Tag Archive | High School

Go Ask Alice- Anonymous Beatrice Sparks : 6/52 ( High School)

There’s so much worse now that things have gotten better.

I’m not an American teenager nor am I a parent of one. And this is not the seventies. So I’m not moved by this. And there seems to be a lot of cynicism about the whole ‘true story’ part of it. I just picked it up to meet my ‘Book set in high school’ part of my 2015 reading challenge.

Anne Frank wrote a diary that made the whole world cry. Bridgette Jones wrote a diary that made 30 something women feel hopeful. This unnamed teenager wrote this diary that was supposed to shock the hell out of you and make the world stay away from drugs. I hope it did have some kind of effect back then and saved atleast a handful of teenagers from the addiction.

She’s just another fifteen year old schoolgirl with all the problems of a fifteen year old schoolgirl. An imagined weight problem, a crush who doesn’t reciprocate, nagging parents, irritating younger siblings. The works. And then one day at a party, someone slips her a drug laced drink. And the downward spiral begins. There’s drugs, sex, more drugs, rape, and more drugs. She runs away from home and lives the most disgusting life that a fifteen year old could ever live. But then she also starts a mildly successful business which sounded very filmy impossible. And then she reforms, gets pushed again, runs away again, does disgusting things again,  reforms again and is pushed again . And this time, she reaches breaking point. That part was disturbing, the one in the rehab center where she meets fellow teenage drug addicts.

Since it was supposed to be a ‘true story’ from an actual diary, it was written exactly how a fifteen year old high school dropout would write: Very badly.

The drug menace even today is real. And more dangerous. But I don’t think society is as ‘free’ as it was in the seventies when this book was written. So I’ll give it the benefit of the era, and let it go.

 

 

 

 

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Orange Is the New Black-Piper Kerman: 53/52

A Malory Towers for big bad girls

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There are some TV shows that I blank out on. Like when the whole world was raving about Breaking Bad, I didn’t give a damn. Same thing happened with Orange is The New Black. I just didn’t get it, and since I’m not one who watches shows online, I didn’t bother to keep up with the hype. On a flight last month, I caught a couple of episodes and was intrigued. But I realized that this show will never see the light of day in India. In a country where the word ‘beef’ is beeped out and cleavage is pixellated, I won’t expect a show with topless transgenders and dialogues with the C word to make an entry. And so I picked up the book instead.

Piper Kerman writes like she’s an observer from the outside, not like the convicted felon that she actually was. She writes like the white-blonde-college-educated-woman-from-a-privileged-background that she is rather than the convicted-drugmoney-carrying-lesbian-lover-of-the-drug-trafficker  that she was. And so it somehow came out shallow and patronizing all the way rather than being a heartfelt prison memoir that I wanted it to be. Ofcourse, the book is the true story and the TV series is a fictionalized version, but the blandness of the book bored me. Maybe  I expected something atleast like Tracy’s experiences in If Tomorrow Comes.

There were too many characters who came and went, I couldn’t keep track of who was whom. Who was in for what was never explained. Yes, it is not likely that she could have known, but it just left me hanging. I couldn’t feel anything for any prisoner. Everyone was described at surface level only.  It was all about commissary goods being bartered, goodies being sent by friends, books, radios, yoga, trade school and some Larry love. Blue skies and lollipops. Boarding school. Bo.Ring. Even the ‘horrors’of the camp she was sent to towards the end weren’t hard hitting. And since I’m a person who likes closure, I would have loved to read an epilogue, something about whether she connected with her fellow prisoners after she left or what happened to some of them. Even Girl, Interrupted had an epilogue that told us what happened to Lisa. Would have been nice to know if Piper is still in touch with the Miss Natalie, Pop or Yoga Janet now.

On my flights last week I managed to stay awake most of the time to finish watching the entire Season 1 of the TV show. Absolutely loved it. Watch the show. Skip the book.

 

Unrelated: Tamil Actress Kausalya and Taylor Schilling seem kind of sameguy. 

