Unbroken – Putting together the pieces!

Shoutout to The Duckbill Blog, for commenting on my Summer Reading List and suggesting Unbroken, a book that rendered me speechless and touched my heart and soul. Three cheers for Nandita Nambi!

The author has done an amazing job of portraying a teenager’s mental drama and angst.(like Dumbledore says.. “Just because it is happening in your mind doesn’t mean it is not real” ).

..and without romance. So First YAY!!! for  YA novel without romance. Yes, there are a whole bunch of heart-wrenching romance and even action stories with touching romances, I’ve read quite a few. The Fault in Our Stars (Hazel and Augustus), The House of Hades (both Percabeth and Percico), The Lost Oracle (Solangelo), and of course, The Cursed Child (Scorbus, duh.) (Parents, you don’t need to look this up if you don’t already know. It’s a teenage thing.).  But I was really glad the novel steered cleared of diluting this experience with an ill fitting romantic interest.

The characters are well-crafted, completely realistic and relatable. The book is  not much about the events, but the whirlwind of emotions that wrap around you.  And our protagonist, Akriti, is the centre of it all. She’s rude, mean, aggressive, sarcastic and doesn’t care about  her studies or other people’s feelings. Then she has a ridiculously perfect younger brother, and her parents fight. She sketches (dark of course) and listens to music, shutting out the rest of the world. Just another petulant teen stuck in her daily troubles? …but wait.

Can you blame her? She’s paralysed from the waist down.  But  at no point does the author try to make her likable , rise above her pain heroically or arouse our sympathy. (Quite unlike Wonder where you are rooting for Augustus).

The story is from her POV and her anger, frustration and disgust seethes through her pain. As I read, finding her behaviour largely unacceptable yet I could see myself there.. wanting to be strong rather than wallow in sympathy, angry rather than accept her pain, be scary rather than get hurt.

What I loved ?  While talking about disability in an honest and unpatronizing way itself is no mean feat, here are a few other aspects I loved:

  1. Sibling Rivalry – Don’t you hate it when your sibling can do stuff that you can’t? Whether it’s effortlessness completing a jigsaw puzzle that took you hours or churning out amazing projects done in the last minute, for which you take weeks, living in the shadow of your sibling is something a kid never wants to face. Forget the accomplishments, how do you deal with it when they are just a better human being than you are?
    Yet beneath the permanent tiff and I -wish- you- weren’t- born, there is an inexplicable deep love and  those tender moments between brother and sister ..reminded me grudgingly of a few of my own.
  2. Fights between Parents/ elders –  The pain and the torture  of having the very people who are supposed to be raising you, fighting  and blaming  each other… for your mistakes? Really, while  I saw her shut them out sometimes, label them and even exploit them, I pondered about similar arguments and what I may have thought of them  inadvertently.
  3. Seeing a Shrink – Again a rather rarely written about topic,  a child who sees a psychiatrist when she is not crazy or has not had a nervous or emotional breakdown yet...simply because sometimes  the expertise helps and sometimes having a neutral person makes it much each to talk. ..or listen.
  4. Smoking – Though this wasn’t an objective, there was a slight undertone on the importance of not smoking. The protagonist’s friend, Karthik, tries smoking and she’s repulsed by it and snatches the pack away from him. Smoking is not cool.. take one look at the images of its aftereffects (mom thrust some seriously gory images of lung cancer at me and pretty sensible statistics) and you’ll be scarred for life. Why would you choose to breathe in extra pollution anyway?

sauxmlzlsm-1493530375I also loved the Cover art, all fragile , handle with care symbols, a wheelchair and  a stamp declaring UNBROKEN.  (not sure if the leg symbol with a cross and a temp sign were chosen on purpose..but it is beginning to give me an idea for my door sign!) 

So there it is, a book that I loved and a  recommended #must-read for teens that go through life sulking, mad at life, complaining and screaming about its unfairness, hurt when often just a change of attitude is all that is required..to start sketching rainbows and unicorns again. (ok ..that was a bit too much :))

 

 

 

 

 

Wonder (R. J. Palacio) – Simply Wonderful!

Just yesterday, I read Wonder by Raquel J Palacio (which, by the way had to be wrested away from my mothers hands. Often happens in our home). And, boy, am I glad I did.

Yes,  I read it in one shot, although I had to put the book down for a few minutes in the middle, because it was so overwhelming.

Wonder is a heart-wrenching, emotional and -best of all-  very realistic story

It is the story of the fifth-grader August Pullman, who suffers from mandibulofacial dysostosis -which is a rare genetic malfunction which causes facial deformity.

As a middle schooler, I can make out the standard stereotypes of middle school..  the stares, the smirking, the mean glances and whispers,  the popular groups and the wannabees, the unnecessary hostility, misunderstandings with friends and those few true friends that make the journey easier. So with a face like August, it can be only a million times worse.

No, I’m not giving out any spoilers. At least, not without a warning.

My favorite part of the book is how R. J. Palacio gives us a peek into each pivotal character’s mind, letting us know how they think or feel about a particular situation. It’s riveting to know how other people think about the events going on which are all related to the main character, and not just hear what the main character thinks about them himself. It brings in a wonderful rounded perspective to the book and its characters!

My favorite character is definitely Via, August’s older sister. Via, or Olivia, treasures her younger brother as it is prominent in many incidents where she gets mad when other people whisper or stare at August. Yet there are moments when she just wants to NOT be his sister.Her chapter in this book deals with her growing self-consciousness and worries about her identity. I think I find Via among my favorites because I identify with her struggles and worries that I will only be known for my brother and his trouble-causing nature.

Minor issue? I haven’t watched Star WarsDarth Sideous and Bobba Fett jokes don’t register with me. Even though it was explained, I still had to go to my brother for a second-time explanation. It’s not all bad though, because it’s time for a movie marathon!

The big problem? August can have a happy ending but seemed too nice to me.Since when has middle school ever been nice? Do bullies even change? Do the other who choose being “safe and neutral” rather than stand up for the  kid that is singled out actually have the courage to take a stand. There are some answers I will only know when I’m more mature…may be

But being inspired by August’s positively inspiring upbeat attitude, it makes me want to believe “The universe takes care of all its birds.”

More Quotes I liked..

I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”
…wish  I could orchestrate that.
“Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”
…by far the most important thing that lingers after you read this book
“If you can get through middle school without hurting anyone’s feelings, that’s really cool beans.
… same thing ..cool beans!
“I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.”
….made me think how much we make assumptions based on looks.
So yes, please do do read this book!!
Most Important: I heard Wonder is being made into a movie this year! All those who haven’t read it, your time is running out. Every voracious reader knows this, but I’ll say it again – Never judge a book by it’s movie!