BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME: A Book Review

This post is dedicated to every reviewer on Goodreads because you are WRONG, ALL OF YOU!

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I love books. I love to read. But I cannot tolerate stupidity in my literature, which means that I check out every book on Goodreads before I purchase it. Because You’ll Never Meet Me somehow fell on my radar, and was on sale for half price at Chapters so of course I looked it up on Goodreads first. I hummed and hawed over buying it because EVERY REVIEW said they loved this book but the ending sucked! Who wants to read a book that only disappoints with a crappy ending? It was my friend Joy who convinced me to buy it, telling me that she felt I have the ability to appreciate endings (at first I was going to deny this, but then I realized that I usually *am* that person who defends even the crappiest of endings). So I bought it. And I read it. And I fell in love. And that ending? It was perfect. 

So a brief, spoiler-free summary: Because You’ll Never Meet Me is about two boys who become pen pals. Ollie is allergic to electricity, and Moritz has no eyes. They can never meet because Moritz depends on a pacemaker to keep him alive, and the pacemaker would set off Ollie’s “allergy.” Ollie is given Moritz’s address by his doctor and is told nothing about him, other than he thinks that they could be helpful to each other. Eventually, these two lonely boys form a friendship, and they help each other out through their difficulties of their life. Through their letters, they start piecing together how they’re connected to each other, which is, obviously, revealed in the end which everyone apparently hates.

The thing is, I don’t understand why people hate it. Do they not like the sci-fi aspect of it? I mean, the book is about a boy with an allergy to electricity and one who has no eyes but can see (read the book, you’ll understand). What else can you expect? Obviously there’s some science fiction at play here. In the very first letter Ollie hints at this, at how he’s aware that this isn’t something that just *happens* to people. Do people not like the optimistic ending? I was ready to throw the book out the window if it didn’t end happily (it ends in that bitter-sweet optimistic way that every book should end with). Do people not like the development of Ollie and Mo’s friendship? I thought it was one of the most gentle and yet strong male-male friendships I’ve read in years. Especially since they seem to know each other so well despite the fact that they’ve never met.

So personally, I thought the ending of this novel was the perfect end for this story. Everything made sense and fell together. There were plot twists that I didn’t see coming but felt so natural– as though I had been forcing myself to look the other way. There was extraordinary character development and relationship building. There was sadness and optimism and reveals that took my breath away. This book had so much good, and so much beauty in it, that I’m surprised to see so much negativity around its ending.

Just because it’s not what you wanted it to be, doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Maybe I’m bias. Maybe I came into this book wanting to like the ending. Or maybe I just want something from endings that other people don’t. Either way, Because You’ll Never Meet Me is one hell of a beautiful book about friendship and family and growing up different. It’s about love, a love of humanity, a love of others, a love of the self. And it’s a book that I love.

5 international friendships out of 5.

(If you didn’t like this ending, let me know why! I really want to know what it was that turned you off.)

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GIRL IN PIECES: A Book Review

Meh.

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I was too hopeful for Girl in Pieces, and I think that’s what ruined it for me. It was one of those silly quotes that the publishers include, where the reviewer said something about how it is the “Girl, Interrupted for a new generation.” Now, Girl, Interrupted is my favourite book— ever. So of course I was excited to read something that’s being compared to it. And this is where my disappointment bloomed.

Needless to say, I loved the first part of the book, because the first part of the book happens in a hospital. I love novels about institutionalized people: mental illness, tuberculosis, dsytopian illnesses or special abilities… if people are institutionalized, I’m there. What I wish, deeply with all my heart, is that the first part was longer. Much longer. Half-the-novel-or-more longer. But the first part is short. And this is where the novel begins to sink.

I didn’t know what to expect with part two and beyond. I had no idea where Girl in Pieces was going, but I knew its outcome: everything was going to burn. And it does, slowly, in a way that makes it so obvious to you, but our narrator remains selectively oblivious. It’s frustrating, in that delicious way only novels can be. We know she’s making all the wrong choices, but we can’t help her. We can only watch and hope that she helps herself before it’s too late.

