Hook #5: The Estrangement of Dr. Fry

He had two cavities. One in his upper molar on the right side and the other on the left. Michelle smiled at him and pulled the teal mask over her face.

“Open as wide as possible please.”

His lips cracked and broke on either side. He thought distractedly that he should have put something on. He almost used a lip-balm sample he found under the sink in the bathroom, but thought better of it. Shiny lips on a man he thought, what would people say?

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

First Paragraph: August 25, 1991 Dear friend,

I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Please don’t try to figure out who she is because then you might figure out who I am, and I really don’t want you to do that. I will call people by different names or generic names because I don’t want you to find me. I didn’t enclose a return address for the same reason. I mean nothing bad by this. Honest.

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie, a nervous and unique teenager, through his freshman year of high school. It’s a simple premise, but this novel is about so much more than high school. It’s about what it means to live the life you want, to care for others, to push boundaries, and to belong, at any point in life, for any member of any generation. It isn’t about sugar coating some experiences or over exaggerating others. It’s simply the life of a boy used to observing others, and how he comes to “participate” in life, and furthermore, why “participating” is even a necessity.

That's not just a river, it's my tears

Okay, I got really serious there for a little bit, but if you just spent the last few hours of your life dripping tears all over a book I’m sure you might get a little serious too. The Perks of a Wallflower isn’t the sort of novel where you cry because things are sad, but where you cry because it’s beautiful. It’s amazing that Chbosky was able to write in an unconventional style and format, while conveying a depth of emotion and profound observation that some people might think is only possible through use of words like ‘austerity’ and ‘desultory’.

If I hadn’t read the note at the beginning of the novel about it being a work of fiction I would have pegged it as a memoir. Each person and thing that happens in the novel is scary authentic. I didn’t have to spare any mental effort to picture the scenes in the novel. I still wonder if Chbosky has duped us all by writing a memoir and calling it fiction. As I was reading I even started to worry about characters, I worried that Charlie might not make friends in his sophomore year, and I worried about his grandfather getting sick, and I worried that his mom might get too sad now that two of her children would be off to college.

I'm sorry I killed you...

The best thing about this novel, is that it lets you bring it with you. No, I don’t mean that since the novel is fairly thin and slight you can sandwich it between your textbooks, or fit it easily into your purse—though I’m sure you can. I mean that it inspires you about life, it forces you to strip away all the dreary boring things about living that can drag you down, and reminds you of that day where you sat alone somewhere, anywhere, and how someone came over and talked to you, and how that small gesture could lift your spirits for 12 hours at least. The worst thing about this novel is that I may have killed a tree since I had to use one tissue to blow my nose, and another to wipe my tears. In short, I find it basically impossible to find fault in the novel.

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Hook #4: Loretta’s Antique Emporium

I used to think the everyone’s purpose in life was simply to live. It didn’t matter whether that meant conducting heart surgery to save a child’s life, or sitting in an alley shooting up. As long as there was blood in your veins and air in your lungs you were living. It took me eighteen years to realize that life wasn’t like that. The mailman delivering shitty rom com dvds from Netflix, the mother of two, even the astronaut in space, none of them were living. Not really.

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City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

First Paragraph: “You’ve got to be kidding me,” the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest. He stared down at the boy in the red zip-up jacket and shook his shaved head. “You can’t bring that thing in here.” The fifty or so teenagers in line outside the Pandemonium Club leaned forward to eavesdrop. It was a long wait to get into the all-ages club, especially on a Sunday, and not much generally happened in line. The bouncers were fierce and would come down instantly on anyone who looked like they were going to start trouble. Fifteen year-old Clary Fray, standing in line with her best friend, Simon, leaned forward along with everyone else, hoping for some excitement.

Review: City of Bones is an urban fantasy novel that follows Clary Fray as she discovers that hidden just beyond the world she knows is another one full of faeries, werewolves, vampires, and shadowhunters. Shadowhunters are warriors that hunt down and kill demons and other creatures that might harm humans. A shawdowhunter is what Clary would have been if her mother hadn’t purposely hidden her from that world. As always, you can only hide from your past for so long before it catches up with you, and soon Clary must enter this new world to save her mother from certain death.

I could hang out with this lady

Cassandra Clare is the only author I have seen that is so involved and connected to her fan base. She lives and breathes these books and seems eager to communicate with readers that love the series as much as she does. When I see an author so connected to her characters it makes them seem all the more real which makes City of Bones, and its following novels of the series, that much more of a pleasure to read.

The novel is written in third person but features different perspectives of characters, so the reader isn’t always following the heroine around. It’s as much of a novel about Clary as it is about Simon, or Jace, or any of the other characters. The advantage of this style is that it breaks up the monotony that a single perspective can sometimes give, but the drawback is that it takes out a lot of suspense. At times I knew so much more than the protagonist I became frustrated with how oblivious she was. And when you’re frustrated with the protagonist it makes it difficult to sympathize with them. But I still prefer this style because it gives the reader a chance to see a focus on their favourite characters other than the herione.

