Monday, May 9, 2016

May Discussion, YA Book Club

    I love my book club discussion group because they sometimes help me to re-think my perception of a book I have recently read. The YA novel we discussed on Sunday was The 100 by Kass Morgan. People within the group seemed to have very mixed feelings about it. Many folks were eager to read it because they had seen the show on the CW, which is apparently surprisingly good, and came to the book with high expectations. Some of them were disappointed because they didn't think the book explored issues in as much depth as the TV show. Additionally, the TV show producers and writers have made an effort to have a diverse cast, and since most of the characters in the book are not described in detail, the diversity in terms of racial representation and character development is not as apparent. I will say that their comments convinced me to order Season 1 of The 100 TV show on, especially since it's not that expensive.
    I realized that the book was not high brow literature, but I enjoyed reading it and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. I described it as being "like candy" because it was plot-driven, fast paced, and engaging, and it was the perfect read during the end of the semester when I was stressed and pressed for time. The only disappointment I had was that it fell back on common tropes, such as choosing between an old reliable romantic partner and a new exciting one and the whole Romeo and Juliet/West Side Story trope of a rich girl falling in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. We've read those story many times, so if you're going to do them in a novel, you have to do them really well.
     That being said, there were elements of the plot that I really liked. I appreciated Octavia's struggle with addiction and how Bellamy handled the situation, along with the Lost-like plot of teenagers on an apparently deserted planet trying to survive. Also, I don't want to spoil it, but the ending had a great twist that made me tempted to read the rest of the series.
     My book club group mates did make me more skeptical of the book, though. They made some valid points about the lack of character development. Also, although I am not as much of a hard core Science Fiction fan as some of my book club mates, I saw their points about the world building being underdone. It was the kind of discussion I wish we had more of in my high school English classes. I liked how Will, our book club leader, mainly let us have control of the discussion and steered us only when we got a little off course, as all of the Avid Bookshop book club leaders have done a good job of that.
    On the flip side, one book club member who said she did not like the book when she came in said she disliked it less after our discussion. :) Therefore, it seems that we're able to influence each other. I saw more of the book's flaws after our discussion, whereas some book club members seemed to appreciate it more.
     As we discussed future book club possibilities, other points of discussion came up, the main one being the lack of gender neutral bathrooms in some buildings on UGA's campus. However, there are more inclusive steps being taken in this direction, as the UGA main library now has gender neutral bathrooms, and they're becoming more open about the reasons for this decision. The group members seem to feel comfortable around each other and able to discuss issues beyond the book, which is nice. Most of us do not know each other outside of book club, and we range in age from early 20s to early 50s. To me, it's been uplifting to see how much of a community we've formed.
     I tend to go to some sessions of the YA, Comics/Graphic Novels, and Star Wars book clubs at Avid, depending on my other time commitments and interest in the books. I am now reading Bloodline (Star Wars) by Claudia Gray, which is about Leia after Return of the Jedi but before The Force Awakens, and I'm enjoying it so far. In addition to exposing me to great books, these book clubs are a nice outlet for me outside of my Ph.D. program, and I enjoy the new friends I've made because of them.