Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
1999
MTV Books
978-0671027346

Told through a series of letters written by teen Charlie to an unknown person, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of a socially awkward youth who stands on the edges of society, carefully observing everything around him. When he attempts to stop being a wallflower and start “participating,” he quickly discovers all the ups and downs of adolescence, from first love to experimenting with drugs and alcohol and even a brief part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I was excited to read this book both because it is considered by many to be a YA classic, and also because of the upcoming film. I absolutely loved Emma Watson as Hermione in the Harry Potter franchise, but I admit I am nervous about seeing her “all grown-up” in a different sort of film. As for the book, you really can’ t help but feel for Charlie. The teen years are awkward for all of us, but circumstances in Charlie’s past have made connecting with others even more difficult for him. He is very intelligent and often notices things that other people don’t, while at the same time he is often clueless in social situations, which results in much of the novel’s humour. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found Charlie to be one of the most memorable characters I have encountered recently.

The movie trailer is here:

The Word on the Street

On Sunday I braved the chilly temperature and threat of rain to venture over to Queen’s Park Circle in Toronto for the 23rd annual Word on the Street book and magazine festival. It had been a few years since I was able to attend, so I was happy to be back. My first stop was  This Is Not the Shakespeare Stage, where I was able to take in Norah McClintock, Ted Staunton, Shane Peacock, and Richard Scrimger (see photo below) as they discussed their recent collaboration on the young adult series Seven. The series is about an adventuresome grandfather who, upon his death, leaves a will outlining seven tasks, one for each of his grandsons that will take them on journeys from Iceland to Mt. Kilimanjaro. Other authors who contributed to the series include Eric Walters, John Wilson, and Sigmund Brouwer. Interestingly, the books do not need to be read in any particular order, so the “ending” of the series is really dependent on the reader. For more information about the series, visit http://orcabook.com/seventheseries/#!/main.

Moderator Dory Cerny leads the discussion with Norah McClintock, Ted Staunton, Shane Peacock and Richard Scrimger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up was author Megan Crewe. Crewe discussed facing your fears through writing and talked about the inspiration behind her novel The Way We Fall, about a teenager whose island community is quarantined following the outbreak of a deadly virus.  After hearing Crewe read a passage from the book, I am adding it to my “To be read” pile! If you’ve already read it, fear not: the second book in the trilogy, The Lives We Lost, is out in February.

Next onstage was the “Out of the Ordinary” panel featuring Deborah Kerbel, Lesley Livingston, Mariko Tamaki, and Natalie Zina Walschots. Kerbel began with a reading from her latest book, Under the Moon, in which Lily’s health suffers after she loses the ability to sleep following her aunt Su’s death. She meets Ben, who works the night shift at the local drive-through, who at first seems just plain rude but who might actually be the key to saving her. Next up was Lesley Livingston, reading a storm scene from her new release, Starling. Appropriately enough, during the reading heavy rain came down and the wind was blowing. Very creepy. Fans of Livingston’s Wondrous Strange trilogy will be pleased to know that Fennrys Wolf shows up just in time to save our heroine, Mason, from the storm and he just happens to be…naked. And suffering severe memory loss. He and Mason must work together to figure out what is happening around them and who Fennrys is. Following Livingston, Mariko Tamaki read from (You) Set Me On Fire, about a college student named Allison who’s been burned before – both literally and figuratively. Allison revels in the opportunity to reinvent herself at college, but will her relationship with Shar cause her to earn more scars? Tamaki’s hilarious reading of a scene in which a college party goes horribly wrong thanks to the “Tower of Power” and its accompanying shots was certainly well-received by the crowd. Finally, Natalie Zina Walschots read a few poems from Doom: Poems for Supervillains, impressing us with her vocabulary while offering up a different take on classic bad guys like Bane.

Following the panel, I was able to get my copy of Starling signed by Lesley Livingston, and then it was off to explore the rest of the festival. Unfortunately my camera battery died and I have no idea how to get the rest of my pictures out of my (non-smart)phone, but I can say I did Kevin Sylvester rocking an awesome chef’s hat while signing books for his fans, and I also saw Olivia leaving the festival, Chirp over at Owl Kids, and Polkaroo hiding out behind the TVO Kids stage waiting to make a grand entrance. Despite the chilly weather, I had a great time and hope to return next year.

