The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

2 Stars

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While some David Sedaris style humor wouldn’t have been misplaced in The Glass Castle, I did understand and expect that this would be a serious memoir of abuse. Despite my rating, I admire how Walls tells a story of alcoholism and mental illness with love. Though the story’s matriarch seems to be a case for forced sterilization, The Glass Castle is uniquely written in such a way that it’s unlikely she would pick up on the implications within them, were she to read it. I respect that the author wasn’t willing to hurt her mother, no matter who she was. However, while this book lacked Sedaris’s dark humor, it did mimic his anecdotal writing style and it just… didn’t work.

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I’ve read dysfunctional memoirs, humorous memoirs, and dysfunctionally humorous memoirs. While the latter two can be told in Walls’s campfire style of individual stories, the former works much better as one cohesive tale. The problem with The Glass Castle is that it’s so deeply depressing, you don’t want to read the next woeful childhood drama; and you don’t need to, because the last one was wrapped up so neatly. Where Jenny Lawson kept me engaged, because I couldn’t wait to read more about her ridiculous shenanigans, Walls made me want to pick up some paranormal romance and escape this horrible and bleak world for some alien sexy times. The story wasn’t bad. The writing wasn’t bad. Thank heavens the ending wasn’t bad, because it was tough to get to it.

Review Word Count: 250

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The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen

3 Stars

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This book falls into a hole. It’s really quite technical for everyday reading, but Jensen has made a clear effort to “dumb it down.” At times, this is useful, but others, the effort is wasted, because I honestly cannot imagine anyone reading this if they don’t work directly with teenagers and/or have an interest in psychology. While I appreciated the diagrams and charts, teachers, librarians, social workers, and such will understand the language well enough without some of the more simplistic examples.

The science is sound enough. The experiments mentioned are relevant, though they’re also a bit obviously biased at times. While Jensen knows her psychology, however, she struggles with the social aspect of teens. She references her own teenagers several times, but mentions that they were in high school in 2005. I graduated in 2006 and I can guaran-damn-tee that teenagers, high school, and the entire social dynamic tied up between them has changed exponentially in the last 10 years. For example, on page one, she’s horrified that her son would want to dye his hair a non-natural color.

Walk into a public high school today and I’d say a good quarter of them have non-natural hair color… in the suburbs.

In general, I enjoyed the book. I’m fascinated by the effect of media on children and feel that teenagers are often overlooked, lumped in with adults. We worry until they aren’t cute anymore. Jensen doesn’t. She’s just a little out of touch with current teens.

Review Word Count: 243

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb

4 Stars

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I don’t really read dating guides. It’s not that I don’t think anyone else has a valuable perspective. It’s just that the genre is generally so broad. “Love yourself first!” Thanks a heap, Carrie Bradshaw. I can’t believe this shit got published.

So, when I stumbled on this book while creating my New Year’s Resolutions display, at work, the provocative title got my attention. The title is exactly that, though: an effort to set the book apart in an overcrowded genre. Gottlieb is an unmarried woman in her early 40s, attempting to advise twenty-somethings and women in their early 30s to reevaluate their expectations of men, if they hope to be married and have children. Her book is written with marriage as the ultimate goal, children being an obvious perk. It’s not as preachy coming from Gottlieb, however, because she, herself, never got married and had a child alone, always assuming a better guy would come along.

This book genuinely changed my outlook on dating. If you follow my personal blog, you can see how my choices have changed. I’m no longer criticizing trivial issues and am willing to attempt to move past things that don’t matter in an effort to find love. Gottlieb writes with a somewhat defeatist attitude, but those who would benefit from reading this need that. My only real complaint was that she kept insisting religion was trivial and, at least for this Catholic gal, that simply is not true. This was a necessary wake up call.

Review Word Count: 250