I was sick most of last week, so I decided to get a jump start on my reading. My first book was by the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2017, Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go. It is very difficult to give a review or synopsis of this book, because the reader really needs to go into it clueless. Ishiguro is a master at creating seemingly idyllic worlds and then dropping subtle clues that slowly reveal things are not what they seem. It seems rather disjointed at times, because the narrator will connect stories from her past so that it seems like she’s talking as they occur to her. Some people find this difficult to follow, but it seems very conversational to me, like you’re telling someone about your day yesterday, and you start by telling about something that happened at work, and then you say, “And this lady came in — she’s John’s wife. Do you remember John? He’s that guy who pushed me out of the snow bank last year. Didn’t I tell you about that?” And then you kind of segue into another story. Goodreads had very mixed reviews. People seem to either love or hate this style. I really enjoyed it.
My second book was Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green. As a new youth services librarian, YA lit will be a big part of my reading this year. I enjoy John Green’s writing, but it often seems that the story is secondary to his philosophical musings. I don’t particularly have a problem with that, as I enjoy philosophical musings. And his books are certainly hits with the YA crowd, so it works for him. I found the secondary plot, about two friends’ quest to find a missing billionaire and receive the reward, rather implausible. However, the main story is really about two friends who are there for each other and keep on being there for each other even though they both can be “difficult.” Daisy is brash and pushy. Aza has severe OCD and anxiety. They fight. They are brutally honest with each other. And yet their friendship prevails.
In many ways, I related to Aza. I don’t have OCD, but her thoughts were not exactly unfamiliar to me. It opens with Aza thinking way too much about the digestive process, thoughts I have had myself, the awareness of chewing, swallowing, digesting. It just doesn’t cause me the same level of anxiety, but it is good to know I’m not the only one whose mind works like that, because it’s something I’ve never given voice to as it seems to weird. Like Aza, I get very wrapped up in my own mind, I spiral into depression when I can’t get out of my head. It was good for me to see that Aza, even though her condition is far more severe than mine, still has people who love her and who want her in their lives, because sometimes I feel like I can be too much for people. I think it’s important for teens to see that you can fight with people you love and be okay. It’s something I never learned very well; thus I avoid conflict with people I really care about, when sometimes conflict is necessary for a strong relationship, and when there is a conflict I think the relationship is over and tend to go into hiding. If I, as a middle-aged adult, need to hear this, how much more do teenagers need to know that they are lovable and worthy of friendship even when they are messy?
It was a good start to my reading year. This week’s reads are The Turn of the Screw by Henry James and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Hamilton will probably take a couple of weeks, at least, as it is pretty hefty.