Pride and Prejudice: Fun and Games

It’s Pride and Prejudice week over at Forever Young Adult, and they’ve highlighted a couple of P&P-related games. The Pride and Prejudice board game, while pricey at $45.00 (I assume U.S.) looks awesome. In library school, my friends and I used to gather to watch Jane Austen movies and drink tea (not kidding). How awesome would it have been to play this board game? The bloggers at FYA have also created a drinking game based on the 1995 miniseries so that you can “kick it Mr. Hurst-style.” Cheers!

Librarian Tattoos

My friend Dana sent me this link from Mental Floss of library-related tattoos. I love libraries, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a limit to how far I would go to express my library love. I particularly like the sleeve of the card catalogue and the “Shh” one.

Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
2012
Crown Publishing
978-0-307-58836-4

When Nick Dunne’s beautiful and intelligent wife, Amy, goes missing on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, he immediately becomes a suspect. Between his lies and questionable behaviour, it’s no wonder the cops think he had something to do with his wife’s disappearance. The only person who believes in Nick is his twin sister, Margo. But if he is innocent, where is Amy?

Told in chapters alternating between Nick’s point of view in the present and Amy’s diary entries, Gone Girl is a compelling and extremely well-plotted mystery. Nick is definitely not the most sympathetic character, as we discover his marriage with Amy, who is also deeply flawed, was on the verge of collapse. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I will say I had a hard time putting this book down as I became entangled in Nick and Amy’s web of lies. Recommended for mystery fans.

Review: The Chaperone

The Chaperone
Laura Moriarty
2012
Riverhead Books
978-1-59448-701-9

It is 1922 and Wichita housewife Cora Carlisle has just accepted a job as chaperone to fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks as she embarks on a summer in New York City study at the Denishawn dance school. Dealing with strong-willed Louise and her mercurial moods proves challenging, but Cora has her own reasons for coming to New York. She is on a mission to find answers to a question that has long been haunting her. But what she finds isn’t what she expected.

I really enjoyed travelling back in time to the flapper era for a glimpse at the girl who would go on to become an icon. While the career of Louise Brooks is chronicled throughout the book, though, this is really Cora’s story. While at first Cora seems like an ordinary Midwestern housewife, her past is full of secrets that come to life over the course of this compelling novel.

Review: Seating Arrangements

Seating Arrangements
Maggie Shipstead
2012
Alfred A. Knopf
978-0-307-59946-9

Winn Van Meter is heading to the island of Waskeke in New England for the wedding of his pregnant eldest daughter, Daphne. In a house overrun by females, Winn struggles with his long-standing crush on Daphne’s seductive bridesmaid, Agatha, and his desire to join an exclusive country club. Meanwhile, younger daughter Livia is desperately clinging to a failed relationship, leaving her vulnerable to the charms of the best man. What unfolds is a commentary on the ideals of marriage and familial obligations.

I enjoyed reading Shipstead’s debut novel and found it to be a great summer read. It was interesting to explore the complicated dynamics of the Van Meter family. As Shipstead demonstrates, having money and social status doesn’t necessarily guarantee happiness, and even the most seemingly perfect families have their share of tribulations. I look forward to Shipstead’s next book.

Indigo’s Fall YA Picks

Indigo has posted a list of top picks for teens. I am super excited to read The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I really enjoyed The Scorpio Races as well as her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. I am also keen to read Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel, the follow-up to his Frankenstein retelling This Dark Endeavor.  I did find that book a bit slow in parts but I am still intrigued to see what happens to Victor next. Also on deck is Reached, the finale of Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy; Days of Blood & Starlight, Laini Taylor’s sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone; and Starling by Lesley Livingston. Have I mentioned how much I love fall?

The Giller Prize

The longlist for the 2012 Giller Prize was announced yesterday. I am ashamed to say I haven’t read any of the books. I was a little surprised not to see Vincent Lam’s The Headmaster’s Wager (which I admit I haven’t read either but my sister assures me is quite good), but it’s always nice to see some new names on the list. The full list is available here. The shortlist will be announced October 1st.