Monday, January 27, 2014

I Almost Didn't Care: My Thoughts on Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor & Outcast by Adrienne Kress

Apathy. Indifference. It's a strange feeling, but a recognizable one. Lately, however, I haven't quite grasped it, but almost. I've shut the covers of books feeling...something. Only, not much. Weird? Very. Both Maybe One Day and Outcast are, objectively, very good books. I liked them, in fact. But I didn't love them and, for some reason, I don't have much to say about them either. 


Maybe One Day is only the second "cancer book" I've read but, just like The Fault in Our Stars, it made me tear up. Only, unlike Green's renown novel, Kantor's latest is a little less humorous, a little less romantic, and has a little less to take away from it too. Where Maybe One Day excels is in its portrayal of friendship. Olivia and Zoe, two high school juniors, have been best friends since the age of four. Ever since they met in dance class, they've had the type of friendship most people only dream  of or witness in the movies. Thus, when Olivia is diagnosed with leukemia, Zoe is devastated. 

Kantor builds up the friendship between these two teens beautifully. It isn't riddled with flashbacks, but just from their day-to-day interactions we are able to glean just how close the two are. As such, when tragedy strikes it isn't only Olivia who is affected, but Zoe as well. Now, Zoe is forced to be strong for her best friend, caught between comforting her and going on with her life. Kantor is unapologetic in her portrayal of both Olivia and Zoe. Both girls go through a series of complicated emotions in coping with their current situation and their friendship, but told from Zoe's point of view, this novel takes on a different subject matter than we're used to. After all, just how does it feel to be that awkward best friend in a hospital room, surrounded by your best friend's family members? Is it an intrusion or a welcome hand of support? And how does one continue through life, talking to other people, when such an event occurs? All of these questions - and more - are answered with such an honest appraisal. It isn't easy to see Olivia's family members act out, even at Zoe, in their grief but it is understandable, as is the growth that Zoe experiences for the first time - on her own - without her best friend by her side. 

I really appreciated that this novel took a no-nonsense stance on Olivia's treatment, explaining everything meticulously but also not focusing on it too much. Instead, it is the emotional relationship between these two girls - more sisters than friends - that takes center stage. Even the romance, a side story at best, with Calvin, the best friend of Olivia's older brother (who Olivia has a tiiiny crush on), is subtly handled. Admittedly, Zoe does come to have feelings for Calvin but instead of causing a rift between these friends, they genuinely want each other to be happy and both of their characters are so mature in the face of so much loss. Maybe One Day isn't a novel about grief, however. It's about living with someone who may not have much time left. Where my main issue with this novel arises is in the fact that, ultimately, there isn't much to take away from it. Is it sad? Gosh, yes, it's sad. We begin to feel Zoe's emotions right alongside her as Kantor draws us so deeply into the friendship between these two girls. As such, the writing is impeccable, pacing admirable, and growth of Zoe just right. Yet, where The Fault in Our Stars brings up fascinating questions about the purpose of our lives, infusing light humor into a dark tale, Maybe One Day didn't make me think much beyond the scope of the novel itself. It isn't a flaw, per se, but it does make this story an ever-so-slightly forgettable one. For fans of contemporary fiction, issue novels, or just gritty emotion this novel is a must-read which I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. I just wish I could have taken more away from it.

Maybe One Day releases on February 18th, 2014. 

Outcast is a novel I enjoyed, but don't have very much to say about. It's about angels. Only...with a slight twist. Riley lives in a small Southern town where, once a year, angels drop down from the sky to take a handful of young humans up to the heavens with them. In her god-fearing town a Church of Angels has been built and instead of fearing the day the angels arrive, her neighbors have learned to celebrate it. On the third year the angels came, though, they took Chris, Riley's best friend and soon-to-be boyfriend. On the fourth year the angels came, Riley shot one. And it turned into a very attractive, but naked, young boy who believes it's the 1950s. Gabe.

Admittedly, this book wasn't what I expected. I think I flipped that first page thinking I'd get Angelfall only in a modern-day Southern setting instead of an apocalyptic one. Well, let's just say that Outcast has a lot less action, gore, or plain bad-assery. Yet, it was a very entertaining story. Gabe doesn't remember being an angel at all, so his admittance into modern-society is amusing to witness as is his developing friendship with Riley. And yes, you read that right: friendship. Riley still misses Chris and, moreover, she is angry. What she really wants are answers and if anything, those seem to be missing. Gabe has no celestial powers and even by attending the Church of Angels, he doesn't remember anything that happened to him in the last fifty years. As such, the plot of solving the mystery at hand is slow to emerge, focusing instead on the slow trust gained between Gabe and Riley.

When the mystery prevalent in this novel slowly begins to come together, I found myself far more immersed in the story. Not only is the pacing faster, but Riley's growth and change as an individual is far more apparent. Kress's portrayal of Southern society and high school is typical, but only at first as she soon embeds depth into even the most stereotypical of characters, making for a truly engaging read. Nevertheless, where Outcast truly shines is in its ending. It is a bittersweet one which made my heart ache, but in all the right places. Ultimately, Kress manages to write a novel with memorable characters whose story arcs are complex, but realistic with just a tinge of paranormal/fantasy thrown in. It wasn't enough to earn a spot on my favorites shelf and it definitely didn't rock my socks like I'd hoped, but it is a perfect read to lose yourself in. Recommended? Very much so.

