Wednesday, June 20, 2012


 As you can see, evidenced in the delicate pink blooms at the back of the picture, summer is officially reflected in the backyard of my house. The sun is shining, birds are trilling, the grass is waving... and I can tell you all of this for certain, because I'm watching it all right now, through the window to my kitchen. The same place I've been sitting for the past three days. Same. Place. Now that I've graduated, I'm trapped in my own house, without company or a car. So, things have been very quiet around here recently. 

Well, then, it's time to get some reading done, and nothing says bright skies and cheerful sunshine, like a dystopian future ruled by a crumbling oligarchic system...

I had originally bought Matched, by Ally Condie, for my sister, the Cheerleader, as a Christmas present this year (well, my Mom bought it, but it was my idea). While she really only reads realistic teen lit, this book had come highly recommended from  various sources, so I convinced her to give it a chance, and see what she thought of it. In the end, she actually loved it, and told me I should read it as well. I, however, was a little less receptive. I've already voiced my opinions on the majority of romantic teen lit to many, loudly, and do not usually pursue this kind of reading material unless I'm running out of options or mental processing capacity. However, just while I was reaching for my new copy of Mrs. Dalloway, I caught a glimpse of the alluring mint green on the cover, and thought, why not? I mean, it's not like I'm going anywhere... 

What I found was not simply a teen romance, however. Nor was it simply a dystopian novel. This book was more than the sum of it's Amazon description. 

Cassia Reyes is a seventeen-year-old girl, living her life according to the guidelines set forth by the mysterious Officials, and enforced by the Officers, without questioning or rebellion. According to the plans set forth by these Officials - including carefully regulated meals, limited options for clothing or recreational activities, deciding where people live or work - individuals are Matched, tying them to another person determined most compatible. However, for Cassia, not just one person's face flashes up on the screen. What follows isn't simply just a love triangle, nor is it simply a picture of a society whose control is slowly slipping away. It's the portrait of a girl, who is just beginning to learn how to fight for something she believes in. Matched 's cover colors were chosen correctly: a flash of bright green, breaking through the monotony of cool grey, like Cassia's growth and newness of spirit, altering the bleak landscape of which she is a part.

The book is good, better than most of its genre. And now that its sequel, Crossed, came out in November, and the third of the trilogy, Reached, comes out THIS November, if I ever have a hankering for this particular brand of teen lit again, I know where to find it.

However, I'm still homebound, which means I have to quickly find another book before I go insane, which I cannot certify will be as enjoyable as this one. Oh, darn. (But at least I have the choice to do so.) :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fresh Start, New Haul

The current state of my desk, while far improved from the hazardous topography it displayed during the school year, is by no means organized. While there are now no old papers mindlessly shuffled around the flat expanse when attempting to reach the necessary book or journal, there are approximately 30 or so new books stacked up, waiting to be read, sorted, or tossed into someone else's room. Amazingly enough, I am only responsible for the purchase of about a third or so of these new novels: the rest I can blame on my parents.

After rummaging around in some of the boxes crowding the garage a few weeks ago, looking for an old container of floppy disks with which to confuse my brother's highly capable class for his Microsoft project, my Dad stumbled across some remnants of bookcases past. I stood beside him as he combed through paperbacks, like the commemorative 1984 edition of George Orwell's 1984, or Robert Ludlum's entire Bourne collection, or what seemed like endless installments in Aaron Elkins' Gideon Oliver mystery series. The vast majority of the latter were all even signed, and all with different inscriptions (my Dad attempted to recall exactly at what sort of convention it was, that he must have accosted one of his favorite writers, begging for about 10 different books to be signed). Along with some Stephen King, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (the special movie-release edition), Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and James A. Michener's Mexico, these books build the first tower of pages on my desk.

The next stack is the only one of the three which bears my signature: I picked them out, lovingly and carefully, of the enormous wonderland and book-fiend mecca that is Portland's Powell's City of Books. Stumbling blindly, overwhelmed by one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever laid eyes on, I snatched about eight books and a tee shirt out of the stacks, before almost collapsing in the checkout line, overcome with emotion (Just kidding. We hadn't had breakfast yet, and the dramatic episode was shortly remedied in the Zeus Cafe of the Crystal Hotel, Portland's extension of McMenamin's). Anyways, the mix of classics and new classics was accompanied by some books for my siblings: for the young bro, the Book of Perfectly Perilous Math (seriously, one of the best-loved presents I've ever given him), and for the second sister, one of my favorite books at her age: Scott Westerfield's So Yesterday (ditto). We returned to Washington with about thirty pounds of pages, and an equal amount of Voodoo Doughnuts.
My father's stack lies to the left, while my own occupies the right. (Not pictured: Mrs. Dalloway, whom I have temporarily misplaced...)

