Friday, 5 January 2018

The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics

Published: 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Author’s Website: http://www.amylukavics.com
On Goodreads
My Review on Goodreads

Setting

The book is set in a Victorian mansion in contemporary times. It is a great setup for a horror story: lots of space (dark halls, empty rooms, attics, repetitive wallpaper, fireplaces in the rooms), no neighbours (particularly isolated), and surrounded by woods. There is a hint of female madness, men trying to keep control, ghosts, disappearances, all the good stuff.

Essay prompt: Gothic tropes in literature - compare the classic Bran Stoker’s Dracula (1897) or any literary gothic horror (this whole list is available from Goodreads and has great suggestions) with The Women in the Walls (a “then vs now” comparison for gothic themes would be great).

However, I feel like this book could have been set 100 years ago, and it would have been more dynamic because of gender roles. But you can’t conveniently boot up the computer and Google your house LIKE YOU NEVER WOULD HAVE DONE THAT BEFORE.

Essay prompt: The Women in the Walls vs The Yellow Wallpaper or Jane Eyre and madness with gender (women’s power vs the infantilization of women).

Characters 

Overall, the book did have some memorable characters. The further you go away from the protagonist, Lucy, the better the characters are developed. 

To begin with, the book doesn’t take enough time to set up the characters and bonds before those characters begin to be plucked off. Why do I care if a character goes missing in the first few pages of the book? I feel like I am supposed to care, but I can’t. More time should have been given to conveying them to the reader. 

The main character, Lucy, doesn’t have a consistent character. I know at 17 you are still figuring that out, but what are her hobbies, her fears, her hopes, her manner of speaking, etc.? She self-mutilates, but that really shouldn’t be the only thing we know about her. (Plus, please don’t think that someone who cuts is this simple and flat. People who genuinely start cutting do so for very complex reasons.) She’s entrenched in the Acosta’s legacy. She seems unreasonable to her father (even though, yes, a lot of what is going on needs to be questioned) and that’s the only consistencies I could find. She mostly lets the plot happen to her, which gets old. 

Her father seems to have more of a defined character than Lucy. Margaret was an unlikable character, but she had more character than Lucy. Perhaps Lucy is a Mary Sue, which is an avatar for the author. The country club’s wives, their husbands, the new cook, the supernatural presence, all have more character than the main character. 

Writing

When the author isn’t writing about something scary, the writing isn’t the best. The sentences could be tighter and clearer. I found as I was reading them, my brain was automatically correcting the sentences. However, I have read that her latest book, The Ravenous, is a much better example of good writing, and I look forward to reading it (I actually own all three of her currently published books already). I want to stress that when Lukavics does write the “scary” passages, they are genuinely unsettling. Because those passages are so engaging, the book was a quick read that didn’t make me want to skim. 

Final Verdict 

The main character’s lack of individuality and inability to move the plot herself is frustrating, it may turn off some readers. With the addition of the non-horror sections not being especially well-crafted, I can see this be disappointing to some readers. However, I do recommend it for its horror qualities. Plus, it is a fast, engaging read. If your library isn’t squeamish about horror, non-suicidal self-injury, and gore, I recommend this. This book can be very versatile for high school essays (if you’re a teacher who is adamant about pushing the classics, pair this book with a literary classic). I also think Lukavics is an author to watch, if the reviews for The Ravenous are to be believed (and I will be starting that book tomorrow). Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book and I will be keeping it on my shelf.

Monday, 18 December 2017

A Boy and His Dog (Short Story) by Harlan Ellison VS the Film

Published: 1969
Film: 1975

15-year-old Vic is a survivor of World War IV. In this alternate world, dogs have achieved telepathic abilities, and Vic has teamed up with a dog named, Blood, arguably the smarter of the pair. Together, they scavenge the wasteland of the former United States. They search for food, shelter, and sex for Vic. It is in this quest that they find a woman named Quilla June, who is out to lure Vic for her own purposes.



