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Books, Lists, Rachel and Rebecca

New year, new you?

04.01.13 | Comment?

Or so the saying goes. Have you made a list of resolutions yet? You know, that list that you start with such energy, but then sometime in March you take a day, a week, a month off from that exercise plan and suddenly it’s November and you’re struggling to remember what you wrote the year before. Ahem. Only I do that? Well, moving on then. This collection of gems is all about resolutions. These protagonists are on a mission of some sort or another, they have a goal and we get to watch as they achieve it (or don’t).

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, Ann Brasharesbook cover courtesy of Syndetics

We start with a lighthearted resolution. These four friends are on a mission to stay best friends as they each go their separate ways over the summer. And they’ve got a unique way of doing it. As the title rather hints at, they share a pair of pants. Each week, the pants pass from girl to girl with an accompanying letter of the adventures they had while wearing them. In this way the girls maintain their friendship throughout the events of their four very different summers. Spoiler alert: they complete their mission to stay friends (although there are three more books with the same mission and it gets harder as they get older) but more importantly, this is a beautiful coming of age story and well worth a read.

First lines: ‘Once upon a time there was a pair of pants. They were an essential kind of pants – jeans, naturally, blue but not that stiff, new blue that you see so often on the first day of school.

Small Steps, Louis Sacharbook cover courtesy of Syndetics

Have you read Holes? If you loved it, or even vaguely enjoyed it, then you’re sure to love Small Steps which follows Armpit (real name: Theodore) after his return from Camp Green Lake. He sets five goals for himself: 1. Graduate High School, 2. Get a job, 3. Save his money, 4. Avoid situations that might turn violent, and 5. Lose the name Armpit. In completing what he thought were five small steps, he finds himself in a situation he could never have imagined. With new friends and old, Armpit Theodore is on a mission to improve his life.

First line: ‘Once again Armpit was holding a shovel, only now he was getting paid for it, seven dollars and sixty-five cents an hour.

Recovery Road, Blake Nelsonbook cover courtesy of Syndetics

And on to the much more serious resolutions. Recovery Road is a teenage girl’s mission to get sober after her drinking and anger problems land her in rehab. So many books that take on these kind of massive issues have deeply unlikeable (read: whiny) protagonists. Maddie however is powerful and engaging, her story heartbreaking. Her mission to stay sober after she leaves rehab is constantly under threat, her world seems constantly on the point of unravelling but always, always I was wholeheartedly rooting for her. Also, Blake Nelson appears to like alliteration almost as much as we do. If you like this one then check out Paranoid Park as well.

First lines: ‘You can’t tell what Spring Meadow is from the road. The sign, nestled beneath a large oak tree, could be for a retirement village. It could be a bed-and-breakfast.

Before I Die, Jenny Downhambook cover courtesy of Syndetics

This one continues down the path of serious subject matter. Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

First lines: ‘I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish he lived in the wardrobe on a coat hanger. Whenever I wanted, I could get him out and he’d look at me the way boys do in films, as if I’m beautiful.

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbonsbook cover courtesy of Syndetics

For curiosity’s sake we’ve included this ‘historical’ novel in case anyone would like to give the very British humour a go. The sensible, sophisticated heroine Flora Poste is on a mission to help her eccentric relatives from, essentially, themselves. She descends upon them at the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm after she is left penniless by the death of her parents. Armed with common sense and a strong will, Flora resolves to take each family member in hand. She’s vivacious and witty making her quest and the story as a whole very funny to read. 

First lines: ‘The education bestowed on Flora Poste by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged; and when they died within a few weeks of one another during the annual epidemic of the influenza or Spanish Plague which occurred in her twentieth year, she was discovered to possess every art and grace save that of earning her own living.

Take Me There, Susane Colasantibook cover courtesy of Syndetics

Based on the first line I would say this book is very much about improving oneself. With a (relatively, compared to the others on this list) lighthearted mission involved; to take a mean girl down a notch. It’s told from the perspective of three teenagers brought together by their mission and by all their respective break-ups. Cue three burgeoning love stories. The story takes place in one week, where many things will happen to the three friends including confessed secrets, messages on sidewalks, delivered flowers, a ton of photocopied notes, one awesome speech, and lots and lots of karma. It’s a quick and easy read about the trials of high school and growing up.

First line: ‘My life could not possibly suck more than it does right now.

An Abundance of Katherines, John Greenbook cover courtesy of Syndetics

More than anything, I picked up this book because of its cover. The story is pretty awesome as well. Colin’s on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which will predict the future of all relationships, transform him from a fading prodigy into a true genius, and finally win him the girl. Unfortunately, all he’s got so far is nineteen exes named Katherine. He’s also a washed-up child prodigy with ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a passion for anagrams, and an overweight, Judge Judy-obsessed best friend. Letting expectations go and allowing love in are at the heart of Colin’s hilarious quest to find his missing piece and avenge dumpees everywhere.

First line: ‘The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.

So now that you have some literary inspiration, go forth into the new year, confident in your own list of New Years resolutions! Whether you stick to them or not, 2013 is going to be awesome! Personally, we can’t wait for the New Zealand release of the film version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Let us know what you’re looking forward to this year in the comments section!


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