Tag Archives: sex

People Hate People by Ellen Hopkins

At a time when hate has become a common occurrence where children are being held in detention centers while their parents are deported or bombs are being sent through the mail to high profile individuals or a synagogue has become the target of gunfire during a religious ceremony, these events, whether sanctioned or not, are the result of mistrust and resentment towards those who are not considered a part of main stream society. Nationalism (versus Patriotism), a part of the Make America Great Again Community, has become an accepted way of life for too many in the United States to the point where some individuals feel justified in acting out their feelings of hatred towards those they resent – for whatever reason.

Ellen Hopkins uses this darkness as the theme for her newest YA novel People Kill People. In her introduction she decries the rise of gun violence in this country and attempts to explore the reasons why someone might pick up a gun with the intent to do harm. Her unique style of combining freestyle poetry and introspective narratives introduces the reader to a group of struggling teenagers whose lives intersect through their reactions to their individual situations. Each faces varying issues, some dire others seemingly innocuous, but all internalized and possibly life changing.

We have seventeen year old Grace; her homeless boyfriend Daniel; Daniel’s half brother Tim, a skinhead; and Tim’s good friend Silas who is stalking Grace but finds solace in Tim’s cousin, the badass Ashlyn; Grace’s sister Cami who is a teen bride married to Rand with a two year old son Waylon; and Grace’s former best friend Noelle who was seriously injured in a car accident as a result of the shooting which killed Grace’s father. Their interactions create a story which ultimately leads to a shameful calamity.

I personally found this book difficult to read. The details were so tragic, the choices at times devastating, the introspections so negative I was left with a depressed view towards life, grateful that my own trials seemed trivial by comparison. This is definitely not a PG book since the dark subject matter  includes violence, sex, and numerous deplorable activities. Yet these subjects, while fictional, are based on real life events which occur too often in society, so I suppose they need to be addressed and discussed by the upcoming generation if attitudes have any hope of changing for the better.

Hopkins unique style provides smooth transitions as we “Slip into” each character’s skin and then “Fade out”,  helping us understand the motivations behind each of their choices.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Incendiaries: A Novel by R. O. Kwon

When I was in college, my boyfriend, for some reason, had to miss one of his upper level advanced mathematics courses and asked me to tape the class and copy down the notes written on the chalkboard. (Obviously this was quite a few years ago). The teacher was Asian with a stilted accent, but even if he had been totally fluent in English, my year of Introductory Calculus was not enough background for me to make heads or tails of the subject matter which the professor was attempting to impart, so I just nodded and copied and pretended that I had an inkling of the topic under discussion, flipping the tape over as appropriate.

This sense of confusion is similar to my experience in reading Incendiaries: A Novel by R. O. Kwon. Flitting from character to character giving little to no reference point with statements which only at times resemble sentences, flipping back and forth with tenses and pronouns so I wasn’t sure who was speaking and when the event occurred, I waded through this book (which was fortunately a quick read) until I finally got the gist of what was happening and was able to confirm my suspicions by going back to the beginning and skimming the chapters after my first go around with the text.

Not a traditional narrative, this book is about a group of students attending Edwards College in Noxhurst, a city somewhere in New York State (I think). There are side trips to New York City with a visit to other locations in the Northeast, although the main characters are originally from California and think nothing about bopping home. Ultimately the story is about a cult started by John Liel which entraps Phoebe Lin and almost ensnares her boyfriend, Will Kendall. The main characters all have some Korean blood and have experienced a past which makes them vulnerable to brainwashing, taking advantage of their questions concerning faith and Christianity. The Pro Life contingent is also a theme which reoccurs throughout the book.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to be sympathetic to any of these protagonists who are all self absorbed, with personality flaws that makes them largely unlikeable. Their college education is alluded to, but for the majority is more a setting than an activity. Bars and other gathering places abound with drinking, drugs, and sex which seem to be the primary activities mixed in with religious allusions. It’s a very jaded view of the college scene.

While the majority of the narrative is disjointed, there is a brief glimpse of a book which I could have liked – the section describing Will’s job as a waiter at an upscale restaurant and the difficulty he had with one of the patrons. Unfortunately, this is a mean spirited episode with more than a touch of misogyny, but at least it was readable.

So, if you like a challenge and are in the mood for a negative plot line, go for it. I, for one, plan to find a book which will make me laugh so as to remove the bitter taste which is currently lingering, just as I decided to major in English and not in Math.

Two and a half stars and a thank you to Edelweiss for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

Pornography – a shortened up plot focusing on the sex and neglecting the actual story. All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler is just this sort of book, a XXX movie version of literature. Main character Cole is a randy high school student who has mastered the art of wooing the pants off his female classmates. His less successful friends want him to reveal his secrets, but he’s only willing to share the details with his best friend Alec while they jerk off watching “those kind of movies” on the Internet (perhaps one of the reasons the Internet was invented and definitely the cause behind the discovery of the VCR/video camera). Whether from his numerous one night stands or multiple girlfriends of the week, Cole gets a well deserved rep. Yet he doesn’t feel the need to force any of them, they seem to expect his attentions and he is more than happy to oblige, aiming to please and refusing to feel guilty when they express remorse for their lewd behaviors. When a dry spell hits and there’s no girl available willing to risk her reputation, Cole discovers relief with Alec, but ruins their relationship when he returns to pursuing females claiming he is not homosexual, not even bi. Then Grisaille enters his life and their amazing sexual escapades leads to his first actual experience with love. When she dumps him he is heartbroken and can finally empathize with the multitude of girls he’s left behind. As a friend quipped – “The Poetic Justice Series”.

Don’t expect much of a story since, as the title suggests, the content is mainly about carnal confrontations, with short, incomplete sentences and not much of a narrative despite an occasional mention of soccer, art, music, or homework. Unfortunately, I fear there is a limited audience for this sort of book. It’s not quite graphic enough for lovers of porn, but contains too little of a plot to qualify as a story (not even a romance). I’m sure horny teenage boys will find this book entertaining, but the rest of us would prefer to read something a bit more substantial. Someone thought this novel reminded her of a cruder version of Judy Blume’s Forever, but it’s a bit closer to her adult novel Wifey focusing on just the steamy, vulgar sexual encounters. Its “For Mature Audiences” content is not recommended for school libraries, despite Handler’s reputation as a children’s author with his Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events.

Two stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.