Books That Challenge You to Think

Have you ever read a book with a story that you did not like, yet you enjoyed the book as a whole because of what it said and stood for? For example, The Hunger Games is like this for some people. The world within the story, and the situations the characters face, are not pleasant. However because it addresses real issues and the fictional world is so thoroughly developed, it is enjoyable and a beneficial read.

This week I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy for my Modern West Lit class. I didn’t expect to like it, as I have not liked most of the books I have read in this class, and also because I had a friend tell me she had read it before and didn’t like it. However, I both did and did not like this book. On the surface, the story is monotonous and depressing. A man and his son travel through a post-apocalyptic North American wasteland in search of warmer weather and food, witnessing death and desolation on every page. It’s a horrible story if you just read it for surface value. The saving grace, is all the ‘big questions’ it brings. Hope is held onto even when it is not logical; why? Human nature, and what it means to hold onto one’s humanity is thoroughly discussed. There is so much beneath the surface of this book. The author has done a wonderful job of making his points without actually saying anything blatant or attacking anyone. I am not doing this book justice; it has such meaning. It was a hard read, but a good one. Additionally, The Road is uniquely formatted and written. There are no chapters, and the story flows poetically with irregular punctuation in places. Reading it takes a different rhythm than most books. This fits in with the man’s desire to hold on to his humanity, even as he sees it slipping away and society crumbled around him. It doesn’t really matter whether the apostrophe is in the right place, what matters is that the meaning gets across. This style could make it challenging for some people to read, but I found it creative and appropriate.

I have a lot of respect for this kind of book; the well-written books with more meaning to them than just what the words on the pages say. The books that make you think. This is not a book I will ever reread for fun, and probably I will never reread it at all unless it comes up in another class, but it is a book which has contributed to my worldview. It is distinctly postmodern, and there is a lot of discussion as to whether the ending is hopeful or pessimistic; personally I believe it to be optimistic, but this was not my first reaction. I had to think about it for a little while before making up my mind. I think that is what the author wanted. I gave this book four stars on Goodreads, but I felt the need to include a disclaimer of sorts explaining my intrigue with the deeper meaning despite disliking the story itself.

This was at times a hard book to read. I cannot recommend it to everyone; it is not written for everyone. I’m really not sure what to put as who I would recommend it for. Given what I have said about The Road, it is up to each reader to determine whether this is the kind of book they want to read. I do not feel like I can predict who it would be good for and who would not appreciate it.

Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

As of yesterday, I have joined the ranks of the unhappy but devoted readers of Allegiant. I am having a terrible time explaining myself without spoilers, but bear with me. There is so much new information about the world outside the city, it’s nearly incompatible with the first two books of the series. An entirely new world, problem, situation, and so many new lies are uncovered. It was an overwhelming shock to me just reading the story, I’m not sure that even super-human Tris could have not been traumatized, yet she (in stereotypical heroine way) takes it all in stride, only getting hung up on one detail, and not questioning the truth of it. She accepts it too easily for me. After all the lies she has been through, to then just accept new truths…I don’t know. It doesn’t fit. The ending I am not mad about. It makes sense, once you get into the ENTIRELY NEW STORY that is created in this third book. Really, if there was going to be that much new, life-altering information, it should have been foreshadowed somehow in the other books, or made into a longer series, or SOMETHING. It just didn’t work for me. It didn’t make sense how drastically and suddenly everything changed. I haven’t yet decided whether I am okay with this or not. I am still processing everything, and not happy about it but trying to accept it because it’s not really my decision.

Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Okay, so this review was originally just going to be over the first book of the Selection trilogy (The Selection) by Kiera Cass, but then I finished the second book (The Elite) and I’m not sure how this is going to go.

First off, I LOVE this series! Both books, which are the only two published so far, are wonderfully written. The story is interesting, fun, and unique, although sometimes a bit predictable. The heroine, America Singer, lives in a futuristic US-Canada-Mexico mashup country called Illea. It is run by a monarchy, with castes underneath to determine what kind of job and life the citizens have. There are undertones of rebellion throughout the books, but one cannot help but fall in love with Prince Maxon alongside America. This happens when, through a lottery that might not be so random after all, she is selected to compete in a “Bachelor”-esque competition for the heart of the Prince, which she originally objects to due to her comfort as a lower-middle class citizen, and because of her forbidden love with Aspen, the boy from the caste below her. Here the love triangle is set up, and while I know which boy I want America to end up with, she, as of yet, does not.

The characters are developed well. From America to the King to May, we learn plenty about each of them to understand their actions. From a literary viewpoint, this work was excellently crafted. There is enough suspense to carry the reader through, but not so much it is unbearable or too little so that I wouldn’t care about what happens next.

I definitely recommend reading this series! 5 stars from me.