Tag Archives: Tragedy

Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen (review by Anya W. ’20)

SkyscrapingSkyscraping by Cordelia Jensen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mira doesn’t know what she would call a major turning point in her life. Was it the walk when she decided that this year’s yearbook theme would be New York City? Was it the day she found her father in bed with his TA? Was it the day when she found out about her parent’s open marriage? Was it the day she found out that her family had no time left?

At some point though, Mira shut down, and she can’t-isn’t-won’t ever be the same again.

Jensen’s novel written in free prose is a heart wrenching expose on the beautiful, terrible mess we call family. She writes unflinchingly of parents’ mistakes and the intolerance of youth, and manages to still infuse it all with a sense of understanding, and of the importance of acceptance and compromise. I love how dynamic her main character is, and how Jensen still allows the side character be multifaceted, with their own emotions and goals. While some plot points may seem trite, they are at least comparatively minor. This is a good, solid read that won’t leave you feeling like you wasted your time. – Anya W. ’20

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The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani (review by Anya W. ’20)

The Village Bride of Beverly HillsThe Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Priyanka’s aunt told her she would be happiest if she didn’t expect too much from marriage if she was obedient and kept quiet and kept the house. So a week after meeting Sanjay, like a good daughter, she packs up for a new name, a new family, and a new country. Of course then, when her new in-laws inform her that she is to take a job and contribute to the household finances, that’s exactly what she does. She’s still not quite sure how she went from a secretary to a reporter, though.

Kavita Daswani’s bittersweet novel is a story about finding oneself in the midst of difficulties. While I first read the novel several years ago, I feel that a second read allowed me to understand better the facets of the characters: how Priya’s hopeless malleability stems from naivetee and fear, but not weakness of character, Sanjay’s blind but well-intentioned misogyny, and how most characters, no matter how kind or cruel they seem, are simply attempting to fulfill their own motivations, even if it means using Priya, and how her failure to completely escape the cycle that chains her down for being a women is not a romantic ending but a precursor to future tragedies.

At its surface level, The Village Bride of Beverly Hills is an enjoyable beach read; beneath, it has enough questions and conflicts to prompt several essays. – Anya W. ’20

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Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (review by Sofie K. ’20)

Long Way DownLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“People always love people more when they’re dead.”

In Will’s world, it’s kill or be killed. In this world, you don’t grieve or cry over deaths, you get revenge. That’s what he thinks as he steps onto the elevator, gun tucked in his waistband, ready to kill the man who took his brother’s life. And then the elevator stops, and someone he long thought to be dead enters the elevator and asks him to check if the gun is even loaded.

Long Way Down is not a story about love or happy endings. It’s a story about revenge, morals, and family. It’s about discovering truths hidden under lies, and discerning right from wrong.

It’s also poetry. You don’t see many books written through poetry in the YA genre these days.

In just a single elevator ride, Long Way Down managed to make me feel a myriad of emotions ranging from sadness to anger and shock. The characters were expertly developed, and the concept was gut-wrenchingly original. Each verse of the poems is laced with deep emotion and heavy messages and morals, and it just about makes you scared of what could come through those elevator doors. – Sofie K. ’20

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Sala by Toni Morrison (review by Andrew R. ’17)

SulaSula by Toni Morrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I chose Sula as my first introduction to Toni Morrison’s work because it was slimmer, lighter, and—apparently—easier to understand than her more famous and acclaimed novels, but now that I’ve finished the last chapter I find myself wondering if this book is really representative of Morrison’s greater oeuvre. The plot sounds deceptively peaceful: young black Sula leaves her small hometown behind as she heads off to be educated, and upon her return ten years later (a significant gap in the novel’s chronology), she’s estranged and distrusted by her former friends. You can’t call Sula “peaceful,” though, because Morrison fills its pages with wanton, almost casual violence and death. A mother soaks her son’s mattress in gasoline and sets it alight; a woman burns to death trying to light a yard fire; a little boy slips from his friends’ fingers and falls into the lake, never resurfaces. Hard as I try, I can’t reconcile these near-constant, near-faceless deaths with the practices of “good novel-writing” that I’m used to, and so for the moment Sula seems more off-putting and grim than I’d wish. Maybe someday, when I’m more familiar with the rest of Morrison’s novels, I’ll be able to return to Sula and appreciate, or at least understand, its pervading sense of randomness and cruelty.

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Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner (review by Andrew R. ’17)

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go: A Novel of HaitiHold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go begins with a strangely subdued account of the catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 100,000 Haitians on January 12, 2010. Over the course of a few pages, the teenage narrator, Magdalie, witnesses the almost instantaneous leveling of the city of her childhood. But the reader can’t comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy until, months later, Magdalie forces herself to sit down and pour her memories onto the page, even as she admits that, “It doesn’t change anything if I write it down or not … It doesn’t change a thing.” Only here does the reader stop and say, Oh—she is upset, she is scarred, this is a tragedy. It hurts to read the passage: we feel Magdalie’s pain. The rest of the novel follows a similar trajectory. Intense emotion is the most important element of a story that deals with a disaster on this scale, and while that emotion is very often deferred by stumbling plot-lines and flat characters, it’s never forgotten. Sooner or later, the author’s point hits home, and we can’t help but feel empathy for Magdalie and the hundreds of thousands of real-life Haitians in her situation. In that respect, at least, Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go is a success.

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