Agnes Cecilia

Som vanligt under sommaren läser jag Maria Gripes Agnes Cecilia. Det började för många år sedan och har någonstans förvandlats till en tradition. Det är, för mig, inte sommar utan den boken. Egentligen riktar den sig till tonåringar och förmodligen tjejer mellan 13 och 16 men jag tycker det här är en bok som är större än ett åldersfack. I mitt tyckte korsar Agnes Cecilia över flera gränser som gör att den passar utmärkt att läsas av folk över tjugo också, även om jag förstås kan se att den kanske drar till sig kvinnliga läsare snarare än manliga på grund av dess kvinnliga huvudkaraktär.

Nora är fjorton år när hon flyttar in i en ny lägenhet tillsammans med sin familj som består av hennes pappas faster, Karin, Karins man Anders och deras son Dag som är i samma ålder som Nora. Hennes föräldrar omkom i en bilolycka när Nora var liten och hon har sedan dess bott tillsammans med Karin, Anders och Dag. I den nya lägenheten känner Nora sig som om hon kommit hem på riktigt men det tar inte lång tid innan märkliga saker börjar hända. Mystiska telefonsamtal, en klocka som tickar baklänges och en docka som verkar kunna kommunicera med Nora. Möten med det övernaturliga och olika tider som krockar gör att Nora förstår att det är något större på gång runt henne än hon först trott och att hon är den som måste lösa upp alla knutar. Någon där ute försöker ta kontakt med henne, men vem? Och varför?

För mig är det här en bok som talar väldigt mycket till mig, till vad jag gillar att läsa och vad jag kan relatera till. Nora har problem att godkänna hur hennes föräldrar togs ifrån henne och också hennes plats i sin nya familj där hon aldrig blivit vänd ryggen men ändå känner sig annorlunda. Hon söker efter samhörighet och hittar något större än henne själv, något som försöker ge henne meddelanden och få hennes hjälp. Det är en berättelse om vänskap och familj, om att hitta och förstå sig själv och samtidigt godkänna att livet inte är som man kanske velat att det skulle vara men att det fortfarande är bra för det, på sitt sätt. Det är en bok som jag tycker visar upp världen på ett nytt sätt, skriven i Gripes vackra stil som direkt fångar in läsaren från de första sidorna och inte släpper greppet förens man nått den sista. En bok som jag rekommenderar till alla men kanske främst tjejer, tonåringar och de som inte vet vart deras plats är och söker tröst i sitt letande. Det är en fantastisk bok värd att läsas igen och igen.

The Boy Most Likely To

Earlier this summer I reread My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick and wrote a review were I said it was a wonderful summer read. I’ve previously read another novel of her as well, named What I Thought Was True, which I didn’t quite like. However, when I saw that Fitzpatrick had written another book that turned out to be a sort of sequel to My Life Next Door I immediately decided I wanted to read it and have looked forward to do so for some time now. I was, for some reason, expecting The Boy Most Likely To to be another summer read, like the two previous books, but it was, in fact, not quite that which in itself was a disappointment. Ever since What I Thought Was True I’ve been a bit comprehensive about Fitzpatrick but had hopes that that would change after The Boy Most Likely To. I am now surer than ever that Huntley Fitzpatrick is not an author I should return to again.


It’s the summer when Samantha Reed and Jase Garrett meets in My Life Next Door  which ultimately leads Samantha’s friend Tim to meet Jase sister Alice. In this sequel it’s all about the two of them and the rocky relationship they try to have. Tim is a notorious fuck-up – seventeen and kicked out of more than one high school, been fired a handful of times over the past six months and on top of that a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. Alice, in comparison, is the one to take on most of the responsibility in her family after her father is in an accident and ends up in the hospital for several months. Alice takes care of her seven siblings and her pregnant mother while still studying to become a nurse. A relationship with Tim is the last thing she needs but that does not stop her from falling in love nonetheless.

I was, like I said, very excited for this. I really liked My Life Next Door the first time around and didn’t think it was too bad the second time but I still remembered how disappointed I was after What I Thought Was True. I didn’t let that stop me however but ended up not being entirely satisfied with this either. Alice and Tim both took up some space and got me to ask some questions in the first book, especially about Tim’s obvious crush on a few years older Alice. Now I got to look into them and it didn’t turn out quite as I had expected it to.

In My Life Next Door Alice is a tough girl who knows what she wants and frankly intimidated me a bit. I expected the same from her now but instead got a girl who was surprisingly soft and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. She was so strong and hardheaded before but I didn’t really see anything from the Alice in My Life Next Door in Alice from The Boy Most Likely To, except her bad cooking. The novel is written in first person and so the reader gets to take part in the character’s thoughts and Alice often said that she was cold and mean and referred to herself as “Tin Alice”, that she didn’t have a heart or feelings. As a reader I didn’t feel any of it, not one thing she did was cold or mean the way I see it and she certainly didn’t make me think she was heartless. That she repeated this, like she wanted me to feel sorry for her, bothered me greatly. She was so strong in My Life Next Door  and I disliked that she was turned into something else here. Not softer but almost weak. 

Tim, on the other hand, has always fucked up a lot, in My Life Next Door not least. He stole money from Samantha and took her and his twin sister Nan out on a drive when he was both drunk and high, so he certainly has a record of bad choices. Now he’s trying to change all that, he goes to AA, has a job and moves away from home. What surprised me with him was that while he acted nice and in a good way he still blamed himself for everything – for things that he didn’t even do. Everything that happened was his fault and it bugged me a lot. I felt like he, too, wanted me to feel sorry for him. And that’s how I ended up with two main characters that screamed for my compassion for 488 pages while I really wanted to smack them both in the face and tell them to wake up.

The two main characters were annoying in their own way but I didn’t get a real feel for the rest of the characters either. I’ve met Alice big family in My Life Next Door of course, along with Samantha and her mother plus Tim’s sister Nan. Yet they all seemed different, except for Samantha and Nan, in the eyes of Alice and Tim. The oldest of the Garrett siblings is Joel, a guy who didn’t make too many cameos in My Life Next Door  and didn’t really appear here either very much. He pops up occasionally and at one time it’s mentioned that he’s going to move in with his girlfriend which Alice doesn’t believe will work out and then it’s never mentioned at all again. Andy, Alice younger sister, is likewise mentioned earlier in the book but then fades out completely only to disappear by the last portion, still leaving some questions in her wake.

I felt like Fitzpatrick focused a lot on Jase, his relationship with his siblings and the entire family in My Life Next Door, which is part of what made it great. But in The Boy Most Likely To she mainly focuses on Alice and Tim and that big family gets shoved to the side which is so strange since Alice keeps saying that her family means so much to her. They were still there of course, all the siblings and the parents, but not in the same way as in My Life Next Door. I keep wondering why Fitzpatrick did this and I can’t come up with a solid reason. The story between Alice and Tim gets so compact at times that I would’ve liked some minor drama with Alice siblings to unfold but I got nothing.

The big plot twist in The Boy Most Likely To (and I guess this is something of a spoiler so if you don’t want that, look away) or problem, you might say, in the relationship between Alice and Tim is that Tim suddenly finds himself being a teenage dad to a five weeks old baby boy. Alice, who have spent big parts of her life taking care of her siblings, is unsure of what this will do for the relationship and if she can be with Tim because of it. Tim, after taking the blame for a mistake he actually couldn’t have done very much about, starts taking care of the kid and finds himself actually liking it. This for me felt like a cheap shot, pulling out the Teenage Baby Dad card to create unnecessary drama in the book. I think it would’ve been so much better if this hadn’t happened and I really don’t believe Tim needed a baby in order to get his life together. I think he would’ve managed fine yet Fitzpatrick still insisted on pulling out this cliché. I was not amused by it and since the bigger portion of the book is about Tim and his relationship with the baby it pretty much ruined the entire thing for me.

I also felt like the book was too long – I don’t particularly have a problem reading longer novels but I don’t want them to be unnecessary long, that’s just a waste of time. This was unnecessarily long, a hundred pages could easily have been cut and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. The writing, as well, was not very good. I had to go back more than once to reread sentences because I didn’t follow along, Fitzpatrick jumped from one thing to another quickly and, very disappointingly, her beautiful summery descriptions from both My Life Next Door and What I Thought Was True was gone. I can’t tell if this was because The Boy Most Likely To mainly took place during fall or if Fitzpatrick was just so focused on the relationship between Alice and Tim that she didn’t care much for the surroundings.

