ningerbil (ningerbil) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
ningerbil
ningerbil
50bookchallenge

Books 20 and 21

20. Tales of the Madman Underground, by John Barnes. A very good story, great for older teens and adults. Karl Shoemaker holds several after-school jobs to support himself and his alcoholic mother. He's trying to make this year, the start of the school year in 1973, a year when he tries to be normal, and distance himself from his friends, who all have been undergoing counseling together for a long period of time. This year, there is a new girl, Marti, who he slowly develops a friendship with. The story takes place over the period of a few days, while Karl realizes that like it or not, life will never be "normal" - but by the end, he's made his peace with it. The characters are all very well developed. The reader sees the story entirely through Karl's eyes ... and he often has a very jaded view of life (understandable, given his family situation). But as the reader, you realize that Karl sometimes comes down a bit too hard on others, especially the adults. He does come to realize this himself. Karl's mother is well-written. You almost want to hate her, but she manages to remain somewhat sympathetic. There was one part, however, one story thread, I wish would have been left out. The overall tone of the book is pretty gritty: drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual situations, language... but this one issue - involving a cat, sex and a character, Darla (whom, if someone like her existed, would be in a psychiatric hospital)- came very close to crossing a line.

21. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Finally got my hands on this one, and it was worth the wait. The story takes place in 1960s Mississippi and is told through the eyes of three women: Aibileen, a servant and nursemaid at the Leefolt house; Milly, the maid to newcomer Celia Foote and former maid to the mother of Hilly Holcombe, the town Queen Bee; and Skeeter, a young white woman who has just returned home from college and is best friends with Hilly and Elizabeth Leefolt. Aibileen has been helping raise young white children most of her life, and grows very fond of her current charge, Mae Mobley - a good thing because you get the impression that Elizabeth Leefolt married and had children merely as a social obligation and not because she has any interest in her offspring. But she has also become bitter and disillusioned after the death of her son, and how his medical care was handled (or, not handled) by his superiors in Jim Crow south. Minny is regarded as the best cook in town, but is also considered too sassy to be a maid and struggles both to keep a job and to keep her dignity both on her job and with her increasingly abusive husband. Skeeter is growing increasingly disenchanted with the town she grew up in and her mother's insistence that she marry, as is expected. But Skeeter has other ideas, including the wish to be a serious writer. She comes up with the idea to talk to the town's maids, to get their perspective on what life is like for them. However, Skeeter has little idea of the can of worms she is opening when she first approaches Aibileen with the idea. Eventually, Aibileen and several other maids agree to participate in the story project after a series of incidents persuade them for the need for a change in the status quo. The results when the book is published are bittersweet- there are changes, both for good and bad.

Currently reading: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.
Tags: young adult
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