Pros and Cons / Highly Illogical Behavior

Hi friends!Pros and ConsHow’s life? And the far more pressing question: what are you currently reading? I’m wrapping up Wild for an extra credit assignment, and I have just a few more chapters in Wuthering Heights, the second of two books I have for summer reading, to finish before I can treat myself to Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything. Of course, I do hope to carve out time to watch the movie versions of both books this week too! Meanwhile, my back-to-school preparations – everything from designing binder covers to scheduling and coordinating meetings – have kept fall on my mind, though I do have a few more reviews I want to share before the summer officially comes to a close. First up? My thoughts on  John Corey Whaley’s recent publication Highly Illogical Behavior.

Highly Illogical Behavior

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college {she’s being realistic}. But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa. Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol, and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same. {Goodreads}

P R O S
A well-drawn and fleshed-out set of characters I first discovered John Corey Whaley’s novels on a whim, grabbing Noggin, its eye-catching cover and all, after reading about it on another book blog. I’m so glad I did, for his dynamic characters and interesting storylines converted me from a curious reader to a lifelong fan. His writing only improves here in his third novel, which follows the friendship between an agoraphobic teen and an overachieving student. The growth is noticed best in the characters: Solomon, who I thought to be an utter sweetheart; Lisa, who is equally compelling as she is driven; Clark, who proves the YA world needs more easy-going guys; and Solomon’s family members, all of whom have a distinctive trait of their own. They each stand individually as terrific character studies, but their vibrant friendship, with its messy crushes and awkward first meetings, is simply the cherry on top.

A balance between the humorous and the bittersweet While there is a certain sadness throughout the plot, the emotion doesn’t overwhelm the story thanks to Whaley’s humorous writing style. Solomon cracks dry, sarcastic jokes throughout, and the numerous references to nerdy programs of pop culture add to the book’s charm. Even Lisa’s ambitious plot to get into college {a misguided plan at best, a manipulative idea at worst} has a certain lightness to it despite the very real and very relatable topics Whaley covers, among them social anxiety and first relationships. The balance between the two is difficult to strike, much less excel at, but it’s quickly becoming Whaley’s specialty.

A unique take on the coming of age narrative Finally, the synopsis might lead potential readers to think the story focuses solely on the bond between Solomon, Lisa, and Clark, but in all truth, it’s just as much of a tale of Solomon finding confidence in himself. A coming-of-age story is not new to the genre, but by use of Solomon’s fear of the outside world, Whaley allows his novel to stand apart from the crowd. Furthermore, the intensity of the story doesn’t hit readers until the book has been put down and one can fully recognize the significance of Solomon taking a step outside his front door.

C O N S
+ Though a solid story all-around, the book could be longer, allowing for further development This is a rare complaint – too often do books drag on rather than the opposite – but I think Highly Illogical Behavior could have benefitted from being longer. The pace is fast, and it moved so quickly that I was able to fly through the book in a single afternoon. Fortunately, Whaley keeps things tight enough that the length is not so much a glaring error as it is a request for more time with Solomon, Lisa, and Clark. If it’s more of Whaley’s writing that I desire, however, I won’t have to wait long – I already have Where Things Come Back on hold at the library. I’ll be reading it soon!

Have a wonderful start to your week! :)

Musical Moodboards / Waitress

Hello!Musical MoodboardsLong time, no see, friends! What’s new? Summer is certainly winding down – with only two weeks left in my vacation, I’m doing my best to soak up the remaining time with my friends and family. In previous years, I would be anxious to return to the routine that school brings, but this time around, I’m grateful for the string of days where I have little planned. I think we could all use the slower pace every now and then, particularly as I look ahead to my busy September calendar.

Day trips, on a similar note, have long been my cup of tea: they’re a chance to explore and try something new, but they’re still short enough that I can be back at home and reading before bed. A recent example? My mom, sister, and I spent a day in New York City, walking through the Museum of Natural History, grabbing cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, and, naturally, seeing a Broadway show. I haven’t posted a Musical Moodboard since last September – far too long of a wait, I know – but after seeing Waitress, I knew a production of that talent deserved a post of its own. If you want to revisit previous moodboards before we chat all things Waitress, a reminder that the archives are HERE for your perusal!

WaitressSources: Diner Photograph / Cookie Sharing / Waitress Illustrated Quote / Blue Gingham Pattern source unknown / Waitress Photograph / Pie Print / {FYI: I tried my best to provide you with the most accurate and updated sources, but please let me know of any problems or mistakes!}

Before it was a smash hit on Broadway, Waitress was a movie, written and directed by the talented filmmaker Adrienne Shelly; the indie favorite follows a young waitress Jenna throughout her pregnancy and the tumultuous marriage that accompanies it. The musical adaptation takes the same story and puts it to the music of Sara Bareilles and direction of Diane Paulus – in other words, an artistic collaboration destined to reach success. And that it has: The show first opened at the American Repertory Theater in Boston, moved to the New York stage in the spring, and captured the hearts of audience members and critics alike.

