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Book Review: Shout

Shout Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

This book was so beautifully written that I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. The overall writing style in this book reminds me so much of Ellen Hopkins’s young adult, contemporary, poetry prose. Like her works, Shout does a wonderful job of telling Laurie Halse Anderson’s story in poetic format. The difference being though that her story is a memoir, based on her own life experiences that she had during her adolescence.

For me, that made this book that much more beautiful. I found her story from teenager to young adult relatable as she talks about her experience with sexual assault and how that helped shape her into the adult she is now. Her poetry style flowed very well and was easy for me as a reader to follow along. As a result, I found myself wanting to continue reading her story to see how she handled her life experiences.

Another element of this memoir I enjoy is the honesty with which Anderson talks about sexual assault. Not only with regards to how it affected her own life but also how she’s seen her writing about it impact the lives of others. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned this in any of my blog posts before or not, but her book Speak is one of my favorite books. The first time I read it, I knew it was an important book that I’d always have on my bookshelf and it’s a story I’ve read countless times. With Shout, I find myself feeling the same way because the story being told within its pages is just as important.

I appreciate that this book brings up important topics such as sexual assault and censorship when it comes to allowing children to read certain books. Both topics need to be addressed, especially in books. It saddens me to see so little has changed when it comes to these topics and I appreciate Anderson’s words bringing this truth to light and letting us know she wants to continue being a voice of change.

There is very little with this memoir I didn’t enjoy, except maybe certain poems didn’t flow very well. Or that I found when reading certain parts of the overall story didn’t feel quite as strong as others. I overall loved each of the sections in this book, but I sometimes found the writing worked well in one section over the other. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the content, I just didn’t find that section quite as enjoyable to read as the other. It was interesting and caught my attention but didn’t speak to me quite as much.

Either way, I overall enjoyed reading Shout. To the point where I’m at a loss of words to describe my thoughts on this book. It’s a good book, full of content that gets straight to the point and leaves quite the punch. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it, especially to those who love poetry/prose and memoirs. It’s also good for young adult readers and those who enjoy reading books that deal with difficult topics.

What I Hope 2019 Brings For Me

2019 Happy New Year

“Take a leap of faith and begin this wonderous new year by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving source—a sower of dreams—just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach

Hello everyone! I hope you all are doing alright and that the start of 2019 has treated you well. Personally, I’m excited about this year right now because I recently just bought myself a new laptop that was giving me issues, which I’ve since resolved. So this’ll be the very first blog post I’ve written on here since I bought it, which makes me really happy.

For me, 2018 started off with loss then became a better year closer to the end with new opportunities I never expected to be within reach. The summer was the most difficult part of 2018 because my partner lost someone very close to him who I was just starting to really get to know. So as the year went on, we dealt with that loss together, which resulted in further strengthening our now two-year relationship. While I know losing someone you care about is never easy, I believe we’ll both get through this together and come out stronger as a couple.

2018 did have some good moments for me too though. There was definitely a lot of change as my grandmother in Pennsylvania sold her home and moved to a retirement community in Florida. But I also experienced change myself with a new job opportunity I never expected. While I’m still getting acquainted at my new job with how everything works, I truly believe this opportunity will benefit me in the long run with more job experience and lead me closer to my dreams.

While I haven’t been reading and writing (on my blog and outside of my blog) as much as I’d have liked in 2018, I had an opportunity with my writing I didn’t expect which still has me awestruck. One of my poems is published in an anthology, which you can order off of Amazon and on Kindle. In 2018, I officially became an author and I can’t be any more pleased by it because it’s something I definitely didn’t expect to happen for me. Having my writing published to where other people can read something I’ve written is a huge dream of mine. So by having my poem published, I feel like I’ve accomplished one of my dreams, though I hope it’s only the beginning of what’s to come with my writing.

So while I didn’t accomplish everything I’d hoped to accomplish in 2018, I definitely feel proud of what I achieved last year and am thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given.