I'm doing things a little differently here, so anything beyond here may have spoilers!



Sexist Attitudes of the Protagonist and the Post Apocalyptic Wasteland   

In the post-apocalyptic wasteland, it’s every man for themselves. Women are used for sex, and it’s not often that women are spotted. Vic grew up in this world, presumably without the proper guidance that we, today, give children. So, is not surprising that he is a product of more primal urges. The story is not framed in a way that gives the impression that Vic (or the author) think that what they are doing is moral, just that it is the new norm in that world. Women are commodities, just like food, shelter, and weapons. I point this out because I know there are large groups of readers who are more sensitive to these topics. I don’t believe it isn’t worth reading, even when it is, at times, difficult to read how badly the world has fallen.

Unlikable Protagonist


I foresee that some audiences might not like Vic, or the story in general, on principle. As for not liking a protagonist because you don’t agree with his morals or actions, a protagonist isn’t a hero. By literary definition, it’s just the main figure of a story. A third-grade teacher might say the protagonist is a hero so their students can understand, but protagonists are so much more. We don’t have to like them. We can’t always believe them. But we follow their story. (Did you know there are people in this world that we don’t like, but have interesting stories? Shocking.)

Film Adaptation
(These are both available on Youtube. Alternatively, your public library probably has them available to watch them directly on your computer, without having to go in to the library.)

Have an essay in university that you need to compare and contrast the original source material (novel, short story, etc.) with an adaption (comics, films, etc.)? Consider Ellison’s “A Boy and His Dog” and the 1975 film. Are you objective? Can you also write objectively? It couldn’t hurt to know how closed-minded your professor is, too. When I was in high school and 17-years-old, this would have been deemed outrageously inappropriate. But when I was in my first year of university and 17-years-old, nothing is deemed off-limits. The short story “A Boy and His Dog” is arguably not high school reading, but by the grace of being in university or college, a wider range of reading material is opened up to students who may still be teenagers. I am actually disappointed that I didn’t use this for one of my adaptation essays. I usually only write about homework with high school students in mind, specifically, but I thought I would throw some ideas out on the internet in case anyone needs some inspiration. Note: I don’t have access to a lot of English literary criticism databases anymore, so perhaps this is overdone to death. What I am interested in is how the film toned-down/dumbed-down the messages for the screen. 


Decrease in Crude Language and Behaviour

I can see why the film version made him less crude and forceful with his interactions with women (though he does have quite the remark about the woman who was killed in the beginning of the film). Even in the 70s, I think it would have been hard to reveal on the screen that Vic had indeed, raped many women before, hurting them, leaving them in dangerous situations, and had zero regards for them as people. He was specifically trying to find Quilla for this purpose, but in the film, he softens quickly to her idea of being together forever (as long as Blood can come, too).

The film also has nudity (as in, topless women, mostly Quilla). The tagline for the film is: “An R-rated, rather kinky tale of survival”, which is, arguably, rather false advertising. It gives it a pervy allure when it is much more than that. I would be interested in a paper discussing why this tagline would be deemed better than say, something that exalts the post-apocalyptic world, friendship, and love? 

Quilla June: Book VS Film

What was disappointing to me is how obviously evil she is in the film. In the book, it’s ambiguous how the reader is definitely meant to feel about her. Vic’s ultimate decision brings an array of possible reactions/emotions: disgust, resignation, understanding, sadness.

In the film, she is a terrible person who is using Vic for her own agenda. So when it’s barbeque time, it’s difficult to have too many conflicting emotions about it. Blood would aggravate Vic, but Quilla is undeniably a detestable character. The film dumbed-down the whole conflict. This should have been the best aspect of the film and it turned it into, eww, cannibalism! No. The ending to the book is, “A boy loves his dog.” The film ends with Blood saying, “Well I'd say she certainly had marvellous judgement, Albert, if not particularly good taste.” Way to kill any kind of nuance.

