Monday, October 25, 2010

Manifest by Artist Arthur and Tutored by Allison Whittenberg

So the way Around the World ARC tours works, you read a book blurb, and if it sounds interesting, you ask to be put on the list, and some time in the future you receive it in the mail. You have a week to read it and send it on, and then another week to review it.

I'm so late with these two. I received three books in one week, and while it was no problem reading them, I really liked "Girl Parts" and it was hard to muster enough enthusiam to review these. So this post is not a strict review, more my thoughts on great vs. okay books.

Coincidentally, both "Tutored" and "Manifest" are by African-American authors, a group that is under-represented, shall we say, in bookstores. I don't select books based on race, in fact some of my favorite books are by people of African descent. Errrr, does that sound cliche?

Well, it's true, so there.

Alan Patton, for instance. "Cry The Beloved Country" is an amazing-
What's that? He's white? Seriously?

*Checks wiki* Holy crap. So he is. Still, he was born in Africa...

All joking aside, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man changed me. As a high school student, I fell in love with the writing, with the struggle to be seen. I still love that book.

Maya Angelou was and is a huge inspiration to me, many of her books broadened my vision of the world. I identified with her characters and felt that she understood people- of all colors- so deeply.

I haven't read much lighter fare from African-American authors. Perhaps there's some kind of reverse discrimination going on behind closed doors in my head, like I expected them to be more than they were, but both these books disappointed me.

I'll give my summary of both books, and then explain what felt off to me. I add, they were decent books. For someone else they might be awesome books, but for me, the connection was shaky.

"Manifest" is about a girl named Krystal who sees dead people. She moves from The City to a small town, and gets sucked into solving the mystery of a young man's death by his hawt ghost. She has no interest in the cute living boy that likes her, since she's got a HUGE chip on her shoulder. But Ricky's ghost claims that he was murdered when he discovered who killed his girlfriend, and soon Krystal begins to wonder if the same person isn't after her.

"Tutored" is about a young woman, Wendy, whose father escaped the inner-city and is determined that his daughter not fall back in. Wendy is tired of being the "only chip in the cookie" and starts volunteering at a community center. She tutors a young man, Hakiam, who has just moved to Philly and is trying to get a fresh start. But with little family support and no education, Hakiam sees little choice but to steal if he wants to eat. As Hakiam and Wendy get to know each other, they find they have more in common than they could have imagined.

Both of these books had some good moments, and I didn't feel it was a total waste to read them. But they weren't amazing. I didn't believe that a good girl like Wendy would get involved with Hakiam. The leap from reluctant study sessions to boyfriend/girlfriend was too great. And when Wendy takes Hakiam to a "white" party, and everyone is drunk and stoned, that was presented as a positive (Hakiam says "White people are all right" or something close to that.), while the same situation in the ghetto was presented as a huge negative(although the situation was different since Hakiam's cousin had a small baby present). Still, to find common ground in drugs is not my idea of a bridge between cultures.

In "Tutored",I never quite believed that Krystal was as angry as she was presented. It just wasn't backed up in her history. Like, what teenage girl isn't going to be a little flattered when a cute guy keeps stopping by her locker to talk to her? Yeah. I can't think of any either.

I also felt that both of these authors accepted violence as part of life in a way that I am not comfortable with. Hakiam has several scenes where he is tempted to steal someone's purse, and when he and Wendy talk about that, her reasons for not stealing fall flat. How about "it's wrong?" To the best of my memory, she only says it's inconvenient to the other person. It's a whole lot more than that. Likewise, in Manifest, Ricky ran with a rough crowd, and his girlfriend was involved in "sexting" someone else. He had the attitude that it's her decision and unrelated to him. That did not work for me. I didn't buy his attitude.

The magic of Ralph Ellison was that he made us live through another's eyes, and I never got anywhere close
to that with these books. They were okay.

1 comment:

  1. I don't blame you for putting off these reviews - it's hard enough to find the time to write posts about books we're excited about, let alone ones we aren't. Anyway, thanks for the honest assessment. I don't think a self-respecting author would want anything less.