Posts Tagged Fiction

#AuthorToolbox 04: the art of landscaping in fiction writing

Via: Daily Prompt – Soil

The cold was bitter, different from New England’s. Outside the city the wind spilled across the sweeping, open land dotted with abandoned farm machinery and old houses buckling in on themselves. You wouldn’t think such houses were habitable, but once in a while there would be a tacked-up sheet in the doorway, or plastic nailed over the windows, and the trace of smoke from a chimney.”

~ Brown, Karen. “The Clairvoyants.” Henry Holt and Co., 2017

51htld99dbl-_sx328_bo1204203200_I finished reading this book over the weekend. And like most well-written (or poorly written, for that matter) novels throughout my reading experience, it left me with a heightened sense of awareness of that “something-something” to consciously add to in my own work. After all, authors learn by reading the works of other authors. I thought, for this month’s blog hop, I would review some of this novel’s more beautifully written passages to summarize how fiction can be enhanced by adding descriptive imageries that are carefully composed and artfully woven to match the subject of the story [I’ll try my best to titillate without giving away any irrevocable spoilers]:

Relevance. Without a doubt, the prose was the strongest suit in The Clairvoyants. Brown approached its various outdoor and indoor sceneries to set the mood for this novel with poetic gusto, addressing both the mental state of the story’s protagonist, Martha, and the themes that adhered to the overall plot, i.e. an observant and slightly self-absorbed young woman with the ability to “see dead people” and a sense of victimhood towards her entire life, who stumbles upon a potential murder mystery when she is abandoned in a new environment. In fact, the landscape mirrors the one prevailing ethos of every character in the novel, who make a motley group of disturbingly selfish individuals, gravitating towards one another in search of companionship one moment and then forsaking each other the next.

Now, beyond my mother’s profile at the wheel of the car, Route 79 wound alongside green swaths of hills still damp from the recent rain. This was an isolated valley with a poor yearly sunlight allotment and haphazard cell phone reception—another version of a sanatorium, a place my mother could tuck me away, the way you pressed a photograph into the back of a drawer—and be free of me. But I might be free of her, too, and I might find someone else to love me.”

Precision. A bit of mastery in the medium of your writing can go a long way – and, of course, shorten the sentences. Words hold connotations that pose parity even among synonyms. Instead of depending on generic nouns and verbs to describe each action, character, object, or surrounding, knowing specific words to allocate to them will not only contribute to their appropriate portrayal but also provide the reader with a richer sensory experience. Obviously, this means having a strong vocabulary is important but does it also mean you need to swallow the dictionary? If you can, kudos to you; otherwise, do a little extra research on each subject matter you introduce in the story, as Brown has in this novel when labeling architectural attributes.

The house stood on a street of similarly grand old places, each shaded by a tree, their roots disrupting the cement sidewalks in front. Mine was a brick Italianate house with a wide cornice and elaborately carved brackets and window caps. The apartment was up a staircase that once might have been glamorous when the house was still a single-family residence. The place had been advertised as a “studio.” I would be living in one room with a twelve-foot ceiling, a decorative fireplace, and an efficiency-sized stove, sink, and refrigerator—so small they seemed like playhouse furnishings.”

Economy. We all know about the taboo on overusing adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives and adverbs are to be preserved for blurbs, and yet, funnily, that is where authors tend to scrimp thanks to a misguided sense of modesty – but that is a topic for another day. Furthering the argument for precision, knowing specific nouns and verbs is particularly useful when editing redundant descriptors that only serve to weaken and obscure the image you are trying to depict.  Consequently, you may also reveal more information about the plot and characters when relinquishing modifiers.

I had thought he wanted me. But when I touched him he took my hands away, like a correcting parent. I was resigned to kissing him, and even that he interrupted with a story about his motorcycle, a Triumph he was eager to ride again in the spring.”