Book Topeka vs Film Topeka


You can look at your best friend and say, 
"To the farm, immediately" and have an in-joke. 
There, I just gave you a thing. 
Topeka in the book is stated to be more religious, as they had kicked all the scientists out to establish their own rule. Other than that, it isn’t described in detail. 


In the film, Topeka is an oligarchy that imitates the deep south in dress and morals. The townspeople are in whiteface with painted smiles and rosy cheeks. The film is also full of bright colours, and the atmosphere isn't described that way in the book (I got the feeling that it was dingy). They get rid of the people who don’t fit in by sentencing them to the farm, immediately (as in, where your parents tell you where your dog is because they are too cowardly to tell you Rover has died). While I find that the film Topeka is much more interesting, it is again portrayed in such a way to make the audience’s distaste for it obvious. Why do we assume that film audiences are stupid? 




Final Thoughts

Originally, I discovered this more than 10 years ago from the I Read Comics podcast by Lene Taylor. I can't see which episode specifically talks about it, though they are all great. I am indebted to her, not only for all those hours of entertainment, but for introducing me to more stories I would have never come across otherwise. She currently blogs at Look At His Butt! and that has it's own podcast (her voice is exceptional btw, go check her out).

I can't recall if it was her or a guest, who basically said, Well, it's not called A Boy and His Dog and His Girlfriend. And that sentiment has literally stayed with me and I've repeated it so many time I've lost count.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Online Crisis Chat Services

Disclaimer: I have not used any of these chat services. I have checked out their online resources but I have not engaged them.

These three resources provide chat support for youth and adults. I am in Canada, and I have also included some American resources. I hope to add to this list in the future. These resources are available if you are in need of emotional support (stress, abuse, anxiety, school issues, relationships, etc.). You don't have to be in crisis to access these services, but you still can if you are.   

Youthspace.ca (Canadian resource)
If you are under 30 years old, every night from 6PM and midnight PST you can go on their website and click "Online Chat" or "SMS Text Chat" and speak to a trained volunteer.

Crisischat.org (American resource)
This resource is available regardless of age. Every day the chat is open from 2PM to 2AM Eastern Time.

Unsuicide (Canada, US, Australia, UK)
This wikia has many links to online crisis intervention websites - they are not solely for suicide prevention.
*Note: I have not clicked on all of the links. The ones that I have appear to be very helpful. In the future, I hope to check them out more fully and link to them here.

I highly recommend users Google for crisis centres in their area and see if they also offer online chat support.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Lauren DeStefano's Video on Wither's Publication

Way back in 2013 I wrote a review of Lauren DeStefano 's Wither (spoilers, I really like her series).

Today I stumbled on a vlog the author did on her publishing journey for Wither. The video is below:




You can also watch the video on Youtube here. I recommend that you go to her Youtube channel and show her some love. Her story about publishing is fantastic, and we share basically the same experience with getting a BA in English when you want to be writer (with the exception is that she got a big break and is now a best selling author).

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher


Published: 2007
Publisher: Razorbill
Website: http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

Introduction

Hannah Baker has committed suicide. In the wake of her sudden departure, the people who knew her get a set of tapes with a map. On the tapes is the voice of Hannah narrating the thirteen reasons why she chose to kill herself. Nice guy Clay receives his and he listens to the harrowing story that was her life; one event after another. Everyone who contributed to her decision is on the tapes, and they have, or will have, their chance to listen. Clay is eager to know, yet terrified - why is he on the tapes? What did he do to her?

Themes


This book is like rubbernecking a highway traffic accident. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it gets dark. If you’re sensitive to uncomfortable topics such as the obvious suicide, bullying, sexual situations, etc., stay clear. Some people just don’t want to read about that, and that’s fine. However, I don’t advocate that this book be kept from teens or adults who wants to read it just because of its content. If you are alright with tougher subjects, go ahead and read it. If you don’t think your kid is up to the challenge, talk with them.

