Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vegan Virgin Valentine

Sorry I've dropped off the face of the Earth. Has anyone even noticed? Huh. Anyway, I think I'm back. And fixed. And less stressed. And no longer prone to sobbing until I make myself physically sick. High fives for admitting to myself that I'll be re-taking organic chem? And that my semi-beautiful transcripts have had a shit taken on them this semester? And that it will most likely lead to me never getting into graduate school and becoming destitute and having to sell my body because working in human services will likely lead to me living under the poverty line and hating my life and then my family will disown me for becoming a part-time prostitute and I'll have to adopt a cocaine habit to mask my emotions and police will eventually find my body washed up on the shore of Lake Huron and my murder will be adapted into an episode of Law & Order: SVU and everything will be ruined because of one stupid class? But anyway. Back and blogging. That's me!
Vegan Virgin Valentine

Mara has it all together. (Lucky bitch.) Which basically means that it'll all fall apart for her in the course of this book. She has perfect grades, is neck-and-neck with her ex-boyfriend for the valedictorian spot, has been accepted to a summer program at Johns Hopkin, and will be attending Yale in the fall. Her senior year is shiny and perfect and super controlled.

Except of course, we have to have a conflict. Mara is the result of her menopausal mother letting her guard down on birth control. As a result, Mara has a much older (and much more rebellious) sister Aimee and a niece, V, that is just a year younger than Mara. When Aimee decides to follow yet another dude to Costa Rica, V gets dumped at the grandparents' house.

V is everything that her aunt isn't. Like fun. And promiscuous. And a frequent user of recreational drugs. And she doesn't give a shit about academics. And Mara cannot stand that her niece is so incredibly different.

As soon as V shows up in the house, everything starts going to shit for Mara. She is failing an interpretive dance class that she's dual enrolled with. V is developing a reputation around school as promiscuous and a "stonah babe." V was caught in the locker room shower with Mara's ex-boyfriend. And, oh yeah, Mara's parents are paying attention to V because the poor girl has never had a stable home life or parental figures that were genuinely interested in her well-being.

Mara's one bright spot in her life is her job at Common Grounds, a little coffee shop. It's really just a resume builder, but Mara might sorta-like it. There's her co-worker Claudia, who is madly in love with the boss man James. Because everything has to be super-perfect in Mara's life, James isn't. He's shorter than her and isn't picking up on Claudia's attempts at seducing him, and chose to start a coffee shop at a young age rather than attend college. Blasphemy. And lately, Mara has been having weird moments with James. Wonder what that could be.

While V is getting the lead role in the school play and going on a tour of college campuses and enrolling in an SAT class, Mara is realizing that everything in her life kinda sucks. Her solution? To accidentally make out with James. Which then leads to Mara skipping out on work for a week. Because that will make it less awkward. And hiding their budding relationship from Claudia. Because that will make her less pissed. Of course, this plan backfires. Claudia finds out about James' giving it to the help. (Not really. The word virgin is in the title, remember? Still. I just really wanted to say he was giving it to the help. Or that Mara had a new extra-curricular activity. Go with it.)

With James in her life, Mara starts being all kinds of assertive. She decides that there's no point in wasting her time in a lame interpretive dance class, so she drops it. And then she decides she wants to stay in town for the summer and be with James instead of rushing into school with a summer program at Johns Hopkin. So she drops that, too. And she decides to screw it and eat some damn cheese!

And shocker--Mara is happy. And she tells her parents about all the changes she's making! And they don't disown her! And they assure her that they don't care if she turns into her older sister Aimee! They love her no matter what! Aww. Hugs, y'all, hugs.

And V is becoming more of a Mara but her own version. She rocks out as the lead part of the school production of Damn Yankees. And people like her performance! And now she's planning on going to college. And her move to her grandparents is made official. Sweet.

