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review 2019-03-26 02:19
This Kid’s Struggles will Bring A Smile to Your Face
The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo - James Bailey

Subject: New worst day of my life


If you have stock in me, sell it now. Or is it buy? Buy low, right? Then buy, buy, buy, because if JVO shares go any lower it can only mean I’m dead. Nothing is going right and everything is going wrong. Very wrong. 


It's been awhile since I read an epistolary novel (maybe Where'd You Go, Bernadette? -- oh, and The Summer Holidays Survival Guide from last year -- duh -- I should stop thinking before I have to rewrite this whole paragraph), but I've always enjoyed them. There's something about the structure, the conceit, the immediacy of it all that really appeals to me, and has since the day I first cracked the cover of Dear Mr. Henshaw 35 years ago or so.


This particular novel is a collection of e-mails from fifteen year-old Jason Van Otterloo (known by some as Otterpop, others just call him Jason) and his friends over the summer of 2003 in Seattle. This is a good setting for the book -- it's before the ubiquity of cell-phones/texting among teens, but at a time they could be emailing several times a day and it not seem strange (like it would in the mid-90s). I don't know if that was Bailey's thought process, but it's what occurred to me. The emails are primarily Jason's -- not just because he's prolific, but that's a lot of it. Incidentally, I only caught one thing that jumped out at me as an anachronism -- which is about the best that I can think of in an indie book set in the past (I don't go looking for them, but they jump out at me. Binge-watching wasn't a thing in 2003. At least not by that name).


Jason's a pretty bookish kid who loves classic movies -- not just AMC (back when that's what the station was about), but there's a theater near his home that shows old movies. His best friend, Drew (the recipient of most of his emails), frequently goes to those with him -- they also play video games together, generally at Drew's. Jason's parents, Janice and Rob, aren't in the running for Parents of the Year, to say the least. I'm not sure at what point Jason lost enough respect for the that he started calling them by their first name, but it could have been when he was pretty young. On the other hand, there's enough venom in it (at least the way it reads to me) that it might be a recent development.


Janice shows the occasional burst of maternal activity or instinct, but it's rare. Rather than a father, Rob seems like the bullying older brother character in most books I read as a kid. But in general, the two of them act like they're stuck in their early 20's -- coming home from work long enough to greet each other and Jason, then they leave (not together) to meet up with friends and get drunk. Occasionally, they'll get into a fight with each other, but nothing too serious. It doesn't appear there's any intentional abuse -- physical or mental. It's primarily neglect that they're guilty of. Over the course of the summer, Rob does say a few things that will likely cause emotional scars when Jason has a few years to think about them, but they're unintentionally mean (one was said when Rob was attempting to be nice and fatherly).


Generally, Jason's e-mails are about whatever antics his parents are up to, arranging to meet Drew or whoever else, Jason's soliciting Drew for advice about a girl he meets (he ignores almost everything Drew says, to the reader's amusement and Drew's frustration), and Jason recruiting Drew or someone to get summer jobs together. There's an ongoing thread about a new neighbor who enjoys sunbathing, and Jason enjoys (hopefully surreptitiously) watching her. Rob enjoys watching her, too, but doesn't bother trying to be surreptitious.


Jason's emails are largely self-centered. Most of the stories told are his, not Drew's. He does seem to care about Drew and is interested when Drew unloads a little. But largely, the relationship seems to be about Drew listening to Jason. Drew gets something out of it, however -- maybe offline -- because he seems emotionally-centered enough (for a fifteen year-old) to not put up with Jason as much as he does, if Jason just didn't contribute anything to the friendship. Just don't ask me what it is. His self-centeredness seems typical for his age, and it doesn't make him a bad kid -- just a selfish one, and a lot of that is because he's never been parented by anyone who has a clue. Although, really, I'm not sure how many kids who have been well-parented who don't act like that.


