Tag Archives: teenage

Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng

Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng Title: Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness
Author: Jennifer Tseng
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609452698
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

There are books that come on to your shelf quietly and from there enter your heart and stay there. “Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness” is one such book which I have just finished reading and cannot stop talking or thinking about.

Jennifer Tseng has written this book about uncharted and almost forbidden territory when it comes to falling in love and yet it is so exquisite, raw and almost unnerving by the time you reach the end. It is almost like a movie that you are witnessing and don’t want it to end or at least end the way you imagined it to.

“Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness” is the kind of book that will make you sit up, turn the pages furiously, go back to the pages read and mark passages vigorously, finish the book and come back to your favourite sentences over and over again.

Mayumi Saito is a librarian. She is the sort of unassuming woman who goes on about love – day by day without really aspiring for much. Mayumi loves her books and that’s all there is to it. She then meets a seventeen year-old and her life is not the same anymore.

I wouldn’t call it an affair, as much as it is just being together and their common love for books that brings them closer. It is the subtleties, the nuances of the plot, and the sheer connection between them that makes this book what it is. Wait a minute though. There is a twist in the tale – well not so much as a twist but something that is almost predictable – Mayumi knowingly befriends the patron’s mother and that in itself is a different story for you to read and explore.

The book is hedonistic in its approach and it is brilliantly executed. Every word and every sentence is so in place that you pause, hold your breath and marvel at Tseng’s literary skill and craft. It is heady, almost like a car waiting to collide and you know it will and yet all you want to do is enjoy that catastrophic ride, nonetheless.

“Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness” is one of those rare books that speak of loneliness and isolation so candidly that it hits and hurts the spot. You are scared of what might happen to you when you reach a certain age and how perhaps literature might not be the only crutch that will save you. Jennifer Tseng brings out the best, the graceful, the sweet and the horrid nature of humans in her characters stupendously. Yes, the book is self-conscious and so are the characters, but that is what I expected and it served me well. You might expect erotica but it is again graceful and subtle – the kind I enjoy reading about.

If you have to read one book that speaks of love, longing, desire and books all at the same time – almost culminating to an obsession, then you must read, “Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness”.

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki Title: Skim
Words by: Mariko Tamaki
Pictures by: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Groundwood Books
ISBN: 9780888997531
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 143
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I had heard a lot about “Skim” before purchasing it. It is all about teenage angst, but I also think it is meant for everyone who wants to find a place of their own in this world and also about what path you want to choose, when there are so many in front of you.

“Skim” is Kimberly Keiko Cameron – who isn’t slim, is also a Wiccan Goth (well she does want to be it) and goes to a private girls’ school, where keeping up and meanness is in vogue. It all begins with Katie Matthews’ boyfriend dumps her and then kills himself. This starts a chain reaction of events at school forcing Skim to think about things she doesn’t want to and also in the process she falls in love and doesn’t know what to do anymore.

“Skim” as a book works on so many levels – adolescence, crushes, love – gay or not, forming cliques and what happens when you’re not a part of them, first love, and more than anything else – a way to find yourself is explored beautifully in this slim graphic novel.

It is the kind of book that can and should be given to every teenager as a rite of passage so it can help them come into their own. It is a book about being young and more than anything else it is about actualization to some extent. Please do not judge it by the cover. The illustrations are beyond words beautiful and it is all in black and white, which makes it even more special.

I am glad I read this book this year and more importantly this month. February as cliché as it may sound is about love (well all months are) and one must read some books all about love – twisted or not.

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Authors: John Green and David Levithan
Publisher: Penguin UK
ISBN: 9780141346113
Genre: Teen, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I have always believed in the cause of LGBT literature. More so in my country and that is targeted at teens who are confused and need some more perspective and clarity on sexual orientation. It is a pity that that is not the case in India. There are so many teenagers who still struggle with being gay and do not know what to do about it. I also wish that more writers write about what they face with sensitivity and humour as it is clearly done in “Will Grayson, Will Grayson”.

“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” is about two Wills and what happens when their lives converge. They are both in high school and each is facing his own demon. The book is special also because of Tiny Cooper – the gay teen who only wants to spread happiness and kindness and direct the most successful high-school musical of them all.

What works the most for the book is the joint writing by John Green and David Levithan. Both writers have distinct styles and this is what reflects on the pages as well. The writing is overwhelming, funny, and so real in so many parts and scenes. I am so glad that these two writers teamed up for this book. There are some brilliant secondary characters and the writers have made use of technology most aptly in the entire course of the book.

What I loved the most about the book is the honesty with which it is written. The lives of teenagers with all its confusion and chaos are accurately captured without it being over the top. The book has some beautiful moments when it seems that life is so simple and perhaps one can apply the same to one’s life; however that remains to be seen for a later date. “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” is all about being you and carrying on regardless of how life works out in the end.

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387 Short Stories: Day 85: Story 85: The Jungle by Elizabeth Bowen

The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen Title: The Jungle
Author: Elizabeth Bowen
Taken from: The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen is one of those writers who grow on you. It has been years since I have been reading her. She is almost a friend now. One of those best friends, I can safely say and no matter how dark her writing can get, I somehow find it comforting and seek refuge in it, all the time.

Today was one of those days and her book was right beside me. So I turned to a page and it happened to be “The Jungle”. This story is rather unique according to me. It speaks of adolescence – of friendship and at the same time, there is this understated tragedy at the heart of it. It is about teenage girls and the plot behind the school, they refer to as “the jungle”.

The story is striking and will appeal to people of all ages and perhaps also remind you of your teenage years. Bowen is not sugar coating anything. She talks about everything under the sun – relationships, sexuality and the conditions that surround them. A read not to be missed.

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Book Review: The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop

The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop Title: The Isobel Journal
Author: Isobel Harrop
Publisher: Hot Key Books
ISBN: 978-1471402272
Genre: Graphic Novel, Teens
Pages: 208
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 5/5

“The Isobel Journal” by Isobel Harrop is the real journal of a real girl. She is eighteen and on the brink of life and everything else in between. The journal is disjointed, in parts and pieces and speaks of everything she goes through – well some of it for sure. It is an illustrated scrap book so to say. It is a slice of her life and all that she wants to be and do and who she really is.

It is almost a love letter to other teen girls about life, loving, living, animals, parents and everything else in between, which makes this book even more unique and different. The book is full of illustrations and might I add, life. She does not get preachy, nor is she annoying. She is just how most eighteen year olds are and yet has a personality of her own. There was no writing to begin with as such, and yet the illustrations spoke volumes.

Isobel Harrop sketches and talks of her life, the way it evolves – in fragments and in coherent pictures. The Isobel Journal is both – heart-warming and sad. It is wistful and thought provoking about a teenager’s life who will not be a teenager soon enough. It is honest and right there, waiting to be devoured by readers, even though it is mostly full of illustrations and yet resonates and reminds you of when you were eighteen and full of life, or perhaps not.