"Hey pop, what do you think's outside New York?" "No more of these dreamer thoughts Jimmy."

Clare’s writing style is something I actually enjoy. Nothing reads as being particularly awkward and she has a more casual style of writing that I think sits well with the novel’s demographic. The novel, for the most part, takes place in New York city and while the setting is well developed there, it’s difficult to imagine anything beyond New York. City of Bonescomes across as a novel more about characters, relationships and action sequences than the world it takes place in. I don’t imagine that this was the author’s intention but I found it difficult to imagine anything remotely supernatural occurring beyond the city. People that leave New York in the novel are like middle school friends on facebook. You know they exist, and you might have a moment when you think “remember so-and-so?”, but ultimately they have no influence or detrimental life significance.

The best thing about City of Bones is the seamless combination of romance and ass-kicking. I like a mushy love connection like any other woman who cries watching Disney movies, but I also love a good slasher and gross-out fest. The worst thing about City of Bones is that I can’t picture myself walking the streets of New York and being transported into memories of the book, and let’s be honest, I’m pretty sure J.K. Rowling is the only person on this planet that can make people wet themselves with excitement about the prospect of getting on a train in Britain.

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Hook #3: If I Should Die Before I Wake

The blue horizon stretched across my vision and wild blooms with strange dotted petals bat against my legs. Dad would have loved it. They all would have. Giant shining beams of light flashed in the distance. It was like granddad’s movies from when he was a kid. At first I never wanted to watch them. They were black and white, the sounds were made by people, and the effects by shining different lights on the screen. Soon I found myself looking forward to those nights. Now it was just me, Evie, and flashing beams of light against a blue horizon.

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Matched by Allyson Condie

First Paragraph: Now that I’ve found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night? My wings aren’t white or feathered; they’re green, made of green silk, which shudders in the wind and bends when I move—first in a circle, then in a line, finally in a shape of my own invention. The black behind me doesn’t worry me; neither do the stars ahead. I smile at myself, at the foolishness of my imagination. People cannot fly, though before the Society, there were myths about those who could. I saw a painting of them once.

"I'm like Obama for these people."

Review: Matched is an faux-utopian I swear I should coin that term universe. Their government acts much like a librarian on crack and meticulously sorts everyone into a place in society that has the highest percentage of universal success. Based on each individual’s unique characteristics they are sorted into categories deciding everything from who to marry, which food to eat, and which trees to plant, to how many weights to lift at the gym. Cassie, the novel’s heroine, is initially primarily concerned only with who she will be matched with at the matching banquet. Quite simply they arrive at this banquet, a computer tells them who they will marry, and then they begin a process of getting to know the person. At this point suddenly an image of Jdate.com pops into my mind as I think of how similar this is to internet dating. Except of course for the fact that if you meet the person and they have giant buck teeth and a unibrow you can’t change your mind.

The problem Cassie has it that for a quick second before her announced match is revealed the computer flashes an image of another boy named Ky Markham. DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN.

Since she is the heroine of the novel it would be completely unacceptable in every way for her to simply move on, so she pursues Ky and ultimately falls in love with him instead. I would say spoiler alert but it’s such an obvious outcome that it seems unnecessary to do so. Thankfully not everything in the novel is so predictable and a lot of twists and turns develop out of Cassie’s new interest in Ky. Cassie starts to figure out that the perfect uptopia she lives in, is in fact, not as it appears.

"... wait for it... it's coming... I can feel it... just wait..."

What’s most commendable in this novel is how Condie took an initially flighty and shallow girl and developed her into an intelligent and inquisitive young woman—if I can say so without sounding like a mother at her teenage daughter’s high school graduation. Quite often I don’t particularly like female protagonists as they tend to blend in with the background. The male lead always seems more interesting likely because they have to be unique to catch the protagonist’s attention. Sadly, Matched is no different. Ky Markham is still 500 times more exciting, character wise, than Cassie. Even with her acts of rebellion and new outlook on life, when reading a scene with Cassie I found myself wondering what Ky was doing.

While I did enjoy the novel and will definitely be reading more of this series, for its inability to make its protagonist more likable than her love interest, I highly doubt it will be counted amongst my favourite reads. With more of these sorts of faux-utopian novels coming out (Hunger Games, Matched, The Maze Runner, Uglies, Year of the Flood, I could seriously go on forever…) Matched is still able to come up with a fresh concept. This makes me happy because at the rate people are going I’m afraid we might run out of ways to destroy the world as we know it, and give birth to a new world where people are ignorant to their own oppression.

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Hook #2: Ezra Cloud

There had always been something peculiar but fascinating about Ezra Cloud. Charlie saw it in the way he walked—a confident stride even with the tip of his right foot turned inwards. He had the appearance of being a boy of fortunate mistakes. His haircut was asymmetrical and most days he dressed in a mismatched array of colours and trinkets always paired with dark blue jeans. He was a boy, she thought, unlike other boys.

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