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text 2017-01-23 17:24
Calvin - Martine Leavitt
Calvin - Martine Leavitt

Calvin was born on the day the last Calvin and Hobbes ran. His grandfather gave him a stuffed tiger, he grew up with a best friend named Suzie, and now he's older, and schizophrenic, and maybe an epic journey will make everything better?

The author's tone is empathetic, but never pitying. There's just enough humor to the whole thing to keep it from being melodrama.

Library copy

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review 2016-10-26 02:51
A sweet and very atypical tribute to Bill Watterson's creation.
Calvin by Martine Leavitt (2015-11-17) - Martine Leavitt;
I realized the doctor was leaving the room, and I was talking out loud to nobody. And that's why they want to put people on medication.

Calvin is a high school senior on the verge of graduation and a bright future. If only he had the ability to focus. He reaches a breaking point and has a schizophrenic episode, resulting in his hospitalization. His family and doctors seem supportive and caring, and at least one classmate stops by to visit, too, his life-long friend Susie.

Me: . . .You're you're part of it.
Susie: Part of what?
Me: Part of what's happening to me. Didn't you ever think about, you know, that you're named Susie, and you're friends with a guy named Calvin?
Susie: I always thought my parents didn't put much imagination into my name--
Me: I was born on the same day that Bill Watterson published his very last comic strip?
Susie: You've mentioned that.
Me: My gramps gave me a stuffed tiger called Hobbes I'm hyperactive and pathologically imaginative? And then, even more amazing, a girl lives two doors down and her name is Susie! Maybe once you create an idea and millions of people are loving that idea, when you get brilliance and love all mixed up like that, it makes something that has to go somewhere. It impacts reality, like a meteorite hitting Earth. Bang! I think the universe just couldn't let Calvin go.

Okay, that's not necessarily the conclusion that most people would arrive at given the evidence (Suzie, for example, doesn't buy it) -- but there's something to his logic.


Calvin decides that if Watterson's creation is what led to his problems, Watterson can fix him. To prove his devotion, he sets out on a pilgrimage that could be fatal, and Susie tags along to try to keep him safe. Hobbes tags along to . . . well, do Hobbes-like things.


This is a story about friendship, young love, the hazards of high school for the psychologically fragile, and about how a psychological diagnosis doesn't have to determine your life and future. Leavitt writes with a lean, crisp prose that keeps things moving -- even while treading emotionally rich territory.


A frequently very funny book, but I felt guilty laughing at this poor, sick kid. It was largely predictable, but satisfying nonetheless. I liked Calvin, Susie and their relationship. A sweet and imaginative tribute to Watterson and his creation.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2016/10/25/calvin-by-martine-leavitt
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text 2015-12-21 18:29
Calvin - Martine Leavitt

Okay, so I dropped everything else to read this book for the book prize I'm helping to judge. But I LOVE Calvin and Hobbes, and for there to be a young adult (technically middle grade, I guess?) novel about Calvin and Hobbes made me geek out a little bit.


Calvin deals with heavy themes and a pretty lighthearted manner. Of course, I appreciated the humor from the comics, and when Calvin begins to question everything he sees provides a legitimate insight to how his disorder affects him. It was well-written, although I wish it was longer and went more intimately into the characters and their stories, because right now, we're barely scartching the surface. The love story between Calvin and Susie felt forced because I didn't know either one of them well enough to believe in it, and it felt a little more like insta-love than true love, you know? 


Also, I can't say how well the schizophrenia was handled, because I don't know anyone personally who has been disagnosed with it. I wonder if it's significant that the doctors say Calvin has auditory hallucinations, but he actually does see Hobbes on a number of occasions--all occasions, actually, even when it's just a flicker out of the corner of his eye. And the idea that you can take a trip across a frozen lake and that will *mostly* cure your mental disorder was probably not intended by the author, but that's the way it kind of came across.


Anyway, all in all, it wasn't long enough for me to develop a significant attachment to anything, although I did enjoy it while I was reading (one sitting in an airport).