  • I've expressed how dang finicky I am about naming kids. My #1 naming pet peeve is alliteration. It's cool if you just happen to like a name that starts with the same letter as your last name. Fine. It happens. I draw the line when 1) you have 20 children with J names, 2) your kids all have the exact same initials, or 3) your name is Vivienne V. Valentine. It's too on purpose. 
  • Mara makes me feel like I undersold myself. I'm perfectly happy at a second tier state university. And Mara, who is going to Yale, couldn't remember things for her government test. Like which state had a controversy with presidential ballots in the 2000 election. Florida. And which case resulted in the desegregation of schools.  Brown v. Board of Education. I won't say that I was a stellar AP Government student because, hey, I wasn't. But I still managed to retain  those two rather well-known factoids that Mara gets wrong on her test.
  • I love that Mara overreacts to V smoking. What I interpreted to be occasional recreational drug use, Mara is taking to mean that V will very soon be running a meth lab out of the upstairs bathroom.
  • What. the. fuck. Pauline-who-is-Claudia's-overbearing-roommate. I get it. You're a psych major. Guess what! Me, too! And, I can two-up you with psych sub-specialty majors in neuroscience and child development. Which means I'm 66% more qualified than you to psychoanalyze Mara. But I won't. Because, surprise! A psych majors leaves you qualified to do NOTHING. And leaves you feeling prepared to do NOTHING. Not that I'm bitter or anything. 
    • Being a psych major does not give Pauline the right to rip Mara a new asshole for calling Claudia and asking, "Is Claudia there?" Obviously, someone else answered Claudia's phone. So while, yes, Claudia is conditioned to answer the phone when it rings, Mara was expecting Claudia and not Pauline to answer. Is it so unreasonable to ask to speak to the person whose phone you're calling?
    • But, if I were to psychoanalyze Mara, I certainly wouldn't lead with Claudia being classically conditioned to answer the phone, just like Pavlov's dogs were to salivate at a bell. Because 1) that's psych 100, sweetheart. Maybe you should consider how Mara is dealing with identity confusion along with the chemical implications of her romance with James and the added storm and stress of her relationship with her parents and V and her transition from adolescent to emerging adult. I've written papers on considerably less interesting cases, but I won't bore y'all. And I already mentioned I'm a psych major, and I don't feel the need to mention it ten million times because my name isn't Pauline. 2)Claudia answering the phone or not was not the central issue here. Claudia's response to the phone ringing has nothing to do with Mara asserting her independence. Also, see my previous point. And 3)Pavlov used a METRONOME and not a bell. Learn your psych history.
  • I love that Mara asserts herself without giving up everything she is about. I was really worried that she'd give up Yale and stay at SUNY. I can't even explain how relieved I am that she was still going to Yale.
  • Mara likes to make a big deal about how many college credits her summer program at John Hopkins and her couple of classes at SUNY will give her. 
    • This bothers me. It's really not that spectacular that a high school kid is taking college classes. Something a huge number of people I graduated with did is being heralded as something extraordinary and astounding on Mara's part. While I understand that many people don't have the same opportunity to dual enroll, enough people do it to make it kind of ho-hum.
      • Basically, Mara, I'm saying that you're just not that special. And that I apparently sold myself short.
      • P.S. Mara--I came in with more credits than you. I'm still taking 4 years to graduate. That Johns Hopkin program probably wouldn't have knocked a year off your undergrad time.
  • Why are Mara and James not more concerned about the fact that Mara is jail bait? If I was seventeen and started dating a twenty-four-year-old dude, shit would fly.
    • It's such a weird relationship. James puts up with some crap from Mara that I would really think he would be too mature for and wouldn't want to have to deal with. Like that their relationship has to be top-secret. Or that Mara has to be home by eleven. Or that the one time James spent the night at Mara's house when her parents were out of town with V, the two "cuddled" in Mara's bed. Sure you did...
  • How do you know that vegan Mara's life is about to fall apart? She craves cheese. She dreams about cheese. She wants some fuckin' cheese. If the girl can't control her eating habits, what can she control?
    • Uh, Mara is a prime candidate for anorexia. Seriously. Overachiever. Need for control. Focuses on food a little too much. Feeling a lot of pressure from outside sources...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Carolyn Keene Ghost Writers Should Be Ashamed!

