Category: Sociological Behavior

+Book Review+ Etched On Me by Jenn Crowell

Posted Tuesday, 15 April, 2014 by jorielov , , , , 4 Comments

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Etched On Me by Jenn Crowell
Published By: Washington Square Press / Atria {imprints of}
Simon & Schuster ( ) 4 February 2014

Publicity by: Atria ()
Official Author Websites:  Site  | Twitter | Facebook
Converse via: #EtchedOnMe
Genres: Contemporary Fiction | Mental Illness | LGBT fiction | Realistic Fiction
Available Formats: Trade Paperback and E-Book
Page Count: 336


Acquired Book By: Whilst attending #LitChat for Ms. Crowell’s book discussion on behalf of Etched On Me, I had the pleasure of getting to know a bit more about the novel as much as I did the author herself! Our conversation continued offline through email, where she offered me to receive her latest novel in exchange for an honest review by getting in touch with her publicist at Atria. Therefore, I received a complimentary copy of Etched On Me in exchange for an honest review direct from her publicist Valarie Vennix. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read: Throughout the entire #LitChat discussion about Etched On Me, my heart drew a circle of empathy around the originating premise in which shaped this story together. A woman in the UK was put in a position to possibly lose custody of her child based solely on her history of mental illness from when she was younger. She had already undergone therapy and sought wellness for herself as much as her child, yet before her babe was even bourne there was a question about if she would be fit to be the child’s mother. As soon as I heard this part of the story threads, my heart went out to the woman in the UK! There is a stigma surrounding mental illness and those who are affected by the trauma of having a history in full view of everyone they meet on their future path. And, what is quite apparent is the stigma and the misunderstanding of how far forward one can walk on their lifepath is not always a given measure of their worth if they have something in their past which draws questions from those of whom were once trusted.

What I appreciated the most is the gentleness and raw attention towards the woman’s plight but also to the breadth of depth Crowell was willing to go based on her own experiences as a mother who has dealt with mental illness. She strikes a balance of an accord between fiction and non-fiction memoir to give the reader a full-on glimpse into a reality very few realise is happening in our world. Where parents who have the right to raise their children are being marginalised for reasons that are not fair nor ethical.


Book Synopsis:

Girl, Interrupted meets Best Kept Secret in this redemptive and edgy coming-of-age story about a young woman who overcomes a troubled adolescence spent in and out of psychiatric facilities, only to lose custody of her daughter when her mental health history is used against her.

Partially inspired by Jenn’s own experiences, ETCHED ON ME is also loosely based on the harrowing story of a young British woman who fled her home country in 2007 when she was nearly eight months pregnant. UK Social Services had ordered that she would be forced to surrender custody of her child within minutes of giving birth, due to her mental health history (raped at 14, she had suffered depression and instances of self-harm during her adolescence). Despite receiving treatment and being granted a clean bill of health, she was still considered a risk to her unborn child. Jenn learned of the case while deeply immersed in new motherhood herself, and having overcome her own mental health struggles, she was deeply moved by the story.

Sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway—our irrepressible narrator in ETCHED ON ME—is alternately streetwise and vulnerable, comically self-deprecating, and wise beyond her years. On the surface, she is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home—where her father had spent years sexually abusing her—and that she now spends her afternoons working in a fish and chip shop and her nights in a dingy hostel. Nor does anyone know that she’s secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism…until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital.

Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, overcoming her tragic memories and finding the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story—until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the many gains she has made and the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is “fit” to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn daughter.

Author Biography:

Photo Credit: Hedy Bartleson
Photo Credit: Hedy Bartleson

Jenn Crowell’s debut, Necessary Madness, was released when she was just 19; her second novel, Letting the Body Lead, when she was only 24. Both were critically acclaimed and reviewers marveled at the wisdom, maturity, and depth of feeling expressed by so young a writer. Over the next ten years, Jenn earned her MFA, but also underwent treatment for depression and self-harm—issues that she writes about so vividly in her latest novel, ETCHED ON ME. Jenn is a compelling writer, and she has a talent for creating sympathetic and relatable characters.

With ETCHED ON ME, Jenn Crowell takes her storytelling to new heights as she beautifully unpacks the legacy of sexual abuse, examines the complexities of the relationships we form when our blood families fail us, and raises fascinating questions about the nature of social services and health care in a bureaucratic system. As thought-provoking as it is riveting, ETCHED ON ME is an ultimately life-affirming story that will deepen readers’ understanding and compassion, and perhaps make them reevaluate preconceptions they might have about women who suffer from mental illness and mothers who, for whatever reason, must fight for custody of their children.

Jenn Crowell holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and lives near Portland, Oregon with her husband and young daughter.


