‘Wonder’ Review

Mild spoilers ahead. 

Three years ago, I read R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder, and earlier today, I watched the film adaptation with my family. Not to sound clichĂ©, but it truly was a wonder.Wonder is about Auggie Pullman (portrayed by Jacob Tremblay), a fifth grader with Treacher Collins syndrome (essentially a severe facial deformity). Due to his face, Auggie has never attended a real school, and his mother homeschooled him. The summer before he started fifth grade, his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), and father, Nate (Owen Wilson), decided that it’s time for him to start going to a real school. Partly because the longer they waited, the harder it’d be to integrate him into a school, and partly because of Auggie’s mother’s math skills.

Auggie agrees, and it’s off to Beecher Prep he goes. Not all of the students are instantly welcoming, but he finds true friends in his classmates Summer Dawson (Millie Davis) and Jack Will (Noah Jupe).

The school year has ups and downs for the other characters in the story as well: at first glance, Wonder seems to revolve around Auggie, but it doesn’t. By the time the novel ends, you get a look into the heads of several of the other characters. Aside from Auggie, sections of the novel are narrated by Via (Auggie’s older sister; portrayed by Izabela Vidovic), Jack, Justin (Via’s boyfriend; portrayed by Nadji Jeter), and Miranda (Via’s former best friend; portrayed by Danielle Rose Russel). Each of the characters has their own connection to Auggie, and they all have their own distinctive narrative voices.

All of that transferred beautifully into the screenplay, which was written by Stephen Chbosky (who wrote the The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the screenplay for this year’s reboot of Beauty and the Beast). Both the film and the novel were heartwarming, emotional, and humorous, and it was wondrous seeing the novel come to life.

Auggie’s story is a story that anyone can relate to, no matter how old or how young. Everyone has some experience with dealing with bullying, whether they were the target or a bystander (or even, God forbid, the instigator). Each of the supporting characters has a storyline that is relatable as well.

I found myself relating to Via’s storyline: at the beginning of the school year, she discovers that one of her closest friends, Miranda, has changed entirely. Miranda stops talking to Via entirely after a series of awkward interactions, and Via is hurt by the collapse of their friendship. I had a similar experience with a former friend, and seeing it play out on screen was incredible to watch. Vidovic’s performance was outstanding, and she was truly the perfect actress for Via.

Overall, reading the book and seeing the movie was a wonderful experience. The movie packed plenty of emotional punches (I normally don’t cry at movies, but I shed tears three times during this movie) but it was also funny and real when it needed to be. The novel is great to read when you need a pick-me-up, and the movie is sure to be fun for the whole family.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I recommend you do so immediately!

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‘Ten: Murder Island’ Review

Mild spoilers ahead for the novel Ten and the movie Ten: Murder Island. 

On September 16, Lifetime aired Ten: Murder Island, a movie based on Gretchen McNeil’s 2012 novel Ten that starred China Anne McClain and Rome Flynn as the leads, Meg and T.J. Last year, when I first found out that an adaptation of Ten was being made, I was really excited. Gretchen McNeil’s work is absolutely amazing, and she is without a doubt, one of my favorite authors. Her writing is smart, funny, thrilling, and suspenseful, and her all of her characters (even the ones you can’t help but hate) feel so three-dimensional and real. (And while we’re on the subject of Gretchen McNeil, I strongly recommend her books Get Even, Get Dirty, and 3:59, as well as Ten) Finding out Ten was being made into a movie was amazing. Finding out that the lead character (whom I related to so much) was being played by China Anne McClain just made it so much better.

Today I sat down and watched the movie, and I honestly don’t know how to feel about it.

The movie follows the same premise of the book: ten teens, Meg (McClain), Minnie (Cassidy Gifford), T.J. (Flynn), Gunner (Zak Steiner), Ben (Callan McAuliffe), Lori (Raquel Castro), Kenny (Matt Mercurio), Vivian (Meg Cashel), and Nathan (Dylan Arnold) are invited to a weekend house party by a popular girl in their grade, Jessica Lawrence. When the teens arrive at the Lawrence’s house, a death on the first night clues them in that someone is out to get them, and they realize that Jessica isn’t the one who invited them. Naturally, their first instinct is to get off the island, but the absence of ferries (their only escape) and the lack of cell service makes that impossible. As more deaths and sinister accidents occur, Meg, T.J., and the others frantically search for clues, but as they do, they get closer and closer to a killer.

