Gail turned the page of her book, ignoring the increasing thudthud thud of her heart. She didn’t want to—needed not to— feel the heated stare from the woman sitting two tables away.
Vaughn moved into Gail’s neighborhood a couple of weeks ago. She came into the coffee shop every day. Each day Vaughn ordered something different and sat by a window, typing away on her computer for a few hours. She watched Gail, too. Gail enjoyed the attention, basking in the way Vaughn’s eyes roamed over her body but lingering on her hair.
Gail never felt beautiful, but she did not shy away from the attention of others. Like her Mama, who had a hat shop in Texas, always said, “One person’s ugly hat is another’s crown.” Still, no matter how many times she willed herself to approach Vaughn– to take the girl’s order, which Gail could easily do, after all, this was her shop and everyone knew that she liked to talk with her customers– she just couldn’t do it, not even the times Vaughn smiled at her.
Deciding to get back to work, Gail walked behind the counter and into the kitchen. The shop needed more deserts, and Gail always enjoyed an excuse to bake. Trying to shut down her mind, Gail worked loudly, attracting the attention of Don, one of her employees. “Just go talk to her before you set this place on fire,” he said handing her an oven rack.
“I..I just can’t,” she replied, placing the cookies in the oven and slamming the door shut.
Don stared, one eyebrow arched inquisitively. “Uh-huh. I’ll clean up in here; you go man the front with Laura.”
“I thought I was the boss, ” Gail retorted.
“Yea, of the shop, but apparently not of your love life, so…” Don trailed.
Gail grinned and shook her head at Don, but walked out anyway, hoping to catch another glimpse of Vaughn. Gail shivered when saw Vaughn, now sitting nearby.
Their eyes met, and Gail wondered if time had stopped. Perhaps it had.
Disclaimer: These snippets are NOT meant to be error free. These are writing exercises.
And he supposed that Clara had moved on because he couldn’t hear the waves anymore when he listened to the seashell she left behind.
Erik considered throwing the shell out the window, and indulging in watching it fall and crack.
Falling, Erik understood all too well what it felt like to fall. He didn’t like it. That sense of having no control, not even when things were going great between him and Clara. In fact, it made him feel angry.
Maybe that’s why she left, he wondered. Maybe she knew that he wasn’t the kind of man who loved freely.
Clara was, after all, yearning for the kind of love that could heat the bottom of the ocean.
Erik didn’t know, of course, that the merfolk of the Norwegian Ocean were freezing to death, or of the legend that foretold the extinction of an entire species and of the magic that could save them all.
Disclaimer: These snippets are NOT meant to be error free. These are writing exercises.
Picture this. A young woman, with sad, soulful eyes, sits on a train, staring out at a balcony. There, a young couple are wrapped in each other’s arms. ‘They are the definition of perfection,’ she thinks.
But they aren’t.
This young woman with sad, soulful eyes is an alcoholic, riding a commuter-train, day in and day out, drinking before the train, on the train, and after the train. She doesn’t want her friend/roommate to know that she lost her job.
Now, this girl is a mess, but she’s not as bad off as her ex-husband wants you to think. That makes sense, too — murderers are notoriously untrustworthy.
The Girl on Train, based on a novel of the same name by Paula Hawkins, follows Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), a young divorced alcoholic who looks on at her ex-husband and his new family and their neighbors. Rachel is obsessed with Scott( Luke Evans) and Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), a young, beautiful couple who seem to have the love she could not hold onto. So, she watches them from her window on the train, and when she is drunk, she wanders — or stumbles and trips, more like it — into her neighborhood and into her old back yard. Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), Tom’s new wife and the woman he was having an affair with, is terrified that Rachel will take or hurt her baby girl. During their marriage, Rachel was heartbroken when she found out that she couldn’t get pregnant. Isn’t that enough drama?
Nope. Soon, reality comes crashing down on Rachel. Megan is having an affair, with her psychiatrist, Dr. Kamal Abdic ( Édgar Ramírez), no less. Angry, Megan goes to a bar, promptly gets even drunker than she probably already was and vents about Megan’s audacity to cheat.
When Megan goes missing, Rachel assumes that Dr. Kamal killed her to keep their affair secret. She is baffled when detectives want to know where she was when Megan disappeared, forgetting that that same night she was in the neighborhood. She interjects herself into the investigation, befriending Scott, telling him that she was a friend of Megan’s. Soon, Megan’s body is found.