For 2019, I hope this new year will be more fulfilling than the last. That I’ll be able to continue moving forward towards completing my goals. I hope to continue reading more enjoyable books that I can talk about here on my blog and continue expressing myself with the power of the written word. I don’t necessarily have any set goals for my blog here on WordPress other than to continue writing blog posts that others will enjoy and gaining followers in the process. My main hope with my blog is to continue getting to know other bloggers and to continue being active in the blogging community.

I truly hope 2019 will be a good year and hope you all are having a good 2019 so far. So what do you want from 2019? Please leave a comment expressing what you want from this new year.

 

Why “We Will Not Be Silenced: The Lived Experience of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Told Powerfully Through Poetry, Prose, Essay, and Art” Is Important to Me

We Will Not Be Silenced Book Cover

So, I know this will come as a surprise to many of you. If you follow me on social media at all, you might already know what I’m about to say. I recently submitted a poem I’d written for the opportunity to possibly be included in an anthology that talks about sexual harassment and sexual assault. At the time, I was feeling extremely passionate about those subject matters and an idea for a poem came to me. So I wrote down the words that were flowing through my thoughts and on a whim, submitted my poem to Indie Blu(e) Publishing.

Before this poem, I’ve never ever submitted any writing of mine for publication so I didn’t know what was going to happen. So when I received an email back saying that my poem was going to be accepted to be included in the anthology, I was completely surprised. I didn’t expect this poem I’d written on a whim to be accepted, but I was also happy too for a many number of reasons.

There are many reasons why the subject matter of sexual harassment and sexual assault are important to me. The best way I can describe it is this: I’ve had quite a few experiences of my own where I found myself feeling uncomfortable around someone of the opposite sex. Whenever I was in elementary school, I was bullied a lot by boys my age. When these boys bullied me, a lot of what they did was physical, such as pulling my hair.

Then when I was in middle school (6th grade to be exact) I dealt with having two different boys harassing me. One of the boys told me he wanted to kiss me and that he knew I liked him even though I never once expressed any interest in him.  The other boy would pucker his lips and make kissing noises at me during class. It was to the point where I found myself covering my face with my jacket or putting my head on the table so I could ignore him because he never stopped doing it even after I confronted him about it.

I’ve also had some pretty personal experiences with emotional and verbal abuse throughout my middle school and high school years. Whenever I was in 8th grade, my mother married a man we all thought would be a wonderful addition to our family. Instead, he was emotionally and verbally abusive towards the three of us along with being an alcoholic. The marriage was so bad that the summer before my senior year of high school, my mother decided she had enough and we spent several days packing our things so that we could leave. During that time, my older sister and I stayed the night at various friend’s homes so that we weren’t anywhere near our ex step-father and had friends help us pack until we collected all of our belongings. Those years were some of the roughest years of my life, but despite those terrible times, I’m extremely thankful for them. Because I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t had those experiences in my life.

So for me personally, I believe the “We Will Not Be Silenced” anthology is really important. I believe it’s a really great way for those who have their own personal stories about being sexually harassed and assaulted to come forward creatively. Or anyone that has any other types of stories to open up and share their experiences. And I’m extremely thankful and honored that my poem is within it’s pages.

We Will Not Be Silenced My Poem
The poem I submitted into the “We Will Not Be Silenced” anthology. It’s called “If ‘Boys Will Be Boys,’ Then Girls Are Allowed to be Angry.” There’s more of it on the next page, but I figured I wouldn’t share my whole poem on here.
We Will Not Be Silenced Back Cover
You can even see my name on the back cover, near the bottom.
We Will Not Be Silenced Me Photo 1
Me with “We Will Not Be Silenced” in my hands and our one cat on my lap.

If you’re interested in getting yourself a copy of the anthology, you can order a paperback copy on Amazon here and get it for your Kindle here. You can also send an email to indiebluecollective@gmail.com if you’d like to be placed on the wish list for a copy of the anthology. I would also like to add that seventy percent of the royalties raised above the publishing and promotion costs will be donated to organizations that provide services to sexual harassment and sexual assault survivors, which is another reason why I’m so happy to be a part of this.

