The Darkest Minds Review

“Did you know…you make me so happy that sometimes I actually forget to breathe? I’ll be looking at you, and my chest will get so tight…and it’s like, the only thought in my head is how much I want to reach over and kiss you.”

-Alexandra Bracken, The Darkest Minds

I promised myself I would stop reading YA Dystopian books, as I was starting to lose my faith in them, but when everyone kept telling me to read Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds, I decided to give it a try. This dystopian thriller book is about a girl, Ruby, who mysteriously gains powers on her tenth birthday due to a strange illness that has killed most of America. This leads her parents to lock her in the garage and send her to a detainment camp, where she spent most of her childhood. She is labeled “dangerous” and escapes the camp with a few of her fellow detainees. She then falls in love with the boy who saved her, works through internal issues, saves the world… blah blah blah.

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While my hopes were high for this book, it really only solidified how much I can’t stand YA Dystopia. And it’s a shame, because that’s basically the only YA genre anymore (except for horrible sappy romance). Almost every single author likes to jump on the YA dystopian craze, from “The 5th Wave,” “The Mortal Instruments,” and “Divergent.” It’s like all of these people just tried to recreate The Hunger Games but they obviously couldn’t. And really, check the Goodreads synopses for these books by clicking on the links I provided because they are painfully similar (here’s the one for The Darkest Minds as well).

The whole plot of the book is annoying and blander than grits on top of untoasted white bread. The “dangerous” teens get locked up in a government camp after getting sick. I mean, really? The ONLY teens who survived a plague get locked up? Trust me, I know our government can be stupid but… really? Every single YA book has to contain some crazy oppressive government. Every. One. It must be a lot of weight on the main character Ruby’s shoulders to be the only teenager who recognizes the problems with an authoritarian government. Not only that, but they just put up with the government’s abuse… they ALL have powers, and they all have the ability to make all the government guards at the camp just… walk away. But they never do that because they are poor little helpless kids waiting for their savior.

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Speaking of YA stereotypes, every novel contains these “class separations.” For example, “districts” in the Hunger Games, “factions” in Divergent, etc etc. In The Darkest Minds, it’s…colors. Based on the type of power that you have. And there are government-issued labels that shows everyone what color you are, eerily similar to Nazi concentration camp badges. And of course, our lovely protagonist is ~the most dangerous color~. But she hates that fact and continues to whine about it for literally the entire book. Even though she could use it to break everyone out of the prison. Does she have any characteristics other than being annoying? Not really. 

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Then they try to make a strong female character, but the issue is, there’s so many of these same characters that it just gets awful to see another one. Read my new book, where ANOTHER quirky teenage white girl with ~special powers~ and unique eyes saves the world! And she’s the only one who can do so! Yes, really! I will then be hailed as the ultimate feminist on my countless Goodreads reviews.

 

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Can you tell the difference? I can’t.

 

I know there is one question on your mind: seriously? Can a girl really save the world? Well, don’t worry, there is a guy who has to save HER first. In this case, Ruby falls in love with him on a road trip away from the camp (note: the road trip is literally the entire book. But don’t worry, there are also 18 car crashes because the plot has to contain SOMETHING, right?). Thank god there is a strong, level-headed male character to help our female protagonist along!!!!

 

But wait… what’s this? That’s right, it’s ANOTHER hot guy! How will our protagonist decide??? How will she remember that she has to save the world if she’s so distracted trying to choose between two macho men with amazing jawlines?????? Flip the page for a mandatory bonding session in which the female protagonist gently wraps the man’s wounds as he winces (maybe an even inappropriately timed kissing session if you’re lucky). If I could summarize this book’s romance in a sentence, I would use Avril Lavigne’s legendary song Sk8er Boi: “He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?”

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The only thing that made me give it two stars is because the first 20 pages were good. I mean… that’s enough, right?? But this book reminded me of everything that is wrong with YA fiction and just… the world. The ENTIRE book was a boring road trip. It didn’t beat out Divergent in terms of YA stereotypes, but it was pretty close. Please enjoy these twitter accounts that personify horrible YAs.

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“Typical YA Heroine”: https://twitter.com/typicalyahero?lang=en

“Dystopian YA Novel”: https://twitter.com/dystopianya

 

Edit: I just found out that they are releasing this book as a movie in 2018. I literally cannot escape Hollywood’s death grip.

The Wrath and the Dawn Review

“She was a dangerous, dangerous girl. A plague. A Mountain of Adamant who tore the iron from ships, sinking them to their watery graves without a second thought. With a mere smile and a wrinkle of her nose.”

