Category Archives: Read This!

Love Among the Walnuts: A Modern Day Farce

Love Among the WalnutsTitle: Love Among the Walnuts

Author: Jean Ferris

Gut Reaction: An amusing read that creates humor and charm through its absurdity.

Two words encapsulate the essence of this novel: unrealistic characters. Love Among the Walnuts begins with Horatio Alger Huntington-Ackerman, a young businessman who seems to effortlessly make billions, falling instantly in love with aspiring actress Mousey Malone after seeing her brief performance in a play. Horatio proceeds to propose to his newfound sweetheart on the very same night that he meets her and they are blissfully married a month later. The newlywed couple builds a manor in the countryside from which they then isolate themselves from the rest of society with the exception of their servant Bentley and his wife Flossie. The plot of the novel centers on Sandy, the son of Horatio and Mousey, and the problems he must face when his parents are sent into a drug-induced coma due to the schemes of his evil uncles.

Love Among the Walnuts is, above all else, an absurdity. Though it initially gives the semblance of realism, the reader soon discovers that a multitude of its elements are nothing short of ridiculousness. The features and behavior of the characters as well as its overarching plot are all preposterous. The examples of this are endless and include Horatio managing to run his multi-billion dollar corporate empire from the comfort of his rural estate, Horatio and Mousey deciding it would be sensible to raise their son in complete seclusion from the rest of the world, and Sandy appearing more preoccupied with his infatuation over a nurse, Sandy, than the condition of his coma-stricken parents. Yet I think it is through this that the book finds its niche. It is a lighthearted comedy and doesn’t masquerade as anything nothing more than this. It is not meant to awe the reader with its complexity, but rather to entertain the reader through its unassuming components. It is certainly a fun and worthwhile read but don’t expect anything more than the superficial. Its characters, though undoubtedly possessing of some interest to the reader, are rather one-dimensional. They consist of a gang of endearing misfits, two irreconcilably malicious and stupid villains, and a series of unmemorable minor characters. The weaknesses of the novel are the predictability and the lack of any meaningful character development, as well as the fact that the issues the novel addresses are all made to feel shallow and a little too facile by the way they are resolved. But its numerous strengths lie in the appeal of its simplicity and its accessibility to all readers.

I would recommend this book at least for its novelty if nothing else to a general audience. It has a certain attraction just by the way it stands out from the rest of the Young Adult books through its subject, tempo, and characters. The book truly jumps out at you by blending fiction and realism in an original and unique manner and is thus, in this blogger’s opinion, worth taking a second look at.

Read this if you like…

-Ziqi, Greenwood, Teen Blogger

GWD

Jonathan Safran Foer: A Teen’s Take

20 Under 40I stumbled upon Jonathan Safran Foer by accident. See, my family was on vacation and I really, really needed a book. I was desperate enough to go for a—gasp—supernatural teen romance, but instead, was lucky enough to grab Twenty Under Forty, a New Yorker collection of short stories. This book changed my life, in a large part due to Foer’s addition, called “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly.”  His piece is short, only a few pages long, but it opened up what fiction could be for me. Stuck in the world of YA fiction, usually written in the first or third person with limited character development and plenty of action/romance, here was something revolutionary. Each sentence in the work starts with “You,” “I,” or “We,” and explains life married life through deceptively simple sentences. Strange? Completely. Transfixing? Absolutely. Here’s an excerpt:

You were terrible in emergencies. You were wonderful in “The Cherry Orchard.” I was always never complaining, because confrontation was death to me, and because everything was pretty much always pretty much O.K. with me. You were not able to approach the ocean at night. I didn’t know where my voice was between my phone and yours.

Everything is Illuminated

One would assume that as soon as I read that, I would go hunting for anything and everything else by Foer. I didn’t. I don’t know if I was worried that the rest of his work would ruin the perfection of that short story, or maybe I just didn’t want to know. Then, I walked into my English teacher’s classroom, and I spotted Foer’s first book, Everything is Illuminated. With only a little bit of begging, the book was mine for a week. Again, I was transfixed. It was brilliant, weaving generations of stories across its pages. It’s funny. It’s clever. It made me cry on the bus.