Nancy Drew was my first literary girl crush. (Sorry, Stacey!)

So when I found a Nancy Drew graphic novel at Goodwill, I was a little excited. But cautious. Because, really, Nancy books started sucking it up as soon as ghostwriters took over!

(Actually, I have a post lined up about a book by a dude that turned down the opportunity to be a Nancy Drew ghost writer. More on that later.)

This. book. sucked.

The "mystery" is solved when Nancy realizes that her enormous zit is the key. That people aren't always what they seem. Like Nancy isn't a normal, acne-plagued teen. Or that the villain isn't really the wife he's been posing as.

Do you see what is wrong with this here graphic novel? I kindly underlined it with my fine point Sharpie.

Desert. George (who appears to be confirming my childhood suspicion that ze was facing some gender confusion) and Bess ate two deserts. Like the Gobi and Mojave.

I can excuse typos in public. Not everyone is proficient in the English language. Not everyone is proofreading every little thing.

But this is a BOOK. Where someone is PAID to check to the spelling and grammar.

This ads for other graphic novels was the best part of this book.

I'm not even Catholic, and I'm intrigued. Possible Christmas present for Boyfriend?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Swear I'm Not Stalking Her.

Does anyone have Ann Martin's personal e-mail address so I can send this to her?
via I Heart Guts
Please tell me it's not creepy that Annie M. losing her spleen when she fell out of a tree (while wearing her brand new gauchos!) was the first thing I thought of when I saw this e-card. Please.

Edit that I can hopefully remove later: There appears to be an advertisement for Sarah Palin. on. my. blog. This has to be some kind of joke, right? Apparently, AdSense has a sense of humor. Sick, sick humor.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Best. Library. Sale. Ever.

Today was freaking. fucking. epic.

Not even hitting an SUV (sorry, random girl!) can bring me down. Or that I had to sit through a conversation on favorite sex toys while I volunteered. (Don't ask. Just don't.) Or that I had a mouse pee on me about eight times. (Again, just don't ask.) Basically, my day off rocked.

In between the sex toy conversation and the incontinent mouse, I hit up the library sale. The volunteers laughed at me because I seriously spazzed out. So. Many. Books. And I just kept grabbing more and more and had to make two trips to my car.

I just got back from the neuro lab and decided to arrange my new books on my shelf and possibly fill my bathtub with them so I can bathe in books and maybe take some pictures to brag about how freaking awesome I am at library sales. (I adopt a day after Thanksgiving approach to book sales. For serious.)

And have a book photo shoot. 'Cause, dudes, I cleaned up at that library sale.

I got a book that I almost ordered off Amazon this week!

I got books featuring Anastasia!

I got books written about Ramona and some other girls I've never heard about.

I got books that have been made into movies!
I got books by really famous authors!
I got books by Ann Martin!
(Two of which, I realized that I already have.
So if you're dying for BSC#54 or BSC Mystery #22, hit me up.
Otherwise, I'm earning myself some used book store credit.)

I got books that I already read but loved way too much!
I got books that I don't really have a clear category for!
I got books I've never heard of but was intrigued by!

And I know you're wondering what all this rambling is about and why I just made you look at pictures of books. I have a freaking AWESOME point, so just stick with me here.

When the BSC was big, my older sister wrote a fan letter to Ann Martin. And she got a personal response. I've always been incredibly jealous of that letter for, uh, at least fifteen years now. (I was started on Little Sister books at a very young age...) I wrote a letter to Beverly Cleary once, but I only got a form response saying that Beverly and Ramona were very busy answering letters and couldn't get to mine. So. Jealous. of my sister.

