It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
Two things before I talk about liars and gunters, I’d like to invite you all to join our Literary Voyage Around the World Reading Challenge. How awesome would it be to travel to different countries in books.
We have also launched our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Bookshelf – which I invite you all to check out. Over 500 multicultural/ international picturebook titles for you to see.
I read these two young adult novels before 2017 ended, and was fascinated by them. Hence, I decided to mine them both for themes about love.
Written By: E. Lockhart
Published by: Hotkey Books, 2014
ISBN: 147140398X (ISBN13: 9781471403989). Literary Awards: Georgia Peach Book Award (2015), Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee for Young Adults (2016), Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2015), The Inky Awards Nominee for Silver Inky (2015), Lincoln Award (2016), Bookworm Best Award for Best Fiction (2014), Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction (2014), The Magnolia Award for 9-12 (2016). Book was gifted to me. Book photos taken by me.
I found this novel to be a pleasant surprise. I had no plans of reading it, until my 16 year old daughter demanded that I read it a month ago (while she was still on school holidays), after she has binge-read it in two days. She claimed that she needed to discuss it with someone, and so I did.
While I could not connect with any of the characters – my middle class sensibility found the lifestyle of the Sinclairs fascinating, mainly because their affluence and privileged position seemed several layers removed from reality as most people experience it. Imagine having an entire island all to yourself, to enjoy every summer, with separate houses dotted along the island for each of the three Sinclair daughters and their families.
Since our reading theme is about love, allow me to jump right into the love story between Gat and Cadence – classic poor guy-rich girl story – except that Lockhart made salient the notion of privilege, more keenly felt with Gat’s realness, and feelings of being an outsider, and his existential queries about life’s meaning.
It was actually Gat’s presence that made the entire rich-lifestyle somewhat tolerable for me. The fact that he is also a reader made me gravitate naturally towards his character. He brought a raw, pulsating authenticity that Cadence and her cousins dismissed in an offhand manner; because things only pass through them, but rarely penetrate them. For some reason, this is what they seem to attribute to being “normal” – any intense emotion or signs of emotional breakdown should be dealt with immediately with pills, alcohol, or therapy. Or a trip to Europe, that works too. They are island owners, for crying out loud.
Hence, I was even more dismayed at the pettiness, the shallow concerns, the mindless bickering, and such palpable and pitiful waste even while there seems to be so much. I have to credit Lockhart’s literary craftsmanship that allowed such two-dimensional, superficial characters to come alive, enough that readers love to hate them.
I enjoyed how Lockhart gradually built up the narrative; the foreshadowing constant throughout. The reader knows that something terrible has happened to make Cadence lose fragments of her memory. I have to admit, though, that finding out the twist in the end seemed anticlimactic for me – primarily because I imagined worse things than what actually transpired – must be due to my old age. Regardless, I found Lockhart’s writing to be lyrical, evocative while being sparse, and the unraveling of the plot quite masterful.
Written By: Ernest Cline
Published by: Broadway Books, 2012 (First Published 2011)
ISBN: 0307887448 (ISBN13: 9780307887443). Literary Awards: Prometheus Award for Best Novel (2012), ALA Alex Award (2012), Lincoln Award Nominee (2014), Tähtivaeltaja Award Nominee (2013), Mary Shelley Award for Outstanding Fictional Work (2016), Green Mountain Book Award Nominee (2015)
This is another novel that I wouldn’t ordinarily pick for myself. However, this is our January book-of-the-month for one of my book clubs here in Singapore, so I had to. And I am glad I did. I did not expect to thoroughly enjoy this novel as much as I did. While I do consider myself a geek of sorts, my geekiness doesn’t hold a candle in the least to Wade Owen Watts, aka Parzival – and the High Five (what that is, you will need to find out on your own when you pick up this book to read).
Set in some dystopian future in 2044, it paints a bleak portrait of young people who would rather be in the virtual world, the OASIS, rather than face an impoverished and starving planet that is reeling with the damages brought about by climate change. I found the entire concept of OASIS to be brilliant – and also slightly reminiscent of Second Life, which is also a virtual universe that is similar to multiplayer online games – except that the OASIS blows the mind away, especially given the fact that it’s practically for free.
The Founder and CEO of OASIS is an unorthodox, strange, and highly intelligent (but socially inept) man whose death caused a major upheaval to the online community. Without any descendants, James Halliday bequeathed his entire company worth gazillions of dollars to anyone who would be able to find his “golden egg” buried amidst geeky riddles and multiple games-within-games.
So… the love angle. Right. On to our reading theme. Wade is one of the many hopeful egg-hunters out there – shortened to ‘gunters.’ He stumbled upon the first clue which stumped an entire corporation determined to establish control of this international behemoth of an industry by finding Halliday’s egg themselves. However, it was Parzival and Art3mis who were smart enough to figure out Halliday’s breadcrumbs. Naturally, a romance would ensue, albeit virtually. Truth be told, I found the virtual love affair entertaining. I like the self-deprecating voice of the narrator, notwithstanding the occasional false bravado.
I have to concede that there may be so many allusions or references that I may have missed completely – I am a Dungeons and Dragons virgin – the cost of playing that game while I was growing up seemed prohibitive, and its rules known only to a select few; and I am not really what one would call a video game player. Yet, it is to Cline’s credit that I remained as absorbed as I was with the whole story, as I cheered the High Five on, and hoped that they would triumph over the faceless machinery intent on privatizing the Oasis. This is a gripping and fast-paced novel that proved to be a guilty pleasure for me during the last few days of 2017. And no, you don’t have to play video games or be a geek to appreciate it.
So here is the movie trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of this riveting novel – enjoy!