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3+/5. This book was really painful for me to read, because it was so emotionally accurate. It's about a family with a daughter Tilly on the autism spectrum, variant PDD-NOS, Asperger's-like. Tilly is, I think, in 7th grade? She is exceptionally intelligent and also has an exceptional amount of information about her chosen topics (statues). She also has severe meltdowns, often in public, some for which the cause isn't necessarily known. She appears to have some sensory processing issues. She has a lot of social difficulty, including sexually explicit speech and using extremely derogatory terms (e.g., bitch) to describe everyone around her. She is kicked out of several schools, the last being a special-ed school for children like her. At the time of the book, she is being homeschooled, but even that is fraught. Her parents uproot their family to be part of a camp for special-needs children like Tilly, led by a charismatic child-advice guru who might or might not be the answer to their hopes.

Most of the book is from the perspective of Iris (Tilly's younger neurotypical sister) and Alexandra (the mother). Iris loves her sister, even often likes her; is ashamed of her sometimes, struggles with the sacrifices her family has to make for her sister. Alexandra bears a crushing weight of… everything, of feeling like a failure for Tilly's failures, of anxiety about what her child will become and what her life is going to be like.

And it was like reading about a dark mirror of my own life. Cut. )

Anyway. The only thing about it was that the descriptions were really stunning, the characterization and writing were great, but I felt like the ending was a little… abrupt, and it didn't quite deliver on the answers to all the hard emotional questions it was asking.

(edited 5-21-17 for wrong author, oops)
cahn: (Default)
Okay, I should maybe say something about the Hugos. In the book category, I plan to read Necessity and All the Birds in the Sky before the nomination deadline, but haven’t gotten to either yet. Some I did at least start reading:

Company Town (Madeline Ashby) - 3+. This one started really strongly, with great writing, a great POV character, some really interesting things going on with the worldbuilding. If it had ended as strongly I would have given it a 4; sadly, I felt like the ending was rushed and uneven (and didn’t address a couple of pretty major plot threads) to the point where at one point I was like, “What’s going on?” And the love interest had pretty much zero character. But worth reading nevertheless.

The Obelisk Gate (N.K. Jemisin) - 3+. I liked it. It is a second book of a trilogy, so, you know. But... so, in the first book I was able to put aside Jemisin's somewhat stark viewpoints because the writing was so strong, and here it starts to poke at me. So: one of the major questions of this book is, “When are negative actions toward a child necessary in pursuit of a greater good?” The book seems to come down on “Never!” by using a lot of straw men like breaking a child’s hand. Which, okay, yeah, I agree is probably never necessary.

But if you’re ever in my house around toothbrushing time, the toddler feels that toothbrushing is a Very Negative Action, thank you very much, and is not afraid of disseminating this opinion at Great Volume. I mean, you guys! I feel really awful brushing his teeth! I feel like I’m torturing him! I constantly have to tell myself that it’s for the greater good of him not getting cavities, which would definitely be worse. I think I'm right, darn it.

And then there’s E’s music practice, which is complicated by my never knowing whether it’s going to end in total disaster or a happy sunny child. We’ve definitely had practices where both of us are in total despair afterwards — because kiddo Hates Mistakes and they are liable to send her into a spiral of meltdown — but, I mean, she’s got to learn how to make them! (And we are talking a LOT about how it's okay to make mistakes, that I would rather her deal well with mistakes than play it perfectly, that the Right Answer isn't as important as trying, etc. ad infinitum.) So I do have meta-reasons for doing this. And sometimes she really likes it! And she likes performing! So I don’t even know.

Anyway, that is all to say that I felt some sympathy for Essun teaching her daughter in maybe not the most considerate and sweet way because it was the way she thought would save the kid’s life? And, I mean, she might even have been right considering what happened to her other children? I don't think I was supposed to feel sympathy for Essun; the book pretty clearly comes down on the side of the daughter, here. And I think the question is more nuanced and interesting than Jemisin is willing to admit, and the book suffers for it.

Every Heart a Doorway (Seanan McGuire, I think this is actually a novella) - 3. I actually love McGuire’s style here — it’s sort of this half-fairy-tale-ish-but-still-in-this-world quality, with some nice set pieces. And I admit I came in with low expectations which the book exceeded. All the negative things people have said about it are true (see e.g. [personal profile] rachelmanija’s review (no explicit spoilers) and [personal profile] ase’s spoilery review) but I didn’t really think about them too hard while I was reading. The funny thing is, the part that threw me out of the book was the part where people talk about the “directions” of fairy lands being, instead of north/south and east/west, wicked/virtue and logic/nonsense, with some “minor directions” in there. Those are not directions! You are not navigating by them! Those are descriptive/categorization axes.

There were two big issues I had, which are somewhat related to each other.First, most of the worlds where the girls went (and specifically Nancy’s) set off all my power-dynamic relationship squicks — I mean, older powerful dude going after young naive teenage girl who feels like she doesn’t belong, telling her that she’s wonderful and fits in and things are different with him and oh by the way he controls literally everything, and hey wouldn’t you like to leave your family and friends forever and be with me? Yeah. Do Not Like. Partially because of this, I disliked the ending intensely. Slightly spoilery. )

Too Like the Lightning (Ada Palmer) - DNF. On paper this book looks like it should be everything that delights me (rich complex future history, world-breaking sorts of events, lots of allusion, lots of historical resonance, lots of implicit statements) - I feel like… I was expecting Hild or John M. Ford and got something sort of weirdly not either? Also I suspect if I knew way more about the French Enlightenment I would appreciate this more. Also I felt decidedly as if she was trying too hard with the gender stuff, like, Mycroft keeps saying how they live in a gender-neutral society and then he is constantly bringing up gender, gender roles, gender stereotypes... Which I guess is kind of the point, but I felt like Palmer was telling me rather than showing (compare for instance Leckie’s Ancillary books, which make a much stronger point to me by being very quiet and matter-of-fact about its pronouns and describing how other people react to it).

Ninefox Gambit (Yoon Ha Lee) - DNF. Again I feel like maybe I’m not the right audience for this book, because I know a bunch of people really liked it, and on paper it seems really great (militaristic science fantasy with math words being used instead of “magic” words, with honor and belonging/place being a huge part of the culture) but 20% in I didn’t care about any of the characters at all or understand why they cared about their really pretty awful society, so I bailed.

Iron Cast (Destiny Soria) - DNF. Again on paper this seems great - Prohibition era AU with blood magic, manifested through music — this sounds awesome! I got bored and bailed after about three chapters. I dunno, maybe it was me.

Other stuff: I have to get some Related Work stuff in. Planning to look at Geek Feminist Revolution and there might be an Octavia Butler bio out there? Anything else I should be looking at?

Short fic post sometime this weekend, I hope.


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