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text 2015-04-12 20:22
My Book of Life By Angel is a Stunning Verse Novel
My Book of Life by Angel - Martine Leavitt

Sweet merciful crap.

(For the record, I mean that Simpsons quote in the best way possible-- if a book leaves me saying that, it's a REALLY good book.)


I like verse novels, but my usual complaint with them is that for all of their (general) beauty and good usage of language, they don't really read like poetry. So, naturally, this one comes along and blows that out of the water. By far one of the heaviest books I've ever read (probably about as heart-shreddingly, mind-blowingly disturbing as Living Dead Girl, though not quite as graphic), it's also got a lot of smart commentary about the way that the most particularly gross members of society continually devalue and debase women, especially young women and most especially young women who got pulled into the sex trade. It's fascinating, beautifully written, infuriating, literary (the integration of Paradise Lost quotes is truly splendid), and overall powerful. And that ending, perfect.

Not for the faint of heart, but immensely rewarding, and somehow even better than Leavitt's Heck Superhero (one of my favorite books when I was a teen). This one's going on my shelf of honor.

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review 2015-01-15 18:02
Not a perfect book, but one everyone should read
Keturah and Lord Death - Martine Leavitt

The big downside of being a reviewer is that, if you dig too far into a genre, you start judging books for what they could be instead of what they are. And this isn't necessarily a problem - there are books that are such a waste of potential, it's criminal - but for others, it's extremely easy to start nit-picking and before you know it, you're getting hung up over the small stuff and missing a great read.


"Keturah and Lord Death" is a story you need to take as is.


No, really. Stop thinking right now. Go gently - this is a book to be savoured.


Keturah Reeve is 16 years old when she gets lost into the forest. After wandering for three days without finding her way back to the village, she meets her death, and Lord Death is in a gracious mood. After he lets slip that the plague is coming, she strikes a deal with him - if he lets her live for one more day, and she finds and weds her true love in that time, he will let relinquish his claim on her soul. But if Keturah fails, she will come to him willingly and be his bride. 


What follows is a beautiful tale of what it means to live and love, accompanied by some of the most gorgeous prose I have had the pleasure of reading in a long, long time.


"We all know Lord Death. Do I see him as you do? No. But it is closeness to him  that imbues my stuffs with power. What is a love potion without the breath of him upon it? How can I make a healing drought without sensing from which direction he comes? One day you will understand, Keturah, that he infuses the very air we breathe with magic."


-p 52, Paperback edition


This isn't a very long story. In fact, it's the closest thing to a fairy tale that I have come across that hasn't been written 200 years ago. At only 210 pages (judging from my paperback) it's the kind of story that you can imagine being told around a fire (as the prologue suggests.) 


The characters can seem a little flat, what with us meeting so many of them and having quite a few plot threads to wrap up, but there are enough details peppered throughout the narrative that make them just interesting enough - Gretta's pride, and Beatrice's selflessness, the Tailor and the Choirmaster and the young master John, everyone shows character in the scenes they are in, and every last bit of dialogue is meaningful. I'd go as far as saying that more books need to be like this - less faff, more meaning. 


And it's not a random stylistic decision, either. Although Keturah manages to extend her extra time for three whole days, she goes about each knowing that it could be her last. The result is her running at a frantic pace, trying to save her village, help her friends and find her one true love, but instead of making the reader feel rushed, the pace just goes to add to the overall feeling of the book. It is literally following someone who knows Death is coming for her and trying to make the most of everything.


That's really the story's main point - it is not the love story (though I find it beautiful) nor is it the action (though there is enough of that) - but rather that we appreciate life most when we understand there is a finite number of days we have. (In the afterword, the author mentions that the book is, in part, a tribute to a loved one, so there is little surprise there.) This doesn't make you cry, but it makes you shiver a little, and afterwards, it is like everything else is a little bit brighter. 


Also appears on the Lantern.

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