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review 2015-08-08 19:45
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? - Jeanette Winterson

I don't want to review this book. I don't know how to review this book. This will be one of the toughest review for me to write this year. Then again, it was one of the toughest reads I've had this year.

I have zero experience when it comes to adoption. Jeanette Winterson has. This is her memoir and it focuses on her family. The family that adopted her. Most of all she focuses on her mother who was religious and mentally unstable. Winterson did, during her youth, realize that she liked girls. Her mother and that fact did not fit well. Everything combined, Winterson was more than a little lost in her youth, with barely a home to recognize and an unhealthy relationship to love.

It's strange to review biographies. At least I find it to be the case. Who am I to comment on some other person's life? What can I comment? How can I do it? That's why I rarely, if ever, review memoirs or biographies. This time, I feel the need to do so even if I don't quite want to.

I have noticed that doing the sensible thing is only a good idea when the decision is quite small. For the life-changing things, you must risk it.

I, as said, have no experience of adoption. What I do have experience with is the feeling of being lost. Of being drained. Of being mentally exhausted to the point of barely having the energy to contemplate that there might be a tomorrow. Even if my history differs a great deal from Winterson's, they have a lot in common when it comes to the emotional parts. Winterson has a way of describing these emotions in a clear, direct, and touching way. They touched me right in my heart and my mind. She spares no expenses when painting a picture of a turbulent childhood and youth that left her emotionally scarred in several ways. And I felt every word.

I've always tried to make a home for myself, but I have not felt at home in myself. I've worked hard at being the hero of my own life. But every time I checked the register of displaced persons, I was still on it. I didn't know how to belong. Longing? Yes. Belonging? No.

It's rare for books to touch me deeply. This book does. It's the kind of book people will see themselves in. The stories Winterson shares about her youth are short anecdotes. How these events shapes her into the woman she is today. Even when the events are heartbreaking. When they are wonderful. When they are both.

I can imagine many people recognizing themselves in Winterson's story despite not sharing a single event with her. What child or youth doesn't feel lost at some point? Who hasn't wondered about their sexuality? Who hasn't wondered if there is more to life than the small bubble they live in? Who hasn't experienced the feeling of being lost, more or less? These are parts in every human being that are growing up, even if they are smaller or bigger parts of his or hers life? Winterson puts these questions and the thoughts around them into words.

Personally, Winterson's words brought me back to a dark period of my life when I was, just like her, more than a little lost. The whys aren't important here, as it is Winterson's story. But where we ended up was in a dark place, both of us, judging by her story presented in this book. A place called depression. Neither when she writes about this topic there's no holding back. She tells it like it was, for her. For me, I had the usual comment when I told people about my mental state. Why not just be happy? or similar. One line that touched me far too deep in this book is a side of this comment that few people realize.

To tell someone not to be emotional is to tell them to be dead.

I had to stop after reading this line for a few minutes. It brought back too many memories from my bad days. Because I recalled one of those truly bad days when someone asked me why I couldn't just be happy, and I thought this person could've asked a dead person the same thing.

I still don't want to review this book. I can't do it justice for the intimacy it offers. It's too personal yet too close to my own experiences which I can rarely put into words that are comprehensive. Winterson does this, and she does it both authentically and brilliantly. Even if it is her story, it's more than that. There are many lessons on growing up, on love, on home, and on life in general. It's simply so much more.

Growing up is difficult. Strangely, even when we have stopped growing physically, we seem to have to keep on growing emotionally, which involves both expansion and shrinkage, as some parts of us develop and others must be allowed to disappear...Rigidity never works; we end up being the wrong size for our world.
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review 2015-04-16 10:57
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Quick reflection on this book.

I'm not sure what to say about The Handmaid's Tale. It terrified and fascinated me and everything in between. Atwood made me believe that this society could become reality despite how different it is from today's. This is also my first time reading anything by Atwood and I think it's safe to say she has a knack for story telling. On the other hand I wasn't enticed by the writing, but I can't say if it's the author's style or simply the voice of the protagonist. Either way, I will be reading more by Atwood. The Handmaid's Tale should definitely be read by most people due to the topic it handles. An important book, that's for sure.

