Thursday, January 24, 2008

January: Time

Because I'm an over-achiever, I read not just one, but TWO books for the January Book-A-Month Challenge. Here are my thoughts on both of them.

Time Capsule: Short Stories About Teenagers Throughout the Twentieth Century edited by Donald R. Gallo

Each story in this young adult book represents one decade of the last century. Most of the stories were mediocre and oddly reminiscent of a middle-school English textbook. Some of them just didn't ring true to me and I don't know why. Maybe because those authors were writing about decades before they were born. Nevertheless, I found two of the stories to be outstanding.

"We Loved Lucy" by Trudy Krisher (1950-1959)
Nancy is caught up in the confusion of the Cold War and her father's obsession with building a bomb shelter. She escapes the doom-and-gloom of her household to watch "I Love Lucy" at her friend Brenda's house, where she is allowed to experience humor and laughter and just be a kid. Keeping her family a secret from Brenda is a challenge, and Nancy's struggles and conflicting loyalties feel realistic as a teenager's experience in any decade.

Second place goes to "Fourth and Too Long" by Chris Crutcher (1960-1969)
It is no surprise that Crutcher can capture what it is like to be a teenager. The main character in his story must decide between cutting his long hair and losing his place on the football team. What his coach doesn't understand is that his hair has nothing to do with rebellion and everything to do with hiding a disfigurement and finally fitting in with everyone else

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

In which a man is plagued by traveling through time against his will. His wife meets him for the first time when she is 6 years old, but he doesn't meet her until she is 20. I was confused by page 8. This should not come as a surprise given that I didn't even understood Back to the Future, and only tenuously grasped the episode of the Simpsons in which Homer time travels and keeps changing the future (you know, the one where it rains doughnuts).

However, I'm very grateful to the author for a couple of things. First, the premise that you cannot change what happens. There are no alternate universes here; you can visit the past, but you can't change it. Second, she makes it clear who is narrating by starting each section with "Henry:" or "Clare:" As someone who is frequently confused by shifting perspectives, I thank you so much, Audrey Niffenegger. There is nothing worse than suddenly realizing the narrator speaking isn't who you thought it was.

Despite the time travel, this is first and foremost a love story between two compelling characters. I just wanted to wrap myself in this book, it was so beautiful and sad.

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