Review: The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Book: The Great American Whatever

Author: Tim Federle

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Pages: 288 Pages

Format: Hardcover

Source: Purchased at Woozles Book Store

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.

Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—a hot one—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story. 

This was the first book I read just because I wanted to read it in a really long time. It really threw me off because it was so different from all the things i've read in the past few months, and yet the more I think about it, the more I like the elements that initially threw me off. Tim Federle's use of multiple narration styles, and his sort of reinvention of the buildungsroman, which was very different but very familiar, was really brilliant. It was a bit tropey, but it used the tropes in the best ways, and it didn't feel like a regurgitation of things i've already read. It felt new. It felt like a breath of breath air.

Quinn Roberts was an interesting protagonist in the way that I didn't like him as a person, but I felt myself really care about him. He made bad mistakes, and I really disliked how he treated Geoff. Honestly, when your friends are going out of their way to treat you kindly, you don't ignore them. You don't just forget about them. There was one moment about half way through the book where Quinn asks when Geoff will next see Amir, and Geoff says something along the lines of "I don't know. You know Amir and I aren't really friends?", and that was a moment where I wanted to smack some sense into Quinn and show him who is the more important person in his life.

Quinn's relationships really were the focal point of the novel, and each relationship showed a different, flawed side to him. The relationship he had with his mother showed how he was capable for sympathy and genuine love. The relationship between his sister that is unveiled is interesting as it shows equally how selfish he is but also how much admiration he had for his sister, and how he really looked up to her and saw her as an equal. It's these relationships that complicated the relationship that I had with him. It was his negative qualities that made me see him as human and complex and fascinating, but I didn't want him to act on those impulses because I hold sympathy and love and being genuine to people above the other emotions. Quinn was super fascinating and Tim Federle really struck a balance with him.

I at first really didn't like the romance in the book but the further I step away from the book I realize how necessary it is to the plot. I normally don't like romances as plot devices, but then I usually get the romantic interest as a fully fledged character, which is not the case in this book. Don't get me wrong, I see that Amir is three dimensional, but he's not a fully fleshed out character and he doesn't get a proper story arc. He is there as a thing for Quinn, not so much as a person. Replace him with any other male and our story doesn't really change. It's not so much who Quinn falls for that matters, it's the fact that he falls for someone, and realizes that what he's after is not external validation. We as readers can see that he received a lot of validation from others in the time before the novel, he doesn't get much in the course of his story. This novel isn't a romance, it's the story a young kid learning to fall in love with himself.

Tim Federle's writing was really smooth, like it read like Sondheim sounds -- totally stream of conscious, but as soon as it's over, you realized he had a plan all along. There were moments when reading this I had the inkling that I wasn't going to like it, but I just needed to hold on and see where the moments I disliked were leading to. It was a good exercise in patience. But Federle's writing was super melodic and I was sucked in from page one and it doesn't let up, as seen through the fact that I read this in one sitting. I would definitley pick up another one of his books, and it turns out that I have picked up some of his other works. He's a musical theatre librettist! He wrote the book to Tuck Everlasting: The Musical (which I can't really speak to as i've only got the cast album and haven't gotten to his bit).

Overall, I picked this one up on a whim and I was truly swept up by it. Tim Federle has written an amazing coming of age story, where the romance isn't what's important. The focus of the novel is forgiving your past self, falling in love with present you, and trusting future you to make the right decisions. 5/5 Stars. What a way to start the year.

Looking Forward

Monday, 2 January 2017


I'm back. Hopefully for good this time. I've missed this blog, and reading books I care about, and mostly the community that I was once apart of. So many times have I fallen off the blogging bandwagon, and so many times i've come back with a "new dedication" which usually wears off after a few weeks. After taking almost half a year away from the blog, I feel my fingers start to twitch with the want to blog again. I feel the need to get back into the community and to learn what's out there.

This past year has been so fucking hard for me. Now, I don't want to spread the rhetoric that "2016 was horrible blah blah blah" because this year held amazing things for me: I finished my second year of university. I started my third year. I got to study amazing things. I got to travel. I went to New York City. I saw Hamilton, and Fiddler on the Roof, and Fun Home, and met some of my idols. But it was also filled with negativity. My mental health has never been lower. My anxiety took over my life. This past semester was super overwhelming and stressful. My grandmother passed away. I spent an entire year away from my family. I lost friends. But all years have ups and downs, and the goal is to make the lowest highs higher than the highest lows...

Does that make sense?

I think why I let this blog fall to the backburner is because I was anxious about it. My anxiety manifests itself inward, with a lot of self criticism that it totally out of left field and is mainly stupid. But I started to notice that my posts didn't get a ton of views, or that other blogs were bigger than mine, and my anxiety took over, and instead of being motivated, I shut down. I stopped because I was scared. I started blogging and I loved it so much because I was doing it for me, but somewhere along the way I started feeling like I was doing it for someone else, and that wasn't fun.