A Phoenix on the Book Cover:

When Etched On Me first arrived by Post, the very first thing that I had noticed was the Phoenix etched into the background of the title and set as a bit of a raised watermark. At first glance, this signaled to me the story inside was going to be about a woman who rises out of the ashes of one chapter of her life as she boldly goes forward into a new chapter emblazoned by the one she’s left.

What I had not expected to find underneath the covers is a story deeply etched out of the pages of script that I had watched through an eight-year focus on Law & Order: SVU. I spent most of my twenties watching the trifecta so to speak of Law & Order; on the misunderstanding that it was in effect meant to be “LA Law”. The stories illuminated the hard-hitting real to life cases of women, men, and children living through some of the worst trauma and abuse that any one person could not even imagine. Through my time spent observing the actors who portrayed the police and the lawyers alike, I came to appreciate Mariska Hargitay’s portrayal of Olivia Benton. I would come to find out later she created the “Joyful Heart Foundation” as a way to reach out to the women who would write letters to her in full gratitude of the series and of her honest realism in giving Olivia a grounding persona.

I do believe if I had not had that section of my television viewing focused on specific cases of gutting emotional stories, I might not have been fully prepared now to read Lesley’s story. From the very first page I felt myself brought back to an episode of SVU, barreling into a story I might not be ready to read, but willing to engage into the heart-break to come out the other side into the light.

My Review of Etched On Me:

Lesley Holloway is an abrasive speaking teenager facing the horrific reality of being a victim of incest whilst having to find the courage to turn her own father in to the authorities as her own Mum is not willing to do so herself. From the brink of despair and insightful chapters of her internal struggle to sort out her life, Etched On Me begins when her crisis first erupts into seeking support, shelter, and help. On the foot-heels of seeing a page of her life far past social services, but at an episode of her life propelling out of control which brought her back to the beginning.

There is a section near the beginning in which Lesley cuts her arm quite deeply and needs to go to the ER. I had to sort of gloss past this section because the medical descriptions were a bit bothersome for me. This is a very well-written section about the consequences of self-harming and how cutters can phase out whilst thinking they are not going to cut as deep as they could. I give Crowell credit for taking her readers as close to reality as she does, even if this reader had to side step a bit to muddle through the pages.

The kindness of her Lit teacher, Miss (as she is affectionately referred) is the one who is her calming balm inside the hospital. Without her presence up to this point, I am not sure what would have tethered Lesley in a positive connection with an adult as she could not identify with her peers. Cutting affects a lot of young girls the same age as Lesley as in the story (sixteen) but also with women in their twenties. When Lesley is placed inside her first psychiatric facility she goes through a sexual awakening which at first surprises her as she is a survivor of sexual abuse. She was completely surprised that she was attracted to another girl, but part of her knew that perhaps she had known this before. Little nudges towards this realisation were painted by Crowell who gave the reader little insights into Lesley’s personality and her instincts as a woman developing her vision of who she is as she lives.

Part of Lesley’s recovery involved DBT (Dialectical behaviour therapy), in which the lessons of Zen and Buddhism are implemented to help find balance where previously only chaos lived rampant. To quell the urge to self harm by re-examining what triggered the need to cut in the first place. To be honest and open with one’s feelings and to own the journey towards self acceptance. The other half of her recovery was the close-knit family she surrounded herself with by drawing together positive role models and allowing herself the open freedom to being real with those who loved her to bits. She had to learn that love was unconditional and that by being raw and real might get you an upturnt brow on occasion (due to her choice in words!) but its your heart that shines through that allows people to become attached and endeared to you the most.

She’s an honest portrayal of a young girl who started out as a victim but championed her own cause by becoming the survivor who was as close to being an activist as you can be without crossing the line. Lesley starts out as an a teen of sixteen and transforms into a loving Mum with a University degree in her early twenties, on the verge of marriage. You rally for her each step of her journey, because she is truly walking through hell one footstep at a time — seeking her own truth and leading with her heart. Part of her living truth was accepting that she wasn’t straight and that it was okay to be a lesbian and love differently than she expected herself too. After all, each of us in walking our own path towards love and the greatest gift each of us has is love in full acceptance of each other.

A note on behalf of Jenn Crowell:

I give Ms. Crowell a heap of gratitude and respect for being bold enough to tell this story through the lens she gave Lesley Holloway. Due to the nature of the story and the way in which Lesley raised herself up by the bootstraps, this is one novel I am not going to attach a Fly in the Ointment for language — though please be forewarned she singes off your eyebrows half the time whilst aching your heart towards seeing her find redemption and peace! To be able to take part of your own living history and etch into a story-line as powerful as this one is a credit to her own strength and confidence. I will be forever grateful that I was involved with the #LitChat book discussion which allowed our paths to cross, giving me the honour of reading her novel with the hopes that my observations return the honour back to her. This is a story about social justice and for stablising the civil rights of everyone who has struggled with and has overcome mental illness.