The book was excellently plotted, amazingly funny, and brilliantly paced. The movie was really good, but in some ways, it didn’t really live up to the greatness of the book.

There were lots of elements that were just as great as the book. Nathan was truly a terrible person (spoiler alert: he’s not the killer, he’s just a womanizing jerk) but Arnold’s performance was spot-on. Castro’s performance as Lori was also a standout, even if Castro didn’t have as much screen time. All of the actors (especially Castro, Arnold, Flynn, Gifford, and McClain) were absolutely perfect for their respective parts, and that I wouldn’t change. The dialogue was great (although at times it was a bit stilted), and the story line, for the most part, stayed true to the book. The effects and the music were perfectly timed, and visually, the film was great.

The elements that didn’t stay true to the book were the ones that stand out the most. A major plot point in the novel is the discovery of a journal, one that the teens assume belongs to the killer. The author of this journal was just a sweet, sad, misunderstood girl, but the writers of the film made her seem vindictive and delusional. I loved the way that her journal entries were shot as flashbacks, but the narration that went with it didn’t match. In the book, you found yourself relating to the girl, as much as you wanted to suspect her as a killer, and in the movie, they made it easy to hate her.

Also, the leads were given more time to develop and the books, and I think it would’ve made each death more emotional (well, for the deaths of the characters that were actually likable) if they’d been given that development time. Meg and Minnie’s friendship, which is the force behind most of Meg’s decisions in the book/movie, was sort of underplayed. Understanding Meg and her motivations is a key part of the book, and I think the movie fell short in that respect.

Additionally, the ending of the movie definitely wasn’t as great as the ending. It packed an emotional punch, sure, but it lacked the intensity of the book’s climax. In the book, the killer goes up in flames (literally) after a vicious fight between Meg and the last remaining teen breaks out. After Meg and the other teen escape, they talk about what happened on the island means for them, and they are rescued by a Coast Guard boat. In the movie, the killer is tackled by one of the remaining teens and then beat to death with a gasoline can. Meg and the last remaining teen have an emotional conversation that fails to include any of the humor from the book. Interesting, yes, but it didn’t last very long. The final fight scene was less than ten minutes long, and I was just like, “All of that time spent over analysing who the killer was and what their motives was, and the killer’s taken down in five minutes? Please.”

Overall, I liked the movie. It was funny and thrilling, much like the book was. At the same time, the elements they excluded/changed from the book made it a lot more cliche. One of the things I enjoy most about McNeil’s writing is that it never feels cliche or unoriginal, and this adaptation feels like a little bit of both at times. Also, the novel is fast-paced but it never feels rushed, and the movie definitely felt a bit rushed at times.

This movie was good, but it could’ve been a lot better. In my opinion, I think it would’ve been better suited as a limited series, or perhaps a longer movie: character development definitely wouldn’t have had to take a back seat, and they could’ve kept the pacing of the original novel.

As much as I anticipated this movie, I’m kind of disappointed about how it turned out. But McNeil has other works that deserve to be made into movies/TV shows. Maybe if those get adapted as well, they’ll live up to the mastery of the originals.

