Lucky Man: A Memoir

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ImageReturning to memoirs, I’ve decided to review Lucky Man: A Memoir, written by somebody more well- known:  the world-famous actor, Michael J. Fox.
When most people think of Michael J. Fox, they think of him as a star of the 1980s. Back then, he reigned with his roles on the television show Family Ties and blockbuster film series Back to the Future. However, in 1991, when he was only 30, doctors diagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease and his whole life changed.
This book provides great insight into Fox’s journey with Parkinson’s disease. He had to cope with the effect the illness had on his family. On top, he found it even harder keeping it a secret from the public from seven years while still maintaining his movie career.
Fox chose to write the book using a nonlinear narrative:  flashing back and forth between his childhood, adolescence and him venturing into the Hollywood life at 18. It creates more of a memory-like structure, reflecting how people tend recall events out of chronological order. While I found this realistic, I sometimes had trouble following the story, as the story goes from 1990 to 1961 to 1986 in just a few chapters. I had to keep reminding myself each section was set in a different time and place.
Fox is a great writer. He doesn’t use the same sort of description Jeannette Walls does. Instead, he uses dialogue to convey the mood and emotion, but does insert the occasional humorous line to instill laughter.  One of my favorites comes from page 89, when Fox talks about filming  Back to the Future, “Encased in Guess jeans and a life-jackety-looking down vest and gripping a camcorder, I’d straddle one of two flaming tire tracks in an otherwise wet shopping mall parking lot and sputter ‘You built a time machine out of a DeLorean?’”
Overall, I enjoyed reading Fox’s firsthand account about how his life changed, but for the better, on accepting this disease.  In contrast to all the media reports and interviews he’s done about it, this information because it’s coming from him. It’s not secondhand writing from reporters or writers. It’s an honest reminder that celebrities are just like us, normal people dealing with real-life problems.


The Future of Us

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What if you could look at Facebook right now, and instead of seeing your profile right now, see your profile 15 years from now!
The Future of Us, co-written by Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) and Carolyn Mackler (Love and Other Four-letter Words,) respectively, answers this question by taking us back in time. Image
Set in 1996, the protagonists, Emma and Josh, stumble upon Facebook on Emma’s computer while signing onto AOL. On there, they can see their future profiles, who they marry, what they’re doing and where they are in their lives. It’s a fortune teller, technology style
To me, the premise was intriguing, sort of like a reverse Back to the Future. Instead of traveling to the past and inadvertently changing the timeline, the protagonists stay in the present and deliberately make decisions, generating a ripple effect.
The authors did an excellent job of depicting life in the 1990s, before the Internet and technology exploded into the mainstream. The protagonists and their friends do not own cell phones, laptops, iPads or iPods. Instead, they use landlines, Walkmans and boom boxes, staples of technology in the 90s. I have to admit it, it was nice reading a book where the characters actually talked on the phone and saw each other in person, instead of communicating through texts and their computers. It displays how much technology has changed our lives.
In addition, this book contains an incredible amount of nostalgia for those who grew up during the 90s. It’s the 90s, after all. Who doesn’t remember the old-school Internet that tied up the phone line, much to the dismay of our parents?  Movies like Toy Story and Wayne’s World. It reminds us of the good, old days.
Overall, I thought this book was a great read. Despite being set in the past, there’s still Facebook to make it complete. Where would be without Facebook today?


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A Ghost Story.
You might assume this is what the book is about. It’s not. Instead, the author uses a ghost story as a device to illustrate the power of the media.

Written by Newberry Award- winning author Joan Bauer, Peeled tells the story of Hildy Biddle, a high school journalist who lives in the fictional town of Banesville, New York. Determined to find an audience through the high school newspaper, she finds herself competing with Pen Piedmont, the editor of the local town newspaper. When Piedmont captures the town’s attention by writing scary articles about the supposedly haunted Ludlow house, Hildy aims at uncovering the truth and exposing Piedmont’s questionable integrity.

The title  is a pun: the town’s main product is apples, hence the peel on the cover. However, it actually derives from Hildy’s goal to “peel away the layers” of the dishonest articles Piedmont writes.

I have to admit that this book contains some clichés: a small town, a predictable romance,  and insecurity about a family death. Also, the character development lacks a bit in places. Fortunately, these issues do not swallow up the story.

This book conveys an important message about the power of the media, using the characters and occurrences as reflections of reality. For example, the influence of Piedmont on the townspeople on a silly little ghost represents how the media can inflate a small dilemma into a seemingly serious problem. It demonstrates how fickle society’s perspectives are and includes important journalism facts most people are unaware of.

Being a journalism student myself, I applaud Bauer for making a significant problem the subject of her book. She has the ability to translate a somewhat complex issue into a plot that’s easily understood.

In conclusion, I believe the overall purpose of this book is to inform people. Instead of believing everything the media says, it’s important to learn the facts yourself. All it takes is a little research and curiosity.


Story of a Girl

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Yet another novel with the title of a well-known song, but author Sara Zarr uses this phrase to describe the story of the girl, Deanna Lambert. After getting caught in the back seat of a car with her brother’s best friend, Tommy, when she was only 13, her life changed forever.

Now 16, Deanna Lambert tried to forget, but has struggled with the repercussions of her mistake and the effect it has had on her friends, family and her own life. Striving to reestablish a relationship with her parents, her efforts are stifled by the distractions of her older brother Darren and his girlfriend Stacy, who have unexpectedly become teenage parents. But when she starts a new job, reencounters Tommy and finds herself falling for her best friend’s boyfriend, Deanna’s feelings will come to a peak. Image

The story contained many important messages, like the struggles of teenage parenthood, the suffocation of a small town life and the importance of forgetting and forgiving people’s past mistakes. These issues make the novel relatable and readable.

I admire how Zarr chose to make a touchy subject, a first time, the focus of the story. Making the protagonist so young when it happened added the confusion and frustration in Deanna’s character.

The problem came with the ending: too many loose ends. I was left wondering, well, what happened? Where is the solution to the problem? Compared to the beginning, the ending felt rushed and abrupt What the book needed was some sort of conclusion, to answer these questions. Instead, I was left hanging. Since this is Zarr’s debut novel, it is an example of a good, solid first effort and how an author’s writing can improve gradually.

Overall, this was a good read. All it needed was an epilogue.