Welcome to Rapid Book Reviews, No. 2. Each entry of Rapid Book Reviews will contain anywhere from 2-5 book reviews. Some books reviewed will be books that have come out recently, while some might be from back in the day.
Each book review will be concise and will answer three questions for you:
1. What is this book about?
2. What could this book make me think about? (philosophical musings)
3. Should I read this book?
For this entry, I have reviewed three books for you to consider: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Wonder by R.J. Palacio. At the time of this writing, I am (still) currently reading A Game of Thrones (Book 1) by George R.R. Martin. I'll review it whenever I get around to finishing it.
Here are my reviews for this entry:
Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
Smith Henderson's debut novel, Fourth of July Creek, is a well written novel containing relatable characters and a harrowing storyline. The novel tells the story of social worker Pete Snow and gives us a glimpse of his home life and the intricacies of his career. While working one day, Pete comes across a famished-looking young boy by the name of Benjamin Pearl. After Pete meets Benjamin's enigmatic father, Jeremiah, Pete finds himself wanting to learn more about the Pearls and their mysterious backstory.
Henderson's novel does not read like a debut novel; it is full of rich language and contains a fruitful and layered narrative. The chapters in the novel usually alternate between Pete's interactions with his own family and his interactions with the Pearls. This type of organization lends itself to Henderson's story, especially when it becomes very obvious that both of Pete's narratives impact one another in more ways than one. It's fascinating to see how difficult it becomes for Pete to handle the hardships in his own life.
Though the novel is long, Pete's story is interesting enough to keep readers hooked. Fourth of July Creek sheds light on the complications of being a social worker and how sometimes it is nearly impossible to leave work at the office. Add Jeremiah Pearl's inscrutable nature into the mix and you have quite a thought provoking novel.
Should you read this book? Absolutely.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Before writing this review, I just want to make it clear that I read Gone Girl before watching the film. The film in no way skewed my reading and interpretation of the novel. If anything, the novel actually made the film less fun to watch. With that being said, please keep in mind that I am reviewing the novel and not the film. A review of the film can be found here.
There is no denying that Gone Girl has an intriguing premise. The novel details the inception and collapse of Nick and Amy Dunne's marriage, as well as Amy's subsequent disappearance. Flynn tells the story in a way that leaves readers constantly in suspense and trying to figure out what will happen next. It's also nice to be able to read about the past and present of Nick and Amy's relationship and how two very different time periods informed one another.
Although the novel is suspenseful, it is often quite boring and reads like a soap opera. Nick's relationship with his sister Margo feels inauthentic and several of Nick's actions in the novel are so idiotic that they make no sense to me (even as a diversion). I get that Nick is supposed to be appear guilty, but I think Flynn could have thought of more believable ways for him to seem that way.
Gone Girl is quite a long novel and the length is not justified. The novel often drags on and feels as long as it is. There are a lot of descriptions that are repeated and many "clues" that are constantly brought up to grab our attention. It was difficult for me to stay engaged because at times I felt like I was "getting through" certain parts to get to the meat of the book. Gone Girl will keep you guessing, but it isn't really a great novel.
Should you read this book? No. Unless you're a fan of the genre, Gone Girl isn't worth your time.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
R.J. Palacio was inspired to write Wonder after her son began to cry when he saw a young girl with facial defects while waiting in line to buy ice cream. Palacio felt that she didn't handle the situation correctly and ended up inspired enough by the incident to write Wonder.
Wonder tells the story of a 10-year-old boy named August Pullman who has been homeschooled most of his life due to his facial deformity. After deliberation, August and his family decide that it would be best for him to attend middle school. Once he arrives at school, we see how he is treated by teachers and fellow students. Palacio accurately depicts some of the issues that middle school students deal with and how those issues can reach beyond school.
The novel is broken up into eight parts, with each part narrated by a different character (August narrates three chapters). This narration is helpful because it allows us to see situations from the viewpoints of multiple characters. Since we are able to see from the point of view of different characters, we get a better idea about what those characters go through and what informs their decisions. Each part of the novel is introduced by an excerpt from a song or piece of literature (with the novel's name deriving from the Natalie Merchant song, "Wonder"). The way the novel is set up is perfect for the story Palacio is teling.
Wonder makes you think about what it truly means to be kind. August's story will encourage you to be self-reflective and think about the things you've said to the people you've encountered. When people ask me what the book is about, I tell them that it's about the importance of being a good person. Wonder is a novel that will stick with you well after you've read it.
Should you read this book? Yes.