POV. At every turn, it is crucial to ask oneself if the character whose POV is being used to narrate a scene, would actually experience the situation in that manner. For example, cold is a recurring premise in the novel, of which Martha is constantly aware. Other than simply using it to describe the winter that persists throughout the plot or the relationship fostered among the characters (and the wide range of dead people, in retrospect), Brown also associates it with how Martha undergoes the changes in her life or encounters new phenomena, e.g. when she tries martini for the first time.

I admitted I’d never had one, and she insisted I sample hers. She held her glass toward me by its stem, and I took a cautious sip. I said it was like drinking partially melted snow, and she laughed and poured me one, too.”

Pace. While the vivid narration is what I enjoyed most about the novel, the accompanied tangential style also led to its biggest holdback. I could fully understand why, given that the novel was written in first-person and people tend to digress when relating their experiences, Martha would oscillate between her past and present, actions and expositions. In fact, it even added to the mystery. But at one point, this became monotonous when the tempo should have picked up. The mystery began to chase its own tail and Martha’s continued attention to the mundane details of her surrounding seemed unnatural, relatability yielding before consistency, such as while escaping the scene of a supposed murder.

We drove through farmland spread for miles in either direction. Del fiddled with the radio, her hand shaking, and found a station playing Dixieland jazz, and we passed through a landscape distorted by the windshield ice—the wide open space, the few remaining outbuildings of an old farm, their gray, splintery wood darkened by the sleet, jutting like carcasses. “There are bones of families out there,” I said. Spread under layers of soil, compacted in their separateness. The Dixieland band played its tinny hopefulness. We drove this way for a long time until we could see nothing of the land we passed through save an occasional kitchen light in a house set off the road. Then we reached an intersection, a small town, like Milton, with a gas station and a diner, and Del pulled into the diner’s parking lot. After David Pinney died we’d gone on, pretending he hadn’t. I could say we were murderers now. This didn’t happen to other people twice.”

To wit, this novel made me sit up and take notes. My own stories tend to consist more of dialogues and actions than discussions on the setting but I could certainly appreciate the patience with which Brown weighed in the haunting atmosphere in her narrative. It reminded me of something I learned a few months back while attending an online course on writing fiction. There was a lot of emphasis on note taking and journal keeping throughout the syllabus. Until I took the course, I always wondered how writers sit in public places such as cafes and parks while composing tales without becoming distracted by their environments. Turns out they don’t become distracted at all because they are too busy recounting what they witness on their pages and screens.

 

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Finally, a word on the Author Toolbox Blog Hop:
#AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event, hosted by the gracious Raimey Gallant, featuring various resources and learnings for authors written by authors. It is open to writers at all stages of their careers and the rules of sign-up are available in the overhead link. Also, if you are just interested in connecting with actual authors and see what they have got to say, the sign-up page has a list of participants to direct you to their pages. Happy reading and writing, fellow authors!

 

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Lakeside Rendezvous

Via: Daily Prompt- Glitter

 

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Image: Pexels

 

This just wasn’t working. And she certainly could not appreciate her traitorous heart for soaring at the idea that he claimed a right to feel – something – for her. It was not that she simply found it flattering he was pursuing to make her a part of his self-appointed assignment. It was definitely something more, a need to know he felt possessive of her. But that just wouldn’t do. “Where is that insufferable camera of yours,” asked she, affecting indignation.

Matthew smirked. “You didn’t think I’d bring it into the water, did you? You’ve already ruined one of my telelenses. This time, I’ve left it safe and sound by the tree.”

“Your camera lens deserved to be ruined! They would’ve been fine if you weren’t sneaking around the countryside taking pictures of people despite their prohibition.” She knew she was yelling again, but she could not help it. The man sparked a lot of contradictory feelings within her, none of which she could be content with.

