“Who says ‘dog’ means dog?”
This story centers around Nick, a fifth-grader who is antagonized and frustrated by his English teacher’s (Mrs. Granger) stuffy way of teaching. And in the process of attempting to outwit her, he invents the word “frindle” in place of the word “pen.” “Frindle” becomes the new fad in his class, and spreads throughout the school. However, Mrs. Granger is displeased with the lack of respect for the English language, and tries to stem this trend, but to no avail. The use of the word has spread like wildfire, and despite efforts to muffle its use, Nick adamantly continues to stick to his new word for “pen”. One day, Mrs. Granger calls Nick to her desk, and as he watches, writes a letter–a letter that she will give to him once everything is “finished.”
I won’t spoil what the ending, but it’s quite bittersweet and very touching. I suppose it goes back to the basic idea of how censuring something actually serves to promote it–we all know from the Harry Potter and the Quibbler ordeal, no? I loved this book as a young reader, and I highly recommend it. Actually, I recommend ALL of this author’s works to young readers!
2. A Thousand Splendid Suns
“A man’s heart is a wretched, wretched thing. It isn’t like a mother’s womb. It won’t bleed. It won’t stretch to make room for you.”
The novel is introduced through a young Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy Afghan man. Mariam’s father shows his affection by visiting her at the outskirts of town where she lives with her mother, but after her mother commits suicide, her father marries her off to Rasheem, a man 30 years older than herself. After countless miscarriages over the years, Mariam’s marriage becomes increasingly violent and unstable, Rasheem ultimately resorts to violent physical and mental abuse.
Enter Laila, a young girl living in the vicinity of Mariam and Rasheed’s dwelling. After Laila’s love moves away, and her parents are killed in a bomb when war hits Afghanistan, Laila is taken in by Mariam and Rasheed. Rasheed tricks Laila into believing that her beau has died, and that her best option is to marry him instead. But when Laila gives birth to a girl, Rasheed becomes abusive towards Laila as well, driving Mariam and Laila to become close confidantes in surviving their predicament.
I never considered myself a strong feminist, but this book drives me to reconsider my standing. The author reflects the violence towards women that is an everyday reality in many undeveloped parts of the world, and it definitely reminds us not be ignorant to struggles elsewhere just because we live more peaceful lives. There is a happier ending to this story, albeit at a bittersweet cost, but hopefully that’s incentive to pick this book up. At its center, it is a tale of survival and redemption, and I highly was moved by it.
How strange it is that such feminist and women-empowering words were written by a male author…’Course I’m not trying being sexist. But the extent to which this author is able to betray his gender and portray the struggles of women so deeply and thoroughly is very impressive. Bravo.
3. The Five People You Meet In Heaven
“This is the greatest gift God can give you–to understand what happened in your life. To have it explained. It is the peace that you have been searching for.”
Now everyone knows the six degrees of separation–that each person is connected to everyone else in the world through friends of friends and so on. But this book takes off from there and runs with it in its tale of coincidence and consequence from a new angle that’s quite interesting.
Eddie is an old man working at an amusement park in maintenance. But it is a dreary existence as he regrets his entire life, which has been nothing but depressing after the crippling leg injury from WWII, and his wife’s death soon after. But on his birthday, Eddie saves a little girl from being crushed by a falling roller coaster cart, and so dies himself as a result. He then awakens in heaven to be told that he will have to go through five different levels of heaven to meet the people who had been the cause for, or result of, Eddie’s most significant turning points in his life. Some of these people are Eddie’s acquaintances, others complete strangers…But all of them are there with the same purpose of teaching Eddie of when, where, and how they were involved in his life, and in what way their own lives were changed.
In a critical light, this is a rather simple and almost obvious read. But at the same time, I see value in this story because it reaffirms what we already know, and that’s not a waste of time at all! We can never remind ourselves enough to live life to its fullest, and this book does just that–not to throw away any moment of our lives to carelessness or apathy because you never know what that little action will result in to change another’s life.
4. Catcher and the Rye
“When you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddamn cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.”
This particular read is well-known enough without me adding to its hype…but I have to. I just think it’s a perfect read for any angsty and struggling teenager who’s undergoing an identity crisis, and anyone can relate to Holden’s emotions in this book.
