This Week, I Read… (2018 #6)

19 - Dreamer's Pool

#19 – Dreamer’s Pool, by Juliet Marillier

I loved everything about this story except for the central plot.

Weird, right? But I loved the three POV characters. Grim is the BEST, Blackthorn is prickly but interesting, and Prince Oran is the kind of bookish, tender-hearted nerd I can’t get enough of.

But the “mystery” of Flidais’ true identity…I had figured out she wasn’t who she said she was almost immediately, and the revelation of where Flidais’ spirit truly was, later but not as late as the main characters figured it out.

So the story felt incredibly repetitive to me, as each one of them figured out some piece of the puzzle I’d long since solved. If the book could have been fifty or sixty pages shorter and weeded out a lot of the POV character sharing information with each other that the reader had already heard (sometimes more than once,) I would have liked this a lot better.

While I don’t think it’s as good as even my least favorite of the Sevenwaters series, I do plan to keep going with this series, because did I mention Grim is THE BEST AND I LOVE HIM.

20 - Your Inner Fish

#20 – Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, by Neil Shubin

I enjoyed this for its broadly inter-disciplinary look at the evolutionary physiology of the human body. I was already familiar with many of the developmental genetics discoveries cited in the text– in fact, since a few of them occurred during my college years, I was reading the articles on them as they were published–but I learned a great deal about paleontology and comparative physiology.

That being said, the tone of this was all over the place. Sometimes it seemed like it was trying to be a textbook, all dry and precise, and other times it was filled with personal anecdotes and dad-joke-level humor that didn’t amuse me at all. The science itself was mostly watered down to the level palatable to a layperson, which frustrated me at times with my strong science background, but I understand this is for the masses and not the specialists, or former specialists.

My other frustration was that the host of diseases and complications that have resulted from our incredibly patchwork design was relegated to an incredibly brief end chapter, when to me, that’s one of the more interesting things about the human body. But that’s a criticism quite personal to me.

On the whole, it’s a good read for anyone who wants to know why we are the way we are.

21 - Wintergirls

#21 – Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Self-Destruction: A Portrait of Severe Mental Illness

I can applaud this book for treating anorexia seriously as an illness, not glossing over the worst of its struggles with the tired variations on the platitude “Just eat more.” Lia knows she should, and yet she can’t.

I admit, I wondered how seriously, at first, to take Cassie’s appearances as a ghost, but as the book progressed I understood it’s a sign of Lia’s deteriorating condition, because a starving brain does weird things.

But the writing style is tiresome, with the heavy symbolic repetition of numbers, the use of small text and strike-through. And Lia’s illness causes her to act in ways that make her an incredibly unlikable narrator–I don’t know how much I’m supposed to care about someone who cares about no one, not even herself. I can’t really come up with any reason I should feel for her plight beyond basic human decency. Which I hope I have, obviously, but Lia’s just not interesting herself, with no investment in anything beyond her calorie counting and self-denial. She spends the whole book actively wanting to be thinner/more sick, only to have the revelation as she’s dying that she actually wants to live.

But what for? I don’t mean that callously, but honestly. She doesn’t have friends, she can’t stand her family (with the possible exception of her little stepsister, but even her, Lia only seems to tolerate,) and she isn’t looking forward to any kind of future. Her hobbies don’t consume much of her time or interest–she doesn’t decide to live because she wants to knit another sweater or read the next Gaiman book. (The author name-dropping did start to irritate me before the end.)

She’s pushed away everyone who might possibly care about her and shut herself off from any possible life she could have that doesn’t revolve around her illness, and while that makes for great drama, it didn’t make sense to me that the Lia we followed through the whole story wouldn’t just give up and allow herself to die.

Which is obviously not the point of the book, and I know that. But the book I read didn’t make its positive point–hey, maybe you should actually want to live and take better care of yourself–very well.

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