Monthly Archives: January 2013

The One That Could Have Been

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Big thanks and hugs to the magical Amy Zhang for making this post and then giving me permission to post something similar.

What would your life be like if you hadn’t started writing?

Olivia is a tallish blondeish sophomore who falls under that stiff category of ‘smart’ that folks like to apply to people who get A’s in hard classes and talk about things other than Facebook and who’s dating who. She does well in her classes, better than most, but she isn’t a genius like that crazy girl in her AP Psych class who took AP Calc in her freshman year and got a 5 on the exam. She does great in math but hates it, great in Biology but not so hot in Chemistry, great in History but doesn’t like the teaching style, and her favorite is English. English is always the class she loves, because she feels like it is the one class where her opinion matters. In math, when she asks why, they tell her “Because.” In Chemistry, when she says she didn’t choose answer B. because even though that was the answer she got, it didn’t feel right, they laugh at her. In History, her thoughts about current events don’t really matter so much as The All Important 8 Characteristics of Civilizations and Who Chopped off Who’s Head In The French Revolution. In English, it all matters. She gets to do really fun stuff  like write papers about what the green light in The Great Gatsby means and talk about the Latin roots of vocabulary. She secretly wishes she could have a career in English, but those jobs are capital N Not Secure and therefore Not A Good Idea. She figures she’ll be a doctor when she is older. She liked Biology so much after all,so it seems to fit. Olivia volunteers at the hospital so she’s used to the way it feels, the urgency everyone has. She even has the I-Have-People’s-Lives-To-Save-So-Get-The-Bleep-Out-Of-My-Way walk down. Sometimes she gets a little sad and feels like there is something more to life that she’s missing, something different that she could be, that she should be, that no one has told her about. Sometimes she wakes up at 4 AM having had a crazy, vivid dream about 20 foot insects who had a food fight while hovering over Paris and feels like she should do something about it. Even though she’s not quite sure what she could do with a story like that, she has a feeling that as crazy as these dreams are, no one in the world has ever had the same dreams, and that is amazing

She also has terrific nightmares where she wakes up panting and sweating and crying. Nightmares of sitting all alone in a big house, with lots of money but no happiness. Nightmares of being 25 and in her very first Gross Anatomy class and realizing, wait a second, I can’t cut into an actual person, why the heck am I training to be a doctor? She is deathly afraid of not succeeding, and equally afraid of being unhappy.

If I never started writing, that fear of not succeeding would probably still be outweighing my fear of not being happy. If I never started writing, I think there would forever be a part of me missing, a hole in my heart. It scares me how close I came to never writing.

The Olivia I am today is still a tallish, blondish sophomore who falls under the category of ‘smart.’ She still does well in her classes and will probably go to a good college and have a nice, secure job/life in a few years. But she is so, so different, so fundamentally not-the-same as the other Olivia. She is HAPPY instead of distant and insecure. (okay, maybe still a little distant and insecure. but who isn’t, really?) She loves the part of her that made her want to challenge the norm and think differently from other people seem to. She writes down the ideas she has and harbors big hopes for them.

If she hadn’t started writing, she would have smiled vaguely and answered ‘Doctor.’ when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now, she replies ‘Author’ and if they say “Don’t worry, you’re only a sophomore in high school, you don’t have to know yet.” she replies that she does know already, thank you very much, and nothing they can say will change it.

Olivia

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Book Review- Between Shades of Gray

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This book blew my expectations out of the water! From the very first page I was captured, and read it in the space of about two days. It’s the kind of book that gives you a hunger for more, even after you finish reading it. When I first started it, I was in a nasty reading slump, but it pulled me out fast! It reminded me how much I really love reading stories of other times, other people, other events, and for that, I am grateful.

Lina Vilkas is a normal teenage girl in Lithuania; she loves to paint and draw, she crushes on boys and has high hopes for the future. But when Stalin invades Lithuania and deports thousands to working camps in Siberia, everything changes.

One thing I’ve learned from reading a lot of historical books is that it takes skill to write about a different time period than our own and make it simulatiously informative and entertaining. The line between informative and a history lesson is a difficult one, but this book successfully made a truly interesting period of history entertaining and enjoyable. Also, it was nice to read about a historical period I hadn’t heard about yet. I obviously knew about WWII and that it affected everything, everywhere, but I did not know about Lithuanians being deported to Siberia. I can’t even comprehend being forced out of my home to go work in Siberia. History unremembered is a terrible thing, and I’m glad this book is telling Lina’s story.

I thought it was insanely cool that Lina Vilkas actually existed. At the end, you find out that it was inspired by an actual diary and letters written by a Lina Vilkas. Also, even though the book ends in an unusual place and you don’t really know what happens to Lina, the letter tells you. Not to mention that the romance in the book (which was amazing, some of my favorite that I’ve read, actually, and that’s saying something) is based on Lina’s real life love, mentioned in the letter. I find this unbelievably cute.

Y’all know writing style is a huge thing for me. I have a strong affininty for books with brutal beauty in the words, such as with this one. It is concise enough not to bother people who dislike more floral writing styles, but still has the beauty of something that would normally be a bit more wordy. Also, the resonance of the title could not have been more perfect. It was worth reading just for the one sentence where it was explained. I want to quote it here so bad, but I feel like it would spoil a big secret, even though it isn’t one.

I highly, highly recommend this book, especially for anyone interested in the time period, looking to get out of a reading slump, or searching for a brutally honest YA romance.

Olivia

*This ARC was kindly given to me (from her personal stash, no less) by Jennifer of ARCycling. Thank you so much, Jennifer. I’ll treasure it.*

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