*Quick Lit is monthly feature hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy*
For this Quick Lit, I have something special!
This past week I participated in the Bout of Books Readathon. I had a great time, as I finally got to a few books that have been on my TBR list for a long time. The following five books I read for the readathon:
Human Acts – Han Kang
In 1980, South Korea was reeling from the assassination of President Park Chung-hee. The people had already been under authoritarian rule for 18 years, and weren’t keen that Park’s successor would just continue the oppression. Student protests lead to the Gwangju Massacre, which takes the life of young boy, Dong-ho.
Human Acts follows, through interconnected chapters, those affected by the personal tragedy of what happened that night, and what they themselves lost. How can one continue after facing such dark cruelty? As human beings, are we ‘fundamentally cruel’?
Kang does not let you turn away. She forces the reader to stare at the carnage. From the beginning, as Dong-ho and two young ladies do everything they can for the pile of bodies that the government has created, to those who are brutally tortured after the Massacre, and those who ‘can’t get over it’.
I’m usually not faze by dark books, but there’s a few scenes from this book that wrecked me. Especially the last chapter, when some of the dots are connected for the reader.
I know this book won’t be for everyone, due to the dark imagery and subject matter. But I would say try, even if it breaks your heart. For me, Han Kang is becoming a ‘must-read’ author.
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
To her horror, Journalist Camille Preaker has to return to Wind Gap, the small town she left behind years ago . Along with having to face her highly dysfunctional family, Camille also has to cover the murders of two preteen girls.
Camille just recently recovered from a stay at a psychiatric hospital , and the closing walls of her mother’s Victorian house don’t help her state of mind. The closer she gets to finding out what happened to the girls, the more old wounds fester and her own past unravels before her.
Sometimes I wish I read Gone Girl after Sharp Objects and Dark Places. Both of the latter books are really good, but Flynn outdid herself with Gone Girl, and I’m unfairly comparing now.
I really liked Sharp Objects, but I think it was overhyped for me. Before I go on, I think I should note a trigger warning. I’m pretty sure this is not a spoiler, but the protagonist is a cutter and that fixation occupies her mind a lot. Not just wanting to, but trying hide her body from others, as her whole body is scarred.
I found Camille’s personal story to be the best part of the novel, and wished for more about her life and the hell she lived through. What I could have had less of was the mystery element, due to the fact that I figured out pretty early on how the wind was blowing on that one.
Flynn still snuck in a couple of twists at the end, but every time they went back to the investigation, it felt more like wheels spinning than suspense. I really think Flynn should have had the reveal sooner and had a much longer fallout.
That being said, if you can handle the very dark subject matter, and are a fan of Gillian Flynn, I would recommend giving Sharp Objects a try.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi
This short story collection is centered around keys, locks, and everything they mean to us. The secrets that they hold, the means to go forward in life, and the means to conceal. No matter the time period, most of our protagonists are trying to grab a hold of something that might not be theirs to begin with.
This book is on another level. I’m pretty sure I only understood what was happening on the surface, and sadly that made me confused half of the time. Not a good book for a readathon, as I’m pretty sure that I’ll have to reread this later.
Oyeyemi’s writing is full of imagination, mystery, and stark imagery. It’s beautiful, but also holds the reader at a distance. I don’t mind open-ended short stories, but it’s nice to have some sense of closure, and I think only… two of the stories have any. I felt really frustrated, but maybe that was the point?
I don’t know. I almost didn’t give What Is Not Yours a score, because I really felt all over the place, but I think a six will suffice for now until I can reread it.
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
If you’re a fan of Parks & Rec or SNL, then you know the charming and hilarious Amy Poehler. With Yes Please, Poehler decides to dish out gems of wisdom about life, love, and when to be funny in her first memoir.
Sadly, I was really disappointed. I really like Poehler and enjoy her work on SNL and Parks and Rec, so I was really looking forward to reading her memoir. But this book was all over the place.
There were a couple of strong stories, like the one sketch that Poehler regrets performing on SNL, but most of the memoir was a jumble. I don’t need a straightforward ‘beginning to now’ narrative, but I do need focus.
No matter what you think of the quality, memoirs like Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty have very clear focus, and that’s the kind of memoirs I can get into. I still don’t even fully understand why Poehler named this book Yes, Please. She explains, it just doesn’t make any sense.
I wanted to like this book, but I only made it about 60% in when I had to quit. I know people usually give one star to books they DNF, but I feel like that’s really unfair in this case. There are a couple of really good stories in this book, they are just drowning in a swamp of unnecessary ramblings.
Unwind – Neal Shusterman
In the near future, a Second Civil War over reproductive rights comes to a horrible agreement, the Bill of Life. Abortion is illegal, but guardians have to choice to ‘Unwind’ unwanted children from ages 13 to 18. Unwinding is the process where the 100% of the subject’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so technically, life doesn’t end.
Unwind follows three children, Connor, Risa, and Lev, who for different reasons are sent to be ‘unwound’. Together they escape, but how long can they avoid being caught and sent to the harvest centers.
I’ve heard many praises for Unwind, but kept pushing it off because of the subject matter. Abortion is a heavily divisive topic, and I was afraid that the book wouldn’t have the maturity to handle such a loaded subject. I was also unsure about the concept itself, and the believability of a society letting ‘Unwinding’ happen.
So I just want to stand up right now and do a slow clap for Neal Shusterman.
Not only did Shusterman create a complete world, he also handled the subject matter with nuanced perspective and never gives the reader easy answers. Also, there’s plenty of action and suspense. Most YA novels I give up on are due to nothing happening for 200+ pages. Not this book, I was gripped in the first few pages.
No matter what you think about reproductive rights, I think this is a must read for all readers. The subject matter is dark, but the book brings up many questions that everyone should ponder.