Books by Rainbow Rowell
Book Haul May/June
"… and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end."
Here’s to book seven. Here’s to the years of anticipation before it and the years of discussion in its wake. Here’s to the boy who lived and how he changed everything.
And here’s to you, if you know that “the very end” isn’t happening anytime soon.
Author: Gavin Extence
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
When seventeen-year-old Alex Woods is stopped at customs while returning to England, he is alone in the car aside from an urn and 113 grams of marijuana. The whole world now knows Alex’s story, and he is quickly detained after he has a minor epileptic seizure. In his story of all the events of his life leading up to that day, Alex begins when he first made world news by being the second person to survive being hit by a meteor, when he was only ten. The meteor left visible marks on Alex, but also altered his brain by leaving him with epilepsy. In his small English village in Somerset, Alex has all the makings of someone who will never fit in. He’s nerdy, his mother is eccentric, he stands out and isn’t like anyone else. When an unpleasant encounter with the village bullies leads him into elderly Mr Peterson’s life, Alex forms an unlikely friendship.
Smart and original, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a story about free will, friendship and a little bit of Kurt Vonnegut. This book wasn’t what I was expecting: most of it is based in Alex’s childhood, and Alex is in someways very mature and intelligent, but in other ways very young and immature. With a love of science that has been influenced by everything that happened to him after being struck by a meteor, Alex tells the story of his life thus far. After being hit by a meteor, the next influential moment in his life is meeting and befriending Isaac Peterson, a widower and Vietnam veteran. This book looks at questions about morality, free will and religion in a thoughtful and unique way. The plot was well paced and engaging, and the characters at the heart of the story were realistic and compelling. Alex is an unforgettable protagonist with a unique perspective that adds so much to this novel. This book was entertaining and quick paced, while also being emotionally charged and intelligent. Much like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nigh Time, it is a book that falls between YA and adult fiction. Easily a great novel for teens and adults, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is an exceptional novel about an exceptional boy.
“If you had to relive your life exactly as it was – same successes and failures, same happiness, same miseries, same mixture of comedy and tragedy – would you want to? Was it worth it?”
Author and Illustrator: Art Spiegelman
Publication Date: 1991
Genre: Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction
In 1978, Comic Artist Art begins visiting his aging father in Rego Park, NY, to interview him for a project Art wants to work on. Art wants to write a comic about his Polish father, Vladek, and his experience during WWII and the Holocaust. Beginning when he met Art’s mother, Anja, Vladek tells the story of his life leading up to his time in Auschwitz. Art has a difficult relationship with his cheap and obstinate father, and his mother committed suicide a decade earlier. As Vladek tells his story to his son and revisits the past, a story is created like no other.
Art Spiegelman was inspired to write Maus by the idea that a ‘great American novel’ could be written in comic form. Part biography, part autobiography, this book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. There are a lot of things that make Maus so interesting and successful: its rawness and honesty, its effective use of the comic medium, its style, its story. It is best known for its depiction of certain people as a group of animals: the jews are mice, the Polish are pigs, the Americans are dogs and the Nazis are cats. This analogy is the strongest when you see characters wearing masks, such as the author at one point wearing a mouse mask, and his father in hiding wearing a pig mask. Before reading Maus, I thought the analogy would be taken even further and there never would be a direct reference to Jews or Nazis, and they would just be referred to as mice or cats. This isn’t the case: the characters are more people with animal heads. Maus features a story within a story: Art is shown interviewing his father throughout the novel as he pieces together Maus. The past and the present are both important parts of the story, and we get to see some of Art’s conflict over aspects of the story: his indecision about what animal his French wife, a Jewish covert, should be, and his uneasiness about his depiction of his father. We also get to see the after effects of the events of the Holocaust on not only Vladek, but on Art as well. For me, this is part of what makes Maus so interesting. Spiegelman is able to provide an honest depiction of his very flawed father: the scene that springs to mind is an elderly Vladek making racist remarks and not seeing any comparison between those remarks and the anti semitism he experienced. I have never read a Holocaust story that is so unrelentingly honest.
Maus is gripping and incredibly emotional, as you would expect. Art explores his family’s past as he writes Maus, as many of his relatives die before his parents are sent to Auschwitz. His father survives and protects his wife in Auschwitz through luck and hard work. In the present, Art suffers from depression and is left with heavy feelings of guilt in terms of the Holocaust. Although Maus is principally a story of Vladek’s survival during WWII, it is also a story of what happens afterwards. The struggle to survive continues after leaving Auschwitz, which is best shown through Anja and even through Art, although he was born afterwards. I liked how Maus really explored the lingering presence of their history in their present lives and how that affected them all years later.
The art is simplistic but well fitted. Many people were cynical about a Holocaust story being effectively told in comic form, but Spiegelman has put together an emotionally charged story that makes complete use of the genre. Many of its strengths as a story would not be present if it was written as a novel. Maus, to me, is an essential book to read on the subject of WWII and the Holocaust. It is thought provoking and is the sort of book that needs to be discussed. This book was emotionally draining to read, but to me is a classic and incredibly important book. In an interview, Art Spiegelman described Maus as being a Holocaust story about the ways the past and the present intertwine, which is perhaps what makes it such a strong story to me. Deeply personal and truthful, Maus is a story about tragedy and war, delving into the life of two men with so much distance between them.
“No, darling! To die it’s easy… But you have to struggle for life!”
the fault in our stars and minion (by Honey Pie!)