So, let’s recap. Rachel is unstable, Megan is gone, Scott is in mourning, and Dr. Abdic should lose his licence. If only it were that cut and dry. However, Rachel’s memories aren’t reliable, and she only got a glimpse of the Hipwell’s lives.
As the investigation unfolds, we see flashbacks of Rachel and Tom’s marriage, as well as the events leading up to the day Megan disappeared. Rachel was drunk and violent, always trying Tom’s patience and kindness. In reality, Tom was the violent one and having affairs. Scott was controlling and pushing Megan to start a family. Megan was detached and dreaded starting a family, having kept a crucial part of her past a secret from Scott. But Megan wasn’t having an affair with Dr. Abdic.
In the end, it is revealed that Megan was having an affair with Tom and was pregnant with his baby. She confided in Dr. Abdic, and though, they were attracted to one another, they were not involved. When she told Tom and he told her to have an abortion, Megan got upset and told him that she’ll make sure he will help her with this baby. Tom smashed her head into the ground and beat her to a bloody pulp.
When I first saw the trailer for The Girl on the Train, I was super excited. Emily Blunt mesmerized me in The Devil Wears Prada and several other films, including a Lifetime mystery, so I wanted to see what she could do here. The storyline seemed interesting, a whodunit mystery with hopefully an inspired twist featuring strong female leads. However, I was actually sorely disappointed. I thought it was too slow-paced and the ending did not surprise me. I was also fairly annoyed with the way women were portrayed.
During her sessions with Dr. Abdic, Megan asks him if he thinks she is beautiful. He does and is flattered, but tries to keep her at bay. At one point, she gets on her knees in front of him and begins to unzip his pants. This trope, the overly sexual female patient seducing her doctor, is a common one and portrays women as stereotypically unhinged and needy, using their bodies to get what they want.
Megan has this heartbreaking story, which makes her detachment understandable. Years ago, before Scott, she accidentally drowned her little girl when she fell asleep in the bathtub. No wonder Megan doesn’t want to start a family with Scott. That makes sense; however, what isn’t conveyed well is why she chose sex as her escape from her past. She seems like a woman with a sexual appetite, but then that is transformed into something negative. I just wish that was handled differently. Similarly, we don’t know why alcohol was Rachel’s choice of drug. Here are these women with sad stories and destructive behaviors, neither of which are explored much. To me, THAT would have been more interesting than this mystery that in the end shows that the lives of three woman centered around the same man.
It irked me that the lives of these women centered around a cruel, abusive man. I completely understand that love and lust blinds, but the idea that this one man has all this control, or at the very least some kind of sway, over three very different women doesn’t seem realistic, and this film is rooted in reality. Here’s the thing, there’s so much more to every single woman than her partner and her maternal instincts. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not at all suggesting that love, family, children aren’t integral. They are all absolutely wonderful and so important, but they don’t define a woman, and movies/books shouldn’t be portraying it that way. Such portrayals hold on to old ideologies that deny women their agency.
Speaking (or writing) of agency, I think Rachel is meant to be viewed as a heroine, but I don’t see it. After she realizes that Tom killed Megan, she goes to the house to warn Anna. I guess that’s supposed to show that she’s brave, but that’s just ridiculous. That makes her seem rash and careless. Sure, putting Rachel in that situation makes for good entertainment, but why should entertainment come at the expense of someone’s dignity? Think about it. With some careful thinking and plotting, there are probably other ways to maintain the sought-after level of tension.
So, yea, the only thing the The Girl on the Train trained me in is perfecting the annoyed eye roll technique.
Imagine finding out that you are named after Queen Victoria because your parents think you are ugly. Imagine being told that you are the tester-cake and your sister is perfect. Welcome to Victoria Dawson’s childhood. Danielle Steel’s Big Girl is a poignant novel about overcoming the lifelong voice in one’s head that tells you that you are unlovable.
When Victoria Dawson is born, she is a chubby little baby with blonde hair and blue eyes. She looks nothing like her parents and that does not sit well with them. She grows into a pretty, heavyset girl, and that is even more problematic for her parents, who prize beauty above all else. Constantly compared to her little sister and with her academic success overlooked, appearance belittled, Victoria grows up with the message that she is not good enough. Thus, her parents’ cruelty affects every relationship Victoria forges throughout her life, because if her parents can’t love her, how could anyone else?
Despite all of this, Victoria grows into a compassionate young woman. Her biggest flaw is that she uses food to fill a void inside herself, leading to weight gain, crash dieting, and self-hatred, a cycle that Victoria constantly struggles to break. More than anything, Victoria wishes that she was thin, because thin girls are lovable, like her mother and younger sister. Still, every time she loses weight, her parents barely notice and find other flaws in her: Victoria is too smart, and men don’t like smart women. She wants to be a teacher and teaching isn’t a real job.