Matthew leaned forward, his jaws set stiff. “If you’d kindly remember, I hadn’t yet been prohibited from taking anyone’s pictures when you ruined my lens. And my lens wouldn’t be currently in gadget heaven if you weren’t the type of woman who literally jumps the gun without thinking about the consequences of her actions first.” He straightened again, his smug smile back on his lips. “And as for the prohibition stipulated on me presently, I choose to ignore it because it obviously does not come from the most reasonable character.”

Elaina shook in her spot. Not because she was wet and the cold was starting to set into her bones. No, it was the rage. She did not know why she felt it. His decision to continue photographing her could prompt her indignation, her outrage, maybe even a choice to report him to the authorities – but this – this pure haze of wanting to teach him a lesson and perhaps resort to an act of violence just so that he would go away and leave her alone she could not fathom the origin of. Maybe it was an overreaction, maybe it was being unreasonable as he accused. But she suddenly wanted to be unreasonable and commit to something drastic – anything to prove to herself that he was only a nuisance and nothing more. She turned and began trudging her way to the grassy bank.

“Where are you going?” Matthew called after her and she could hear him following.

“Getting out of the water,” returned Elaina over her shoulders.

“Finally something sensible,” sighed her opponent.

“Oh, yes, very! And then I’m bringing your camera back for a swim.”

“What?” she heard Matthew’s startled reply and began running now that she was out of the water.

Matthew followed close on her heels and before she knew it, he had grabbed the waist of her shirt and she felt her back slammed against his front, her breath leaving her body in a whoosh. “Let go of me!”

She fought hard but was no match for his strength. He struggled but managed to turn her around until she was facing him and he had his arms tightly wrapped around her. “Oh, no you don’t. You’re getting nowhere near my camera. What is wrong with you? Where does all this rage come from?”

“From having my privacy violated!” shouted she, continuing to struggle.

“Stop struggling!”

“And what, let you have it easy?”

“There’s nothing easy about you.” Matthew dropped his voice so that it was deep and husky and oddly intimate. “But I now have you where I want you and I can assure you that I’m not letting you go anytime soon, so I suggest you stop fighting me.”

And Elaina did. She stopped fighting him. The change in him was so abrupt and unexpected that she could do nothing but what he asked. And suddenly, she noticed that her breasts, hips, thighs were all pressed to his length. That her toes barely touched the ground as he had her in his grip and raised against his body. That his mouth was mere inches from hers. That his eyes looked hungry. For the second time since he had chased and caught her, she felt her breath sharply leave her body.

A soft smile touched his lips and warmth lighted his eyes. “There. See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

Elaina only stared. He was so beautiful. She had noticed that about him before but now his beauty seemed different. His hair was curled and slightly matted and dripping water. His eyes were dark and intense and rimmed with sinfully long lashes for a man and water from the creek still clung to them, glittering with trapped sunlight. His nose was straight and strong just like she could feel his body to be, pressed against hers. But it was his afternoon stubble that most fascinated her now. It looked prickly but not in a bad way. And before she knew what she was doing, she raised her hand to touch his chin to learn how his beard would feel against her fingertips.

Matthew groaned and Elaina jerked back her hand. “Sorry,” gasped she.

He shook his head and swallowed before replying. “Don’t. Don’t say sorry. Don’t be sorry.” He paused, then added, “Why did you touch me?”

Elaina lowered her eyes. She knew what had compelled her to touch his chin but she was not about to divulge that emotion. “I don’t know,” she lied instead.

She did not think it possible, but one of his arms tightened around her waist further, pressing her body closer to his, all while he raised his other arm to place his hand on her cheek and tip her chin up, forcing her to look back into his eyes. “Don’t you,” asked he, just before he closed the distance between their mouths to kiss her.

This is an end excerpt from Chapter 06 of my novel I’ll Be Truewhich I had posted 05 years ago on this website. If you wish to read what follows, it is available in my post, I’ll Be True (Chapter 07).

