Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Author: Ken Kesey
Publisher: Signet
Rating: 4

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In this classic of the 1960s, Ken Kesey's hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, back by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story's shocking climax.

Review: *backstory time* My awesomesauce AP Literature teacher, Ms. R, challenged my class at the beginning of the school year to read 60 classical pre-graduation books - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was on that list.  As I picked it up, I knew it was about a mental hospital... In fact, that's all I knew.  One of my classmates noticed that I had chosen to read it and she told me, "That is such a good book."  My brother was flipping through tv channels the other night; the movie adaption of said novel was on and he insisted on watching it, but I made him change the channel because I had yet to finish reading the book.

I finished reading the book last night.  I turned the last page, flipped back to the previous page, stared at the last sentence for a while, and finally closed the book.  To say I was confused was an understatement.  I needed to talk to somebody about the story ASAP.  Naturally, the first person I started to question was my mom.  Although she hadn't read it, she mentioned that her father had.  So, I headed to my room, book in hand, and called my grandfather.

"What part are confused about?" he asked.  My response: "Uh, the whole thing?"

He gasped.  "My dear, you must've missed something."  My grandfather was right, and after our 40 minute conversation we figured out what exactly I had missed: the history behind mental institutions.  You see, in the 1960's mental institutions were filled with those who were declared "unfit" for society.  Some patients admitted themselves to avoid their day-to-day responsibilities.  Suddenly, the whole story clicked.

McMurphy wasn't insane or sick, he just didn't want to act like an adult.  In fact, a majority of the men that he met in Big Nurse's ward weren't sick either.  McMurphy noticed this upon his arrival, and took it upon himself to teach the fellow patients how to live life to the fullest.  Activities such as gambling, watching the World Series despite the tv schedule, and the fishing trip helped each patient open up bit by bit.  His rebellion has a price, but McMurphy is willing to pay as long at the other patients learn their true potential.  McMurphy's teachings are told through the eyes of Chief, an Indian who the hospital staff believe is dumb and deaf.  Out of all the characters, he grows the most.  His childhood flashbacks are proof of that, and, in the end, help him realize how much he's changed for the better.

I understand why this book made Ms. R's Must Read list, and I love how it sparked a conversation between my grandfather and I.  A recommendation to all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: Delirium

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 4

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It's hard to be patient. It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't. 

Review: "Hearts are fragile things.  That's why you have to be so careful."

I think that my love for the dystopian genre has been apparent in some previous blog posts of mine, so you may assume that I enjoyed Delirium right up to the last page.  If you made this assumption, then you are correct... to a certain extent. 

Lauren Oliver's concept of love being a disease that everyone had to be cured from was genius.  I mean, we've all heard the term "lovesick" before so it was only a matter of time before an author took this idea and ran with it.  In Portland - the setting of Lena's story - love is known by its scientific name: amor deliria nervosa.  People are educated about the disease from a young age to the point where they're scared of it, except they can't be cured until they're 18 years old in order to avoid possible brain damage or long term side effects.  Word is after you're cured, all types of pain disappear especially the pain caused from love.  Anyone or anything that has to do with love is banned from the city.  There's heavy segregation between boys and girls, strict curfews, and random house raids performed by the government.  I wasn't even a character in the book and I didn't feel safe.  

Lena was an okay character.  You know... the story is focused on her, but she's not like BAM-OMG-AMAZING.  Her overall adventure is WOW-HOLYCRAP-HOLDUP material starting from her first evaluation where she meets Alex.  Before the 18 year olds are cured, they have to go through a standard interview whose results are used to pair couples up to be married after graduating from school.  Remember, after the cure they have little to no emotions and act like robots just casually walking through life.  Unfortunately, or fortunately for Lena because she wasn't doing so hot with answering questions under pressure, her interview was interrupted by a herd of cows running through the government labs.  That's right.  A herd of cows.  This is the type of thing that makes me wonder if Lauren Oliver was experiencing writer's block and thought to herself, "Well, cows are cool. Maybe I should add those in there and confuse Lena out of her mind."  Although it was the perfect segue to the introduction to Lover Bo- I mean, Alex who just so happened to be hanging out on the roof of the lab.  

Okay, so the girl who is terrified of love and needs to be cured meets a boy.  The rest of the story is predictable, right?  Wrong, nope, incorrecto.  Once I submerged myself in the story (because honestly, I started re-reading this book several times until I got into it), I couldn't put it down.  Technically, I couldn't put my phone down because it was an e-book and maybe that's the reason it took me so long to get into it, but... MORAL OF THE STORY IS THIS: 

Reading this book will infect you with amor deliria nervosa.  And may rekindle your love for reading.

Just a warning.