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And More Book Responses

On the Road

I am not a fan of non-fiction books. In the past, when I've read works that fit into this genre, it was either because I needed to for a class or because I wanted to learn more information about a particular time period in history, mainly the Civil War. Now, there are MANY good historical books for this era out there, but, when it came to picking a book to read for this class, I wanted to go a little further away from my comfort zone. For years, I've heard references to Kerouac's book in movies and television, it's on many must read lists, and it is also a book with a long history of being challenged/banned. Plus, an added bonus, I found a hardback copy on sale for $7.99. I'm a sucker for a good hardbook deal.

Anyway, On the Road is a classic example of beat generation literature. Following WWII, there was a portion of the population who introduced a shift in American culture. People who belonged ot the beat generation were known for experimenting with drugs and alternative forms of sexuality, there was an interest in Eastern religion, they rejected materialism, and they were known to favor vivacious and thorough explorations of living and expression... as shown in Kerouac's best-selling, famous work. In it, he portrays his own experiences. From the wild and ardent friends he made, to his many trips across the country, to his various sexual escapades, to the constant parties he attended, it was almost as though Kerouac (and those he associated with) were seeking something unattainable - the ultimate truth, a higher realization of themselves. Whatever it was, in this book, it's put down on page for all the generations afterward to experience as well.

A classic or not, I did not enjoy this book. Perhaps I'm too grounded and structured to appreciate the journey Kerouac was expressing, but I became frustrated with the aimlessness of both the people he met (and Kerouac himself) and their actions. While they might have seen a purpose in their actions, I did not. All they did was talk in nonsensical, existential circles, drink, smoke, carouse, and take advantage of others who were not living under their mindset. Whether the beat generation inspired great art or not, after reading this book, I'm tremendously glad I was never a part of it. With that said, though, I can see the value of On the Road, and I'll be able to keep it in mind for someone who is more of a free spirit, someone who likes to read non-fiction, someone who is interested in the post WWII years. I just won't be reading it again myself.

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Growing up, I remember just how much my teachers apparently adored this genre. In middle school, I think all the books we read could have fit into this category. As I sub now, I can see that this hasn't changed much. In fact, this is my third year as a substitute teacher, and not once have I been in a middle school English class where they have NOT been reading a Gary Paulsen book. Personally, I've never liked his novels, finding them geared more towards boys. So, when it came time for me to pick a book to read for this category, I searched for an action/adventure book which was geared more towards girls, curious to see if, first of all, they were any and, if there were, what they were about and how good they were.

I ended up picking up I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter. This book is a part of the popular Gallagher book series. In fact, it's the first in the series. In it, readers are introduced to Cammie Morgan, one of the 100 teenage girls who attend the prestigious Gallagher Academy. While the rest of the world think that it's an elite, expensive boarding school, the girls who actually go there know better. Rather, it's a school for spies, taught by former spies. Not only is Cammie a student there, but she's also the headmistress' only child, she's a descendant of spy royalty, and she's known as the chameleon, for she's already that good at blending into her scenery.

Sounds like a good premise, right? I thought so, too, but then I read the book, and I was extremely disappointed. Now, keep in mind that I am an Alias fan, and I am also a fan of the Jason Bourne series of books and movies, but I tried to divorce my mind from these works and absorb this one for what it was. The only problem was that it wasn't very much. The characters really aren't described. They're generic. I couldn't even tell you what color of hair Cammie has. As for the action itself, it was elementary. As someone who has read about and watched shows that featured spies in the past, I'm pretty sure my knowledge is far broader on the subject than Carter's. After reading the final page of the story, I came away with the impression that the author did absolutely no research. What's more, as the characters were experiencing these moments of action, there was no further description. What did it feel like to use a zip line? What did it feel like to take down a man far bigger than one's self, and, for that matter, how exactly did these teenager girls accomplish such feats? Needless to say, I was very disappointed. As for the other characters besides Cammie: there was a genius, a rebel, and a brat who eventually turned into a friend once the girls got to know her better. And there was a boy who possessed not a single remarkable, memorable characteristic. On all fronts, I felt cheated by I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You. I really do think that it has a promising premise, but the follow through was terrible.


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January 2014


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