-Renee Ahdieh, The Wrath and the Dawn

I came to read The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh after a few people recommended it to me, and after it was on the New York Times Bestsellers list. While it has fantasy and thriller-like elements, it is primarily a romance based on A Thousand and One Nights. This ancient folktale is about a wife who realizes that her husband will murder her by morning, so to try and delay it, she tells him stories for 1,001 nights.  While this story has been retold hundreds of times, I thought that The Wrath and the Dawn gave a fresh new take on it that I enjoyed.

In short, The Wrath and the Dawn is about Khalid, a young king, who brings a woman home every night only to kill her at sunrise. When Khalid kills the main character Shahrzad’s friend and cousin, she decides to take revenge on him and volunteers to marry him. When night comes, Shahrzard tells Khalid a story and says that the only way he can hear the end of the story is if he lets her live until the next day. In a sort of Stockholm Syndrome case, the two slowly fall in love as the book progresses.

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The prominent themes throughout the book deal with love, and redemption, which are all closely related. Love, of course, because the two characters go from wanting to murder each other to falling in love, and redemption because of how much the characters change. Throughout the whole book, Khalid seems mysterious and has a “secret” he won’t tell anyone, and he finally opens up to Shahrzad and begins his character arc. And even though Khalid kills Shahrzard’s friend, he still goes through a “redemption” in her eyes.

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In conclusion, I thought it was a relatively good book and it kept me captivated from beginning to end. The way the author wrote the dialogue between Khalid and Shahrzard as well as the general descriptions were very thoughtful and detailed. All of the side characters really add a uniqueness to the plot. Of course, there were some problems with it. For example, she came to avenge the death of her friend, but ends up falling in love with her murderer after a few nights which is just…strange. But I guess love stories are just like that. All in all, I would give it 7/10 stars! I’d recommend this to anyone who likes to read new takes on traditional folk tales or someone who just likes a good love story.

*note: the book also has a sequel, The Rose and the Dagger (which I plan on reading sometime).

Romeo And Juliet Final Post

At the end of Romeo and Juliet, this is the question that’s invariably on everyone’s minds. Did the play really have to end like that? Were Romeo and Juliet being rash, and was suicide really worth it just because they couldn’t be with the one they loved?

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Overall, I would give the whole book a solid 7/10 stars. I really enjoyed the beginning of it, (up until act 3-middle of act 4), but after that, the whole thing seemed a little rushed. Like Shakespeare just wanted to get it over with (relatable). Now, I knew that R & J’s relationship was hasty, but for some reason, the whole time I was expecting their relationship to be a little more… developed. But no, they see each other a few times and then die in each other’s arms. To me, that made the “I love you so much I’m going to die for you” seem a bit fake and not genuine. But I guess some of it is probably not being able to see into a character’s mind, as it is a play.  

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So, was their love really worth dying for? This is like trying to explain the meaning of life in one word, but I’ll try to make it concise:

  1. A common motif is that love leads to death. Juliet says, “Than death prorogued wanting of thy love” Mercutio died because Romeo loved Juliet, and in turn Tybalt. Tybalt died because Romeo loved Mercutio and wanted vengeance. Paris died because he loved Juliet. Lady Montague died because she loved Romeo. And of course, Romeo and Juliet died because they loved each other.
  2. When Romeo finds Juliet dead, he expresses suicide as an act of love. “I still will stay with thee/ And never from this palace of dim night/ Depart again.” So, love and death is one and the same here.
  3. They (including Friar Lawrence) believed that love can conquer all, especially the family feud. So, if there is no more love, can you conquer anything? Or is death now the only option?

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This is at least how Shakespeare presented it. In my opinion, it’s very circumstantial. If you had a kid that was dying and for some reason, the only way they could live is for you to die, it’s worth it.

But committing suicide for a man you’ve met a few days prior? Absolutely not. Maybe you’d feel like you wanted to die, but life is so much more than romance. If anything, you have to stay alive because I doubt that loved one would want you dead.

 

Who’s to blame?