This book review is courtesy of:

the author Jenn Crowell & her publicist @ Atria Ms. Valarie Vennix

check out my upcoming bookish events and mark your calendars!

I would like to take a moment to thank Ms. Vennix for giving me the honour of reading this extraordinary novel and by allowing me to bring the story to life on my blog! I am hopeful that through my observations of the Lesley Holloway’s plight and journey, I can inspire other readers to get to know her on a personal level. To turn the tides of indifference or ignorance into compassion, empathy, and understanding. There is so much going on in our world that we are not always fully aware of, that I will always champion the writers like Ms. Crowell her undertake social justice and reform by bridging the gap of misunderstanding by giving back to the world a story whose undercurrent message is to enlighten and endeavour change so that others in Lesley’s position will not have to suffer nor undergo such a harrowing life shift to gain the freedom to raise their children.

Return on Thursday, 17 April for my Author Q&A with Ms. Crowell!

{SOURCES: “Etched On Me” Book Cover, Jenn Crowell author photograph, book synopsis, and author biography were provided by Ms. Vennix and were used by permission. The book synopsis & author biography were pulled together from the Press Release given to me. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Tuesday, 15 April, 2014 by jorielov in #LitChat, 21st Century, Author Found me On Twitter, Book Review (non-blog tour), Bookish Discussions, Cutting, Equality In Literature, Foster Care, LGBTTQPlus Fiction | Non-Fiction, Life Shift, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Modern Day, Psychiatric Facilities, Realistic Fiction, Self-Harm Practices, Social Change, Social Services, Sociological Behavior, Sociology, Trauma | Abuse & Recovery, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Vulgarity in Literature

*Booking the Rails, No.1* A book entitled ‘Wonder’, with a curious proposition held within its story,…

Posted Saturday, 22 March, 2014 by jorielov , , , 5 Comments

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Books on the Underground; Books on the Subway; Jorie Loves A Story: Booking the Rails

The premise behind “Booking the Rails” was the impetus of a scathingly brilliant idea on behalf of Jorie! How does a girl who lives in the Southeast of the United States *actively!* participate in the mission of Books on the Underground & Books on the Subway!? How can she make a difference with a bookish blog without placing the books on the rails herself!? *lightbulb!*

Generate a book blogosphere gathering, where readers and bloggers can reach out to each other and start a social conversation! Expounding social interest to a new high to where those who pick up the books left on the rails by Hollie (in London) & Rosy (in New York City) will be encouraged not only to touch base by their mutually exclusive hashtags #BooksontheUnderground & #BooksontheSubway but might find themselves sharing their impressions of the books which alighted in their hands! This is one bookish blogger’s mission to read the books left on the rails! Jorie is therefore “booking the rails!”

Join her discoveries! Chat your thoughts! Tweet & share the movement behind volunteer public libraries! Unite bookish souls! Unite!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

 About the Girls of the Rails:

*:Hollie*:

website: booksontheunderground.tumblr.com
twitter:
@BooksUndergrnd
hashtags: #BooksOnTheUnderground
facebook: Books on the Underground

I moved to London five years ago after graduating from university and I’m originally from Lincolnshire. I left university adamant that I was going to get a job as a Creative in an Advertising agency. After 2 years of interning at agency after agency, I now find myself working at Leo Burnett, London. I have about an hour commute to work everyday, from Dalston to West Kensington, so reading is a nice escape for me. I love receiving recommendations for books and I have always loved passing on great books to my friends. One day I finished a book I was reading on the tube and just thought what a lovely surprise it would be for the next person to find. I didn’t leave my book that day because I realised there were a lot of hurdles to overcome. I didn’t want it to be just a book out in the world alone; I wanted it to be part of something bigger. I designed and printed Books on the Underground stickers and that’s how it started. What’s Books on the Underground? It’s a public library on the go! Find a book, take it, read it and when you’re done with it, put it back on the train for someone else to enjoy! All books are marked with the BOTU sticker and encourage people to tweet & follow the blog.

*:Rosy*:

website: booksonthesubway.com
twitter:
@BooksSubway
hashtags: #BooksOnTheSubway
facebook: Books on the Subway

I’ve been living in New York for around one year when I found out about Books On The Underground, thanks to Facebook. I saw an article about Hollie and BOTU when it hit me right there: I need to do this in NY. I think I thought about it for 5 minutes before I decided that I’m going to do it. I reached out to Hollie who was amazing and supportive; we did the NYC stickers together. Why did I decide to do it? I have a 40 minute commute to work everyday, and that’s nothing compared to some other commuters who have even longer commutes. Looking at people in the early morning is the most depressing thing ever. It’s like their eyes are lifeless. They stare into space as they cruise from stop to stop. Why not give these people something to look forward to when they get onto the train? Why not pass the time enriching their brain instead of bobbing their head along with the train movement. That’s why I decided to expand BOTU to BOTS. And I haven’t regretted my decision for one bit. What’s BOTS? It’s a public library on the go! Find a book, take it, read it and when you’re done with it, put it back on the train for someone else to enjoy! All books are marked with the BOTS sticker and encourage people to tweet & follow the blog.

