Last night I indulged myself and bought my first Young Adult novel in what seemed like years, for the sake of a quick, easy, and amusing read (note: I love trashy trailer park movies, cheap reality shows, and cliché chick lit novels so this one was right up my alley). I picked up Andrea Portes’ 328-page novel, Anatomy of a Misfit, without reading any reviews, over a bestselling Rainbow Rowell work because I felt I could relate to a high school misfit more than a Fangirl. You must know that before reading this, I had just finished reading Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch. After having finished the two, I was compelled to compare though both works are worlds apart, coming from entirely different genres.

I’m a slow reader so it took me an estimated month and a half to finish The Goldfinch (somewhere around 900 pages long with the same page size, but of smaller text size) because I was drowning in adjectives and heavily descriptive scenes of the “art underworld”. Admittedly, digesting a Donna Tartt book takes patience and constant consultation of a dictionary. I’ve read two of her three published novels and I’m a fan of her erudite writing style (though I prefer The Secret History way more than The Goldfinch).

After spending so much time with The Goldfinch, even spilling soy sauce on some pages, wearing out its paperback cover, and taking it along with me on train rides and dinners alone, I was astonished at how easy it was to finish Anatomy of A Misfit. A few hours easy. Money down the drain for something so dense with a narration that was almost condescending. I may not be in high school anymore, but I sure as hell don’t remember anybody talking like that. Okay, maybe I laughed a handful of times and I teared up when [spoiler] Logan died but the amount of time reading it probably has some correlation to the amount of time it took the author to write it. And doesn’t time give a thing its value, more than its material or monetary worth?

What makes a YA novel? Why are they so popular besides the shabby writing, faulty loopholes, and cheesy plots? From what I experienced from reading Anatomy of A Misfit was that it appeals to emotions. Sure, it might teach teens a lesson, but these are more of reiterations of values we already know and situations we’ve already experienced. The only time we have is now, you say? I’ve never heard that one before! But we end up purchasing it because of its ease to get into, its cheap thrills, and relatable experiences. Might I throw out that the younger crowd, myself included, is more easily swayed by a heart MacGuffins? The puppy love, the love triangle, the bullying, and the slang. It’s all so predictable and “sincere” but it’s just that. There’s nothing below the surface, unless it’s a John Green novel that tries so hard to be philosophical.

In the Philippines, there’s a common formula for majority of Filipino films. First, they have to be titled after love songs from the eighties or nineties. Second, there’s always a clash of social classes, poor vs. rich, and the portrayal of both are never accurate. Third, in rom-coms, there’s almost always a love triangle or an affair going on somewhere. All this accompanied by poor theatrics, hasty set designs, and a finished product that I find capricious (I recently found out that it only took two weeks to film a certain unnamed Filipino film, which provides some evidence to my claim). BUT HOW COME THEY NEVER CHANGE? Because audiences fall for the lazy ploy over and over again by its appeal to emotion and its melodramatics, just like YA novels. Sure, they give you momentary entertainment, but after a week or two, your life resumes as if you’ve never read the book or watched the film.

Do yourself a favor and know what you’re spending your money on. Stop and think before making that purchase. Reviews help. Don’t go wandering aimlessly into a bookstore (like I did) and buying the first book you get your hands on. Once in a while, it might be fine to splurge on these, but it would be wise to opt for something with a little more depth, not just in the plot, but in the writing style as well. If there’s one thing I learned from a Yale writing conference, it’s to read as a writer, because what you intake will affect your output.

Wes Anderson’s Magical World in Films

(Photo from Nicohitoride, DeviantArt)

In light of Wes Anderson’s 45th birthday and the relatively new release of his latest project, The Grand Budapest Hotel, I’ve developed a sudden infatuation with his feature-length and short films. I decided to go on a Wes Anderson binge-watching spree. Among the eight films he’s directed, I watched four of them in less than a week. Of course, I had to re-watch all-time iconic favorite, The Royal Tenenbaums, which had an intriguing plot: an estranged family of washed up children geniuses come home after 17 years when they find out their habitually absent father is dying of stomach cancer. Little did the Tenenbaum children know that their father, Royal, was faking the illness to win his wife and family back. Oh, Royal was broke, too. The complicated plot reflects intricate family ties present in the modern world. Anderson’s second film, Rushmore, seemed one-dimensional to me. Its plot was similar to the complex one of The Royal Tenenbaums but the direction was not as good yet.

The Darjeeling Limited, which featured actors Anderson so fondly works with (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston, and the ubiquitous Bill Murray as an extra), was set in India, as given away by the title’s Darjeeling tea produced there. Although it received pejorative criticism and garnered not even half of its production cost, I found the film to be quite distinct. The geographic setting provided the audience with an informative adventure around India, by means of a train, the Darjeeling Limited. Three estranged (makes me wonder about Anderson’s fascination with alienated families) brothers come together in a “spiritual” trip across India, which culminates in a reunion with their mother. The Whitmans experience several misadventures, leading them to getting kicked out of the train, because of their dysfunctional relationship. At the departure of their mother in the end, they learn to appreciate each other and continue on their journey together.

I would have to say 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom is a favorite among the lot. The vivid colors and straight-cut video editing gave the film an odd characteristic that captured the attention of viewers. The editing was almost satirical. The film’s two protagonists, 12-year olds Sam and Suzy, were as peculiar and eccentric as the film itself. The introverted pair of lovers immaturely decides to elope to escape Sam’s lonely situation as a foster child dumped in Camp Ivanhoe for Khaki Scouts and Suzy’s withdrawn life at home with three brothers and parents that deem her a problem child. They go off to the wilderness, surviving with Sam’s scouting skills, in hopes of finding their utopia.

I found the characters well developed and the film itself clothed with symbolism. Our misunderstood heroes may be young and naïve, but their audacity to elope, marry, and just be together, proves such innocence and resolve to be greater than the more dull and hopeless lives of the adults around them. The big storm at the end is a fantastic representation of the climax of the story, where all of the characters gather and manage to get trapped at Camp Lebanon in their attempts to find the two children. The duo was prepared to jump from a tower and possibly die together before a proposition favorable to their positions came along. A happy ending ensues when Sam is adopted and gets to see Suzy often. It’s everything you have imagined your first love to be like, but much, much more bold. Although I missed the Grand Budapest Hotel at cinemas, the trailer and cast of characters look promising enough and are sure to hit it off the park with Wes Anderson at the helm.