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mc atwood_the devils you know

Image Credit: Amazon

DISCLAIMER: I am a MA in Writing Student at Rowan University who has recently had the opportunity to study under Professor Atwood. The following review may be biased.

When I saw that I would be required to read MC Atwood’s debut young adult novel, The Devils You Know for my Seminar II class this semester as part of my MA in Writing program at Rowan University, I was very excited. Last fall I had a wonderful experience studying under Professor Atwood by taking her Writing Genre Fiction course. Atwood is hilarious and one of the kindest individuals I’ve ever met. She is also seriously talented as both a writer and an editor.

The Devils You Know was a real pleasure to read. I love that while the book is Atwood’s favorite genre – horror – it is also still young adult. While terrifying, it was also extremely relatable.  This novel is about more than a creepy haunted house with scary clowns and dolls (seriously…so many dolls…). It’s a story about friendship and finding yourself in the midst of the terror known as high school.

In the beginning of the novel, Paul, Violet, Dylan, Ashley, and Gretchen don’t know each other very well for the most part. Paul is seen as being the cool black guy that everyone loves. Violet is the quiet “nice” girl that no one knows very well, but Paul has a crush on, and she is beginning to develop feelings for as well. Dylan tries a little too hard to be a bad ass and I can really see him as being a bit of a punk rocker/skater kid. Ashley is the stuck up, rich, right-winged Republican princess that owns the school and absolutely HATES Gretchen (the feeling appears to be mutual), and Gretchen is Dylan’s partner whom is every bit as weird and tough as he is.

The quintent rarely ever crosses paths and most certainly wouldn’t call each other friends. However, when the opportunity to visit the legendary Boulder House on a class field trip presents itself, all five members of the group sign up and find themselves forced to not only share in the same space and experiences, but to also work together as a team and get to REALLY know the truth about each other. Sometimes the truth can be completely alarming and sometimes you think you know someone (as is the case of Dylan and Gretchen), but later realize you don’t know that person at all.

For instance – who would’ve guessed that Paul likes to wear tights and role play during medieval events? Nice girls finish last…and get taken advantage of as seen by the way Mr. Rhinehart takes advantage of Violet by having an affair with her the day she turns 18. Dylan is not actually Dylan at all…he’s John Michael…and despite his foul mouth and constant use of the word “yo”, he’s not as tough as he wants people to think he is. He’s actually a very conservative Christian who attends church every week with his rich parents. On the other end of the spectrum, Ashley isn’t the conservative Christian she wants everyone to believe she is. In fact, she’s gay and she’s trying everything to hide her true identity from everyone, especially her Republican parents. After all, her father IS a well-known senator who HATES anyone that’s not straight. If he knew the truth about her it would destroy him and the rest of her family. What’s worst – she doesn’t hate Gretchen at all. In fact, she’s in love with her. As for Gretchen? She’s tough because she has to be, not because she wants to be. Her family is on food stamps and she makes her own clothes because she has no choice. Her mother is ill and the family constantly struggles with money.

In order to survive the house and everything in it – from demonic angels to creepy evil dolls to scary clowns to even whales and everything in between, the quintent must work together. However, when the quintent’s secrets are revealed to one another, they all feel such a strong sense of shame that they want to go through the house alone. However, they later learn that while they each have their own secrets, it doesn’t make them less and if anything, knowing the truth about who they are is what will not only bring them closer together, but also force them to want to stick together to support each other and to make it out of the house alive and beyond the house, to make it through high school alive, too.

Some of the novel’s strengths lie in the extreme attention to details, particularly with the imagery and descriptions of the house. It’s a very unique and clever book that while sticking to the main conventions of the horror genre, doesn’t fall into the trap of cliches. For example: there’s an entire room dedicated to whales and aquatic lives. I’ve never been afraid of whales and squids/octapuses, but I am now! I also really appreciated the way the novel took the very successful risk of having multiple narrators/points of views. Each chapter was told by a different character – Ashley, Gretchen, Dylan, Violet, and/or Paul. This allowed the reader to get up close and personal with all of the characters. Atwood did a great job of breaking them all down and creating an equal balance between each character’s voice so it never felt like you had too much of one character and not enough of another character. It also never got too confusing or overwhelming; five seemed like the perfect number.

So why four stars and not five? While I really enjoyed this book and struggled to put it down, it wasn’t perfect. There were still some things that bothered me with this book. One of the main things I didn’t like was Dylan’s character. He really annoyed me. I didn’t like his dialogue and I had trouble believing that’s how he would actually talk. I think there was an instance in the beginning where he said something along the lines of “I remembered to turn my swag on” which made me cringe. Do people even use the term “swag” anymore? I thought that died around 2008. “Fuck-a-doodle-doo” also sounded really awkward to me. I could believe him saying it once or twice, but constantly throughout the book? And no one ever comments on how weird it sounds? I had trouble buying it. Lastly, by the end of the book I was really annoyed by his constant use of the word “yo”. I think he said it but I feel like that would be something he’d say in the beginning of a sentence, not the end and reading it vs. hearing it – it reads kind of awkwardly and annoyed me as a reader. Lastly – his name is something completely different than what everyone calls him and no one knew this? I feel like the school would at least have his legal name down and probably call him by it on the first day of class. I just didn’t buy that as being his secret.

Also, reading this as a conservative Christian, I realize I’m a little biased but I did take some issues with the content of the novel. At times I felt like I was being attacked based on my views and like I was supposed to apologize or feel bad about being a conservative, Republican, Christian. I go to church every week the way Dylan/John Michael did – I don’t think that’s a “bad” thing in itself.

Lastly, demonic/fallen angels? The angels which are typically symbols for good, were made into symbols for evil. I wasn’t really okay with that imagery. I felt like the idea of Christianity throughout the novel was being shown in a negative light. Some of the jabs against Christianity/Republicans (such as the subtle George Bush reference…) felt a little over-done/cheap. I also thought of the impact/influence they may have on the novel’s target teenage audience which made me a little uncomfortable.

But overall I did really like this novel. It was very well researched, well written, and engaging. 4 out of 5 stars.

