And We Stay: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

And We Stay by Jenny HubbardNo one expected senior Paul Wagoner would walk into his high school with a gun. No one thinks he planned to kill himself and never walk out. Not even his girlfriend, Emily Beam, expected to be threatened by Paul as he confronted her in their high school library.

But all of those things did happen.

Paul is gone and with him pieces of Emily are gone too. Even before his suicide, Emily knew she would never be the same. She just didn’t know it would hurt this much.

Vacillating between guilt and anger, Emily Beam is sent to an all girls boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts. Surrounded by history from Emily Dickinson’s life, Emily delves into poetry and her new life hoping to escape.

She has help along the way from her habitual liar roommate K. T. and a girl who likes to steal almost as much as she likes to paint. But it is only Emily herself who can forgive and leave her past behind in And We Stay (2014) by Jenny Hubbard.

And We Stay is Hubbard’s second novel. It was also a Printz honor title in 2015. The story is set in 1995 for reasons that are never entirely clear. Despite the obvious setting (all of Emily’s poems are dated) the novel is largely timeless.

And We Stay is a very short, very fast read. In spite of that, Hubbard’s prose is imbued with substance as this slim novel tackles weighty topics ranging from feminism to processing loss and grief.

Written in the third person, present tense this story is often very distancing. Emily Beam is at a remove from readers, however it’s easy to think she prefers it that way. Flashbacks to Emily’s relationship with Paul, the shooting, and other key moments are interspersed throughout the main narrative of Emily’s first two months at the boarding school.

Each chapter ends with one of Emily’s poems which also further develop the story. Emily Dickinson also features heavily as a character of sorts–her poems are used throughout the story and a somewhat improbable plot thread at the end of the novel revolves around Dickinson’s family home in Amherst.

It’s rare to find books that focus so heavily and so well on girls. And We Stay is one of those books. Emily Beam is a prickly, sad, and surprisingly real heroine. Her observations throughout the story are caustic and insightful in a way heroines rarely get to be in most novels. Hubbard’s portrayal of Emily’s relationships with her new friends and her French teacher are beautifully handled and shockingly real.

Although the pacing was slow and a little strange (with a jarring plot thread late in the story), somehow it all works. The plot develops organically and the included poetry feels seamless. And We Stay is a lovely, thoughtful blend of poetry, feminism and fiction about a girl finding her voice.

Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Hate List by Jennifer Brown, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Falling Through Darkness by Carolyn MacCullough, Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough, Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales,  Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel, Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, Some Things That Stay by Sarah Willis

Thoughts on “The morns are meeker than they were” by Emily Dickinson

“The morns are meeker than they were” by Emily Dickinson

The morns are meeker than they were—
The nuts are getting brown—
The berry’s cheek is plumper—
The Rose is out of town.

The Maple wears a gayer scarf—
The field a scarlet gown—
Lest I should be old fashioned
I’ll put a trinket on.

(full text from PoemHunter)

Tomorrow I’m posting a review of a book that features Emily Dickinson’s poetry so this seemed like a good day to share another Emily Dickinson poem.

I always think of this poem as spring-like though, of course, that isn’t what she’s talking about at all. This is a solidly autumn poem. I like the rhythm here a lot–something Dickinson always does exceedingly well with her free verse. It’s just lovely.

The Spectacular Now: A Review

“Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of my own spectacular now.”

The Spectacular Now by Tim TharpSutter Keeley is  great in his own mind. Larger than life, always the life of the party. Sutter is, surely, as irresistible as he is wise.

The reality, unsurprisingly, is a little different. What Sutter defines as a life as “god’s own drunk” is a boilerplate drinking problem. The rest of Sutter’s charms are debatable at best and vary wildly depending on if you’re asking one of his beautifully amicable ex-girlfriends, his family who is legitimately worried, or his friends.

Sutter is content to live the moment, whether it involves trying to win back his gorgeous, fat ex-girlfriend Cassidy or befriending the mousy, painfully nerdy Aimee, or getting a drink. The problem with living in the moment is that eventually everyone else starts to pass you by in The Spectacular Now (2008) by Tim Tharp.

Your reaction to this book is going to depend a lot on how you feel about Sutter. Tharp provides another fine addition to the already well-populated world of lovable alcoholics in fiction. The problem–not just here but in general–is that this general affability belies the fact that alcoholics are train wrecks and only very rarely lovable.

There are no consequences for Sutter in his own mind or in real life. Drunk driving never leads to an arrest or even a ticket. Drinking only impairs his judgement so far as it needs to go for the plot. While no story needs to have a message or a moral, it felt strangely one-sided to read this story and watch Sutter skate through life on his charms, his flask, and very little else.