I still can’t believe that a poem I’ve written has been published. But I can’t be any happier about it because I’m expressing myself and letting my voice be heard. Please if you can, get yourself a copy of “We Will Not Be Silenced” because there are a lot of powerful voices expressing their truths. From what I’ve read of it so far myself, these stories are pretty amazing. Just know too that if you have your own personal story, don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to me. You aren’t alone and I believe you.

Confessions of A Writer #7: I Love Writing Poetry Too

Robert Frost Poem Image

As someone who deeply loves the written word, one of my favorite ways of expressing emotion is through poetry. So it should come as no surprise that I love writing poetry too.

Poetry is a form of many expressions, from anger to happiness. All it takes is only a few lines for poetry to move me.

I especially love reading poems out loud. I feel whenever I read a poem out loud, I can better hear the flowing rhythms of each line and how they connect to each other.

I love both reading and writing poetry because I feel like it’s a simple way of getting my feelings across. While my emotions in poetry don’t always get expressed the way I want them to, I still find it to be a nice way to write your feelings down.

Since I love poetry so much, I have a couple poems I’ve written and posted here on my blog. My favorite ones include “I Walk Alone,” “Cheating” and “Guarded,” “Victory,” “Welcome Home,” and “Forgiveness.”  I feel like each of these poems I wrote came straight from the heart and are full of the exact emotions I wanted to express.

What about you? Do you love poetry too? If so, are there any poems you’ve written that you’d really like to share? Or are there any poems written by someone else that you wouldn’t mind sharing too?

Book Review: Girls Like Me

Girls Like Me Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Fifteen-year-old Shay Summers is trying to cope with the death of her father, being overweight, and threats from a girl bully in school.  When she falls in love with Blake, a mysterious boy online, insecure Shay doesn’t want to tell him who she is.   But with the help of her two best friends, as well as an assist by Kermit and Miss Piggy, ultimately Shay and Blake’s love prevails. 
     

Girls Like Me is a fun and fresh poetic take on teen angst, social media and online anonymity, and high school romance.

This book was such a delight for me to read. It was quirky, had a diverse set of characters and the writing style was different from any of the young adult literature I’ve been reading recently. I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I thought I would and was sad when it ended. However, there were some things in the book that were a complete cliché that made the book a little less enjoyable for me to read.

For those who haven’t read this book before, Girls Like Me tells the story of Shay Summers, a teenager who struggles with her weight and trying to fit in at school. After the death of her father, Shay is stuck living with her stepmother Kara and tries to cope with her life by eating. She also makes two good friends who don’t fit in at school just like her. Then one day while online, she chats with a mysterious boy who gives her butterflies and knows how to make her laugh. What she doesn’t know is that this boy is actually the guy she’s had a crush on at school. He wants to meet her, but she’s so insecure about herself that she keeps pushing him away. Their relationship gets put to the test, but will their love prevail? Or are they not meant to be?

What drew me into reading this book was the cover and title. The cover is beautifully illustrated, making the reader want to pick up the book and read it. The title caught my eye too because it made me think this book would be relatable to me and that I’d understand the characters within its pages. While I don’t at all understand what it’s like being considered overweight, I feel like I can relate to Shay’s character anyway. I can relate to her because I love food too and I was bullied in school quite a bit myself, which made me lack a lot of self-confidence.

I also enjoyed reading Girls Like Me because of the writing style. It was written in free verse, which reminded me a lot of author Ellen Hopkins’s books, but also stood out from her work because of the use of social media in the story. It was unique storytelling to me because I haven’t seen too many other books written like this. I also enjoyed this writing style because it made this book an easy read for me.

Girls Like Me Text Image
An example of the text from the book. Can be found on page 4.

Another reason I enjoyed reading this book is because of the diverse cast of characters. There’s not only Shay, who is considered overweight, but her two best friends Dash and Boots are also unique characters too. Dash is her male best friend who struggles with being gay because of his upbringing in a Christian household. He especially has a really rocky relationship with his father because of his sexuality so he tries to change himself in order to please his dad. Boots on the other hand has cancer and is trying the best she can to live each day like it’s her last. But she’s dying and wants really badly to have sex since she knows she doesn’t have too much time left to live. She tries the best she can not to worry Shay and Dash with her sickness by trying to hide how unwell she’s doing, but they both know something is wrong.

