Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich with Justin Paul, Steven Levenson, and Benj Pasek

Published: 9th October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Penguin
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non Fiction/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Dear Evan Hansen,
Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

I was excited about this book for a number of reasons: the first being that I could have a sticky beak at the musical before I saw it in person, second, it gives me hope that maybe more musicals could become books so for those of us who can’t always see these wonderful Broadway shows can still experience them if they’re going to refuse to release a copy on DVD or bring it to my country.

By the time this is posted I would have seen the musical on Broadway (!!) so aside from seeing this story play out, I am hoping to match up the song lyrics with the correct tune compared to what I tried to conjure in my head (I know I could listen to the soundtrack, but I’m going to go in blind music wise). Even without seeing the actual musical this book gives a vivid and detailed story to enjoy. Much like The Cursed Child play the dialogue is there so are the stage directions and lyrics so you can see how it would play out on stage.

In terms of the actual story, it is a case of one small lie becoming something big and uncontrollable. I experienced some anxiety reading this because you know what Evan does is wrong, and just waiting for it to fall around his feet is stressful, but looking past that the story is a bit heartbreaking and is about looking for a place to belong and discovering who you are. If I thought about it too much I hated Evan a little, but I suppose you’re meant to see it from his point of view, and I did, but I still couldn’t believe the things he does in this.

I’ve heard the music for this is amazing and reading the lyrics I can see how that’s the case. There is a lot of emotion and dealing with a lot of sensitive and personal things. There is a suicide and drug use but both are referenced and not shown.

If you are unlikely to get a chance to see this musical I highly recommend this book as a chance to experience the story. Maybe you could even pay the soundtrack alongside when the songs come up to almost get the full experience.

You can purchase Dear Evan Hansen via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Angus and Robinson | Dymocks

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

 

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Published: 21st September 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Hodder Children’s Books
Pages: 340
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

It’s time to fight like a girl!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her high school teachers who think the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mum was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates Moxie, a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond and spread the Moxie message. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realises that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

I had been reading a lot of feminist and activist books and I picked this up expecting it to be the kind of book that ignites a fire within me and it did…to a point. One possible reason for this was that I have not experienced the American school system which this novel is so deeply based around so I couldn’t relate in that sense or figure out if things really get this extreme. I read so many American books set in high school and it is the wildest thing to read about these experiences I sometimes can’t tell whether it is just a combination of a variety of experiences or whether all these situations and these people could exist in real life at the same time. I have seen the same formula over and over again I am convinced that it is actually how American school systems work and it’s the most bizarre thing as an outsider to read about.

The other reason I think I wasn’t as impressed was that Viv is the kind of quiet girl who never does anything wrong, doesn’t stand out too much so for her to do anything it is a big deal and she does it in small steps, unsure where to go next and worried about the steps she does take. I wonder if Viv had had a stronger personality it would have changed the story at all. It would suit the character to do something like that so perhaps having timid Vivian makes it more powerful in what she does. It read like My First Feminism and I appreciated what she was doing, but it didn’t grab me. To Mathieu’s ’s credit, it did at times remind me of my own high school experiences, bra snapping was clearly a worldwide thing for teenage boys.

It’s not just the Straight White Girl who fights injustice, Mathieu’s covered the women of colour and lesbian perspectives but it’s brief and almost unnatural. The different perspectives help Viv and the readers understand that everyone has different experiences and understanding that is important. I can’t decide whether this is good inclusion and self-awareness, or a message but it stood out as being Mathieu’s attempt to cover all the bases and it took me from the book briefly because it felt like a side note for the reader to remember.

I feel a bit bad for critiquing this because it wasn’t terrible, but it just fell flat. There were positives, I admired what Vivien was aiming to achieve, and glad she managed to start the revolution she was after. In that it was a success. I don’t suppose Mathieu’s was trying to ignite the reader’s reaction, though maybe she was, but I think you don’t need to have had a strong reaction to enjoy it. I think perhaps I had had this novel build up as a girl power feminist novel that I expected it to pull a few more punches.

You can purchase Moxie via the following

QBD | Book Depository | Booktopia

Angus & Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

 

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Published: June 29th 2000 (print)/1st April, 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Harcourt, Inc. /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 93/1 hours 59 minutes
Narrator: Humphrey Bower
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

It’s time for another installment of ‘This Classic Was Underwhelming, Why Do People Rave About It?’ I’ve given it a four but that is because it started out as a sweet story and I was open and willing to explore the universe with this little prince. I enjoyed the strange planets and the different people, and it was cute to follow the prince around the universe. Then it becomes heavy handed and weird. I was intrigued having never really heard about the plot, just that it was filled with inspirational quotes and filled with the allegory about life. I didn’t hate it, I was just underwhelmed.