We Need to Talk About Kevin: Lionel Shriver- 52/52

My biological clock just left the building.

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There is a reason why I picked up this book. I started it a few months ago, but the first couple of chapters were a drag, so I abandoned it. Then something happened last Thursday that made me feel I just had to read this book. And I couldn’t put it down until that very last chapter, that very last line. That very last line that left me stunned.

At first, I thought Lionel Shriver was a man and that is why Eva Katchadourian came out as un-womanly as ever. No woman, I thought, can even think of writing about regretting a pregnancy just because she had to stay off wine. But then, Lionel Shriver is a woman. A woman who wrote a book so stark, so honest, so unapologetic, so bonechilling and so shockingly real.

I hated Eva. If only she had put in half the effort she put to get Kevin her surname into actually understanding and loving Kevin, Thursday may not have happened. Or would it have? Maybe she shouldn’t have wanted the answer to the Big Question. Maybe she should have just let the page be, not turned it. Turned it to reveal the horror on the next page. Maybe. And I hated Franklin. For all his denial. For all his good intentions. I hated him for just wanting to have had Kevin. But Kevin, I couldn’t hate him. I couldn’t love him. I couldn’t feel anything for him.

An unborn child can hear, it can feel, it is scientifically proven. An unborn child can learn the secrets of warfare from his mother’s womb, it has been mythologically proven. And now I believe that an unborn child can hate. A minute old Kevin shuns his mother’s breast. A four year old Kevin destroys his mother’s favourite wallpaper. A six year old Kevin plays mind games with his mother. A fourteen year old Kevin disgusts his mother. An almost sixteen year old Kevin destroys her life. And his. And eleven more.

The writing was not so great, so many digressions. Letters of confession, unsaid words, unthinkable thoughts all poured out to Dear Franklin. But those digressions were probably necessary. You need to know how much she loved her job and her company and her travels , loved those so much more than she loved her son. You need to know about her agoraphobic mother, maybe that mental condition manifested itself in another way in Eva. You need to know about her contempt towards American society, the very society she brought up her son in. You need to know how much importance she gave to her Armenian ancestry and the genocide. You need to know. Because only then you’ll understand the other genocide. That high school genocide.

Devastating. Haunting. Shocking. Mindnumbing. The book kicked me in the pit of my stomach. The book reached inside my heart and squeezed it till it clogged up. The book reached inside my mind, my soul and made me introspect. Yeah.

PS: Two things I didn’t buy. How does Kevin mention ‘flying planes into the World Trade Center’ in April 2011? How does he manage to keep that object he gives his mother in the end? Doesn’t juvi have the same squat and cough rules as in other prisons?

 

Afternote:

Now let’s get personal.

Last week I got a frantic call from a friend. Her 16 year old son had just called the child helpline number and complained about her just because she refused to buy him a laptop. No, not refused. She just didn’t buy it for him the moment he asked for it.

Five years ago, I wrote this 55 word fiction piece.

 “Half that blood is your father’s. How else do I expect you to behave?”She slapped him. “As long as that bitch’s blood runs in your body, don’t call me Appa” He shouted. The mother’s still remained inside when they found him. The father’s blood had coagulated as a pool around that eleven year old wrist.

That was when the same child had threatened to jump off the balcony.

Two years ago, I got this email from my friend. She had fractured her leg and was immobile without her crutches.

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That was when she had asked the boy to study.

And last Thursday, I took calls the whole day. From the mother, from the father, from the aunt and from the child himself. Horrible language was used, tears were shed, family was disowned, death threats were made. The rage resonated across 600+ kilometers and sent a shiver through my spine.‘ Oru savam inniku vizhum paarungo’. And I thought to myself, ‘If only this was America, this boy would have grabbed a gun and shot a dozen of his classmates’. And that is why I picked up the book from where I had abandoned it. No, he is not Kevin, she is not Eva and he is not Franklin. Thankfully, there is no Celia. This is a more complex story. But in some way, they are too.