If She Had Been With Me: Excerpts from Finny’s Journal

Hey guys, earlier this summer you might recall a two-part mini series I published called Tatum the Vampire Slayer. It was originally written for my English class, as part of our Bold Actions unit. People liked it more than I thought they would, and so I decided to start publishing stories on here too, instead of just your traditional blog post. The following story was also written for an English project known as an Independent Reading Project. Everyone in the class picks a book, and they pick a project (either from a given list or one they came up with themselves) and at the end of the marking period, we all present them. For my first IRP, I read the book If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin. The story is about two teenagers, Finny and Autumn, who’ve been best friends since before they were born. Their mothers had been best friends, as well. Finny and Autumn start off pretty inseparable, but as the story progresses and they get older, they start to drift apart. In their later years of high school, they begin to find their way back to each other, but is it already too late? (If you haven’t read this before, read it. And if you’re interested, check out Laura Nowlin’s blog too. It’s one of the blogs I follow). It’s a really sad but beautiful novel and I reread it three times before even deciding on a project. The ending is left ambiguous in a way that there are several options open for Autumn’s future, and it gives the reader lots of space to speculate about what happened. (I have a very specific view on what happened to her, but that’s a story for another post.) Eventually, I decided on writing several journal entries of major (in my opinion) events in the story from Finny’s point of view, since the story is told from Autumn’s point of view. Lucky for you, there’s no spoilers, and the events are sort of spaced out so it’s like reading the book but from a different perspective.  The dates and such are approximated, and the first entry takes place in eighth grade, while the rest focus on their junior and senior years of high school.  Without further ado, I present to you If She Had Been With Me: Excerpts from Finny’s Journal. 

January 1, 2011

Even though I felt like we were drifting apart during the first semester, we finally seemed like we were becoming friends again over winter break. And then I had to go and ruin it like the idiot I am.

I kissed Autumn. I kissed her and it wasn’t what she wanted and now she’s not talking to me. I don’t think she’ll ever talk to me again. Worse than that, I gripped her arm so hard that I left a bruise. Even though I didn’t mean to, I hurt one of the people I care about most in the world, and now she won’t talk to me.

This morning she sat as far away from me as possible on the couch. Mom had put on some sitcom, but neither of us were paying any attention.

Did I just screw up my friendship with the best friend I’ll ever have?

September 16, 2014

Today was the first game of the season. I was so excited, and I was sure that nothing would go wrong. Or at least, that’s what I thought when the game started. At one point, I looked up at the bleachers and what I saw shocked me. Autumn was sitting there with Aunt Claire, reading a brochure. I knew Aunt Claire was coming, but I thought Autumn wouldn’t be interested. Sports have never been her thing, for as long as I’ve known her, and that’s our entire lives. The shock of seeing Autumn sitting up there–combined with the fact that Ed bumped into–caused me to trip and fall. When I stood to my feet, I looked for Autumn and Aunt Claire in the bleachers again. Aunt Claire seemed pretty relieved that I was okay, but when I looked at Autumn, she looked shaken and small, like she’d just lost the person who meant the most to her. She looked exactly the same as she did when we were in elementary school and her father tried to put her in private school. She even looked four years younger. It wasn’t until later that I realized she had looked like that until I fell. She was concerned…for me. When was the last time that had ever happened? Even though I’ve been in love with her for as long as I can remember, for the last year or so, I thought that she hated me, but maybe she doesn’t. Maybe, just maybe, she feels the same way about me.

September 19, 2014

My father wants my mother and I to begin having dinners with him on a daily basis, but I honestly don’t see the point. He hasn’t been involved in my life since before I was born. Why start now?

In other news, I saw Autumn again today. I was supposed to be doing my homework, but out of the window, I saw Autumn leap into the pile of leaves I’d raked earlier, just like she would always do when we were younger.

I went outside to go talk to her, and while I was upset about the leaves, it was hard to stay mad at Autumn. I should’ve just bagged the leaves after I saw her, but whatever. It gave me a chance to talk to her, which is rare nowadays.

January 15, 2015

Autumn had an appointment with her mom’s psychiatrist today. I’m not supposed to know, but I heard Aunt Claire talking to Mom in the kitchen a few days ago. Even though we’re not close anymore, I still wish Autumn had told me. I still care about her, even after all this time. Autumn left English class early today, and when Mrs. Stevens asked her who she’d get the notes from, she said me. Even though Sasha and Jamie both have English with us. Does it mean anything? Was she saying it because it’s more convenient to get the notes from me? Or does it mean more than that? Or am I just overanalysing everything? God, I wish I knew, but I don’t think that’ll ever happen.

August 8, 2015

I think I might be going crazy. This morning, I woke up at three am. I was going to go back to bed when lightning lit up my room. For a split second, I swear that I saw my car wrapped around a tree. A girl’s silhouette was lying on the asphalt a few feet in front of it. But when I blinked, it disappeared. The rain stopped, there was no more lightning, no more thunder, and my car was parked in the driveway like always. I don’t know if I was dreaming, or if I just imagined it. Either way, I guess Aunt Claire’s right–I should really be aware of what my late-night snacks consist of.

