That Was Then, This is Now by S.E. Hinton–Review

Title: That Was Then, This is Now
Author: S.E. Hinton
Publication Date: 1971
Publisher: Penguin
Source: Purchased

From Goodreads

Does growing up have to mean growing apart?

Since childhood, Bryon and Mark have been as close as brothers. Now things are changing. Bryon’s growing up, spending a lot of time with girls, and thinking seriously about who he wants to be. Mark still just lives for the thrill of the moment. The two are growing apart – until Bryon makes a shocking discovery about Mark. Then Bryon faces a terrible decision – one that will change both of their lives forever.

I’ve talked before about what a huge fan of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton I am. I love a lot of books, and my life is so much better because I’ve read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and both books changed my life in so many ways. I can honestly say though that I have read The Outsiders more times than I have read any other book. It’s such a fantastic story that resonates with people no matter what year it’s read. I first read it in the eighth grade. I had a classroom copy of the book and when we got to the middle of the book I made my parents take me to the bookstore to buy it because I needed to read the rest of it. The Outsiders is my favorite book that I have read so when I heard that Ponyboy makes an appearance in That Was Then, This Is Now I freaked. I knew he wasn’t an integral part of the plot, but the fact that he was in it at all made it amazing. I finally was able to start the book yesterday and I was not disappointed in the least.
That Was Then, This Is Now focuses on Bryon, who because of a joke at the beginning I kept saying Byron in my head, and his relationship with his best friend, Mark. After Mark’s parents died when he a child he went to live with Bryon and his mother. Growing up like brothers Bryon and Mark spend their time walking around town, hustling at pool to get money, and occasionally getting into fights with others. While this story has similarities to The Outsiders I was very happy to find that they were completely separate stories. Yes, Ponyboy has appearances in this book, but this isn’t his story. It was an added treat to see him in the book, but I enjoyed getting to know Bryon. There are several conflicts in this story.
One. Bryan vs. Mark. These two characters have been close their whole lives. Friends since childhood and like brothers for almost as long they do everything together. The story is a coming of age tale about Bryan though. The two begin to drift in the middle of the story. Bryan begins to see the world in a different light while Mark remains the same. After an unfortunate incident involving the death of one of their friends, Bryon starts to question whether or not fighting is worth it and begins to change his lifestyle, get a job, and go steady with Cathy. This creates a rift between the two friends. I really liked the relationship development between these two characters. It was a natural and realistic development between the two of them. As people learn and grow they will have natural swings in their relationship, especially if they are almost like siblings. As the story progresses there are many more ups and downs for these two boys. Their relationship at the end of the book surprised me, but, once again, I thought it was a good twist and ending.
Two. Bryan vs. Cathy. I loved these two characters together. I thought that Cathy was a good influence on Bryan. I loved that he was able to see a nicer family dynamic after seeing Angela’s family dynamic. Cathy and her family were able to take part in Bryan’s kickoff to a different person. It was perfect that they got together around the same time that Bryan’s friend died. Instead of easily running back to Angela Shepherd for comfort and continuing with the same lifestyle that he had before. There would have been no growth. There would have been no self-discovery. I didn’t like the end of their relationship, however I liked that Bryon was able to continue on with his growth.
Three. Bryan vs. Bryan. I’ve already said eight million times that this is a story about Bryan’s personal growth. There is such a heavy internal battle going on in Bryan’s brain throughout the book. Bryan was content how his life was at the beginning of the book and then through a series of events he begins to question everything he thought was all right. He sees a person reacting to drugs on two fronts, both taking the drugs and selling the drugs. He falls in love for the first time and sees a different family dynamic than what he is used to. He decides to take more responsibility with his life and gets a job. There are countless more things that he has to make choices about through the novel, but the biggest one was at the end. The discovery of a secret his friend has been keeping. I admire his strength to call the authorities, and at the same time it left me torn. Through his eyes, Hinton was able to make me feel the same feelings that Bryan felt after he made the decision.
That Was Then, This is Now was a true coming of age tale that has been speaking to readers for decades and will continue to speak to people for years to come. The tale of Bryan Douglas is relatable and authentic. Recommend this book to readers of The Outsiders is anyone who wants a strong tale of friendship and personal growth.

Insanity by Susan Vaught

Title: Insanity
Author: Susan Vaught
Publication Date: February 18, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Source: Netgalley

From Goodreads

Never, Kentucky is not your average scenic small town. It is a crossways, a place where the dead and the living can find no peace. Not that Forest, an 18-year-old foster kid who works the graveyard shift at Lincoln Hospital, knew this when she applied for the job. Lincoln is a huge state mental institution, a good place for Forest to make some money to pay for college. But along with hundreds of very unstable patients, it also has underground tunnels, bell towers that ring unexpectedly, and a closet that holds more than just donated clothing….When the dead husband of one of Forest’s patients makes an appearance late one night, seemingly accompanied by an agent of the Devil, Forest loses all sense of reality and all sense of time. Terrified, she knows she has a part to play, and when she does so, she finds a heritage that she never expected.

With her deep knowledge of mental illness and mental institutions, Susan Vaught brings readers a fascinating and completely creepy new book intertwining the stories of three young people who find themselves haunted beyond imagining in the depths of Lincoln Hospital.