The ultimate message of this book is hope, but I kind of wish it wasn’t. Yes, I’m happy that Charlie is learns and grows, and that the people around her all do the same (well, except for one of them). I’m glad we see these people try and I’m glad that they succeed, at least for the moment. But a part of me wishes that everything burned and didn’t get better in that fairy-tale way. I wish the message was darker, like Girl, Interrupted or The Bell Jar. I wish it was less it-gets-better and more it-is-better-but-only-for-now. But this is YA and this is a happy ending tale, and even if I’m dark and gruesome, I’m happy with the result. It feels satisfying, and I may have felt a lump in my throat at a certain point near the end.

Just keep that jackass away from Charlie please and thanks (you know who I’m talking about… hopefully). She deserves better.

Overall, this was a nice read. It was satisfying, but I didn’t feel it in my gut. It’s a good book, but it’s not my book. I hope it helps someone out there, but it didn’t help me.

3 stars out of 5. 

MORE THAN THIS: A Book Review

I highly recommend you read this book, and I highly recommend you stop reading this review.

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Why, might you ask, would a book reviewer ask you to stop reading their review? The reason is twofold: because a) I just finished reading literally 2 minutes ago and I’m kind of speechless and because b) to say anything at all might give it all away.

Recently, I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and I loved it. More Than This was on my long list of books-to-read and I realized oh, hey, same author. Let’s give this a go. My sister, whose favourite book is A Monster Calls, told me she didn’t really like More Than This. I, on the other hand, absolutely adore it. Here’s why:

Reason Number One: Seth as a character. I love this kid. In fact, I love all of the characters introduced, but Seth is definitely my favourite. It is his guilt that fuels the story, which is similar to the guilt in A Monster Calls, but it’s used in a very different way. I felt what Seth felt the entire story. I felt his guilt and I felt his shame and I felt his love and I felt his confusion. Oh boy, did I feel his confusion. When writing a story like this, I think it’s extremely important that the readers and characters are equal confused, and try to understand this world together. I’m still confused, but in a way that is wholly satisfying because I feel like knowing ruins the purpose of this story. Which brings me to Reason Number Two: the themes. I won’t say anything about them, because I think it’s something you need to discover for yourself, but this book made me feel so much that it made me numb (these books tend to be my favourites– I like feeling empty after reading because I’m so full of emotion I can’t process anything). This book got me, and made me feel, just for a moment, that maybe life is worth all the pain.

Yes, okay, this book does come across as very similar, in some ways, to a popular franchise from the early 2000s (if you really want to know, it’s The Matrix) but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think Ness does enough to make this novel his own and I think the similarities just strengthen the importance of the story. Maybe it’s just because I’m into that kind of story and that kind of world, or maybe it’s because the book is good enough for it to not matter. Either way, I still found the novel to be unique, important, and refreshing.

Reason Number Three: Reading this is reading two novels in one. There are two stories going on, the “before” and “after” so to speak. These stories belong to two different genres, but they are woven together in a way that makes the entire book feel whole. Personally, I preferred one story above the other (it’s the before story) and would have loved just a novel about that, but I think without it, the after story would have been lacking. Both parts need each other, and both contribute to the overall theme of the work: it’s worth it. It’s always worth it.

So I love this book. Maybe I’m the only one, or maybe I’m a voice among thousands. Either way, pick it up, experience it for yourselves, and let its words and meaning seep into your soul. Maybe, if you’re lucky, it will impact you like it impacted me.

5 dreams out of 5. 

(also, can I get a HELL YEAH for a gay protagonist in a story that isn’t entirely about the fact that he’s gay?)

NEVER LET ME GO: A Book Review

I went into this book knowing next to nothing about it– and you should too.

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Never Let Me Go is one of those novels that is achingly beautiful, so much so that it almost hurts to read. At the same time, the prose is like butter, easily sliding from page to page. It’s a book you can binge, but it’s also a book that you read 20 pages and then sit down because you need to think about its implications. It is heavy in topic but light in prose which makes it the perfect book to curl up with in this post-holiday season.