Also, you can write some amazing essays with this book. Comparing it to other books, or talk about glorification of suicide, bullying, sexual assault/consent, or the reality of suicides, or how the media handled it (sensationalized).

Hannah’s Character
Got this from here.
She comes off more of a psychopath to me. Clever like Jigsaw or Grandpa Rick, but not something glamourous. At many points in the book she seems to be more of a monster. Not because she has killed herself, but because she tries to drag everyone down to the hell she experienced. Her suicide was her escape, but the tapes were to punish those left behind. She's an emotional blackmailer.

The Courtney Character

Oh, hey, what a surprise, another smear on my name. Her last name is pretty cool though.

My Regular Person Opinion on the Book

Don’t give me that OMG think of the children! overreacting. Teens, adults, seniors, children - they are all capable of committing suicide, and they do. Copycat suicides? Sure, but you can get inspiration from anywhere if you are already in the mindset. The news, the bible, children’s fairy tales, urban legends, history, etc. all have instances of suicide and/or violence towards others. (Of course, video games get a lot of the flak nowadays.)

Thing is, it’s well-written. The voices are spot on, the characters are strong, which surprised me because there are so many. Aside from being on the Jigsaw spectrum, it’s story is unique. Dark, yes, and I don’t believe shielding the masses from stuff that might trigger them will help anyone. Parents should be talking with their kids - it shouldn't take a controversial book in the media to make you parent.

The End

I did love the end, and it’s exactly as I hoped it would be. The circle is broken. I’ll watch the Netflix series and report back, though they have a second season already lined up, which confuses me. It’s done, isn’t it? It’s over. Go home.  

Although I do have to say something about Clay’s tape, and a few of the other tapes. You can click right here and you’ll be directed to a page on this blog that will have spoilers and what I think is a major flaw in this book.

Suitability in a Library

Should you carry this book in your library? Depends. How’s your collection development policy? How do you handle book challenges? Personally, I’d put it in, but that’s just me and my (mostly) irrelevant opinion. Whose opinion counts, might you ask? The heads of your library that have to write policies and procedures, and then implement said policies and procedures, that’s who.

And if you start banning now, you set a precedent, and you'll be having everyone on Harry Potter and Jane Eyre and 1984 and Brave New World and The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm and Fahrenheit 451 and Hamlet and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and... 

I recently read this book and it was great - Intellectual Freedom for Teens: A Practical Guide for YA & School Librarians. I recommend it if you're an advocate for intellectual freedom.

Final Verdict

It’s a good book. Well-written with the integration of the story on the tapes, what’s happening to Clay as he listens to the tapes, and what Clay remembers. Due to the themes, it’s not for everyone - and that’s fine. If a reader is good with dark themes, I recommend this book.

I think there’s too much that happened to Hannah, though, to the point that it becomes unbelievable. I can see that might be annoying to some people. The media attention is unfortunate, but it will subside eventually and we can go back to reading instead of attending all these mandatory book burnings.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Beyond Falling Stars By Sherry Soule

Starlight Saga

*Honest Review Requested by Author in Exchange for Free eBook
Published: April 2017
Publisher: Disenchanted Publishing
Series: Starlight Saga #3
Website: Author’s blog
She’s Also on Wattpad
Amazon: Here
Goodreads: Here


Story

Get in the spaceship, we’re going to Reticuli.

Sloane and the gang have been through a lot. During all their troubles, they get news that the Lancasters are going to the alien planet Reticuli. It also just makes sense that everyone else can go too, so the whole cast goes to the two-sun beach planet. Once there, not much goes in Sloane’s favor - attempts on her life, a war with her new mother-in-law, and Hayden’s ex just not letting go.

Mystery

We have another round of trying to figure out a who is the person behind some nefarious deeds. In the last book I didn’t see it coming and I felt amazing at the reveal. This time, I thought, It’s definitely not X. Though wouldn’t it be funny if it is X? And…turns out that it is X, and it was still another awesome moment for me (NOOOOOO WAAAAAY!), especially because it’s a little more complicated than it seems.