Surrounded by constant negativity, Victoria chooses to attend a college far away from her parents. Eventually, Victoria moves to New York City to work as a high school English teacher at a private school, her dream job. She finds a place with three roommates and begins her new life. Still, years of insults follow her and the cycle continues. For every failed relationship, Victoria wonders if she did something wrong, the echoes of her family prohibiting her from believing that there is nothing wrong with her. Her weight continues to fluctuate, back and forth, back and forth, a reflection of her emotional turmoil. Finally, Victoria decides to go to therapy and once and for all eliminate her parents’ voices. As she works on loving herself more and taking care of herself, she meets a man who falls in love with her just as she is. By the end of the book, Victoria’s emotional health isn’t perfect, her parents don’t love her more, but she has finally found some peace.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this book, because it’s been THAT many times. Victoria’s story resonates with me.
Like Victoria, I’m also an emotional eater. It’s a constant struggle, so I understand how she feels and how food can help her cope with her parents’ cruelty. All those times that Victoria went to eat something, knowing that she would regret it had me feeling for her, because I know what the regret feels like and what the genuine promise but ultimately failed attempt of doing better next time feels like. It hurts. It always hurts. Yet, Victoria keeps on trying until something finally clicks for her and she truly begins making life-changing progress.
I’m also amazed by Victoria’s capacity for love despite her childhood. Honestly, if I were in her shoes, I think I would grow into a bitter and angry person. She grows up knowing that her parents love her baby sister more than her, but she never resents her sister. As a young adult, she watches her sister have the life she dreamed of, and she only wishes her sister joy. She always starts new friendships and relationships with an open heart. That takes courage in general, but especially given her background. Reading Victoria’s story is a great reminder for me that there is a big world out there and I shouldn’t be afraid to explore.
Danielle Steele writes a story that is real. It’s about a girl who very much could be a real person — most likely, there are girl with very similar stories. There’s no fluffy language or complex narrative. The more simple writing style juxtaposed with the intense storyline helps the story hit the heart, because a reader won’t get lost in the language or structure. It’s all about this girl and her life.
Women’s history month. It’s a pretty awesome month, don’t you think? When I think about the countless number of women I could write about, I want to hyperventilate because there are Just. So. Many. How do I choose?!
It’s a good thing I’m a bookworm and can always focus on authors! Lately, I’ve been reading Young Adult Fiction, so with this genre in mind, let’s explore the female authors’ whose words and stories have touched the hearts of readers all over the world. Because the thing about Young Adult fiction is, if written from the heart and with passion, teens and adults can and will find something to grab on to within the pages that will soothe, and excite, and inspire.
So without further ado, let’s say thank you to these amazing writers who today are our present and our future, and someday will become a part of our history.
“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” — From Just Listen.
Sarah Dessen is well known for realistic fiction that focuses on telling rich, relatable, and often painful experiences of teenage girls. In Just Listen, Annabel, a high school junior seems to have it all, right? Wrong. Unbeknownst to everyone around her, Annabel is holding on to a pain that even she has yet to acknowledge. Her best friend, Sophie, is not only no longer her friend, but is out to make her miserable, and no one tries to stop her. On top of that, her family is oblivious. Then, she meets Owen, a seemingly quiet and rebellious boy, but one who offers her unconditional friendship and an escape through music. As they grow closer and the music begins to help heal her, Annabel finally faces what happened to her. Utterly, heartbreaking, Just Listen probes at what it means to live in silence following a traumatic experience and the healing process that happens once you listen to yourself and speak out in order to save yourself.
Dessen’s novels are deep and insightful because although she does not shy away from all the things that make life terrifying, she still inspires hope. In creating relatable characters who work through often terrible, though sadly not uncommon problems, she shows readers that they are not alone in their suffering, but their pain is still their own and not something to be compared.
The relationships she develops, between friends, family, and significant others, shows the importance of creating healthy connections and the signs to look out for when a relationship has become toxic. Her novels aren’t easy reads, but they make you think about life, love, death and everything in between.