And, then came *:Jorie*: {Booking the Rails!}

website: jorielovesastory.com
twitter: @joriestory
(updated: at time of post I was @JLlovesAStory)
hashtags: #JLASblog, #ChocLitSaturdays, #BookingTheRails

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and after a ten-year writer’s block I discovered Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. In December 2013 my path crossed with Rosy & Hollie (of Books on the Underground & Books on the Subway) via Twitter whereupon I was encouraged to play an active role in promoting their bookish mission. I conceived the idea of an exclusive feature entitled “Booking the Rails” to showcase the books they leave on the trains in London & NYC thinking this would create a social conversation. The first feature debuts 19 March 2014 to coincide with my third appearance on The Star Chamber Show. I am the Chambers volunteer live tweeting secretary.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

*:Booking the Rails, No.1*:

A book entitled ‘Wonder’,
with a curious proposition held within its story,…

Waiting in the station at West Ken this evening are some of the final copies of Wonder by @RJPalacio from @RHKidsUK pic.twitter.com/ybFmbFcVjH

Each feature spotlight of “Booking the Rails” will be drawn from the books left on the rail systems via New York City and/or London! For my first spotlight, I was trying to sort out which of the books I pulled from my local library to read first! Oh, I had forgotten to say, whilst the rail passengers are taking part in a volunteer-run library, I am ‘booking the rails’ along with them by borrowing the books from my own public library! Mine might be stationery but the books allow my imagination to remain transient! “Wonder” was a selection of mine to read when it first debuted, having been checked out numerous times to where I was a bit vexed it simply *had!* to boomerang back due to lost hours whilst checked out to me! The premise never left me and it felt fitting my first selection would come from the London rails! The start of everything!

Borrowed Book: My local public library originally purchased Wonder by R.J. Palacio at time of publication. I had always meant to borrow and read the book directly thereafter but never had the opportunity! I feel twice blessed by this book ahead of reading its pages; the first was finding it through my local library and thus, a second time in the feeds of Books on the Underground! The very Twitter account which launched a budding friendship and a conjoined effort to bring awareness to volunteer libraries on the move! I borrowed “Wonder” from my local library and this time, I read it through and through!

Inspired to Share:

The compassion Ms. Palacio has for this story and its heartfelt message of hope in the face of adversity is something that I not only support but am appreciative to observe! Her kindness is revealed in her worriment over the reactions of her sons, which served as the impetus of writing Wonder; drawing light upon our own apprehensive nature, and to serve as a sounding board towards social change & tolerance of the unknown. To change our immediate reactions which might even come to surprise us whilst allowing compassion and acceptance to be the greater good in which we impart. Listen to her words and open your heart to engage directly into the narrative.

Authors Revealed: R.J. Palacio via NCTV17

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Published By: Random House Children’s Books
(an imprint of Random House Publishing Group)
, 14 February 2012
Official Author WebsitesSite | Blog | Twitter | Facebook for Wonder
Available Formats: Hardcover, E-Book, Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition Hardback
Page Count: 320

Converse via: #TheWonderofWonder & #ChooseKind

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

A boy named August:

August has a keen philosophical intuitiveness about himself, the dynamics of his family, and his personal living environment around him. He seeks to find solace out of uncertainty and squalls chaos with simplistic truths which etch out the stigmas of which society oft-times places on individuals who are in some shape or form ‘different’ from the ‘norm’. And, the sad truth is that normalcy is in the eye’s of the beholder! To be normal is quite definitively the ability to be wholly true to yourself, your internal resolve of spirit, and in knowing who you are without the prejudgements and negative thoughts of others assembling into your heart. August has instinctively dry humour to convey his thoughts about life, dispelling any unease to meet him because he breaks the ice by simply being himself! He draws you into his sphere by engaging you in a way you were not expecting! No pretense. He’s simply ‘August’, who prefers to go by ‘Auggie’, the brother of Via and the boy who wants to live like a regular ten-year old entering fifth grade!

The author instinctively took the elephant out of the room by not revealing the true nature and perception of how August looks to the world. I can only hope that if this were to become a motion picture, the film-makers would make the same choice in revealing the story as told by those who interact with August without the full sight of his facial features. Because this isn’t a story about medical afflictions and physical disabilities which challenge us, this is a story about a young boy seeking to find his niche inside of a world who is not yet understanding how to accept him in its fold.

