This is the first summer in three years that I’ve had actual free time during my summer break. As a teacher, one of my biggest pet peeves is listening to ignorant people go on and on about how lucky I am to have so much “free time.” They actually seem to think that a few extra weeks of vacation each year negates the hard work I put in during the school year. My husband finally gets it (I think), but I still have friends and family members who feel the need to make some snarky comment about what they’d do with all the extra time I have. If I’m feeling sweet, I just give them a smile that clearly tells them where they can go. If I’m not, I go on my rant about how I wish I had the free time they have when they leave their jobs. I think most people call that time evening. I call it: grading time.
But this, is actually not a rant about my lack of free time. No, really, I promise it isn’t. See, for the last three summers, even my vacation time has been so busy that I have not really had time to do anything for myself. Three years ago I had a brand new baby as well as a three year old, so I was desperately trying to keep them both happy and still manage to keep myself from going insane by sleeping here and there. That was also the summer before I got a brand new class: Novels and I had to spend quite a bit of time figuring out how I was going to teach a class which had never been taught by anyone at my school before.
Two summers ago, my kids were a bit older and more settled into a routine, but I decided to start my masters’ degree. Even though the classes were all online, it meant an awful lot of homework–usually when my kids were napping or in bed. On top of that, I took on the Advanced Placement Language and Composition class, so I once again had to plan an entirely new class.
Last summer, I was twelve months into a twenty month masters’ degree and planning a new Film Literature class. That wasn’t so bad, but then my dad got sick in mid-June and I spent the rest of June and all of July making a 50 minute roundtrip to the hospital anywhere from 1-3 times a day to drop off/pick up my step-mom from visiting and then to visit myself after my kids were in bed. Exhausting is not the word.
So, this summer I was THRILLED that my only real issue was completely re-planning an AP class (I’m flip flopping the classes, so this year I am teaching two sections of the same class, but they have to be completely different because one set of kids has already read 90% of the books the other set will need to read). Yes, I am a glutton for punishment.
This meant I had free time, to do something I don’t get to do much of during the school year: read books. Well, sure, I read books during the school year, but these books would be different. These summer books would be just for fun! I started sifting through the stacks that have now spilled off the book shelves and into piles all over my floor. Despite the insane number of books I already own that I need to read, I also went on a sort of crazy library spree. I put about a dozen books on hold at the library.
For most of the summer, those books remained just out of reach. I was number 40 something for The Fault in Our Stars and number 50 something for the final Sookie Stackhouse book (guilty pleasure). Last week, however, it was like I won the library jackpot. Every day I got a new automated call about a book that was now available for me to either pick up or download to my Kindle. It was a veritable feast of books. So, I had to get down to some serious reading.
My latest read was Going Bovine by Libba Bray. My best friend is a huge connoisseur of young adult fiction. I wanted something fun to read, so she suggested A Great and Terrible Beauty by Bray. I was hooked. I loved her writing style. I loved the characters. I loved the mix of Victorian England and fantasy. I wanted more. So, when she finished returned her copy of The Diviners, since I was right there, I just happened to check it out too. Once again, I absolutely loved it (even more so than the Gemma Doyle trilogy). The Diviners is much darker than the her earlier work, but I loved the darkness of it (just a head’s up, there are some serial killer descriptions that would do Dexter proud). Since the latest book in the series isn’t out yet and I couldn’t get Beauty Queens on my Kindle, I figured I might as well get Going Bovine since there was no line for it. I was about thirty pages into this book when my library ship came in and I got bombarded with other books to read, but any book that offers up a “death-obsessed, video gaming dwarf and a yard gnome,” has to have some real merit, right?
This book was definitely interesting. I liked the fact that it was told from a male narrator’s perspective since her other novels are told from the female POV. The chapter titles were amusing and the dialogue was witty. The book was fast-paced and took no time to read. Her descriptions put me in the scene and I appreciated the fact that the teenagers actually talked like teenagers. No three page monologues of angst or wisdom beyond their years. The characters curse when they are angry (or happy, or annoyed), just like real teens do. They get angry, they act irrational, they bleed both literally and emotionally. It’s good stuff.
Now, it’s also dark stuff. Although it does have the plot of a roadtrip buddy movie, and appears light-hearted on the surface, it is anything but. In many ways, the story parallels that of Don Quixote and just like that tale, there is a definite sadness as the main character loses his mind, slips into madness and is lost to his fantasy world. Just like Quixote, Cameron must fight his windmill demons. His Dulcinea (named Dulcie in this book) is just as ephemeral and unreal as Quixote’s. She is, without a doubt, a thing of beauty, if only to Cameron.
This was a good read. If you are at all a fan of Quixote, definitely one to check out (I love when books and movies pay tribute this way–think Clueless to Austen’s Emma). Don’t expect a happy ending though. Just like Don Quixote, it is quite funny at times, but always with an underlying edge of melancholy and tragedy.