Also important:
My favorite thing about buying used books is finding random things inside them. I love little notes and random bookmarks that get left behind.

Which is totally why I decided to see if there were any sweet bookmarks or other random odds and ends.

And I picked up Bridge to Teribathia first.

Ho-hum, right?

But, then you open the cover...and it's you're all 'Wha'?'

Yep. For fifty cents, I scored myself an autographed copy. Which basically gave me a heart attack because I never score awesome stuff. And here I just did! And it's my favorite kind of awesome stuff--something left behind for someone else. (I sound like a thief. Not the case.) And right off the bat, it totally pwns my sister's letter from Annie M.

Logical girl that I am, I thought, 'Damn! Maybe another book has something sweet in it.' So I checked some more. Nothing could be more awesome than Katherine Paterson signing a copy of a book in 1987, could it? Could it?

I also scored a copy of Here's to You, Rachel Robinson. Because I buy used, a lot of the books I have are from classrooms. My books are all marked up with random last names.

This book belonged to a Banninga. Which totally makes me giggle. And I assumed to be the most awesome thing about this book.

Until I opened it.

Holy hell. It couldn't possibly be, right?

It so totally is.

Best. Day. Ever.

Friday, October 1, 2010


It's my last Banned Book Week post! Hurrah! And this one is mad late. But, the deadline was October 1st. I didn't hear of any time within that 24-hour period. So, yay? Anyway, the Banned Book Week challenge(?) was hosted by Nikki from Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki. As soon as it's up, I'll link to the final round-up of posts.
I've got the rocking early '90s cover. Love them little flowers.

This book was a first time read for me. (How'd I miss it? I'm wondering that, too...)

Judy Blume wrote Forever after her daughter asked her for a book about teenagers that have sex without anyone dying afterward. (The writers of 7th Heaven should have taken note of this reality, too.) And what kind of awesome lady is Judy? She totally wrote her daughter a book.

The topic of sexsexsex is what gets this book thrown in the burn pile. Because people don't have, y'know, sex. We all produce asexually. And teenagers definitely don't have sex. Such an accusation is ludicrous!

Katherine, your normal seventeen-year-old girl, meets Michael at her friend's cousin's New Year's Eve party. Michael is with another girl, but that doesn't stop Katherine from thinking that he is a stud.

The new relationship is complicated by all the things that come along with the senior year of high school. Plus, Katherine and Michael live in different towns so they can only see each other on weekends. And they've both already applied to colleges out-of-state.  And Katherine's parents don't want her to settle so young. Which is a fair point. The statistics just aren't on the side of the teenage romances.

But still, Michael shows up every weekend. The couple hang out in the den a lot. Which is code for make-out-on-the-latch-hooked-lion-rug. Hang-out-in-the-den is apparently what kids did in the days before watching-a-movie-in-the-basement. And Katherine's parents are totally cool/oblivious/cool-but-pretending-to-be-oblivious about this.

And Michael introduces Katherine to the infamous Ralph. His penis. Because when a guy is thinking of a logical name for his penis, Ralph obviously comes to mind first. (Second choice: Princess Sophia.) (And I asked my boyfriend if his penis had a name. Either he's lying to me about it or it really never occurred to him.) Michael kind of does this weird thing about talking about Ralph like Ralph is an actual person. But Ralph is a penis. I feel like Michael could totally turn into some sort of Norman Bates-esque serial killer that truly believes that Ralph is a person.

Most of the Michael-Katherine relationship focuses on the physical aspect of the relationship. As does the book. Katherine goes with Michael, his sister, and his brother-in-law on a ski trip to Vermont. Every night Michael sneaks into Katherine's room to sleep. And Katherine is really excited that Michael gets to see her in her nightgown. Sexy.