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The Fountain – (a 03 min short story)

Via: Daily Prompt – Juicy

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Image: Pixabay

Whispers trailed her all day, fire licking at her ankles. She felt the heat of the eyes boring into the back of her skull. Mostly hostile glares – those would be from her fellow female students. There were some appreciative glances, too, from boys who suddenly conformed their minds to the idea that she wasn’t so homely after all. LJ smiled ruefully to herself but could not blame them for their curiosity. She was the juiciest piece of gossip to hit Carson High in months.

This story picks up from a piece, Crush, I wrote previously. Though it may be read as a stand-alone, you might want to read the earlier installation before proceeding. Or… 
Read the rest of this entry »

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Crush – A short story

Via: Daily Prompt – Heard

 

I heard he sang a good song,

I heard he had a style,

And so I came to see him

and listen for a while.

And there he was this young boy,

a stranger to my eyes.

 

“Nice!”

Startled by the shout, LJ gasped mid-inhale while preparing to belt out the chorus. She spun around to find the young boy in her rendition of “Killing Me Softly” come out of the backstage and cross over to the center where she stood. As always, Juan loomed taller and taller as the distance fell away. When he was standing even with her, she had to crane her neck to look up at his face.

And what a beautiful face he had – all fine brows, crystal blue eyes edged with dark lashes, classic straight nose, and firm mouth arranged amid the strong panes of his golden forehead, pink cheeks, and fissured chin. He looked like a cherub gracefully transforming into a man.

LJ watched his grin move and realized he was speaking. “What?” she exhaled. She always forgot to breathe when he was around.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Create

Via: Daily Prompt – Clean

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Antonia Santos had taken great care to dress for this date. After all, it had been ages since she allowed herself such luxury – allowed a man to take her out. But Lorenzo had been persistent. If he wasn’t so kind to Isabella, Antonia may not have relented. Even if he was the most handsome man she met in a while. The most handsome man she met since her ex-husband had walked out on their young family.

She bit the bottom of her Rubina lips, her pearly teeth smearing with berry red lipstick that a pink tongue quickly darted out to lick clean. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Lorenzo’s good looks made her uncomfortable. Not only had her ex-husband made her wary of attractive men but Antonia also felt indubitably dowdy next to them. Living on an art teacher’s salary, constantly worrying about footing the bills and managing the expenses of rearing a two-year-old child could suck the glamor out of any person. What if he decided after their date that they did not suit? She would hate for things to get awkward between them and for her to lose such a great pediatrician.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Superhuman

Via: Daily Prompt – Ten

 

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Image: PublicDomainPictures.net

 

When Alvin was born, the doctor counted, “Ten toes, eleven fingers.” A unilateral preaxial polydactyly affecting the right thumb, the nurse was instructed to fill in on his birth certificate form.

Alvin’s father wanted to have the extra thumb removed. The doctor confirmed it could be done without damage to the nerves. His mother opposed. She felt blessed that Alvin was born healthy. For any surface imperfections, they would battle negative discrimination together.

At home, Alvin felt none of the sting that came with being a human anomaly. His parents and elder sister showered him with all the love that was due a child. As he grew older, however, he started noticing disparities in the attention he received from people outside his family. Once, at the grocer’s, a boy had pointed his finger at Alvin and shouted, “Freak!” over and over again until the boy’s mother intervened. Alvin was too young to understand what freak meant but his mom explained it meant superhuman.

Superhuman. That was the word Alvin’s mom always used to explain away any prejudice measured at him. Though it did not keep him from noticing when the school sent his sister home for fighting with her classmates. His sister had whispered to their parents that she only fought because the other kids made fun of his thumb, but Alvin heard her anyway. By then he had come to ascertain there was something gravely wrong with his right hand. Yet when he approached his parents where they stood huddled with his sister to ask why the kids insisted on making fun of his thumb, his mother had confidently claimed it was because his thumb gave him superpowers and people always feared what they did not understand.

