, overcoming adversity time!

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You don’t seem thrilled with this. Why not?

For one thing, I, on general principle, am not fond of kids. And by “I’m not fond of kids” I mean I seriously want to tear my ears off whenever children are in the vicinity. I know some of my fellow adolescent-lit-bloggers are parents, and I apologize if this opinion is for some reason offensive, but sweet jesus kids bug the crap out of me. I know they don’t know any better, but (like Verna mentions, having to stop herself from acting like I would) when a kid is being a whirlwind of destruction, that shit is not cool. You want to be angry, but can’t because they don’t know better, so you’ve got nowhere to put your irritation, and then someone will inevitably say “WELL YOU WERE A KID ONCE TOO” (no shit, lady), and it all just devolves into a big mess.

Reason #2 is there were multiple moments in this novel where I wanted to dropkick either Jolly or Verna’s mother. Hypocrisy seemed to be the word of the day for these people. Here are my brief impressions:

Jolly: “WAH HELP ME I NEED HELP I CAN’T DO THIS ALONE – OMG YOU’RE STEALING MY CHILDRENS FROM ME I DON’T NEED ANYONE I CAN DO IT MYSELF”

Verna’s Mother: “DO WHATEVER IT TAKES YOU NEED MONEY FOR COLLEGE – HOW COULD YOU TAKE THIS JOB THAT PAYS MONEY YOU BETTER NOT START SLIPPING IN SCHOOL BECAUSE SCHOOL MEANS COLLEGE”

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Above: somewhat related

Rinse and repeat this for about the entirety of the novel. And it drives me nuts. Verna’s mother offers hollow, lifeless praises to her daughter when things go right, but spends most of her time rolling her eyes, saying snappy things under her breath, and peeling potatoes. So, maybe the woman lost a husband to a freak accident. That would explain the cold exterior, and she does mean well when it comes to Verna. She just wants to see her succeed, but she’s pretty much the cliche “overworked mom” from most teen novels, shows, etc. etc. Jolly on the other hand whines and complains about needing help and about how everyone looks down on her, everyone tells her that she deserves her place because she should have “known better” – and then promptly refuses Welfare (yet accepts food stamps) and instead writes a letter to a billionaire to get him to pay her rent. Fucking genius. Plus, I just hate the names “Jolly” and “Jilly”. In the sequel, a love interest for Verna named “Jody” shows up.

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Jolly is supposedly in talks with MTV (this is a joke).

Wait.. so should we read this or not?

I’m gonna throw you guys for a loop here – I genuinely think you should read “Make Lemonade” for yourselves and form an opinion. If you enjoy it, there are two sequels. It has its redeeming moments, some of the moments between Jeremy and Verna are pretty touching (getting Jeremy new shoes, reading to him, etc.), and Jeremy as a whole serves well as a symbol of hope. Just because I didn’t on the whole like the novel doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a read. I’m sure I’m going to be the one person out of the 6+ billion on the earth that openly says I didn’t care for it much. The copyright date on the particular copy of the book I have is from 1993, the year I was born. By now, we’re desensitized to teenage pregnancy. The shit is on television and practically celebrated by our (mindless) culture, but I’m wondering if in 1993 it was a different story. I’m wondering if I would have a different disposition towards this novel had I been born prior to 93. Either way, I want to know what others think, whether they like what I’ve had to say or not.

veni quid veniat

“You have to sow before you can reap. You have to give before you can get.” – Robert Collier

I have a few problems with “Black and White” right out of the gate. Strike 1 – it’s a sports novel. I mean, I know that’s not the entire focus, but that’s one of the genres it’s listed under, and it’s something a lot of its readers talk about. I am the complete opposite of those students that cannot get enough of Tim Tebow’s autobiography. I couldn’t give less of a crap about sports if I tried (CSC’s quite the ideal place for this attitude, let me tell you). Strike 2 – teenage stupidity I pray cannot reach the depths that Marcus and Eddie make it reach. These kids have enough of a moral compass to feel bad for one another and (implied, anyway) try to share the blame when all hell breaks loose, but don’t have enough sound moral judgment to decide “hey, maybe we shouldn’t threaten people at gunpoint for money to buy fucking BASKETBALL SHOES”? You can’t be serious. A potential scholarship to a school implies at least a decent amount of talent in one’s particular sport, but it’s also assumed that said athlete has some damn common sense. This is a no-go for me.

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Still found a way to make comics fit into this week’s blog posts: Deadpool – 1, common sense – absolute zero

Strike 3 – the “black and white” aspect at all. Yeah, I suppose I’m taking the support beam right out from underneath the building here, but it’s just too gimmicky for me. There happens to be a white guy and a black guy both getting scholarships to the same school for the same sport, both happen to be total sheep and feel like robbing people  is a reliable source of income, annnnnnnd the black guy is the one that takes the brunt of the justice system’s medieval flail. I know that it’s written that this book is based partly on interviews the author conducted with “real people in similar situations”, but holy crap. This has “Lifetime Movie Original” written all over it. Marcus Brown and Eddie Russo? Holy definitive line-drawing names, Batman! Eddie’s dad happens to be a blatant racist, even though his son’s best friend is black? If this is “realism”, the pieces are falling into place quite nicely. “Black and White” as nicknames do not require creativity. That is absolutely daft. I know plenty of people of both of these colors who are friends, and no one has affectionately dubbed them “black and white”.

