Friday, February 28, 2020

The Plain Janes, by Cecil Cadtelucci

I needed something good to read that would be a quick read, so I grabbed Cecil Castelucci's graphic novel The Plain Janes, which just hit the "New" shelf. This book is actually three stories in one, detailing the (mis)adventures of four highschoolers, all named Jane, and their pursuit to bring art appreciation to their small town -- Despite the art-hating police chief, who attempts to thwart them at every turn.

I thought The Plain Janes would be cute, lighthearted story about four art nerds. Something I, also an art nerd, could totally get into. I mean, look at the cover: It's so happy and adorable! But the story was actually much more serious than that. It touched on heavy topics like censorship, paranoia, fear, and the dark side of family and friend dynamics. I didn't expect so many politics. You have to be careful when you're an author writing about politics. It's very easy to get caught up in a rant and have your story suffer. I've seen it happen.  More so in recent years than ever before. It's not a pretty thing. But with Plain Janes I never once felt like I was being force-fed any kind of agenda, so I was able to sit back and enjoy the story (and root for the Janes, of course).

Overall, I loved the story of how these four underdogs banded together to change their entire town by introducing art and flowers and beauty. It is an inspiring story of friendship and how several small changes can lead to one BIG change. I loved it!


Monday, February 24, 2020

Honeymoon by Beach Bunny

When I first heard "Prom Queen" by Beach Bunny on Alt Nation, I had a kind of gut reaction to it.  For a moment I thought that I was on the 90's grunge and alternative station and that they were playing some old Riot Grrl song that I didn't know.  Then I saw that it was new.  I added it to my playlist and it has been in heavy rotation.  It's one of those songs that, for me, feels like it's just always been there.

"Prom Queen" isn't on this album but as soon as we got it in I had to check it out anyway.  I LOVE it.  I think you should listen to it but you're going to have to wait until I return it which could be a while...

Beach Bunny is an alternative/surf band from Chicago.  If I could liken their sound to other bands I would call it a cross between Silversun Pickups, L7, and the Raincoats. It had a great 90's vibe and is super catchy.For me the standout track was the last one, "Cloud 9."

Friday, February 21, 2020

Throwback... Friday? (Book/Movie Pairing: Paper Towns by John Green)

The one thing about pretty much very John Green book ever written is you can rely on certain things...pretty much in the same way you can rely on the Earth to take (approximately) 356.25 days orbit around the Sun: 

1. A Teenage Main Character who is a bit too whiny for their own good. Said character is often highly intelligent and more well-read than the average college graduate, but always lacks common sense (see 3)

2. An Unattainable Love Interest who is SO darn bizarre they don't even seem real, but, rather, like a mixed bag of the most weird and random personality quirks the author could dream up. They're more Caricature than character.

3. Drama, drama and...wait for it... MORE drama. And did I mention there's drama? Because there is. Lots of it. Said drama is always caused by the Love Interest and always, always derails the life of the Main Character. Because Main Character just can't leave things be (see 1).

4. The Classic Chick Lit Best Friend (or friends). Because every Hero/Heroine needs a Wingman (or Wingwoman) to feed into and encourage their obsession over the Unattainable Love Interest. And to provide (over-the-top) comic relief.

It doesn't matter if the above characters are male or female. This is the formula. It obviously works, because the books sell. And there was a time when we couldn't even keep them on the shelf (That time has pretty much passed. Magical Warrior Princesses seem to be what's in right now). 

I recently re-read Green's Paper Towns (2008) and followed it up with the movie adaption. The story is typical faire: Good Kid Quinten, or "Q" to his friends, has been 100% obsessed with his neighbor, Margo, since the day she and her family moved next door. Margo is a free-spirited quirk fest whose reputation as a wild child precedes her (and she's actually done most of what the rumors say she's done). After years of ignoring Q, she suddenly shows up at his window and precedes to drag him on an all-night revenge mission of vandalism and destruction, cumulating with breaking into Sea World. And all this without getting caught or arrested. Because, you know, she's Margo. The next day, Margo has vanished. But she's left an elaborate series of near-impossible-to-crack clues as to her whereabouts. Clues that Q drops everything to solve, thus putting in jeopardy his perfect attendance record, the trust of his parents, and the relationship with his best friends... because said friends inevitably get dragged along for the ride. They eventually find Margo, but (spoiler) the story doesn't end like Q hopes. 

The movie adaption pretty much followed the book. Except for the ending which, in my opinion, should have stuck closer to the original story. But the casting was decent (although I pictured Margo differently). And I was entertained enough to keep watching. 

Overall, though. I didn't like either the book or the movie. For all her crazy quirks, she didn't have much of a personality. And I didn't understand what Q (or anyone else, for that matter) saw in her. Maybe if she'd had some redeeming features, I could get behind such a character. Rather, she came across as a selfish brat who was just out to screw up everyones' lives in order to alleviate her own boredom. 

Also, no one. And I mean NO ONE would have realistically been that bothered to find and decipher that cryptic and vague trail of clues. 

But otherwise, we wouldn't have had a story. 

I can see the appeal of Paper Towns to its intended audience. And it's a nice break from Warrior Princesses. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Strange Ones, by Jeremy Jusay

Imagine this:

It's a slow afternoon, not quite time for the after school crowd, and I figure I'd browse the "New" shelf. I come across Jeremy Jusay's graphic novel, The Strange Ones, tucked away between two much more brightly-colored books. I suddenly recall reading some buzz about this book weeks ago, but couldn't remember exactly the where or when or what. So I pick it up and am instantly absorbed in by the story.

Set in the mid-90s, around the time I was just finishing up Senior Year and getting ready to head off to college (into the unknown), The Strange Ones centers on a friendship formed between Anjeline and Franck, two loner teens each struggling to put their past demons behind them. As they explore New York City, they bond over cheap food and the alternative music scene. They become each other's first friend in a long time. They each become what the other needs...even though they have no idea of this when they first meet.

And then Franck dies.

And Anjeline is left to cope with the aftermath.

Honestly... I wasn't exactly expecting that twist. At all. I thought this was going to be one of sweet, dime-a-dozen stories about the healing power of friendship. Maybe with a romance blossoming toward the end. And it sort of was. Just not the way I expected. But after some thought, the story (as dark as it became at one point) was exactly as it should be. And I wouldn't have changed a thing about it.

Sometimes you NEED a story with all the feels (one besides warm fuzzy ones), and The Strange Ones definitely delivered.

I loved this story so much more than I expected to. And I'm happy I picked it up.