I understood what de Saint-Exupéry was trying to do, but it didn’t grab me. I was interested in his approach and I managed to enjoy the story, but I got to the end and went ‘ok?’. So obviously I missed the grand impact that he was after. It’s not that I didn’t get it, I understand the big meaning of life that was being expressed but I didn’t care. The last part of the story ruined the magic of the first part, even though I know they were trying to tell the same story.

I’m glad I went with the audiobook because I think I might have disliked it more if I read it. Bower does a great job telling the story and even though I missed out on the pictures, it didn’t really impact on the story too much. Perhaps I wasn’t connected enough to the prince given his journey. Without that emotional attachment perhaps the impact of it was lost on me. At least I can say I’ve read it now.

You can purchase The Little Prince via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository Audible

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

 Fishpond QBD

 

Long Lost Reviews: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 1st July 1996Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperTrophy
Pages: 298
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Harriet M. Welsch is determined to grow up and be a famous author. In the meantime, she practices by following a regular spy route each day and writing down everything she sees in her secret notebook.

Then one morning, Harriet’s life is turned upside down. Her classmates find her spy notebook and read it out loud! Harriet’s in big trouble. The other sixth-graders are stealing her tomato sandwiches, forming a spy-catcher club, and writing notes of their own — all about Harriet!

I reread this book so many times as a kid. I had the movie tie-in cover which is now much loved as evidence by the very crinkled cover. I don’t remember a lot of the little details, but I have always had an affection for this book. This was probably reinforced by the movie, but to be honest, it was a great movie.

Harriet wants to be a writer, therefore she must practice. She writes down everything in her notebook, everything she sees and everything people say and do around her. I’d never thought about whether it was Harriet who subconsciously got me interested in becoming an author, I award that honour to John Marsden, but maybe she put a small seed in my head as well which started the idea growing.

Since I was a kid when I saw the movie and read the book, the movie has imprinted itself on me much more. The movie got me interested in The Walrus and the Carpenter poem, despite the fact I probably would have seen Alice in Wonderland first. I remember loving this book, and I definitely think I have blurred the movie and the book together in my imagination, but it was a great book to show what happens when you write about other people and put your opinions on paper in full detail.

I remember the book being a lot more serious than the blurb makes it sound like. As a kid I guess these things are more dire and I just remember the feeling I experienced when the others find Harriet’s notebook. The second hand mortification I felt stays with me now. It was the most intense and climactic thing I had read since being stressed about Bastian in The Never Ending Story.

Doing these Long Lost Reviews has made me reminisce about some wonderful books I know I’ve loved but have long forgotten. They also spark a strong desire to reread them, even when I can barely read the books I haven’t read yet. I may have to find some room though to revisit this little gem.

Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different by Ben Brooks

Published: 3rd April 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Quercus
Illustrator: Quinton Winter
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Junior Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Prince charming, dragon slayer, mischievous prankster… More often than not, these are the role-models boys encounter in the books they read at home and at school. As a boy, there is an assumption that you will conform to a stereotypical idea of masculinity. But what if you’re the introvert kind? What if you prefer to pick up a book rather than a sword? What if you want to cry when you’re feeling sad or angry? What if you like the idea of wearing a dress?

An extraordinary compilation of 100 stories of famous and not-so-famous men from the past to the present day, every single one of them a rule-breaker and innovator in his own way, and all going on to achieve amazing things. Entries include Frank Ocean, Salvador Dalí, Rimbaud, Beethoven, Barack Obama, Stormzy, Ai Weiwei and Jesse Owens – different sorts of heroes from all walks of life and from all over the world.

This is not connected to Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, which is misleading given the cover, format, title, and style. But Brooks has nevertheless made a great book about boys who dared to be different. Alongside Winter’s illustrations the lives of boys and men from around the world and through time are celebrated.

I was surprised by some of the men who were included in this. But I guess the point of it was to tell boys that there is more than one way to be a man, and men are made up of a variety of different types. From Galileo to Louis Armstrong, John Green and Jorge Munoz, Brooks tells the story of men who did it their way and changed the world for the better.

I wasn’t as inspired by it as I was Rebel Girls, fully aware that my own gender is going to inspire me more than another one. But I was still proud of these men, and I was intrigued by their stories that I had not known or knew little about. There were a lot more men I knew, because they’re men, so we know their stories. But their one page bios also provided a few new details about their lives, outside their famous discoveries or achievements. There are also a lot of unsung heroes which is why this book is so wonderful, it shows the men who are out there changing the world and doing things their own way, no matter what people expect of them or tell them they can’t do.

As Brooks writes, “it takes a true hero to go against the grain, to show kindness where others won’t, and to stand up for what’s right when others can’t.”

You can purchase Stories for Boys via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

 Wordery | Audible | Dymocks

Angus & Robertson | Fishpond

QBD | Amazon Aust | Amazon

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