Friday, March 20, 2009

Misleading title, btw.

Today, one of my friends commented to me that I was becoming "a real slacker, huh?" Guilty as charged. I have one more week of school before spring break and I head off to Central America, and in that week I have:

- 1 workshop submission to write
- 1 short screenplay to write
- 12 papers to grade
- 3 stories to critique
- 2 books to read
- 1 midterm to study for

Not to mention all the errands I must get under my belt before jetting off.

So what am I going to do? Of course, I'm going to take this very precious work/studying time to catch up on my book blog posts! Yay!

First up:

I finished reading Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood for my adolescent lit class.

You know, the thing about this book is that it held so much promise. When I started reading it, I geared myself up to settle into a book that I thought I would love. The language was lyrical, staccato, affected. It's told from the POV of a 17 year old Chicano boy, in love with a girl named Juliana. It was raw and had this great beat to it that I was excited for.

Then [SPOILER] Juliana dies. No shit. 40 pages in. And I was like, alrite, maybe the rest of this book will flesh out their relationship and his relationship to her loss in flashback. No dice. Despite the title, she's never a major factor in the book.

I have other qualms, like it's too melodramatic for my taste -- too many people dying or having tragedies happen to them. I mean, I get that maybe this is a reality for some people, but for the sake of fiction it was too overwrought. Even the ending. It's like, nothing could go right for anybody, and I dunno, I think sometimes fiction needs to have a purpose, make something work, not have chaos for the sake of chaos. Even if it's to show that real life can be like this, it has to be done in a controlled way, otherwise it loses its meaning, and I feel like that's what happened here. And the characters just kinda came in when it was convenient for Sammy and for Saenz himself. They were never important until they were. It was never truly a cohesive book to me, which was a shame, since clearly Saenz is talented.

My favorite part of the book was the language. And the first sixty pages. Don't get me wrong, the book is still worth reading, but from a critical standpoint, from a writer's perspective (and possibly even from a reader's perspective) there were a bunch of craft problems with the text.

I wonder if an adolescent reader would feel differently about the book though. I suggested it to my sister, who's a very discerning reader for a 15 year old, because I'm curious what she'd think.

Mm. I had a couple of passages I'd wanted to note, but I forgot to mark them down and now I can't remember. Ah well. I guess that's that.

Good, but not great. A fast read, though long for a YA book.

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