Review: Earth Hates Me by Ruby Karp

“Good luck. I hope you don’t cringe too much.”

I started this ARC on a complete whim while in dire need for a quick and fun read to take my mind of things. I was then pleasantly surprised to open the first page to discover an interview between Ruby Karp and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer. Given my hesitations, this was the perfect hook for me to read on. In particular, since the author’s writing voice sounded similar to that of Rookie’s editor-in-chief (and recent podcast host), Tavi Gevinson. They’re both Jewish white girls, well-known for writing articles online since the age of ten and above.

But focusing on Earth Hates Me, I appreciated how Ruby Karp acknowledged her privilege from the start of this novel. She didn’t sugarcoat things and brought her honest self to these pages, filled with essays and articles to keep your head busy and thinking for days.

It also made me realize a lot of new things about myself that I couldn’t necessarily put into words at first. I went into this book thinking it would come off as another cheesy read, but that’s far from it actually. I found myself and so much more in the pages of Earth Hates Me. Funnily enough, it felt a lot like watching an episode from Skam, my favorite Norwegian tv series also directed towards 16-year-olds. Similar to the latter, we have discussions of:

  • Young love and heartbreak.

“Being in fifth grade (and hyperemotional, because being ten is a lot to deal with) and getting my heart broken? It’s almost as devastating as the ups and downs of Nash Grier’s career.”

P.S. The shade thrown in here at the most deserving of people was extremely satisfying to experience.

  • Making the crucial point that sex-ed classes need to discuss both the importance of consent while simultaneously teaching not to rape.

“We need to stop teaching people only how to say no. We need to stop allowing boys to use force upon girls and vice versa. We need boys to understand that using sexual force is unacceptable, always. We need to teach people how not to rape.”

  • The negativity behind slut shaming, the importance of practicing safe sex, girl power, and feminism turned into my favorite chapter. Karp brought up so many noteworthy notions similar to the above quote.
  • The matter of not feeling good enough in your own skin (“I looked for validation in other people because I couldn’t find it in myself.”) while also discussing beauty and self-worth and how it feels different for each individual, as it should.
  • Experiencing unrequited love, also known as “the heartbreak of heartbreaks.”

“When Angela Chase said that obsessions aren’t real, she meant it. Ninety-five percent of the time, what you want is just a fantasy. Your fantasies will never live up to your realities—that’s just fact. I couldn’t get over my idea of what Greg and I could have been. I couldn’t get over my idea of who he was and what I could have meant to him. The real Greg—the one who didn’t like me back—he wasn’t the Greg I wanted.”

This was something I was particularly glad to have read today.

  • She talks about mending your shattered heart, including a healthy dose of her own experiences with failed relationships “(real or mostly fantasy).”
  • Friend breakups and how they can hurt just as much as romantic ones.

“Some friends are exactly what you need them to be in the moment, but not forever.”

  • The suffocating stress of her performing arts high school. (“We’re like Victorious except without the puppet component.”) Plus, the pressure to do well in school while also addressing the mess that is the education system and standardized tests.

“Your grades are not a reflection of who you are.”

  • And a welcome addition of pop culture references thrown in, from social media to Hannah Montana, Mean Girls, Sex and the City, and Hamilton the musical.
  • Being raised by a single mother and their close relationship nowadays. Showing healthy mother/daughter relationships is the key to my heart.

“If you’re like me and your mom is always the though guy for you, you never really need to be the strong one. Because of this, my childhood consisted of tears the second anyone wasn’t nice to me.”

So as you can see by the above list, for the first half I was in a state of pure bliss while reading. The arguments brought up by the author were ones I wholeheartedly agreed with. Karp was either saying something I hadn’t been able to put into words before or the complete opposite, where it was just a comfort to have someone write down a similar opinion I held. Like her point about parents being humans too is one I’ve made before, so it was exciting to see her agree.

“We forget that our parents were once young and had lives where they also felt out of place at a party they didn’t know enough people at. Our parents aren’t minions from another planet, and as hard as it is to remember that, it’s important we try to, so we don’t spend every moment hating them.”

Ruby captured so many quiet and loud moments we’ve all experienced that “couldn’t have been more uncomfortable, more real, more dramatic, and more heartfelt…” Reading this felt like a much-needed change in scenery, a breath of fresh air. While I struggle with getting invested in fictional young adult books, I’ve noticed that the ones set in the nonfiction genre I manage to devour in a heartbeat. Plus, the addition of having so many laugh-out-loud moments weighed in as well.

I also began observing how each essay started out quite strong, especially ones with personal anecdotes included in the mix. But without fail, I knew the end of a chapter was coming when the advice started getting vague. Like: “Live your life the way you want to be living it.” Or “Go out into the world and be the change you want to see.” These are all valid points, just that a lot of influential people have said it before her and will continue to say it after…

But setting that little note aside, my day passed by in a happy blur thanks to being too invested in this book to look at the clock. So I’m definitely curious to see what’s next in store for Ruby Karp.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: October 3rd, 2017

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Earth Hates Me, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul

“Aren’t we all writers these days? We live through text. With our status updates and our e-mails, many of us spend our days writing down more words than we speak aloud. Anyone can write a book or post a story and find readers. Even those whose book reviews live exclusively on Amazon or Goodreads or in diaries or in the text of e-mails are still active creators of the written word.”