May 28, 2016

Mom came into my room early this morning and told me that Jamie cheated on Autumn with Sasha and that she’s been pretty broken up about it.

It made me pretty angry. I’ve never been all that fond of Jamie, but he treated Autumn pretty well–or so I thought–and Autumn always seemed pretty crazy about him, so I tolerated him. And Sasha–Sasha’s been friends with Autumn since middle school. How could they do that to her?

Now I’m wishing I’d punched that little jerk in the face like I did to Donnie Banks in the fifth grade. Or done something to stop their relationship. But I can’t do that to Autumn; she really would hate me then. My mom and I both think that she just needs a friend right now, and so I’m going to go see her later today. Hopefully, she’ll want to see me.

June 3, 2016

I feel like a bad friend. Autumn and I have been hanging out for the last week or so, but I had to leave her alone yesterday. She said she was fine. Jamie texted her this morning, asking if she wanted a ride to the hospital so she could see Angie and the baby, but she seemed pretty okay about it. She was angry at first but she got over it pretty quickly.

She seemed to forget about it entirely when we met the baby. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she looked down at Guinevere. It was a mix of adoration, awe, and happiness. She seemed so excited when she handed Guinevere to me. I haven’t seen her that happy since when we were younger. I didn’t know that she could be so happy. It’s been a while, but I’m glad that Autumn is back. I’ve missed her.

August 8, 2016

Autumn let me read her novel, and it was pretty obvious that the two main characters were based on the two of us and our lives. It was beautifully and brilliantly written, of course, but reading it dredged up terrible memories I’ve been trying for years to suppress, and so I had no choice. I confronted Autumn about it, asking her why she’d cut me out of her life so abruptly. It was a stupid question. I kind of already knew why: I wasn’t good enough for her anymore. Or was it the fact that I had kissed her and she didn’t feel the same way? Most likely a combination of both. . I just didn’t know why she’d been so cold about it. She apologized profusely, she told me that it wasn’t her intention but she hadn’t known what to do after I kissed her that night, and I think that some part of me always knew that. I told her I was sorry for kissing her like that, but she told me that I didn’t have anything sorry for. I laughed and joked about how I never knew how to make her happy, which was kind of true.

She said, “You make me happier than any other person ever has.” I asked her if this was true, but I knew that it was. After all, the same could be said for me. She makes me happier than anyone else.

When she said that, I felt emboldened, and I asked her if I could kiss her. I could hardly believed it when she said yes: I’d dreamed about this moment for what felt like years, and now it was happening, and it feels so right. It feels more natural than anything I’ve ever felt before. And I’m so happy that I can say, ‘Autumn Davis is my girlfriend.’ without having to pinch myself to make sure that I know that this is nothing more than a dream.

Even now, a day later, I still can’t believe it. I’ve loved her from afar for years, and now Autumn and I are finally together. It makes me feel bad that I have to leave her, even though I’m just picking up Sylvie. But I’ll be back for her soon. Now that we’re together, I don’t ever want to leave her.

________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Shadowhunters Mondays?

Anyone who knows me really well (or has been reading this blog since I started it in 2014) knows that I am absolutely, positively obsessed with Freeform’s Twisted. There was time where Twisted Tuesdays was my whole life.

A year before Twisted came into my life, Cassandra Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments (or TMI) came into my life. Normally, I don’t read fantasy. It doesn’t necessarily interest me as much as science fiction does. But The Mortal Instruments isn’t like any other fantasy series, or at least not to me. It’s actually the third series (it’s chronologically the third, at least) in a fantasy franchise entitled The Shadowhunter Chronicles. We can go into more detail about those series later (because they’re just as amazing as The Mortal Instruments). 

The Mortal Instruments is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Clary Fray (who’s eighteen in the TV adaptation) whose life is turned upside down. Sounds clichĂ©, right? At first yes, but that’s the only part of this series that’s clichĂ© (besides the love triangles, of course). Shortly before her sixteenth birthday, she’s at a club called Pandemonium with her best friend Simon Lewis when she witnesses a murder committed by three teenagers covered in strange markings. Even stranger? No one else can see or hear them: only Clary can. From there, her life takes a crazy turn as her mother is abducted and Clary is thrust into the world of Shadowhunters, half-angel, half human warriors whose mandate is to kill demons and protect humans from the Shadow World.

