Searching for an unusual stone: Stones by Polly Johnson Book Review

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Stones

By Polly Johnson

Released December, 2013 by Harper Collins UK Digital 

Length: 300 pages

Genre: YA realistic-alcoholism, coming of age

Rating: four stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Coo is like every sixteen year old girl- her friend is a drunken tramp she found by the sea

Corrine “Coo” at just sixteen has already lost her older brother, Sam to alcoholism. Sam wasn’t a fun drunk. He wasn’t the life of the party. On the contrary. He scared her all the time. The story starts off with him abusing her; yet, it turns out he’s been dead for almost a year. He often stole money from her parents, things from her bedroom like a chess set, and was extremely violent towards everyone in the house; but, no one would say anything. Coo’s parents would never stop Sam, just give him money and support his addiction. Almost a year later, and Coo s telling her story: meeting a boy she tries to let in, Joe, who doesn’t let her in, then meeting a mysterious drunken tramp named Banks who becomes the main character in her life. She can’t seem to figure him out or let him go. He reminds her so much of Sam. Although she won’t admit it, she wants to save him; have him be her new Sam although she will stand by her hatred for her older brother by eight years.

The chapters start off with a little random tidbit, or quote that mostly relates to the chapter. Some of them made me smile. There was the definition of a tramp, mince pie, a meaningful quote, and some funny Coo commentaries. There is something so deep and raw in every sentence and thought that is written.  Take the title for example- stones. The “tramp” Banks tells Coo that if she ever has a question all she has to do is stick her hand out for a pebble and if she finds a special, different pebble then she found the right answer. And, that in Heaven there is a new stone waiting for everyone. There is something about those two things that stick with me. The imagery and symbolism. 

There are two quotes I actually added on goodreads.com that I loved so much and couldn’t believe no one else added them: 

 

“Right now he’s like the ocean at night- you know it’s there, but even though the lights are coming on you can’t see it and all you know of it is washing sound somewhere sighing in the back room of a house when they think no one is listening.”

and

“How is it that time can be elastic? Sometimes years seem to go by while you’re looking the other way, and sometimes-when you most long for it to pass-life-times can stretch from a few hours”  

Johnson is a talented writer.  That being said, she did an excellent job of depicting what it is like to be an alcoholic, living with an alcoholic, and the aftermath of it all. I think this was a great story in every way. I really would recommend this, although it is not for everyone. I do sometimes give recommendations lightly because I am a very open minded reader. Some of the parts in this novel is graphic. In my opinion, at least. It is very true to the disease. And, the disease is ugly. There is abuse. Sexual, albeit a tiny bit, and physical. It is not a long book, but it took it’s emotional toll on me. And, it may on you. I don’t want that to deter you though. I do think this is an important topic, and a topic that isn’t looked at much from this perspective, point of view, and format.  

I hope you consider reading this book. Like I said about John Green’s Paper Towns, this is one book where I can see it being a benefit for kids to be required to reading it in schools. So many kids drink early on in high school. Coo’s brother was only twenty-three when he died. It’s just an important lesson. Plus, homelessness is a HUGE issue in this novel as well. Something I have also been passionate as a child about. This is one of those universal life lessons books that, if taught, could make a difference, I think. Johnson writes so well I can’t see it not making even a little impact. Alas, I am not a teacher and don’t intend on becoming one.

 

Happy reading!

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Not your love at first sight YA Book: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

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The Beginning of Everything

The Beginning of Everything

By Robyn Schneider

Expected Publication August 27, 2013

Katherine Tegen Books (imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

330 pages

Genre: YA realistic fiction

Four and a half stars

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13522285-the-beginning-of-everything

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes? 

The Beginning of Everything is a coming of age story that centers around seventeen year old Ezra Faulkner who has seen his fair share of tragedies; often letting them control him and dictate his future. Newly “crippled” by a devastating car accident that led his “friends” to abandoning him, replacing him as SGA president and captain of the football team. In short, when he started his senior year, he didn’t know why to sit or who he was on the first day. None of his tennis friends, or people he thought were important, visited him in the hospital. Not only did his leg get damaged, not only did he lose the ability to play sports, he lost a part of himself he couldn’t recognize or care to fix.

As he looked around the cafeteria, he needed to make a choice. So he sat down at the table where his best friend from childhood sat. Tobie suffered a childhood tragedy, too. When Ezra and he celebrated Tobie’s birthday at Disneyland, a tourist sat up in the ride and severed his head which landed in Tobie’s lap for the duration of the ride, changing the dynamic of their friendship. Now, after Ezra faces his own, it is Tobie and his group of misfit friends that allow Ezra a chance to do a do-over. No strings attached, expected, or anything.

Enter new girl Cassidy Thorpe who needed a change, just like Ezra. And, as new girls come, apparently, secrets are tied around her. But, what is her secret? As Ezra finds himself, with the help of Cassidy, his ever changing love, Ezra discovers the truth behind Cassidy’s sad eyes and guarded past.

Although parts of this novel read as a first love book, what is different about this novel is the love story isn’t prominent or perfect in any sense. Rainbow Rowell’s novel Eleanor and Parkis slightly similar to this novel (and almost as good of a read)  where the love is imperfect with a hidden background the girl is trying to keep to herself, what Schneider does, successfully in my opinion, show the imperfections of life that doesn’t need to change a person, not really anyway. She writes about the angst, with many good indie band plugs I can say, and gracefully this coming of age story becomes beautiful despite of the tragedies and hurt. That, we all have a past and our problems to work out, but in the end they manage to sort themselves out with a little push. They do not define us as much as we think, or give them credit for. This novel isn’t really about discovering the truth behind the accident, or the way Ezra copes, it is about realizing the beginnings turn into middles, but not ends; not right away. I have always had a problem with thinking about the next. What happens next with the characters? Surely it is not a fictional death? That after that last period is typed their lives stop. Yes, they are not really real, but yet they are. These characters can easily be you or me. An us and a them. High School love happens. So does the aftermath of that love. 

Schneider gives me a satisfying hope. And not a feeling of being left alone afterward. This is definitely a book I would reread. There are quotes that make me think; think about myself and how I react and live. One of my favorites is “The world tends toward chaos, you know,” It does, the world really does. And as much as Cassidy continues to say how she is helping it along, we all do. With the choices we make. And, it isn’t a bad thing. It just is. This is one of the first time I truly realized and accepted that. When we say our lives have been chaotic, what does that really mean? It just means, I am starting to feel, that each of our decisions, choices, and everything in between affects the world, and it isn’t a bad thing. It is the right thing. We need to keep moving along without second guessing ourselves or questioning our existence. OUr lives can be busy, but chaotic? Maybe that is just a word used too frequently. Maybe busy and chaotic aren’t really the same.

I love when YA books offer me this kind of substance and thought provoking sentences. Some YA books are just fluff, good fluff but fluff. Even the semi-realistic ones. There is love interests in all these novels, but the real love interest and story line in this story isn’t truly between Ezra and Cassidy, it is between Ezra and Ezra. Learning to love yourself despite the flaws you think you have. I would add more quotes, but as they are towards the end I will keep them to myself for a bit.

I hope you give this book a chance when it comes out next month. I am happy I got my advance copy when I attended the Book Expo of America. One of the best finds so far.

Happy reading!

-indie

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