Extremely LoudI’m currently reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Thus far, I AM REALLY DISAPPOINTED. I LOVE FOER’S OTHER BOOKS AND THEN HE GOES AND WRITES THIS?!? I know, this may seem unfair, but let me explain. Foer is incredible in the other two works I mentioned. Then, you get Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, expecting the same quality. Instead, there is a nine-year-old boy that would have to be a genius in order to know and say what he does in the book, but there is no mention of his special abilities in the book itself. (The kid is reading A Brief History of Time, but attends school at an average grade level). If this were the only flaw, I could deal with that, I really could, but the rhythm feels “off.” Foer’s usual writing has a pulse, a steady beat that forms a backbone in his writing. This, however, feels forced, as if someone made him write the plot, and all the lines that would normally be poetic or would reveal something “deeper” about life just feel pretentious. The take away: read Everything is Illuminated. Hunt down “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly.” Don’t even look at Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It’s not worth your time.

-Teen Blogger

Eleanor & Park – honest and real

Eleanor and ParkTitle: Eleanor & Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 10/10 stars. Yes, it was that good. Rarely do I rate books 10/10, so this one is definitely special.

Gut reaction: I loved the honest, real characters. They were so well developed and the romance was sweet and believable. This book was also great because it ended on a hopeful note. As I got closer to the end, I thought it would have a sad closing, but I was not disappointed, and you won’t be either. Go put it on hold at your library right now!

Summary: Eleanor is the new girl on the bus, at school and in the neighborhood. She lives with a creepy, abusive stepdad, her emotionally bruised mother and 4 younger siblings in a cramped house. On the bus, she is taunted for her eclectic style of dressing, her bright red hair and being overweight. Park on the other hand, comes from a stable home, but being a half Asian kid in a predominately white area, he feels like an outsider. He has a group of friends, but he’s wary of acting too different. Park reluctantly gives Eleanor a place to sit on the bus and isn’t welcoming, but he acts a little better than the other students. Soon though, he notices her reading over his shoulder on the bus, and they begin a friendship over shared interests in comic books and alternative music. Slowly at first, then faster and faster like a snowball rolling down a hill, they fall in love. But their romance is bittersweet and it seems like fate is against them. Will they be able to persevere and stay together against the odds?

I’ll let you read it and find out for yourself!

-Gabriella, Ballard, Teen Blogger

BAL

What If – What sort of logistic anomalies would you encounter in trying to raise an army of apes?

What IfTitle: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Author: Randall Munroe

What If? is a book of bizarre hypothetical questions and scientific answers.   But you could learn that just by looking at the cover, so here is my story about it.  I would not have known about this book if I had not gotten if for my birthday from my mom (my mom says I ask a lot of hypothetical questions).  And when I got it found it to be surprisingly intriguing. I have always loved hypothetical questions and have sometimes used them as a way of staying up longer to talk with my dad.

What If? can finally answer some of my more whimsical questions, like what would happen if every person on earth aimed a laser pointer at the moon at the same time – would it change color?  On the flip side, if my dad ever got his hands on it — it would put an end to our late-night discussions.  But enough with the backstory; let me tell you about the book.

Personally, I adore this book.  I love almost every bit of it.  I enjoy seeing questions other people would ask.  My favorite section is the Weird (and Worrying) Questions from the What If? Inbox.  In these sections, hypothetical questions are not answered, questions posed are hilariously weird (and worrying).  For example, page 14 has the question, “How many housese are burned down in the United States every year?  What would be the easiest way to increase that number by a significant amount (say, at least 15%)?”   Another gem  (I really like the weird and worrying questions – I cannot emphasize that enough) is:  “What sort of logistic anomalies would you encounter in trying to raise an army of apes?”

This book may be good for fans of Mythbusters because it applies science to the absurd.  It is also for anyone who enjoys illustrations of stick people acting out responses to questions.  Finally, I recommend this book for any fan of science.  The scientific explanations are written in an accessible and humorous way if you are a math genius.  In other words, it is hilarious.

Books of interest:

-Caleb, Greenwood, Teen Advisory Board member

GWD

Flowers for Algernon – thought-provoking and engaging

Flowers-for-Algernon-_book_coverTitle: Flowers for Algernon

Author: Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, is the story of a man named Charlie Gordon. Charlie was born with a brain disorder that caused him to have an IQ of just 68. However, Charlie has just been approved to pilot a radical operation that will turn him into a genius. Well, human pilot. It’s already been tried on a rat named Algernon, and it was an unqualified success. The story is told as a series of “progress reports” written by Charlie after the operation, for the purpose of documenting the effects of the operation for science. The operation is a fast success, and soon Charlie has an IQ of 185 and is an expert in every subject. But can his humanity survive the change?