As I said before, I went into this book knowing almost nothing about it, as my friends on Goodreads informed me I should too. I knew its genre, and that was it (spoiler— I knew it had dystopia elements to it). I almost wish I hadn’t known even that, because the reveal is so slow and so natural. While you know something is off almost immediately, it takes quite some time for you to realize why nothing feels right. What I love most is that it isn’t a big reveal, or plot twist. Kathy, the narrator, speaks to you as though she is telling an oral story: she assumes you know the world she lives in as she does. Yes, she explains things to you (“I don’t know if it was like this for you…” type of explanations), but the only time we get true details about this world is when we see how they affected or altered young Kathy. In a way, then, we get the sense that Kathy is not telling the story for our benefit, but for her own. It is not a story about society, but a story about relationships, and why we belief or accept the things we do. It’s a story about love, and the many forms it takes. It’s a story that shows how our childhoods and our upbringings entirely shape our future.The ending is not optimistic, but nor is it pessimistic: it’s simply a story of how life is for these people. And that is what makes it beautiful.

Read this novel. Do not read a summary, do not spoil yourself. Read it. Surround yourself with it. Think about it and wonder: is this story really so much different than your own?

5 cassette tapes out of 5.

HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR: A Book Review

Realism. That’s what I search for in books. Sure, I want the happy ending where everything is tied together in a vibrant red bow, but when a book is real, when it sticks to your gut and seems so unfair and so bittersweet, that’s when I know I’ve found a book worth reading. Highly Illogical Behavior disappointed me, but I’ve never been happier to be disappointed. Let me explain: I wasn’t disappointed because the novel was bad but because it was exceptionally good. It didn’t give me the perfect ending that I wanted, and that, its dare to be real, is what left me incredibly satisfied.

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I want to start off by saying that all of the characters are fucked up. Every single one of them has a recognizable “weakness,” or something that sets them apart from the so-called normal. Some are a bit more apparent than others (I mean, Solomon’s mental illness is the centre of the plot), but they all have something that falters them and makes them interesting to read about. I loved both Lisa and Sol, and I loved Clark and Sol’s parents too. His parents are great, by the way, and the book makes sure to point that out: not everyone is fortunate enough to have parents as understanding as his. The characters are all strong, interesting, and flawed. This novel is yet another example of how a group of well-rounded characters can make even a simple plot highly captivating.

Another thing I adored was the romance– or lack thereof. There is a love plot, but it doesn’t feel romantic. The novel isn’t about romance at all: it’s about love, the love of family and friends and how it doesn’t fix everything but it certainly makes it easier. The romance in the story also disappointed me because what I wanted to happen didn’t happen but I am so glad that it didn’t. See, if it had happened, I would have been very happy for a brief moment in time, but because it didn’t happen, it feels suddenly not like a story but like a history. Whaley doesn’t hand me the happy ending I want, and instead makes me see the truth of the matter. Which leads me to my next point: the portrayal of mental illness.

As someone who does battle with mental illness, I found Solomon’s story to be recognizable in a way that most novels about mental health don’t seem to be. Yes, his case may seem extreme, but it makes sense. It breaks down panic attacks and anxiety in a way that makes me feel a familiarity with Solomon that I don’t feel with many. I don’t know how he feels, and I can’t say I feel the same, but I recognize his emotions and the way anxiety can take over everything. For this, I want to say: thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

 

The ending isn’t a fairy tale, and it’s not a happily ever after. Nothing is for sure, and no one is cured, but I feel uplifted and optimistic all the same. Solomon’s story is not my own, but I feel optimistic for both his future and my own. I love how the end is ambiguous and open, left up to the reader to decide everyone’s fate. The ending I’ve devised is my ending, and not yours, so I’m not going to share, but I will say that things are looking up for all of us.

Whaley has definitely placed himself on my list of favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read what else he has in store.

4.5 swimming pools out of 5.