Review: I Thought You Would Be Funnier by Shannon Wheeler

This collection of single panel comics and gags was the perfect thing to fly through in exactly ten minutes. Touching on universal themes such as death and clowns, cats and dogs, love and relationships, Shannon Wheeler’s cartoons were a pleasant surprise for a first-timer.

I do want to mention that though this promises to make you laugh out loud or feel something at least once during your reading experience, it didn’t end up happening in my case. So the title I Thought You Would Be Funnier fit like a glove. Still, there were a handful of noteworthy panels that I would like to highlight next:I Thought You Would Be Funnier 1-- bookspoils

 

I Thought You Would Be Funnier 2-- bookspoils

 

I Thought You Would Be Funnier 3-- bookspoils

 

I Thought You Would Be Funnier 4-- bookspoils

 

I Thought You Would Be Funnier 5-- bookspoils

 

I Thought You Would Be Funnier 6-- bookspoils

 

I Thought You Would Be Funnier 7-- bookspoils

 

I Thought You Would Be Funnier 8-- bookspoils

3/5 stars

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Review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

“The only past you have a right to know about is your own.”

I was positutely ecstatic when I found out that Gabrielle Zevin was releasing a brand new fiction novel after The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, which had quickly become a favorite of mine earlier this year. And similar to the aforementioned, Young Jane Young had me enamored from the first page, which I’ve come to realize is the author’s specialty. Even though the setting is so different from her previous work, the characterizations feel so familiar. Zevin has a special knack for breathing life into her characters, making them flawed yet still likeable as hell.

“Once upon a time, I was easily touched and easily flapped.”
“What happened?” she said.
“I grew up,” I said.

Now I know that I can always count on the author for getting me swept up into her works from page one. It took absolutely zero effort for me to get familiarized within the pages of this book. It felt truly effortless, in particular, because of the combination of the many Jewish aspects and Yiddish phrases (farkakte, oy vey iz mir, alte cocker) that won over my heart in a beat.

Thanks to my incredible excitement for a new Zevin novel, I hadn’t even read the blurb or synopsis before starting, so I was in for a treat because everything that came at me I got to experience through fresh eyes. I’m also thankful because I probably wouldn’t have read this gem had I known that Young Jane Young‘s heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it.

“They didn’t put a scarlet letter on her chest, but they didn’t need to. That’s what the Internet is for.”

Separated into five different parts with a different female narrator for each one, the aforementioned plot point is honestly not even a third of what this novel is about. We’re introduced to so many great, flawed, and achingly real female characters that support one another, in addition to many iconic feminist moments and sayings and t-shirts (“Women rights are human rights” and “Ask me about my feminist agenda”) in here. Speaking of which, the pure privilege of receiving the many sage feminist advice from Mrs. Morgan was worth it all. (Her side note to Ruby on the meaning behind ‘douchebag’ opened up my eyes.)

And further drove the point home by making this a female driven story. I love it more than I can put into words that the narrators were Jewish women, related to each other one way or another. Nothing is quite like what it seems, and I cherish the author for still managing to make each woman layered and just so fucking real. That’s all I could’ve asked for, really.

An added bonus: One of my favorites was Ruby Young, the most fully realized character, who’s only thirteen at the end of the book but trustworthy, neurotic, and strong for her age, to borrow her mother’s phrasing. When asked how she came to be so wise, her answer gives it all away:  “Books,” I said. “And I spend a lot of time with my mom.” Showing healthy children/parent relationships is the key to my heart.

It seems a difficult feat but I ended up liking each narrator and each generation more and more, thanks to Gabrielle Zevin’s effortless yet intricate writing style and characterization. The small details are what matter here. Like this next little moment that managed to capture such a specific feeling that it nearly made my head spin:

“I don’t know why I didn’t say no. In my defense, I was confused. I think it’s like when you’re on a cell phone call with someone and the reception goes bad and you continue to pretend as if you can hear for a bit, hoping that the cell phone reception will work itself out before the person catches on that you haven’t been hearing her for five minutes. Why don’t you immediately say, I can’t hear you? Why does it feel shameful.

And of course there were the many laugh out loud moments that I’ve grown accustomed to as the author’s signature style: “He was twenty-seven, and his handshake was too firm – what are you trying to prove, bro?” And using the most iconic of phrases: “You’re worse than a bra strap.”

This refreshing, short, and concise read with plenty of heart and more than a little humor has made a definite new fan out of me. I can’t wait for Gabrielle Zevin’s future works.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: August 22nd, 2017

5/5 stars

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Review: The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold

“…there’s getting to be less and less of me. Where will it end?”

I was originally drawn to this novella because of the peculiarity of “The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am.” I mean, how am I supposed to pass up a title like that?? And I went on to give it a shot when I saw that the novel was barely over 100 pages. However, I think I misread the blurb, thinking this would be about an old lady discovering something new about life. It wrote: The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am is a macabre twist on the notion that life “must be lived to the fullest.” So I read this and assumed that somewhere throughout this read we would have an adventure-esque trip.

What I got instead was the day to day of Mathea Martinsen, who’s almost a hundred, loves rhymes, and has social anxiety.

“There will be a community gathering next Sunday,” it reads. “All residents must attend!!!!” I gulp and read the rest of the flier as quickly as I can, just in case there’s something even worse there, but I don’t know what could be worse than what I’ve just read.”

And her talents include sorting cards and “also good at starting new rolls of toilet paper, I could unstick the first sheet without tearing it. ”

The trouble was that little to no captivating things occurred throughout, unless you consider it fascinating that Mathea’s tooth got stuck in the cucumber she was eating… Like, here’s literally everything that happened over the course of 100 pages: “I stole from the grocery store, gave Åge B. the time, buried a time capsule, baked rolls, turned up the hot plate, tried to plan my own funeral, tried to become a tree, and then the most difficult thing of all—I used the telephone, which was really too much for me—and yet I’m still sitting here in my apartment and I’m just as afraid of living life as I am of dying.” That’s the whole of it. There’s no exciting adventures, no meeting kindred spirits, no engaging dialogue. Nothing.

The stream of consciousness writing, similar to that of Suicide by Edouard Levé, was unfortunately another negative in my book. It came off as disjointed and difficult to get into. This read would’ve been more enjoyable as a short story than a novella, in my opinion.

Ultimately, The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am just wasn’t what I was expecting, and it didn’t surprise me for the better with it. However, I am glad to have read my first translated Norwegian fiction with this, since I’ve been wanting to check that box off my list for awhile now.

2.5/5 stars

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