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Above: Racism, over-easy

To Mr. Volponi’s credit, I enjoyed the writing style (yay swear words! I mention it in every other frickin’ blog). The lack of an ending seems to be a spot of complaint by many critics, but I just feel like these people might not have ever watched a movie like “Inception” (if you don’t get the reference, go watch the movie. It’s worth the time). This book doesn’t sit well in my regards, but it didn’t have a lot going for it from the get go, at least not with me. Sports, obscure racial overtones, and protagonists who get themselves into a sticky situation because of a COMPLETE AND TOTAL LACK OF JUDGMENT. Not my bag, man.

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Above: What this blog post did.

 

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m not going to lie, when I discovered that our assignment in adolescent lit this week was to read a LGBT book, I wasn’t sure what to think. Before you think I’m some ignorant xenophobe, I mean that choosing a book out of the lot was kind of like drawing a name out of a hat. I did no research on any of them, read no synopsis, and did no Wiki-ing. The only thing I went on was the fact that everyone I’ve talked to in my classes had nothing but good things to say about John Green. So, Will Grayson, Will Grayson was my choice. I went in totally blind (not something I’m accustomed to doing in any situation), and it paid off.

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So, what’s happening here?

So, the story alternates every chapter between two different dudes named, wait for it… Will Grayson. The odd numbered chapters were written by John Green while the evens were David Levitthan’s work (I, personally, enjoyed Green’s chapters more, but I digress). The story, despite having both Graysons as protagonists, centers around a 6’6″ hulking mass of a gay man named Tiny Cooper – tiny, obviously, being a fine example of irony here. Will Grayson #1 spends all his time pretending he’s too cool to care about anything and also being yanked around by everyone around him, and Will Grayson #2 spends all of his time being seemingly bi-polar or manic depressive, on top of being wildly anti-social and a little bit gay.

With Tiny Cooper’s help, both of these Will Graysons will become better men who are more comfortable with who they are – just neither of them know it yet. In fact, the two Will Graysons don’t even start off knowing the other exists. And Tiny Cooper – Tiny Cooper is pretty much summed up by the word “fabulous”. Not like Big-Gay-Al-from-South-Park fabulous, but like a genuine “I-want-to-make-the-world-a-better-place-and-I-yam-who-I-yam” fabulous. He and Will Grayson #1 are best friends (though their relationship goes through some rough patches), and with Grayson #1’s help, Tiny hopes to put on a musical (directed produced choreographed etc) by himself called.. wait for it.. Tiny Dancer. This is gold, people.

Throw in complicated love interests for both sets of Will Graysons, strained relationships with parents, and a lot of indie band references, and you’ve got yourself quite a journey.

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Above: not unrelated

Why’s this worth talking about?

This book is like the total package, man. Everyone in this book has a problem, it’s not like it’s a book trying to impress upon us the plight of LGBT people. It’s a book trying to show us that being a person is tough for everyone. Plus, it has quite the colorful cast. Odd, punk-rocky chicks, antisocial gay men, hugely social gay men, quintessential goth girl, math nerds, and of course the dude that doesn’t know where he belongs.

This book has the issues man. Coping with a mental illness, dealing with heartbreak, teenage love confusion and /or triangles, estranged relationships with parents, absence of parents, no self-esteem, and being afraid to take chances. Sweet jesus, it’s like high school all over again. Oh, and since I’ve mentioned it in pretty much every other blog about YA books, there is finally swearing in abundance. All of the favorite words are here. Like, some in a bit of excess.

You will find something to relate to in this book. I promise. Regardless of your sexual preference. That’s what makes it so damn good of a read. Regardless of whether you like the characters, most of the major ones are all fleshed out, and even go through some pretty big changes. DYNAMIC CHARACTERS, people. The Will Graysons you start with are not the ones you end with. One other cool thing about this book is that there’s no big villain character. There’s no one guy / girl who’s just a tremendous dick to everyone and serves as the antagonist that causes everyone problems. LIFE is the antagonist. That’s some real talk there.

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Above: artist’s rendition of dynamic characters

The Verdict:

I know for a fact at least 2 of my classmates chose this same book to read, and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts about it. Me? I loved this book. The only parts I felt iffy about were the parts from Grayson 2’s perspective, but it was more the writing style than the actual story itself. There weren’t any parts I can really think of that I hated. All the indie-band talk felt kind of like it was trying too hard to me, BUT that was part of a character’s personality, it wasn’t just the author being like “hey look at how much I know about shit no one cares about”. My recommendation to you, dear reader – is to read this. Read it, read it, read it – it’ll take you 2-3 hours tops, and you will regret none of it.

Gaudium