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review 2014-09-09 19:01
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
The Book of Unknown Americans: A novel - Cristina Henrxedquez
If he had disappeared completely, I thought, it might be easier. If I had no knowledge that he had ever existed, no evidence that he was ever a part of our lives, it might have been bearable. And how wrong that sounded: part of our lives. As if he was something with boundaries, something that hadn't permeated us, flowed through us and in us and all around us. I learned something about grief. When someone dies, it doesn't leave a hole, and that's the agony.

What has this book done to me? I've lost count of how many times it has made me cry, and I read it two days ago. Not for a second did I believe this book would touch me like this, would swallow me completely and spew me out all messed up. I want to throw it at people and demand they read it. I'll gladly scream it from the rooftops even if it makes just one person read it. That is how I feel about this book.

This is about immigrants, more precisely immigrants from the Spanish speaking world coming to the U.S. It's about a group of people from different countries in different stages of their lives, all of them living in a apartment complex in Delaware. The main focus, however, is on two families: the Rivera family from Mexico and the Toro family from Panama. The Rivera family, Alma and Arturo and their daughter Maribel, moves to the U.S. after their daughter sustains a terrible injury, leaving her brain damaged. They're wishing it will help Maribel's health if they move to America where there are specialists to help her. Soon a friendship builds between the two families, but also love. Mayor, the Toro family's son, falls helplessly for Maribel's beauty. When they spend more time together, Mayor might be the only one seeing Maribel for who she really is after her injury. But things aren't easy for these families, and some things aren't irreversible.

I'm not that familiar with the immigrant debate in America, but we have our own here in Sweden. We even have political parties that want to shut off more or less all immigration to Sweden because of terrible reasons, so I think I get the gist. But that's not what this is about. The Book of Unknown Americans doesn't take a side in the debate. It presents the stories behind these immigrants, because when everything comes around, these people aren't immigrants. That's not their identity. They are human beings. They are individuals. They have their own stories. No laws about immigration will change that. 

'We’re the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they’ve been told they’re supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we’re not that bad, maybe even that we’re a lot like them. And who would they hate then?'

Henriquez is, in my eyes, a brilliant writer. She's left me with several new favorite characters. Mostly, because they are presented with such honesty. But it's more than the theme of immigrants that touches me so. It's the grief the Rivera family goes through regarding Maribel and her injury. Descriptions of Alma's grief leaves me wide open with emotions. Arturo's struggle with taking care of his family and how he's met by the Americans that aren't immigrants is eyeopening and has my heart hurting for him. And Mayor, with his love for Maribel... well, let's just say it leaves me in a bloody mess. Just like this book does. Because it's not all sobs and horrors. After all, these people have moments of light too. They're people: happy and sad. Even in a new, foreign country, they find hope. Happiness. Love. Friendship. 

I'm overcome when I think about this place and about what it's given us. Maribel is getting stronger. I can see it. Every day a little bit more. A safe area to live. Such good friends. It's incredible. One day when we go back to México and people ask me what it was like here, I will tell them those things. I will tell them all the ways I loved this country.

I dare you to read this book. I dare you to not fall in love with this characters. I dare you not to fall in love with this story. But in the end, I'm sure, you will love this. Highly recommended!

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review 2014-08-20 15:41
Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn
Breathing Underwater - Alex Flinn
Telling her that stuff was a mistake. It’s easier to fake it. When you fake it for sixteen years, it becomes part of you, something you don’t think about.

When a story is so perfect good it leaves you breathless, where do you start describing it? Do you start with the delicate plot that have you hanging on for every word? Or maybe with the provocative protagonist? Do you begin with the powerful message the story conveys? I don't know. At least not with Breathing Underwater. So I apologize in advance if nothing of this makes sense.