 

In a way, every character somehow contributed to Romeo and Juliet’s death. But I’m still standing behind my theory that Romeo is to blame for all of this. I’ll sort it out into a list again:

 

  1. Like Helen Fisher said, the feelings of love are more intense when you just got dumped. And he meets Juliet right after Rosaline ditched him, so it’s more of lust at first sight than love.
  2. And when Romeo is whining to his friends about his love life, Mercutio basically says “sleep with someone, you’ll feel better.” Aaaand he meets Juliet…
  3. Juliet loves him because he’s attractive, and Romeo takes advantage of that to just manipulate Juliet because he’s heartbroken.
  4. Read my last post for more on this, but Romeo is the reason why Mercutio and Tybalt died.      
  5. And of course, when Tybalt died, Juliet’s feeling that teenage rebellion (after her father threatens to disown her) and decides to not care that the love of her life killed her cousin, but that he’s banished. Really, Juliet?! And when the Nurse asks her, “Will you speak well of him that killed your cousin?” She responds, “Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?” as if the two cancel out (pg 137).
  6. Maybe Paris isn’t the bad guy we all thought he was- Capulet tells Paris in scene two that he needs to “take things slow” with Juliet and win her over first: “But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart,/ My will to her consent is but a part…” So, Paris actually loves Juliet… unlike Romeo, who seems to just be manipulating her.
  7. Romeo is banished, which according to him is worse than death. And then Juliet dies… so he decides to commit suicide because he’s basically screwed (and it’s better than being banished, so hey!). And all this drives Juliet to kill herself too, because that one hot guy who her parents didn’t like and acted like he loved her is now dead. Oh, Romeo!

Those are all of my thoughts, overall, I liked the play much better than I thought I would. I linked a short video from Thug Notes summarizing Romeo and Juliet, enjoy…

Romeo and Juliet Act 2 & 3

Check out my last few posts on Romeo and Juliet before you read this one

We are finally finished with Romeo and Juliet up until Act Three. Or, as I’m calling it, The Act Where Everything Goes Wrong. In Act 2 and 3, R & J finally begin to realize that love is not a save-all, heal-all force, and maybe, just maybe, love can actually pull others apart. But, our favorite star-crossed lovers clearly don’t see this, because they’re too infatuated with each other’s beauty that they don’t realize actions have consequences.

RIP: Mercutio and Tybalt

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To be honest, I was a bit upset that Mercutio and Tybalt died. Romeo and Juliet were starting to annoy me with all this “love at first sight” crap, but the side characters (not you, Paris…), especially Mercutio, were a breath of fresh air. However, I think this is exactly why Shakespeare decided to kill them off. I read that Shakespeare said “if I don’t kill Mercutio, Mercutio is going to kill me!” (maybe not his exact words, but still). Romeo and Juliet is not a love story- it’s a tragedy. Shakespeare didn’t write love stories. So, he had to progress the play somehow, because we all know how it ends. And I think getting rid of the two “main” side characters, especially Mercutio, the funnyman, launched the play into a much darker alley.

In the scene, Tybalt challenges Romeo to a fight, but Romeo decides that he does not want to fight. Tybalt provokes Mercutio by saying “you consortest with Romeo,” (you… hangout with Romeo?), so they fight and both end up dying. Classic.

“A plague on both your houses!”

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Now, don’t get me wrong. Mercutio would be willing to die for Romeo if the need be. They’re best friends, and their bond goes far back… definitely further than the night before. But, the thing about Mercutio’s death is that there was no need. This event that triggers the death of 6 more characters was wholly preventable, if it wasn’t for loverboy Romeo. Romeo was supposed to be there for Mercutio but all he said was “oh no my love for Juliet has made me effeminate and suddenly I won’t hurt a fly!” Really, man? Even though Tybalt might have physically killed Mercutio, Romeo is to blame for his friend’s death. One of the cardinal rules of friendship is to never let other romantic relationships to get in the way. Mercutio was there for Romeo when he needed him, but Romeo was too busy looking at the whole situation through his post-marriage rose-colored glasses to mind. He was ignorant. Mercutio even said: “Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm” (pg. 121). Clearly, love didn’t solve anything in this situation. Could it have? Maybe, maybe not. If Romeo explained why he said he loved Tybalt, he would definitely die a lot sooner than he had! Perhaps love is the peaceful solution in Romeo’s mind, but not everything has a peaceful solution.

The Blame Game

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R & J clearly believe that they have an unbreakable bond. But if this is the case, then how do they fall to their demise so quickly? Who is to blame (other than Shakespeare 😉  )?
There are a few people to point fingers at.

Friar Lawrence

Friar Lawrence is the easy one to blame for Romeo and Juliet. If Romeo and Juliet were tried in court for murder, their lawyers would probably argue that they were delusional, or perhaps intoxicated, and didn’t know what they were doing. However, Friar Lawrence was supposed to be the trusted adult, but he was just blinded by his ignorance. He thought that a decades long family feud could just be solved by marrying a Capulet and a Montague- but you could argue that he’s just stupid and blinded by love like half the people in this play.