On top of that the novel is written in first person, as I mentioned before, and in alternating chapters which allows the reader to get close to both Alice and Tim. This was good but would’ve been better if Fitzpatrick hadn’t kept jumping from one point of view to the next multiple times during a conversation. Sometimes Alice got half a page and then Tim got a few paragraphs and then Alice got a few – you get the point, there just wasn’t any flow to the writing and it made it difficult to get into a rhythm while reading. 

I’m scrambling to remember something in the novel that I actually liked but can’t really think of anything. It was mediocre at best and nothing I would recommend, nothing I want to read again. I’m wondering if Fitzpatrick was just a one-hit wonder because her previous two novels have not lived up to my standards. I don’t think I will read something by her again unless the summary is absolutely amazing.

The Raven King

I suppose expectations are both the worst and best thing when it comes to books. It feels like no matter what you do, expectations will always be there in one way or another. Of course it’s better when you have none – or only bad ones –  when you start reading something. Worst, obviously, and most commonly I think, is to have high ones, or at least a certain degree of mediocre hopes. I had many expectations when it came to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven King, and just as a lot of times before I’m left feeling hollow and sad when the book didn’t quite reach up to the heights I’d already put it on.

Three books ago we met Blue Sargent, Richard Gansey, Ronan Lynch, Adam Parrish and Noah Czerny for the very first time. They were different; a psychic’s daughter, a rich boy, a dreamer boy, a trailer boy and a dead boy. But somehow they all found each other and joined Gansey on his quest to find a sleeping Welsh king somewhere in Virginia. They’ve met horrors and nightmares and woken sleeping people and seen a magical forest and solved a gruesome crime and managed to fall in love. But this is the end and it is a nightmare.

Blue has always known that she’s to kill her true love with a kiss. Gansey has known for almost a year now that he is to die before next St. Mark’s Eve. Ronan is a dreamer but no longer the strongest force out there. Adam has to continue learning about magic himself after Persephone past away. Noah is decaying further and turning into something the others barely even recognize anymore. All five of them have to figure out what’s out in the magical forest of Cabeswater, what’s eating it away and turning it into a terrifying darkness while still searching for Gansey’s king Glendower. But there’s something out there that’s destroying all Gansey and his friends love and the only way to stop it is to give everything up.

This is the last part of The Raven Cycle, the one were everything is to be revealed and put together. Given a proper end and leave the reader satisfied with not just one book but a series of four. Did Stiefvater do this? I honestly want to say no. I was not caught off guard as much as I thought I would be with the entire story but rather something like annoyed – but not quite – with the end. It did not have the power that I thought it would, it didn’t dazzle me in any way. It actually happened really fast and the there was a relatively long epilog were I only felt like I missed out on the good stuff to read things that was interesting, it’s true, but wasn’t as interesting as, I don’t know, hearing about all the details in that last part of that last chapter. A few things were hinted at and others were left out entirely in the end and in some books that’s okay with me but in this case I wanted to know what happened to all the character’s I’ve come to love.

I felt like Stiefvater left a lot of clues along the way but either expected me to figure it all out (impossible) or just wanted to leave it all up in the air for the sake of mystery. In any way I don’t feel happy about it now, if anything I feel robbed. This is a novel I’ve waited for since spring last year and so I had hoped it would satisfy me completely but it didn’t.

Maybe I just feel empty and melancholy now since I know the series is over and maybe I will feel different about it tomorrow or next week or next month. But right now I’m disappointed. It was still Stiefvater-magic, with golden moments between Gansey and Ronan and tender moments between Ronan and Adam and fun moments between Ronan and Blue and sweet moments between Blue and Gansey and Noah was still a little sweet and a little creepy and 300 Fox Way was still awesome if a bit subdued after Persephone passed away. I still laughed at times and was freaked out at other times and generally liked the tone, but it felt like Stiefvater rushed through it all. Like some small, human moments between the characters were cut out because this is the last book and everything has to fit together now. The past three books have been about all of their lives and the chase after Glendower but now it felt like it was less about the characters and more about that thing that threatened to destroy everything.

I’ve always loved these books because they felt so real, despite all the magic and weirdness. The characters were real and loveable (well, almost all of them were loveable). It saddens me that they didn’t get to be that way completely in this novel and I might have expected a lot but was it too much to expect this?

It was a nice ending to the series and I’m glad I now know everything that was going to happen, but when I think about The Raven King I feel empty and I know that I won’t return to it for a while, possibly a long time. I need time to accept that it ended like this and that it wasn’t quite worth all the hope and longing I’ve felt while waiting for it.