Three Spring Break Reads You Won’t Find in Your Course Reader
Issue   |   Tue, 03/06/2018 - 22:48
Photo courtesy of bethfishreads.com
Celeste Ng's "Little Fires Everywhere" is among some of the non-academic books you should consider this spring break.

“The Power” by Naomi Alderman

Reminiscent of “The Hunger Games” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” this dystopian novel has been hailed by Margaret Atwood as “Electrifying! Shocking! Will knock your socks off! Then you’ll think twice, about everything.” “The Power” by Naomi Alderman, which was named to The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2017 list, centers around the question of what would happen if women suddenly had physical power over men.

One morning, all teenage girls in the world wake up with a new muscle, a “skein” that is located at their collarbones and has the capacity to generate varying levels of electric shocks that can disarm and even kill men. Men’s sudden inability to defend themselves against women creates massive social upheaval. Alderman questions how much of our world has its foundation in a patriarchal system and whether inequality of power is truly the root of all evil. To fully present how the world would change, Alderman masterfully weaves four characters and their stories together.

One is Tunde, a young, rich Nigerian man who becomes a famous photojournalist reporting on wars and protests. As the novel progresses, he becomes increasingly worried about his safety while being alone around women. Another is a female American politician, Margot, who creates a specialized army of young women while struggling to raise her daughters in this new society. The remaining two characters, Allie and Roxy, are both teenage girls and therefore the most affected by the emergence of the “skeins.” Allie is able to escape her abusive foster home in Alabama and accidently becomes the face of a new female-focused religious group, while the story of Roxy, the daughter of a British drug lord, explores how women become the most powerful figures in organized crime.

All of these characters eventually interact with the newly formed republic of Bessapara, in which previously-trafficked women have overthrown the government and created their own matriarchal society. However, Alderman does not intend for her book to be a feminist fantasy in which women ruling the world suddenly makes it perfect, but rather explores how power corrupts morality and humanity. I was personally transfixed by both the originality of Alderman’s story and also her captivating writing — even finishing the novel in one day. Consider this a warning to not start this book on a day when you have a lot of things that need to be accomplished.

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng

“Little Fires Everywhere” opens with exactly what you would expect — a fire — but after that, everything in this book is something unexpected. Opening with the burning down of the Richardson home in the picture-perfect suburb of Shaker Heights, the book proceeds to travel backwards. We find out how the arrival of off-beat single mother Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl set off a chain of events that reveal the cracks growing within both the Richardson family and their idyllic community. These cracks cause the characters to face settings such as an abortion clinic parking lot, a courtroom in the midst of an intense custody battle and a getaway car, a VW Rabbit.

Through an omniscient point of view, Ng is able to deeply probe into her characters and explore the internal struggles they face in order to fit in, or stand out, in their homogenous town. Specifically, Ng grapples with issues surrounding motherhood and what the best way to do one’s job as a mother is — making us question our own morals and assumptions along the way. Further, the omniscient narrator allows the reader to know all the characters’ secrets. Although we initially keep reading to find out who it is that set the “big fire,” we soon realize that the crux of the novel is really the “little fires everywhere:” the lies that we all tell and the mistakes that we all make.

This novel is especially a must-read as it was recently announced that Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington have joined forces to adapt and presumably star in a television show based on the book. If Witherspoon’s success in bringing the book “Big Little Lies” to the small screen is any indication, this new show is likely to be a massive hit.

“The Magicians” by Lev Grossman

Childhood lovers of “Harry Potter” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” — I have found the book for you.
“The Magicians” is a novel that is somehow able to distill the magical essence of Hogwarts and Narnia and inject it into an adult novel that deals with mental health, power and relationships. Author Lev Grossman manages to create this world without it feeling cheesy, clichéd or childish — an impressive feat.

The novel follows Quentin Coldwater, a high school student who spends most of his free time rereading his favorite book from childhood, in which a group of children discover a Narnia-inspired fantasy-land called Fillory.
While attempting to attend an interview for Princeton, Quentin stumbles instead upon a portal to the magic school of Brakebill and enrolls.

However, he discovers that many of the problems that haunted him in the non-magical world have followed him to Brakebill. While struggling to memorize spells, Quentin also battles depression, disillusionment and the ups-and-downs of love. Although he is attending a school for magicians, Quentin’s moments of insecurity and attempts to fit in still feel relatable.
The novel truly shines, however, once Quentin realizes that the land of Fillory is real and that his friend has figured out how to travel there. Quentin and his friends jump at the chance to travel to Fillory, but they quickly find evil lurking within this supposedly perfect world, and this rag-tag group of teenagers may be the only ones who can end the reign of terror. Quentin’s journey into Fillory tells the fascinating tale of what would happen if our wildest dreams came true, only to fall horribly short of expectations.

Additionally, this book is the first in a trilogy, so if you love it, there is much more of Brakesbill and Fillory to explore after you reach the last page. This trilogy, which includes “The Magician King” and “The Magician’s Land,” is perfect to read if you’ve been beaten down by half-a-semester’s worth of academic readings and need to inject some magic back into your life.

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