Sunday, April 29, 2012

Decoded, Cracked, and Ditched: A trio of reviews

A review of books by new authors! Cracked by KM Walton and Ditched by Robin Mellom. I also wanted to review the amazing Decoded by Jay-Z.

Let's start with KM Walton's Cracked!
I added it to my list because I liked the basic premise right away: The school bully and the bully's prime victim end up in therapy together. I knew that was the idea behind the plot, and I wasn't sure how Walton was going to pull it off. 

I liked this concept because I firmly believe that if you look deeply enough into the story of a perpetrator, you will often find a victim. Not to say by any means that this excuses a perpetrator-- that is not what I mean. I think we are all responsible for our actions. I only mean that I feel abuse/anger/pain runs in cycles where people who were once victims become perpetrators, and that it's a complicated and complex problem without simple solutions.

I didn't know how Walton would get these two characters together on a Psych Ward-- but she managed it in a convincing way. The two POV narration was excellent-- as a reader I had a clear sense of each voice as distinct, realistic, and sympathetic in their own ways. I also think she resolved the conflict in a satisfying way-- I know I'm not being very detailed-- I don't want to spoil anything. :0) I recommend it-- bullying is such a hot topic right now, and this book provides some real insight into the problem, without offering unrealistic easy solutions. 

And now for something completely different! Ditched by Robin Mellom. Justina wakes up in a ditch the morning after prom and stumbles over to a convenience store to unravel, with the help of the storekeeper and a customer, just what happened. Why would her best friend Ian ditch her on a night like this? 

This story could have gone in a much different direction (hello, potential after-school special!), but Mellom kept it funny, fresh, and light. It had a very John Hughes feel to it. Justina was likable and sympathetic, the ladies in the 7-11 were hilarious, and by the end I was gunning for her relationship with Ian to work itself out. It was a true comedy of errors that takes the stereotypical Prom-will-be-the-best-night-of-my-life fantasy and turns it on its head.  (By the way-- who exactly started this rumor about Prom being such a night to remember?)

I can't recommend Decoded by Jay Z enough. 

I distinctly remember the first time I heard rap (shout out to Run DMC's Raising Hell on cassette!) and have been a fan since-- though I would say my exposure to the genre is pretty limited. I have a few bands/acts/performers I love (Fugees, Lauryn Hill, De La Soul, Tribe, Beastie Boys, Ice Cube...) but I wouldn't say I am a superfan. In fact, I don't own any of Jay Z's music--- I have major gaps in my listening. It is what it is. But I heard about this book and borrowed it from my library. It was one of those "borrows" that I returned after one day and bought a copy for myself. 

It is fascinating to hear the story of a person like Shawn Carter, whose life is very different from mine, and to see how he grew and changed, and lived his version of the American dream. I think that's interesting just as a piece of social history. 

But what sucked me in and made me love this book was the way he talked about his art. There is so much there about voice, seeing the world and recognizing what you see, being honest, being a hard worker... that ALL applies to writing. It's like a Master's thesis on rap, but, you know, interesting to read. 

Here, in his words:
"It's brutal, but if you step back from it, it's beautiful, too. What you're looking at is a culture of people so in love with life that they can't stop fighting for it-- people who've seen death up close, literal death, but also the kind of dormancy and stagnation that kills your spirit. They've seen it all around them and they don't want any part of that sh*t, not at all. They want to live like they want to live-- they want to impose themselves on the world through their art, with their voices. This impulse is what saved us. It's what saved me."

"I've been able to create my own kind of social commentary. Artists can have greater access to reality; they can see patterns and details and connections that other people, distracted by the blur of life, might miss. Just sharing that truth can be a very powerful thing."

"But this is one of the things that makes rap at its best so human. It doesn't force you to pretend to be only one thing or another, to be a saint or sinner. It recognizes that you can be true to yourself and still have unexpected dimensions and opposing ideas. ...The real bullsh*t is when you act like you don't have contradictions inside you, that you're so dull and unimaginative that your mind never changes or wanders into strange, unexpected places."

Read Decoded, Ditched, and Cracked-- you won't be sorry. 

Have you read these books? What did YOU think?


  1. I had Decoded on my TBR list already, but your review and those excerpts just moved it up the list. Thanks for sharing, KO!

  2. You're right on about ditched having a John Hughes feel... I think that's what made me enjoy it so much! Also, Justina was adorable! I've been hearing great things about CRACKED as well... definitely one I'll add to my list. Thanks, Kat!

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these books. You're right, that Jaz Z book sounds fascinating. I'm not a rap fan, but it would be interesting to read about the life from his perspective. DITCHED is already on my TBR list, and now you've totally hooked me with the John Hughes comparison. :D

  4. I loved DITCHED and have CRACKED on my list. DECODED sounds really interesting so now I want to read that too.

  5. I haven't read of any of those. Love me some Jay-Z. Ditched sounds like a lot of fun. And Cracked is right up my alley. Thanks for the reviews and the recs!

  6. Oh, Sophia- let me know what you think when you do read it. :0)

    Katy- Justina was adorable-- I still laugh thinking about her dyed shoes. WOW.

    Cool Jaime, I'd love to hear what you think of them when you read them!

    Awesome Ghenet! Decoded was definitely worth it.

    Samantha- Thanks for dropping by! I hope you pick them up-- they're fun. :0)

  7. I loved those quotes from Decoded. Wow - I'm definitely going to get that.

    Interesting that all three titles were verbs! A good strong verb does wonders, doesn't it?

  8. Absolutely, Margo-- I love those snappy titles. They made a perfect trio to review together.


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