Michael definitely wants to have sex with Katherine. He had sex with a random girl on the beach in Maine last summer, so why shouldn't Katherine immediately want to get it on? Oh, yeah, this random girl on the beach gave Michael the syphilis. Or gonorrhea. I don't remember which. I might just be a prude but I feel like a dude that has a random hook-up with some girl from the beach that results in a dose of penicillin is a red flag. I know it's the '70s, but who really just has random sex on the beach? Without a condom?

Finally, Katherine and Michael have sex. On Michael's sister's bedroom floor. Katherine is on my side on this issue. It's a totally awkward place to get it on. And it could go wrong in so many ways. (Voice of experience on this topic. Err...)

Shortly  thereafter, Katherine goes to Planned Parenthood and gets birth control. Katherine's grandmother is extremely involved in reproductive rights (it's the 70's!), but Katherine still doesn't feel comfortable talking to her grandmommy about it. Which is a pretty realistic assessment. Not the grandma championing Planned Parenthood part, but the not wanting to talk about it part.

Erica, Katherine's best friend, is dating Michael's friend Artie. It's fairly certain that Artie is gay, and Erica is determined to help him find out by having sex with him. And they "work on it." But nothing ever really happens. And Artie ends up attempting suicide. Which is kind of a wake-up call for everyone. That maybe Artie should be allowed to be happy and study drama instead of being forced into a ho-hum university. That whole story line is really just a footnote in the whole Michael-Katherine situation, though. Still important. Ish.

Katherine scores a job as a tennis instructor at a summer camp. Which is completely devastating because Michael has a job in a lumber yard in North Carolina. And the two were going to be separated by school soon. Uh-oh, spaghetti-o! The whole summer, Katherine misses out on the things that the other counselors are doing. She's too busy writing letters to Michael. Except that there's her fellow tennis instructor. Who is a mega hottie. There's all sorts of sexual tension, but Katherine's all, 'No, no, no. Michael. But tennis dude is sex on legs! Rawr!'

Then, when Katherine's grandfather passes away, Michael comes to visit. And Katherine gets really bitchy really quick. Which really just means that she's honest. There is that sex on legs dude. But really, who breaks up with a guy right after he flies up to see you? (Don't ever try to get me out of my relationship. I'll be that girl that delays it for six years because the timing is never "right.")

And so, Katherine and Michael both go off to school. Single and horny. And not dead from all that sex they had. And not pregnant. And without any kind of STI that eats their genitalia and souls at the same time.

  • When this book was published, my mom would have been Katherine-aged. But I doubt she read Judy Blume. Something tells me she just wasn't the type of girl to send out college applications or be uptight about her friends smoking a little herb. I'm no fool!
  • I'm a little irritated by the constant use of ellipsis points...Because really...I understand that people pause in conversation...but that often?
  • Katherine has an orgasm her second time having sex. Really? Either Judy is trying to sugar coat it for us, or she (and Katherine) needs to educate women everywhere.
  • What. the. hell. Michael and Erica are projectile vomiting drunk high schoolers at the bar. And no one is alarmed by this. Do you know what it's like to read about 18-year-olds that can legally sit in a bar after 9pm when your 21st birthday is still forty-seven days away? I'll tell you--It hurts my soul that I have to be a secret squirrel and ration my supplies while these fictional children are getting shit-faced in public while I just want to be a nice, responsible social drinker. My soul!
  • I don't understand how Katherine was thinking about hooking about with the dude at camp. I could never be a cheater. I felt guilty for her even thinking about it
  • The end of the book has a little note about how Katherine and Michael didn't have to deal with HIV risk, but teens now do. I like that that's included. They didn't update the book to have a PSA about the importance of a condom. (I'm looking at you, Michael! Ralph didn't get an STI on his own!) But it's just note rather than a Very Special Edition of the book where Michael gives Katherine HIV and then she dies! Because she had sex! Nooo! Not the sex monster!