In 2013, The Mortal Instruments was developed into a movie entitled The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and it starred Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower. To be frank, it was terrible and I hated almost everything about it. Except for Robert Sheehan. He made a great Simon.

So, in 2015, when ABC Family announced that they were adapting The Mortal Instruments into a show called Shadowhunters, I was equally skeptical and excited. I was mainly excited, though, because I was hoping that Shadowhunters would be better than the TV series, and I was absolutely right. (Although my mother doesn’t agree with me on that.) 

For the most part, it sticks to the books pretty well, and the dialogue is way better than the dialogue in the movie. It does stray from the books in certain ways, but I think that the show is still really good even with that. I think the first season was amazing, and the music is great too. The acting is amazing, and the actor choices are incredible, especially Alberto Rosende’s Simon, Isaiah Mustafa’s Luke, and Emeraude Toubia’s Isabelle. Also, I have to admit that in the books I wasn’t always Clary’s biggest fan (although by the end of City of Heavenly Fire she’d started to grow on me), but I really like her in the TV series.

I’m especially excited for season two’s debut tonight, since they’ve announced that Maia Roberts, one of my favorite characters, will be introduced in this season. Sebastian, a character every TMI fan loves to hate (and if you watch the show, you’ll see why) will be introduced in the second half of the season, and I’m excited for the chaos his arrival is sure to bring. Although I think that it will be torture waiting for the second half of the season, which will likely premiere sometime in the summer.

I haven’t been this excited about a TV series since Twisted. Maybe, just maybe Shadowhunters Mondays will become the next Twisted Tuesdays. (But Twisted Tuesdays has a better ring to it. Maybe Mundie Mondays, how about that?)  Shadowhunters just might be the show I’ve been waiting for, since Pretty Little Liars is no longer cutting it, and hasn’t been for a long time. (But the books are still great!)

*Note: The original version of this post stated that Shadowhunters airs on Tuesdays. Last year they aired on Tuesdays (taking Twisted’s spot) but this year it looks like it’s going to be aired on Mondays.

 

ï»żThe Amateurs ï»żReview

This review is a long time coming. Ever since I heard that Sara Shepard was going to be authoring a book series for Freeform Books (yep, you heard that right; they’ve got a publishing imprint now, too), I knew that I had to read it. Maybe, just maybe it would fill the Pretty Little Liars, The Perfectionists, and The Lying Game shaped holes in my hearts.

The Amateurs did just that and more.

The Amateurs is about four amateur detectives, Seneca Frazier, Brett Grady, Maddox Wright, and Aerin Kelly, solving the case of Aerin’s sister’s murder.

Helena Kelly was seemingly the perfect seventeen year old. She had the perfect boyfriend, the perfect family, she was pretty, and she was smart.She had everything anyone could ever want. She had a life most teenage girls would kill for.

And one day, someone did.

On a snowy wintery day, Helena and her eleven-year-old sister Aerin were building a snowman together, and Helena sent Aerin inside to go get something they needed for the snowman. Little did Aerin know that that was the last time she’d see her sister alive. A few years after Helena disappeared, her body was found. A year later, Aerin, now just about the same age as her sister was when she was killed, posts a message on cold case solving forum called Case Not Closed.

Enter Seneca, Maddox, and Brett, three super-users from Case Not Closed that see her message and decide to help out. Together, the four of them put their heads together to get to the bottom of Helena’s murder. But the killer’s still out there somewhere, and he’s just a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Will the Amateurs set him off?

This book is probably one of Sara Shepard’s finest works. It’s got the plot twists of Pretty Little Liars (imagine taking every plot twist from the first eight books and combining them into one book, and you’ve got the end twist), the romance of The Lying Game and the complex characters and plotlines of The Perfectionists. 

The final plot twist of the book is described over and over again on the back of the book, and I have to say that only one of them truly gives that plot twist justice. Kate Brian said it best when she wrote, “You think you’ll know…but you won’t know.” When you think you know who the killer is, you won’t. Imagine reading the last part of the book as a conversation with Sara Shepard.

