– Jane Austen

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it…

Persuasion

– Matthew Kelly

The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great.

We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.

The Rhythm of Life

“Tell the Wolves I’m Home”, Carol Rifka Brunt

Having just finished this novel, I’m full of questions and admiration for Brunt. Written in 2012, set in the 1980’s, it certainly addresses the taboos of society during this era surrounding AIDS, through the protagonist’s journey of realisation and love. June Elbus: the epitome of innocence interlinked with a newfound sense of rebellion. Her journey of learning to accept a wrong love is both poignantly naive and heartbreaking as she understands the ramifications of her unrealistic desires. What’s  additionally poignant is the fact that Brunt outlines the direction of the novel from the first page: we understand that we have to accept a loss before we turn to the second page.

I think the most interesting concept in this novel is we ultimately know what will happen in the end. There’s a foreboding death hinted throughout the second half of the novel, very subtly understated yet very prominent in the actions and decisions of the characters. In many ways, Toby’s death is just as painful as the loss of June’s innocence. We as readers grow to accept Toby for the actions he is accused of and what he has done, and our love for Toby is reflected through the endearing, innocent June and her love for Toby. We learn to admire Toby for who he is and everything he stands for, not for the supposed crime he has committed and what has happened to Finn.

Toby is everything Finn is not and that’s quite possibly what makes him so charming; he’s not an artist, he doesn’t have family in the country and he’s estranged from everyone and everything he knew. He’s learning to make his own way in this prejudiced world, alone and at a distinct disadvantage fundamentally due to his sexuality alienating him. His death hits the reader and June very deeply, almost unfairly snatched from us both as his true identity begins to unravel before us.

The topic of AIDS is so beautifully expressed in this text; Brunt confronts the issue with compassion and fragility, similar to the characteristics possessed by it’s victim, Finn. Times have changed with regards to AIDS and it’s treatments/cures which the reader will recognise whilst following the protagonists’ journeys, but we’re nevertheless transported into a time where AIDS was believed to be as  lethal as the plague and anyone in a close radius of a patient will consider themselves at risk of “catching” it.

I find the character of Greta most compelling, however. She is immediately and instantly dislikable with her cruel and cutting attitude towards her little sister; she’s calculating and malicious once she realises what her younger sibling is doing. Yet, we understand she’s coming of age and is fighting her own battles which torment her, too, thus making her a sympathetic figure by the end of the novel: we admire her and respect her, finally. Her fear of losing her younger sibling to another love she refused to offer results in her acting with cutting maliciousness through cold remarks and sarcastic rhetorical questions. Greta is quite possibly the smartest character in the novel and although she makes mistakes, they’re understandable and forgivable. Her brief snapshots of kindness and mature, older-sibling care are greatly appreciated by us, not so much by June as we understand before she does what exactly she’s going through; quite possibly some of the readers have experienced her internal conflict, too, and the evaporation of childhood towards the rush of entering adulthood.

We laugh with Finn and June as we follow their footsteps, internally grimacing and sympathising with June as she naively mistakes familiar compassion for romantic love and we cry with June as we lose someone we barely know, yet adore nevertheless. The embedded innocence in all of the characters is something conveyed so exceptionally by Brunt, connecting the reader to the character. The loss of two of the most beautiful souls is something the reader struggles to come to terms with, just as June and Greta do, yet we are comforted with the knowledge that they loved and were loved in return, in equal measure. And that’s fundamentally important for every living soul: to love and be loved.

A x

‘If I Stay’ – Cinematic Adaptation Review

“Sometimes, you make choices in life.
And sometimes, choices make you.”

After watching Forman’s novel come to life, I was overcome by both extreme sadness that the film was over, and complete ecstasy that the film was exactly how I envisioned it to be.

Mia, a girl with her whole life ahead of her, suddenly finds herself in a coma after a fatal car accident which took the lives of her parents and younger brother, Teddy. The novel, and the film, takes us through a series of flashbacks into Mia’s life and memorable moments which predominately surround her love interest, Adam. The reader is left right up until the end of the story to find out whether or not Mia survives the crash, and the journey from start to end is both tragically endearing and overwhelmingly exhilarating with a few life lessons along the way.

The character of Adam is strangely and seductively compelling, played exquisitely by Jamie Blackley, and represents the conflicts of love and morality thrown into question when someone we love is almost lost to us. I fell in love with his character from the moment Forman introduced us to him; a leather jacket-wearing rockstar who wears his heart on his sleeve and falls for the girl who remained invisible to all but him. Boys wanted to be him. Girls wanted to be on him. Right up until the very end of the story, Adam, and Blackley, did not disappoint.

Chloë Grace Moretz was brilliantly casted to play Mia Hall. She conveyed every emotion I felt whilst reading the novel, and I don’t think anyone else could have captured the essence of Mia Hall the way Moretz did.

I find that the music complimented the film perfectly, too. Very well chosen in accordance with the novel.

I cannot express how amazing it feels to read a book, fall in love with it, then see it on a screen exactly the way you imagined it would be.

So thank you, Gayle Forman, for manipulating me into thinking that true love exists in the form of a rocker, and to the cast of If I Stay, for bringing my imagination to life.