I rarely come across books that I cannot review; that leave me speechless, both in mind and body. Kristin Cashore's Fire is a novel I've re-read numerous times, but I can never - never - convey the depth of emotion that novel inspires in me, despite the fact that I can quote from it. Within the past month, however, I've been lucky enough to read two remarkable LGBT novels for teens, both of which have left me spell-bound and speechless. And, truly, I have tried, time and time again, to write reviews for these novels. I want to write reviews for these books because they deserve reviews and they deserve to be read and mulled over and cherished on a shelf. Yet, the words fail me. In a desperate attempt, I have tried to string together a few phrases, a couple of sentences, in an effort to spread my love for these two novels. Even if these non-reviews don't convince you, I certainly hope that someone, someday, will thrust these into your hands and make you read them. It's worth it.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily danforth is a novel I've been meaning to read for a long time - a very long time. It went onto my TBR even before it was released because of the acclaim it received and, even after winning an award, it went unread on my Kindle. I don't know why. It is a quiet, moving, and utterly fierce novel. It’s the type of story that creeps up on you; the prose keeps you flipping the pages, but it isn’t until much later that the full emotional impact finally hits. At somewhere around the 80% mark, tears leaked from my eyes; slowly, and then all at once, pouring out at speeds I couldn’t even have imagined. You see, this is a story of one girl's struggle to reconcile her sexuality and, although the narration can drag and even become dull at parts, it is incredibly moving all the same. Cameron's life, full of a multitude of sexual encounters, define her, slowly but surely, and the themes of feminism - of encouraging women to be proud of their sexuality and unafraid to stand up for it - is astounding.
Nevertheless, this novel truly gutted me in its historical depiction. danforth's debut is set in the late 1900s and, as such, the LGBT movement isn't as prevalent as it is today. In Cameron's small town, a religious and conservative area, her identity as a lesbian is looked at as a sin. As such, she is sent to a religious camp over the summer in an effort to "cure" her. It doesn't really hit you, until you meet the teens at this camp, the type of behavior they've had to put up with all their lives. Everyone, from their parents to their teachers, are telling these teens that they are wrong, that they are bad, that they are horrible for loving someone who isn't of the opposite sex and the manner in which this is conveyed - the events that occur at this camp - just destroyed me. I've never considered the LGBT community in this manner before and, truly, danforth's debut is not only inspiring and feminist, but eye-opening as well. It isn't merely the journey of a girl, it is the journey and struggle of people everywhere, homosexual or heterosexual. It demands to be read. Much like The Book Thief, this is one book you're better off just experiencing - words do it no justice.
While The Miseducation of Cameron Post can come off as an overly sexual novel, with Cameron experiencing many sexual encounters over the course of her life, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is far more subtle in its exploration of homosexuality. It, too, is a quiet novel, slow to begin and often meandering, but beautiful. Saenz's writing is lush and gorgeous, capturing the complexity of adolescence and depicting an immigrant household in a realistic manner. Ari and Dante both experience inner dilemmas in reconciling their Mexican backgrounds with their American lifestyle and, moreover, with the stereotypes and stigmas they face in the world at large. Saenz is one of the few - actually, the only - author to truly understand this universal issue that all immigrant children undergo. As a first-generation Indian raised in America, I can testify to this fact myself. It isn't easy to fully embrace your heritage, but it doesn't feel right to disregard it either. At the same time, how much of your culture lies in stereotypes and how much of it lies in its true roots? It's a difficult situation to comprehend and convey, but Saenz really fleshes it out thoroughly between these two friends, so different and yet so alike.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe revolves around the friendship of these two boys, Ari and Dante. While Ari, the narrator, comes from a household where his older brother is in jail - and is never discussed - and his father is a veteran of war - another issue not discussed - Dante hails from an intellectual environment, an only child with parents who have made it beyond the stereotypical minimum-wage jobs their race is associated with. Although both boys are incredibly different, their growing friendship is complex and deep, certainly one to root for throughout the narrative. Moreover, I love the tidbits of truth and contemplation that lie within each chapter. Saenz's writing looks into your soul. While they may script Ari's thoughts, they reflect universal emotions in such a subtle manner, connecting the reader instantly with the novel.
Additionally, the relationships that Ari and Dante sustain with their parents are also just as important as the relationship they sustain with each other. I feel as if I've been repeating myself, though. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is about many things - it is about growing up, about accepting yourself, about maintaining friendships, about facing the past, about living with disappointment and anger, but mostly about the complexity of the relationships we sustain throughout our lives. It truly is a beautiful little book, worthy of its awards and transcending all barriers - age, sexuality, gender. Just read it. I promise, you won't regret it.