 

 

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Image Credits: Amazon

I recently enrolled in Professor Julia Chang’s Writing the Memoir class at Rowan University. One of the first books she assigned for us to read is Nick Flynn’s now out of print memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. My first impression of this book was 1. There must be a reason why this out of print followed by 2. I trust my professor’s judgement, despite this book being out of print, it must be good.

However, I found this memoir to be pretty “meh” overall.

The main overarching theme in this memoir is the art of telling stories or searching for stories throughout life. I love that the book works towards this theme and that the theme is supposed to be the glue that holds the book together, however, I didn’t really realize this was the book’s theme until the very end. We get hints at this theme, but it’s not made quite as clear as I would have liked it to have been.

Nick Flynn is a twenty-something year old man living in Boston. Growing up, he never had the opportunity to really know his father. Everything that Nick knows about his father is through stories – those told by others like his mother and those from the occasional letters that he receives from his father.

Individuals like Nick’s mother paint a pretty depressing picture of what Nick’s father is really like. Nick learns that his father is an alcoholic, that he’s a conman with a number of scams and schemes over the years including robbing banks, and that the police are constantly looking for him due to his failure to pay child support.

Nick also learns through letters that his father writes to him while in prison that his father is a writer. Nick’s father often writes him to tell him that his novel is going well and is on its way to being the next great American novel — earning the same ranks and acclaim as classics like The Catcher in the Rye. However, Nick never actually gets to see the story and has no way of knowing whether or not this story actually exists or if it’s merely another one of his father’s famous stories.

Nick’s own story is very similar to that of his father’s. He too, becomes an alcoholic and gets himself involved in drugs, namely cocaine. Nick also becomes involved in a life of crime while working on the boat smuggling drugs in and out. Is he destined to become his father?

It isn’t until Nick starts working for a homeless shelter, Pine Street, one of the largest homeless shelters in the country, that he meets his father. His homeless father becomes one of the residents. However, Nick shows no sympathy to his father. There are often times places when he doesn’t even seem to want to be around his father. It’s as if he’d rather hear about his father through the grapevine. Nick wants to know who his father really is, but he seems to be afraid to do so because he is so afraid of becoming his father, something that he seems to be on track to do.

At the very end of the book, Nick finally does interview his father along with other father-like figures who were involved with his mother before her suicide. He finds that his father’s book does in fact exist, but it’s actually a musical, much of which seems to focus on his alcoholism and how it lead him to prison. While Nick admits that about thirty pages of it are pretty good, he admits that it’s definitely not the masterpiece that his father made it out to be. He reflects on what this means by saying:

What would I do if it was a masterpiece, an overlooked classic? What then? Would our blood be redeemed? Would time be made whole? Would I still have such ambivalence about calling myself a poet? Would I have more? Would I have some idea of what it means to be a father, would I still be terrified of becoming one? He cannot die, he tells me, until his work is complete. Perhaps I am digging his grave, perhaps the book you have in your hands is the coin for his eyes. Perhaps the story of his masterpiece is his life raft, what he’s invented to keep himself afloat.

This is really the highlight of the book and where all of the little stories weaved throughout begin to make sense. However, After trudging through over 300 pages to get to this point, I was a little exhausted as a reader. The book felt as though it dragged on a bit and could have easily been told in only 200 or so pages. Once the book got to the point and began to make sense, it was over.

Still, as a whole it is obvious that Nick Flynn had an interesting story to tell and it made for an interesting read, even if it was a bit cluttered, confusing, and long-winded at times.


Turtles+All+The+Way+Down+transparent

Image Credits: John Green Books

Hey guys! It’s been awhile but I’m finally back with another book review. Now that school is out for winter break I have a few weeks of freedom to read whatever I want. Needless to say, I couldn’t read John Green’s latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down fast enough.

For those of you who don’t know, John Green is one of my all-time favorite writers and quite possibly my favorite author who is not yet dead (I have a BA in English…I like a lot of classic literature written by dead guys…sorry.). However, that doesn’t mean I love EVERYTHING Green writes. I absolutely adored The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska, but I hated An Abundance of Katherines and was only lukewarm to Let it Snow  and Will Grayson, Will Grayson

However, with all of that being said, I absolutely loved Turtles All the Way Down. Here are the five things I liked the most about this novel.

  1. How well researched it was.
    Most people don’t spend hours upon hours googling microbiome bacteria, “Clostridium difficile” or “C-diff”, but Green did. He knows all about these conditions, how people get them, how many people get them, and where they get them. He knows when old cells die and new cells are born. He probably understands biology better than most biology teachers do. Green most certainly did his homework in order to create a character who is able to obsessively research these conditions and talk about them in a way that is accurate and makes sense. Furthermore, he is able to present them in a way that is interesting and makes me want to know more about these conditions. I find myself understanding and sympathizing with Aza’s character. Maybe we aren’t ever who we actually are after all. She has a point…how do we really know that we are well, real? Are we real at all?
  2. The way it didn’t turn anxiety into a cliche.
    People with anxiety worry a lot. Everyone knows that and it’s become the same tired and true cliched mental illness. But it doesn’t have to be. We all as outsiders think we know all about anxiety. But the truth is we have no freaking idea. We are completely clueless.  And Green does an excellent job reminding us of that.Everyone worries all the time, therefore everyone has anxiety, right? Wrong. Have you ever created a callus on your hand because you couldn’t stop picking at it as a way to ensure you’re real? Does that callus on your hand never heal because you can’t stop picking at it? Do you have to change the band-aid several times a day because you’re so worried that you have an infection and you’re going to get C-diff and die? Do you drink bottles of pure alcohol hand sanitizer because you’re convinced it’s the only way you can cleanse the inside of your body, killing bacteria, and ensuring you don’t get C-diff? This is Aza’s life with anxiety. It goes far beyond simply being worried.
  3. Davis Pickett.
    If fictional characters could win boyfriend of the year awards, Davis Pickett would be the one to beat. Can we just stop and talk for a minute about how much of a gem he truly is? He realizes that he going to be made famous due to his wealth and all of the crazy stuff going on with his dad, but he doesn’t want any of that. He wants real, true, genuine friends like Aza. And he also got stuck essentially raising his 13-year old brother. He never asked to be a father, but when he had to step up to the plate and become one to his brother, he did. He didn’t want anyone to turn in his dad or submit any tips initially because he wanted to protect his brother. He even pays Aza and Daisy thousands of dollars in reward money to keep them quiet. But then at the end he himself tips off the police so they can find his dad and him and his brother can live in peace and find a small trace of normalcy. Everything he does is in the best interest of his brother, not him. He’s definitely not selfish.Thinking of his selflessness (is that even a word?), just look at his relationship with Aza. As Green so carefully points out, dating someone with anxiety is HARD. Aza’s anxiety is so severe that she can’t even kiss Davis because she fears he will infect her with his microbiome bacteria and cause her to develop C-diff. Sometimes, she can’t even bear to see Davis and instead has to resort to just texting him. But none of that matters to Davis. For Davis, Aza being Aza, anxiety and all, is enough. He loves and support her despite her mental illness. He couldn’t care less about the fact that she can’t kiss him. How many other guys would be so accepting of something like that?
  4. The theme of loyalty.
    I would definitely say that loyalty is one of the key themes in this novel. We first see the loyalty between Aza, Daisy, and Davis when they accept the award from Davis and agree not to tip off the police or share any of the information they have. They value the friendship more than anything else.As previously mentioned, we also see loyalty between Davis and Aza. Aza tries really hard. I really do believe that. However, she’s not exactly the greatest girlfriend in the world to Davis. But Davis understands and he loves her anyway. He is loyal to her, even when she doesn’t have it within her to text him for days on end especially after she is hospitalized following her car accident and anxiety episode. He makes it clear that he will always be there for her, through thick and thin.

    I would also say that there’s a strong sense of loyalty between Aza and Daisy. Sure, they don’t always get along and I don’t think Daisy always understands Aza’s anxiety, but even when they fight they are still loyal to each other. Their fighting doesn’t last for long and they always work things out. I also love how at the end Daisy really seems genuinely interested in learning more about Aza and her anxiety and how she can help and be more understanding and a better friend. Aza also seems to want to work on herself to improve and be a better friend to Daisy. Their friendship is one that requires a lot of work and effort, but it’s their loyalty to each other that makes this friendship so strong.

  5. The Star Wars fan-fiction.
    As much as I hate to admit it, I actually did really like the Star Wars fan-fiction that Daisy wrote. It was so well crafted and it felt real. As a reader I could see how invested in it Daisy was and I like how even though it wasn’t really Aza’s thing, she was a good sport about it and read it in the end. I liked how it also caused tension in their relationship and how even though Daisy was good at it, she still had some major issues with it like the question of whether or not it was promoting bestiality by having Chewbacca fall in love with a human. Even though I don’t like Star Wars and don’t follow it, I could understand everything that was discussed in the novel relating to Daisy’s fan fiction. It was very well done.

 

John Green’sjTurtles All the Way Down was a very unique, well-written, and well researched novel that I highly recommend especially to those who are interested in learning more about anxiety. 5 out of 5 stories. Now the only question is, when can we expect another masterpiece from Green? 🙂


Coraline

Image Credits: Wikipedia

Wow, long time, no post. Am I right? I apologize for being so quiet on here lately. My initial plan was to dedicate much of my summer to get back into blogging and updating my marketing and deaf awareness social accounts, but then I ended up going all over Pennsylvania and spending a lot of time in Chicago and investing more time into studying and before I knew it summer was over and none of those goals got accomplished. But hey, I’m here now and that’s something, right?

Anyways, guys – we need to talk about Coraline.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Coraline it is a really creepy and really really really freaking weird children’s novel written by Neil Gaiman. This book was published in 2002 and became a movie a few years later (I’m not sure when exactly but I want to say the movie came out around 2007…does that sound about right?)

I was assigned to read this book for my Seminar I course this semester. When I found out it was going to be my required reading I went and watched the movie on Netflix right away. I have heard a lot about the movie and have been meaning to watch it for some time. On the surface, Coraline reminded me a lot of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, two movies I always really loved. Now that I know that Coraline had many of the same producers and masterminds that those other movies had, it makes a lot of sense.

I thought the movie was interested. I liked it and couldn’t stop watching it, but I also thought it was one of the weirdest, creepiest movies I’ve ever seen in my life. I love horror movies but the only ones that ever really did a good job of scaring me are the Saw movies. I found most other horror movies to be completely comical.

Coraline  was scarier to me than any of the Saw movies were.

…And the book was better than the movie but still somehow even more horrifying to me. I don’t know if I loved it or hated it. I thought it was super freaking weird, but at the same time I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t have to have the book read for class until September 20th. Last night was probably the worst time I could’ve read it since I was running on about 3 or 4 hours of sleep total (isn’t grad school fun?) but I started reading it during my commute to work earlier in the day and I couldn’t put it down. Despite how tired I was, I couldn’t sleep not knowing what was going to happen to Coraline next. It’s been awhile since a book captivated me as much as this one did, so there’s no denying that despite my concerns about the book’s weirdness, it was extremely well written.

But, Mr. Gaiman, I have a few questions for you now, none of which were included in your little Q&A session for the book’s 10 year anniversary edition. Here are my questions:

1. Why in the world is this book considered a children’s book?

I have friends that have young kids who have seen the movie version of Coraline and love it. If you’re three or even five years old and can handle Coraline, more power to you because despite your young age, you are stronger than I am apparently. I would never tell my friends or anyone not to let their kids read or watch this movie. It’s so well crafted that I don’t think you should deny a child the right to watch the movie or read the book if they want to.

But, at the same time when I have kids of my own I don’t think this is ever going to exactly be one of my reading recommendations for them. I might even be the kind of mom who keeps her copy of it under lock and key and tries to shelter their kids from discovering it.

My reasoning has nothing at all to do with the book’s craft, but everything to do with the creepiness of this book. I was afraid this book would give me nightmares last night and I’m 27 years old. The book literally talks about an “other mother” and an “other father” and the mother is really evil and literally plucks kids’ eyeballs out and replaces them with buttons. Is it me or is this not horrifying? How many kids saw this movie or read the book and were suddenly petrified of their dolls afterwards? I mean I’m always kind of petrified of dolls – they are creepy to begin with, but after seeing Coraline I think I’d kill anyone who handed me a doll…

2. What kind of a relationship does Neil Gaiman have with his own parents?

I’m not trying to sound like Sigmund Freud or anything, but Neil Gaiman must have some serious mommy issues to write a book that is this messed up.

But while I think the other mother is much more evil and disturbing, I wouldn’t say the father is off the hook exactly.

What was Gaiman’s inspiration for making his characters like this and is it a positive or a negative portrayal? In the book’s reading guide it seems as though Gaiman wants his readers to connect with the idea of their parents not having time to play with them as kids. I think that is a common theme in children’s books, but Gaiman is going much deeper than that with his portrayal of Coraline’s parents here.

The other mother is completely evil and creepy. Did Gaiman have a rough childhood with his mother? Would his mother or has his mother ever caused harm to him perhaps in a way that she believed would be to his benefit (like how the other mother wants to love Coraline and give her a happy life, but at the expense of her eyeballs?).

Were Gaiman’s parents divorced? Did his mother steal him away from his father as a child (kind of like the idea of kidnapping presented throughout the text?) Did it break his spirit (kind of like the idea of how the other mother stole the children’s souls)? Was Gaiman’s mother evil and manipulative and abusive not only towards Gaiman, but towards his father as well? Was his father simply “whipped” and living in a “whatever your mother says goes” kind of world when Gaiman was a child? Coraline’s other father just seems way too absent and nonchalant and a stark contrast of the other mother in this novel. Even Coraline’s real parents seem to have some issues and tension between them where the mother seems to play a dominating role and her real father is just kind of there.

Or – did Gaiman have a great family life with very loving, perfect parents and perhaps he used that as the inspiration to show children that even though their parents might be busy they still love them and their real parents are better than any kind of substitute they could ever dream of, no matter how mice or similar other people may seem?

Either way, it definitely seems as though Gaiman’s own experiences with his parents could have influenced this book.

3. What is with all of the mice?

Just when you think Coraline couldn’t get any weirder – there is a freaking mouse circus. You can’t make this kind of stuff up. What kind of drugs was Gaiman on when he wrote this book? No, seriously.

It’s really weird, but at the same time this could potentially be brilliant.

Circuses have been in the news a lot over the past decade or so – the time of Coraline’s peak. One of the main reasons why people are so angry about circuses is due to the treatment of animals used. We all care about animals like elephants and tigers and seals and horses and lions which are often used in these circus shows – but what about mice and rats? Do they even count as being animals?

We slaughter these animals in mass quantities because we don’t think they matter. We seem them as being dirty, disgusting, diseased, evil, and not worthy of life. We perform clinical trials on them. We do all kinds of tests on them. If the rat or mouse dies in the process we don’t even grieve for them, we just simply take out the trash and go on with our lives.

This is where Gaiman is doing something really unique. Gaiman does what he does best and brings in the really freaking weird character of Mr. Bobo – most frequently referred to as “the man upstairs”. The man upstairs is training his mice and he seems them as being talented and kind of brilliant for their ability to perform music and hundreds or thousands of tricks. I don’t think anyone would argue that Mr. Bobo takes great care of his mice; he even talks about buying them new cheese to help them out a bit. How many other people would do this for mice or rats? I don’t know of anyone who would go through all of that for a rat. I know me personally if I see a mouse or a rat first off I’m grabbing my cat, Picasso, and making him kill the little menace, and that’s only if I feel like being nice that day.

I’m wondering if Gaiman chose to perhaps include the mice/rats in his book in this way to make a political statement on how we view animals and animals rights.

Or – is this something larger. Is it a political statement on how prejudice we are? How we view good and evil?

The latter statement seems like it may be a bit more accurate.

Because think of this. Most of us will look at a rat or a mouse as being evil, whether it does or does not actually bother us. Sure, a rat in the subway is probably filled with disease and if it bites us we’re probably going to get infected and die and that’s evil. But then there are still domesticated rats and mice that people actually keep as nice little house pets. Are those still evil?

And why is our first human instinct always to kill the rats and mice we found walking the streets? Why don’t we ever think to stop and pick up the animal or call animal control and to get them help and see if we can cure them of their diseases? We would do that for a dog or a chicken or any other animal. Why are rats and mice different?

And to further drag this point along. Let’s compare the mice to the other parents.

The mice – whom on normal non-Gaiman terms would be considered evil, filthy things, seem to represent something good, perhaps one of the only things that are good in this novel.

The other parents start off in the book as being good. We normally think of our mother and father as being loving, kind, and supportive of us. They are meant to protect us from all harm. Originally the other parents were supposed to be better versions of Coraline’s own real parents, but we soon found out that they actually weren’t as kind and loving and supportive as they seemed to be. They wouldn’t have protected Coraline or kept her safe. In fact, these two individuals we automatically assume are going to be a positive force in Coraline’s life are actually EVIL  and a source of harm to Coraline and all whom they come into contact with.

That’s kind of an interesting little juxtaposition there, isn’t it?

4. Is Neil Gaiman wiccan or a witch or something?

Of all of the parts of the book, these were the elements that bothered me the most as a Christian. Gaiman seems to want to chalk it up as being just magic based on the reading guide and his answers to the questions in the Q&A for the 10th anniversary edition of Coraline but this is more than just Hansel and Gretel era-magic. I mean – tea leaves? Really? Miss Spink and Miss Forcible seem like true witches.

But are they evil? I think it’s debatable honestly. I don’t usually see them as being evil or bad the way you’d normally view a witch. This kind of goes back to the idea with the mice – something often seen as being evil is actually good.

But what is going on with those dogs? The images didn’t seem as strong in the book as they were in the movie, but they were equally as disturbing. They literally have a collection of dead dogs in their home. When their dogs get sick they don’t seem to really jump on helping them. I mean I know they take the dog to the vet and everything but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that they kind of WANTED the dogs to die so they could stuff them and grow their collection.

And doesn’t this kind of fit in with the theme of the dolls? Stuffed animals are like dolls right? It’s better to kill real, living things, to substitute them for stuffed items that can be whatever you want them to be or something along those lines? Creeeeeeeeeeeeepy, but it is what it is, right?

Also, who can forget that weird little song Coraline sings about be a “twitchy, witchy girl?”

Is Coraline the witch? Hmm…it’s possible.

5. Does Gaiman believe in God? How does Gaiman view God?

The whole magic and witchcraft stuff is only a small part of a larger whole in Coraline. He seems to be really commenting on bigger issues connecting back to religion and his views on God. I don’t think it’s any wonder that my Baptist friends aren’t all a big fan of this novel because these parts made me a little uncomfortable and these are some reasons why I may hesitate in recommending this book or movie to my future children one day.

First off, let’s talk about the other mother again. Who is she really? She is very evil almost like Satan, but I guess not that evil. Is she playing God? The novel does talk quite a bit about how the other mother created a world for the children and she’d create a world for Coraline if she’ll only agree to live with her. It explains how she could create something new every day so that Coraline would never be bored, but there is no outside because she hasn’t created that yet.

Christians believe that God created all things. We can have paradise in heaven if we only follow Christ and accept him in our heart. Coraline can have all things if she only allows her mother to sew buttons in her eyes and stay there forever. It’s different, but similiar, no?

Also let’s talk about those souls that the other mother is collecting from the children. This seems really really satanic to me. You always here of those sayings of “I sold my soul to the devil”, isn’t that exactly what these kids here have done? Are they in hell? It sure as heck doesn’t seem like they’re in heaven, that’s for sure.

I also want to mention that this doesn’t seem to be the first instance where Gaiman has commented about religion and God, for better or for worst. He has another novel for adults called American Gods. Now, I haven’t read it at all and have no idea what it’s about so I can’t really say anything other than this: it makes you wonder.

These are just five main questions I had after reading Coraline. Now that I’ve written them all out and analyzed this book in over 2600 words I can’t say that I am anywhere closer to knowing the answer to my questions. In fact, I’d argue that I have even MORE questions and I don’t even know if I liked the book or detested it.

To describe this book in just one word, only one word is needed to sum it all up:

WEIRD.


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Image Credits: Amazon

I know I shouldn’t have expected much from this book and honestly being someone who is completely obsessed with J.D. Salinger’s classic, The Catcher and the Rye I shouldn’t have picked up this piece of trash (it does not deserve to be called a book) in the first place, but curiosity got the best of me. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The thing is I just really love Holden Caulfield and I’ve missed him and was excited about the possibility of seeing him brought back to life again, even if it was 60 years later, with a new story. However, this isn’t the aged version of Holden Caulfield that I thought it would be.

This piece of trash starts off with Holden Caulfield in a retirement home. He seems to be surprised by the fact that he’s old and I’m left wondering if he has dementia or Alzheimer’s or another degenerative disease. He is really confused which seems out of character for Holden. However, I tried to put that past me and give the book a chance. But the thing is California makes it hard to give this piece of trash a chance because the more you read, the worst it gets.

This piece of trash didn’t really have a plot or a point or a purpose or any kind of organized structure. I guess that explains why the book was self-published (I mean absolutely no offense to those who are actual credible writers that self-publish…I just mean for this guy clearly there were no other options – who would want to publish this garbage under than him?). Most of this piece of trash is just about Holden wandering around aimlessly. He escapes his retirement home and then just goes to New York and Boston and randomly comes across people from his childhood like Stradlater. Phoebe’s there too and Holden’s obsession with her is downright creepy and leaves the reader feeling uncomfortable. I can understand how Holden would still see his sister 60 years later, but Stradlater? Really? And I mean it’s 60 years later – there’s a chance he could’ve even been dead to be honest. The chances of Holden staying in touch are slim to none and the book even seems to acknowledge that in a way; Holden seems surprised to find Stradlater. It doesn’t make much sense; it just feels like the author’s lame attempt to re-write The Catcher in the Rye and you don’t mess with a classic.

There’s some new characters in this piece of trash, too and they come off as well, trashy. Charlie is one of the main characters and I’m totally confused on who she is and why she’s in this sad excuse of a book. I think she was one of Holden’s students? But when was he ever a teacher? Did he ever even go to or finish college? California never addresses those questions – he just randomly places her in the book and the next thing you know she’s having a threesome with her boyfriend and the elderly Holden Caulfield. It’s sick and there’s no reason why it needs to be in the story at all.

Another noteworthy character in this piece of trash is J.D. Salinger himself. Yes, because it’s totally normal to write a spinoff of a book and to throw the original author in their randomly. Sure. Salinger has no purpose in being in this book, but then again neither does anyone else. I have no idea what was even going on in this part of the book. I know Holden found a notebook and he went to return it to his son but his son was J.D. Salinger? Or did I misread it? Does California even know which is which? Sometimes I don’t think he even knows what he’s doing. It made no sense. If Salinger was his son then everything would be backwards. Salinger is older than Holden? I don’t even know…

But I haven’t even gotten to the best part of this trash. Have I told you about Holden’s bladder yet? Now I know it might sound weird for me to talk about Holden’s bladder and you might think it’s something you really don’t need to know about, but trust me when I say that John David California wants you to know about Holden Caulfield’s bladder. In fact, California went so far as to make sure he wrote about Holden’s bladder no less than every 2-3 pages throughout the entire novel. I don’t think this piece of trash has a point at all, but if it did I bet it would probably have something to do with Holden’s bladder.

What do I mean by “Holden’s bladder?” I mean just that. I know every single time Holden has a full bladder, when he think he might have a full bladder, when his bladder is so full it causes him pain, and when he doesn’t realize he has a full bladder until it’s too late. I already mentioned that most of the novel involves Holden aimlessly wandering around. I lied. He’s not “just” aimlessly walking around – he’s also urinating on everything in sight because his bladder is always overflowing and there’s never a bathroom around but if there is one Holden would rather not use it. Why does the reader need to know this? We really don’t, trust me, California. The only reason I can think of as to why the sad excuse of an author decided this was important was because it was a sad attempt to show that Holden is 60 years older and obviously developed urinary incontinence.

California’s portrayal of an elderly Holden is disgraceful at best. He seems to play on the stereotype that all elderly men live in retirement homes, can’t control their bladders, and are confused. This isn’t just stereotyping, it feels like blatant ageism. Holden deserves better than this.

After reading 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye I’m left feeling disgusted and ashamed to even admit I’ve read this. It also makes me want to go rushing back to the original classic The Catcher in the Rye. I bet I’ll love it and appreciate it now more than ever.

I’m also left with two words to say:

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry to Mr. Salinger who never wanted this book released and who went so far as to have it banned from the US (I had to order it online specially to obtain a copy). I’m sorry for not respecting his wishes. I’m sorry that the book was ever written. I’m sorry the book was published. I’m sorry the book is banned from all parts of the world and that more people are still reading this piece of trash.

Holden deserved better and so did Salinger.


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Image Credits: Rhythm Agency

Hey guys! Happy New Years Eve! It’s about that time of year again where I look back at the past year and reflect on some of the greatest moments of the year. I came into 2016 pretty broken. I was in the midst of dealing with a difficult breakup, I was stuck in a job that I could no longer stand, and I was about as miserable as could be.

2016 was by no means a perfect year. I’ve been battling a terrible illness for the past couple of months and was recently diagnosed with bronchitis. My beloved cat and friend, Gizmo also passed away at the ripe old approximate age of 21.

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Rest in Peace…Gizmo

But overall, despite how many people claim that 2016 was their “worst year ever”, 2016 ended up being pretty good for me. Here 6 of my best moments from 2016.

  1. FINALLY going to NYC…(Twice, actually).

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I have been obsessed with NYC ever since I was a little kid. I swear, I must have been born a city slicker. However, up until 2016 I’ve never actually been to NYC, my loved was based solely on what I read about it o seen on TV or in movies.

I had plans in the past to go. I was supposed to go to see the Statue of Liberty for a field trip in 7th grade, but when the terrorists attacked the twin towers on 9/11/2001 when I was in 6th grade, so naturally that field trip was cancelled.

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I was also going to go on September 11, 2013 for a job interview I had with the Christian Post. However, at the time I wasn’t exactly in the same place as I am today with my faith. I was on the fence about the job and unsure about it being in NYC which was pretty far from where I lived. I received another job offer to work at a local SEO agency the day before my scheduled interview, so I decided to accept that job offer instead.

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Fast forward to 2.5 years later and my magical job suddenly wasn’t so magical. I was unhappy and more than ready to move on.

I applied to more than 100 jobs, some of which were in NYC. When I got a call back to interview for an Assistant Digital Producer job at Scholastic I was stoked. Working for Scholastic seemed like a dream to me. I grew up reading every scholastic book imaginable and was obsessed with the book fairs. This love and obsession carried on to me even in my adult life.

The interview was pretty much a disaster. The recruiter was super nice and that preliminary screening went well, but when I met with the person who I guess would’ve been my boss it all went down hill. I thought a digital producer was basically the same thing as a content coordinator but I quickly found out I was completely wrong.

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I still don’t know what an Assistant Digital Producer does at Scholastic, but I know it’s definitely not blogging, social media, or content marketing…

But I had a great time in NYC anyway. Just being able to see the office was amazing and NYC was everything I thought it would be. I definitely still want to move there.

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I loved my first trip to NYC so much that I decided to come back there to celebrate my 26th birthday. I went to eat lunch at Black Tap NYC. This restaurant was all the rage at the time thanks to their famous milkshakes. The restaurant was actually really disappointing and the staff was horrible, but the rest of the trip was great. I was really just in complete awe of the city. I enjoyed going to the M&M Factory and Bubba Gump and exploring Times Square. I can’t wait to get back there again.

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2. Seeing Good Charlotte…Twice.

For those of you who don’t know, Good Charlotte is by  far my favorite band. I saw them perform for the first time in 100+ degree weather outside on Father’s Day at Festival Pier in Penn’s Landing back in 2010. Since then I’ve seen them Cherry Hill, at the TLA multiple times, and most recently at the Fillmore. I’ve seen them a total of 5 or 6 times, two of which were in 2016.

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Seeing them in 2016 was especially special for me because it was the first time I could REALLY hear them. They sounded just as amazing as I remembered. I liked that I could hear everything they said when they were just talking, too. Before receiving my cochlear implants in 2014 and 2015 I would miss out a lot on their talks to the crowd and teasing each other. The Madden twins have such a great sense of humor that really comes out when they play shows together. It was great to finally get to hear it in these shows.

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Both of the shows were amazing. The TLA will probably always be my favorite venue, but the Fillmore was pretty awesome, too. I like the atmosphere of the TLA better and have a lot of great memories at the TLA, but I think the sound quality at the Fillmore was better. While both shows were incredible I’ll have to say the one I saw in November at the Fillmore was probably their best show ever. It was the perfect blend of old and new songs and so very nostalgic. It was like my childhood come to life in musical form.

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I can’t wait to see them again. For those of you who really, really, really love me they will be performing/traveling with this amazing warped tour/emo/punk cruise ship package thing in October. If you buy it for me I promise to love you for forever…just saying…

3. Working at Becker’s School Supplies

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Image Credits: Becker’s School Supplies on Facebook

This one probably comes as a surprise for most of you guys.. My job at Becker’s didn’t really work out. I actually didn’t get this job originally. It’s kind of a funny story. I found the open SEO Marketer position accidentally on Monster.com, a website I rarely ever used during my job search (I was pretty loyal/exclusive to LinkedIn). I applied and got an interview pretty quickly and thought I had nailed it. I couldn’t have asked for a better interview. I got along with everyone  so well. Being obsessed with school supplies and wearing paperclip earrings to my interview also helped a lot haha.

Imagine my devastation when I received a phone call while at work on April Fool’s Day of all days. I couldn’t believe it.

But the story didn’t end there. I got another call from them about a week later. Apparently things didn’t work out with the first person they hired, so I was next in line. Eager to get our of the miserable job I was currently stuck in, I quickly accepted.

Becker’s wasn’t a bad job at all. It was actually almost anything you could ask for in a job. It was pretty much the complete opposite from my current job which was a plus. It was a family owned business that benefitted the education system in a positive way. I was honestly just excited to get out of the agency life. I also liked that it was a small family-owned business that was around for many years. But my favorite parts? Everyone was sooooooooo nice and professional and there was none of the typical office drama or politics.

I got along great with everyone and was well-liked. It was refreshing to see and work with various members of the Becker family each day. They owned the company and were at the top of the tier, but they never made you feel like you were below them. Everyone was all part of the same team. They valued and respected all of their employees. I’ll never forget how the first thing Kurt Becker, the company’s treasurer, asked me was what I thought about the website and what I’d fix. I was an employee at that time for less than a week and he still valued my opinion and expertise enough to want to know my ideas for change.

As great as Becker’s was though, it wasn’t right for me. I spent years working in SEO in the past, but it was much different. I learned that when it comes to SEO, I’m all about creating content such as blogs and other website content that is optimized for SEO. I’m not much for Google Analytics (although I’m learning!) or any of the data/analytical side of things which this position dealt a lot with. Also, while I loved school supplies my love for school supplies didn’t quite match up with the products the company sold. I thought this was a company that sold a bunch of notebooks and pens, but it was really all early childhood education supplies like furniture for childcare centers.

I used to love product meetings where vendors will show us their stuff and try to persuade us to purchase it, mainly because I’m a child and I love to play with fake sand and dinosaurs and legos and read picture books, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around early education. I never went to pre-school, let alone daycare as a kid. It was a whole new field for me.

When I accepted the job with Becker’s I still had a lot of other job applications out and was negotiating with Penn Medicine. I wasn’t sure what would happen with that opportunity. It sounded good, but I have also been negotiating for several months and nothing was happening and I really needed a new job. I was also looking into grad school and applying for the TEP program. My future was so unclear. Everything was a risk.

I have absolutely no regrets about Becker’s. I learned so much about my career interests, job preferences, and how to turn down a job that isn’t working for you. I left them with the best gift I had to give: I referred them to a former co-worker who I saw as an expert in SEO that I knew was interested in the position. She could do for them everything they needed and wanted in terms of SEO that I didn’t know how to do. They hired her almost immediately. The rest is history.

4.Working at Penn Medicine

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Image Credits: Henrietta Hudson 

While it was quite the long process, I did end up getting hired by Penn Medicine in 2016. I initially turned down the position to work at Becker’s, but they begged me to reconsider. Isn’t it funny how things work out? I applied in January and was finally hired in June.

I honestly wasn’t sure about Penn when I first applied. I previously did an internship with Slack Medical journals and really, really, really hated it. It was so boring and technical and confusing. I was afraid Penn would be the same, yet for some reason this felt really different. I almost backed out of this interview several times because of other interviews I had (first with Scholastic and then with Bernie Robbins jewelers). I am so glad that my mom and some of my friends and former colleagues pushed me to go and keep pursuing this opportunity, even when it seemed hopeless.

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Working at Penn has been a blessing to me in so, so, so many ways. First off, I really love the location. Like I stated previously, I’m a city slicker. We’re located right in University City. It’s a safe part of Philly and there’s so much stuff going on! We’re within walking distance of many restaurants which makes lunch time fun, especially if we have a new member to our team. I recently tried an Indian buffet with my co-workers and in the summer we’d frequently meet up for green smoothies from the fruit lady’s food truck or frozen yogurt from Kiwi yogurt.

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The content team at the #LoveFest Pep Rally

Secondly, I love my job itself. I get to do my two favorite things: write a lot and work on social media. I also get to teach my co-workers what I learn, specifically with our new social media content management system, Sprinklr. I’m never bored. I learn constantly and am always challenged. I didn’t know much about medical conditions initially, but have since learned so many incredible things. I’m in awe by Dr. Carl June’s work with immunotherapy and cancer. All of the neurological conditions constantly blow my mind (did you know there’s a procedure where they turn off and test different parts of the brain to see what if anything will be lost if they cut away part of it?). It’s fascinating stuff!

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My co-workers are also the best. They are so talented, kind, and hard-working. It’s also a very professional atmosphere free of office drama and politics. While everyone is always working really hard, we also have fun together with team building exercises such as monthly full staff meetings, our pep rally, and our Christmas bowling party. We are also starting a professional development book club which should be fun.

5. Becoming an Adjunct Professor AND a Grad School Student at Rowan University

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Image Credits: Rowan

Of all of the possible things that could’ve happened this year, I never imagined I’d become a college professor, but that is exactly what happened.

I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school to earn my MA in Writing for years. I didn’t want to get my MA originally. I was tired and burnt out after earning to BA’s and I didn’t think an MA was all that important to be honest. But after receiving bilateral cochlear implants I wrote a book and now I want so additional help to finish writing/revising it and publish it.

Still, I wasn’t sure how this would work. I didn’t know at the time that Penn has an amazing benefits package that would cover the cost of my tuition. I just knew that financial aid wasn’t an option with grad school, so I was on my own and grad school doesn’t come cheap.

When Professor Block emailed me about grad school and mentioned the TEP program which allows students to teach while earning their MA and pays for at least part of their tuition costs, I saw it as a sign that I was meant to go to grad school and apply.

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I knew I like teaching, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I ultimately did. I didn’t expect to get so attached to my students. I think teaching is one of the best things to ever happen to me, honestly. I love it so much. I love feeling like I’m making a difference and seeing my students improve as writers.

Grad school’s not bad, either. Some of the writing projects for Core were fun. It’s not the most interesting year for me though. I feel like I have a lot of pre-reqs which can be a little dry to take now to get to the good stuff like writing the memoir and non-fiction writing. But still I’ve really loved just being back in school again. I love the challenge of it all. I love learning.

It hasn’t been easy. Juggling a full time job in the city, teaching three times a week, and taking 2 graduate level courses a semester is no joke. But I love the thrill of the challenge and being constantly under pressure. I feel like I am constantly working towards a goal and I feel I’ve been fairly successful so far.

6. Going to Washington DC

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DC is another place I had plans to go to multiple times, but never actually went to until this year. I was first going to go on a field trip in 7th grade, but alas the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on 9/11/2001 when I was in 6th grade caused the trip to get cancelled. Then in 2014 or whenever it was I was going to meet Casey there and get back together with him, but in a really bizarre turn of events he cancelled our plans and ran off and got engaged and married to some other girl…but that’s another story…

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Every year Rowan picks a book to have the University read together as a whole. This year the book was Americanah! by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I don’t know what the book was about because I didn’t actually read it lol. Anyway though, the book inspired the University to take a free trip to DC that was open to all students and faculty and since I’ve always wanted to go to DC anyway, I jumped at the opportunity to go.

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I was nervous about the trip at first since I didn’t know anyone who was going. Who would I hang out with so I wouldn’t get lost? Should I go as a student or a faculty member since I was actually both? I hung out with faculty originally until I met a faculty member’s son who was a current senior at Rowan and closest in age to me. We hung out for the rest of the trip and became fast friends and had a blast.

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We went to the museum of African history, an African art museum, and one of the Smithsonians, though we didn’t have much time at the Smithsonian. It was a really cool trip. I’m a museum and art nerd so I love looking at and learning about this stuff. The only down side was that the main African history museum was realllllllllllllly crowded and you could hardly move.

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We also ate at a soul food restaurant. I don’t eat soul food much, if ever, so it was a different experience for me. I had these oysters cooked in some kind of a hot sauce that were really good.

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It was a really nice trip especially since it helped me to get out of my comfort zone. I am glad that I did end up befriending someone despite not knowing anyone and that I took the risk to go to a new place with no one I knew. I’d definitely do something like this again in the future and I hope that in 2017 Rowan provides me with more opportunities to do so!

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7. Going to Kentucky.

My trip to Kentucky was incredible and perhaps the highlight of 2016.

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My mom and I went with Gloucester County Community Church (GCCC). I’ve been following the making of the Ark from day 1 a few years back and when I heard it opened in the summer I couldn’t wait to go. We previously looked into driving down for my mom’s birthday in August, but it was too expensive. However, going with the church would save us money and we’d take a bus with everyone so transportation wouldn’t be an issue.

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Our trip lasted 3 days and consisted with a few hours at the Creation Museum followed by almost a full day at the Ark.

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The Creation Museum was okay. Not quite as good as I was expecting, but still pretty cool. I really loved the dinosaurs. I always liked dinosaurs ever since I was a kid. About a year ago I realized that the bible never mentions the word “dinosaur” so I started to ponder why. I turned to Answers in Genesis and they explained how dinosaurs did exist and were referred to using different words. To see and learn more about this at the museum was neat. Most of the dinosaurs weren’t as big as made out to be and the dinosaurs used to only eat plants as did all animals which the bible clearly states, but few people realize. It was very informative.

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Noah’s Ark was amazing. You don’t realize how big it is until you see if for yourself. It was also incredible biblically accurate. They had all of the animals that they had back then and the cages and everything so well done. I enjoyed learning about Noah and his family and the work that they did on the Ark as well. It made me thirsty to learn more.

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Overall, 2016 was an incredible year. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for me!


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Image Credits: Jeffery’s Jam

So…finishing the 30 day writing challenge from May in June…probably not happening. I suck, I’m sorry…but at least I’m still trying, right?

I left off on day 23 which tells me to write about a family member I dislike. I feel like that is just asking for trouble though, so I’d rather not complete that one. Plus, the bible tell us in 1 John 2:9 “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.”  I may not be close with most of my extended family, but I’m trying my best not to “hate” or even “dislike” them even though I may not agree with many of their decisions.

So anyway, moving alone to day 24: Write About Something You Miss

This reminds me SO much of Holden Caulfield! We both have one big thing in common that I think in many ways defines who we are as people and it may just be why I’m so obsessed with him and why I feel so connected to his character…

We both miss our childhoods.

Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, Holden constantly reflects on his childhood and spends so much time longing for his past. It’s seen at the end when he watches the carousel, it’s seen with the way he wants to catch kids in the field of rye so as to save them and their innocence and their childhood, it’s seen with the way he idolizes Phoebe and misses Allie. It’s seen all throughout the novel.

I am much the same. I miss the simplicities of my childhood. I miss all of the things I used to do. I remember when following the law and going to school for free for 7 or 8 hours a day 5 times a week seemed like torture. Now,  I long for those days. I miss all of the classes and the lessons I learned. I miss my teachers and my classmates. I miss being a part of the school newspaper, yearbook club, Interact, etc. I miss how easy it was to fill up your time and to make friends with people. Now, it seems like it’s impossible to have free time to do things I enjoy and to make friends.

I miss playing sports. I miss all of the teams I played on — basketball, track, tennis, field hockey, soccer, etc. I miss having a basketball net in my backyard along with a trampoline which was later replaced with a screenhouse and a badminton set. I miss when my sister and I were best friends and nothing bad happened to come between us ever and things with us were never weird. I miss riding my bike in Pitman down that ramp by the abandoned bank.

I miss when the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to me was being betrayed by my “best friend” who told the entire school I had a crush on someone and then tried everything she could to embarrass me.

I miss all of those little weird things I used to do like dying my hair blue, wearing black lipsticks and spikes and bike chains and declaring myself “punk”, “emo”, and “goth” all at once. I miss how free that all made me feel.

I miss the summers I spent with my childhood best friend on my front porch in Pitman playing cards, eating ice cream, and arguing about who the best American Idol contestants were.

I miss not having to pay bills, having no real responsibilities in life.

I miss my grandparents and how I used to spend all of my time outside of school with them. I miss being able to tell them every little detail about my life.

Yes, I miss my childhood. I miss being a kid. My childhood was so much more than just being a kid. It was the older version of myself – my former self, whom I still have bits and pieces of, but will never have the entirety of because it has been sucked up by my adult life.

I wish I could back in time and hold on to my childhood, just for a second longer. I’m sure I’d appreciate it more than I did back then. Just like I know Holden would, too.



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