This Week, I Read… (2017 #10)

38 - Tiny Pretty Things

#38 – Tiny Pretty Things, by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

  • Read: 3/10/17 – 3/12/17
  • Challenge: PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than me
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

This story follows three ballet students scrambling for their shot at the spotlight, and two of them are PoC, solidly qualifying it for the task. Giselle (Gigi) is black, June (E-Jun) Korean-American, and Bette whiter than the driven snow.

If you’re looking for solid representation, this is a pretty good book, because all three narratives deal with the character’s race, and Bette is practically a poster child for rampant white privilege. She is by far the least sympathetic of the three, because she is actively the worst from a moral standpoint. June does some bad stuff, but more minor, and her reasons were better (at least from my perspective), while Gigi is the primary victim and does basically nothing wrong. So it’s an interesting dynamic.

What’s not interesting is the extremely large cast of characters beyond the main three who are little more than names on the page attached to the most cookie-cutter of stereotypes. There’s the gay guy who’s in love with Gigi’s straight boyfriend and acts out of spite and envy. There’s the closet lesbian who’s a bitch to her object of affection after she’s rejected. There’s the “sophisticated” European boy who’s nothing but sex-on-a-stick and intrigue. The teachers have no personalities to speak of and the parents of the students, for the most part, are underdeveloped. There simply isn’t room, even in this wordy 400+ page novel, to manage such a large cast effectively.

And I was sorely disappointed by the “ending,” because it resolved absolutely nothing and, in fact, introduced a new wrinkle. I was not aware until after I finished that this book had a sequel (I added TPT to my TBR when it was new and the second one didn’t exist yet, and I simply didn’t know it was the first half of a duology) so I was completely sideswiped by the cliffhanger. And viewed as a cliffhanger, I still don’t think the ending is satisfying. I don’t intend to read the concluding book, because I simply don’t care about these characters enough.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

#39 – A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson

While I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of coloring while listening, the book itself was underwhelming. Coming from a science background and continuing to self-educate outside of the classroom, a lot of this information was old news to me, but what was fresh was interesting. I began to tire of Bryson’s voice before the end–I can’t put my finger on what aspect of it irritated me, but at times I felt like a student in the lecture hall again, trying to stay awake when I was bored.

On the other hand, the parts I enjoyed, I enjoyed a great deal. Through the course of explaining how you and I came to exist, Bryson covers the beginnings of many of the disciplines of science we take for granted today. Not being my cup of tea, I had no idea geology and paleontology were so young, relatively speaking. There was enough to keep me engaged (and coloring) throughout the entire six-hour run, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a good listen unless you know almost nothing about science. And even then, watch Cosmos (either one!) instead.

40 - The Drawing of the Three

#40 – The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King

I liked it better than The Gunslinger, to start with. This story was far less of a fever dream and more of a coherent narrative. The three major parts concerning each of the titular “three” characters are each fascinating and fascinatingly different, though many elements connect each one.

The topsy-turvy nature of Roland’s own world is still in evidence–time and cardinal directions don’t seem to mean much–but I don’t object, because now I know a little more (not much!) about the Dark Tower and its nature. Things are going to be screwy, and that’s okay.

The strongest point for me of the book was Eddie and Roland’s growing camaraderie. (Eddie’s “romance” with Odetta came from left field and was woefully underdeveloped.) Eddie and Roland, on the other hand, have the entire book to forge a strange bond of trust and reliance that neither starts out comfortable with, given how they met and what Roland has drawn Eddie into. And especially given Eddie’s introduction as a drug mule and general reprobate, seeing him grow into a mature, confident man is brilliant. I mean, Roland even acknowledges Eddie’s potential as a gunslinger himself, which, given what we learn about Roland’s past and his culture throughout the book, can only be interpreted as a compliment of the highest order.

I want more. I want to see where this goes. And I’m so very glad I’m only starting this series after it’s complete, because man, if I’d been reading these early works during my first Stephen King phase back in junior high/early high school, I’d still have over a decade to wait for the final books. Ouch.

 

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