And of course there’s Shay who struggles to cope with the loss of her father and eats because it helps her deal with the pain. She’s bullied in school relentlessly because of her weight by a girl named Kelly who enjoys nothing more than seeing Shay miserable. Her relationship with her stepmother Kara isn’t too great because Shay feels like she’s body shaming her. It isn’t until later on in the story that you find out that Kara understands exactly what Shay is going through. I like that this story has all of these characters with different problems and you get to see how they are handled. I also like that this book has a character with body issues because I haven’t read too many books that center around a character like Shay.

However, I do have some criticisms with Girls Like Me. While I overall enjoyed the writing style Lola StVil used, there were times where I found being able to understand it a little confusing. This confusing typically occurred whenever StVil had the story being told from the perspective of Dash and Boots. I was usually confused when this happened because their text didn’t at all have a different style from Shay’s. The only reason I was even able to tell the difference between the three was because of the change in font. Otherwise, I would’ve thought the text was just Shay talking about Dash and Boots’ personal lives.

Another criticism I have for this book is that while the set of characters are diverse, they are pretty cliché too. All of the characters that are really close friends are all of the social outcasts at the school, and they just happen to become good friends because of their differences.

Then, there’s the relationship between Shay and Blake, two people on opposite sides of the social pool. Blake is the typical popular kid who doesn’t notice how popular he is because he only pays attention to Shay. To the point that he doesn’t at all understand why Shay is hesitant about their relationship being out in the open. He’s so clueless, especially close to the end when Shay finds out about the website students at the school made about her and she asks him if he knew about it. He doesn’t at all understand why it’s such a big deal to her, which bothers me since they are supposed to be a couple and he doesn’t at all see why her weight is an issue to her. Their whole relationship was just a big cliché to me and I didn’t really like it because it was too much insta-love.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the ending of Girls Like Me. I thought there’d be a big reveal where we found out why Kelly doesn’t like Shay. Instead, we get no sort of reason other than she just doesn’t want her to be happy, which isn’t really much of a reason at all. If anything, it just shows that Kelly isn’t a great person and she’s just a character in the story put in to cause Shay conflict. I also thought it was a little cheesy because even though I like the Muppets, I just thought the whole thing was a little corny. But at the same time, I also liked the ending because we finally see Shay stand up for herself and call Kelly out on her bullying. We also see her act confident in herself for once, which was something we didn’t see a whole lot of throughout the book. And I feel like Blake finally gets to see the real Shay and understand why she’s the person she is in the story.

Overall, Girls Like Me is such a fun, quirky read. It has a style unlike any other book I’ve read with a set of diverse, relatable characters and was such a delight to read. I definitely recommend this book to people with body issues and people who want to read a book with free verse poetry.

Forgiveness (Poem) 

When I think of forgiveness,

The saying, “forgive, but never forget”

Comes to mind.

 

But for me,

It’s easier said than done.

 

When people hurt you,

It’s hard to let go,

And begin anew.

 

But sometimes,

That’s all you need to do.

Welcome Home (Poem) 

He seeks warmth and comfort,

In a loving home.

 

He waits outside,

Hoping one day to be welcomed in with a loving embrace.

 

He sits patiently,

Day and night,

For some solace from the rain.

 

He’s silent and affectionate,

Yet loved by the humans who feed him.

 

But they’ve yet,

To let him come in.

 

Two cats watch him by the back door,

Silently questioning his motives.

 

But yet,

They too want to welcome him in.

 

He’s family,

That looks so much like them.

 

They know,

They can see it in his eyes.

 

And in the way he tilts his head,

When the humans come by to pet him.

 

They hear it in his meow,

When they hear him calling for them.

 

The two cats,

Are just as curious about him,

As he is about them.

 

Yet they say nothing,

Knowing the humans make the final decision.

 

But they know,

One day, he’ll be brought in.

 

And they’ll be there,

To welcome him home.

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