Tag Archives: Angst

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (Review by Emma A. ’21)

The Catcher in the RyeThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At this point, I believe this book is infamous. If you have not read it, you have certainly heard about J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. It seems that people either love to love it or love to hate it with no in-between. Before reading the novel, I was sure I would hate it. However, I was gravely wrong as in the book, I found the story of a deeply troubled boy who desperately needed someone to help him.

The Catcher in the Rye is a novel about a 17-year-old boy named Holden Caulfield, who, upon being kicked out of his prep school, goes on a three-day stint in New York City before he has to face his parents and tell them of his expulsion. Holden’s declining mental state is also hinted at throughout the novel and is the source of many of his rash decisions and actions.

In my opinion, many readers immediately cite Holden’s pretension, pessimism, and insufferability as the reason why they vehemently despise the novel. I believe that this is a severe disservice to Salinger’s book. Through looking deeper into Holden’s psyche, one finds a deeply damaged, isolated, and depressed boy. Holden has clearly been profoundly affected by the passing of his brother, and with allusions to possible sexual abuse/harassment, is left to fend for himself without the help he so desperately needs.

What is also interesting is the number of teenagers this book resonates with, especially male-identifying ones. Many see themselves and their perspective on the world represented through Holden’s bleak narrative. I find that this points to a larger problem surrounding how we should set out to remedy the youth’s dreary outlook on life, but that could just be spurred by the onset of changes and hormones so entwined with teenage life.

Overall, The Catcher in the Rye thoroughly surprised me, and I especially recommend it to those, who, like me, think they will despise it, as maybe, just maybe, it will surprise you too. —Review by Emma A. ’21

For those who enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye, Emma also suggests On the Road by Jack Kerouac, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

View all my reviews

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (Review by Emily M. ’24)

Carry On (Simon Snow, #1)Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell tells the story of Simon Snow and Baz Pitch—roommates for seven years, instant enemies, and living at the Watford School of Magicks. There is a war happening in the World of Mages between the old families, the Mage, and an entity called the Humdrum. Simon and Baz must decide who to fight for. This book technically counts as a sequel. The characters are originally from the world of a fanfiction written by the main character in another Rainbow Rowell novel called Fangirl. I did not read Fangirl before reading this, but I found no issues in understanding the plot. The author develops the characters perfectly, and the plot of the story is paced well and leads up to a stunning conclusion. I was pleasantly surprised, and I absolutely loved both Baz and Simon and how their relationship plays out by the end of the novel. Carry On has a sequel out now, and it is planned to become a trilogy soon. Readers of Harry Potter will love this new magical world. —Review by Emily M. ’24

View all my reviews

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer (Review by Anika F. ’21)

Midnight Sun (Twilight, #1.5)Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Midnight Sun has been long-awaited for many Twihards. Honestly, the original series is pretty mediocre, but I wanted to see what the hype was about with this new release. And I was pleasantly surprised?

what was good
1) Bella: her personality is so much more interesting, and I loved learning about her
2) more backstory on the Cullens
3) Edward’s perspective: it was fascinating going through Edward (and by proxy, everyone else’s) thoughts
4) ALICE CULLEN: do I need to say more?

what was bad
1) unjustified creepy stalking
2) unjustified over-protectiveness
3) extensive repetition and redundancy: this book could have been like 400 pages if an editor had stepped in

Overall, I can’t decide if this is worse than the original or better. I think that this one paints the romance in a better light since Bella actually has a personality. On the other hand, this narrative went on and on for 25 whole hours while the original is MUCH shorter. But, hey, I felt 12 again and that’s the most I can ask from a vampire romance book about a creepy, stalker dude. -Review by Anika F. ’21

View all my reviews

We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler (review by Hita T. ’23)

We Were BeautifulWe Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There had been traces of alcohol in her bloodstream when she was driving. The deer had just stood there in the middle of the road, and she hit it. Her sister did not come out of the crash alive, and one part of Mia’s face was severely scarred.

Ever since that fateful night, Mia Hopkins has been grieving, struggling to figure out what happened. She doesn’t remember what happened, or why it happened, but she only remembers one thing — she had been driving the car when it crashed; a fact she finds extremely hard to forgive herself for. In the midst of this chaos, her broken family sends her to New York to stay with her grandmother, whom she barely knows. She is forced to work a summer job in a cafe, and makes a series of friends, starting with the blue-haired, energetic Fig. Over the summer, Mia finally pieces together what had happened that painful night, eventually realizing that redemption and forgiveness, although seemingly impossible, is not out of reach.

We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler is a stunning YA novel revolving around grief, self- acceptance, and forgiveness. Hepler intricately and sensitively draws the reader through Mia’s story and perspective, and it is a must read for anyone looking for a heavy, yet thought inducing novel.
-Hita T. ’23

View all my reviews

Foundryside (review by Anya W. ’20)

Foundryside (Founders, #1)Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sancia Grado is quite possibly the best thief in Tevanne. Not in the least because of what exactly the metal plate in her head can do–but it’s safer not to talk about that. She’s still not quite sure how stealing a box from one merchant house turned her into the most wanted person in Tevanne, and the only one capable of communicating with the powerful artifact that has the entire city foaming at the mouth.

Gregor Dandalo is the only living son of the family controlling another one of Tevanne’s four merchant houses and trying his best to bring order and law to the commons: the only part of the city not controlled by the merchant houses. It seems like a stroke of excellent luck when he manages to find the thief who blew up half the docks stealing from a merchant-house safe. Then, he spots the assassins and well, things get complicated.