Flow

For me, it wasn’t as fast of a read as the previous two in the series, but it still had that easy flow and nail-biting what will happen next anticipation. I haven’t had much time on my lunch break to read, so I’d get a few pages read and have to stop, and that was agonizing. The way it’s written keeps you hooked - I think it has something to do with the lack of purple prose and superfluous description, so the plot and general excitement keeps going.

Final Verdict

The whole series was fantastic. Alien-human hybrids, romance, action, a few mysteries - everything to keep you interested. This book did not disappoint and I highly recommend it along with the other two books. I have some more thoughts below if anyone wants to read them, but they contain spoilers.








I didn't make this.

SPOILERS

End of the Series

I have a few thoughts about how the end wrapped everything up.

The “Let’s not do it until marriage” message is a good message. Not one that I agree with, but for a YA audience it’s good. And they seem to be sticking it out, which I think fits better with the story. It's not controlling like Twilight, it's just what they have agreed to.

I didn’t always like Hayden. Maybe for a sixteen-year-old he’s a hotbad-boy, but I couldn’t get past his communication issues. I liked how he ended up though. Looks like no more communication issues by the end scene.

Writing about a girl’s weight is difficult, as we are currently in a difficult cultural climate about women’s body image. Do you celebrate loving your body no matter what the size, or do you advocate for health and therefore a smaller size? I like how Soule handled Sloane’s struggle. Most importantly, Sloane’s happy with herself. The fact that Hayden loves her is just icing on the cake. With her new life she seems to be more active, and she tries not to overindulge, and she is losing weight without making it an unhealthy obsession. On a personal note, I am a huge horror film, video game, novel, and art nerd. Along with my librarianship and writing jobs, I (and most people) have a largely sedentary lifestyle. It’s really easy to gain weight, and I totally did during high school and university. I had to take up running and exercising a dog every day to balance this out (lol). It's just one of those common things about life that happens and it's nice that there's at least one book out there that address it without making it the focus of the book (e.g. a book about a girl's weight loss journey or anorexia).

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Library and Reading Stories from the Internet

(For some reason I had this in draft for several weeks. Opps.)

Just in case anyone is interested, here are some news articles regarding libraries, reading, and schools.


Conservative summer reading list at Alabama high school stirs attention


With a title like that, I thought it was for a standard English class, but no, it's for an "advanced-placement government class". While the reading list arguably shouldn't be so biased, having conservative material isn't necessarily bad. The teacher just should have tried a little harder to be inclusive.





These are some amazing librarians!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Under Sunless Skies by Sherry Soule


*Honest Review Requested by Author in Exchange for Free eBook
Published: July 14, 2016/April 2017
Publisher: Disenchanted Publishing
Series: Starlight Saga #2
Website: Author’s blog
She’s Also on Wattpad
Amazon: Here
Goodreads: Here

Introduction

A few weeks ago I was wondering if Sherry Soule wrote the sequel to Lost in Starlight, as I was thinking about what will happen to Sloane. Then, BAM, I get the news that the author is looking to get reviewers for the THIRD book in the series. I was floored! I know I’m in the running for the slowest writer ever, but she works fast, AND look at her goodreads listing of all the books she has authored (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4925996.Sherry_Soule).  

Sloane and Hayden have broken up, she gets a bombshell of news from her own family, and intergalactical organizations are causing her grief. This time around, Sloane has some mysteries to solve. First and foremost, she has a mysterious blackmailer threatening to leak her secrets, putting her and her family in danger.

Story

I was hooked on this book! I couldn’t stop reading because I NEEDED to know who the blackmailer was. I know some books make it obvious who the blackmailer is, and I DID NOT see this one coming. Everyone was acting so suspicious I couldn’t fathom who was behind it. It was an awesome experience that I haven’t felt in a while. There was also the aspect of will they/won't they get back together going on.  