Capulet

Capulet is the strange dad that sounds like he’s having a stroke every time he talks, but there’s no doubt that he’s the most mean-spirited character of the play. Because he pressured Juliet into marrying Paris, Juliet felt that sense of teenage rebellion when she fell in love with and married Romeo. Not to mention, he threatened to disown her unless she immediately married Paris. And according to neurologists, when you love something you can’t have, the love is much more intense. So, that worked out. 

Romeo, Thou Art A Villain!

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These two characters are often blamed for the way Romeo and Juliet ends, and it’s true in one part. However, there is one character that is more to blame than anyone else: Romeo.

Let’s explore:

In class, we talked a lot about how Romeo instantly falling in love with Juliet at the party was basically his rebound from getting rejected by Rosaline. He was still so intensely in love with Rosaline, but since he couldn’t have her, he acted that much more reckless. He saw Juliet, a pretty looking girl, and married her the next day. Convenient, isn’t it Romeo?

There’s also the fact that Juliet is 13. Of course, society 500 years ago was much different, but if Juliet sees a hot 17-23 year old lusting after her, she’s bound to be happy about it- Romeo is her first love! So, was Romeo taking advantage of Juliet? Did he really love her? Or was it just a spur of the moment fling?

Now the character deaths. As I mentioned above, Romeo is really the one to blame for Mercutio’s death. His friend needed him and he wasn’t there- even worse, he used his love for Juliet as an excuse to not fight Tybalt. And when Mercutio dies, he gets mad at Tybalt and kills him… when it’s really his own ignorance that killed Mercutio.

Back to Juliet: her “love” that she’s known for a few days killed her cousin! She takes some time to weep, but then focuses her energy and anger to being mad that Romeo is “banishéd.” If she wasn’t so blinded by love, she would have seen Romeo’s ulterior motive. So… maybe love is not blind, but love is blinding. The girl’s thirteen and got threatened to get disowned by her parents, of course she’s going to do everything to rebel!

The blame on Romeo goes on into the play, but since we are only on act 3, I won’t get too into it. In conclusion: Romeo is a hotheaded mess.

Keeping Up With The Capulets

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If love was a hole, Juliet fell down it and then started digging. In Act 2, she handed her heart over to Romeo on the balcony after a whole 2 hours (hey, at least it’s something). She was ready to give up her soul, her life, even her identity as a Capulet just to be with Romeo. On page 73, she says: “…a rose/ by any other word would smell as sweet/ so Romeo would/ were he not Romeo called.” Juliet does not care that her only love is from her rival house: the only thing that matters is that they are in love. Cute, right?

No. She’s going to die. But, of course, she doesn’t know that- so she gets married. And then things get interesting.

Tybalt

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She spends a stanza or two crying about how her cousin is dead, but worry not- it doesn’t last for long! Because when she finds out that Romeo is banishéd, it’s suddenly the end of the world. On page 137, she says: “Romeo is banishéd./ To speak that word is father, mother, Tybalt, Romeo, Juliet, all slain, all dead.” You don’t possibly think you’re being a bit dramatic, right? Just a little? In front of her mother, she convinces her mother that she hates Romeo- not that her mother was suspicious of her in the first place, anyways. “I shall never be satisfied/ with Romeo till I behold him -dead-”

Which is interesting, because, you know, I guess that makes her satisfied at the end of the play? Hm.

Paris

In Act 3, Lady Capulet confronts Juliet about marrying Paris. She defiantly says no, playing into a little bit of dramatic irony when she says: “When I do marry,/ it shall be Romeo; who you know I hate,/ rather than Paris.” Right, Juliet. You hate him so much. But when she says no to her father, he practically loses it. He threatens that if she does not marry Paris by the upcoming Thursday, he’ll disown her. She begs for her father’s understanding, but it’s apparent that he doesn’t really care much about how she feels. And to make things worse, the Nurse, who was supposed to be on her side, also wants her to marry Paris. Ouch! Tough times.

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I am honestly not sure whether or not I am looking forward to the rest of the play. While I’ll miss it’s lightheartedness, I’m also looking forward to the darker parts. But, overall, it’s much better than I thought it’d be so far!

 

Romeo and Juliet Act 1: Dear Romeo

Mercutio spitting straight wisdom about love to Romeo in a letter (I translated it to Shakespearean language using Shmoop’s translator, but I had to improvise in some places. Like when I said “I love you” and it spat out an entire poem. But, apparently, you just have to add a bunch of “eth”s at the end of words in order for it to sound Shakespearean!)

