Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Anne Frank - A Coming of Age Story

Being homeschooled you sometimes miss a few things that would have been required. Like Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl from her 25 months of confinement in Holland while hiding from the Gestapo. This was required reading in middle school it seems, but my mom had me read The Hiding Place instead, which was traumatic enough. I also read all of David Wilkerson's books (author of Cross and the Switchblade) which deal with drug addiction and lost souls on the street. So, I was by no means lacking in a formal literary education. Yet I still raised a couple of eyebrows at work when a few coworkers heard that I hadn't read Anne Frank's diary. Since I wouldn't lose anything by reading it I decided to give it a go. Biographies aren't usually my thing but you can work your way through almost anything if you persevere, which is what I did.

Anne Frank starts her journal on her 13th birthday, a gift from her parents a month before they went into hiding. What you have for the first third of her diary is a young girl struggling with her circumstances and her anger at the world. That anger manifests itself toward her family and their roommates, the Van Daans. Anne seems like a petty, selfish and highly ungrateful girl who thinks she knows everything. In other words, she's a thirteen-year-old. Now, don't get mad at me for saying that Anne was selfish. If she had stayed in that mentality then I would have probably stopped reading the book, but she didn't. And because Anne Frank grew up and started seeing herself and her family differently, started behaving differently, I began feeling as though I knew her. She looks back at her earlier entries and grieves at the cruelty and hatred with which she addressed her mother. She wonders how that could possibly have been her writing those unforgivable words. In her January 2nd, 1944 entry, Anne says, "this diary is of great value to me, because it has become a book of memoirs in many places, but on a good many pages I could certainly put 'past and done with.'" Anne had moved on from that rage.

Somewhere near the last quarter of the book I realized something. This girl, this young and tender girl who was just about to turn 15 was going to die. Her dreams of being a writer, of finding a husband, of traveling the world, of being in love were never going to be realized. Anne died in March of 1945, only two months before the war was won and prisoners set free. Out of the 8 people she lived with in the "Secret Annexe" only her father Otto survived. You read Anne's words of these people, both kind and critical, with a different eye when you realize that they're all murdered. Had she known the future, Anne would certainly have altered her perception. She had wanted to be a better mother than her own had been to her. She wanted a Mumsie instead of a Mummy and that was what she was determined to be to her children. Except she had no children.

I read the blip at the end of the book that covered the end of Anne's life. And it's hard. Because those events weren't in Anne's words. They were from observations of other people who had known her in Auschwitz or Belsen and somehow managed to survive. All you know is that the brave, angry, and loving girl whose journal you just read wasted away to nothing and died of illness in a concentration camp. How do you reconcile that glorious young life with death? I'm a writer, but I don't write like Anne Frank. Some of her entries are very childlike but others are profound in ways I can't begin to describe. Anne Frank, had she lived, would have gone on to be a magnificent author that would have blown this world apart with her cleverness and wit. As it is she is remembered through this journal. You don't always like Anne but you do grow to love her. I see why the book is required reading among young people and I'm proud, now, to say that I have finally read The Diary of a Young Girl.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games

This isn't something I've ever really covered in any previous blog post so I might as well cover it now. I've heard many arguments for and against the series of books and now the new film. I won't rehash them now because there would be no point. I only know what I personally like and what I do like is The Hunger Games. I saw the movie yesterday with an entire group of teenagers from the library where I work and I went again today with my sister and our closest friend. All three of us are in agreement. The film puts many franchises to shame, Twilight included. Most of the time books are so much better than their movie counterparts but in regards The Hunger Games the two are nearly equal.

Like I said, I won't rehash any arguments. All I know is that I view Katniss as a kindred spirit. I'm not a warrior and I'm not a hunter. What I am is an older sister. I would do anything, literally anything, to keep my sister out of harm's way and if it meant volunteering to be slaughtered in a horrific arena than that's what I would do. I obviously make a connection to Katniss that many other people don't. I read these books and I watched this film from the viewpoint of an older sister who understands Katniss' perspective.

I think it's a shame that many Christians try to over-analyze the premise of The Hunger Games. Is it because there is no religion at the end of all things? This is just a story after all. Religion doesn't have to be in every story ever penned. Is it the idea that humanity could fall so far as to have an arena where 23 out of 24 teenagers are executed every year, accepted by society? Hey, we've been there before. Anyone remember Rome? Humans are sinners, always have been and always will be. The only difference between a Christian and your average sinner is that Christian are covered in the blood of Jesus and saved by grace.

I can see humanity reaching the point of depravity where it would be entertaining to watch teenagers fight to the death in an arena. And that, I think, is why Suzanne Collins wrote these books that are so unlike any others that have ever been published. She's using her talent, i.e. writing, as a warning. She's calling for compassion to those who would be considered weak. She's defying the very concept of survival of the fittest. Was Peeta fittest? No, he certainly wasn't, but he was compassionate. How about Katniss? She certainly wasn't the strongest or the cleverest but she did her best to protect others. The only time Katniss took a life was either in an act of protection or as an act of mercy.

