Books 14, 15, & 16

Posted on March 25, 2013. Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Do I stay in order of when I read these, or do I go in order of the ones I liked most to least? I finished Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, and Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg. No, I’ll go in order of what I read first so I can get my rant out of the way.

Prom & Prejudice cover artProm & Prejudice was named a 2013 Popular Paperback, books that are chosen for their appeal to reading for pleasure, which makes me feel a little bit better when I say that I didn’t care for it. It’s not a bad book at all. It’s just that, for an Austen fan, it’s extremely predictable. Prom & Prejudice is a retelling of, you guessed it, Pride and Prejudice, to the point that even the names are the same. It’s set in modern times at a girls’ boarding school named Longbourn, which is very near a boys’ boarding school named … can you guess?… Pemberley. The Longbourn girls are all obsessed with being asked to the prom by a Pemberley boy, except for Lizzie Bennet, a scholarship student.

The book pretty much follows the original plot exactly with only a few deviations that, in my opinion, made the book better. Where the original Lizzie was a rather mediocre pianist, this Lizzie is exceptionally gifted, hence her scholarship. It turns out that the famous pianist that is her idol is Darcy’s mother, which leads to a rather sweet scene.

If you’re familiar with the original book, then it’s no spoiler that there’s a Wickham and Lydia who run away together, only to be stopped by Darcy. Instead of them having to get married, Wickham is taken by Darcy family security. It’s an odd scene that I don’t think translated well to modern times.

It’s a fast read that does have a lot of appeal to teenage girls, especially those who have read the original P&P. This isn’t the first retelling, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but I think I’ll stick with Austen for my Elizabeth and Darcy. Moving on!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe cover artAristotle and Dante… is kind of a beautiful book and not really like anything I’ve read before. It’s the winner of three awards this year: the Stonewall Book Award-Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award, a Printz Honor, and a Best Fiction for Young Adults top ten.

Aristotle and Dante have few things in common. They’re both young Mexican Americans living in El Paso, they both have unusual names, and that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Aristotle is a loner by choice, and he’s angry, often for no discernible reason. He has a brother in prison that no one will talk about, and his father is a man of few words, dealing with his own demons from surviving Vietnam. It’s no wonder Ari finds it hard to open up to people.

Dante doesn’t have that problem. He’s crazy about his parents, even his mother who he describes as inscrutable. Dante wears his heart on his sleeve, where Ari’s is carefully locked away. Ari and Dante are such wonderfully developed characters that, even though the Accident happens fairly close to the beginning of the book, I felt like I’d been with them through 200 pages already.

Ari and Dante have a complicated relationship, and that’s all I can say without giving everything away.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl cover art

This Best Fiction for Young Adults top ten winner goes on my list of favorite books. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is narrated by Greg, an overweight teen whose only goal is to get through high school without making any enemies or really having anyone take any notice of him at all. His best friend, who he hardly speaks to during the school day, is Earl. Ever since they were kids, they’ve made terrifically bad movies together. The dying girl in the story is Rachel. Greg dated Rachel briefly when they were in Hebrew school because he thought it was a good way to make the girl he was really interested in jealous. Rachel has leukemia, and Greg’s mother pretty much forces him to start spending time with her.

Greg’s voice in this book is so brutally honest about himself. He embraces the fact that he’s overweight and unattractive, that the movies he makes with Earl are terrible, and that he doesn’t really think he’s a great person. He doesn’t feel like spending time with the dying Rachel is changing his life, and he feels really bad for not feeling all that bad. By the end of the book, I think the reader knows Greg better than he knows himself. There is no happy ending here, and it’s not really a sad ending either. It’s more like, this is what happened and it happened. There was no tidy wrap-up, and it was kind of refreshing.

I would say that if you liked Going Bovine by Libba Bray, you might like this book too.

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