My mother, on the other hand, doesn't usually share her reading with the likes of me, unless it involves the classics. You see, this hospital administrator was once an English major (like I will be, starting this fall) and has a "slightly more developed" sense of reading material (ouch, right?). So, when I walked into my room and found a mess of eleven books perched precariously on my bench, I was a little stunned. When I asked her about it later, she explained that these were all books she had bought, and then lent out to my ravenous reader Grandma, and my aunt K. Now that they were back in her possession, with firm assurance that they were all good, she thought that I might want to leaf through a couple. And, she sniffed, this may be a way of getting me into more "adult" books, instead of the slightly-less-quality teen material I read all the time (OUCH, Ma). So, I've got a couple of those.
Mom's stack. Not pictured: Mark of the Lion: A Jade del Cameron Mystery, by Suzanne Arruda. Ma's currently got that one, but I don't know for how much longer (she was complained that it read like a grown-up Nancy Drew. Once again, OUCH, Mom!). 
Anyways, that's how I'm getting my summer started. More plans, more fun on the way. However, while you may have noticed that I DID NOT fulfill my school year goal of reading 50 books (I only got to 36...), I will not be trying again this summer... but that doesn't mean I won't continue to challenge myself with reading. I just have to acknowledge that I have a lot of plans, and new projects in the works, so I won't be able to, say, read 30 books (However, I will read 25.) Just on my own time. :) 

Let's get the summer started!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Goodbye to Stadium

Reflecting on my travels and my path of education
Past the past four grueling years of my enduring application
To my textbooks, pencils, papers; to my hard work, pains and stresses;
To my teachers; to twenty-four golden Daffy dresses.
My FOUR years, my THREE siblings, my TOO short time spent here
All add up to ONE school - Stadium - I'll always hold near
To my heart, 'cuz in my history, this landscape served to be
The place where I found what it meant to simply just be me.
So as I take the further step, to Seattle now I go,
Stadium's imprint on my heart and mind will surely show.
I've traveled down a treacherous path - high school's tough terrain -
And I emerge with stronger self and even stronger brain.
So after years of obeying a Public School Board's laws
I feel - now that we've reached the end - we all deserve applause!
Hip hip hooray! Three Cheers for the Tigers! Forever stands the castle!
I say goodbye - a fond farewell - and now, I flip the tassel!

Congratulations to the Stadium High School Graduates of 2012! I won't ever forget the wonderful time I've spent with you. Best luck and wishes for the future!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This is Not the End.

Well, here we are, so many years later. I'm graduating from high school tomorrow. Unlike other awards or honors you can receive, where you say things like, "I was never expecting this" or "I've worked really hard for this" or even something like "I don't deserve this," completing your education through high school and earning your diploma shouldn't be like that. You should expect it, it should be obvious as to whether you've worked hard for it, and you should definitely not be getting one if you don't deserve it. The only phrase that should be used in both scenarios is this one: "Thank you".

Thank you to my family, for working hard to support me throughout my life, and for staying out of my room and my way when I said that I had serious work to do. Thank you to my friends, for giving me great advice and homework help, someone to talk to, and somewhere to sit. Thank you to my peers, those people who I walked beside every day, and whose close proximity and friendly smiles always made me feel a little less alone. Most importantly, thank you to my teachers, especially those whose work has impacted not only the work I do, but also my decisions, and therefore, my life.

During this reflective time, I've been thinking a lot about how where I've been has affected where I'm going. English teachers, of course, come to mind immediately (and librarians, but that's a little different). And in reflecting on them - the good and the great, the shallow and deep - I've reflected on the works we read WITH them. This has made me realize and understand exactly how long this journey - my high school experience - has taken.