If there's one thing I must say about this novel, it's that every teenager should read this, boy or girl. I find it strange youths these days are receiving the wrong message from so many books (Twilight, Hush Hush, Beautiful Disaster, FSoG, etc.) about how healthy relationships look. Abuse is so much more than just punches and slaps, so the argument that just because a man or woman doesn't hit his/hers significant other it's not abuse, is bullshit. In Breathing Underwater we are inside Nick's head, and we meet him in a courtroom where he gets a restraining order toward his ex-girlfriend, Caitlin. He has abused her in more ways than one. The thing is, Nick doesn't see it that way, at least not at first. From the first page Nick's character catches the reader's attention, and throughout the story we see him come to terms with what he's done and takes responsibility for his actions. We're on such an intimate level with this young boy, meeting all his troubles in what other's consider a perfect life. Nick is victim of abuse as well. Only his is by his father. What Nick did was wrong, so obviously wrong. Yet, it's easy to sympathize with his character, and the portrayal of his inner anger and insecurities is perfection. Yes, I said it. Perfection. 

I'm not quite sure how to express my admiration for this story. While the characters are far from perfect, the overall impression is that the story is perfect. It's a carefully drafted story that is so relevant today in the midst of abusive relationships that are romanticized. But it was not just because it's a realistic portrayal of abusive relationships that made me rate this book 5 stars. No, there's something more about it. Something so intense, so honest... so raw, it blew me away. I can't quite put my finger on what it is, not right now with my feelings all over the place. But it's there. That little extra something. And that little extra something makes Breathing Underwater perfect in all its imperfection.

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review 2014-07-29 17:08
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Unwind - Neal Shusterman
Unwinds didn't go out with a bang—they didn't even go out with a whimper. They went out with the silence of a candle flame pinched between two fingers.

Do you hear that? No? That is me setting this book down, dumbstruck by it. Hands down for one of my top five reads in 2014. 

Where do I begin with a book like Unwind? The story and its characters is a perfect combination. The fast paced plot with several twist keeps the reader at the edge of the seat. The, both horrifying and beautiful, details are what makes this story stand out and simply come to life. Combine all of these and Unwindleaves you almost breathless.

Unwind takes place after the second Civil War where the war has been between two parts: pro-life and pro-choice. As a result, parents now have a choice about their children's lives. From the age of thirteen to eighteen, the parents can decide to unwind their children. This means every organ/body part of the child's body will be used for donation. Since every part of the child will still be 'alive', this appeals to the both parts from the war. However, the youths have no say in the matter, which brings us to whereUnwind begins with Connor who's just found out his parents have decided to have him unwind. We also have Risa, an orphan girl who's state home has decided she, as well, is to be unwound. Our third character, Lev, has been brought up for the purpose of being unwound because of underlying religion. After a traffic accident, these three characters are mixed and on the run.

Unwind might just be one of the best YA dystopian I've ever read. Even if I'm not convinced this is a possible scenario - the part where the youths have no choice at all and the part where the person who's being unwound is still alive and that the person who receives the unwinds organ's can sense the youth's emotions/feelings/thoughts - Unwind creates this world in a perfect manner. All from how youths are constant aware of the threat of possibly be unwound, to how the unwinds are treated since the moment the parents signs the contract, and to how the unwinds are treated when they're at the Harvest Camps. Unwindis provoking and leaves you wondering. It explores so many grey areas that many people considers black or white. Would you be able to proclaim your child an unwind? What would you do if youwere to be unwound? And those are just the two major questions. At the same time as it is thought-provoking, Unwind is also about Connor, Risa, and Lev's induvidual transformations. These three also makes the story so much more than just a dystopian world. These three people are flawed with different backgrounds, and they are perfect for drawing the reader in to the story for more than just the plot; you care for these characters. Unwind is so much more than I expected it to be, and it's a book many people can learn from apart from just an entertaining story. I'll be waiting for my copy of the sequel, UnWholly, and I suggest you grab your own copy of Unwind as soon as possible.

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