Today’s song an book pairing is All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven with Antiseptic by Discount. I think that Antiseptic is a good song to represent the friendship based on shared mental illness between Finch and Violet. They go through the novel leaning on each other to work through the world dealing with depression.
Discount has been one of my most favorite bands since I first heard them back in 1996. You might recognize the voice as belonging to Alison Mosshart now of the rock band, The Kills. I preferred her poppunk days, but she continues to amaze me with her chaotic mind.
As graduation approaches Mike and his friends just want to make it through all of the mundane end of the year rigamarole so they can continue on with their lives. Unfortunately there are a group of kids in his town lovingly referred to as the “indie kids” who seem to be all of the chosen ones.
In The Rest of Us Just Live Here Patrick Ness brings us the story of the kids in the background. Basically this is the Perceys and the Larrys of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Ness gives a few nods to BtVS throughout the novel which brought me joy. This book was great and had one of the most diverse character spreads I have seen in young adult fiction. None of which felt forced or tokenized. The fact that all of these kids are just trying to have fun with their friends and do their thing in order to graduate I present a lovely poppunk song about dealing with high school and getting out alive, Doing Time by MxPx.
The woman who represents my district in the Virginia state senate, Amanda Chase, is calling for the firing of Chesterfield County Public School librarians. What atrocities did they commit? Surely they were reading 50 Shades of Grey aloud to first-graders. Maybe they strapped a bunch of middle school students to chairs and read the book of Leviticus while performing atonement rituals? No, they simply created a summer reading list with highly popular books. All lists can be found under the 2016 link at the Chesterfield County Public Schools summer reading list.
It’s quite obvious from the statements Chase made to the Chesterfield Observer reporter that she has not read the books that were questioned by parents (including herself.) Chase called the books on the list, “pornographic” and “trash.” Really? Eleanor and Park is far from either of those regardless of your opinion on whether the book was good reading (and I may be biased as I loved it). I can’t even recall if Eleanor and Park even have sex, because I was too busy reading a story about how people are shitty to poor kids and Asian kids and do anything to ostracize them. I was caught up in how they found each other and had a really kickass relationship. How Park’s parents were there for Eleanor when they found she was a victim of neglect by her own family. Certainly this type of thing never happens in *PEARL CLUTCH* our schools!
I’ve got news for Amanda Chase. I went to Chesterfield County Public Schools from 1986 thru 1998. My librarian in 5th grade called me Blossom because I look like Mayim Bialik but it was also a term of endearment. She showed me where all the ghost stories and got me hooked on Betty Ren Wright and Mary Downing Hahn. When I was in middle school and didn’t want to spend lunch not feeling welcome at any lunch table, I was allowed to hang out in the library and cut the donated Campbell’s soup labels down to size. No one ever questioned my reading choices during that time. I may have been suffering from depression so badly that I disengaged from my education in high school but my English teachers always commented that they wished I would apply myself as they enjoyed my banter in class regarding our reading. I didn’t have the vast amount of young adult fiction that exists today. I reread The Catcher in the Rye sixteen times and felt solace that this kid in New York was experiencing a similar outlook on life. I didn’t feel so alone, and it probably kept me alive during a time when suicide was an option on the table more often than not.
If I had a more vast and diverse library to choose from, I wouldn’t have had to rely on just that one book. If the other kids had a more vast and diverse library to choose from, maybe they would have learned empathy sooner and not yelled, “dyke!” at me when I walked down the hall. Oh does that happen in Chesterfield County Schools? You bet. Fiction is an excellent source to teach kids empathy for those who are different from them. It normalizes the marginalized.
If you are local, I ask you to contact Amanda Chase and tell her to let the librarians do their job. They know what is happening in their schools and with their students. They know what books their kids need access to. And if there is a questionable book in the stacks, let the parents do the censoring for their own children. You don’t get to censor other children’s’ reading, Senator. Maybe I will include a copy of Fahrenheit 451 with a letter explaining how your comments on the Chesterfield County summer reading list are absurd at least and dangerous at most.
Alaska of Looking For Alaska is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I feel like the energy of Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen suits her well. Don’t get me wrong… I love this song and Alaska should do whatever the hell she wants without puppy dog admiration from the new kid. Which is why I pick this song for her.
It was the fall of 2012 when Green Day’s album, Uno, was released. As soon as I heard the opening track, Nuclear Family, I felt as if I related to it. The thing was I wasn’t relating like I normally do with Green Day songs. They’ve been my favorite band since 1993. When I relate to a Green Day song strongly I am generally in a heap on the floor crying inconsolable tears. This was different. Like I was relating to some other part of me. A past life? A dream?
It quickly hit me. Tris Prior. Back in July of 2012 I had read Divergent by Veronica Roth and absolutely loved it. It filled the void that finishing the Hunger Games trilogy had left in me. A girl faced with saving her world from a corrupt system.
