Friday, December 27, 2013

Fault Line by C. Desir

Ben didn't go to the party with Ani. Her friend Kate did, but she's not completely sure what happened. It was brutal and horrific and Ani will never be the same. Was she drunk? Did someone drug her? It was not like her at all, and no one knows who is to blame.

Ben meets Ani just before the start of his senior year. She was hard to ignore as she walked through the parking lot. Fortunately for Ben, Ani noticed him, too. Besides Ani's gorgeous looks, what Ben finds most striking is her directness. There is no BS with her; none of the typical games that Ben has experienced with other girls. The tension about sex is broken with Ani's straightforward personality.

There is no question that Ani was the victim, but rape has a way of making the innocent feel guilty. Ben blames himself for not going. Kate blames herself for not intervening. Ani just blames herself.

The aftermath can only be described as excruciating for all involved. Ben wants the old Ani back. He sees hints of her, but they are fleeting. He misses the playful, sexy girlfriend who he could talk to. But that Ani is gone, replaced with someone who only wants the physical and not the emotional connection.

This is not always an easy book to read. Everything goes from good to bad in one night, and there are no easy fixes. You can't be mad at Ben for not doing the right thing, because there is no obvious right thing to help Ani. It is a refreshing reminder that rape is not a crime for just the victim; it affects everyone in that person's life.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog and the author's site.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

Have you ever hidden something from a friend because you were ashamed? I have. I don't know why I did it. Of all people, friends are supposed to accept you for who you are. It's risky, too, because it often leads to an awkward moment when the friend finds out the truth.

Feeling shame about yourself and your life is the underlying foundation of this story. Lewis is a Tuscarora Indian living on a reservation in upstate New York. It is the 1970s and life on the 'rez' is not so easy. Lewis lives in a run down house with no indoor plumbing. He lives with his mother who cleans the houses of white people and his Uncle Albert, a disabled vet.

Many people in the surrounding communities hate Indians (including one particular bully from an influential family), so for the most part they stay to themselves. Lewis earned a place in the higher academic classes of his mostly white school. Usually at least two Indians are put in the same academic level , but Lewis is the the only one and must be alone with no friends as he starts the school year.

On the first day, he meets a new kid named George, the son of an Air Force officer. George is warned to stay away from the 'wild Indian kid,' but he has been the new kid enough to trust his own judgement. Lewis and George quickly bond over their love of music, particularly the Beatles and Paul McCartney. Lewis is reluctant at first, but he visits George's house and eventually spends many evenings there having dinner and listening to albums. It is when George wants to visit Lewis' house that Lewis starts making lame excuses. How can he let George see the poverty of his everyday life?

Lewis is an original character. Even though he is physically small, he is very strong. He steps outside the comfort zone that many of his fellow Indians live in. He takes flak from both sides: whites for being 'distrustful' and Indians for befriending whites. He takes a lot from bullies, but stands up for himself when he needs to.

This story is an incredible view into the everyday existence of Indians and the delicate balance of surviving in a white dominated society while trying to maintain their own culture. I never imagined some of the hardships and 'rules' that must be endured by native people. I can only hope that in the 30 plus years since the 70s that things have changed for the better. I fear they have not.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Sex & Violence - it's a title that gets people's attention. Two words with general meanings that when put together can take on many connotations.

For seventeen year old Evan, sex is a casual pursuit. He has never gotten too attached to any of his partners. He has grown to look at women and admire them for the physical attributes and ponder the possibility of sex with them. The thing about sex is that you may not be the only person attracted to someone. For Evan, this is bad. Collette offers herself to him and he takes her willingly. When her ex-boyfriend finds out, Evan is cornered in the shower and brutally beaten.

Evan's dad moves them to the small lake Minnesota town where he grew up. Evan and his dad have moved many times since Evan's mother died, but he has never been to this place. Constantly moving has caused Evan to not form close relationships (with friends or lovers), so he is reluctant to befriend any of the other lake kids. He avoids doing things that bring back memories of his beating (like the shower). He also hesitates to hook up with any girl although the desire is there. It is particularly tricky with Baker who is dating a large athletic guy who could easily pummel Evan if he is not careful.

This book could have fallen into a typical story arc of Evan meeting the right girl and learning to trust in himself and others again. But life is not that easy. There are many issues being addressed in this story. For one, Evan's dad is acting differently. He is more casual and open and seems interested in the married woman next door. Two, the specter of Evan's uncle is never far away. Evan explores an off-limits island and finds things that bring him closer to an uncle who has just disappeared.

It's an amazing, complex story that does not tie up solutions to life's problems in neat little boxes.

For more info about this book, check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's author's site.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers

War is hell. It's a cliche, but it is so true. Walter Dean Myers holds nothing back in his depiction of the horrors of combat: the terror, the exhaustion, the hunger, the death, the blood, the dirt, the explosions. Imagine living a life where you could be killed any minute of every day; a life where you are talking to a buddy one minute and seeing him laying on the ground bleeding from a hole in his chest the next; a life where your fate is in the hands of leaders who sometimes seem as confused as you.

During World War II, Josiah Wedgewood (aka Woody) of Richmand, Virginia, lands on the beach with his platoon at Normandy and moves across France fighting the Germans. We are with Woody as he thinks about a girl at home; as he talks with fellow soldiers; as he sees friends die. Like Myers' other war stories, this on has no real plot; it is just the daily existence of soldiers in the middle of a war. There are only brief appearances of African American soldiers underlining the segregation that existed at the time in the armed forces.

This story is loosely connected to Myer's other books Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah. Family members from three generations end up fighting in three different wars: in Europe, in Vietnam and in Iraq. How many generations must go to war? The futility of it all is part of Myer's point.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog and the author's site.