Summer REreads

Sometimes I start to feel overwhelmed by the amount I consume. Music, podcasts, books, television, movies. All the things I have running twenty four-seven to ensure I don’t actually have to, you know, think about stuff too much.

This lifestyle poses multiple issues, and right now the one I’m concerned with is mental space. What I mean is the amount of me I actually give to the stories I’m reading. I want to really take them in.

Pre-blogging, I used to reread books all the time. This was partly a money thing, yeah, but it was also a healthy activity, I think. To relive the joy a certain story produced or rewrite your relationship with it altogether.

I like the way that different mes read in different ways.

So with that in mind, I present a few of the YAs that were regular companions of my teens. I think it might be time to introduce them to 23-year-old me.

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Becoming Bindy Mackenzie – Jaclyn Moriarty

Bindy Mackenzie is the smartest – and kindest – girl at Ashbury High. She likes to share her knowledge of common teen anxieties and offers lunchtime advisory sessions in a relaxed setting (the locker room). But then Bindy discovers that, despite all her hard work, NOBODY LIKES HER! It’s time to banish benevolent Bindy – and release ruthless Bindy instead.

Bindy records every moment of her new rebellious project – from The Philosophical Musings of Bindy Mackenzie to extracts from her essays. But her scrapbook is also the key to a bizarre myserty – with Bindy herself at the centre. Only her friends can help her now. If only she had some.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick’s just seen the girl who dumped him walk in… with a new guy. What else can he do but ask the strange girl next to him to be his new girlfriend for the next five minutes?

Norah would do anything to avoid conversation with the not not-friend girl who dumped Nick… and to get over the Evil Ex whom Norah never really totally dumped. What else can she do but answer Nick’s question by making out with him?

With one electric, unexpected kiss, the five-minute couple of Nick and Norah set off on an unchartered adventure called the “first date” that will turn into an infinite night of falling in and out (and in and out, and maybe in and maybe out) or love. Theirs is a first date of music, laughter, heartache, confusion, passion, taxi driver wisdom, and a jacket named Salvatore. And of course a killer soundtrack.

As Nick and Norah wander through the middle-of-the-night mystic maze of Manhattan, they share the kind of night you want to never end, where every minute counts and every moment flickers between love and disaster.

13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson

If your free-spirited aunt left you 13 little blue envelopes:

Would you follow the directions? Would you travel around the world? Would you open the envelopes one by one?

Inside envelope 1 is money and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

Inside envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

Inside envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4 Ginny and  a playwright/theif/man-about-town called Keith go to Scotland together, with disastrous – though really romantic – results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes…

This Lullaby – Sarah Dessen

Remy always know when to give a guy “the speech” – right after the initial romantic rush, but before anything gets too serious. She’s had her fair share of boyfriends, and she’s learned all there is to learn from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. So why is it that Remy can’t seem to dump Dexter? It can’t be his name. It can’t be that he’s messy and disorganised. And it certainly isn’t that he’s a musician – just like Remy’s father, a man she never knew because he left before she was born. Could it be that Remy’s romantic rules to live by don’t apply anymore?

The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen

A long dull summer stretches ahead of Macy while her boyfriend Jason is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of her father.

But sometimes unexpected things can happen – things like the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things like meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s life upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder if it really is better to be safe than sorry.

Rereading The Princess Diaries #5

Everything has worked out perfectly for Princess Mia. She’s realised what her talent is: writing. Michael, the man of her dreams is her boyfriend. She isn’t failing algebra anymore. Fifteen, she’s decided, is going to be a great year.

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That is until Grandmere’s dog Rommel escapes from her purse during Mia’s birthday dinner and runs riot around the restaurant, inadvertently causing one of the bus boys, Jangbu Pinasa, to lose his job. Grandmere could easily clean up the whole mess, but of course she chooses not to, leaving Lilly Moscovitz, Mia’s genius bestie to take up his cause and start a city wide hospitality strike that takes down most of the restaurants and hotels in New York.

Mia can’t help but notice had she never been born – and therefore not had a birthday celebration – none of this would have happened.

As if the whole Jangbu disaster weren’t enough to worry about, Michael has decided not to attend his senior prom, therefore depriving Mia of a night she has been dreaming of since forever!

Maybe fifteen isn’t looking so great after all…

Mia’s Best Moments

– Her ‘Movies That Feature The Prom As A Prominent Plot Device’ list (inc. Pretty in Pink, Ten Things I Hate About You, Never Been Kissed and Back to the Future)

– Her job on the Albert Einstein High’s newspaper: cafeteria beat. She says she’s paying her dues.

– Her amazing Nurse Mia moment when she presses her school sweater against Boris Pelkowski’s wound after he drops that globe onto his head because he’s so heartbroken over Lilly.

– When Grandmere tells her she should use sex to get Michael to take her to the prom and she misinterprets and thinks she means get Michael’s band a gig at the prom.

(note:  I wish I could remember whether I got that first time through reading these, but sadly I cannot. Oh, Grandmere).

The Drams

RIP Lilly and Boris, who’s sweater tucking self just did not measure up in the face of Jangbu’s hotness. However Lilly should have known better than to break up with her boyfriend by dragging a different boy into the cupboard during Seven Minutes in Heaven. So cold!

Welcome, Tina and Boris. Tina (screenname: iluvromance), saw Boris’ whole I will drop a globe onto my head if you don’t get back together with me thing as an act of epic romance, rather than just plain crazy.