While both the film and musical tackle heavy themes of abusive relationships and grief, the story itself ends on a hopeful note, a feeling I wanted to carry into the moodboard. I was thus led on a search for pictures and photographs that brought to the mind the heart-warming and heart-healing properties of baking: a charming illustration of sharing baked goods with friends, a still of Keri Russell in costume, and the lyrics to one of my favorite songs in the show. Additionally, the diner is a nod to Jenna’s workplace and the stunning set {the stage manager in me was awed by the design and technical elements of the show}, while the gingham pattern speaks to the simple, yet impactful, costumes. And, finally, what would a Waitress image be without some mention of pie?

Let’s discuss! Have you seen the Waitress film or musical? What’s your favorite flavor of pie? {I’m partial to apple myself}. Finally, do you love Sara Bareilles’ music, or do you love Sara Bareilles’ music?!

Have a terrific start to your week! :)

The Square Root of Summer: A Book Review

Hi friends!

The weekend’s almost here! Any fun plans? I myself have an exciting few days in store: I’m taking a day trip to NYC and then have my job training – scooping ice cream! :) – on Sunday. Before the week comes to a close, however, I wanted to share a book review of what I consider one of this year’s hidden gems: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood. My full thoughts are below if you want to take a peek!

The Square Root of SummerTitle: The Square Root of Summer
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Published: May 3, 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 295
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: I don’t believe so!

This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It’s a little bit like a black hole. It’s a little bit like infinity.

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she’s hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie’s past, present, and future are about to collide—and someone’s heart is about to be broken.

With time travel, quantum physics, and sweeping romance, The Square Root of Summer is an exponentially enthralling story about love, loss, and trying to figure it all out, from stunning debut YA voice, Harriet Reuter Hapgood. {Goodreads}

My friends were surprised this past year when I took such a liking to physics, and, frankly, so was I; I’ve never been much of a science person – I lost interest in biology, and chemistry wasn’t my cup of tea – and I will happily work through math problems over sitting through a lab. Physics, on the other hand, works to the bigger picture, applying math, science, and philosophy to answer one question: how does the universe work? It’s by no means an easy inquiry, but it’s one I don’t mind delving into.

Gottie, the main character in Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s debut, The Square Root of Summer, too has an interest in physics. She’s a sharp mathematician, quick to grasp complex concepts in the classroom that would otherwise take days to explain. and she has an acute understanding of the universe, even if she has a muddled view of her own life, significantly changed since her grandfather’s death. Needless to say, a story is nothing without a good protagonist, and fortunately, Hapgood delivers: Gottie is well-crafted and has a distinctive voice. In addition, her journey reads natural, growth found in Gottie’s friendships, her love interests, and her confidence. The supporting characters receive equal care in characterization. Her father and brother, both absent-minded in their own right, are also protective. Thomas, childhood friend and aspiring baker, is caring and thoughtful. Even her grandfather, a figure of the past, has a personality that jumps off the page.

As you’d expect, things get interesting when wormholes appear, and Gottie, for whatever reason, is transported back in time to previous summers. It’s an interesting, and ultimately effective, take on grief: a void in the heart, so Gottie travels through a void in the universe. The explanation of Gottie’s time travel is one of the book’s assets – I have yet to see a novel, even my favorite time travel romance, Time Between Us, go to such lengths to explain the science behind the phenomenon – but it’s also, I believe, the book’s primary problem. The latter half of the novel is so dominated with details that readers are easily lifted from the story and focus is pulled from the growing relationship between Gottie and Thomas. It wasn’t enough to deter me from finishing the book {I was too lost in the setting for that!}, but between the meandering plot and mathematical concepts, I can see where other readers may find fault.

The narrative is supplemented by Hapgood’s sense of atmosphere, as she whisks readers away to the English seaside where Gottie lives with her dad and brother. Her writing so beautifully captures sleepy summer afternoons and nights that if I could bottle up book passages to revisit, I’d take the entirety of the book in a second. It has a timeless quality reminiscent of the classics – many written before modern technology was born – but Hapgood still manages to keeps today’s audience engaged, myself included, with her literary prose.

The Square Root of Summer is a science fiction fix for the contemporary fan or the contemporary read for a science fiction audience – if you haven’t guessed already, it’s hard to sum up. But if one strips away the scientific elements and the travels back in time, the audience is left with a story that tackles love and grief, feelings central to the human experience, and certainly in one’s teenage years. What flaws exist can be overlooked given the quality of the characters and the setting, and furthermore, I believe Hapgood will only grow as an author in her next publication. With several weeks of summer left, you can guess what I have to say: this deserves a spot in your reading pile.

Have a wonderful weekend!