FRESHMAN YEAR- Ms. O. and Mrs. B.
Best: The Odyssey, Ender's Game
Worst: The Secret Life of Bees, Romeo and Juliet
 While The Odyssey was (an) epic, Romeo and Juliet were barely tolerable, or even old enough to be dating in the first place. The Secret Life of Bees was unbearable (one memorable classmate skipped reading all together, and simply saw the movie). Ender's Game was the best, by far, and worth rereading; besides, it helped me find one of my favorite book sub-genres (Sci-Fi Warfare: like Dune, Ender's Game, or soon-to-be-read World War Z).
Best: To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre
Worst: Fahrenheit 451, Julius Caesar
 The worst possible thing to do to a biblio-freak like me, is to give them a book about destroying books. Now when I read, the terrible notion that all the books in the world may one day be burned, and that I should memorize the one I'm reading to preserve it for the future, has always hung over my head when I am exploring a particularly good book (The Last Book in the Universe had a similar effect). Also, Julius Caesar pales in comparison to a play like Hamlet, which we read this year. Jane Eyre, however, is a book that I not only treasure, but my sister does as well, and To Kill a Mockingbird was a moving portrait of childhood and of injustice, with a strong Southern twang.
Best: The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter
Worst: Macbeth, The Grapes of Wrath
First rate teacher - the best I've ever had in this subject, actually. Gatsby introduced me to the fanciful world and frenetic energy of Fitzgerald, while the Grapes of Wrath simply was as dry as the dust the Joad family was trying to get away from. Macbeth was meh, and I'm not going to bother pretending that my enjoyment of The Scarlet Letter wasn't amplified thanks to the movie Easy A.
This year. My last. One of the best classes I've ever been a student in. And while I should probably have been including the books I read in class with the ones I was counting on my blog, I forgot. Remedying it now:
Best: Hamlet (#31), Pride and Prejudice (#32), Antigone (#33), Oedipus Rex (#34), Heart of Darkness (#35)
Worst:, Their Eyes Were Watching God (#36), The Things They Carried (I actually did remember to blog about this one, but not for a happy reason...)
Hamlet was not so great at decision making, but Antigone and Oedipus Rex didn't exactly succeed as monarchs either. I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice all over again during class discussions, and Heart of Darkness was used as partial inspiration for the Jungle Cruise in Disneyland, so it's all right with me. :)

Anyways, that's my past for years in public school-mandated reading material. I really do recognize the fact that I've come along way, thanks in no small part to the triumph of my teachers. However, I know that I won't ever stop reading or writing, and that their lessons will endure. They laid the groundwork of my education, and provided me with various lenses through which I can view the world around me and the world on the page. 

The end of my high school career by no means marks the end of my education (besides the obvious fact that I'm going to college, and later, graduate school). Literature has always been a part of my life, and it's because my teachers helped instill in me a love of reading that will never fail me. The end of high school is not the end for me... simply because I know that the lessons of my teachers will still be guiding and teaching me throughout my life. 

Thank you, teachers!

Writing Wonderland

So, as we (rapidly) approached the end of the year, our AP English teacher gave us the yearly research paper assignment mandated by our school board, with an exciting topic pool: literature analysis, from whatever direction you'd like to go at it. Also, instead of last year's cap of 6 pages, we would now be expected to fill 6-10 pages.

The first emotion I was struck by, was frustration. Last year, my rough draft for my paper was twelve pages long, on a topic that I REALLY cared about: Nancy Drew (and her Effects on Female Empowerment in the 1930s). That would have been perfect, and I would even have had the opportunity to dive deeper into my favorite intrepid teenage sleuth's history. While some of my friends who were more sick with senioritis urged me simply to resubmit my paper from last year, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to complete an English paper: there my # 1 fave English assignment, and what I'm best at. Researching and synthesizing information into a coherent, comprehensive format that other people can easily understand and enjoy is one of my fortes, and is actually what I want to be able to do professionally (writing non-fiction books is just as cool as the made-up stuff :) ). So, I brainstormed ideas.

One of my good friends, one who knows my Disney obsession, offered the suggestion of writing about how classic stories are adapted into Disney movies; however, seeing as though that topic encompasses so many different books, I had to narrow it down further. And then further. Eventually, I reached down into my love of British children's lit, and pulled out Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. Seeing as though I though I felt there was more to go into with Alice, I closed the topic down to how Wonderland's storyline, characters and writing style was affected by the actual life of its author, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll was his pen name).

In exploring this topic, I was lucky enough to read five different books, in addition to the original works of Alice in Wonderland, and its counterpart, Through the Looking Glass. However, some of these books were more helpful than others, and some I wasn't even able to read all the way through. I got a 197 out of 200 on the final paper, so I guess I was able to synthesize what sources I could well! Here's my opinion of the books I read:

1. The Alice Behind Wonderland, by Simon Winchester. (#28)
This study of Dodgson's life focused on one specific aspect of his personality: his affinity for photography, and his love of making portraits, often of children. While it was generally readable, some of it was a little dry and too fact-laden, and overall, it was really short (I read it in the space of my brother's Little League practice).

2. The Mystery of Lewis Carroll, by Jenny Woolf. (#29)
Probably my favorite of all six, this strictly biographical novel also takes into consideration setting straight the various rumors about Dodgson that have circulated in his histories. Well-written and highly entertaining in style, Woolf is also a little opinionated about her own theories on Charles' mysterious personal life, which means that for a a well-rounded essay, I had to explore other takes on a very private man's hidden vices.