While Octavia Butler was not generally a YA writer, her novel Kindred fits the bookmark. In Kindred, Butler tells the story of Dana, an African American writer who is pulled into the past, back to the time of slavery. There, she meets her ancestors, a slave owner and a black woman forced into slavery. She witnesses firsthand the cruelties of the Pre-Civil War era. Intense and evocative, Butler forces readers to acknowledge the horrors of American history. Her characters are interesting and their relationships powerful, the healthy ones and the toxic ones. A combination of science fiction and young adult, Kindred is an evocative tale of love, history, and malice.
Butler most often wrote about disenfranchised protagonists, their struggles and their acheivements, always revealing the reality of societal expectations and norms. She never shied away from probing real issues that disenfranchised individuals face everyday; at the same time, she showed how they thrive.
“She was afraid, but she couldn’t just sit around waiting for someone to save her. She had to try to save herself, try to figure it out.” — From Wicked Lovely, #1.
Author of the Wicked Lovely series, Marr pulls readers into a world where there is so much more than meets the eye. Where faeries live along aside mortals, feeding on them and each other. In the first novel, Aislinn is a mortal with the Sight, and she has been chosen by the Summer King to potentially be his queen. But first she must accept him and take a brutal test or become one of the Summer Girls. Terrified, Aislinn tries to find a way to escape, but the moment that Keenan, the Summer King, dreamt of her, Aislinn’s mortality began to disappear.
Marr’s stories provide readers with an escape from reality. At the same time, the relationships and interactions may seem somehow relatable, because even though the protagonist may be a faery or a mortal caught in a war between faeries, his or her anger, fear, passion, and love is familiar. Characters deal with issues such as loss, toxic relationships, and painful decisions. Amidst the magic and the violence, there are stories of what it means to love, to lose, of what it means to be compassionate, fierce, loyal, etc. There are stories of personal growth and decisions that will forever change one’s life, be it for the better or for the worse
Dealing with heartbreak, growing up, moving on, tough decisions are a part of the human condition, and these are poignantly weaved into the magical elements of Marr’s novels without taking away from one another.
Feeling (faery) intrigued? Check out Marr’s books:
“It’s about getting past that question of what’s wrong with me, to knowing there’s nothing wrong, that you were born this way. You’re a normal person and a beautiful person and you should be proud of who you are. You deserve to live and live with dignity and show people your pride.” — From Keeping You a Secret.
Julie Peters’ stories center around teenaged characters who are part of the LGBTQ community. She shows the often heartbreaking reality of how coming out changes lives. However, she also strives to show that there is always hope, even when it seems like nothing will ever be okay again. InKeeping You a Secret, Holland, a high school senior finds herself drawn to the new girl CeCe, but how can that be? Holland is straight. She is dating her best friend, Seth; yet, she can’t deny CeCe’s pull. Eventually, Holland comes to terms with who she is and sets about truly being herself.
From some, she finds nothing but support and kindness, but from the one person whose support she needs the most — her mother — she finds nothing but rage and disgust. Holland is caught between the euphoria of coming out to herself, to her friends and family, and openly being with the girl she loves and the heartbreak of losing some of the people who matter the most.
Interested? Check out some of Peters’ other reads:
“You do not live as long as I have, and survive, by feeling deeply. I sometimes wonder, from my observations, if mortals do not often die from broken hearts.” — From Serpentine.
Cindy Pon’s Kingdom of Xia series, centers around Ali Ling, a girl with developing magical powers. She can hear people’s thoughts and see their dreams. She has been chosen to face a rising evil in the emperor’s castle. On her journey, she meets Chen Yong. He, too, is on a quest, and their fates depend on one another another.
Pon’s new series is full of Chinese folklore, adventure, and magic. It is violent, intense, and poignant when it comes to matters of the heart. Pon does not shy away from painful traumas that unfortunately is a part of life, such as death, arranged marriage, and sexual violence. As such, though an adventure story, the series deals with very real issues intertwined with magic and myth.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” From Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’ s Stone.
J.K. Rowling, author of the renowned Harry Potter series, provides readers with an escape into a magical world and insight for those willing to read between the lines. Harry Potter is about an orphaned boy who discovers he is a wizard and enters a world where everyone knows his name. There, he learns that his parents were killed by Voldemort, an evil wizard known as the Dark Lord, who, though presumed dead, is slowly gaining power again. And the only one who can stop him for good is Harry. However, he is never alone. Harry’s friends, teachers, and other adults are always by his side.
Intertwined with magic and adventure, the series shows readers what it means to be there for family, to face fears, to learn to control emotions. It reminds readers of the fact that sometimes the people who should love you, don’t, and those who you would not expect are there for you to the very end. Rowling’s magical world is fun, insightful, and completely unforgettable.