His parent's (individually and corporately) show a signs of self-improvement -- AA, marriage counseling, and others. Jason is openly skeptical about these efforts -- perhaps because he's seen similar things before. Not only is he skeptical, but he seems to actively subvert these efforts. It seems odd for a kid who spends so much time complaining about his parents to complain about them trying to be better -- but it's honest. He doesn't believe in them, so why get his hopes up that this time will be any different? Sure, from the reader's perspective it's easy to say that these reforms might be longer-lived if he supported them. But from Jason's? Nah.


There is a little character development over the course of the novel -- but not a lot, But it's just a few months, so there shouldn't be a lot, right? What's there seems genuine and true to the character -- which is great. At the end of the day, you'll have enjoyed watching Jason struggle and survive -- learning enough to keep going.


Jason's optimistic and amusing -- which is says a lot about him. The whole book is told with a light touch --it's not overly comic, but you grin as Jason recounts his latest embarrassment with Gina, or Rob's most recent humiliating escapades -- or even as he and Drew talk about their mutual astonishment when another friend has some romantic success. Things are bad, but they're not bleak. They're even kind of fun.


The cover, by the way, is perfect. It not only reflects a plot point, but it encapsulates the feel of the book. In a figurative sense the world pees on Jason the way this dog literally does. Yet, it's kinda cute and amusing while it's happening. Several good things happen to the boy, but overall, the book is about his problems (right?) and his reactions to them.


I don't know what a YA reader would think of this -- I imagine they'd find Jason relatable and likeable, but I'm not sure. But for those of us with enough distance from their YA days, it's something that can be read with an air of "I remember when life was like that." Even if it's set over a decade later than my own teen years, I know people like Jason, I had friends who had a Gina in their life, and I dreamed of a girl like Sian. I'm probably not alone in this. This is a comfort-food kind of read -- it's entertaining and makes you feel good. I get kind of a Thomas Rockwell or 80's version of Todd Strasser feel from this, very much a Lad Lit starter kit kind of thing, now that I think about it -- which is good. Young Adults need something that's not dystopian. There's a sequel coming out in a week or two, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion, which is what I provided.

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2019/03/25/the-first-world-problems-of-jason-van-otterloo-by-james-bailey-youll-enjoy-this-15-year-old-struggle-through-summer-of-03
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text 2018-03-08 19:18

My kindle fire died this morning. I tried to resuscitate it but there is nothing doing...



On the plus side, I guess I'll be forced to focus on the physical books on my shelf AND get to look for a replacement. :)

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review 2014-12-15 00:00
First World Problems: 101 Reasons Why The Terrorists Hate Us
First World Problems: 101 Reasons Why The Terrorists Hate Us - Ben Nesvig I always lmao at the #firstworldproblems hashtag on Twitter. Sometimes I get on Twitter just to read tweets posted under that hashtag. So, naturally I thought this would be my favorite book ever. To me this book read like nothing more than one huge rant. The entire book consisted of the author complaining about mundane things that weren't even relatively funny. The idea was great but the execution was awful. The subject matter would have been funny if it were written in a more comical manner. Who knows, maybe it's just me. Maybe I've read too many hilarious #firstworldproblems tweets on Twitter to be entertained by this.
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review 2014-09-02 18:00
First World Problems {by Leigh Ann Kopans}
First World Problems - LeighAnn Kopans

Sofia's had a really rough year - busted for cheating at prep school, dumped - dumped! - for the first time ever, and her new non-profit working stepmother is turning out to be an uppity bitch.
She deserves to treat herself. But when she throws herself a birthday party with 20 of her closest friends in Paris and (accidentally!) maxes out her dad's credit card in the process, he’s had enough of her attitude. As punishment, he switches her planned gap year touring Europe to one doing community service work with the evil stepmother’s relief organization in Guyana.
The rural village of Dabu needs help in every area from education to getting safe drinking water. But Sofia’s more concerned about her roommate Callum, the gardening expert, who calls Sofia "Princess" and scoffs at her distaste for sweaty, muddy, iguana-eating, outhouse-using life in Guyana.
Eventually, life on the equator, her work in the village, and especially Callum - with his brooding eyes and bewitching New Zealand accent - start to grow on Sofia. Life is rough in Guyana, but it’s roughest on the girls, whose families are too poor to send only the most promising boys in school. They’re trapped in a cycle that will keep them from ever making a better life for themselves, or for the village. Worse, Callum doesn’t seem to think any of the changes Sofia envisions are actually necessary.
Determined to change the girls’ futures, she comes up with a strategy to help them and, ultimately, the village. But what starts out as a plan to convince Callum and her father that she’s fallen in love with Guyana, turns into the realization that maybe she’s falling for Callum, too. And that by changing these girls’ lives, she might also be changing her own.