3. Lewis Carroll: A Biography, by Morton Norton Cohen.  (#30)
This book is very large, and reasonably daunting, but don't let it overwhelm you. The size is directly related to the amount of knowledge contained in it, as well as the strength of the opinions voiced. This book featured some of the most beautiful writing, style-wise, out of all of the books, and was the one where I found the most quotes for use in my essay.

4. Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser, a collection of essays.
The subjects of the essays within this book are unique - like whether Alice is a feminist icon - and vary quite a bit, which means that, unfortunately, I wasn't able to really use this book in my paper. However, I have at least three friends lined up to borrow it this summer, so it's not as if it's bad or uninteresting or anything. :) Out of all of the books I read, this elicited the most covetous looks from my peers.

5. Aspects of Alice: Lewis Carroll's Dream Child as Seen Through the Critics' Looking Glass, with Robert Philips as editor.
Another book I wasn't fully able to use, due to it's large expanse of subject matter, as well as it's slightly outdated nature (it was written in the 1970s). However, most of it looks interesting, and it will be something bearing a little looking into this summer. 

All in all, it was fascinating to dive deeper into the personal history of such an amazing man, as well as how it impacted his work. As it turns out, the third most published book in the whole world, is really full of inside jokes, winks, and nods at his friends... especially one certain little girl, whom he wrote the book for in the first place: Alice Pleasance Liddell. In fact, in the course of my studies, I learned that this July 4th, marks the 150th Anniversary of the first telling of Alice in Wonderland, told off the top of Charles' head, on a golden afternoon's outing with Alice and her sisters along a gentle river. I will certainly be celebrating. :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Back Track

I've been kept busy by quite a bit recently, which is something I wouldn't necessarily expect from the end of the school year. However, seeing as though I'm a graduating senior in high school, I shouldn't be so surprised that my schedule is in such an upheaval.

Prom is over. Final projects are being completed as we speak. The last issue of our school newspaper - of which I have been the Editor in Chief for two full years now - was delivered to classes last Thursday (sob). Senior Awards night was on Monday; I was awarded the Paul Healy Scholarship - for excellence in literature, poetry, and writing. And at this exact time, next week, I will officially no longer be one of the multitudes in the sea of backpacks, heaving textbooks in my high school.

Am I excited to graduate? Absolutely. But I can't help but get all introspective and reflective, looking back at how much I've changed in these past four years. My high school experience directly affected my growth as a human being, and I have to acknowledge how much I've learned in those hallways, whether they were applied to the fields of reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, or how to talk to people, and how to make friends.

However, this sounds just like the sort of thing I'd like to avoid thinking about, lest I lose all of my tears before graduation. So, instead, I'll tell you a little about what I've been reading.

It hasn't been that great.

Spurred on by the immense amount of excitement I experienced upon first viewing the trailer for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, I decided to reach for something with a decidedly Roaring flavor. However, unable to approach Fitzgerald with the right mindset (ie. I needed a little bit of easy lifting in a time of so many heavy thoughts), I headed directly to the teen section of my local library to pick up Anna Godberson's Bright Young Things

I've referenced this series on my blog already, in relating them to the Flappers series, from Jillian Larkin. However, I didn't quite realize exactly how similar they would be: both involve sets of similarly-aged girls, in the bright spotlights of New York City, all with paths that connect and secrets that don't stay secret. They all live for the fashion of the era, and the books utilize similar connection pieces for the time period: namely, slang terms, clothing styles and options, and the most ideal hangout spots (the delicious local speakeasy, of course). In fact, both series prominently include main characters whose biggest dreams are to sing on the bright stage of such an establishment! Bootleggers and bombshell blondes galore... in both. In some respects, it almost felt like I could be reading the same book twice.

However, Godberson made some writing efforts that I will not let go unrecognized: unlike Larkin, she focused on varying aspects of a Prohibition-era NYC (from the country clubs to the city stages) - making the change more drastic when one of our main girls flip-flops between the two - and even drew the main characters from one of the overlooked regions of that time period, the Midwest. Furthermore, one of the main problems I had with the Flappers series was that the male lead characters were, while not quite transparent, pretty much comparable to an ottoman or a clock: they simply furnished the novel, without any real emotional growth or impact. In the Bright Young Things series, Godberson brings the men distinctly into the foreground, and the dynamic leading studs are some of the driving forces within the plot.

So, while I didn't necessarily enjoy it as much as the Flappers series, it was still a decent fluff read, and there are plenty of things that Godberson is doing really right. However, maybe the Great Gatsby trailer simply raised my expectations too high. All I know, is that Fitzgerald will definitely be making a resurgence on my summer reading bookshelf this year.

#26. Bright Young Things, by Anna Godberson.

#27. Beautiful Days (a Bright Young Things novel), by Anna Godberson