Orso Ignacio, employee of the Dandalo merchant house, might have made a mistake when he bought an artifact from an excavation site without his employer’s permission. Especially now that the key’s been stolen and he has no hope of learning from the scrivings it contains. Hopefully, the thief Gregor has ‘arrested’ can get the key back in exchange for her freedom.

Bernice is a gifted scriver, and has no idea how she got caught up in fixing her bosses stupid mistake. At least the scenery’s nice.

Bennett’s novel is a study in intricate world-building, and he crafts a diverse cast characters, from heroes to villains to antiheroes, with compelling backstories and motivations all the while seamlessly weaves in ethical quandaries that dissect the foundations of each character. Although sometimes his writing became unnecessarily wordy, this book is an excellent starting point to a very intriguing fictional universe. My main issue is with the side characters. While some are nicely fleshed out, the background villains seem flat and evil for the sake of evil. The romance is also lacking chemistry and feels shoehorned in for no good reason, which is a shame, considering the amazing characters involved in the relationship.
-Anya W. ’20

View all my reviews

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen (review by Anya W. ’20)

Lovely, Dark, and DeepLovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Viola Li has a Plan. After the end of her first trip with her aunt, to Africa, she’s working on several more bake sales to raise money for the causes she’s written about. A few more of her scheduled vacations, and she’ll have just the right resume for acceptance as a journalism major to her dream school in Dubai.
Except, as it turns out, sometimes the malaria vaccine can give you extreme, permanent, photosensitivity. Thanks to her professional disaster manager parents, Viola’s entire life and all her plans for the future are permanently deconstructed within a week. All that’s left now is figuring out how to cope.

Chen’s novel is a good beach read, and typical YA. The romance, while not badly-written, is not particularly epic-it would have had the same impact as a friendship. However, her writing is excellent at evoking empathy within the reader, and breathes life into her main characters.
-Anya W. ’20

View all my reviews

In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders (review by Shannon H. ’16)

In Persuasion NationIn Persuasion Nation by George Saunders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was almost addicted, inhaling this collection of dark short stories at an alarmingly fast pace. George Saunders creates a world in which advertising and persuasion overcome rational thought – his stories read like television commercials, slowly convincing the reader that the grotesque and brutal scenes are real. One short story begins with a polar bear lamenting his doomed existence to repeat the same patterns each day (he lives in a advertising scene). Each day he steals Cheetos from an igloo and is subsequently caught; afterwards, the owner of the igloo swings an ax to the polar bear’s head, and the day ends. Unsurprisingly, the polar bear engages in existential discussion and falls down the wormhole of philosophy. What a brilliant mix of realism and complete absurdism, and of course, it’s great satire. Would highly recommend to anyone looking for some grim reality mixed with a dosage of humor and science fiction.

View all my reviews

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson (review by Elisabeth S. ’16)

Autobiography of RedAutobiography of Red by Anne Carson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anne Carson’s compelling language makes this book a masterpiece in verse. Autobiography of Red is a coming-of-age story loosely based on the story of Herakles’ tenth labor (stealing the cattle of the monster Geryon). This version is set in the modern day–Geryon is still a red monster with wings, but he’s also a photographer with his own familial troubles and thirst for adventure. He meets Herakles, and they fall in love, but Herakles departs from his life shortly after, not to be seen again until years later when Geryon is taking a trip through South America. Carson’s use of unlikely yet apt description and Geryon’s singular, confused voice makes this book utterly unforgettable. His trials with an abusive brother, a feeble mother, and lost love make it surprisingly easily to empathize with the red monster. Overall, this book is recommended to all fans of poetry and mythology. – Elisabeth S. ’16

View all my reviews

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland (review by Elisabeth S. ’16)

Girlfriend in a ComaGirlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Girlfriend in a Coma is an excessively thought-provoking look at the world in the present and the future. The book details the lives of a group of high school friends whose lives fall apart after one of them, Karen, goes into a coma for 17 years without any explanation. Karen’s boyfriend Richard is left with a letter she wrote the day before about disturbing visions of the future she had been having. Well written to an extreme (and quotable to an extreme), this novel is filled with wry wisdom through the various POV characters’ thoughts, especially Karen’s perspective, because she can note exactly how the world changed between when she went to sleep and when she woke up, and the changes are not always positive. Another highlight is Jared, the other protagonist who also happens to be dead. Towards the end, the novel has an apocalyptic twist that eventually serves to comment on the general condition of adults at the turn of the century. Overall, though the novel was excellent, I would caution against it for readers who get bored easily with the mundanities of life. – Elisabeth S. ’16

View all my reviews

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk (review by Elisabeth S. ’16)

Damned (Damned #1)Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Palahniuk is known for hyperbolizing his characters to accentuate their faults (and thus, by proxy, humanity or society’s faults) and his gruesome, gritty imagery, as shown through his bestsellers Fight Club and Invisible Monsters. After the first few books, though, the same techniques get drier and drier until you end up with a book like Damned. Damned is tale of young adult Madison who ends up in hell after a marijuana overdose at her boarding school and of her further adventures with her unlikely “inmates.” This story is made unique because of Madison’s singular voice. Palahniuk’s characters are the antithesis of perfect, so flawed that readers are forced to pay attention with the same sort of attention they give a car accident or train wreck. This can prove effective at times, but in this case, there was very little cogency or cohesiveness to be found in the plot, so the novel fell short. Madison became such a caricature of a normal human being that it was impossible for me to engage and empathize with her feelings about her unlucky situation, and thus the entire novel was made simply not memorable enough to matter, despite its potential in idiosyncratic subject matter. – Elisabeth S. ‘16

View all my reviews