Books That Changed My Life #GuestPost

We all have that one friend. Not the one that is a jerk, no. Not the one that gets good grades at school without studying, either. Also not the one who steals your longest fries, which might be the same as the first I mentioned.

None of them is the friend I’m talking about. I’m talking about those friends that enlighten you, that teach you stuff, that help you keep loneliness away and bring new meaning to your life. We all have that one friend.

I’m talking about books, good people. And our favourite ones, those that scarred us so deep that we have to read and re-read them over and over again, and each time we do it, we find things we didn’t find the last time. Books invariably change our lives in a wide array of ways. So today I would talk about books that have changed my life, particularly the top-three books that changed the way I see life.

Let’s start with the one I read most times. Maybe six or seven times, not that I can remember how many times I flipped through those pages.



The Sky Is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson

I mention this book first because I read it at the right moment.

This is the story of Lennie Walker, a student, and gifted clarinetist; a lonely young girl who scribbles poetry wherever and whenever she feels like it- be it the sole of her shoes, her jeans, a candy wrapper- she just jots down poetry at every single chance she has. This is her way to cope with the loss of her elder sister and best friend Bailey.

A heart attack puts Bailey's life to an early end. So all of a sudden, Lennie finds herself as the only child in the family for the first time in her life. Her mourning process develops through her poetry. She effectively shuts herself in, keeping the rest of the world away from her, even her dear Grams and Uncle Big.

As I mentioned earlier, this book found me in the right moment. I had recently lost my mom. By the time I first read it, I was able to understand Lennie’s feelings in a new and completely different way. That’s also how I noticed how well developed Lennie’s character was.

I know what you’re asking-- But, Pablo, is this everything this book is about?

The shortest answer is no.

This is actually a young-adult romance, with Lennie dealing with her own heart being torn between the new guy in town- the honest, fabulous and talented Joe Fontaine- a handsome musician who moved to town from France- a welcome change for Lennie, who once again is able to see color in her sister-less world, through him.

And, wait for it- Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby. He’s a strong, quiet and handsome boy who mourns Bailey as much as Lennie, and that being their one thing in common, it draws them together like magnets, turning this loss and grief to a sexual tension and physical need, which has them permanently on a check. On the top of that, Toby is hiding a deep secret.

All in all, one of the best reads I can recommend, mostly because of the richness of all of its characters, and how well written the story overall is. And if you have been through mourning yourself, you might feel that you’re not alone.

If you’re wondering, this book didn’t teach me how to cope with the loss. That’s a road we all need to walk on our own. What this book showed me is that although grief always tries to make you feel like everything is dull and sad, there are always ways to lift your head, and reasons to see the light. A heart-warming story, and a must-read.




I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson

Another book by the same author. Of course, after reading The Sky Is Everywhere, you end up wondering what else did Jandy write. This book has been reviewed by Pratikshya before, and it was a pretty insightful post where she left very few things to be said. You can find it here.

The main characters around whom the story revolves are the twins- Noah and Jude Sweetwine. This is a beautiful story told in chapters from the past (from Noah’s perspective), and chapters from the present day (told from Jude’s point of view).

As we all know, being a teenager is a big deal in many ways. This is no different for Noah, a constant target from school bullies, a restless artistic soul with a big tendency to become a shut-in. He’s only friends with his twin sister, although she’s currently showing signs suggesting that age is changing her for the worst, turning her, as Noah wisely suggests, into a hornet covered in flame retardant. This brings constant fights between Jude and their mother. Speaking of their mother, Dianna, she also has a restless artistic soul, which might look like she’s more inclined towards her son. This makes Jude rage with jealousy, which results in her successfully ruining her brother’s dream.

On the other hand, Noah loves mom’s seemingly undivided attention, mostly because his father always treats him like a “broken umbrella” given Noah’s lack of sports prowess (and interest) in general and the fact that his best friend and twin sister isn’t who she used to be anymore.

In the middle of all this chaos, Noah meets Brian, the new neighbor, another revolutionary like him who collects space rocks and spends his time in the woods looking for them, carrying them in a suitcase. But soon Noah discovers that his friendship with Brian is tinted with love.

Three years later, Jude tells the rest of the story. Something happened, something really, really bad, that has changed everyone forever. It has strained every relation.