We take it for granted in India that ‘good news’ questions are in order two months after the wedding. Why India, even George Clooney’s father-in-law wanted babies even before the wedding pictures were sold to a tabloid. And of course, no woman can not want a baby. She is either a monster, a career minded bitch or just plain hormone deficient if her uterus doesn’t skip a beat whenever she sees tiny crocheted socks or catch a whiff of Johnson’s baby powder. Maybe our society, culture and complex family network helps such monsterwomen overcome their true feelings and go on to make happy families. But you can’t deny that such women do not exist. Or that such thoughts do not cross the minds of some women, even fleetingly.

And then there’s postpartum depression. Maybe our oldwives call it something else. But another friend wept to me five years after her daughter had been born. About how she couldn’t touch the baby for a fortnight, how she hated her husband for feeling so comfortable with the baby. About how when she was alone, she slapped the week old baby. Slapped. The. Week. Old. Baby. Again, our family system complete with gushing mothers and mothers-in-law, neighbors, extended family and long paid maternity leave help tide over this kind of crisis. This child has ofcourse turned out alright.

But I’m afraid. Very afraid now. Is there a Kevin walking among us? How many?

 

52 done. And what a book to finish with!

 

The Carrie Diaries- Candace Bushnell : 23/52

Ok. I judge myself. This is not a book that a 30 something should be reading. Or even a 20 something. Or anysomething for that matter. This book shouldn’t even have been written. Or atleast shouldn’t have been hyped as Carrie before Sex and The City.

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But as I said, I read Summer in the City first  and so my OCD did not permit me to let part one of the series just go unread.

I really don’t know what the author was thinking. Almost everything is a total contradiction to the Carrie we know and love ( and sometimes hate). She took that horse-faced, curly haired, sexually liberated, funny, witty, independent, shoe crazy woman and turned her into an average teenager with  boy problems. Atleast in Summer and the City she was out of high school, in New York , sleeping with an old (thirty year old! gasp! ) man and partying with Samantha Jones. But for the whole thirty five chapters in this book she’s just smoking, drinking ,not losing her virginity, and feeling jealous of classmates (named Donna LaDonna and such) who are trying to steal her boyfriend. And then doing that some more. There’s no story, no plot, no twist, no turn, no direction. I won’t mind reading a good old Crosswinds or First Love from Silhouette now (Yup, that’s my vintage)  to get the bland taste of this one out of my mind.

Read this book if you want to un-Carrie Carrie Bradshaw.

 

 

Carrie- Stephen King : 19/52

Take a Mean Girls or a Vonnie and Monique or any high school story. Add a dash of darkness. Then add some more. And some more. Oh, empty the whole damn bottle of darkness into it. What do you get? A deliciously dark thriller that will keep you feeling deliciously dark.

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I started hating dogs when I read Cujo. Dogs hate me back. My cat Sajni still haunts me in my nightmares  with that Pet Sematary effect . Her last days were really sad and smelly. Now Carrie will make me Flex each time I see someone I hate. (o o I hate so many people)

The horror unfolds through a series of interviews, book excerpts, research studies and news articles. A sad little high school girl, a misfit with a freakishly religious nutcase mother. A gang of rich snob bullies with one of them growing a conscience. Boys. Root beer. Good gym teachers. A prom. Sounds all pink and frilly, doesn’t it? But then there’s also the colour of blood. Lots and lots of blood, different types of blood. There’s some eerie telekinetics that rains stones, turns on sprinklers and blows up gas stations.  Black Bibles. A dark closet where you repent for your sins. There’s sin and the punishment for sin. And when you close the book, kind of shaken up and feeling something in the pit of your stomach, you look at the chair in front of you and Flex.

I got this book as a similar to recommendation when I finished Dark Places. Stephen King’s first book, one he almost abandoned. It is kind of funny that the book was written in 1974 and set in the then future of 1979, but you don’t feel any time gap when you read it. It could have been set in 2014 and been as freakishly eerie as it was. I’ve rediscovered Stephen King now picked up Salem’s Lot and The Shining . Like Joey, maybe I should keep the books in the freezer until I start reading them.