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From what I understand, Mercutio doesn’t really care much about love. Every time Romeo complains about how lovesick he is, Mercutio dismisses him and makes a crude comment (ie, “prick love for pricking, and you beat love down” (Act 1 Scene 4). Smooth, Mercutio. Smooth.) Like all best friends, he relentlessly teases Romeo about falling in love and, being the comic relief, makes numerous jokes about it. I tried to fit that aspect of Mercutio into this letter as well. But, to be honest, Mercutio would probably rather just start beef with the Capulets than listen to stories about his best friend falling in love with one.

So, enjoy this heart to heart, bro to bro letter.

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If love be rough with you, be rough with love. 

-Mercutio, Act 1, Scene 4

 

Romeo! Sirrah! Thee in earnest needeth to be collected. Thou has’t flown so close to the sun and now thee art burning.  Thee knoweth whither ashes end up? The trash, Romeo, the trash! In mine most humble opinion, love is fake. Thou art telling me that thee see some wench and thee falleth in love with that lady right hence? Lest I calling talk’st of nothing. One moment thee art in love with Rosaline, now thee forgot about that lady. Thee gravely just saw Juliet and hath said love looks with the heart, not with the mind, and therefore, Cupid is blind? That is a gross amount to sayeth to a lady on thy first date. Thee cannot even fit that on a friendship bracelet, cousin.

Doth I mean nothing to thee, Romeo? Am I just dirt? Don’t  tryeth mine with this love horror, Romeo. I’ll murder thee.  Thee art too valorous for this! And a Capulet of all people! Doth not thee knoweth anything, Romeo? I consume Capulets for dinner, utter fool. If ‘t be true thee bethink thee art very much in love with Juliet, thee needeth to receiveth thy headeth checked. Unless thee art an insolent clotpole, thee would has’t hath heard me at which hour toldeth thee how to fix a broken heart. And that didst not includeth falling in love with some Capulet!

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Now, I can telleth that thou art going to cometh crying to me for love advice. There’s few or none will entertain it. I could not care less, Romeo. I wilt probably stab thee with mine sword. Receiveth ov’r t, Romeo. You’ll at each moment beest mine sirrah, but thee can beest gravely obnoxious at times. Jokes aside,  if ‘t be true thee art truly in love with Juliet, I wilt supporteth thy endeavors. Just doth not forget who thee art during this whole time. Doth not alloweth love consume thee, but rather consume love.

Love thee,
Mercutio <333

 

 

 

Romeo & Juliet Act 1: Love at First Sight

First Impressions

As we all know, Romeo and Juliet is a classic. And when books are classics, you hear a LOT about them in daily life prior to reading it- it’s almost part of our culture. So, to be honest, when I actually began to read it, it was not at all what I was expecting.

I was pleasantly surprised when I finished Act 1. After 15 years of hearing about Romeo and Juliet, I was ready to descend into the depths of hell reading this story. However, while the way Shakespeare crafts his sonnets is at some times confusing, once I got over the language barrier, I liked it. I’ve never really read an entire play before and this is my first time really getting into Shakespeare, and it feels like a breath of fresh air from the usual novels we read in class.

However, the one issue I’ve found with Romeo and Juliet (and this is probably because I’ve never read a play before) is that it’s very difficult to imagine what’s going on in my head. Plays are nothing but dialogue, so combine that with strange language and no descriptors whatsoever, and it’s really hard to imagine the scene in your head.

Juliet Capulet

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(I am analyzing Juliet throughout the book).

While Juliet only appeared for a short time, I found her character interesting. The first time we meet her is when her mother praises the man who wishes to marry her, Paris. Getting married is a huge step in a person’s life, yet she seems quite apathetic. On page 39, Act 1 Scene 3, Juliet refers to marriage as “an honor that I dream not of.” She then goes on to say that if her parents truly want her to marry, then she will. This was probably common for the time period, though. 

When we meet Juliet again, it is at the masquerade. Romeo approaches her and flirts with her. She immediately spits out metaphors about saints and pilgrims, and how holy saints do not kiss with their lips. Romeo snarkily responds, “Have not saints lips?” (pg. 57 Act 1 Scene 5).

And Juliet, like the good religious girl she is, basically says “you nasty, use those lips for prayer!”

Just from this exchange, the Montagues and Capulets seem very different. The Montagues, judging from Benvolio and Romeo, are more like carefree “bad boys,” while the Capulets seem like religious, put together, and uptight. So, considering Romeo and Juliet are already madly in love after 0.0001 seconds, it should be interesting to see how they interact later on.