Michael’s Best Moment

There are so many. But in this instance, I think nerdy boy’s discovery of the merits of Seven Minutes in Heaven has to be my favourite.

“’So we really have to stay in here for seven minutes?’ Michael wanted to know.

‘I guess,’ I said.

‘What if Mr G comes back and finds us in here?’

‘He’ll probably kill you,’ I said.

‘Well,’ Michael said. ‘Then I’d better give you something to remember me by.’

Then he took me in his arms and started kissing me.

I have to admit, after that, I kind of started thinking Seven Minutes in Heaven wasn’t such a bad game after all.”

Noughties Kid Nostalgia

Instant messaging! Oh, the hours I wasted as a tween IMing my friends. IM was where the serious shit went down. If you thought a boy liked you this was the place to talk about it with him.

Rereading The Princess Diaries #3

Everything seems to be looking up for Mia. She’s raised her F in algebra to a D, she finally has a boyfriend and… well, she’s a princess. Her life should be perfect right?

Right.

Unfortunately the boyfriend is the wrong one. She’s dating Kenny, her sweet but ultimately unattractive lab partner, meanwhile, Michael Moscovitz – her best friend’s brother she has loved in secret for years – has started dating fellow computer club member Judith Gershner. Judith can clone fruit flies. As far as Mia is concerned – despite the D, algebra is a continual issue – she doesn’t stand a chance against a girl like that.

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The princess thing is also a problem. She has to spend the coming Christmas in Genovia, the country she will one day rule. Preparation for this involves daily princess lessons with her evil Grandmere, the dowager princess of Genovia.

What Mia Learns

– Having a best friend who also happens to be a genius is hard work, and sometimes, when said best friend is planning a school-wide walkout (inspired by a teacher turning down her term paper proposal: How to Survive High School by Lilly Moscovitz (‘Students of the future will learn that the way to  settle their differences is not through violence, but through the sale of a really scathing screenplay – featuring characters based on individuals who tormented them all those years – to a major Hollywood movie studio. That, not a Molotov cocktail, is the path to true glory.’)) that will likely seriously hurt your algebra teacher, step-father and soon to be father of your half sibling’s feelings, it’s sometimes just best to pull the fire bell.

– Don’t allow boys who can’t ice skate backwards to ice skate backwards, they will pull the both of you over and the whole thing will be highly embarrassing.

– Your cousin might not be plotting your murder to steal your claim to the throne, but he probably is using your image without your permission to advertise his clothing designs.

– Advice from the empress of Japan: Always make sure your kimono is securely fastened before you raise your arm to wave to the populace.

Grandmere’s Best Moment

Grandmere is basically evil. She scares everybody she comes into contact with. At one point she tells Mia to keep dating Kenny until she finds someone better – for practice. That said, the lady has her moments.

‘You are not a loser, Amelia,’ Gradmere said. ‘You are a princess. And princesses do not run away when things become difficult. They throw their shoulders back and they face what disaster awaits them head on. Bravely, and without complaint.’

Lars

Lars is Mia’s bodyguard. He is present for basically everything that happens during the series. In general, I have no interest in reading existing books from alternative perspectives (I think it is a money grabbing move by lazy authors), but I would totally read this series narrated by Lars.

Rereading The Princess Diaries #1

The Princess Diaries were the books of my teens. Mia was my fictional best friend. She was a tall, nerdy worrier fighting a continual battle with her hair. When I was fourteen this was exactly like me. Even now I’m 22, me and Mia are still on the same page*.

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The Princess Diaries #1 sees us introduced to Mia through the journal her mother has given her to work out her anxieties in. Her anxieties are as follows:

  • She’s flat chested.
  • She’s failing algebra.
  • Her mom has just started dating the algebra teacher who’s class she’s failing.
  • Josh Richter doesn’t even know she exists.

And that’s before she even finds out about the whole princess thing. Then on top of that there are princess lessons with her heinous Grandmere, who’s determined to make her life a total misery under the guise of teaching her how not to cause an international incident. And there’s keeping the whole princess thing a secret from her best friend Lilly Moscovitz, who is a pretty passionate anti-royalist and teenaged genius. Lilly and her brother, Michael are both teenaged geniuses, actually.

This book came out in 2000. I remember my mum picking it up and reading the part where Lilly talks about how she would only have sex with a guy if he was wearing at least two condoms (younger readers: don’t do this!!) and being slightly horrified that her nine year old was reading them (though in my defence they were in the bookshelf at my primary school).

I was probably thirteen or fourteen when these books became the great comfort and influence they have been in my life.

One of the biggest takeaways from this book (and the whole series, actually) is the sense that ultimately, a person can deal with most of what is thrown at them. Mia deals with learning that when she grows up she will have to rule over the country of Genovia. She deals with her terrifying Grandmere. She deals with everyone finding out that she’s a princess, and the bodyguard and press scrutiny that come with that.

Don’t get me wrong – the girl is freaking out plenty – but there is never a moment where something happens that she can’t cope with. Even when she feels like she isn’t, she is.

Nostalgia for the Nineties kids

– Dial-up internet is a big presence in this book. Mia is always having to go online and ask Lilly’s brother Michael to go offline so that she can call her. Remember when you couldn’t have the phone and the internet at the same time?

– Britney Spears comes up a few times.  I’d forgotten what a looming presence she was in my childhood. It makes me think of the days before we had Taylor and realise how much better things are now.

*Yes, that is a book pun thank you.