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One From the Archive: ‘Landline’ by Rainbow Rowell ***

Rainbow Rowell is best known for her incredibly popular young adult novel Eleanor and Park.  Rather than choose to write about a teenage couple once again in her newest book, Landline, however, Rowell has chosen a middle-aged married couple as her focus.

9781409152125The protagonist of Landline is Georgie McCool, a television writer and Los Angeles native.  The crux of her story arrives when she decides that a heavy workload and an exciting new project
making it big does not fit with her family’s
pre-arranged Christmas trip to Omaha, Nebraska, to visit her widowed mother-in-law.  Her husband Neal’s response is to take their two daughters, seven-year-old Alice and four-year-old Noomi, ‘home’ to Omaha with him, leaving Georgie behind. We are immediately launched straight into Georgie’s domestic life as she returns from work and breaks her news.

The most interesting aspect of the plot comes at the point at which Georgie discovers that she is able to communicate with her husband in the past via an old telephone she finds in a closet, and subsequently ‘feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts’ – after believing herself to be suffering a mental breakdown, of course.  This plot device works well, and throws up a lot of questions for Georgie and her life with Neal and their daughters.

Whilst Rowell is perceptive of her characters – freshly cut hair feels ‘like velvet one way and needles the other’, and Neal is said to have ‘dimples like parentheses’, for example – the majority of her creations feel rather flat.  Only Neal and Georgie are far more realistic when shown as their young selves, and even the couple’s children are largely lacklustre.  The entirety feels as though it has been written by a wholly different author to the one who penned Eleanor and Park, in which even the minor characters linger in the mind for some time.

The novel takes place over a week in December 2013, and the third person perspective has been used throughout.  Rowell seems to have taken her contemporary setting a little too seriously, and throughout there are frequent and quite unnecessary references to a lot of ‘modern’ things – the endless hunts for iPhone chargers, for example.  A certain mundanity is added to the novel in consequence.

Landline lacks the sparkle of Eleanor and Park, and it is easy to imagine that a lot of readers may be a little disappointed by the novel.  The slow pace does improve as it goes on, however, and the real strength of Landline lies in the way in which Rowell demonstrates how people can alter so dramatically over time.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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One From the Archive: ‘My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Winter Romances’, edited by Stephanie Perkins ****

I will just highlight the fact that I do not tend to read young adult books at all, but wanted to read something a little different a couple of years ago.  I received a review copy of this, and enjoyed it far more than I first thought.  The moral of the story is read everything, folks.

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Winter Romances features a variety of authors who largely write solely within the Young Adult genre, from contemporary fantasy and the paranormal, to ‘the strange things that love can do to people’.  Edited by Stephanie Perkins, this collection features one of her tales, along with work by Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Matt de la Pena, Laini Taylor, Jenny Han, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire and Kiersten White. 9781250059314

The blurb of My True Love Gave to Me calls it ‘a gift for teen readers and beyond’.  It is ‘the perfect collection of short stories to keep you warm this winter…  Each is a little gem, filled with the enchanting magic of first love and the fun festive holidays’.  The inspiration within the collection is vast, and whilst all of the authors have used the festive period in their stories, they have done so in decidedly different ways.

Rainbow Rowell’s tale – the lovely ‘Midnights’ – opens the book.  In it, her protagonist, Mags, sits in her friend’s garden on the 31st of December and reflects upon three of her previous New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Each of them revolve around her allergy-prone friend Noel, who is described as ‘her person’; the one whom she turns to in periods of strife.  Rowell’s writing is sharp and her characterisation works marvellously.  In Kelly Link’s interesting ‘The Lady and The Fox’, a mysterious figure in a beautifully embroidered coat befriends a young girl named Miranda during successive Christmas celebrations.

In Matt de la Pena’s ‘Angels in the Snow’, a young man faces spending Christmas alone, hours away from his family.  Jenny Han’s story ‘Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me’ is told from the perspective of Natalie, a Korean who was adopted by Santa, and is the only human girl to live in the North Pole.  In Stephanie Perkins’ ‘It’s a Yuletide Miracle’, protagonist Marigold has gone in search of a boy who works in a Christmas tree lot near her apartment because she ‘needed his voice’ for a project; the sweetest of scenes and most sharply observed conversation ensues.  The narrator of David Levithan’s ‘Your Temporary Santa’ dresses up as Santa Claus to keep the dream alive for his boyfriend’s younger sister, despite being Jewish.  In Holly Black’s ‘Krampuslauf’, a New Year’s Eve celebration converges with a hearty – and clever – dose of magical realism.

Whilst I have not discussed each story here, it is fair to say that there is not a weak link in the collection.  Only two of the stories were not to my personal taste, but they were still interesting to read.  My True Love Gave to Me is both quirky and memorable, and it provides a great introduction to a wealth of different authors writing contemporary YA.  One can never quite work out where the majority of the stories are going to end, or what will occur within them; they are largely very unpredictable, and incredibly sweet. The physical book itself is lovely, with its duck egg blue and gold cover, fluorescent pink page edging and gold ribbon bookmark. My True Love Gave to Me is a great collection, in which many different viewpoints have been considered.  The characters which have been created are both believable and unpredictable, and each narrative voice has been crafted with the utmost care.  It is sure to make every reader – whether teenage or older – feel marvellously festive, and is a great antidote to those winter blues.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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‘My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Winter Romances’ – edited by Stephanie Perkins ****

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Winter Romances features a variety of authors who largely write solely within the Young Adult genre, from contemporary fantasy and the paranormal, to ‘the strange things that love can do to people’.  Edited by Stephanie Perkins, this collection features one of her tales, along with work by Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Matt de la Pena, Laini Taylor, Jenny Han, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire and Kiersten White.

