Shiirleyy's Bookshelf has migrated to Dear Shirley ! I will continue to post book reviews but there will also be a lot of personal and travel-related posts :)

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

10 May 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why 
by Jay Asher 
Publisher: Penguin    
Release Date: 2009 

 You can't stop the future. You can't rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play. 
Clay Jensen returns home from school one day to find a mysterious box with his name on it, outside his front door. Inside he discovers a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush. Only, she committed suicide two weeks earlier. On the first tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did - and Clay is one of them. 

If he listens, Clay will find out how he made the list - what he hears will change his life forever.

Having just finished 13 Reasons Why, I’m in two minds; on one hand, from a personal perspective, I didn’t like the portrayal of Hannah, her actions and did not agree with the overall message of the book. I am aware that the message I took from 13 Reasons Why is completely different to what the author's intended purpose was, but everyone interprets books differently and unfortunately, the intended message didn't resonate with me. Having said that, I do feel that with the right audience, this book can have a powerful effect on its readers. As someone who has never had suicidal thoughts/tendencies I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on the suicide aspects of the book. I mean, something that I think is completely trivial and insignificant in the grand scheme of things could potentially be the catalyst for someone else’s demise. This review is purely my opinion and I’ll try to be as non-judgmental as possible.

 I, like many other reviewers think that to enjoy this book, one must first and foremost be able to empathise with Hannah. Now, kudos to all the people who did empathise with her but good Lord, she was whiny, oversensitive and self-absorbed. (Sorry no more judgmental comments from me) I mean, I felt sorry for her, sure, but did that feeling transform into empathy? Unfortunately no. I won’t go into all the reasons why I didn’t like her because like I said above, I don’t think I have the right to judge her so I’ll leave it at that.

 I was often exasperated at the shifting of perspectives between Clay’s life/thoughts in the present day and Hannah’s narration on the tapes. I would be absorbed in Hannah’s story and trying to guess how the current guy/girl fucked up, when all of a sudden I’d be reading a line that made absolutely no sense given the context. I would re-read it and realize that it was actually Clay’s thought about something completely irrelevant to Hannah’s story. Not going to lie, I skimmed most of Clay’s thoughts and instead jumped to Hannah’s story. At the start of every chapter, I hoped that the next person would fuck up so badly that I would finally warm up to Hannah and understand her, but disappointingly that never happened.

 I’m definitely looking forward to watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I’ve heard the show doesn’t shy away from graphic scenes and I’m glad about that. Despite being disappointed with the book, I have high hopes for the show. Perhaps the acting will change my mind about Hannah.

 UPDATE: Watched the show and loved the acting!!! Unfortunately the message I took from the TV show was even worse than the message I got from the book. I did however start to understand Hannah's decision towards the end (after what Bryce did, which was by the way different from what happened in the book). Having said that, I did have A LOT of issues with it (primarily the fact that everyone was blaming each other but no one gave a shit about the rapist in town?). I'm considering doing a 13 Reasons Why TV Show review too but we'll see :)

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

26 Apr 2017

The Upside of Unrequited 
by Becky Albertalli 
Publisher: Penguin   
Release Date: 11th April, 2017  

 Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love-she's lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can't stomach the idea of rejection. So she's careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. 

 Then a cute new girl enters Cassie's orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly's cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness-except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

 There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's an awkward Tolkien superfan, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

The Upside of Unrequited
I’ve discovered that with time and age, my reading preferences have changed. I’m certain 16 year old me would have swooned, gushed and raved endlessly about how cute The Upside of Unrequited is and talked excessively about how adorably slow and perfect the romance between the Molly and Reid is. Unfortunately, 22 year old me thought the whole push and pull between the two was too cute for my liking - I think I can only tolerate small doses of cuteness before I go “Yeah, nah”, onto the next book.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed about The Upside of Unrequited, and then I’ll address the main issue I had with it. I think most people would disagree with

A relatable main character
The Upside of Unrequited had the ingredients for the perfect YA book. In particular, I found Molly’s actions and the situations she found herself in very relatable. Molly has had 20-something crushes in the past and none of them moved past the ‘crush’ stage because she never communicated her feelings in fear of rejection. Yeah, guess what – same here. The whole time I was thinking “wow….this is so me”. Some other examples of some things I do that I didn’t think anyone else did until I read this book.

“I google the number, but Google doesn’t know, and I feel dumb asking who it is. So I ignore it. “

So yes, when I receive a random call and he/she doesn’t leave a voicemail, or when I receive a random text from someone I always google the number first and then decide whether or not to call back. Usually when they don’t leave a voicemail, I ignore the number.

“It’s the second time, because you’ve already used up all the obvious topics of conversation.”

This one is so applicable to me when I meet people I don’t ‘connect’ with. I mean, I can keep a conversation going during our first meeting – no worries – but if we randomly bump into each other again, say the next day then sorry, but what the heck am I suppose to talk to you about?! All obvious topics of conversation have been exhausted! Hhahahahah obviously this doesn’t happen all the time, but when I read the quote above, I just thought of situations in the past where I had nothing to say to someone I’d just bumped into.

I've been on and off on twitter over the last few years so sometimes I miss out on important bookish news and trends. Sometime last year/ this year 'Diversity' became a top trending topic between readers, bloggers, authors and publishers. From reading a couple of tweets it seems the gist of it was readers wanted more diversity in books. Well, turns out, you asked and Becky Albertalli delivered.

Now, I’m going to say something that may not be well received since after reading a few reviews and general comments on Twitter, I’ve concluded that my feelings belong in the minority. While I appreciate Albertalli’s attempt at creating a world with all types of diverse characters, the impression I got was more of a 'diversity dump' or a shopping list of diverse characters. I personally felt it was a desperate attempt to incorporate all these diverse characters into one book to appeal to readers to the point that the characters didn't feel realistic anymore. They felt like chess pieces brought in for the sole purpose of writing a book about diversity; there was no substance or depth to any of the characters beyond their labels. I remember at least one character was Jewish, and others had different skin colours, religion, sexuality but that was it. The terms were thrown around and then the story went back to the cute interactions between Molly and Reid.

I was slightly annoyed at Albertalli’s representation of Mina. The first time I realized she was Asian I thought “Oh yay! An Asian character, I like this book already!” Then after a few chapters I got the feeling that Albertalli was desperate to reiterate to the readers that Mina‘s A PERSON OF COLOUR, that it felt like she was shoving this fact in my face. Cassie was constantly saying how Mina is "Korean-American" and the whole time I just imagined Mina with a banner above her head with the words LOOK AT ME. IM KOREAN-AMERICAN. A DIVERSE CHARACTER.

So my point is I like books where the author doesn’t tell me once, twice, or five thousand times that someone is pansexual, or Asian or Jewish. Please do your research and show me this information. Having said all that, The Upside Of Unrequited wasn’t bad – it was a quick read and I definitely enjoyed it but I probably won’t be coming back for more.