First published 4th December, 2005 in StarMag
THE WHITE DARKNESS
By Geraldine McCaughrean
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 272 pages
I HAVE been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now – which is ridiculous, since he’s been dead for 90 years.”
The reader gets a pretty clear idea what Symone, heroine of The White Darkness, is like from the first line of Geraldine McCaughrean’s latest (and, in my opinion, best thus far) novel.
Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates, one of the men on Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated 1911 expedition to the South Pole, is not usually the sort of bloke 14-year-olds obsess about. but Symone, shy, sensitive and romantic, has neither the vocabulary nor the stomach for the preoccupations of the average 21st century adolescent. While her classmates discuss snogging and boys, she dreams about glaciers and snow storms and Oates.
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Here is my review in all its original smutty glory.
Actually, I have a confession to make: I don’t consider the reviews I write reviews at all, not according to the Wikipedia definition anyway: ‘A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit.’
Once upon a time I wrote those kinds of reviews, now I guess I just talk about what the books mean to me.
How to Build a Girl reminded me of growing up ‘fat’ and doubtful in 1980s Batu Pahat, Johor. Left to my own devices I would not have doubted anything, least of all myself, but encouraged by some friends and some family members, I suffered from periodical bouts of self-hate and self-doubt. Sure, I should not have let what they say get to me, but hey, that was before I knew anything about life, or myself, way before I became the fabulous Me that’s typing this post.
Anyway, I should perhaps write a post about being a ‘fat’, sexually-frustrated teenager for my personal blog. It would be a book-length post though, so perhaps I should think of writing a memoir. That would be one way to get thrown out of the country.
Until then, my review of How to Build a Girl …Read More »
First published on 25th May, 2014 in The Star.
Review by DAPHNE LEE
BOY, SNOW, BIRD
Author: Helen Oyeyemi
IN Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi’s fifth novel, nothing is what it seems, hardly anyone is what they appear to be. The whole is misdirection, right from the title, with its three names that reveal and conceal. Boy, Snow, Bird – names that make a show of telling the truth yet hint at mysteries and secrets.
Take Boy – not a boy, but a beautiful girl – an icy beauty, white-blond, black-eyed. With a name like Boy she could only be a character in soap opera or a fairy tale. She is neither. Boy’s life is a nightmare thanks to an abusive and sadistic father who traps rats for a living. The time comes when Boy decides to leave, to avoid death or maiming, and seek her fortune. She ends up in Flax Hill, a small New England town where she meets Arturo Whitmore, a widower with a daughter named Snow.
Lies are at the centre of this story, they are its foundation and its decoration. They drive the plot, and shape the lives of the characters. The story is a broken mirror (mirrors are an important in this book): each piece of glass tells a lie of some sort, and the whole is a distorted image that changes according to your perspective, and depending on the kinds of patterns you see in the cracks. Maybe there are no patterns. Maybe you see rifts, dividing lines that you can fall through, disappear into.
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First published on 27th October, 2013 in The Star
NESA, my friend and fellow-book junkie, said recently that the right books always come along just when they’re needed: “I wonder how they know?”
More Than This by Patrick Ness was the right book for me last week. I received a review copy a month ago but only started reading it when I remembered the review (which you’re reading now) was due. Incidentally, Ness’ A Monster Calls is always the right book. It makes me cry. And cry. And cry. And it always feels so good, so cathartic.
More Than This … it turned out to be an unexpected antidote to a psychic punch in the solar plexus. It’s about a boy, Seth, who drowns and then wakes up in the house he lived in as a child. At one point he wonders if he’s in hell: Something happened to Seth when he was eight years old and living in that house, in England. It was something terrible – so terrible that the place might well qualify as the setting for Seth’s own, personal hell.
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First published on 8th September, 2013 in The Star
FINALLY, a local (regional) coming-of-age story teenagers can really sink their teeth into!
A Song Of The Wind by Isa Kamari probably wasn’t written for teenagers, but this book, translated by Sukmawati Sirat and R Krishnan, and recently published by Silverfish Books, is just the sort of “young adult” book I’ve been waiting to see on Malaysian bookshelves.
It’s set in Singapore, spanning the 1960s to 1980s, and tells the story of Ilham, the eldest of four children who live in Kampung Tawakala, a village near the Brown Hill cemetery, which still exists although it closed in the 70s – there’s even a Bukit Brown MRT stop.Read More »