I was ecstatic when I found about this book of books. Similar to the author’s tendency to track every book she’s read over the past 28 years, I’ve been doing the same – granted, for a different length of time – with the subtle addition of writing down the exact time I finished the last page. Looking back, I realize I never really gave it a second thought when I started writing down the books I read, because similar to what Pamela Paul said: “It’s my way of keeping track. Because if I didn’t write it all down, I worry (naturally), I would forget it.”
My Life With Bob 1-- bookspoilsBut what appealed to me in particular with My Life With Bob was the exploration of this next idea talked about in the paragraph below:

“Bob has lasted a lot longer than any of my abandoned teenage journals—I write in it still—and here’s why: diaries contained all kinds of things I wanted to forget—unrequited crushes and falling-outs with friends and angsting over college admissions. Bob contains things I wanted to remember: what I was reading when all that happened.”

What I didn’t anticipate going into this was the memoir-type style of this book, where the author would talk extensively about her own life while focusing on her love for books in the background. But since I love memoirs with a passion, I was more than welcome of this addition. We follow Pamela Paul from her childhood growing up with seven brothers, to her trying to seal a job as a librarian at the ripe age of ten (“Did she not see that I was a book person, different from other, more casual library visitors, that I cared?”), discussing her love for literary heroines, traveling across Asia and Europe fresh out of college (which read a bit like a backpacking travelogue), her journey on becoming a writer and what that meant for her, and moving onto to the present day working as an editor of the The New York Times Book Review, all the while weaving themes of romance, disappointment, marriage, and motherhood into the overall arc.

Also, so many sentiments shared in this book really resonated for me. Like this irrational feeling of jealousy being perfectly captured:

“Like W. H. Auden, who once wrote, “Occasionally, I come across a book which I feel has been written especially for me and for me only,” I considered certain books mine, and the idea that other people liked them and thought of them as theirs felt like an intrusion. (“Like a jealous lover, I don’t want anybody else to hear of it”—Auden, again.) I wanted to be the only one who knew about a book or at least to be the first one there.”

I’ve said these exact words before, so reading someone else expressing the same notion was pivotal. “You know that experience of reading thoughts you haven’t yet articulated to yourself?” This was that.

Plus, I felt like I had so much to say with every turning page. The ideas presented and analyzed in My Life With Bob provided me with “a sense of total and complete identification.”

However, the second half of the book did drag a bit while reading about her fights with her ex-husband over books… It wasn’t exactly what I’d signed up for. I personally preferred reading more about her formative years than the mess of her past relationship.

“The mistake had been thinking I was somehow above fucking up royally, that I was safe. But I had been just as vulnerable and oblivious as anyone else, and reading all the books in the world couldn’t have saved me.”

When the narrative moved on from that point, I breathed a sigh of relief. In particular when the focus shifted on a cherished notion of mine: making your loved ones read your favorite books.

“I didn’t read it,” Roger confessed once the plane reached cruising altitude. “But I meant to.”
I should have known. Except in cases of rare devotion—and even then—trying to make someone read something is like force-feeding a baby. Most people prefer reading what they want to read. This cold fact was particularly upsetting to my father, who viewed reading or watching something he recommended as a demonstration, even a proof, of love. He was obsessed with recommending, cajoling over and over until you submitted. “You have to watch Ballad of a Soldier, he’d insist, strong-arming you into the TV room. “Come in here,” he’d say as soon as I walked into his apartment on the Upper West Side. “I just want to show you one scene from Black Narcissus. Just one scene! Pammy, please!”

I wholeheartedly get the dad in this scenario.

“The prospect of finding someone who takes as much pleasure in the book as I do is often more a reward than the book itself. ”

Another thing I loved about My Life With Bob was the unexpected laugh-out-loud funny scenes, like this confession from the author on why she stayed an extra day in the hospital after giving birth to her third child:

“In truth, I stayed in the hospital because I was in the middle of The Hunger Games. I’d started reading it in early labor, paused so that I could give birth, and then picked it back up to read almost immediately after Teddy was born and latched on, reading as I nursed. It was a genuine page-turner, and for once, with great pleasure, I had time to turn the pages.”

Iconic.

All in all: this being my first nonfiction read purely about books completely satisfied my immediate and all-consuming bookish heart.

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying My Life With Bob, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips

I was on the hunt for a collection of essays and stories, when I stumbled upon this swift read. For better or for worse, Trying to Float was not what I was expecting.

New York’s Chelsea Hotel may no longer be home to its most famous denizens—Andy Warhol, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, to name a few—but the eccentric spirit of the Chelsea is alive and well. Meet the family Rips: father Michael, a lawyer turned writer with a penchant for fine tailoring; mother Sheila, a former model and renowned artist who matches her welding outfits with couture; and daughter Nicolaia, a precocious high school junior at work on a record of her peculiar seventeen years.

