12 June 2011

a good YA book with a stupid "how to get help" bit at the end

I just read Beautiful Monster, by Kate McCaffrey, published by Fremantle Press (which is partly why I bought it - supporting Aus small press) in 2010.

this is a venting post, not a review, so it's probably going to have massive spoilers and be emotive rather than thought through.

the story itself is okay - not particularly original, more a mixture of familiar themes and plot elements that many writers have worked with (not that there's anything wrong with that): how the death of a child affects a family - parents and sibling/s; how destructive eating disorders can be; how someone with an eating disorder can delude themselves so that they honestly believe they're striving for perfection while they're really doing themselves serious damage; the unreliable narrator...

the voice is great - Tess's thoughts and feelings are conveyed so well, I couldn't remember if it was first person or third (it's limited third, firmly fixed inside Tess's perspective). Not sure that I really get a sense of Tess changing with age - from 13 to 15 to 17 - but that could just be because everything is distorted by the grief, self-blame and self-loathing that she gets lost in.

the structure is okay - a steady flow of narrative interrupted by a couple of big jumps, each over a two-year gap, with some references in the third section to the major events that took place within the second gap.

from my perspective as someone who's had an eating disorder, the writer really does a good job of getting into that mind frame - fear, trying to stay in control, feeling physically ill at the sight of food, thinking about food all the time, an extremely distorted body image (very nicely written scene in which Tess, urged by a friend, sees for a moment how she really looks in the mirror - so thin she's skeletal - then her defenses spring up and enable her to see what she thinks is there - pudgy flabby fat), massive guilt and self-loathing.

the imaginary friend who personifies all of Tess's distorted thinking is well written, but I'm not so sure about that same persona hooking up with a new victim in the epilogue - it conveys the point that other people are putting themselves through hell with self-hatred and distorted thinking too, but it makes it seem almost as if the persona is an evil spirit separate from Tess - which surely wasn't the point?

anyway, apart from relating to Tess's nausea, fear and guilt, the thing that really made it hard for me to sleep after reading Beautiful Monster was the unhelpful "help" page at the back of the book.
I'm glad it's there - like any tv program, non-fiction book or novel that deals with mental illness, grief or self-harming, it's a good idea to provide viewers/readers with some contacts in case they need to talk to someone about how they feel after watching/reading it.
but this one, after asking "Need help?", says
"If you or someone you know needs help there are lots of people to go to. You can speak to parents, friends, siblings, teachers and counsellors."

hello?! this spiel presumably was written by someone at the publishing company, not by the author, and I'm sure their intentions are good - wonderful - but if you've read the book, you might've noticed that someone who is self-harming probably feels ashamed & isolated, and is trying to cover it up. people who are hospitalised cos they've nearly killed themselves probably *don't* feel like they can talk to anyone - even if there are caring, non-judgemental people who are actively trying to help them - and saying "there are lots of people to go to" doesn't change that.

at least they do put the urls for reachout, beyondblue, kidshelp, and other good websites, and the phone number for Kids' Helpline. I just wish they'd either left out the line about "lots of people" or put the websites first. Kids Helpline now has a live chat service on its website, because a lot of kids feel safer with the anonymity of being online, rather than ringing and having someone hear their voice, and have more chance of finding privacy on a computer than on their parents' landline or a mobile for which their parents may be paying the bill.

so anyways, I guess maybe I'm feeling a bit unable to communicate myself, to have been so stirred up by the book and the help info. and I do have caring, intelligent, non-judgemental friends and a fab sister that I can talk to. oh wells.

I might have another go at getting to sleep now (after I check FB to see if anything exciting is happening), and save my review (which might well be a review) of The Adoration of Jenna Fox for tomorrow, or sometime.

PS the cover illustration for Beautiful Monster is fab - it looks to me like the skeleton of a baby bird - baby birds are usually so ugly, but tug at our hearts despite that - they're so fragile, and will become beautiful being that can fly, if they don't fall out of their nests or get starved out by a cuckoo.

PPS YA fiction that deals with 'dark' stuff can be totally fabulous and can save people's lives. we do not need censorship of 'heavy' issues - kids (and other people who read YA) choose to read light or dark stories for various reasons, and not having gritty tales available to read won't make anyone's life all bright and sparkly if it isn't already.

07 June 2011

What I learnt from watching Season 3 of True Blood

May Contain Spoilers (although I'm trying to be cleverly cryptic). May Contain Traces of O+ or Tree Nuts.

1. The actor who plays Alcide Herveaux, Joe Manganiello, is appropriately hunky - tall, dark, handsome, well-muscled - but strangely non-hirsute. Then again, that bitch Debbie Pelt isn't hirsute, and she has a nice thick pelt when she changes. But still, I was expecting chest hair. and a bit of tummy hair. maybe Joe's a model as well as an actor?

2. Fairies/the Fae mostly wear white, or pastels. Some of their clothes look a bit 60s, some more 70s.

3. You know how the post-WWII Nazi movement used the code name Werewolves? There was a reason for that.

4. If you've read the books, you know that Charlaine Harris created amazing characters (human and otherwise) and set them in a believable alternate version of contemporary America, and then put them through hell. In each season, I've been impressed by how Alan Ball & his team of producers, writers, actors, directors, designers, et al, do a really good job of showing us these great characters and their particular world, and putting them through hell.

5. Climate change is happening, people! If we don't do something to stop this human-created mess, someone like Russell Edgington will, and it won't be pleasant.

6. Just Say No to V. seriously, it might do wonders for your health and your sex life, but it can also give you waking nightmares, and make you a target for angry vampires.

7. If the brother you didn't know you had suddenly turns up, you're right to be pissed off.

8. Don't let your life be ruined by a sad drunken man in saggy underpants.

9. If you tell the guy you just had sex with that you can't take any more of this supernatural shit, don't be surprised if he tells you he's a supe too.

10. Jason Stackhouse may still be not very bright, but he's turning out an okay kind of guy.

11. A high school counsellor will not help you in your attempt to make your son forgo the love of his life and marry a short, chatty blonde instead, even if she is a good cook.

12. If you love somebody, it's okay to tie them to the toilet and put duct tape over their mouth so they can't scream for help. Well, no, really it's not okay. And you'll get what's coming to you. Some day...

13. You think your boyfriend has used, lied to and betrayed you? Sure he has! He still loves you, though. Even though there's yet more betrayal that you don't know about yet.

14. Godric was, in the end, an unusually compassionate and peaceful vampire. Like, really unusual. One of a kind. And look what happened to him. Never mind how hot they are, vampires are Not Nice!

15. Kevin was the only man she ever loved.

16. Vampires do some really gross things when they're having sex with another vampire that they don't really like. And I'm not talking about doing things with pointy wooden objects. although that was pretty gross too.

17. In the Buffyverse, a staked vampire turns to ash/dust and blows away, clothes included. In the Sookieverse, a staked vampire turns to a great pool of bloody, semi-dissolved flesh that you have to clean up. and the clothes need disposing of, too.

18. Most of the people we see in True Blood are strongly influenced by anecdotal evidence. And *very* strongly influenced by seeing a newsreader killed Live On Screen.

19. In the right context, "I'm not too good for you" is a great chat-up line.

20. But it can't compete with True Love.