16 comments:

  1. freaky they just drop down and take humans...huh, let's hope they are good then

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  2. I'm not sure I'd go for Maybe One Day. The friendship sounds beautiful and I'm all for emotion, but like you, Keertana, I need to be able to take something away. The friendship between Gabe and Riley in Outcast surprises me, but it's a good surprise. Even if it's not amazing, from what you've said I could lose myself in it. Lovely reviews, thank you for sharing! I hope you find a book you love soon. :)

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  3. I'm a little sad that you didn't LOVE Maybe One Day but at least you enjoyed it! I must agree, I wished I could have taken more from that book

    Lovely reviews, hun! <33

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  4. I have heard about both of these but haven't read any. I do like the sound of Maybe One Day and I do like books that deal with illness, but I don't think that this one will be as memorable as The Fault in our Stars. I'll somehow always compare them.
    When it comes to Outcast. I'm very interested in it because it's about angels, but I don't want it to be as any other angel book - cliche. Hope I'll enjoy it. Great reviews, Keertana :)

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  5. I've been feeling that way about too many books recently. Just meh. They're good books but I'm not as passionate about them as I'd like to be. Very sad! While I don't think I'll be picking up the first one, the second one has potential for me, even though...angels. Meh. But cute, clueless boys? Yay!

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  6. Indifference is the worst for me Keertana! I'd rather hate the characters than feel nothing for them. Like you, I wasn't blown away by Outcast, but I enjoyed it overall and would read more from Adrienne for sure. Lovely, thorough reviews as always!

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  7. I totally understand indifference. I just had a book where I should have loved, but was just "okay" but would recommend.

    I do think I may have to try Outcast but maybe at another time. Still, great reviews!

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  8. I read Adrienne Kress steampunk novel back when it came out and while there wasn't anything objectively wrong with it, it just didn't work for me. Something about her writing doesn't sit well with me.
    Maybe This Time is one of those books I was offered a while back, but knew from no more than a casual glance that it wouldn't be for me. I'm glad you liked these, but I can certainly understand not having much to say about a book. Even when you have to. :)
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  9. Indifference, that's the word I've needed for so many books I've started and thrown away (not really, but just didn't read). It's so understandable. Can I use it??
    Your reviews are very fair for your feelings about them. As always very thorough. I am always amazed at how much you can write in your reviews and yet not give an spoilers away. Love your reviews!

    Heather

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  10. @Jenny: Phew, thank god I wasn't the only one who wasn't blown away by Outcast! It seems as if everyone else was head-over-heels in LOVE with it except me, but it's good to know I'm not alone in my strange in-between stage of Apathy and Love. :)

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  11. @Maja: For me, I don't think it was the writing of Outcast that didn't work as much as it was the plot. I just wasn't expecting it, I guess? It seems as if The Friday Society (that was the book you had read by her, right?) is a miss with most readers but a lot of those same bloggers really enjoyed this one, so perhaps you'll like it too. And as for Maybe One Day, I wish I had the hindsight that you possess! I still don't wholly know what I'll like vs. what I won't like. *sigh*

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  12. @Heather: Aww, thank you! You can most definitely use the word indifference - I have no trademark on it! - and your comments always make my day so, really, thank you so much a sweet one today! :)

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  13. I'm glad you were still able to enjoy these books despite those slight flaws you've mentioned. I like that in Maybe One Day, it was told in Zoe's perspective since most of the time it was with the one who's ill. Outcast sounds pretty interesting too although I think I'll have to check out more reviews before deciding if I'll pick it up. Thanks for these honest and wonderful review, Keertana! :)

    Eunice @ Book Overdose

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  14. Since I'm in the minority of people who didn't like TFiOS I feel like I might actually like Maybe One Day. Personally from the way you describe it Keertana, it feels like a book that I would enjoy more. Just because there seems to be so much realism at least for me personally because I had problems with that aspect with TFiOS. I liked how you talked about the friendship between Olivia and Zoe. It feels beautiful and sad all at the same time. I guess we all come across friendships like that in our lives. Maybe not the extent where the friend has a serious illness, but when you have a friendship where you know it can't go further. Wonderful Review as always :). Also I hope your mom had a great birthday! You should tell her that we share the same birthday as Michelle Obama lol :).

    Cheers,
    Savindi

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  15. I only glanced at the first line of both these reviews, but I can tell we felt very similarly about them.

    I liked, but didn't love OUTCAST either, so it's one of those books that's been languishing on my to-be-reviewed shelf. I really like the author, though, so I should get on that. *sigh* But sometimes that makes things more difficult, too.

    And MAYBE ONE DAY--I'm only a few chapters in, but I'm already not loving it. I don't know, something about the writing seems off to me at the moment, and I'm not excited about picking it up again just yet. I'll find your review on GoodReads later when I've gotten around to reading/reviewing it!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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