I will admit it was definitely the cover that first drew me to this book. How could that creepy cover not draw one in? When I read the description for Insanity I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. The beginning immediately draws readers in, “Death’s walking on two legs” There were so many strong lines in this novel, but unfortunately the set up of the story didn’t do it for me.
From reading the description provided to me I had no idea the book was going to be three separate stories. The book starts out with Levi, moves to Forest, after Forest we are introduced to Darius, from Darius we see Trina, before ending where we began with Levi. I found this very confusing. This could have been because it was a galley, but there was no indication when the narrative shifted. It took a little bit each time for me to realize that it had shifted and figure out who I was reading about at that moment. The time shifts throughout the story could have been a little clearer also. On the one hand it could have been a stylist choice by the author to not alert the reader to the exact amount of years that had passed, but on the other I feel like it could have made the story easier for me to follow. Knowing how long the story had been going from the moment Levi’s story began could have helped me better understand the characters.
Aside from being confused on who was narrating throughout the book, I also was not a fan of the multiple narrative element. I honestly believe that the book could have been stronger if it was told through one character. I feel like the same effect of the story arcs could have been accomplished through a single narrative. I liked the opening with Levi, but I believe following Forest throughout the book, instead of jumping around, would have been stronger.
One thing that I did really like about this story was using Lincoln as a character. The asylum really takes on a life of it’s own throughout the book and I love the continuous tolling of the bells whenever something is happening. I thought that was a fantastic addition to the horror novel.

Overall I think this book had some really incredible qualities to it, but there was too many people talking and too many things going on in this story for me to really get into it. I do believe that any fan of horror who is looking for something really interesting should give this book a try though!

Between Shades of Gray Movie!

This post was originally on RutaFans, but it’s so exciting I will post it here too! A little late on posting this here, but better late than never!

As you guys may have seen on Ruta’s Facebook and Twitter, Between Shades of Gray is getting the movie treatment! Let’s all take a moment for an epic dance break.

Okay now that we are back and probably out of breath lets take a look at what we know. Ben York Jones will write the screenplay and Marius Markevicius will direct. We also know that the title of the movie will NOT be Between Shades of Gray. Apparently (and this has been proven by the disproving stares I get whenever I talk about BSG with someone) people get Between Shades of Gray and 50 Shades of Gray confused. So in order to avoid anyone showing up in the 50 Shades theater thinking they will be getting a gut wrenching tale about a teenage girl living through the Holocaust the film people decided to change it.
Personally (even though I totally almost started to campaign for Angelina Jolie to direct this (In the Land of Blood and Honey anyone?) I think that Markevicius as director was a perfect choice. In case you don’t know he directed a documentary about the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team.
According to this article it says filming is scheduled to begin this year! That means we should be getting a movie in 2015! Of course I am not a film person so I have no idea on that, it’s just a guess.

I am super excited for this! Congrats to Ruta, and Between Shades of Gray, and to Lithuania!

Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

Title: Bright Before Sunrise
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Publication Date: February 18, 2014
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Source: Netgalley

From Goodreads

When Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, “miserable” doesn’t even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother’s first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real… until she breaks up with him.

For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she’s really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She’s determined to change his mind, and when they’re stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance.

Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.?

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself.

Bright Before Sunrise takes place in less than a day, which also happens to be the amount of time it took me to read the book. It’s told from two different points of view, a senior boy named Jonah and a junior girl named Brighton. I really enjoyed getting to see both of the narrations. The reader is able to see things about both of the characters before the other does. We get to know about their pasts, their inner thoughts, and most importantly we get to see the misconceptions both of them have about each other.

What I Liked

Different points of view. Having different narrators is a tricky thing to do and writing it successfully is really hard. Schmidt was able to do this very well and it added so much to the story. It is a natural and everyday part of life for people to immediately form misconceptions about others without fully knowing them. I thought that it was fantastic that Jonah assumes that Brighton’s parents are divorced, and that Carly thought that Jonah was cheating, and that Brighton thought he was a lost cause. These are completely normal assumptions that these characters would have had in real life. It was frustrating at a reader to know that Jonah hadn’t been cheating and heartbreaking that Brighton’s father was dead. Schmidt was able to make the different narrations work to her advantage and make this book very realistic in those plot points.
Honesty is a big issue in this book as pointed out above. I liked that by the end of the novel not only were Brighton and Jonah being honest with each other and those around them, but also they were being honest to themselves. It was such a great moment to finally have Jonah admit why he keeps his two lives separate.
The dynamic of Brighton’s family was also really well done. Her father died five years prior to the start of the book and the portrayal of a grieving family was spot on.

What I Didn’t Like

While I loved Brighton’s family I disliked Jonah’s family. It is really hard to believe that Jonah’s mother could change so much. He mentions that his mother used to make nachos and dress in sweatpants and not care what she looked like. Jonah deeply misses those times in his life because since becoming pregnant with his therapists baby she has completely changed. Jonah’s stepfather has a lot of money and suddenly her entire personality changes. She cares about her appearance and through what we were able to see of her, she seems selfish and self-centered. I would like to have believed there would be part of her that would have remained the same as she was before and because she was so different the only conclusion that I can come up with is that she was faking everything until she met her new husband. It just wasn’t a character that I was fond of.
The same thing rings true for Jonah’s stepfather. Throughout the entire story we see him treated Jonah poorly and like he was just a thug kid who was not looking out for his sister at all. Then at the end of the book the reader learns that the stepfather is actually a good person. It was like whiplash almost making Jonah into an unreliable narrator. The only thing that saves Jonah’s narration and allowed me to know that he was reliable was his revelation to Carly at the end of the book.
This book reminds me slightly of Romeo and Juliet in that the romance or potential for romance happens very quickly. In twelve hours Jonas endures a break up, heartbreak over it, the realization that he doesn’t care anymore, and the revelation that he has feelings for a girl he used to despise. I understand that some people have love at first sight, but it was sad for me to see this happen so quickly. There were some aspects of the book that were so realistic and then there was this.

Overall this book was okay. It definitely was not my favorite book, but that was more because of a lack of personal connection on my part than the author’s fault. The writing was very good and I like Schmidt’s style. This is a book that fans of contemporary should pick up and read to form their own opinions on it.