Books Read in 2015 51. Looking for Alaska – John Green

Genre: Young Adult, Bildungsroman

Narrative Style: First person

Rating: 4/5Unknown

Published: 2006

Rating: 4/5

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Miles Halter thinks that going away to boarding school is going to be a great adventure but little prepares him for the way his life is going to change when he meets Chip Martin and Alaska Young. 

I had mixed feelings about reading another John Green. While I enjoyed the others that I read, I also found his style a little annoying as everything is overblown with significance. However, I enjoyed this more. Maybe it is because it was his first novel but it isn’t quite so over the top.

The characters were well drawn and I took to Miles straightaway with his obsession with last words and his longing for something more. I have to say that these kids are much more well read and intellectual than most of the teenagers that I come into contact with but that is not to say such kids don’t exist. Both Alaska and Chip were convincing as well, both representing different sorts of teenage angst.

The story counts down – some many days before – to an event and I have to admit, I did not see what this event would be. I assumed that this was the prank they were planning and not the terrible thing that actually happened. As a result, I was completely shocked and upset by it – almost as much as Miles himself.

Ultimately this is a book about grief and about learning to let go, lessons Miles in particular finds it hard to learn. it is about growing up and about not giving up. In the end, I felt hopeful for Miles and for his future.

Books Read in 2014 – 39. A Son Called Gabriel – Damian McNicholl

download (10)

Genre: GLBT, Irish Fiction

Narrative Style: First Person Narrative, Chronological

Rating: 5/5

Published: 2004
Format: Kindle

Synopsis: As if it wasn’t hard enough growing up Catholic in Northern Island in the 1970s, Gabriel starts to suspect that he isn’t like other boys. Add to this the pressure of getting into grammar school, a turbulent relationship with his father and the strange secret of Uncle Brendan’s leaving and you have a compelling tale of teenage confusions.

This grabbed me from the very start. Gabriel was a funny and honest narrator who details his life from his first day of school until he is ready for university. From the very first, Gabriel is sensitive and doesn’t like many of the things it is considered normal for boys to like. At school he is bullied, at home his father is always on his back about not being masculine enough. Added to this is the constant presence of the Catholic church and his mother’s horror of what the neighbours might say and you get some impression of the pressure that Gabriel is under.

The conflict between Gabriel’s growing knowledge of his homosexuality and the ideas of the Catholic church is sensitively handled. Gabriel tries desperately to pray his way out of homosexuality and his strategies for dealing with his feelings are both funny and painfully touching.

When Uncle Brendan’s secret was revealed I was surprised although the clues had actually been obvious enough. It was pleasing to have not spotted them though and to be surprised for once. The ending itself was ambiguous in as much that Gabriel tells his mother his homosexual phase is over. However, the reader suspects that this is wishful thinking on his part.

My only complaint about this book is that it had to end. I could happily have gone on reading about Gabriel’s university years. Very enjoyable.