The 2nd annual Aaron Book Awards

30 12 2013

Welcome to the 2nd annual Aaron Book Awards, where I list all of the books I’ve read this year and pick out some of my favourites. Compared to last year’s total of 30 books, I managed to read 35, which surprises me because I felt like I didn’t read very much this year. So, without further ado, here are the awards!

Best Play

Winner: a Shakespeare play I should’ve read

It seems unfair to make My Chernobyl the winner for this since I only read one play this year. I had been meaning to read some Shakespeare but never got around to it, mostly because I feared the translation would be daunting and annoying. But next year!

Nominees: My Chernobyl — Aaron Bushkowsky

Best Graphic Novel/Manga

Winner: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind — Hayao Miyazaki

Okay, I know I’m not even finished Nausicaa yet, and yeah sure, the last three books could completely ruin the series, but based on what I’ve read so far, it’s a huge, complex, philosophical piece of work. Not that Scott Pilgrim isn’t, but certainly not in the same way. One reads Scott Pilgrim to be entertained; one reads Nausicaa to have their mind blown.

Nominees: Scott Pilgrim — Bryan Lee O’Malley
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind — Hayao Miyazaki

Best Children’s Book

Winner: The Secret Garden — Frances Hodgson Burnett

I will give a shout-out to Evan Munday again though, because I love his humour and his writing style. He’s my bro!

Nominees: The Secret Garden — Frances Hodgson Burnett
Dial M for Morna — Evan Munday

Best Non-Fiction Book

Winner: Slow Death by Rubber Duck — Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie

I would’ve picked A Brief History of Time but I will be honest: I know Hawking dumbed down physics, but there were still parts in there in which I stared blankly at it and just looked at the pretty pictures.

Nominees: The Illustrated A Brief History of Time — by Stephen Hawking
Slow Death by Rubber Duck — Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
Expert Companions: Household Skills and Tips

Best Memoir/Autobiography
I have to say that this is really tough because I loved all of these books in their own way, and quite frankly, these are all books that everyone should read sometime in their lives.

Winner: i am not myself these days — Josh Kilmer-Purcell

When something makes me cry, I know it’s good. i am not myself these days has that perfect balance of great humour, drama, and tragedy that I so long to write. It’s an incredibly poignant look at a tumultuous relationship of a young gay man’s life and growing up. I only hope to one day that my memoir will be as compelling as this one.

Nominees: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother — Amy Chua
i am not myself these days — Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Me Talk Pretty One Day — David Sedaris
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls — David Sedaris
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times for Teens
How Poetry Saved My Life — Amber Dawn

Best Novel (Fiction)
I only read three novels this year? I thought I read more. Hmm.

Winner: Life of Pi — Yann Martel

Nominees: Life of Pi — Yann Martel
The Five People You Meet in Heaven — Mitch Albom
The Lovely Bones — Alice Sebold

Best Young Adult Book
I’m surprised this is the biggest category. I guess I didn’t realize how many YA novels I read this year.

Winner: Where You Are — J.H. Trumble

I thought there were great twists and turns, and the narrative was so compelling I couldn’t put the book down, which doesn’t happen very often. A really great novel in its own right, but a really good gay romance too.

Nominees: What They Always Tells Us — Martin Wilson
Hidden — Tomas Mournian
The City of Ember trilogy — Jeanne DuPrau
Six Earlier Days — David Levithan
Where You Are — J.H. Trumble
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times for Teens
Two Boys Kissing — David Levithan
Don’t Let Me Go — J.H. Trumble
Divergent — Veronica Roth

And for the final category: Best Book of 2013

Winner: i am not myself these days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Honorable mention: Where You Are by J.H. Trumble

Looking forward to reading tons more books next year!