I also felt an immense pressure to talk about things that I didn't want to talk about. This pressure mainly came from my involvement with academia. I started feeling that by reading and enjoying YA and the things I loved, I wasn't academic enough, so I stopped reading the books that I really wanted to read. Which is maybe the most idiotic thing that I could have let happen. In my personal life I am the largest advocate that YA is literature and holds as much merit as literary fiction and adult fiction. YA is valid in terms of content, character, and genre. My anxiety allowed me to get pushed around.

I know this is coming off a bit like i'm not taking accountability for myself, which is a problem, but I'm writing this to keep myself accountable. I love this blog, and my god i've missed it. I making this a priority, and I cannot wait to see what this year brings.

If you've stuck around throughout this whole post, thank you.

Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Book: First Frost

Series: Waverley Family 

Author: Sarah Addison Allen

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Pages: 291 Pages

Format: Hardcover

Source: Purchased at Chapters

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spellscomes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves..

It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections — rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds — are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby — a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to.. if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

God I missed the Waverley family. I didn't even know that I had missed them until I started this book, but g o d I missed them so much. First Frost is a companion to SAA's Garden Spells, which totally stole my heart. While Garden Spells revolves around Claire and Sydney, the Waverley sisters, First Frost takes place years in the future, and focuses more on Bay, Sydney's daughter. 

Sarah Addison Allen writes the best magical realism i've ever read. Actually, probably the best magical realism ever, period. The worlds she creates are so vivid and the magic makes them almost hyper realistic, as if it's obvious that there is magic in our world, but we're just not looking close enough. The magic that the sisters have isn't Harry Potter or Wizard level. It's in the way food is cooked, how when Bay runs by, everyone knows exactly where they belong - it's the magic apple tree that only blooms on First Frost. God that magic is so intoxicating.

I hadn't realized that I missed Claire and Sydney until I started reading First Frost. I haven't read a SAA book since her last novel, First Frost, and I had forgotten how great her characters are. They get under your skin in the best way possible. They nestle their way into your heart, or at least they found their way into mine, and I don't think they'll be letting go anytime soon. Her characters and the characters in Rainbow Rowell's books are very similar, in my mind. They're all realistically flawed, but they aren't defined by their flaws entirely, or by their successes. They are who they are, and you love them for it.

The plots of SAA's books have always been interesting, but never the main focus, but with this one? I was sucked in. I needed to know what was going to happen with Claire. Bay's storyline had me on the edge of my seat. And who is that newcomer that's staying at the inn, and what does he want with the Waverly family? These questions raised the stakes in the book, and while it all could have fallen flat, it soared.

I love Sarah Addison Allen, and I feel  like this was exactly the book to read at the point where i'm at now. I just finished my semester, and I needed to get back into reading things on my own terms. I loved it. I highly suggest you read this one. It's enchanting, and captivating, and every other positive adjective you can think of.

5/5 stars

2016 Winter Semester Recap

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

So here we are. At the end of my 2nd semester. I'm halfway done university and i'm only freaking out a little bit! Anyway, I made a first impressions post on my classes back in January, so I thought i'd follow that up with a semester recap!

Intermediate German - GERM 2000X/Y
German was a whirlwind of emotions this year. I was torn between loving my class because I love learning the language, and rueing the day I ever took it, because man, I am bad at languages. My teacher was incredibly patient with me and my resistance to the German Grammar, and I thank her for that. But we'll have to see if I go back for another year.

Shakespeare - ENGL 2214 X/Y
By far my favourite class that i've ever taken. My Prof made the class so much fun, and made all of the plays super accessible. Not to mention how hilarious our lectures were. I actually loved his class so much that i'm taking a summer class with him in a few weeks. Loved it.

American Literature - ENGL 2003
I was really excited about this class, and I was not disappointed. I have read a good amount of the American Literature canon, but I was able to read so much more, and learn about the different style and generations. We started with the founding documents, meaning yes, we read Common Sense by Thomas Paine,

and we read all the way up until the 1950s, where we finished with the epic Howl by Allen Ginsberg. I loved that poem, and this class, and I cannot wait to take another class with this professor.

Close Reading - ENGL 3000
This class was one of the most interesting ones i've ever taken. I learned so much grammar and rhetoric and it's insane how that knowledge can change your reading and consuming. It was difficult to do well, and it required you to go through ever text with a fine tooth comb, but it was so rewarding.

Paris in the 19th Century - HIST 20
This class was maybe my biggest mistake. My teacher made this class so inaccessible to non history students, and bombarded the entire class with tangent after tangent, and then tested us on things she never talked about. The class was overwhelming in the worst sense of the word, and i'm super disappointed. I really wanted to love the class, but combine the teacher with the fact that the majority of her slide info came from Wikipedia? I was not too happy.

So that was my second semester! I just finished exams yesterday, and am looking forward to spending my summer in Halifax! How were your classes this year? Let me know, and happy reading!