When August started enveloping me into the block of New York City he calls home, I felt as though I could sense the comfortable aura of where he walks and of whom he interacts with on a daily basis. The inertia of home outside of his house, where people know his name and his personality giving him a true sense of acceptance in the outside world. Whilst on the fringes of leaving the cosy-comforts of this reality to trade it in for the unknown perils of attending school for the first time.

My Review of Wonder:

The author chose an opening quotation from the song “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant, which I must admit, was one of my favourite songs on the radio whilst I was in high school! I loved the simple and honest truths stitched inside the lyrical story, allowing you to feel instantly uplifted by its spirited message of Hope and Acceptance. A tune which for the greater part of my teenage years was one of the few songs which lived inside me, a bit like some of the spirited songs by The Cranberries, Jewel, Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Moriesette, Sarah MacLachlan, and the Indigo Girls. Free spirits seeking to spread enlightenment and harmony through their vocals and melodies! To realise that this song was the inspirational foothold to allow Palacio the ability to transcend into the heart of the narrative is quite humbling! A song of reverberated ideals and a moral uplifting resonance transmorphed into a story of a young boy who leads quite the extraordinary life! I oft felt that the extraordinary individuals we perchance to encounter whilst living through our everyday hours are the very individuals who never consider themselves anything outside the ‘ordinary!’ Their inner light does not only shine bright, but with a humbling arc of self-acceptance and awareness which infects all of us with a measure of gladness we did not realise was amiss!

[ Speaking from a teenager of the mid-1990s, I love how the title of page 61 begins with the key lyric of the Green Day song which I actually liked back then! ]

August is a character held within a sincere voice of the transforming and wonderment of youth; where we get to be on the ‘verge’ of every new experience in trepidation of the unexpected and unknown for the very ‘first’ time! We get to have the belly bouncing butterflies of indifference and of anxiety stemming out of our inability to trust ourselves by a confidence we have not yet garnished into place. We are on the brink of discovering the layers of our personalities and the depths of our resolve to compute the outward changes of our lives, whilst muddling through our growing years in full wonder of how we are able to rise into each new obstacle and challenge us with a determined spirit of growth. August is like so many of us who felt as though each new experience coming into view arrived too quickly, and was not fully wanted at its time of arrival!

#ChooseKind is cleverly taken from the novel (off of page 48!) inside Mr. Browne’s English class where he is inviting his students (and August too!) to examine their conception of who they are and who they are striving towards becoming. It’s a preceptional challenge to have the students in the story step back from themselves and examine how they are being perceived by their peers and if they are representing their inner truth. It’s a classical technique to include a key word or phrase into a storyline, but in the advent of the technological age of social media, this clever phrase being turnt to clue in the reader to an impactful life lesson takes on a higher level of meaning! A hashtag allows all thoughts and observations attached to the tweet embedded to become interwoven into the global thread of conversation whilst allowing everyone to have a conjoined and collaborative exchange! This takes a book whose message is self-evolving outside of its sleeves to a new height in ‘interaction’! And, I am celebrating this achievement! Choose kind is the individual choice of being who you ought to be in the moment which intersects with right and wrong behaviour. As much as it’s an exercise in learning that being right ‘all the time’ isn’t something to strive to achieve either! There is always a middle ground in life, and the younger everyone can embrace this, the more enlightenment can be ignited. In my thinking, alongside the lines of using the hashtag for #randomjoy (one of my most favourite ways of sharing my ‘extra’ bubbles of joy!) this new hashtag could be inserted to express, convey, and materialise little notes of thought where a kindness was given openly and freely. Or an acknowledgement of a generosity in the midst of in-difference could be honoured. A seedling of a conversation where in every point of face reaction, ‘choosing kindness’ over aggression or even in projecting a position of righteous thought could be replaced by ‘a kind act of humanity’.]

Seeing August slowly become integrated into his class, where Summer breezes into his life during lunch and Jack (Jack Will) decides to make up his own mind about August, chooses to help find the humour in everything that could hurt August if he weren’t on his side, I started to get a warm glowing in my heart. I liked the direction of progress Palacio used inside the story. Especially with the additional “Precepts” by Mr. Browne’s English class! No one is ever too old to wiggle their mind around something quite larger than the scale of our lifepath. Yet, appearances of friendship can be a dicey sea to navigate properly! Those who appear to be your stand-up friend and confidante might actually be a wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing. The tricky part is sorting out who is a friend and who is truly a foe. For young August, his mask of reality was shattered by Halloween on campus. He was given a golden opportunity to listen to his classmates speak about him, but the startling and scary truths coming out of their mouths was enough to shatter anyone’s heart and soul. His spirits had been keenly lifted by prior kindnesses, yet in that one moment of clarity he saw what all of us who are bullied have to see: sometimes the people you trust are not the people whom you trust them to be.

