Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

Picture Me Gone – Meg Rosoff (web | twitter | facebook)
Publication: 2013 (received through NetGalley, thanks!)
Page Count: 200
My Rating: A Rainy Day Read
Suggested Audience: Young Teenager


Background
Just days before scheduled to travel with her father to America to visit his old friend Matthew, 12 year old Mila and her father receive the news that Matthew has suddenly disappeared without any warning or trace. Mila and her father take off on a roadtrip across the USA to look for Matthew, unravelling a mystery and learning truths about growing up.

My Thoughts
I found this to be a hard book to get into, but as the narrative progressed I became more and more interested in how the journey would end. Meg Rosoff has an uncanny skill in luring the reader in and then suddenly changing the subject, compelling the reader to keep on turning that page.

As I read, I considered what age-group I would personally recommend this novel for, and if I’m honest, I’m still not sure of my answer! Written with heavy use of descriptive language, this book might not appeal to readers who are in the same age group as the protagonist. But at the same time, Mila’s inner thoughts are written in a way so that a younger audience may relate.

“At Suzanne’s, I Googled cases of people who suddenly walk away from their homes or families. Some of the reasons are: madness, amnesia, money problems, marital woes, secret second family, depression, fired from job but hasn’t told wife, crisis of religious faith or near death experience, terrible secret, kidnapping, mental illness, doesn’t know why…

Many of these reasons are confusing. Why wouldn’t you tell your wife if you’d lost your job? What’s so bad about a crisis of faith? What sort of secret? Someday I’ll understand more of these thing…”

Although listed as “children’s fiction” and YA (young adult), in many ways this novel did not read as “children’s fiction”, and I think would be better suited to an older audience (say 15+). However, what with typical teenage ego, I wouldn’t be certain if an older audience would read a novel with a younger protagonist! I think that rather than depending on the readers age, the suitability of this novel should be decided based on the readers maturity.

The one element I personally found completely unnecessary is that Mila refers to her parents by their first names. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a cultural thing, it if this book was possibly set in the future, or if it was simply a nod to the “coming of age” narrative. It is my opinion that the majority of readers who Meg is aiming to appeal to will find Mila’s reference to her parents by their first names to be awkward. Irrespective of her reasoning, I thought it an entirely unnecessary choice and it annoyed me throughout my reading of Picture Me Gone.

But before potential audiences are frightened off, let me say that this is an interesting read, and that Picture Me Gone focuses on themes that aren’t frequently considered in this genre of literature. Alcoholism, depression and death are all meshed into this story, making it a very thoughtful read. Again, while I would question the suitability of this novel for “children’s fiction”, Meg Rosoff considers themes thoughtfully and is subtle in their conclusion, making it a very gentle introduction for young teenagers to the “adult world”.

Where Can You Get It?
To buy Picture Me Gone for a great price and have it shipped straight to your door for free, follow this link to the Book Depository.

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Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston

Bed Rest – Sarah Bilston (web)
Publication: 2007 (paperback), Sphere
Page Count: 248

My Rating: Good Weekend Read
 
“Weds, 11:05am: This is the first morning of my first full day of Bed Rest and I think I’m doing great. And I haven’t switched on the TV once!
 
Weds, 6:15pm: Why do people disturb me halfway through ‘Rich’? Just as I’m settling down to watch “I was a Ho but now I’m a Hottie”, the phone rings or the doorbell goes and that’s the end of that.”
 
Background
A successful young English lawyer, Quinn ‘Q’ Boothroyd is living in New York and happily married to handsome, successful Tom. She has checked off most of the items on “The Modern Woman’s List of Things To Do Before Hitting Thirty” and is now expecting her first child. Quinn and Tom are extremely excited about their future; until Quinn’s doctor tells her she has to spend the last three months of her pregnancy on strict bedrest. Completely thrown by the idea of losing her social and professional life, Quinn begins a diary to note her time on bed rest and finds herself re-examining her world.
 
My Thoughts
While Quinn is a very likeable character, there were a few teeth-grinding moments. I flat HATED her husband Tom – past the introduction, he is largely absent. As the novel is focused on realistic themes, I found his absence grating. Maybe I’m just lucky (because my Mister is very hands-on in our house; he does the washing, cooking, cleaning…), but I’d expect an expectant father with his pregnant wife on strict bed rest to be supportive at the very least. The most Tom seems to do is make Quinn the occasional sandwich and accompany her to the odd appointment (while being glued to his phone), but for the most part he is away working and Quinn frequently laments his absence. As she is otherwise a strong, independent character, I found her constant whinging to be disingenuous; surely a woman of her elk would sit him down and say “Listen Buddy, I’m pregnant with your child and stuck on bed rest for three whole months, so you need to either buck your ideas up or bugger off!”
 
