Thursday, 8 August 2013

A Bit O' Contemporary Fiction

Room by Emma Donoghue

Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I've changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. "Was I minus numbers?"
"Hmm?" Ma does a big stretch.
"Up in Heaven. Was I minus one, minus two, minus three--?"
"Nah, the numbers didn't start till you zoomed down."
"Through Skylight. You were all sad till I happened in your tummy."
"You said it." Ma leans out of Bed to switch on Lamp, he makes everything light up whoosh
I shut my eyes just in time, then open one a crack, then both.
"I cried until I didn't have any tears left," she tells me. "I just lay here counting the seconds."
"How many seconds?" I ask her.
"Millions and millions of them."
"No, but how many exactly?"
"I lost count," says Ma.

Jack is five years old and lives in Room with his Ma - to him, the two of them and the furniture they own, and 'Old Nick' who comes into Room at night, are the only things that exist. According to Ma, outside of Room is Outer Space, and all the things on TV, the people and the countries and the animals and the foods and the whole world, are made up. But then one day Ma admits that there is a world outside the single room where they've spent all of Jack's life, and he begins to question all that he thought was true.

Room was unlike any book I've ever read. The idea, I thought, was really original - it captures some important modern themes but in a way that has never been done before. The writing is beautiful - I thought that the author managed the voice of a five-year-old boy very very well - and the plot is also good. I would have to say that this is a book less about the plot and more about the themes and issues raised, but even so, it was pretty gripping! There was some very interesting (and heartbreaking) social commentary:-

"Also everywhere I'm looking at kids, adults mostly don't seem to like them, not even the parents do. They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing all over again so they can take a photo, but they don't want to actually play with them, they'd rather drink coffee talking to other adults. Sometimes there's a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn't even hear."

All in all, Room was a beautiful and thought-provoking book. There was a certain something that I felt it lacked, but I couldn't tell you what. Nevertheless, I would thoroughly recommend it. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Shelter by Harlan Coben

I was walking to school, lost in feeling sorry for myself - my dad was dead, my mom in rehab, my girlfriend missing - when I saw the Bat Lady for the first time.
     I had heard the rumors, of course. The Bat Lady supposedly lived alone in the dilapidated house on the corner of Hobart Gap Road and Pine. You know the one. I stood in front of it now. The worn yellow paint was shedding like an old dog. The once-solid concrete walk was cracked into quarter-sized fragments. The uncut lawn had dandelions tall enough for the adult rides at Six Flags.
      The Bat Lady was said to be a hundred years old and only came out at night, and if some poor child hadn't made it home from a playdate or practice on the Little League field before nightfall - if he or she risked walking home in the dark instead of getting a ride, or was maybe crazy enough to cut through her yard - the Bat Lady got you.

All his life, Mickey Bolitar has been on the move - his parents do charity and relief work, going from country to country to help those in need. When he is fifteen they decide to move back to the States so that he can settle down, enroll in a permanent school, and pursue his budding basketball career - but soon after the transition, Mickey's father is killed in a car crash and his grief-stricken mother goes into rehab. Mickey goes to live with his estranged uncle Myron, in the town where he and Mickey's father grew up, and so gets yet another new life: new school, new friends, new enemies, and a new girlfriend, Ashley. But then Ashley disappears without trace, and along with his new friends Spoon and Ema, Mickey, who is determined to find her, is plunged into a dark world he knew nothing about. Soon they are caught up in a mystery as they try to discover the truth about Ashley, Mickey's parents, and the mysterious and maligned 'Bat Lady' who lives in their town. 

Shelter was a great novel. I am not normally one for thrillers/mysteries/any YA fiction really, and I have to say I didn't have high hopes, but I was immediately gripped by the fast-moving, suspenseful plot. The writing itself was also good (though that's not really the point in a novel of this sort) and so were the characters - I really liked Ema and Spoon (whose random facts were hilarious) and Mickey too. Often those of the damaged-but-strong-and-brave-teenage-boy trope can get annoying with their recklessness and occasional angry outbursts (yes, Jamie from Department 19, I'm lookin' at you) but he avoided this. Which was nice. Someday I would like to have a teenage boy hero who isn't damaged and troubled whilst still remaining strong in the face of adversity AND a sporting star AND really good-looking (though the author never says it in so many words), but hey, you can't have it all. Overall, I really enjoyed Shelter - unfortunately for it, I did subsequently read How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn which rose into my 'favourite books' list before breaking my heart, and this reinforced by firm belief of stunningly written classics beat fast-moving thrillers, and made me remember why I generally steer clear of YA etc. However, if you have, say, a younger brother who is reluctant to read, or if you're looking for a bit of easy summer reading and a satisfying mystery yourself, get your hands on Shelter.

Rating: 8/10

Love you,


  1. I recently bought Room at a used bookshop and it sounds really good, hopefully I'll be reading it soon! I've never heard of the other book though but it sounds really good, the synopsis kinda reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird with the whole Boo Radely hoohaah!x

    1. I would definitely recommend it! As for Shelter, that hadn't occurred to me - but you're right! :L


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