Holden is a well-meant teenager, but he struggles with a feeling of dissatisfaction, stemming from the sense that no one is able to communicate with him on a human level or carry a meaningful conversation. Being fed up with boarding school, he leaves early for New York to wait it out until New Year’s Eve when his parents would expect him home. In his encounters with various women during that time, Holden attempts to communicate his lonely feelings, whether by asking a prostitute to simply sit and talk with him, or proposing to elope with his beau, but none are interested in attempting to understand Holden. He so reaches out to teachers to talk philosophy with them, but still ends up disillusioned as usual. All this time however, Holden’s only hope and optimism stems from his younger sister, Phoebe, who seems to be the only person who understands him, so he goes to visit her. He confesses that he wishes to leave, but when Phoebe insists on running away with him, he changes his mind, feeling that coming with him would be bad for her future. At the end, as Holden watches Phoebe riding on a merry-go-round, all his feelings of sadness and loneliness washes away to be replaced with wild hope and happiness.
At first, I thought the ending was rather bizarre, but this novel rapidly became a favorite after a second try. Forgetting the symbolic analyses surrounding this novel, the bottom line is this: teenagers have mood swings, simple as that. Holden’s feelings of loneliness, disillusionment, and displacement are summed up beautifully in the erratic and wandering nature of his narration, and the inconclusive ending is a brilliant way of putting that period at the end of a brilliantly crafted sentence.
5. The False Prince
“Mrs. Turbeldy warned me that you have a history of running away. Where did you go?’ /
“To the church of course. To confess my sins.”
Sage is an orphan in the kingdom of Carthya, where he is picked up by a nobleman called Bevin Connor. Connor is hunting down orphans similar in appearance to the missing (assumed dead) Prince Jaron. In lieu of the very recent deaths of the king and queen, Connor is attempting to stem civil war by bringing a “fake” prince to the throne who will have the authority to stop the war. Sage, along with two other boys, are given this chance take Prince Jaron’s place, but at a price–the one picked to take the throne will forever be under Connor’s thumb of rule, and the other two, at the end of their training, will very likely be thrown into a river to drown or something.
This is a funny one. The ending is admittedly one of those predictable and corny-ish kinds, but the read up to it is highly enjoyable and a big laugh. Sage’s character is snarky, so his comebacks had me chuckling–good humor is always worth it! For example, there’s this scene where Mrs. Turbeldy (the woman who ran Sage’s orphanage) accounts of how Sage had initially tricked her into believing that he was a nobleman’s son, so she gave him plenty of shelter and food. But when he fell ill and accidentally revealed in his feverish talk that he had tricked her, she chucks him into a cellar, and he “got over the fever” on his own, and was “a good deal more humble” after that. Connor peers at Sage and comments, “He doesn’t look so humble,” to which Sage replies, “I got over that too.” LOL.
Fair warning! Don’t read the second or third installment of this series, because the subtle cliches of this book become exponentially increased in the next books. Seriously, I don’t know what happened to the focused storytelling that was so great about The False Prince, so do go ahead and read this one! If you liked the witty humor of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, this is a similarly light and concisely written novel that will have you laughing all the way.
6. King Lear
“The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.”
Though Shakespeare isn’t considered a light read, I actually like analyzing this one because it’s got all those ridiculously never-ending layers that’ll make even an onion cry of jealousy. King Lear is so raw and compelling that even those dizzying poetic lines could never faze me from reading this tragedy over and over again–the emotions of King Lear are just so raw and compelling.
At the start of the play, King Lear abdicates his throne and possessions to his three beloved daughters, but he firstly asks them how much they love him. If they want a larger portion of their share, they pretty much have to suck up to him, which the two elder sisters do. But Cordelia, the youngest, frankly states that she will not stoop to saying the words her father wishes to hear, no matter how much she does love him. King Lear, hurt and angry (because she was his favorite daughter), banishes her. But in having given up all his cards (lands, title, throne), King Lear increasingly comes to realize that his two elder daughters did not love or respect him as they had claimed, and he slowly descends into a madness and despair that he, in his simple foolishness, had created for himself.
This story is about fools, familial love, nothingness, and the wheel of fortune. But in developing these themes, there’s so much depth and facet than I could possibly describe. Therefore, I highly recommend this play. And if you also want a good movie to watch, I recommend the performance of King Lear by Ian Holm (you know, Bilbo Baggins) because I actually teared up watching it. Amazing play, amazing movie!
Thus Part 4 of A Bookworm’s Favorites ends here. Look sharp for Part 5!