First, Sara will laugh in your face and say, “Ha! You think that this person’s the killer? Nope. It’s this person.”

Then you’re like, “Oh, that makes sense! Thanks Sara!”

And she goes, “Oh, that’s cute, you haven’t learned anything from reading any of my books. This person isn’t the killer! It’s this person!” Then she starts laughing maniacally, and you’re like, “Okay, that was a good one, Sara. Is it over now?”

She stops laughing and she says, “Yeah, it’s over now but I had fun messing with you. Keep reading though, my ending is on point.”

So you keep reading and it turns out she lied to you. That person wasn’t the killer at all, and now they’re in jail. And the real killer is out there somewhere, eating pastries and drinking coffee (and that is not an exaggeration.)

And once you realize who the killer is, it will blow your mind into a bunch of microscopic pieces of brain-themed confetti. That’s how much of a plot twist it is. Of course, there are a TON of hints hidden throughout the story, but you’d only get that those are hinting at the killer’s identity if you’ve already read the book and are hunting for clues.

I don’t want to keep you here all day, so I’ll leave it at this: you must read this book before you die. I give it a twenty out of five stars. Also, because I’m going insane waiting for the second book, if you have patience, wait to read it until all of the books have come out, because once you start, you won’t be able to stop.

Happy reading!

Where Do You Stand?

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the conspiracy theory that claims Louis Tomlinson and Briana Jungwirth’s baby, Freddie, is simply a hoax to get people to stop thinking about Larry Stylinson. It’s ridiculous, yet at the same time, still somewhat intriguing.  (If you haven’t, just check out this BuzzFeed article, published this morning.)

The way I see it, there is only one direction that this theory can take, which is–spoiler alert–that the baby is totally real and totally adorable. Read on to find out why I think so.

People say the baby isn’t real because the images seemed Photoshopped. Well, I bet that Louis’s management just slipped up a lot when Photoshopping certain images, which happens all the time. And I know you’ve seen those videos. His management planned on using Briana’s pregnancy as much as they could to ensure it was talked about. They basically used her for the publicity. They also slipped up when tweeting about Freddie’s birth. Maybe they realized they hadn’t tweeted about the baby yet? Either way, they maybe could’ve skipped the specific date, because it was off, and Babygate isn’t going to die anytime soon. Also, the reason they mainly keep Freddie out of the limelight is likely because they don’t want their infant child to be subjected to the scrutiny of the  1D fanbase, and because maybe they suspected something like this was going to happen. And remember how Hollywood Life published the baby’s birth certificate? Yeah. Not looking so fake now. As for the similarities to a baby doll, I once again blame bad Photoshop, courtesy of Louis’ management. The BuzzFeed article mentioned that Briana leaving the hospital seemed staged because she wasn’t in a wheelchair. IT PROBABLY WAS BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THERE IS NO BABY! She probably just didn’t want the real pictures circulating on the web. People are vain nowadays, you know. Also, in the BuzzFeed article, it was mentioned that some people have pointed out how badly the Photoshop seems in some pictures. News flash: people lie. They could’ve easily lied about the images and have made it seem more dramatic than it actually is. They say Louis Photoshopped those pictures? Maybe all of these so-called photographers and obsessed-with-details 1D fans are the ones doing the Photoshopping. You ever think of that? I bet you didn’t. In conclusion, I have to say that the baby is real and people are just delusional. And, just saying, I don’t remember any rumors (or at least not any that are as detailed as this!) that Saint West wasn’t real, and how long did it take for Kim and Kanye to release a picture of him? (That, you know, wasn’t of his hand.)

Anyway, I probably repeated some things a few times, but the main takeaway is still that the baby is real, at least in my opinion (and the opinion of my mother and one of my friends). I want to know what you guys think, too, so comment and I’ll try not to judge you if you believe it!

In the meantime, let’s find another conspiracy theory to obsess over. Like The Pixar Theory–which, let’s be honest, is most likely true. I mean, have you read that book? Jon Negroni is a genius! If you haven’t read it, you should read that or his essay on it right here.