Nicolaia is a perpetual outsider who has struggled to find her place in public schools populated by cliquish girls and loudmouthed boys. But at the Chelsea, Nicolaia need not look far to find her tribe. There’s her neighbor Stormé, a tall woman who keeps a pink handgun strapped to her ankle; her babysitter, Paris, who may or may not have a second career as an escort; her friend Artie, former proprietor of New York’s most famous nightclubs. The kids at school might never understand her, but as Nicolaia endeavors to fit in she begins to understand that the Chelsea’s motley crew could hold the key to surviving the perils of a Manhattan childhood.

“The greatest thing about the lobby was that you were never alone. ”

The first essay set at the Chelsea Hotel –known for its writers, artists, and musicians, but also for its drug addicts, alcoholics, and eccentrics.”- completely captivated my attention in just a handful of pages, which was what convinced me to forge ahead. However, I quickly came to realize that Trying to Float wasn’t quite what I’d signed up for. Nicolaia Rips chronicles more about her adolescence and the hardships of making friends in middle school, than growing up in said eccentric hotel. Which I didn’t mind that much at first, but it grew a bit tedious and repetitive towards the end. (But I can’t lie: I still love hearing middle school gossip.)

Plus, there were certain residents (Jade!!) and neighbors that I wanted to know more about, instead of reading about some random middle school boy farting into someone’s face (yeah, that happened…).
I just felt like these essays had so much potential, however, they didn’t live up to what I’d imagined. I felt like we only scratched the surface of intrigue, but didn’t fully dive in to explore.

Also, the author admitting at the end of the book that certain points on the pages of her chronicle were exaggerated made me question multiple times what was real and what was fake. Not going to lie, it felt a lot like this:

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-13-24-43

But in the end I was just grateful to have found a collection of essays to read after so long without one. And I didn’t mind the stream of consciousness narrative, which was a plus for me, along with the subtle humor thrown in for good measure.

Speaking of, here are some of my preferred pieces:

“As tenants passed through the lobby, Stanley would announce how much rent was due and that it had not been paid. It was humiliating. Most of those who owed rent would call the front desk to check if Stanley was in the lobby before exiting the hotel. On those occasions when Stanley left to get a coffee at the Aristocrat, a swarm of tenants would rush out of the hotel.”

Stanley, the landlord, was something else.

“It is said her name was not really Jade, but Stacey. That she arrived at the Chelsea Hotel in the middle of the night during a blizzard, a runaway from Florida. It is said she walked from Port Authority to the hotel wearing only a T-shirt, tattered shorts, and flip-flops. That Stanley Bard said she could stay for a few nights, which extended to months, then years. And that in those years she transformed herself from a little girl to a goddess—her home, from a dark, single room without a toilet, to a suite.”

As I mentioned before, Jade was so fascinating to get to know. Sadly, we only got to hear about her in one swift essay.

And then this little tale Nicolaia told to an anxious girl on their first day of middle school:

I needed to say something. I settled on a story I had been told that very morning by Jerry, the manager of the front desk at the Chelsea.
“There were two old Jewish men who worked together in a clothing factory,” I began. “It was crowded and hot, and they stood on their feet all day long.”
Ignoring her bewildered look, I continued.
“One of the men was a cutter and the other a sewer. They were both from the old country and spoke with Yiddish accents. One day the sewer went missing.”
The girl stopped crying. I had her attention.
“Exactly two weeks later, the sewer returned to the factory.”
“Where did he go?” the girl asked.
“Well, that’s exactly what the cutter wanted to know. So he says to the sewer, ‘Where were you? You’ve been gone a long time.’ ”
I waited a few seconds, pretending to decide whether I should continue.
“What was his answer?” asked the girl.
“The sewer tells the cutter, ‘I was in Africa.’
“The cutter responds, ‘What did you do in Africa?’
“The sewer, while stitching a piece of cloth, says to the cutter, ‘I traveled all over, I saw many things, and at the end of my trip, I was eaten by a lion.’
“ ‘Wait a second,’ says the cutter. ‘If you were eaten by a lion, you wouldn’t be living.’
“The sewer looks around the factory and says, ‘You call this living?’”

Oh, boy… these kinds of stories always remind me of my family and our gossip and good times. And the more I think about this tale, the more I laugh. It was a good effort.

And there’s a lot more where that came from. Essays with similar humor, from playing tic-tac-toe with stoners and going to summer camps seemingly caring for animals, to being accused by a former friend of pregnancy at eleven-years-old… Trying to Float had a lot of middle school shenanigans that I slowly grew keen of observing from the side lines. I mean, there’s no doubt that middle school is one of the most baffling periods, or maybe that’s high school… Either way, school sucks for the most part and this book was a not-so-subtle reminder of that.

At the heart of it all, it was a very interesting subject matter of coming-of-age in an unexpected place, but there was still something about it that didn’t sit right with me. I can’t point my finger on one specific thing, but I know that I couldn’t shake of my unease for awhile.

3/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Trying to Float, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!