You guys know how much I loved Solving for Exso of course when I heard she was writing a companion about Sofia getting what was coming to her, I had to have it. And it did not disappoint.

This was interesting to begin with, because if you've read Solving for Ex, you already have an opinion of Sofia. And let's face it, it's not a pretty one. Which means its going to take a lot more for her to win you over, to prove that she's changed. I will say, I admire that Sofia knows what she is and doesn't try to hide it. She knows that she's manipulative, and she has perfected it down to an art form. She knows her father just throws money at her and her twin, Vincent, to "make up" for her mother dying, but she isn't above taking the money and making him pay for mentally checking out of their life. But when Sofia makes him pay a little too much, her dad takes notice and decide he's had enough. So, he cancels her year abroad in Paris and makes her go volunteer for her stepmother's company in third-world Guyana.

Sofia is very hard to like in the beginning, but she's supposed to be that way. She's used to being the queen everywhere she goes. She's used to her money and looks being able to get her everything she wants. But, now she no longer has her daddy's money, and for some reason, her usual flirtations aren't working on the only boy in this awful place, Callum. But Sofia knows how to play her cards right: play along enough for Callum to send good reports to her stepmother, and she can get out of this place early. But she never thought that she would fall for Callum and Guyana.

Seeing Sofia struggle in the beginning was, I admit, humorous. But I have to hand it to her, she did survive. Here she is, thrown into a place with no running water, no toilets, much less any of the luxuries she was used to. Heck, I don't know if could do that well. But Sofia proved that she wasn't just a dumb cheerleader type persona (cue Taylor Swift...I got nothing in my brain...at least that's what people say....mmhmm). She decided that she was going to stick it out and prove to everyone that she wasn't just a "princess". And she did it.

And Callum.......I loved watching their relationship progress from not being able to stand each other to falling in love. It was definitely fun and entertaining to watch them banter back and forth, but also had its sweet moments. I loved that the relationship didn't progress too fast, but worked perfectly for the book, even adding to the plot instead of taking away from it like I so often see romances do sometimes in books.

I also really loved all the characters in this book, from the bus driver to the other housemates, to the little girls that Sofia falls in love with in the town. It's obvious that a lot of research went into writing this book, to write the town and the people and the problems they face so accurately.

But I think most of all, I loved seeing how much Sofia changed. From being the spoiled princess that she was, to actually seeing the townspeople and their troubles, to wanting to help them. It wasn't an unrealistic change that happened over night, but one that happened gradually, so that we could really see that she was genuine.

So yes. I looooved this book. I loved everything about it. And while I may never love it more than Solving for Ex, it was pretty darn close. Plus, I hear the finished version has pictures. I mean, you can't beat that.


I received an advanced copy from the author in exchange for my honest review

Source: thenerdherdreads.blogspot.com/2014/09/first-world-problems-by-leigh-ann.html
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text 2014-04-29 08:50

I'm not sure if just all the books I'm currently reading are that boring or if I'm in a reading-slump. I can barely bring myself to pick anything up and if I do I only manage a few pages.

Fanfiction works well, perhaps because they're mostly quite short and don't require too much attention...unfortunately currently I'm rather obsessed with a certain fandom that barely has any fic. I already started reading a certain pairing I don't actually care that much about just because this way I had a bit more to read...

Ahhh...life is hard.

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