Preaching isn't really my thing so I'll stop here. Except to say that I LOVE The Hunger Games. Books, film, author, actors, directors, screenwriters, everything. The film was the best adaptation from a book I have ever seen, including The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. The books are some of the most exciting I have ever read except perhaps the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke. Such a shame the movie was so horrible! But The Hunger Games movie is worth it! What it's saying about humanity is true because we are sinful and the more aware we are of our sin natures the less likely it is that such an event as The Hunger Games could ever take place. Now, if this isn't your thing, your genre, than that's one thing. Nothing could ever compel me to like horror, so I get it if you don't like The Hunger Games because it's just not your thing. No hard feelings. :)

For those planning to see it, though, please, please, please leave the kids at home! Everyone remember The Dark Knight with that lovely pencil trick by the Joker that you don't really see but your brain thinks you did? Well, let me just say that The Hunger Games is more violent than Batman ever could be and so it is not for kids. PG13 is there for a reason!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reading "Twilight" (Part 1)

I don't know what possessed me to try, but I'm determined to read Stephanie Meyer's series in its entirety. Twilight was on my reading list about 4 years ago and I did read it and enjoy it, but then I tried again a year later with the intention of reading all the books but quickly gave up. It just didn't interest me like it had the first time. Of course, that was also the time when all of the Twihards were coming out of the woodwork and terrifying me with their obsession. We won't mention that I'm just as obsessed about certain things myself. *cough, Sherlock, cough*

But I realized I needed to give the series another chance. I'm hoping to, I don't know, understand the appeal. I'm halfway through chapter 10 and here's what I've realized so far:

  • Writing Style
    • The book isn't as dreadful as I remembered which only strengthens my idea that I hated it before because it was such a huge success and the Twihards gave me the willies.
    • In fact, Twilight is very entertaining and an easy read which I've proven in that I only started it yesterday and I'm already over 200 pages in.
    •  Entertaining yes, but her grammar is still rudimentary at best.
    • If she had just toned down the "godlike" imagery of Edward a little bit it would have done wonders for the overall quality of the novel.
    • She uses far too many adjectives like "blackly" or "angrily" to describe Edward's reactions.
      • "His brow creased angrily for a moment, then smoothed  . . ." and "he chuckled blackly."
        • Take those adjectives away and the sentence is tighter and lets the reader decide on their own what Edward is feeling. Few readers like to have emotion dictated to them.
        • Oh well, her writing isn't perfect. Big surprise, but it's still a fun read.
  • Edward
    • The films have never and will never do him justice. I'd forgotten just how attractive book Edward is to the female psyche.
    • He thinks of Bella's safety before his own in a way we rarely see today.
    • He's courteous and gentle, funny and romantic.
    • In a word, there is NO WAY that I can connect book!Edward with film!Edward. It's like film!Edward is a mere shadow of the Edward Stephanie Meyer created.
  •  Bella
    • Where do I start?
    • I find it very hard to like Bella, for three reasons.
      • 1: She lies to her father about going to Seattle alone when she'll actually be spending the day with Edward. Edward thinks she should tell Charlie, Bella refuses. Not good since parents are put in our lives as a guiding light for a reason.
      • 2: Bella thinks, and I quote, "If I had to, I suppose I could purposefully put myself in danger to keep him close." Say what?!
      •  She's not good enough for Edward. Bella approaches the relationship from a selfish perspective while Edward, throughout their relationship, only tries to think of what's best for her. Hence the "she's not good enough for him" statement.
    • Sorry, I know some of this probably sacrilege, but I can't help it. Bella's entire behavior is one of neediness. I can forgive some of this because she's only 17, but then so is Edward so why is he more mature? After all, living for 100 years at the age of 17 doesn't mean any hormonal issues just float away.
    • So, Bella is highly imperfect and drives me crazy. Sometimes I sympathize with her and other days, like with that quote about putting herself in danger, I can see how she became so miserable in New Moon that she risked her life in order to see visions of Edward.
  • Conclusion up to Chapter 10 of Twilight
    • The film version of Twilight is dreadful.
    • Romance is at the heart of this novel. A desire to find true love, to be cherished by a man and pursued by him with honorable intentions. It's a beautiful dream and as a woman who sometimes feels like she's permanently single, I get the appeal of Edward. Note: married women who worship Edward creep me out so much I can't even describe the revulsion.
    • Let's just say that Edward's side of the romance is from an adult perspective and Bella's side is from the teenage angst perspective. Meyer's somehow managed to combine the two, which is why I respect Edward's love and have very little sympathy with Bella's.
    • Oh, and I am really liking Twilight, just in case you couldn't tell by my little critique. We'll see what happens throughout the rest of the book.

Book Review: Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart (Kopp Sisters #3, 2017)

Original Summary Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges ...