18 January 2011

Post 297: A Blue So Dark

A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler.  ISBN: 9780738719269.

Caution: There's going to be a very minor spoiler about a very minor character and Aura's reaction with said character.  If you don't like any kind of spoiler whatsoever... I would like to know why you read book blogs.  So please watch this (not my video), and then leave a comment about it, here or there or wherever instead of continuing to read this post.

Okay, now that those people are gone I can talk about Angela "the Freak" Frieson.  Angela is a pretty minor character, having only two or three scenes in which she makes an "actual" appearance, but Aura likes to throw her in at odd moments because Frieson is (from Aura's viewpoint) obsessed with dissection.  Thiiiiiiis is not so much the case, but Aura is 15 and is overlooking the fact that everyone, even someone as close to her as her best friend, might be have problems they're dealing with.  And so Aura, instead of taking a step back and looking at the problem from someone else's viewpoint, decides to label Frieson as a freak because Aura's problems are more home-centric and probably because teenagers seem to love a pecking order and more specifically love not being at the bottom of it.  It's a very teenage response to things as roles and pecking orders are useful to teenagers in determining where they would like to fit in in life, or life as they perceive it.

Unfortunately, despite all of Aura's growth as a character from the "I'm the only one who has problems" phase to the "okay, other people have problems" growing up stage, she doesn't include Frieson in this growth.  Maybe it's asking too much of a just-turned-16-year-old to apply lessons they learned in one area of their life (i.e. my best friend who is a teenage mother got kicked out of her house and the father left and won't help support the kid) and maybe apply that to another area of her life (i.e. in theory Frieson may be "freaking" out because her parents are redneck trash who have wasted grandma's college fund on beer and Nascar tickets so she has to excel in order to get into Harvard so she can get far, far away and never look back).  Frieson actually seems like a fairly stable and reasonable character if you look at it from a not-Aura standpoint.  Aura has been skipping a lot of school and she and Frieson are lab partners.  So while Frieson has been doing all of the work, she's concerned that Aura is going to drag down her grades or otherwise inhibit her potential to excel.  This. is. understandable.

What is unfortunate is that young people who put that much stress on academic success are still seen as "freaks."  We're all about our young people excelling at sports, even to the point of almost being proud when we learn the star quarterback in high school has had three concussions and is still playing.  Meanwhile the person who wants to be the State Math Champion gets funny looks and a "why the hell would you want to do that?" response.  Everyone has different talents and those talents should be celebrated and encouraged; it is sad that certain abilities get placed higher in society than others.  It is especially saddening to see academic pursuits placed lower than athletics in what is supposedly a learning institution.

So to the Angela Friesons out there, I understand.  You will do great things.  They may not be what you planned, but at least you will never become a dull and boring person, because you have your own minds.  A mind that is developed and honed is something you will cherish in the long run.  You will be able to think yourself into fits of hilarity, moments of profundity, and states of joy.  For all that it is, the mind usually lasts much longer than the body, especially when you don't go ramming it into some 300 pound linebacker on the other team.

My review can be found on Goodreads, and despite my complaints I ended up not hating this book. 
LibsNote: Free copy received from publisher's booth at ALA 2010.

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