books and covers: why I eventually read ANNA

Probably one of the most cliché adages I could mention on this site, being a book blog, is:

Don't judge a book by its cover.

While this phrase is generally used in application to interpersonal relationships, I'd like to take a moment to examine its barebones meaning, as well: don't judge a book by its cover. I will admit that I am guilty of wandering idly through a bookshop, finger and eyes both trailing across a sea of spines and titles, and I tend to gravitate toward the aesthetically well done. Meaning, they have a nice design, well-chosen and placed typography. Sometimes a title can affect things, but personally the title is the last variable in the haphazard equation whose result ends in my either buying the book or leaving it on the shelf.

Occasionally I can bypass this by being intrigued enough to flip through and read the first chapter - it's my rule of thumb that if I go into a bookstore and leave with a book I didn't intend to buy, I read the first chapter there to see if I'm hooked - and if I like it, I pick it up. Otherwise if a friend has discussed the title on their blog, Twitter, or at work, I can circumvent ignoring a book that I might have never read of my own accord.

Why does this even matter? As many of you probably know by now, the new covers for Stephanie Perkins' books have been revealed and I find myself not-so-secretly pleased by the new look. For the longest time I held off on reading ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS on the basis of two factors: the pastel, curlicue font, and, in ANNA's case, its title. The ANNA I created in my head every time I looked at the book was far different than the reality that I know and adore. I couldn't get past it. And then I finally read the book, holed up under the covers during Hurricane Irene, and I got it. I loved this book, I love its characters. I understood its title and I was incredibly grateful for finally giving it the chance it deserved. 

Still, when it was announced not long ago that the series would be receiving a makeover I was part-thankful, part-hesitant. I believed that a cover change could be beneficial in helping draw in a crowd of readers that, unlike me, may not have a group of people surrounding them telling them to give it a chance. While I won't post the new covers for ANNA and LOLA, as EW has that exclusive, here is the similarly themed cover for LOLA from Goodreads:

It is everything I love. Simple, bold font choices. Even-spaced typography and a beautiful sky-colored ombre. The rose? Almost a harken back to the old design, most likely intrinsic (like the heart and star) to the main characters involved. The most important thing ANNA (and, perhaps more aptly, LOLA) taught me, though, was to look beyond the design. It is the words, the emotion bottled between sentences that make the story come to life. The cover is just the doorway to Narnia.

review: unravel me by tahereh mafi

Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publication Date: 02/05/2013
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 461
Source: Purchased

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it's almost
time for war.
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.
The review for UNRAVEL ME me is going to be different than usual, mainly because as I was trying its threads together throughout the day I kept on coming back to a theme and it was something I wanted to structure my discussion of its story around. There will be mentions of things that happened in both SHATTER ME and DESTROY ME (mainly because I think they're quite relevant to what goes on in this book), so please consider yourself warned.

The theme of this review is independence and will be discussed in terms of characters.

Juliette: When we first meet Juliette Ferrars in SHATTER ME (r) we meet a shell of a girl, a gleaning of possibility inside a female frame. We find her not quite broken, but not quite whole. As someone who's spent her life being shunned, being told that she was different to the point of being a monster, Juliette has been denied human interaction for most of her life. The social experience that is necessary for the human psyche has been withheld from her and when she finds Adam it's almost as if she were a moth and he a flame. He can touch her, he can interact with her, and Juliette was able to feel as if she could be a person. It's almost as if Juliette thought that he was her independence, that his touch would set her free. And, to be frank, that worried me with SHATTER ME. In this installment Juliette has a fantastic moment with Kenji who sets her straight and begins to poke holes in the mental picture she's constructed of herself; she's painting herself in watercolors without knowing there is the possibility of oils and acrylics. Over the course of UNRAVEL ME Juliette finds the means to paint her future in a way that she never could have expected. She defines her own independence. Which leads to

The Reestablishment & The People: One of my favorite things about the previous installment was the way Tahereh was able to paint such a beautifully destructive picture of what was going on. Birds cannot fly, the Earth was giving up on itself, and humans were doing what they could - had put their faith in the last effort - to put things right. Without having all of the information, the reader was able to put together a puzzle in order to create a vivid image of the world. UNRAVEL ME, however, touches upon the lives of the people in a peripheral way that sets the stage for what may be an uprising. As this is a dystopian story, the government is supposed to be protecting the people (and perhaps they believe they are, in a way) but we begin to see what their lives look like and what little options they have. The luxury of choice is affordable only to those in the Reestablishment; citizens are scant less than pawns to be moved around. And these pawns are sick of it - they want to reach the other end of the board and have the chance to become what they want. The move toward freedom.

Warner: Warner is not a nice person. He's just not - he's killed people, he's ordered people to death, he's had people tortured. And so when there were mentions that from this book sprang some form of "Team Warner" I was incredibly concerned. To be fair, I'm not in love with Adam the way Juliette is (mainly because I haven't been missing that same need for connection that she has), but I appreciate his presence in the book. (I also liked him more in SHATTER ME than I did in this book, but that's neither here nor there.)  While I wouldn't call Warner a megalomaniac, he definitely has very specific personality traits, and if you've read DESTROY ME you get a glimpse of them: extremely orderly, well-groomed, habitual. Warner, it seems, doesn't care too much for change merely because change has never offered him anything. The one exception to this rule has always been Juliette, which brings me to this: Warner is not a "bad boy", he's not the brooding type that leans in doorways and will smother you with mystery. He's the type that will shoot you if he has to and then not think about it, because that's how he was raised. There is a very clear difference between the two, and I don't think that those facets alone make him interesting or attractive. For me, Warner's arc started in DESTROY ME and reading that is key to understanding why and how Warner also finds his own independence.

The thing about Warner, for me, is that he is the one that has supported Juliette's independence the most. Though he had his moments of professing his love throughout the series, he's never made any pretense about it. So while people's favorite chapter may be the infamous sixty-two, mine is the very last chapter of the book because it's the one point where we've seen Juliette in a situation that seems completely normal, a scene that would not be out of place today.

Juliette has always wanted to see a bird fly. In UNRAVEL ME she found her wings. Tahereh Mafi has built upon a ravaged world where her characters shine the brightest, and there just might be a possibility for flight.

Welcome!

I am presently on hiatus into the foreseeable future. You can find me on twitter, tumblr, or my writing website, wooordsea.com

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