Mini-Analysis which is really just an excuse for me to talk about myself:

This book kind of, uh, hit close to home for me. Which is totally code for "Shit's about to get personal in here. So feel free to check out right now, if you are so obliged."

My boyfriend and I aren't that much older than Katherine and Michael. We're only three years older.

It really surprised me, though, how much more mature we are. While we're not exactly to the point of putting a ring on it and punching out kids, we are more realistic about the future (and have been) than Michael and Katherine are. None of that "forever" crap. If it happens, it happens. As long as we're happy, we'll keep doin' what we're doin'. And, as we're aware, statistics are against it. Statistically, it's just not meant to happen.

Were we that naive three years ago? I'll go with no. Mainly because Boyfriend was under the impression that we were just having a summer fling. (Sucker.) But, it would be immature of me to suggest that we weren't naive. After the first time I met him for real, I definitely had these warm and fuzzy and incredibly comfortable feelings. It just felt right and calm and chill and I regretted that I had rejected meeting him for the last six months because that was six months that I missed out on. And those are not feelings that I, a pessimistic realist, am not completely comfortable with.

Katherine and Michael's relationship makes me question when Boyfriend and I made the transition from horny teenagers constantly mauling each other to semi-adults that are currently developing a plan of attack for graduate school. (Seriously. How boring did we just get? And old!) And while we do old-people stuff (grocery shopping! laundry! waking up early!), it's still feels awesome. Was the problem between Katherine and Michael just that they didn't anticipate the changes they would be experiencing? That their relationship would cool and settle and dynamics would shift? Regardless, it is better that they ended it because I really feel that they would always pine for how things were before rather than how they are now.

And cue Katy Perry.

But let's be honest. I'm not exactly the authority on teenage relationships. I've had exactly one relationship. My friends never had "normal" teenage relationships. In high school, my friends were polar opposites on the sexy-time-experience spectrum. No offense to anybody, but by graduation they'd either been with one guy or upwards of forty people. No one was at the healthy in-between that Katherine and Michael are at. In my life, I've never had a good example of a healthy relationship. (Hi, I'm Alison. And I'm my own step-sister. And my own step-cousin. Three times over. Actually, my own step-adopted cousin. Good times.) I don't have quality examples to draw from, and I know that that effects how I am and how I treat my own relationship.

Judy Blume freaking rocks at giving us books that we can relate to. And books that make us feel completely normal. (Or like complete idiots for not loving our periods. Whatever.) But while I related to the frantically-in-love feeling that Katherine and Michael have, I didn't relate to the casualness of the relationship. (Which I realize is completely contradictory to what I said previously. How are Michael and Katherine so completely serious about the longevity of the relationship but still so completely calm when it ends? And while they weren't completely calm, I can imagine myself being downright inconsolable if my relationship were to end like that. Inconsolable.)

 Maybe it's because I'm from a super-conservative area where everyone seems to be married before the age of twenty-two. (I'm going to be a spinster!) Or maybe I'm just in a relationship that is less about having sex and more about hanging out with someone that is my best friend first and my lover second. Or maybe it's the reasons I listed two paragraphs before. I don't understand how you can enter into a relationship and tell each other it will last "forever" without that actually happening. I only know how to be in a relationship that I fully expect to crash and burn at any time while still hoping that it lasts a little longer than that. I know what I know.

Basically, what I'm trying to express in a completely inarticulate way is that Katherine and Michael have a very paradoxical relationship. They're completely committed to being together forever despite that all the variables that are testing their relationship suggest otherwise. At the same time, they both know when the relationship is over and are able to accept that. And I have the complete opposite reality. I don't think relationships last forever. They just don't. But at the same time, I would have a hard time facing the reality that maybe it were time for my relationship to end.

Does that make sense?

And yeah. Plan for this to be edited as I'm able to sort out exactly what is that I mean. Because, I'm not really sure what I mean. This time last year, I was a teenager. So really, I don't have enough experience or perspective to have a firm grasp on what I want to express here.