Following the story thread with Aimee and Sutter, it’s possible to argue that Sutter is a Manic Pixie Dream Boy meant to flit through life, fall in love and leave his love interest the better for their acquaintance. Except Sutter is a really terrible MPDB and profoundly bad at making anyone’s life better.

The other reading, the one I favor, is that Sutter is a sociopath. Everything in the narrative is sinister. Sutter is sinister. Ideas and themes are touched upon but never fleshed out enough to really matter or leave an impact. Sutter’s unreliable narration raises more questions than the story ultimately answers.

While Tharp’s writing is excellent and completely on-point The Spectacular Now is lacking in character development and, on a smaller level, heart. With a narrative that reads more as a mid-life crisis than teenage unrest, this book is interesting but ultimately frustrating.

Possible Pairings: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron, Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, Slumming by Kristen D. Randle, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, Wild Awake by Hillary T. Smith, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Week in Review: April 27


This week on the blog you can check out:

Where has April gone?! In the beginning when I was setting up posts, it seemed like April would last forever. But now I can hardly believe we’re almost done.

This week has been pretty chill. I’ve been in a bit of a book slump. I had to skim one book with an amputee because I couldn’t handle it. I read but didn’t enjoy a book for review (other people will, it just wasn’t my bag–that’s the thing about reviews. Sometimes the book just doesn’t work for everyone). Then I read a book that was pretty good but the mother was hospitalized and very sick and it hit a little close to home and made me cry quite a bit. (I don’t read to cry so that was not a thrill even though the book was good otherwise.)

The last book I loved without any qualifications was To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I read an ARC and heard that the finished copy is expanded in places so maybe I’ll re-read that soon. (I NEVER re-read but I kind of want to know what changed and it’s such a perfect, happy book.)

Right now I’m reading my first Nova Ren Suma and enjoying it a lot. After that I’m taking a fantasy/mystery break to read Since You’ve Been Gone and Landline. I also have 3 more books for professional review along with about 20 books for committee work that I’m trying to not freak out over.

Anyway, that’s all the weekly news that’s fit to print from Miss Print.




Thoughts on “Batter My Heart” by John Donne

Batter My Heart (Holy Sonnet 14) by John Donne
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
(Full text courtesy of the Poetry Foundation)

I cannot believe I never talked about this poem. When I was asking for poem suggestions, Karyn said John Donne because his stuff is sexy. And you can’t really argue with this so I was on board. I’ve previously (not too eloquently) discussed “Song” and it’s connection to Howl’s Moving CastleAnd I spend so much time thinking about this poem that I was sure it must also have been featured previously. But no!

Remember earlier this month when I talked about patronage poems and my seventeenth century lit class? We also read this poem during that class. My professor told us a story about a guy in one of her own college classes who decided the poem was probably about fish (you know, batter . . . yeah) and it’s still one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

I’m not religious but I’ve always really enjoyed Donne’s poems. They are intrinsically tied to the concept of faith and religion–as many things in the 17th century were–but like Karyn says, they’re still so sexy.

“Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,”–can you beat this imagery? Not really. There is something very powerful and very compelling in a poem that talks about god/faith as if it were a lover. I mean, who does that? Is it any wonder we are still reading and discussing John Donne’s poetry so many years after his death?

Thoughts on “Recuerdo” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Recuerdo by Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.
We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

(You can see the full poem online at the Poetry Foundation as well.)

I think the first time I read this poem was in my advanced poetry writing class in college. Scratch that, it was my New York City Studies class where we studied NYC from the consolidation of the five boroughs in 1898 through the present. So instead of talking about the most productive writing class of my academic career (where I produced some of the poems that are still my favorite, not to mention prize winners) I will tell you how awesome it is to take a class about NYC when you have lived in NYC your entire life.

It was great and it led to one of the most refined research papers of my academic career which won not only a special award for the type of class but was also presented at my college’s society of fellows. Because yes, I am that person. (I fear these poetry posts are making be seem unbearably stuffy. Forgive me!)

Although I haven’t read a lot of her other works, I’ve always liked this poem. It has a great cadence and I adore the imagery. To this day if I am having a not-so-good-day I might remark that I am very tired but not particularly merry.

This poet (and I think this poem though it’s been a while and I might be wrong) also feature heavily in Elizabeth Wein’s novel Rose Under Fire which, I think, is why this happened on Twitter one time:


Thoughts on “The Emperor of Ice Cream” by Wallace Stevens

The Emperor of Ice Cream by Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal.
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
(text thanks to Poem Hunter.)
This is one of my favorite poems I discovered in college–it set my world on fire and lit up all new avenues of thinking. (I also discussed it, badly, on a midterm I wound up having to re-take because I was so tired that nothing I wrote came out right. Luckily the professor was generous and allowed for a mulligan.) I like everything about this poem–the subtle rhymes, the picture Stevens chooses the present and, of course, the idea of an emperor of ice cream. It’s electric.
Some poems you can dissect each line and find something there. That might be true here but I think this poem is best served in one big chunk (or scoop if you prefer an extended metaphor). Yes, the individual lines are fascinating. But doesn’t the over-arching imagery makes so much more sense when taken as a whole?

