“Presume not that I am the thing I was”


Henry IV, Act 5, Scene 5

William Shakespeare

I was reading back over some of my posts yesterday, and realised I never blogged about the three teen books I promised to a while ago. They’re all in a way about change (like most books, to be honest), which is the reason for the titular quote, and, as I’ve said, I would consider them all aimed at the young adult market, although of course they can be read by anyone.

Numero Uno on the list: ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky, the film of which Imagecame out last year, starring Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it yet, but my friend Sophie forced me to read the book before the movie came out. It’s old from the viewpoint of fifteen year old Charlie, an outsider and observer, who, from the very start, is obviously ‘different’ and who is taken under the wing of Sam and Patrick, two ‘misfit toys’ in their senior year. The book deals with pretty adut themes, including suicide, drugs and alcohol, domestic abuse, sexal abuse and sexuality, but it’s pretty sensitive about these issues. I felt it was very obviously ‘indie’ or ‘kooky’ at some points, such as the characters’ love of ‘The Smiths’  or some lines I just don’t think anyone would say: “in this moment I swear we are infinite”. But then I suppose it is a beautiful line, and Charlie is supposed to be odd, so maybe it’s excusable. Overall, easy to read, and a very thoughtful book, with some beautiful writing, even if it often gives off a self-consciously ‘troubled, indie, deep teenager’ vibe.

Moving onto numero dos, ‘Life: an exploded diagram’ by Mal Peet. Less obviously teenage, this one, and the change is less psychological, as Perks is. It’s more of a ‘change over time’ type book, writtImageen about two teens, Clem, a working-class boy from a council estate and Frankie, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, who meet and start a secret relationship just as the Cuban Missile Crisis is looming overhead.

Class differences and fanatical cult religion are two of the themes covered interestingly and in great detail in this well-written book. Again, another easy to read novel, but with extremely thought-provoking ideas behind it. Frankie and Clem’s relationship wasn’t as typically ‘perfect’ with the odd jealous row as most couples in YA books. However…call me a romantic, but  just didn’t quite buy into it.

Saying this, it’s beautifully written and the ending was one of the best I’ve ever read. A great way to finish a good book.

And lastly, ‘Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austen’ by Fay Wheldon. I’ve mentioned this before, in one of my 30 day book challenge posts – it’s pretty different from more other books I’vImagee read, in that it doesn’t have a storyline or plot at all. It consists of letters to Wheldon’s (fictional) niece Alice, advising her on how to read Jane Austen, how to write a novel and basically how to read and write in general. It isn’t, I stress, a biography of Jane Austen, although it does contain many facts about her life and works. The real attraction is the gorgeous writing and ideas, the best of which is the City of Invention:

“For what novelists do…is to build Houses of the Imagination, and where houses cluster together there is a city. And what a city this one is, Alice! It is the nearest we poor mortals can get to the Celestial City: it glitters and glances with life, and gossip, and colour, and fantasy: it is brilliant, it is illuminated, by day by the sun of enthusiasm and by night by the moon of inspiration….Those who founded it, who built it, house by house, are the novelists, the writers, the poets. And it is to this city that the readers come, to admire, to learn, to marve and explore.

Let us look round the cty: become acquainted with it, make it our eternal, our immortal home. Looming over everything, of course, heart of the City, is the great Castle Shakespeare. You can see it whichever way you look. It rears its head into the clouds, reaching into the celestial sky, dominating everything around…Some complain it’s shoddy, and carelessly constructed in parts, thers grumble that Shakespeare never built it anyway, and a few saythe whole thing ought to be pulled down to make way for the newer and more relevant…: but the Castle keeps standing through the centuries and, build as others may they can never achieve the same grandeur…”

Ok, I know that was a loooongg quote, but it’s just such a fabulous image *sigh* Just imagine writng that… Wheldon doesn’t just demonstrate her powers of imagery, but also her ironic, sarcastic wit, unfortunately mostly directed at English Lit. degrees.

I know, shocking, isn’t it 😉 So I have decided, us English Lit. students…well:Image



2 thoughts on ““Presume not that I am the thing I was”

  1. In contrast to you, I have seen the film of ‘Perks of Being A Wallflower’ but I have not yet read the book. I’ll have to add that to my infinite reading list! Ezra Miller is a fantastic actor in the film so I advise that you watch it. Have you by any chance read ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt?

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