Love at First Sight: Is it Shallow?

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This was a question I had about love at first sight for years. It is love at first SIGHT, no? So are you falling in love with the way that they look, and is that shallow? In my opinion, love should be much more than just thinking a person is hot. Take this stanza from when Romeo first sees Juliet:

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand

And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.

Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight,

For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night (pg. 53, Act 1 Scene 5)

When Romeo sees Juliet from across the room, he knows nothing of her personality, status, hobbies, or anything. All he sees is how hot she is, and suddenly he’s in love. For some reason, I thought that they got to know each other more before pledging their life to the other, but I guess I was wrong. Doesn’t this make love at first sight (at least in this case), rather shallow?

Overall, I like Romeo and Juliet so far and I’m interested to see how to love story plays out, as we all know what happens in the end!

What Happens In Our Consciousness Stays In Our Consciousness!

“I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air .”  ~Mercutio (Act I, Scene IV)

We, as human beings, have walked on the moon, developed life-saving technologies, and mastered flight within the past couple centuries. Yet, we still don’t know why we dream. For one, dreams completely lack reason, logic, and direction. Like Mercutio said in Romeo and Juliet (which we are beginning to read in class), dreams are what happens when one’s brain takes control. However, there is much that can be learned (or not learned) from dreams.

 

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It’s easy to think about dreams like some sort of prophecy, just because they’re so… strange. One of the most interesting things about dreams is sometimes people experience the same things. For example, a dream about going to the bathroom only to discover that all of your teeth are falling out. It makes no sense whatsoever, but that’s the amazing thing: a completely abstract dream was experienced by thousands of people. So it must mean something, right?

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I experience recurring dreams a lot.  I must have had at least 50 dreams where I was trying to call 911 and my “smart” phone either wasn’t letting me, my phone would drop, or the operator would tell me to shut up and hang up on me (I would hope this dream doesn’t come true!). A quick internet search as to what this dream means told me that I “need help, but can’t communicate it.”

Perhaps this is true, and honestly, I could go reading the meanings of dreams for hours and hours. But maybe some things are left better unanswered. I disagree with this whole notion of “every dream has an underlying meaning!” Human beings by nature are obsessed with trying to find the meaning to everything because once there is an explanation, we are more at ease with ourselves. But maybe some things don’t have explanations that we need to publish a scientific report on. And this is coming from someone who loves science and finding the answer to everything. Dreams are just different. They are complex and one of the most interesting things about the brain, but when we try so hard to apply meaning to them, the actual message our subconscious is playing out disappears.

Dreams are birthed in your subconscious, so in my opinion, we should trust them to stay in our subconscious and let them guide us to reason.

Holden Caulfield Mixtape

For the final project for Catcher in the Rye, I decided to do a mixtape that represents Holden Caulfield’s journey throughout Catcher in the Rye. You can find that mixtape on the prezi here, and I will upload an 8tracks or spotify later on. The following is my reflection piece I wrote after completing the project.

The project I chose for my creative extension project was the mixtape for Holden Caulfield. I ultimately decided to do this project because I thought it would be the most fun for me, and I definitely didn’t want to get stuck doing a project I hate. I love listening to music and especially interpreting its meanings and how it relates to other things in life, so I thought this project would be perfect for me. I began with compiling a list of songs I thought of off the top of my head that had themes like depression, hopelessness, and death, which were all major themes in the book. The rest of my time was spent listening to my iTunes library and looking up online lists of angsty songs because, of course, Holden would definitely relate to angst.

Overall, I am quite happy with how it turned out in the end. I like that I pushed myself outside of the normal range of music that I listened to, and definitely looked hard for the underlying themes and meanings to the songs and made sure each and every song related to Holden somehow, which I liked a lot. I also liked how I chose songs to represent where he was at different points in the book- instead of just having songs about depression, I decided to include optimistic songs to represent the journey he’s about to go through to show Holden as a multifaceted character instead of just some angsty teen. At certain points, however, finding a song got a bit slow and it was hard to find a song that related to him perfectly, so it was a bit of a stretch to find how it related but it worked out in the end.

As for the design specs, I believe I met the requirements. Unfortunately, as it was a presentation, I can only make it so “beautiful,” but I do think it is unique as my songs varied from the other songs people in my class chose (surprisingly, we all had completely different songs) and hopefully once you listen to the songs it will become “poignant.” I did put a lot of effort into choosing the songs and writing the analysis so hopefully the design specs are met.