This book feels to be more paranormal romance, with a light layer of sci-fi, and I enjoyed the atmosphere. The sci-fi is a backdrop and it’s unobtrusive. There's no attempt to explain crazy futuristic technology or science and I appreciate that.

Characters

Once again, I really like Sloane. I see her as the kind of girl that gets things done. She's a journalist for her school’s newspaper, a blogger, she has too many mysteries to count to figure out, and she still makes time for her friends. She pines over a boy and that drives me crazy, but in the end, she’s still just a teen. She has problems that are both relatable and paranormal, and the mix is perfect. The book is from her perspective and you get more of her interesting lines and thoughts.    

Two of my favourite quotes are:
If you stabbed me, I’d probably bleed frosting.
I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color.

Hayden angered me for about 70% of the book. LISTEN TO SLOANE SHE HAS SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TELL YOU. I hate reading about on and off again relationships because I also hate them in real life. When an ex comes back after treating your heart like a cigarette butt and is like, hey, let’s get back together! Sure, entertain the idea. Then tell him it’s a good thinking point, as is the idea of setting him on fire.

It is realistic though. It happens all the time. A guy breaks up with you and you’re still totally in love, and you’re like I’M FINE, but secretly you hope he’ll take you back. As an adult I was screaming in my head that she needed to leave him be. He’s being a few shades of Edward Cullen/Christian Gray creepy. I wanted her to be the best kind of awesome she can be without him, and she was, though she was still pining for him. She was chasing him, which I hate, but this is a fictional character...and real people do this too. They do things we don’t like. It just made me want to shake her because she’s better than that, and punch him because he’s being mean and she deserves better.  

As for chasing boys:
(With the exception of the two with text denoting the possible creators at the bottom of the images, I have no idea who made these originally.)



Final Verdict

I highly recommend this book, and the first one in the series, for older teens who are looking for a fun romp with romance and sci-fi. Even if sci-fi isn't your thing, give these a try. These two books were written in an easy flowing way that are easy to get lost in. I have only read the first two books from this series, I am interested in checking out some of the author’s other books because I like the writing style.  

Fun (Maybe) and (Definitely Pointless) Fact:

I wore a lot of black back in the day. Then my mother told me to stop buying black clothes. So I switched to shades of darker blue...then she asked if I was in a blue cult. I know it’s more of a generational thing, but I would love to have Sloane as a daughter, as I know that there’s nothing inherently wrong with looking a bit different. But her mom seems pretty awesome too, even when she wants her daughter to be a little more “normal”. (Side note: Normal people worry me.)  I would have loved to read this as a teenager, and I would have been drooling over all the cool stuff Sloane has.   






Thursday, 9 February 2017

Teens' Vandalism Charges Receive "Read Diverse Books" Sentence

I know I haven't been posting but I'd like to post that CNN reported some teens vandalized the Ashburn Colored School back in September. Their punishment? Read diverse books.

If you just do a quick Google search you'll see the benefits of reading fiction, and the one that always sticks out to me is that it builds your ability to be empathetic. Empathy is something I think society is lacking.

As for the books they need to read? The article only lists a few, but they have to read and report on one book a month with the possibility of some films too. I wish I could see the whole list. Personally, I've only read To Kill a Mockingbird and I've seen (and recently rewatched) Schindler's List.

I love this punishment and it is something I could definitely employ in the future. Punishment for demonic offspring? Read this book and write a report. Maybe they would be grounded until they do.

As for the teens here? I also like this punishment. However, they should be responsible for the clean up of their damages, both financially and helping with the physical cleaning.






Saturday, 3 September 2016

The Ocean at the End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman





Publish Date: June 18th 2013 
Publisher:  William Morrow Books 
Author: Neil Gaiman 
Website: Author’s Website 

Note 
            I wrote this months ago and then I couldn’t find my file. Don’t judge me.