Where You Are

20 07 2013

So this is probably my favourite read so far this year, and definitely my favourite gay teen novel this year. What makes this novel so good? Well, the teacher-student premise could have been a porn-y, cliché fantasy, but surprisingly (and thankfully), it wasn’t. What I liked best, aside from the wonderful, well-rounded characters which I mentioned a few posts ago, is that Andrew’s inevitable decision to give in to Robert is delayed over and over again instead of happening at the first instance the two characters are alone. I found this to not only give Andrew more humanity (and made me respect and care about what happened to him), but when they did finally get together, it made things that much sweeter– I was cheering! I really appreciated that decision by author J.H. Trumble, whose writing is simple and clear, with sweet, humorous moments dispersed throughout. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: some genuinely surprising twists too. So much to be pleasantly surprised at!

That being said, all my praise for this very touching, poignant story doesn’t mean that I found it to be a flawless read. There were minor things that I wondered about, such as what happened to Stephen after the whole mess was uncovered? I know it’s not important because the story is centered around Andrew and Robert, but I did feel like if he was punished somehow, that I damn well wanted to read what kind of trouble that brat (and his ignorant father) got. Although I loved Andrew and Robert as characters, I found some of the other minor characters to be a bit flat. Aunt Olivia and Whitney came across as the evil twins, and there were times I was confused who was who and who was saying what mean thing; Luke is a fascinating character– a gay friend who is genuinely a friend and has no ulterior motives! Wow!–but he only appears briefly as simple friend archetype. This isn’t to say that all minor characters need to be developed (though that certainly would be impressive). Another fantastic gay teen novel is Bill Konigsberg’s Out of the Pocket, which is about a closeted football player. The other players on the team are minor, supporting characters to the protagonist’s story, yet they are described so distinctly and vividly, either through what they look like or through their dialogue/slang, that they became real three-dimensional people, just like the protagonist. They aren’t featured nearly as heavily as him, but when they are, I have a really clear picture of their personality and what they look like.  It’s a really tough thing to do, to create three-dimensional characters that feel real, but when it happens, it can really elevate a story to make it feel more like reality.

I also found myself, while reading, completely visualizing this all happening as a movie. Man, what a great movie this would make! I can see it as a good, indie movie, with some handsome actors who know how to act. In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to reading Don’t Let Me Go now, after this engaging read with characters I still think about. By then, I’ll have raised my expectations for what I’m sure will be another enjoyable story.

2013-07-19 21.21.55

Can’t let go

17 07 2013

I don’t know about everyone else, but sometimes when I get really invested in a story, when I care about the characters and their ordeals and want things to end well for them so badly, I get attached to a novel to the point where, when I finish it, I’m still thinking about it, replaying my favourite scenes in my head. This doesn’t happen very often, and certainly hasn’t happened in quite some time.

It happened today when I finished Where You Are. Andrew and Robert lingered in my mind, their smiles as they kissed and held each other. I had grown so attached to them and their story, it didn’t feel right returning the novel so quickly to the library, as if there might be a scene I would have to re-read in the middle of the night to comfort myself that one day, I too might find my Andrew (or Robert). It felt like I knew these two, like there was some special bond created when I read their story, like I was now involved somehow. It’s strange, yet comforting. Part of it is the hopeful ending (which I am incredibly glad for) that kept me thinking of what their life might be like further down the road. I suppose the other part is that the story, about two people who genuinely seem like they’re made for each other, really resonated with me.

I like to think this strange attachment is indicative of a good story, to be emotionally invested with the story and/or the characters. I’ve never really considered myself to be a fiction writer– creative non-fiction, poetry, and even writing my TV pilot come more easily to me– but upon reading Where You Are, I wish I could give someone else that same feeling. Maybe I could write a novel someday and do that too.

Reading makes me sad

16 07 2013

Let me rephrase that. Reading sad things make me sad.

I’m currently in the middle of a surprisingly good gay-themed novel called Where You Are by J.H. Trumble. It’s about the a young high school teacher and his growing relationship with one of his math students. Most of the time, when I read gay novels or watch gay-themed films, I don’t care if people get together or ruin their lives because a lot of the time, it’s predictable. And after a while of watching so many similar films, it becomes more and more difficult to actually care for the characters and to be on their side. In this novel, I’m finding myself on both these two characters’ sides. Their love for each other is so obvious, so pure that I want them to get together– and yet, because of their teacher-student relationship, I became super scared when things started to get too intimate.