“What would you like to spend more time on in school?” I hope that there are more opportunities to do projects like these at school. This helped me analyze Catcher much more than an analytical, 4 page essay ever could. It forced me to find deeper meaning and symbolism of the book and then relate it back to lyrics of songs I had to find myself. And I was able to do all of that without the pain of writing an essay, which just makes me hate the book in the end. So, for these reasons, I hope we get more opportunities to do these creative extension projects.

Get a Life, Holden Caulfield!: Response

 

My response to Jennifer Schuessler’s article in the New York Times titled “Get A Life, Holden Caulfield.” This response details that while Holden’s exact experiences are perhaps no longer common, the underlying message will always hold relevance– all while writing (or trying to, at least) in Holden Caulfield’s skaz. 


If you really want to hear about it, this article is the phoniest thing I’ve ever read. It really is. Who is Jennifer Schuessler, anyways? Probably some Ivy League snob. No kidding, this woman goes on and on about how the “weird, whiny, and immature” Holden just needs to pop some pills and keep it quiet. Even worse, it’s backed up by just some lousy testimony you’d find in a ShamWow commercial. I mean, listen:

“Holden Caulfield is supposed to be this paradigmatic teenager we can all relate to, but we don’t really speak this way or talk about these things… I had a lot of students comment, ‘I can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City.’”

Anyway, I guess what they’re trying to say is that Holden just doesn’t appeal to kids because their life, fifty years later, isn’t really the same as his and all.

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You won’t forget it!

She goes on to say that young people are too obsessed with “their compulsive text messaging and hyperactive pop culture metabolism…” Phones! It really kills me that adults think we grow up differently just because we’re growing up with some lousy iPhones. I mean, that’s not all I ever do. Now, this may come as a shock to you, so brace yourself. Different generations have… get this… different experiences. Society is like a goddam suitcase, that’s what it is. A suitcase where every shirt that doesn’t fit in gets thrown away and can’t go on vacation. Does that sound fun to you? It doesn’t to me, that’s for sure. Since when was growing up strictly for the birds?

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Stop saying this is the only teenage culture.

Old Mr. Dickstein, who teaches at some phony school or another, says:

“I wouldn’t say we have a more gullible youth culture, but it may be more of a joining or togetherness culture.”

Togetherness. Now that’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I mean, it just depressed me. There’s nothing more depressing about goddam phony adults thinking they know the up and up about current teenage cultures. Adults!  I do suppose this article was written in 2009, but if you pull up this funny website called google.com and type in “news,” you might come to find that we don’t have a togetherness culture.  So who knows what Old Mr. Dickstein is going on about.

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We are not all in this together, unfortunately.

If anything, Holden’s struggle is more relatable now than when it was published. Back then, teenagers were expected to be adults. Now there are teenagers, but they’re still too “childish” to develop their own identity. Because, like I was saying, how can you really “find yourself” or even define yourself when you’re fifteen and crap. No, you gotta wait till you’re about to croak because society thinks that’s when you’re the wisest. That really depressed me.

“Perhaps Holden would not have felt quite so alone if he were growing up today… These days, adults may lament the slasher movies and dumb sex comedies that have taken over the multiplex, but back then teenagers found themselves stranded between adult things and childish pleasures.”

Boy, this really killed me. She’s implying that before, there was no teenage culture, but now there is, and Holden would love that. Then she quotes old Stephanie Savage, saying that in Holden’s world, “you can either go to the carousel in Central Park, or you can choose the Wicker Bar. You can have a skating date, or you can have a prostitute come up to your hotel room.” For Chrissake, do we really have to be hiring a prostitute to relate to Holden? That killed me. It really did. Sure, Holden’s rich and annoying, but we don’t have to be living the same lousy life to relate to him.

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We don’t have time for anything. Too busy doing schoolwork. Like I’m doing now. 

Now, if you want to know the truth, Holden would not love this teenage culture. He really wouldn’t. I mean, the main problem with developing teenage culture is that it’s constantly suppressed and commercialized in these goddam “slasher movies and sex comedies.” You think a zit-faced hormonal teen who is struggling to keep their grades above a C really relates to sex comedies? You think a kid who can barely pass gym class is “enchanted by wide-eyed, quidditch-playing Harry Potter of Hogwarts”? Boy, let me tell you, they sure aren’t. Now, I don’t know about the author of the article, but if you want to know the truth, if I was expected to have perfect skin AND save the world like teenagers today are expected to do, à la Harry Potter, I would have a pretty tough time growing up.