Jude stops being a hornet, setting up a boy-boycott (using baggy clothes to become invisible to guys and whatnot), now becoming a shut-in like Noah. Speaking of Noah, he’s covered himself in flame retardant and starts hanging around with Jude’s former friends, who now call him Picasso although he completely abandoned art. Brian eventually abandoned town to study elsewhere.

And now it’s Jude who attends an important art high school. Because of school, she now needs to take carving classes with Guillermo Garcia, a wild Columbian man who’s said to be the best of his generation. But something happened to him, something really, really bad, and now doesn’t take students anymore. She also meets a weird guy from England, Oscar, who’s a constant threat to Jude’s boycott. And as soon as Jude tries to convince Guillermo to mentor her, she discovers that Oscar lives with him.

As the story develops, they’re all going to find that their lives are all sewn together, and old habits die-hard.

So, what brings this book to my top three list? As a brother, artsy soul owner, and shut-in, I deeply connect with Noah. His character is so authentic, so well developed and so great and lovable, that you keep reading to see what happens to him next. Also, as a brother of four sisters, I’ve seen how sibling relationships change, evolve, and merge, which makes the twins relationship, with their ups and downs so much more believable and authentic.




All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Another young-adult book. Yeah, you can see what kind of books I like reading, huh?

Have you ever read a book, finished it, and thought to yourself “How am I supposed to move on to a different book now? This was brilliant and I need more!”? Well, this is that book.

Well, sort of, anyway.

Theodore Finch doesn’t really want to die. He just thinks of different ways to die and rates them. That’s his way to keep himself “awake”, to avoid the “asleep”. He suffers from bipolar disorder, this “awake” being his manic stage, and “asleep” being the depressive stages. Due to his family being completely dysfunctional, nobody seems to notice this, and as he thinks of mental illnesses as a label he needs to avoid, he also doesn’t ask for professional help. Instead, deals with the symptoms himself.

In doing so, Finch finds himself at his own school’s bell tower ledge, wondering how would it be like to jump from there to his death, which he eventually rates poorly, stating it’s too messy and unclean.
But suddenly he realizes he’s not alone on the ledge- Violet Markey is also there, although she seems to be paralyzed by fear.

Violet, at first sight, might strike the reader as the average popular girl dating the cool guy, being a part of the popular crowd and so on, but as soon as you start reading more on her, you realize that this girl wasn’t on that ledge by chance. Violet’s sister, Eleanor, died in a car accident last year. To make things worse, for Violet, she was also in the car with Eleanor, but she only sustained minor injuries. Violet’s compass kind of lost its north after that accident, making her life dull and barely bearable.

Soon enough, Finch and Violet end up paired together for a school project that involves discovering the wonders of the state they live in- Indiana, which has them driving through, discovering All The Bright Places, and this leads to their relationship to evolve, with Violet slowly growing back to life, while Finch slowly begins to fade into the “asleep”.

This book is magnificent in many ways. Not only it tells a great story that helps you find greatness in the small things of life. It shows you that a person under the bipolar disorder isn’t “just a freak” but someone with deep problems that need help. It has you wondering about some people in your own life, if not yourself. It raises awareness on a topic people would otherwise turn a cold shoulder to.


Three amazing books, by two amazing writers you should definitely give a shot if you haven’t already. This has been my top-three favourite books of all time that have changed somehow the way I see life, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


******


This guest post is by Pablo Pereira, who is the author of the novella My Last Foster Mom. He blogs at I Spread Words. I am an eager reader who awaits his short stories and the new episodes to his fiction series. And every writer is first a reader. Novels such as these are our irrevocable love. 

Do share your favourite reads. The life altering ones.

Comments

  1. The first and last book seem interesting, I have already added them to my overflowing TBR. I have seen the last book doing quite a buzz on social media. YA is one of my favourite genres.

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  2. Very interesting story line up in all the three books. You tempted me to scout for them.

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  3. all these books sure seem worth a read. I havent come across them. must try it out for sure.

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  4. Books sound interesting. Have bookmarked your page for future reference
    visiting via the Write Tribe linkup.

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  5. Wow.. Great story and characterization of all the 3 books. The review itself is interesting to pick up the books. THanks for sharing Pablo.

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