I have to give credit to Palacio for switching up the regular order of the novel by inserting full-on chapters which reveal a principal character’s insight into August! She started out by showcasing Via (August’s sister), followed by Summer (August’s first true friend), and then came Jack Will. I wasn’t sure what to think as I started to read Jack’s section because I had previous information about how he effectively tainted his friendship with August. You get an inside glimpse into each of the character’s emotions and thoughts as their lives intersect with August at school and off school grounds. It’s quite unique, because the author has this ability to keep a vein of realism in how she portrays the children and not forgetting to keep August grounded at the center. Writing Via’s boyfriend Justin’s perspective in undercaps was a charming way of revealing his inner spirit. I especially loved how some scenes we’ve already read are re-examined or pulled back through another interpretation of the events as they unfolded. As though even as we had seen them, we were still missing pertinent pieces to understand the wholeness of the scene. By the time I reached Miranda’s section my heart-felt quite full. I knew of a girl like Miranda who felt safer and more at home at a classmate’s home.

The greatest gift we can all give is the gift of love and friendship intermixed with everyday kindness. This is a novel which celebrates the simple joys in life and the complications of when the views and opinions of the outside world can sometimes cloud our own perspectives and hearts. It’s a novel which champions those few who might have a harder line to walk in life but do so with a gladful heart. They see the light and the sparks of joy whenever possible and attempt to let go of the swarming of negativity that can overshadow them. They are the true heroes and heroines of our world, because it’s in their quiet calm of recognition of our frailties and our insecurities that we remain our humanness back to them. This is a novel which exposes the will to carry-on in a positive way whilst allowing for the grace of acceptance of other people’s weaknesses not to overshadow inner strength. The true ‘wonder’ of ‘wonder’ is how kind the world truly is when you walk out each day with a heart full of joy, a spirit full of kindness, and a warm smile to reflect your innermost feelings at heart.

Booking the Rails : whilst reading Wonder:

I can only imagine truly what it would feel like to find this curiously robin egg blue book with a curious illustrative face on its cover which bespeaks of a curious tale; one blue eye nestled into the left side of a young boy’s face. Scribbled over the eye in a child’s hand of letters is the single word: W O N D E R, of which is the book’s title. The author’s name is curiously attached to the bottom of the illustration left behind as a watermark. Although, on my library copy, a sticker of “SSYRA 2013-2014” is tucked quite close to the ‘eye’ of Wonder and the author’s name is obscured by my library’s barcode sticker! This isn’t the first time I’ve wondered what the full-on cover-art might appear as by seeing ‘past’ the library markings; but I am ever so very thankful to be blessed with the literature my library provides, when I am truly curious, I simply pull up an author’s website! Wonder is one book I’ve seen in big box stores to chain bookshoppes! I’d love to say I’ve seen this little book that could change the world in an Indie bookshoppe, but all of those have gone by the wayside locally. A sorrow I have not yet quite let go of. What then would I feel as I settled into my spot on the train (am I booking it in to the city or the suburbs?), whilst idly curious about this book which presented itself (in the station? on the seat next to me? notched into a fixture of pamphlets?) to be picked up? I’m carting off this blue book of Wonder without even realising what led me to be drawn into it. Now, I’m sitting on a train (perhaps a train I take quite frequently but not for work or trade?) toying with opening its pages yet caught up in the humdrum of train life. Other people are jostling into view, one steady stream of commuters and rail riders. The noise is deafening and yet, at this point in my life it’s barely an audible hum. My stuff is in my lap and I’m indifferent to wanting to browse through my portable calendar ticking off my next scheduled ‘have to dos’. The book is resting on top of my backpack (because that’s how I roll!) diverting my attention from anything else. Alas, the curiosity of what is inside befalls any other notion to notice which station we’re coming in or out of, much less how much longer I’m meant to ride to my destination! I open the book to find Natalie Merchant’s words from her infamous song “Wonder” and I nearly hear it on the PA system; its left that strong of an impression in my mind! Hmm,. this is quite interesting! The first section of Part One reveals another piece of the song and floats me inwardly back to the days gone by when it belted out on the radio whilst my driver’s license was being minted into use! I turnt the page and found myself curiously drawn into a boy named August’s life story… his humour is dry, his sense of identity is nonplussed, and his story is captivating me,… I reach page 44 cringing at the cruel reference Julian gives August about Darth Sidious ahead of disembarking this otherwise ordinary train which transports within my regular sphere of living! What day is this!? What was I meant to do?! All I want to do now is resume riding the rails to see where Wonder leads me,…

My recollection of ‘booking the rails’ is a fictional account, yet my mind wonders, what were the stories of those who read ‘Wonder’ on the London Tube!? #TheWonderofWonder perhaps!? Let’s start a conversation, shall we!? Share your story in the comment threads!