Rose Under Fire: A Chick Lit Wednesday

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth WeinRose Justice is a poet and a pilot. Even though she has hours and hours more flight time compared to many male pilots, Rose finds herself working as an ATA pilot transporting planes that other (men) fighter pilots will eventually use.

Rose is an American with high ideals who wants to help. The war is terrifying, much worse than she ever could have imagined back home in Pennsylvania, but doesn’t that make it even more important that Rose help however she can?

Her course changes abruptly when a routine transport goes horrible wrong and Rose is captured by Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück–a notorious women’s concentration camp.

In the camp Rose finds unimaginable horrors and obstacles but also small moments of hope through the kinship and bravery of her fellow prisoners. Even as friendships are forged amidst small moments of resistance, Rose and her friends are unsure who among them will make it out of Ravensbrück alive in Rose Under Fire (2013) by Elizabeth Wein.

Find it on Bookshop.

Rose Under Fire is a companion to Wein’s novel Code Name Verity and set about one and a half years later. Rose Under Fire is completely self-contained but readers of both will recognize familiar characters.

Like its companion, Rose Under Fire is an epistolary novel told primarily from Rose’s journal. Snippets of famous poems (notably from Edna St. Vincent Millay) are included as well as poems Rose writes throughout her time in England and Ravensbrück.

Although this novel doesn’t have the same level of suspense as Code Name Verity it remains extremely well-plotted and poignant. And that is really all that can be said about the plot without revealing too much.

Wein once again delivers a powerhouse novel about World War II in this case shining a light onto the atrocities of the Ravensbrück concentration camp while highlighting the strength and persistence of the women who were imprisoned there.

As you might have guessed, Rose Under Fire is an incredibly hard read. The novel looks unflinchingly at the heinous “experiments” Nazi doctors committed against the Polish political prisoners known as “rabbits” from their time in Ravensbrück to the war trials in Nuremburg. While the story is important and powerful, it is not to be taken lightly and readers should be mindful of that before they pick it up.

Readers who are up to the task of a difficult read with darker subject matter will find a powerful story in Rose Under Fire with an incredibly strong and inspiring heroine at the center of its story.

Possible Pairings: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie,  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Traitor by Amanda McCrina, Tamar by Mal Peet, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Thoughts on “Variations on a Theme” by Kenneth Koch

Yesterday I talked about what is probably my favorite William Carlos Williams poem, “This is Just to Say.” Today I have another remix of that poem, this time somewhat more famous than the one I wrote.

Variations On A Theme By William Carlos Williams by Kenneth Koch

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the
next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

(Full text thanks to poemhunter.)

This poem is a riff on “This is Just to Say” which presents not one but four different ways that poem might have gone. I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite stanza since they are all so clever and work so well together.

I read this poem during either my modern poetry class in college or my advanced poetry writing class. I took them the same semester, with the same professor, and largely with the same students so the courses blend together. I didn’t make the connection before but this poem was probably in my mind when I wrote one of my own later that same year. (I thought I had seven different poems but it actually turned out to be seven parts of one poem that would ultimately be eight parts.)

Koch also pokes a bit of fun at Williams in the final part because Williams himself was also a poet and a doctor–this also comes up in Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein so you can see why I scheduled that post for April and why it’s coming up this week. I’m not entirely on board with that last exclamation point but since I didn’t write this particular poem it is, of course, not my decision to make.

I will leave you with one of my favorite web comic of all time which also gives a nod to the inimitable William Carlos Williams:

Thoughts on “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams and a tribute

I’ve been waiting to write this post since February 10.

It all starts with one of my favorite and one of the most deceptively simple poems around:

This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
What could have been two sentences becomes, in Williams’ hands an iconic piece of modern poetry. It’s hard to articulate why but this poem has always stayed with me. So much so that in February (when it was freezing) I decided to riff on the poem in a tweet. Here’s the result.
This is Just to Say by Emma Carbone
I have stolen
the blanket
that was in
the closet
and which
you will probably
Forgive me.
It’s so warm.
I am so miserable
and so cold.
Granted I’m only working in Williams’ framework, but I think it’s a pretty good riff on the original–especially considering I wrote it from memory in one tweet. This also leads me to conclude that William Carlos Williams would have been all over Twitter.
Check back tomorrow for a post on some other remixes of This is Just to Say.