That’s all backstory to my explanation as to why I’m sad, which is that I’m at a part in the novel where the teacher has vowed to disconnect himself from his student, as he just found out his student is underage. It makes me sad because I like both of them, yet I can understand why they can’t be together. Although it’s a young adult novel, I don’t know that they will be together in the end, but I sure as hell hope so. Or else I’ll be sad for days…

Where you are.

4 12 2011

I imagine you at the aquarium, meeting some other volunteer who is way more passionate about biology and animals than I could ever be.  You’re both standing in front of the tortoise and the sharks, illuminated by the bluish light from inside the tank.  It makes his eyes even bluer.  He has a smile that turns heads and he’s charming, making you laugh with every other sentence, while I could only make you roll your eyes at my jokes.  His facial hair adds to his good looks, not detracts.  With him, you find that you can be your loud, boisterous self that I’ve seen is the real you.  He talks a lot and you talk a lot.  There is no shortage of words, no time for silence.   (I could never find all that many words to say.)  After some flirting which doesn’t feel forced, he confidently asks you out for drinks, and you agree, reminded of how I refused to drink, despite your nagging that it was polite and a social custom to do so.

He’s comfortable being in a bar.  Over drinks, you get to know each other better.  You’re both students, both studying biology, and both have exes who wanted more time in a relationship than what you were both willing to give.  What a relief, you think, to finally meet someone who feels the same way about relationships.  Before the end of the night, you still want to be around him– he’s only the third person you’ve ever met who you genuinely don’t feel like you could ever get tired of.  “Immune”, as you called it, as if he has evaded some sort of disease, one that I was unable to avoid.

You tell him you’re a vegetarian and he says he is too; he informs you he loves Shakira and going to the haunted houses at Fright Nights, and you tell him you do too.  Unlike me, he doesn’t speak a word of Spanish except for “hola” and “taco”, but you never liked speaking in Spanish anyway.  All the while, both of you can’t help looking into each others’ eyes.  He touches your hand, your arm, the way I used to, and it’s been a while since a guy has touched you.  It feels good, warm, and sends a tingle up your spine.  He’s subtle in the way he lets you know he’s into you, whereas I resorted to double-entendres and whispering in your ear of all the things I wanted to do to you.

When you leave, he offers to drive you home, and you accept.  He invites you over to his place, where he lives alone, not with his family.  He’ll invite you over many more times, and it’s convenient because, as you’ll both discover, he lives also lives in the same area where you can get to his place easily.

Neither of you still talk to your exes.  Alone with him at his place, he asks about your ex.  You tell him mostly good things: that he’s a writer and a filmmaker who was romantic.  Your first love.  Charmed you with slow-dancing to Chet Baker.  Supported you when you came out.  Sounds nice, he says, and you agree.  I couldn’t give him what he wanted, though, and he just didn’t get me, you realize.  Not like you, you add.

You’re more than content with seeing each other once or twice a week for a few hours because that’s all you both have time for.  It doesn’t bother you, and it doesn’t bother him.  Clearly, he isn’t insecure about your relationship.  This is a real relationship, you wonder to yourself.  This is what I want.  Him.

The last words your ex said to you are probably still in your facebook messages inbox somewhere: If you ever do decide you have time for a relationship again and want to start things again, I’m leaving it up to you. In the meantime, goodbye.  Goodbye.  It is easier to leave the story at goodbye, easier to say hello to someone new and start writing a new manuscript instead of saying hello again and re-writing a new chapter of a stale novel.  Easier to create new life than revive a cold season.  Easier and preferable.

You have the briefest of thoughts about what your ex could be doing at this moment, where he is.  Probably studying, or in class, or at home with his cat whom he constantly would talk about.  The thought disappears, however, as he kisses you.  You kiss him back, and are not surprised that you do not think of me.

Little do you know he’s sitting alone at home, coughing up words to clear the block in his throat.  Writing a fear.  Giving in to his insecure mind again.

Wondering where you are.