For me, Flowers for Algernon was an extremely engaging and thought-provoking book. The book starts out with a quote from Plato comparing visual impairment with mental impairment, and admonishing anyone who would laugh at those with either. This seems like a straightforward thing to do. Only a deeply cruel person would laugh at a disabled person. But Flowers shows us that even our most well intentioned acts can carry unconscious cruelty. The scientists who design the operation, the medical community, even his own mother are all trying to “fix” Charlie. But, as Plato said, “the bewilderments of the eyes are two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light.” At the beginning of the story, Charlie was entirely in the dark, the worlds of politics, academics, and religion closed off to him because of his illness. Yet, when he comes into the light, is he not equally blinded?

As he gains intelligence, Charlie very quickly realizes that most of those whom he thought of as friends were actually laughing at him, patronizing him to feel better about themselves. He starts to see people for who they really are, frauds trying to navigate their way through life. As he surpasses everyone in intelligence, people start to resent him, and his social relationships suffer. He finds himself no more a part of the world than he was before. I was absolutely absorbed by Charlie’s transformation, from what was essentially a small child to an adult. The characters in this book are very believable, from the scientists that designed the procedure, Dr. Strauss and Dr. Neimar, to Charlie’s former teacher and current love interest, Miss Alice Kinnian. Everyone had a different, unique reaction to Charlie’s change, and they all teach him something about what it is to be human. This was probably my favorite part of the story, during his transition from “idiot” to genius.

There are too many themes in this story to count: The benefits of innocence, the insecurity of mankind, the limits of intelligence, the allegory of life. Yet what remains most striking is the emotional attachment that we feel for Charlie during the course of the novel. One of the things that makes me personally feel the most emotional is when someone who clearly is in a terrible situation nonetheless maintains a positive attitude. Charlie, and we imagine Algernon as well, don’t want people to feel sorry for them. All they really want is to impress their families and peers. In my opinion, Keyes is telling us that we have no obligation to do so. Charlie so desperately wanted to be smart, he never realized that what he had – his innocence, his kindness, his drive, and his love of people – was worth more than that. Life isn’t a contest like Algernon’s maze, after all. No matter what you do, you’ll reach the end. The value comes from the relationships that you form in the somewhere in the middle. A lot of society’s ills come from people taking themselves too seriously, worrying too much about their own pride. As Charlie puts it, “Its easy to have frends if you let pepul laff at you. Im going to have lots of frends where I go.”

-Jacob, Greenwood, Teen Blogger

GWD

Thirteen Reasons Why – Filled with suspense, good life lessons

Title: Thirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher

Summary: No one expected Hannah Baker’s death, but thirteen people would soon find out how their actions and words pushed Hannah off the edge. Clay Jensen is determined to listen to Hannah’s thirteen tapes to figure out her story, and why he is in it. These tapes show a side of Hannah that no one saw, and the truth about who she really was.

Gut Reaction: Filled with suspense, good life lessons.

I would give this book 8/10 stars because it was detailed and had a good plot, but was slow at times.

What I loved: I really liked how the book took the image of a perfect girl in high school and showed the reader that she has feelings and is just like everyone else.

Why: This book always keeps you guessing what will happen next and surprises you with each new tape. The characters are all distinct and have intriguing personalities that draw you in.

Websites of interest:

Thirteen Reasons Why website

-Afsara, Greenwood, Teen Adviser

GWD

Philosophy Class – questioning your surroundings is good for the soul

Philosophy Class Review

Plato

Plato

Philosophy…what does this word exactly mean? Well, it’s derived from the Greek roots Filo, meaning love, and Sofia, meaning wisdom. Thus creating the word φιλοσοφία (Philosophy), the love or pursuit of wisdom. I took this class at North Seattle Community College and initially it was just for the sake of earning the credit, but as the quarter progressed I grew to love the class and its mind boggling concepts. Philosophy 101 took a general view on various ideologies but ideally philosophy can be broken down to five specific branches:

 

  • Metaphysics: explores outside of physicality such as ideas and question about existence,
  • Epistemology: the theory of knowledge “What is Knowledge? Can I prove I have knowledge of anything?”,
  • Logic: reasoning and inference; a majority of people tend to have something called Dysrationalia which is when you’re unable to reasonably think through a situation or problem despite being an individual with a high I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient),
  • Ethics: Moral Dilemmas,
  • Aesthetics: questioning the benefits of experiences.

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