For awhile, Alvin believed he truly had superhuman abilities. He assumed it was still dormant and would be activated when the time was right. He waited and waited for that time to come. He did not mind waiting even though it meant he was not yet ready to go out and play with the neighborhood children without being bullied but he hoped he received his power before school started. Of course, it did not.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Daily Prompt: After “Devastation” (1 min read)

Via: Daily Prompt – Devastation

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She allowed the foamy tides of the ocean to invade her patch of the sand, gradually stealing the ground from beneath her with their assaults. The rush of water rolling through the loose dirt tickled her soles in further attempts to make her lose her foothold. She dug in her heels, her toes. Years of being knocked to the linoleum had earned her, at least, that much grit.

After devastation, there was only freedom.

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WEDNESDAY REFLECTIONS #03 – The Book of Love starring Jason Sudeikis and Maisie Williams

mv5bnza2nzewotczmv5bml5banbnxkftztgwndi3mze2mdi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Title     The Book of Love (originally titled The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea)

Starring     Jason Sudeikis, Maisie Williams, Jessica Biel

Director     Bill Purple

Written By     Robbie Pickering and Bill Purple

Genre     Tragicomedy

Release Date     January 13, 2017

Parental Guidance     PG-13 for thematic content, language and drug materials

IMDB Rating     5.5

Synopsis: Henry is your average joe, his creativity only peeking out when he is off designing architecture for his real estate developer company, which is what he is brilliant at. The only thing that keeps his life from fading into the mundane is his oddball wife, Penny, whom he monikers hurricane. Penny tries to stamp her mark on Henry’s life by pushing him to do the eccentric things she lays out and simply “be bold!” Penny is expecting to deliver their first born in the coming month and he just gets an offer to be made partner at his office when Penny has a fatal road accident and Henry’s life is turned upside down. Recovery comes in the form of Millie, a homeless girl rummaging through his garbage. They interact over a cabinet he is ready to dispose of that she could use and she comments that the magenta sneakers he is wearing with his suit “is the shits”, which is what Penny had said to convince him to put them on the morning before she died, and he suddenly remembers that the last promise he had made to Penny was to help out the homeless girl who goes through their garbage. After a bit of harmless stalking, Henry discovers Millie is trying to build a raft to cross the Atlantic Ocean and he decides to dedicate all his time in helping her and in the process rediscovering his reason to go on.

Experience: Given the number of book-turned-movies playing at the cinemas these days, amazingly The Book of Love is not a book turned into movie. I walked into this movie without having seen the trailers or reading the synopsis, which in itself is very unusual for me. But I have always loved that Peter Gabriel song “The Book of Love” and find Jason Sudeikis one of the more versatile but underrated actors of Hollywood so it wasn’t difficult to hit the play button with so little nod to movie prerequisites. It turned out to be one of those uncalculated risks that provide the exact morale your life needs at the time.

While the plot was not something I would call riveting, the script has been very well written. Despite the lack of brief on its premise, I could pick up on the cues of what was about to come early on. The director cut straight to laying out who the lead characters are, that something was about to happen to render upheaval into this young couple’s lives. In fact, I could tell Penny (Jessica Biel) would die soon as she made Henry (Sudeikis) promise he would take care of the homeless girl if he meets her. I could also tell how much Henry doted on Penny by the way he gave in to her every whimsy regardless of the level of contrast they drew to his personality as well as work life (wearing the magenta sneakers with his suit to a major career altering meeting). I could smell the devastation brewing but not in the way that the end was given away. I did not feel like, oh! It’s just another movie about a guy getting over his wife’s death, I was intrigued by the idea of how… how will Millie (Maisie Williams) the homeless girl help him get over her death, how did he come to love her even? Obviously Millie is too young to be of romantic interest, which would have been just abhorrent so soon after Penny’s death.

The cinematography of the movie also sets the mood. The color scheme, mostly muted tones to set the atmosphere of loss with the only contrast allowed in the spaces of the house where Penny, who was also an artist, spent most of her time, like the kitchen or the bedroom. There is a lot of clutter everywhere that Henry goes, as though he needs to find a way to draw himself out of the rubble. The director used a lot of montages in the movie to pace the travel through time, both in flashbacks as well as how Henry’s life progresses. There are two junctures of the movie portraying the moments of changes in Henry’s life that really resonated with me. First, at the wake at the house, where everyone moves in slow motion, discussing the death matter-of-factly while Henry sits ignored until he really attempts to isolate himself. The other is when Julia (Mary Steenburgen), Penny’s mother triggers him into a panic attack when she pushes him into realizing that he might be having a breakdown as he risks his career to build a homeless girl build a raft to cross the Atlantics. Pivotal moments when Henry is both at his worst and his best because after each panic attack, he works out a puzzle, somehow left behind by Penny.

Which brings me to the overall theme of the movie. A bit of study online showed that the most highlighted quote from the movie is “Sometimes, things are better when they’re not perfect.” But I felt what defined the movie best was “Death ain’t about the people who died anyway. It’s about the ones who have the shit luck of having to go along without ‘em.” The central trope of the movie depicts how each character deals with Penny’s death. There is Henry, who after withdrawing into himself focuses his energy into fulfilling his last promise to Penny by helping Millie and thereby pushing further the moment when he must truly accept her absence in his life. There is Julia, who strives for control in Penny’s death just as she has during her life, and focuses on the minutest details involving the funeral, the obituary, charity, etc. as though it is just another responsibility she must take care of – clearly, her daughter leaving the world before her is a burden, especially given the guilt of never cherishing the time she had her. There’s Henry’s boss, Wendell (Paul Reiser) who lacks even the basic sense of empathy to put aside the company goals to allow Henry the time to grieve but you can also see how he is embarrassed by this lacking. There are even “Dumbass” (Orlando Jones) and Pascal (Richard Robichaux), the guys who were working on the renovation of the house and who were endeared by Penny who took care of them while they were around, who take it upon themselves to help Henry through his grief. Without revealing too much, in the end you get to see even Millie had a reason to deal with Penny’s death. But there is a likeness in the way both Henry (for Penny) and Millie (for her father) use fulfilling promises and the lost dreams to get over their own losses, which sort of answers the conundrum of the movie. I enjoyed how this theme remains consistently throughout the movie as each character’s arcs are developed.

When speaking of the characters, of course something must be said about the actors’ portrayals of them. First and foremost, I was thoroughly convinced by Sudeikis. Despite being a comic hero, he was able to invoke the tragedy Henry undergoes. In fact, I especially enjoyed the nuance he rendered the role with subtle moments of comic disaster he ends up in. Initially, I felt it a bit unbelievable that he could be propelled to fixate on the raft-building so soon after Penny’s death but his motivation came out to dispel that disbelief. Another actor I felt did a good job was Jones. He took what minimalist role he had and really bit into it. Williams, on the other hand, though played the other lead role, did not come into character until halfway through the movie. However, that might also be because her bayou drawl was a bit contrived and unnecessary even to the plot. Also, I could see how narration by Millie created bridges to allude to each segment of the movie, I did not really see why it had to be there. The only actor that really was the oddball was Biel’s. But while Penny the oddball was a necessary and endearing element, Biel was something the movie could have done without. Biel just did not have the ethereal quality that Penny needed to make her peculiarities blossom. In fact, Biel looked a bit haggard all through.

Recommendation: Again, if plots are dead important to you, I would suggest skip the movie. It is a bit whimsical yet ordinary, which the narrator warns of in the prologue of the movie. However, if you just like good character building, acting and enjoy a good script and direction, you will enjoy this movie like I did

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Wednesday Reflections #02 – Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

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Title     Lola and the Boy Next Door

Series     Anna and the French Kiss #02

Author     Stephanie Perkins

Genre     Young Adult Romance

Publisher     Dutton Books

Publication Date     September 29, 2011

Format     E-book

ISBN     978-1-101-52948-5

Synopsis: Lola Nolan is an aspiring fashion designer with grand, over-the-top concepts that sort of define her personality. She is also a good daughter, a good enough student to keep her parents satisfied, a good friend most of the time, a fairly good employee at the movie theater where she works part-time and a pretty good girlfriend to keep her rocker boyfriend Max interested. Too bad her love interest does not fully suit the rest of her world. But Lola gets by juggling between Max and all her other responsibilities. Until the dreaded Bell twins return to the neighborhood and Cricket Bell is once again brought to the forefront of her life, throwing her emotions and life into chaos. Her childhood friends Calliope and Cricket had transformed into two divergent roles in Lola’s life as they all grew up next door to each other. While national ice skater Calliope lost interest in Lola and saw her as a nemesis there to steal her twin brother’s attention away, boy-inventor Cricket became Lola’s lifetime crush. Thankfully, they were rarely around and Lola thought she grew out of her feelings for Cricket when the Bells moved away to pursue Calliope’s career. And she also had Max… But as the Bells move back in next door, Lola is compelled to wonder the accuracy of her self-assessments.

The following section may contain some spoilers…

Experience: I loved this book and I am going to just dive into it. Despite the title more or less giving away the ending (either Lola will leave her present boyfriend for the boy next door or fumble with her feelings for the boy next door and return to her boyfriend), it is truly one of those journey-through-the-plot kind of novel and it is even more ripe with unfolding revelations because of the way Stephanie Perkins used her trademark first-person POV to reach each movement of Lola’s character development. The series of events that occur in Lola’s life, how she deals with each in the present either in reflection of her future aspirations as well as her past experiences kept me on edge. It was not very difficult to guess which ending the book will reach after reading a few chapters but it was very, very important to see how Lola would reach that conclusion all the same. Her reactions kept the suspense alive and the plot churning. And it was very interesting how Perkins managed to blend the character arc as a response to the plot conflict, which by the way was truly plot-driven and not just something the character built up in the protagonist’s head.

Moreover, as Lola transforms in the book, through her viewpoint, we also see this kaleidoscope of other very relevant characters transform, or rather their true natures reveal themselves. In fact, what makes Lola… the book so great is that Lola wouldn’t be Lola if it weren’t for the people in her life. Her parents support her career aspirations and this is an important aspect of Lola, who is really one of the most colorful characters I have come across in years. I kept imagining a butterfly with beautiful sparkly wings but one that could just as easily become a gray moth. And while her fashion sense made her a misfit in school, it’s also sort of okay because she has a great supportive best friend with whom she not only shares couture related traditions but who is also able to sanction Lola’s love affair with Max despite not being able to get along with Max herself.

Which brings us to the romantic conflicts. Max is obviously in a relationship with Lola because he is intrigued and attracted by her creative sense. But at the same time, it’s her quirky outfits that sort of niggle on him too, though he tries to claim that it is really her secretive ways. But this suggests Lola, who is all about expressing herself through her fashion, is really hiding from him because she is not fully sure of herself. An abject contrast to her relationship with Cricket, with whom she seems unable to hide anything about herself at all. Meanwhile, Cricket, as an inventor, actually feeds Lola’s aspirations with tangible contributions. Yet, she cannot consciously accept herself to be in his company because of their past conflicts. Honesty in relationships as well as with oneself is definitely a key theme of this novel. But then, the contrast between Max and Cricket is not only explored by Lola’s reaction to each love interest but also by through the interactions each possible hero has with the important people in Lola’s life. Despite the superficial similarities between Max and Cricket (creative, attractive, somewhat successful and with unique dress sense), the people Lola’s life respond differently to each.

In all this, enters Lola’s former drug addict and somewhat dissolute birth mother with whom she cannot abide and who is again living in her house and making life uncomfortable for everyone, another potential angle for Lola’s growth and self-acceptance. And even Anna and St. Clair, the wonderful heroine and hero from Anna and the French Kiss (first of the series), make appearances to further confuse Lola with their extremely adorable and heartwarmingly cohesive relationship by providing a contrast with her own relationship with Max while throwing her more frequently into Cricket’s path.

Really, with so many people so greatly invested in her life, how can a girl, who is simply trying to keep her boyfriend happy and not get involved with a former-present crush with all the seeming ability to devastate her again, not get confused? But, just as an aside, I would love to have as many creative and crazy people in my life even if they were a bit meddlesome.

Before I finish this review, I must also put in a word for Perkins’s method of world building in this novel. While in Anna…, Perkins spent long beautifully written passages describing Paris through Anna’s eyes, in Lola… she better employs her narrative genius to create individual settings to develop the reader’s sense of each character. Because, again, for Lola, all these people are essential. Perkins delves greatly into helping readers visualize Lola’s and Cricket’s bedrooms, her baker dad’s kitchen, Max’s apartment, even the living room where Lola’s mom moves in and transforms, each space an extension of the characters’ personalities and each a setting where some significant scenes of the novel unfold.

Last but not least, I always love Perkin’s name selection. Lola and Cricket, gotta love it!

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I’ll Be True (Chapter 26)

Read Chapter 25 before you continue…

It was a beautiful wedding ceremony and the happiness shining on the faces of the bride and groom proved that they were a match made in heaven. But then again, no other couple had ever been cheered for by all of Lainie’s Creek as much as this one – not even the iconic love affair between tragic Lainie Corey, after whose demise the town had been named, and her infamous beau William Brant. But that was a tale of long ago and, thankfully, without any repeat performances. In fact, the only couple other than the just-married Tyler and Ahyoka to draw the eyes of the guests was Elaina and Matthew, who were currently laughing through a lively jig, making a fool of themselves with their disarrayed dance moves.

Brooke felt no envy by their glowing mirth, only relief. She watched Matthew pull Elaina back into his arms and whisper something in her ear. It must have been funny too because Elaina threw back her head in an unladylike guffaw. Brooke had never seen her former best friend so full of cheerful abandon, not even when they were children. Amazing the changes true love could bring in a person. She hoped she too would find someone one day to share such connection with but for now felt content just to watch Elaina finally bask in the affection she deserved.

“Why are you sitting by yourself here, moping?”

Brooke turned to see Hayden drop down onto the folding chair beside hers. “I’m not moping. I’m watching people dance.”

Hayden raised an eyebrow. “Any couple in particular,” he inquired, knowing full well the answer.

Brooke turned away from him, her eyes trained on Elaina and Matthew once more though seeing little of their dance this time. Hayden had always been critical of her, even when she was little more than a child. He always lorded over Elaina and her, impressing the fact that he was older than them and therefore more experienced – as though being older equated to being wiser. Brooke was sure she would have liked to see a lot less of Hayden growing up. If only it hadn’t been for the fact that he was her former best friend’s older brother and whom said former best friend idolized. Of course, it was always Hayden who protested first whenever Elaina wished to accompany her twin brothers on their outings, bringing up their age difference as the main reason, but Brooke had also felt that his unwelcome attitude was especially directed to her.

But they were all now much older, each an adult who came into his or her own. She no longer needed Hayden’s approval. “Tyler and Ahyoka look very happy to be finally married,” she answered, purposely being elusive because she did not feel the need to dignify his question.

“Not the couple I meant and you know it.”

She remained silent. She would not rise to his bait.

“Elaina could never dance to save her life. Matthew seems to be cut with two left feet as well.”

“But they are charming together so it doesn’t matter if they can dance or not,” she automatically defended. Damn it.

“If they are so charming together, why do you look like the baby that got her lollypop stolen?”

He always made it so difficult to ignore him. “What the hell are you talking about, Hayden?”  Read the rest of this entry »

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