In the world of Divergent, one must pick what faction they are to become a part of and serve for the rest of their life. Will they stay with the faction they were born into or will they take their place in the world elsewhere? This is where the “death of the nuclear family” lyric comes in. This mother and father raised you, but you can break out from that family and essentially choose a family. No more mother, father, sister, brother. And can you not just see the obvious parallels of “riding the world like a merry-go-round/ like a ferris wheel like it’s breaking down.” Not to mention riding that Dauntless train through Chicago, “Can you hear the sound coming over the hill? Gotta move my feet, it’s coming in for the kill.”
If I had any skills in video editing, I’d definitely be making a music video of scenes from the Divergent film. No one likes a montage better than a kid born in the 80s!
In celebration of I Read YA week:
I don’t feel old in my mid-30s, but I have aged out of being able to call myself the target audience of young and also new adult. During my time as a teen in the 90s, the young adult genre was only an inkling of what it has become in recent years. In the past, I read a lot of coming of age novels, which were mostly male authored with male lead characters. A few of my favorites as a teen were Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin and Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne. I was desperate to grasp onto any fictional character who could validate the mess happening in my brain in my fight to deal with generalized anxiety disorder and depression. I was dealing with thoughts and feelings that I didn’t feel safe divulging to judgemental and gossipy friends, so I turned to fictional friends as an alternative.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve obtained a more trustworthy circle and learned more about the best ways to keep my mental illness in check, some of my old fictional friends aren’t the best to go back to. Just like most toxic relationships, it’s best to cut the cord. So long Holden Caulfield. You have a spot in my heart for holding my hand through junior year, but we’re over. The genre of young adult fiction has exploded in recent years. With that, we’ve seen a slow but growing uptick in diverse authors and thus characters. Where I had to settle for literary friends at one time, I can now seek out heroines and heroes for which I don’t have to compromise. If a character is a misogynist, I can toss them aside and not fret that I may not find someone in another novel with values closer to my own.
To this day, I have to focus on recovery from the traumas and mental illness symptoms I had in my younger years. In addition, my mental illnesses are those that require constant work and treatment in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. What I have found in many current YA titles are characters who are dealing with these same symptoms. These characters are facing traumas that I faced. Not realizing others shared these experiences, I have taken to voraciously reading these novels in adulthood. I have hurts from that time in my life which still need to heal. Recently I read The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork and was absolutely blown away by the way in which he crafted the experience of depression through the main character, Vicky Cruz. Her depression had an air of guilt engulfing it. She questioned why she had suicidal ideations when she came from an upper middle class background. She could see other people had a more marginalized position in society and didn’t understand why depression could exist in her. This was something I struggled with from external sources in my teens. I was thus able to let go of the hurt I still carried from people who asked me why I was depressed when I had what appeared to be a comfortable life.
I find that the gap in my mental health treatment is slowly being closed by meeting new characters in YA fiction. Whether it’s the inspiration to continue working for the betterment of society despite PTSD from Katniss Everdeen, or persevering to fight the bad in our world when having trouble fitting in to a certain societal mold from Tris Prior. When given a fictional character that mirrors our own struggles, we can take cues in how we might heal from the past or conquer the future.
I received a copy of the ebook Seed by Lisa Heathfield from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The family living at a farm called Seed worships Nature (yes, capital N Nature) as an entity capable of bringing both joy and punishment. Pearl is fifteen and is baffled by the fact that her stomach is bleeding. She rushes to find an elder woman family member who can help save her from certain death. No, of course Pearl isn’t dying. She got her period. But the menstrual cycle is something that has been left out of the education Pearl has received within this cult.
Education is just one of several things that cult-leader Papa S has been negligent with among his flock of family members. There is also a lack of medicine, no experience with modernity, and strange punishments given as requested by Nature directly through her prophet, Papa S. Seed is home to couple of other men, a handful of women who seem to be in their 20s, three teenagers and two younger children. When not listening to the teachings of Papa S, the people of Seed farm, fix car engines and make skirts to sell at a local market.
Soon a new family shows up; the first new folks in Pearl’s memory. She is drawn to the teenage boy, Ellis, and what his knowledge of “Outside” brings. As the teens begin to question the purpose of Seed and whether or not they are truly happy there, Nature seems to be doling out more severe punishments. The group of teens must weigh what they may gain by leaving, against what may happen to who they leave behind.
I enjoyed this book. Though, I felt I didn’t get to know many of the secondary characters too well. It was a great glimpse into how Pearl views her family and Seed, but I would have liked to gotten to know more of a history. How was Seed founded? Who are these women and why are they subservient? What are these men doing when they lead a woman or girl away by the hand? Where did these rituals come from? There is a lot you must infer, which makes it so I am not entirely sure Seed was as horrible as I made it out to be; as I assume the worst in most cases. But perhaps that is the point, to have us assume our worst nightmare is happening behind the closed doors.
I’d love to read a sequel or even better, a prequel. A solid YA series could be built around Seed. This premise of cults/communes is one I love and I want to know more about all of the characters.