Posts Tagged Reading
Via: Daily Prompt – Ten
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 »
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.
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
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!
Read Chapter 23 before you continue…
Elaina’s mind tumbled through the tide of enlightenment that washed over her. She had never tried to work through the range of emotions surrounding the event before, though five years was plenty time for private musings. Her thoughts had been consumed by two phases of that watershed moment in her life. There was the horrific replay of Brooke’s confession and the harrowing sense of betrayal that took over later, accompanied by a myriad of emotions. Feelings of pain, confusion, mortification, anger and, worst of all, being second-rate had drowned out any reason for recovery. They had kept her from considering there might be a third component, gluing Brooke’s action to her reactions. Withheld contemplations of the loss she had also experienced though she was aware the loss was lurking in there too. Now, while standing before Brooke, the missing piece clicked into place. Talking to Brooke was what it took.
“What do you mean?” Brooke asked again, even as some new realization shone through her eyes. Read the rest of this entry »
Read Chapter 20 before you continue…
Matthew stared at the massive blank wall. He had it, along with all the other walls prepped for the exhibition, painted jet black with a finely grooved texture to make them appear as though it was suctioning the light out of the surrounding space. What little light he had left on, that is. Straying from the usual still exhibition format that displayed colorful arts on white surfaces in a brightly lit atmosphere, he had decided to showcase his series in a dimmed hall with strategically located accent lights. Soon photos developed in sepia hues would hang on black walls as though blossoming out of a void. Because that’s how the subject affected him these days.
Elaina had not relented to his plea. As promised, he had called her as soon as he returned to New York and numerous times in the week that followed, always with the same desperate reasoning to make her have faith in their relationship. While she received his calls, she had pointblank let him know that his return to Lainie’s Creek will not be welcome. She did not own a cell phone and it had costed him a bruised ego to so often call the ranch and ask for her only to have her tell him it was over between them – but he had done it nevertheless. He would have gone back to see her anyway if it were not for Hayden finally informing him during his call the night before his scheduled return flight that Elaina no longer wished to speak to him before hanging up sharply. After which, he had torn his air ticket and threw himself into his work.
Yet, try as he may to keep his mind and time occupied with teaching photography to college students or supervising the existing exhibition at the gallery or even shooting hoops with his friends, memories of Elaina was never far from his mind. He particularly missed her when developing the images for the Fall exhibition when even the photos without her in them brought on a wave of nostalgia of their shared experiences those summer days. Moreover, as he had sifted further and further through the photos, he soon realized that she occupied over sixty percent of the shots he had taken in Lainie’s Creek and most of the rest forty percent shots were also in some way linked to the story of this striking woman he had now pieced together. He had eventually embraced the inevitable and built the story of his series around her. Now with only two more weeks before “The Cowgirl” showcased, his mind was swimming with thoughts of the protagonist of his pictorial narrative more than ever, as though he had not last seen her two months, ten days and twenty-two hours ago.
“You should really turn on some more lights in here.” Read the rest of this entry »
Read Chapter 19 before you continue…
Elaina lay awake in bed. Her head felt battered. There was a dull ache just behind her eyes that felt as though her brain had swollen to twice its size and refused to fit in its enclosure anymore. Side effects of too much thinking.
Hayden had cornered her again that morning and hadn’t that been a barrel of laugh. It was to impart yet another sermon about the potential danger of mixing with Matthew. When she refused to listen to his lectures, he told her about a discussion he had had with Brooke at the fair the previous day where Brooke had let drop that Matthew had come to Lainie’s Creek as her date but was now dating Elaina instead. The news had stumped Elaina for a few minutes and Hayden had taken her silence as sanction to carry on with his raving against dating outsiders, which he did verily.
But the rest of it had fallen on deaf ears. Elaina was preoccupied with putting together all that she had learnt about Matthew through their interactions. Sure he would not be in Lainie’s Creek if not for Brooke, but Matthew had already explained to her his role in visiting with Brooke. And all that he told her about himself only reflected on his candid nature. Matthew was not a liar and Brooke had a history of it. So she had thanked Hayden once again for looking out for her and sharing the information. She told him she would discuss this with Matthew and sent a grumbling older brother on his way.
Then she waited for Matthew to drop by. He had told her the previous night that he might be on an outing with Brooke and would come over once he became free, which he expected could be around late afternoon. Yet afternoon had rolled into evening and that into night, until the family had supper and turned in for the night – without him ever in sight. She cajoled herself that he was after all Brooke’s guest and it was not fair that she had monopolized most of his time since they met. She told herself this but it did not stop her from wondering if Brooke was taking advantage of their time together to put up a bit of competition. That was a thought which kept popping into her head and she had to keep stamping down.
Elaina growled into the shadows of her room. She was being unfair to Matthew again. Over the past few days, he certainly had proven himself as anything but fickle and deserved better than her suspicious musings. Those were the results of cultivating a five-year old stock of insecurities. Entirely her own problem. But he had not visited her today and tomorrow was originally the date of his departure so she wondered. He could have changed his mind about staying without Brooke’s help. Photography, three to four exhibitions per year, a teaching position at a renowned university, owning a gallery – the man liked to keep busy and he kept busy in New York. She wouldn’t be able to blame him if he had to bail on their fledgling relationship. Even if staying was his own idea in the first place.
She needed to turn off her brain and go to sleep. It had been a scalding summer day and the night had only melted the heat so it stuck damply to the skin. An air conditioner had been installed in her room some years ago. She had soon discovered that working in the sun all day after sleeping in the frigid air at night played havoc with her sinuses so she refrained from using the contraption. She usually kept the window wide open with the curtains drawn aside to allow whatever air that stirred outside to flow in. Sleeping in semi-darkness never bothered her. Tonight, however, the light wasn’t helping. If her nerves had not been frayed from overthinking she would have been asleep by now. She tossed to her side, facing away from the moonlight filtering in through the window.
There was a muffled thud behind her, as though something large had dropped to the carpet. Elaina sat up to discover the crouching shadow of a man beneath the window and it was all she could do to stop herself from screaming in alarm. Then the shadow rose to stand in the moonlight and Matthew loomed closer. She felt a thrill shoot up her spine as he swiftly sat on her bed and clamped a hand over her mouth.
“Don’t shout,” he instructed belatedly. “It’s me.” Read the rest of this entry »