Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Things She Carried

Recently, we finished reading a book in AP English called The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien. It was the kind of book that your parents had to sign a permission form for you to read. The novel itself is about experiences within a band of soldiers in the Vietnam War, told predominantly in stream-of-consciousness style. The chapters within the book have tangled, circular patterns, and are very jumbled, which, coupled with the serious subject matter and often-used profanity, made the novel a pretty difficult read. I wasn't really enjoying it, simply because I don't necessarily approve of war, and the discussions we were having as a class on the topic, weren't either productive or helpful in analyzing the book.

Halfway through reading the novel, it got much more difficult for me to read about guns, death and loss. A great friend, one of my beautiful Princess sisters, the one with whom I was closest, committed suicide, on April 10th (the day of my most recent blog post... we weren't informed of her death until the next day.)
 She and I were together during our Princess Retreat, were in the same car group when driving to all of our many events, and she was my dancing partner. She had even came over to my house, and met my family back in February, the night before a big event, so she could practice the dance with me. She was right next to me every time we performed our dance, and was in the backseat with me on every car ride, and made every Daffodil event seem like the biggest party ever... she was a GREAT friend.

The sudden and tragic loss of her drastically effected my ability to simply go through life, let alone read this book. It was much more difficult to tolerate the guns, killing, loss, and death, often expressly and insensitively stated and approached within the novel. However, it was a school assignment, and my teacher was unable to realize that continuing to read the book was upsetting me, so I just read what I was supposed to, and tried to focus. Automatically, my brain honed in on how death was viewed within the novel - not as weakness, just, something that happens, like an inevitability, almost - and how the various soldiers reacted to it: some, with insensitivity, and almost disgusting behavior, and others, with a deep, dragging guilt, comparable to the state I was in. I left class more than once reaching tears, simply because it was too difficult to handle. (Of course, our English teacher follows up that book, with a poetry unit - the fourth poem we study being Richard Cory, by Edwin Arlington Robinson, because he's oblivious.)

In the end, I know that Alex will stay in my heart and memory forever, because she was one of the best parts about being a Daffodil Princess. However, while it was an interesting and thought-provoking novel, I don't think I'll ever want to read it again. The pain and emotions I'll forever associate with The Things They Carried will be too painful to revisit.

Princess friends forever. I'll never forget, and always love, you. See you in the stars, Alexandria. RIP.

#24. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Take Me Away

Guess who gets to go to school every single day this week, without missing any classes? This girl! Normally, you wouldn't be expecting an average high school student to praise the opportunity for a week's worth of perfect attendance, but when you acknowledge the fact that I haven't been able to regularly attend classes for a full week for over a month, it seems more the feat. Believe me, there's not much I love more in this world than the opportunity to be a Daffodil Princess, but I'm certainly missing out on the whole "actually going to school" thing.

And in going to classes, I'm finally able to understand my homework assignments, instead of struggling through them on my own. I'm also able to understand how woefully unprepared I am for taking the AP Calc and AP Chem tests come May. So, time for school, Daffodil, and AP prep, has left me with little to no time to actually read at all.

In finding respite from all this Spring madness - What is that? In the sky? I mean, that big, shiny, round thing? Is that the sun??? - I turned to my bookshelf for something that could take me as far away from pages upon pages of testing information as possible. My fingers ended up finding something that had already provided me with sanctuary during a time of crisis: How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, by Sara Nickerson - my favorite book from when I was 10-12 years old.

Confession time: I was kind of an antisocial kid. Only, replace "kind of" with about ten thousand "really"s. In many ways, I've dealt with the feelings of shyness that kept me in from recess every day with a book in my lap, instead of out on the sports field playing kickball (which I still believe is one of the world's most cruel and vindictive schoolyard pastimes). However, after finding this book again in my hands, I once again felt the need to sequester myself in my room until it was finished. :)

Reading the story, about a young girl's quest to find the answers to her father's mysterious death - connected to a big, creepy house on an island in the Pacific Northwest - felt as right as it did back when I still had braces. Involving running away from home, bullies, and actual comics incorporated into the text, I remember identifying with the main character, Margaret, over the fact that neither of us had many friends. While she also had a pesky little sister named Sophie, a mentally and emotionally vacant chain-smoking mom, and an uncle who thought he had turned into a rat, I had all the time in the world to read and reread this book, which you can tell I did, based on the amount of wear and tear on it's bindings.

Viewing it again, this time, with the additional knowledge and viewpoints I've gained since graduating middle school, and almost having completed high school, I can say that the story still stands up. I had been afraid that, being a different person now than I was then, the story wouldn't be as thrilling, suspenseful, or emotionally-involving as it always had been. Instead, I can definitely say that this kid's novel is still as unique and different as I remember it being.

#23. How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found, by Sara Nickerson (Scholastic Inc, 2002)

PS. And you see those carefully arranged packages beneath my copy? Those, my friends, are my cap and gown, and graduation announcements! I'm almost outta here! :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Shield Me

Life has a way of throwing curve balls. Some, like AP classes and prep, are fierce, and not so easy to face square on. Some, like my work with the Daffodil Festival, are exciting, and give me the opportunity to hit it out of the park, by being a part of a very special game. However, this inning has been full of both hits and misses, and I've been praying for a chance to hit the bench and just read for a while.

(Please forgive me for the super-lame extended baseball metaphor. The thing is, my Dad is waiting for me downstairs to watch this night's episode of Castle, which means I have ten minutes to post this before he starts without me. Besides, I didn't like this book much anyways. )

Okay, okay, I liked it, a LOT actually, for it's deeply complex and twisting political intrigue, suspense, and, of course, just the fact that it was a really well-written fantasy, which is something I don't get to enjoy all the time. However, there were some severe issues I had with it, mainly having to do with the fact that it offended my modesty.

Going into reading the first in the Game of Thrones series, a friend had warned me, "Don't freak out, but these books are brutal." I heeded her warning... to an extent. However, as the daughter of a Roman Catholic Sunday School teacher, I don't think anything could have prepared me for the content of this book. All I can say is this: practically every other page was people humping each other or someone having their guts spill out of their stomach. I'm not a prude, I don't think, but I draw the line at a certain point.

But let me remind you, it was well-written and the relationships between characters were very interesting, and something you had to sort through. I also really enjoyed the fact that, at the close of the book (or at least at the last finger-swipe across the screen), I could only say that I even liked four of the characters, while hating the rest, but still managed to care what happened to everyone else. Barring John Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Bran Stark, and his brother Robb, I extremely disliked pretty much everybody else... and yet, I was emotionally attached to every single character - feeling empathy or hatred by turns, basically - and could appreciate the mechanics set in place, through them, by the author.

I would read the other books in the series... if the characters wouldn't act so gross.

(And don't get me STARTED on this Fifty Shades of Grey popularity trend... eccch.)

#22. Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin