I have no idea where I came across this, I’m sure it was on a blog at some point, but I requested it from my local library for my Kindle (oh hey, Overdrive), and promptly forgot I requested it. So when I got the email notification that it was ready I at first panicked (I received two others at the same time) and then got excited because, well, see the first sentence of this response.
After seeing this over and over being the darling of the book blogosphere and reading the rave reviews of it I figured I should check it out. I read a lot of LGBT literature, a lot of young adult literature, and quite a bit of adventure literature so I thought why not. And although I wasn’t completely disappointed, I was genuinely underwhelmed and for once it wasn’t the mood I was in. I’ll start with the not-so-great and finish with what I enjoyed.
I’m a finicky reader at best and have curated a pretty good system of choosing the books I read, including taking into account books that fellow bloggers who have similar tastes to me read, but this one just didn’t click for me quite like others have. I kept to my usual style of not reading anything about the author or the book after I decided I want to read it. [Generally I get excited about a book/author and purchase/reserve something by them and then I let it sit for a while so that I can clear my palate.]
Of course after I saw the trailer for Love, Simon (embedded at the end of this post) I HAD to read the book they adapted it from. Who doesn’t love an awkward teen romance, especially an LGBT one? Seriously, just go watch the trailer so adorkable!
I’m not sure if I’m in love with Simon or in love with Simon’s hopelessness. I’m sad that books like this weren’t around when I was a teenager, but also so incredibly happy that books like this exist for teens! Was this a literary wonder? No. Was this a beautiful coming of age/first love story that anyone could identify with regardless of their sexuality? Yes.
I purposefully held off reading this edition for over a year because I knew I wanted something special for my 500th book on The Oddness of Moving Things. Tim got me the whole boxed collection of Austen’s works in December of 2015. I didn’t think it would take quite this long to get to, but with my whirlwind year at my previous job I’m not really surprised at this point. I’m reading again and I’m glad I saved this one for my 500th book!
I know others in the book blogosphere have reviewed this collection of Austen’s juvenilia and they’ve probably done it better. I’m a bit blinded by Austen because I’m such a fan boy (read this or just click here if you don’t believe me – or if you haven’t been around a while). I’m going to talk a bit about this work and the collection and then I’m going to have a brief bitch session about the physical book itself so fair warning.
I’m not sure why I picked this up back in January 2014, but I did. It was either the sadness in the title or the open envelopes on the front. I had no recollection of it being short stories as I rarely read them. And yet even when I went to read this, because I wanted a quick read before vacation, I was surprised they were short stories and it says STORIES on the front!
Honestly, this book disappointed me. There were two beautiful quotes, but overall I found the stories to be lacking and somewhat stunted. Many of the stories loosely tied together and I felt it distracted from what could’ve been a wonderful collection of (somewhat depressing) coming of age stories.
“Homesick is how Karen feels, though she doesn’t miss home, more like an earlier version of herself, a person who, in her memory is hardworking, starightforward, pure.” (Common Rooms, 12)
“Lewis and I decided this last night and it was a relief. Not everything has to do with me. Even the things that have something to do with me, like this contract, don’t have much to do with me.” (Sam, 87)
I would rather have not wondered if everyone was connected (and I could be wrong).
All of this being said, I think what bothered me the most about the short stories was that really good short stories to me, leave you curious about everything before and after, but simultaneously leave you feeling fulfilled. These did not, partially because there were characters that were either the same character or one with the same name and it was like wait what, is this a continuation? And partially because they just didn’t feel complete with the exception of Common Rooms, it was by far the strongest and it was the lead of the book.
Recommendation: Pass unless you are really interested in college coming of age stories or really interested in short stories.
YAY I’m done! I don’t have to read this dribble ever again. That is of course assuming I don’t go through a life changing experience like Ruiz. If you haven’t been following along, you might wonder about the sass in that previous sentence.
I have not become a fan of Ruiz or his philosophies having finished the first three books of his Toltec Wisdom Collection. I am glad I read them because it showed a different point of view, but I was struggling to figure out why I was so offended by them and this one finally made it click. I’ll talk more about that momentarily, but for let’s take a moment to breathe deep and appreciate I don’t need to re-read these again. Ever.
I’m not sure I will make it through the third book in the collection. I probably will because I already have it, but I can guarantee I won’t look into the fourth book, The Fifth Agreement or any of the other works by Ruiz.
As I mentioned when I responded to The Four Agreements, this isn’t really my cup of tea and I think The Mastery of Love made that even more apparent the further I got through the book. I found myself getting more agitated the more I read, thankfully it came it at just under 200 pages.
I’m not sure if it’s the deepening spirituality of the books or what, because Ruiz is very careful not to use only Judeo-Christian references, even if he chooses predominantly Western religious references including the Ancient Greeks.