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If there’s anything more phony, it’s a scrawny 16 year old girl being played by a 26 year old woman with eurocentric features, clear skin, and a flawless figure.

Nowadays, it’s this exact teenage culture that does the alienation. And that depresses me even more. Because now, even if there is a distinguished identity, but it’s not your own, it’s society’s. Strictly phony. 

So that’s my response. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do suppose I don’t know anyone whose typical Sunday entails getting drunk as hell and hiring a prostitute in New York City. But, for Chrissake, as long as time moves in a linear fashion and kids become teens and teens become adults, Holden Caulfield is and will always remain relevant.

Catcher in the Rye: Chapters 13-26 (Final Thoughts)

Holden has finally finished telling us all the madman stuff that happened to him, his wild journey from start to finish. He is still the same cynical narrator from the beginning, and honestly, I’m glad for that. To see him do a complete 180 would be, um… phony.

You finally get to see what the meaning of the title is: when Holden goes to buy Phoebe a record, he hears a little kid sing “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.” He then goes on to say (pg 173):

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

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All Holden really wants to be is this “catcher in the rye.” He wishes to take all the children away from the corruptions of society and establish a “Neverland” utopia. Holden, for one, has no childish innocence left, or at least he think he doesn’t. He was so traumatized by the death of his brother Allie that it left a weight on him that follows his consciousness around everywhere he goes. He’s short tempered and probably not that fun to be around. Not to mention, his constant cursing, fighting, drinking, and obsession with sexuality is proof that Holden has lost his childhood innocence, and I don’t doubt that he wants it back. The worst thing about childhood is growing up, and when kids like Holden have experienced trauma so early in their life, they have no choice but to grow up to deal with what has happened. And this, no doubt, leaves a mark on the child for the rest of their life. I’ll come back to this later on.

neverland

Far more concerning than his obsession with sex is his obsession with death (I don’t have to spell it out for you to know that this is quite weird for a 17 year old boy). He constantly mentions being terribly lonely and wanting nothing else in that moment but to die. Holden has already lived through his roommate committing suicide and his baby brother, Allie, dying of leukemia. Relating back to what I mentioned earlier, Holden is introduced to the concept of mortality very early on. Is he afraid of death himself? Is he afraid of others dying? Part of this “mortality” theme is how Holden has built up all these walls around him to protect himself from the horrors of losing someone. The book ends on these lines (pg 214):

“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

Holden just doesn’t want to get close to anybody, after he already feels betrayed by the ones he loved dying. That’s part of the reason he calls everyone and everything “phony”- it’s a defense mechanism. He calls people fake and pushes them away so he doesn’t have to get attached to them.  Take, for example, him hiring a prostitute taking precedence over his profound love for Jane, who we never actually see in the book. Not to mention his relationship with his sister, Phoebe. When she’s not around, you hear Holden gush on and on about how amazing she is, but near the end of the book when they’re actually together, (despite Phoebe being “glad as hell to see [Holden]”), he hides any feelings or excitement he might be experiencing. To me, this is a dangerous tactic– one can play this cat-and-mouse game for so long, and when you actually lose them, you have to live with that person never knowing how much you loved them. By putting up all these walls, he is certainly setting himself up for disaster later on.

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He has some obvious hate for the society that raised him like this. The 1950s was considered the epitome of the “perfect family,” the kind you’d find all happy and smiling on a billboard. Again, going back to the idea of Holden just wanting to be a “catcher in the rye,” he wanted to save children like him, or “catch” them, before they fall into the abyss of disillusionment and danger. Holden himself had nothing to catch when he was spiraling into depression– there was no family (that was there for him, anyways), religion, friends, school, nothing. So he just fell. How are you supposed to give into this post WW2 commercialization and idealistic “perfect family” when you know how society has essentially failed you? How are you supposed to appreciate something that doesn’t appreciate you back? Holden’s frustration comes out in both pure rage and suicidal tendencies.

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There is one unlikely place that I believe probably saved him from the brink a few times, and those are the ducks. Ah, the essential question, where do ducks go when the pond freezes over? They keep coming back every time, most importantly when he has his big breakdown. In this scene (pg 153), he goes to the pond to check “what the hell the ducks were doing, to see if they were around or not.” He doesn’t find them, so he thinks about suicide instead. Holden doesn’t know how or why the ducks leave during the winter and how they come back, but he knows that they always do. So he holds on to the fact that if the ducks can keep coming back after their toughest times means that Holden can, too.

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Overall Review: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