Introduction
            A grown man has returned to his childhood village and he visits the nearby farm he used to frequent. As he sits on a familiar bench in front of a pond, he remembers that the girl who lived there, Lettie, told him that it was an ocean. The memories that slipped away from the adult trickle back and he recalls the Hempstock farm, the cruelty of his family, and how an ocean can be anywhere, if you ask it nicely. 

Story and Fantasy Elements
            I had read this book last year, though I read it quickly and it honestly didn’t strike me as too special. I re-read it this year, much more slowly, and I took in more detail. I noticed more of the fantastical elements. This book has layers and layers to it, so I suggest that you don’t try to zoom through it too quickly just because you like to read a book a night or you really want to be a speed reader (or something).
            I really like the fantasy elements here. There’s no wand pointing and simple magic words. What happens with the Hempstocks is older and beyond human explanation, and they are also bound by laws and basically, the way it is done. What I mean is that they can’t bend the rules and do everything so it is convenient to the plot. 
            Something that I would love to research (but I lack the time between adventuring), is the Hempstock women and if they correlate to the mythos of the triple goddess, of the three stages of a woman’s life. What I am referring to is the tripartite concept of the maiden, the mother, and the crone. I would love to write an essay exploring if all of the Hempstock women on that farm are really the same entity in different points of time. If I were still in school I would definitely try to persuade a professor to let me do it!
            One more interesting aspect of this book was all the imagery of water. I think a neat essay could explore the water in terms of religion, along with whatever else might come up in the book that I missed. 

Characters
            The main character…doesn’t do much that affects the plot. He mostly reacts. For some people that’s infuriating. He is just a child, and a believable child mostly, but he’s mostly an observer. In The Golden Compass, Lyra has agency and does things, but the main protagonist of this book does not. 
            I loved the Hempstocks, and I immensely enjoyed Lettie’s plucky attitude. She would be an interesting character to include in an essay about that one character a lot of books have that just know how to get things done (like Hermione).   

Child Abuse Interpretation
            I read this just as a fantasy novel about a boy who got caught up in some affairs that he, as a regular human boy, was not supposed to be part of. Some ladies in my book club said, matter-of-factly, that it was a story of abuse. None of the fantasy and wonderment ever happened. Rather, it was just a coping measure for the protagonist to deal with the abuse of his parents. This is similar to the theory that Harry never went to Hogwarts and all the books are a fantasy to deal with the abuse. 
            Personally, I don’t subscribe to the abuse interpretations for either. However, it would make for some interesting essays, though I am sure it’s already been done before (I haven’t checked, but I assume). I’m sure your teacher or professor would be impressed if you brought it up in an essay though, just to show that you have read up on the book and other interpretations that they might not have taught.

Complaints
            Although this doesn’t take away from my overall rating (5 stars on Goodreads), seriously, I am so tired of reading everyone’s full names in books over and over. Lettie Hempstock, Lettie Hempstock, Lettie Hempstock, Lettie Hempstock, Ursula Monkton, Lettie Hempstock, Lettie Hempstock, Ursula Monkton, Ursula Monkton, Lettie Hempstock, Ursula Monkton, Harry Potter, Lettie Hempstock…stop it. There is only one Lettie, only one Ursula, one Harry. Usually, no one thinks in terms of full names in their heads. You don’t look at your kid and think, Lexi Alsop looks bored, maybe we should go to the park. Or, Wow, Lexi Alsop takes up the entire bed. Stop, stop, stop, please, Neil Gaiman. 

Final Verdict
            It is a beautifully written novella. I recommend it to people who like fantasy without the medieval setting and without it being extravagant. This is the only Gaiman work I’ve read, so I don’t know how well it holds up to his other work. If a reader doesn’t like exploring subtexts or thinking too much into what they are reading, I would still recommend it. Just reading it “straight up” was an interesting ride. Not that I think this would happen too often because of Gaiman’s reputation, but it is not a children’s book, despite the young protagonist. Unless you want to explain the muted sex scene to your kid.