Book reviews: Re-reads that seem like new books, novels that I will refer to as YA, and an “It” book that left me sort of meh.

In light of all that is unbloggable in my life right now, there are still books! And for that we are grateful. Still, it’s been a slow-ish week, reading-wise. Maybe if I could just stop napping at lunch, I could get through three or four more books…

Dreamcatcher, by Stephen King (2001, Scribner, 620 pages, paperback). There was a time when I would list Dreamcatcher in my top 15 Stephen King books of all time. Re-reading this for the first time in ten years, I at times wondered why. It seemed like a completely new book, filled with details and half-shaded characters I could barely recall. Sure the meat of it was all there, but did I really not notice Henry and Jonesy were the same dudes? I loved the friendship, the ka-tet, at the heart of the story, and I loved Duddits more when I could picture him as he was in my head instead of as Donnie Wahlberg, but only one thing really, really still means I will read this book again, in all likelihood: it’s one of the linchpin books in King’s universe. The aliens here (Mr. Gray) are the same as the single visitor in It (Pennywise, aka Mr. Bob Gray, aka “Pennywise lives”, which is written in the sewer). The slimy gray “sh*t weasels” that are Dreamcatcher‘s lil baby aliens are a single, simplified version of the shapeshifter clown – though with the same number of needle-like teeth – and while Dreamcatcher will never be the glorious tribute to childhood chums [dud-a-chum?] that It is and will always be, I won’t ever be able to resist going back and seeing if my theory still holds up. Bonus points awarded because King mentions Dorothy Pond, the little pond near my home that you can see in my blog header. 3 of 5 stars.

Instructions for the End of the World, by Jamie Kain (2015, St. Martin’s Griffin, 214 pages, library ebook). This was an interesting discussion this week (or that at least happened to catch my eye this week) about whether or not we should call YA novels “YA novels”, considering that readership for said select genre has become more popular recently and is no longer read by “just” young adults. To which I want to say, this is news how? YA novels have been read by those younger than the tween/teen set and those older than it for as long as the genre has existed. Boundaries are not rigid. Some books reach out to a wider audience more naturally; others are more narrowly focused because of the subjects discussed or the voice in which its written. My understanding of the definition of YA novels is that it’s a section of fiction meant to appeal, predominantly, to young adults. Not only young adults, but probably young adults. Not a modifier meant to belittle or separate or exclude, but as a guidepost in the middle of the landscape to say “Here it is! Here be books ye may find interesting!” All of that being said, this particular YA novel was not one of the ones I think would cross over very well, unless it was to germinate in the survivalist section. Ironically, Instructions is the story of a family trained how to survive any number of disasters (including how to live off the grid) is about identity and knowing where you belong when all the familiar guideposts are ripped away. Normally something that would be in my wheelhouse, but lacked the depth and shades of character complexities I prefer. It did fall during a rather interesting week, given The Great YA Debate. 2 of 5 stars.

The Girls, by Emma Cline (2016, Random House, 355 pages, hardcover). I am so annoyed with this book. It’s supposed to be one of the most anticipated books of the year. And so I read the first little bit, decided I loved the writing, dithered over whether to buy it (because I am cheap and hardcover, you guys) and then splurged when I got back a zillion dollars from the used book store. It’s another book about identity and belonging, and was a closer match than Instructions, certainly. But the story of Manson’s titular girls felt like it should be so much more…brash? Violent? Discordant? Something. Something more than the bland offering I digested page by page. I wanted to be whipping through the pages, but instead was given a thoughtful, introspective. Still a good book, just completely at odds with what I was expecting. 3 of 5 stars.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, by Sarah Hepola (2015, Grand Central Publishing, 240 pages, ebook). This was a deal of the day that I scooped up for a buck or two, figuring that with my love of memoirs, I couldn’t really go wrong. And it was interesting in a detached, watching-a-wreck-in-slow-motion kind of way. Hepola certainly uses humor to deflect pain, awkwardness, and anything else that comes her way. She admits to doing it. But the sheer volume and threadbare quality of the “humorous” deflections felt more like a burden I was handed than a shared joke. Possibly, I just wasn’t in the mood for this type of confessional memoir, or maybe it’s that there are others in the same sub-genre I would recommend over this particular one. 1 of 5 stars.

And that’s it for this week! Hopefully things pick up before next week. I’m having a delightful time making my way through Eleven Hours, and a more difficult time trying to catch on to Brooklyn. Oh, and the next book in my Great Stephen King Re-Read project is tempting me because it’s one of my favorites: Black House. We’ll see whether or not I sneak it in this weekend!


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