Thursday, 28 April 2011
Review: This is All by Aidan Chambers
a review In Which Tesni Fangirls.
Summary (from Goodreads): Using a pillow book as her form, nineteen-year-old Cordelia Kenn sets out to write her life for her unborn daughter. What emerges is a portrait of an extraordinary girl who writes frankly of love, sex, poetry, nature, and, most of all, of herself in the world. As she attempts to capture “all” of herself on paper, Cordelia maddens, fascinates, and ultimately seduces the reader in this tour de force from a writer who has helped redefine literature for young adults. A book not to be missed by any serious reader.
Review: I honestly have no idea where I ought to start. I've spent the last week entirely engrossed in This is All, and now I finished it's like all I can do is completely fangirl over it and want to re-read the whole thing over and over again.
It's like a journey in some respects, that begins when Cordelia is fifteen and ends when she's about twenty. The book is her life, and the reader is like her shadow so it kind of becomes a part of theirs, too.
At some points in the book it makes for very confusing reading. Part two of the book is split so that you have to read all the left sides of the page from 200 to about 400, then go back to 200 again and read all the right pages. Also part four of the book, which chronicles her creepy experience with Cal, a man who's obsessed with her, will cut suddenly from her talking about what's happening to her to her thoughts on other, completely irrelevant things. It's actually very clever in that sense; On one hand you want to whizz through those parts of the book to get back to the central plot, but on the other when Cordy's experiences with Cal are so terrifying, the interludes about school, sleep etc seem almost like relief and a diversion.
I loved Cordelia for the range of emotions she possessed, and the variety of reactions she could get from me; one minute I would be shouting "Yes! Life feels like that! Poetry is like that, and loneliness, and music is that satisfying. If you were real and I would totally follow you around everywhere", The next I wanted to hug her; others she made me facepalm (the "It's...it's your period" scene *cringes* 'nuff said), others she made me want to cry. She's intelligent but naïve, romantic but selfish, sometimes intense and others silly. How does Aidan Chambers, a man and an adult, manage to write the thoughts of a teenage girl so powerfully and so personally? There are some sections about periods, masturbation and the appeal of breasts; sex is quite an important topic. It's quite a mature read, certainly, and some of the topics I imagine a lot of parents wouldn't want their little darlings to be reading; but all I can say to them is to just deal with it. It's an entirely enlightening, frank book.
If I said I didn't like Will, that would be lying. However, if I said I liked him, that also wouldn't be true. There were some moments when I really wanted to slap him and shriek; "But you care about Cordelia and you need her and she needs you! The balance of the universe can only be restored if you love one another!" I hated him for his actions, or lack thereof. Other times, however, I just wanted to steal him for myself, and I very much envied Cordelia. That's part of the glory of the book; it portrays love in an entirely realistic way, ups and downs; Take for instance their "sex saga". Aidan Chambers has eight hundred pages to build up a really deep emotional connection between the two of them. It's not just lurrrve at first sight, complications ensue, they break up and Cordy learns a valid life lesson. There's way more substance to it than that.
Miss Martin. MISS MARTIN IS JULIE FROM NOW I KNOW. When I realised this I totally punched the air. And she's all kinds of awesome in This is All because she has a deeper understanding of herself, and after taking on Nik she's pointing even more people in the direction of fulfillment. And she's an English teacher, too, so she reads books, which is always a huge hit with me.
Now onto Edward and Cal *shudders*. They're both...yeah. I absolutely loathe them both, but then I think I was supposed to. Note to self: Never go out with a man in his thirties who works in sewage. Especially not if you yourself are only seventeen. Cordy's experience with Edward was one of the only points in the book I wanted to slap her. Why? What did she see in him? I guess there was a lot of psychological stuff going on about it; how after she breaks up with Will and Izumi goes back to Japan, she needs to feel loved and he makes her feel sexy and mature. As for Cal *shudders again*. The less said about him the better. He's creepy right from the start, and you know he cannot bode well. More I shall not say.
The ending. I totally didn't see it coming. More I shall not say because it would totally ruin everything if I gave it away. But the impact is sudden and entirely frank; one of those endings that both makes me want to burst into tears and smile at the same time. It's also kind of like Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness in the way it ends; how when you've finished it all you can do is just stand there in an entirely shocked and/or blown away manner.
In conclusion= Whoooah. Aidan Chambers you are amazing for being able to write that well and that convincingly, to the point where you forget that it's only a story.
In Three Words: incredible incredible incredible.
Recommended for: mature teenagers. Adults. Everyone.