The blurb of My True Love Gave to Me calls it ‘a gift for teen readers and beyond’.  It is ‘the perfect collection of short stories to keep you warm this winter…  Each is a little gem, filled with the enchanting magic of first love and the fun festive holidays’. The inspiration within the collection is vast, and whilst all of the authors have used the festive period in their stories, they have done so in decidedly different ways.

Rainbow Rowell’s tale – the lovely ‘Midnights’ – opens the book.  In it, her protagonist, Mags, sits in her friend’s garden on the 31st of December and reflects upon three of her previous New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Each of them revolve around her allergy-prone friend Noel, who is described as ‘her person’; the one whom she turns to in periods of strife.  Rowell’s writing is sharp and her characterisation works marvellously.  In Kelly Link’s interesting ‘The Lady and The Fox’, a mysterious figure in a beautifully embroidered coat befriends a young girl named Miranda during successive Christmas celebrations.

In Matt de la Pena’s ‘Angels in the Snow’, a young man faces spending Christmas alone, hours away from his family.  Jenny Han’s story ‘Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me’ is told from the perspective of Natalie, a Korean who was adopted by Santa, and is the only human girl to live in the North Pole.  In Stephanie Perkins’ ‘It’s a Yuletide Miracle’, protagonist Marigold has gone in search of a boy who works in a Christmas tree lot near her apartment because she ‘needed his voice’ for a project; the sweetest of scenes and most sharply observed conversation ensues.  The narrator of David Levithan’s ‘Your Temporary Santa’ dresses up as Santa Claus to keep the dream alive for his boyfriend’s younger sister, despite being Jewish.  In Holly Black’s ‘Krampuslauf’, a New Year’s Eve celebration converges with a hearty – and clever – dose of magical realism.

Whilst I have not discussed each story here, it is fair to say that there is not a weak link in the collection.  Only two of the stories were not to my personal taste, but they were still interesting to read.  My True Love Gave to Me is both quirky and memorable, and it provides a great introduction to a wealth of different authors writing contemporary YA.  One can never quite work out where the majority of the stories are going to end, or what will occur within them; they are largely very unpredictable, and incredibly sweet. The physical book itself is lovely, with its duck egg blue and gold cover, fluorescent pink page edging and gold ribbon bookmark. My True Love Gave to Me is a great collection, in which many different viewpoints have been considered.  The characters which have been created are both believable and unpredictable, and each narrative voice has been crafted with the utmost care.  It is sure to make every reader – whether teenage or older – feel marvellously festive, and is a great antidote to those winter blues.

Purchase from The Book Depository

2

‘Landline’ by Rainbow Rowell ***

Rainbow Rowell is best known for her incredibly popular young adult novel Eleanor and Park.  Rather than choose to write about a teenage couple once again in her newest book, Landline, however, Rowell has chosen a middle-aged married couple as her focus.

The protagonist of Landline is Georgie McCool, a television writer and Los Angeles native.  The crux of her story arrives when she decides that a heavy workload and an exciting new project making it big does not fit with her family’s pre-arranged Christmas trip to Omaha, Nebraska, to visit her widowed mother-in-law.  Her husband Neal’s response is to take their two daughters, seven-year-old Alice and four-year-old Noomi, ‘home’ to Omaha with him, leaving Georgie behind. We are immediately launched straight into Georgie’s domestic life as she returns from work and breaks her news.

The most interesting aspect of the plot comes at the point at which Georgie discovers that she is able to communicate with her husband in the past via an old telephone she finds in a closet, and subsequently ‘feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts’ – after believing herself to be suffering a mental breakdown, of course.  This plot device works well, and throws up a lot of questions for Georgie and her life with Neal and their daughters.

Whilst Rowell is perceptive of her characters – freshly cut hair feels ‘like velvet one way and needles the other’, and Neal is said to have ‘dimples like parentheses’, for example – the majority of her creations feel rather flat.  Only Neal and Georgie are far more realistic when shown as their young selves, and even the couple’s children are largely lacklustre.  The entirety feels as though it has been written by a wholly different author to the one who penned Eleanor and Park, in which even the minor characters linger in the mind for some time.

The novel takes place over a week in December 2013, and the third person perspective has been used throughout.  Rowell seems to have taken her contemporary setting a little too seriously, and throughout there are frequent and quite unnecessary references to a lot of ‘modern’ things – the endless hunts for iPhone chargers, for example.  A certain mundanity is added to the novel in consequence.

Landline lacks the sparkle of Eleanor and Park, and it is easy to imagine that a lot of readers may be a little disappointed by the novel.  The slow pace does improve as it goes on, however, and the real strength of Landline lies in the way in which Rowell demonstrates how people can alter so dramatically over time.

Purchase from The Book Depository