1984 (George Orwell)

That last book?

Yeah, I had to read it pretty much solely to recover from this one. For the love, 1984 (affiliate link) was a wretched work that just made me SAD. From the first chapter on, the dastard depravity of humankind is amplified over and again until we see Winston, the main character, chewed up and spewed out by the reality that is unfortunately his. 

Winston works in the Records Department in the Ministry of Truth. His actual responsibilities include changing past records to accommodate the lies that the Party perpetuates regarding anything from the number of boots created one month to the country with whom they are currently at war. Winston's problem is that he is an anomaly to society: he notices and remembers the Party's alterations to the truth. Over time, he evolves from just a curious observer blindly carrying out his sad little life to a willing volunteer of the Brotherhood intent on bringing the Party down. 

This leads to a rebellious affair with a fellow Party member named Julia. Julia and Winston fall as much in love as two individuals with no moral compass or liberty know how, and together they change the course of their destiny by committing to the Brotherhood...and subsequently being ripped apart by it. 

Just sad. Sad, sad, sad. I was distraught for the broken relationships between parents and children, heart-broken for the callousness of one human being toward another, and overall disgusted with how easy it is to compare the state of Winston's society to the reality of our own. I was positively horrified to take in Winston's torture scenes, especially the one (oh, I can't even type it) with the rats. Lawdyhammercy. 

It is said that George Orwell was a genius. I'd agree...this work is a prime example that the man's brain was on a level the rest of us can't even imagine. 

A sad genius, though. 

Brave New World (Alduous Huxley)

This book totally gives me the heebie jeebies. Set in this futuristic society, humans are scientifically mass produced rather than reproduced naturally in families. There are no families at all, actually. The term  and concept of "family" is shunned as scandalous. Because the people are produced this way, the population is easily maintained (limited, rather), which promotes the overall societal peace. Another contributor to this "peace" is the fact that soma, which is a hallucinogenic drug, is given freely and encouraged to be taken. High people generally tend to be pretty compliant. That much is true no matter what the century is. Sex is also encouraged, but only recreationally. There is a repetitive mantra of "everyone belongs to everyone else" within the society that makes it permissive for any man to have any woman he so desires, and vice versa. The soma prevents emotional attachment in such encounters.

Comprehending the construct of the society itself is exhausting and mentally taxing. Intertwined with the cultural parameters is the story of a man named Bernard. Bernard is a guy who has taken a preference to one of the girls. This is forbidden, of course, so everyone Bernard shares this with just shoves more soma down his throat. Eventually Bernard and the girl take a trip to a village operating outside the rules of their society, and they witness shocking situations between the people, such as a play which suddenly turns to the mob beating of a young boy. Bernard begins to question the structure of their world, and the result is a ripple effect ending with more soma and recreational sex.

In short, the book seems rather pointless on the whole. Even as I attempt to present a brief summary on the work, I find that it is difficult to synthesize the story because so much of it is...well, ridiculous.

And I hated every word of it.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

One word: ABSURD.

This book, a childhood classic and available for free download via Google books, Kindle book store, etc. is just. plain. weird.

Alice is a little girl who is minding her own business one day, when out of the blue she follows a talking rabbit into his hole. Thus begins the first of numerous wacky experiences for Alice, as she enters the mysterious Wonderland.

There is a preface that explains that Alice's story was created as an entertaining bedtime story for children. It definitely has that mindless, pointless but entertaining aspect.

What I found most troublesome was the common thread that every single person Alice met was so incredibly contrary and argumentative. Everyone was rather rude, and both insulting and easily offended. I have no idea if there is some worthy symbolism below that surface, but I found Alice, her talking rabbit and turtle and cheshire cat and pig-baby simply....weird.

At least I got it for free on my Kindle! :)

Things Hoped For (Andrew Clements)

In Things Not Seen, the prequel to Things Hoped For, a young adolescent boy (Bobby) suddenly, for no explainable reason, goes invisible. Eventually he returns to his normal self physically, but he is forever changed as a result of his time spent unseen.

Suddenly Bobby is 18 and now prefers being called Robert. His new friend Gwen has run into some massive trouble of her own. Her grandfather has suddenly vanished without a trace, and Gwen struggles with worrying about him and the pressure of her upcoming auditions for college music scholarships. She quickly learns that Robert is the best friend she can have when dealing with things not seen.

Another winner by Clements, but it's a bit more mature (not rated R or anything) than his previous works.

The House in the Night (Susan Marie Swanson)

This was the 2009 Caldecott winner. My personal thoughts on its selection were simply that it was undeserving. The illustrations are black and white etchings/penmarks with random items colored in yellow.  It is unusual, but not necessarily spectacular.

The story is rather vague and without any real purpose. There's an adult giving a child a key to a house, then describing the house with the light and a bed and a book and a bird and a song  that is all about the dark, then the story reverses until it ends back with the house in the night and a home full of light.

Yep, it's weird. I guess the "notable" portion of the Caldecott Medal can sometimes mean weird.