Via, no Olivia? : A sister whose brother has special needs:

Never one to assert her own needs ahead of her brothers, Via is one of those strong-willed and self-reliant children who has a sibling with medical special needs whereupon she built an armour of strength to support herself without parental oversight. Her side of the story isn’t explored until page 81 where Part 2 begins. The honesty her character was given was especially giving as I would feel that it was a very real emotional change of perception on Via’s behalf when her eyes betrayed her heart in seeing August as the outside world does. She was the supportive older sister for all of his life, but when she spent time away with her grandmother she was led out of her routine. She was given the freedom to be Via, to express herself without cause for alarm, and to be surrounded in perpetual light rather than with shadows and darkness looming in and around her steps. She was living without consequence of prejudicial perceptions and for the first time in her young life, her eyes changed how she saw the world. The way in which she saw her brother terrified her on one level and opened her up to a new awareness on another level. Its how she dealt with balancing the two living truths that would set her character on a path she might not be willing to explore.

Via goes into more detail about August’s birth defects and what she presumes is the underlying problem between her, August, their parents, and the world. She’s on the verge of adulthood and deciding on who she wants to be, and that includes the type of sister she will be for August. I’ll admit, I cannot always picture characters as they are described inside stories, sometimes my mind falters and sees the character as my heart sees them rather than what is visually on display through descriptive narrative. For me, August doesn’t quite fit the picture Via has painted for us, as I see August’s heart.

The mere fact that she was reading “War and Peace” inside her ninth grade year made me smile inwardly! Except to say, I’m reading “War and Peace” this year ahead of turning thirty-five and to me, that’s something to smile about as well!

Why a book called ‘Wonder’ is transformatively positive:

Full credit for the bravery shown throughout “Wonder” from the guiding hands of its author, Ms. R.J. Palacio who guides her audience through the brewing storm of August Pullman’s fifth grade year. This is a pivotal transition for August because he is going to be mainstreamed into regular school without the protection of family and the homeschooling environment of learning at home. Palacio placidly and pointedly gives the readers strong evocations of what is right and wrong throughout the dialogue exchangements between the principal characters and supporting characters. She allows the reader to decide in some ways, what is the right phrase to express yourself and what is the wrong way to implicate a negative response out of someone you want to bully. She draws out the undercurrent issue of the anxiety bullies have about their peers, and how their anger towards the bullied is fueled by an intolerance for nonacceptance of children who are different from them. This indifference turns quickly into hatred which grows out of the inability to accept what is not yet understood. She pulls you into August’s heart by seeing how he reacts and distracts from the extra attention he is given by his new classmates. Her bang-on narrative to include popular motion pictures and video games, garnishing a truism of narrative that young people can relate too helps aide the dialogue about bullying to be brought out into the open, because August feels 3-dimensional rather than flat on a page!

The absence of focusing specifically on what medical conditions August is afflicted by and exactly which surgeries he has undergone I believe adds to the gentleness of the story. Afterall, if anyone is living a life inside shoes similar to August, they might not feel comfortable disclosing their full medical history! They are already on the defensive and internally dealing with the emotional trauma of being misunderstood and misconstrued, so why add to their burden to adapt into a new environment?! Much less give any potential bully more fodder to stoke the coals of the fire!? I felt that this disfragmented perception of only subtle clues and hintings of what August is facing day-to-day brings his life full circle. We’re in ‘his thoughts’ and ‘sensing’ how he projects himself and internalises his world. We’re walking quite literally inside his shoes to see how what others are projecting towards him are being received. In this, I think Palacio hit the proverbial nail on the head!

An added reason for loving this book is the dimension of multicultural heritage woven into the background of August & Via’s parentage! Their father is of Russian & Polish descent and their mother is Brazilian! It isn’t often you get to see characters having a diverse background of ethnicity and ancestral roots, and being that I love genealogical histories, this was an extra special treat for me! However, it also sparked a unique perception of how exceptionally diverse New York City has become due to the multitude of immigrants who call her home! This is transformative in of itself, as there are only a handful of authors who include such a unique family in their stories! We are a melting pot in America, and seeing more of us represented in stories for children and for adults, (as Wonder is brilliantly lovely to be a cross-over sensation in both sections of readership) is one way of opening up our hearts to the wholeness of who we are as Americans.