Wow. These two sound stunning. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, especially, I've been hearing so many good things about, and I really want to read it. It isn't often you come across a book so well-written and so moving it leaves you speechless, and here you've had the good fortune of finding two! I definitely want to make sure I experience these at some point, Aristotle in particular. Thanks for sharing, Keertana. :)ReplyDelete
I didn't review Aristotle and Dante, simply because I couldn't. It really is one of those books that leaves you speechless. I'm so glad it impressed you too, Keertana. Non-review or not, your thoughts are beautifully written. And The Miseducation of Cameron Post has been sitting on my shelf for months! I was convinced early on by some of the reviews, though I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet. I'll definitely make time for it in 2014. With a box of tissues at the ready. :)ReplyDelete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Though I have nothing against LGBT people in real life, I get uneasy when I read about them in fiction. I think it stemmed from the trauma those yuri and yaoi manga my friends used to make me read when I was younger, but after reading TMI and meeting Alec and Magnus and falling hard for their relationship I started opening up to LGBT characters. I've recently read a book with a (surprise) gay guy as protagonist and instead of getting uncomfortable, I found myself rooting for him. I discovered Aristotle when searching for a book with an 'amazing bromance' and though I was searching for the platonic kind, I got excited when I learned it was the romantic kind. This is the first time I've heard about Miseducation but it's def going to my TBR now.ReplyDelete
*Deleted the first comment because I typed Misdirection instead of Miseducation. No wonder GR won't show any results, lol.
I've heard nothing but amazing things about The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and clearly it deserves every bit of the praise I've heard! Just like you said, I think what goes on in this camp will absolutely destroy me and likely make me angrier than I've ever been before. I'm going to have to be in the right mood for this one though, I always have to be for books that I know are going to profoundly affect me. So glad these two were such stunning reads for you Keertana!ReplyDelete
I loved Ari and Dante beyond words. I bought the audiobook ages ago and listened to the entire thing in one sleepless nights. It is a book so full of subtle beauty and one I will never forget.ReplyDelete
As for Cameron Post, I went ahead and ordered a copy now. It'll take a while because of the holidays, but I'll read it the second it gets here.
Maja, I hope you enjoy Cameron Post! I think Ari & Dante is a stronger book - and nothing can compare to it once you've read it, which is why I'm glad I read Cameron Post before - but it's still a moving novel which I think you'll really enjoy if you stick with it. I know it's one of Wendy Darling's favorites too, so her recs never go wrong! :)ReplyDelete
Cameron Post is certainly gathering a reputation from some of my most trusted bloggers. Both you and Kara have loved this one.ReplyDelete
You say this is not a review, but you have made me need to read this book. I can tell that it really meant something to you and I am curious to see how it would work for me.
Wonderful post. I can't comment too much on the second novel because I know even less about it, except to say I am off to GR to find out more about it!
I swear it's books like these that are the reason I became a blogger, yet I can barely formulate words about how good they are. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is absolutely painful and breathtaking in its portrayal, and it's one of those books that I have to agree with you on...it's a must-read. Wonderful post, Keertana :)ReplyDelete
I saw your title and I was thinking that you hated these books, but I can really feel your love of them. I don't know why you said you couldn't review them because I think you did a beautiful job of conveying how it affected you without giving too much away. Great reviews!!ReplyDelete
I'm gathering a pile of books that need to be read over the holiday break. These books are a combination of physical copies, kindle e-books, and library books. Now, I seriously don't know how I'm going to get through all of them, because I just keep putting more into this pile. But I know this holiday season, I need to read more of these quiet and emotionally stirring reads. Aristotle & Dante is one of those books I've been eyeing for quite a while, and your beautiful words have swayed me not to delay the inevitable any longer. I need to read this one now. After all, what's better than closing out the year with a book that'll likely change my life and perspective of it? Thanks, K!ReplyDelete
I haven't read either of these books yet myself, although, like you, I've been meaning to. I bought an ecopy of The Miseducation months ago when it was on sale, but I guess I just haven't been in the right mood yet. Your "not review" of this is very inspiring, though. Hopefully I can use this as the extra push to finally read it! The same for Aristotle and Dante.ReplyDelete
I do know what you mean about some books being so difficult to review. I've had quite a few I've really had to struggle to formulate any words for. But I think it's so, so important to even say a little about these books. Even though these aren't traditional reviews, they make me understand some of what you loved in these books and want to appreciate them for myself. And that's one of the best things readers can do for one another. :)
I love, love, love, your review of Cameron Post, Keertana--that book touched me deeply as well, and I'm always glad when someone takes the time to review it.ReplyDelete
I have several books I'm still trying to find the words for as well, so I know exactly what you mean about finding it hard to review books that mean a lot to you. I think we've talked about this before, but sometimes no words just seem adequate enough.
Wendy @ The Midnight Garden
I haven't read Aristotle but I so, SO agree about The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I was able to review it, but I don't think I did it well. I push that book on just about everyone I can. I saw it on someone's wishlist for Christmas and had to snap it up for them right away. It must be read. It's utterly gut-wrenching.ReplyDelete
For someone claiming she can't review these two books, your words are moving and heartfelt. I can tell from them how much these books mean to you. Sometimes, I think a shorter review can be more powerful than endless paragraphs. Your spare thoughts actually mirror the simplicity of these two book covers - both of which I think are gorgeous although they just can't explain all that is inside. Lovely, Lovely as always.ReplyDelete
Did you know you can shorten your urls with Shortest and get cash from every visit to your short urls.ReplyDelete