Bed Rest differs with the typical women’s literature novel; not everything ends in the archetypal “happily ever after”. Some may find these elements disconcerting, but others will enjoy the difference from the typical women’s literature narrative development. I guess that’s why I hoped Quinn would stick up for herself – I think this novel would have been much better with a good argument or two to spice it up! After all, Sarah Bilston hasn’t focused on tying all narratives up neatly and nicely, so why does Quinn have to be a push-over?
 
Apart from this bugbear, I really enjoyed this novel. I initially purchased it because at the time I needed to be on bed rest myself, so I thought I might enjoy a light, uncomplicated storyline and themes I could relate to. But this novel was much more than just a quick, uncomplicated read. It considers a few interesting ideas that complicate the storyline and make it a fascinating novel that I will definitely read again.
 
The sticker on the front of my edition reads “Love This Book or Your Money Back – Publisher’s Promise”. ‘Quite a brave promise,’ I thought (after first thinking how absolutely facetious someone would have to be to read a book and then demand their money back because they didn’t like it!). But ultimately, it was not a brave promise, because it would be difficult to find a reader of women’s literature who didn’t love this novel.
 
Where Can You Get It?
To buy Bed Rest for a great price and have it shipped straight to your door for free, follow this link to the Book Depository.

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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help – Kathryn Stockett (web | twitter | facebook)
Publication: 2009 (paperback), Penguin Group
Page Count: 444
My Rating: Must Read! Get it Now!!

“Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where Black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the sliver…”
As reflected in the passage directly after the conclusion of the narrative The Help, Kathryn Stockett grew up in Jackson, Missisippi with her family and their maid, Demetrie. While she acknowledges that The Help is a ficitonal novel, Kathryn suggests that her impetus for The Help was her upbringing in Missisippi, acknowledging that as she wrote, she considered what Demetrie would have considered it. The Help has become widely popular, especially after 2011 when it was released as a feature film starring Emma Stone.
Background
While each chapter focuses on varying points of view, The Help opens from Aibileen’s perspective. Aibileen is busy raising her seventeenth white child as she works as a maid for the Leefolt family. Over the course of the novel, Aibileen acts as central point as we meet her friend Minny (whose cooking is only just slightly more sassy than her attitude) and white woman Miss Skeeter (named for her tall and thin physique, like a mos’keeter), who is home from college and wondering why her beloved maid Constantine has disappeared. All three live in a town with long-seated values of race hierarchy. As they come together, they realise that they have the power to make serious change…
My Thoughts
In my experience, novels that chop and change perspectives can be quite shallow, as we never get a decent chance to come to know or bond with the many characters and their perspectives. The Help is the absolute antithesis of this though; as each chapter swaps between characters, it mimics the gossip-factor of a small town and envelopes the reader as if they too are privy to the changes afoot. Instead of only receiving a single perspective, we see both White and Black perspectives, and we relate to and sympathise with both sides of the contextual hierarchical scales.
Kathryn Stockett’s characters are extremely likeable. Even though I personally didn’t relate to their struggles, I found myself enraptured by their tenacity and cheered on the fight for change. Unlike other novels set in this time-period, the “good guys” and “bad guys” weren’t necessarily distinguishable by their race. I think this greatly improved the novel; it can be sen as a fictional slice of history as opposed to a novel working to persuade the audience to “side” with any particular side. My personal favourite character was that of Miss Cecilia Foote, who just never seemed to get it right. I giggled at her various faux-pas and loved her for her heart.
Celia Foote (image courtesy of Dreamworks Studios The Help)
I think the other reason I love this novel is that there are lovely, delicious twists throughout it; it doesn’t flow as you would expect and therefore maintains its fresh attitude. For a novel based on events in our global history, I think this is very important. The Help does not flow as you would expect and keeps the audience wanting to read more.
The voices from each character are written loud and clear; as Kathryn Stockett writes, you can literally hear the voice clear as a bell in your head (although this did not translate when I read it aloud to Him, and He said I sounded like I was going deaf; cheeky!).
“Mister Raleigh Leefolt still at home this morning, which is rare. Whenever he here, he look like he just counting the minutes till he get go back to his accounting job. Even on Saturday. But today he carrying on bout something. ‘This is my damn house and I pay for what goddamn goes in it!’ Mister Leefolt yell.”
 
I honestly couldn’t rate this novel high enough; I enjoyed each minute and felt a sense of sadness as it ended as I just wanted to keep on reading Kathryn’s words and wrapping myself in her world.
Where Can You Get It?
To buy The Help for a great price and have it shipped straight to your door for free, follow this link to the Book Depository.
 

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