Within the story of ‘Wonder’, I was Summer growing up because I oft befriended those in my classes no one else could understand at first glance. I did not focus on their disabilities or their learning difficulties, mostly because I had my own strugglements with speech, reading, and mathematics. I saw the world through a pair of dyslexic eyes and I was always considered the ‘different one’, so I suppose you could say I always sought out the friends who were a bit different like me. I saw them the way I hoped everyone else saw them. Not as the boy in pre-school who was feared mute; he was simply a happy-go-lucky soul who had such an aura of kindness around him, he made glow and chuckle without words at all! I didn’t even notice the girl’s wheelchair at the Science Center, but saw her active mind for solving complicated issues and tasks whilst we pretended we were stranded on a desert island without proper provisions. And, I could continue to call out cherished friends throughout my schooling years who always staid close in thought and mind. I oft wondered over the years where they are and what they are doing. If perhaps they found others like me who saw their souls shining bright and their voices conveying their courage and their friendship? Each of us is on a path towards understanding more of who we are and why we are here. Why then do some try to make our path a bit more difficult by simply not accepting we all are different from each other, but we’re all the same at the very same time!? Our differences make us unique, and our similarities connect us through a tapestry of thread that extends from one heart to another until everyone is united.

If only the story of August Pullman could continue and carry-on as he grows and gains more experiences in middle school, high school, and the life awaiting him past the walls of school. I’d welcome a series of sequels which allow us back into his family and his inner world.

A notation on bullying:

I will always celebrate those writers who are on the forefront of the social conversation for change in regards to ‘bullying’. I previously reviewed The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes, which dealt with a decidedly different point of view on bullying and being bullied; to the brink of challenging this reader’s opinion of how much violent inclusion is necessary to carry the story. Within that narrative, a true impression of the depths of which bullying is now surfacing to include was both harrowing and insightful; showing the true measure of how much change we need to bring to the limelight for a very difficult challenge to overcome. I am going to be reviewing the second book in Karnes novel this Summer (The Dragon’s Pawn) in which I resume the story where the last installment left off; on the suggestion of the author that my wrinkles and flies in the ointments would be fully understood and fleshed out in the sequel. Until then, as I am quite open to seeing where his vision is leading him in this conversation, I am going to seek out other stories for children and young adults to tie in the conversation further whilst exploring the literature sparking the dialogue amongst adults who seek to protect the innocents who are affected.

The following video was unearthed whilst I was seeking supporting content for this special feature of “Booking the Rails”. I always strive to find content that has merit and interconnecting positions within the theme or context of what I read. Every small pebble and ripple of change has to begin with one person deciding that enough is surely enough. Bullying isn’t something that we have to ‘agree to disagree’ about happening; it’s an underbelly issue of intolerance and negative passive aggression, rage, and unprecedented psychological trauma. We need to take a stand and re-direct the behaviour by giving clear guidelines of proper communication skills, action-reaction tactics, and the ability to intercede through mitigation where parties involved in bullying will talk out their emotional triggers and start a conversation towards resolution, change, and reconstruction of childhood interactions. There is a heap of work yet to be done, it all starts with a single conversation about how to interact with peers and what do when your faced with the cruelty of the growing years being taunted in your face.

This is one bullied girl on a mission to seek out stories which bring both sides of the discussion to the forefront. Join me?

Choose Kind Compaign (inspired by “Wonder”) via Random House Kids

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

 

 

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Question to Readers: All comments & reactions are welcome!

Are you one of the readers from the London tube who picked up a copy of “Wonder”?! What were your initial thoughts and impressions of the book!? What staid with you the most after you placed the book back on the rails for a new reader to discovery!? Did you have trouble parting with the book!? Perhaps you’re a reader of “Wonder” stateside or elsewhere in the world. Was “Wonder” gifted to you? Did a teacher introduce you? A book which caught your eye whilst walking in a bookshoppe!? How did “Wonder” alight in your life and what did you appreciate the most from its story!? IF you haven’t yet read the story, does this spotlight endear you to find a copy!?

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Official Book Trailer of “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio by Random House Kids

{SOURCES: Booking the Rails conjoined badge of all three blogs made by Hollie (Books on the Underground) and used with permission. The book trailer by Random House Kids had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Saturday, 22 March, 2014 by jorielov in BlogTalkRadio, Book Browse, Booking the Rails, Bookish Discussions, Books on the Metro, Books on the Subway, Books on the Underground, Bullies and the Bullied, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Debut Novel, Disabilities & Medical Afflictions, Equality In Literature, Guest Spot on Podcast, Homeschool Education, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Jorie Loves A Story, Jorie Loves A Story Features, Library Find, Library Love, Literature for Boys, Live-Tweeting Secretary of the Chamber, Middle Grade Novel, Philosophical Intuitiveness, Prejudicial Bullying & Non-Tolerance, Pro-Positive Cultural Reactions of Disabilities, School Life & Situations, Social Change, Sociological Behavior, Sociology, The Star Chamber Show, Transitioning into Private School, Volunteer Mobile Libraries, Young Adult Fiction