Basically, O.W.L. results for books is a feature I do sometimes on the blog as a way of
lazily writing reviews keeping things fun and different for books I didn’t feel like or just COULDN’T write a full review for. I grade each book as if they sat down to take an Ordinary Wizarding Level exam from Harry Potter. Each class corresponds with a different feature of writing(for example, potions=plot).
Here are the O.W.L. Grades:
Exceeds Expectations (E)
Today I’m grading a few books. The first up is. . .
If You Find Me
There are some things you can’t leave behind…
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.
Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.
If You Find Me was a very emotional book. I found some parts a little lacking–mostly the world-building. Some of the events seemed awfully unrealistic, in particular with the social service system. Other than that, though, I thought it was a beautiful and stark book. I gave it 4 stars in the end. The emotional factor was outstanding–it pulled on my heartstrings but never in a way that seemed blatantly manipulative.
The writing was also breath-taking. Murdoch knows how to turn a phrase, that’s for sure. I thought Carey’s voice also felt authentic–mature for her age after taking care of her sister, often straight to the truth, but realizing how little she knows about how the world actually works. While different in the end, the premise and beginning of If You Find Me is very close to Where the Stars Still Shine, so if you like one I think you’ll like the other, though with a favorite. In the end, I didn’t like this one quite as much, but still thought it was a quiet and lovely(though often incredibly harsh) book.
He Forget to Say Goodbye by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don’t appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican-American working-class barrio of El Paso called “Dizzy Land.” His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother’s shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.
If you know me at all, you know that Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is one of my favorite books, if not my favorite book. With that in mind, I’ve slowly been reading the rest of his works, and He Forget to Say Goodbye was up first. While it definitely was not as strong as Aristotle and Dante, the writing was just as beautiful. Saenz is just great with word choice–it’s always simple, but there’s always something beautiful in the simplicity. I got sucked into the writing just as much with this one.
I liked the way the two main characters, Ramiro and Jake, tied together, and how, as the summary says, a friendship of “healing in a world of hurt”. There’s a lot of pure pain in this book, which took me by surprise, but it was always done well. The downside, however, was the pacing. The first 75 pages were so slow–basically just inner monologues. I really considered putting it down but preserved because I loved the writing. I was glad I kept up with it, but the poor pacing definitely threw me off a bit. I ended up giving it 3 stars on Goodreads, but I’d say it’s about a 3.5.