Awesome summer reading rec: ‘Flipped’ by Wendelin Van Draanen

Today’s book review is the delightful young adult novel Flipped. My sister and I watched the movie a year ago and we fell in love with the humor and message of the story. I bought the book afterward and found that the movie had stayed largely faithful to the novel, and I loved reading the novel version of a story I loved so much. Flipped is a coming-of-age tale focusing on two young teenagers, Juli and Bryce, and how their perception of each other changes as they learn what kind of person each wants to be. The novel is narrated by both of them, offering insight into their separate worlds, and also offering two points of view to most of the events in the novel. It’s a fun format that highlights the message in this deep yet lighthearted story about first love, integrity, and growing up.

331920Juli is a precocious, outgoing eighth grade girl who has had a six-year-long crush on a boy named Bryce. The narrative begins with Bryce’s description of when he and Juli first met as second graders, when she barged into his family’s moving van and chased Bryce all over the house, trying to hold his hand. He describes her as “muddy” and that she was always “taking over and showing off like only Juli Baker can.” Bryce’s narrative presents him as a somewhat spoiled child who cares about social status and keeping up appearances.

“I’ll ride my bike all the stinkin’ way to school for the rest of eternity if it means being with her.”

In the second chapter, Julianna Baker’s lively voice takes over. She describes how much she enjoys watching her father paint, because it lends her a sense of peace. She’s a peaceful, unselfish child who enjoys simple pleasures like hearing her father’s stories, raising chickens, and donating fresh eggs to her neighbors. She’s so much more down to earth than Bryce is, but she’s still harboring a crush on her image-obsessed young neighbor.

Flipped is such a gem of a novel because it perfectly encapsulates this experience of growing up and trying to figure out who you are. Bryce, the popular boy, is concerned with his reputation and with being cool, which hurts Juli’s feelings. Juli has a strong sense of morality and begins to truly see Bryce for who he is. Both children have to reexamine the ways they were raised and go through these growing pains as they blossom into teenagers.

“One’s character is set at an early age. The choices you make now will affect you for the rest of your life. I hate to see you swim out so far you can’t swim back.”

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Fashion | From day to day

As you can probably guess, I just can’t get away from my color obsession, despite my current neutral-toned wardrobe. Even though this amazing Boohoo romper is a pretty neutral blush, I had to wear it with this multicolored vintage blazer I scored for cheap. I’m into this whole monochrome effect right now, so the blush Jeffrey Campbells were the perfect choice. Funny thing: this old blazer has some serious shoulder pads.

Also: pretty body chain! Simple and subtle, from Forever 21. I love wearing florals all day EVERY DAY.

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romper from Boohoo.com, shoes from VillainsSF (Jeffrey Campbell),
hat and blazer thrifted, chain from F21

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My Favorite Books: ‘I Capture the Castle’

This post is less of a review and more of an opportunity to gush. I recently re-read one of my top 10 favorite books of all time, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. You may know her as the author of 101 Dalmatians, but Smith’s first novel is nothing short of literary magic. My sister first introduced this book to me when I was a very young teenager; now, I read it during the springtime, because it inspires in me the same feeling that spring does: that feeling of magic and new beginnings, of everything bursting into bloom.

457340This is the story of the impoverished Mortmain family in the 1930s, living in a moldering old castle in Suffolk. I love every aspect of this novel, from the themes of growing up and getting to know oneself, to falling in love for the first time and experiencing both intense elation and the deepest heartbreak. The best part of this novel is the narrator: sparkling, charming, intelligent and self-aware Cassandra Mortmain, our 17-year-old heroine whom JK Rowling called “the most charismatic narrator [she’s] ever met.” I completely agree.

Cassandra records everything that happens in the castle in an attempt to “capture” it, hence the title. The novel is populated with these larger-than-life characters, like Cassandra’s father, a former bestselling author who hasn’t written anything in over a decade; Cassandra’s stepmother, an artist’s model named Topaz who regularly wanders around their land completely naked; and Rose, Cassandra’s older, luxury-obsessed sister who is also gentle, honest and loving.

But the best part of this book is Cassandra’s voice. She’s both very naive and very mature, and through the course of six months, her entire world is turned upside down when she and Rose meet two American men, Simon and Neil, who have inherited their estate. I love this quote from the beginning of the novel:

Rose: Did you think of anything when Miss Marcy said Scoatney was being re-opened? I thought of the beginning of Pride and Prejudice—when Mrs. Bennet says ‘Netherfield Park is let at last.’ And then Mr. Bennet goes over to call on the rich new owner.

Cassandra: Mr. Bennet didn’t owe him any rent.

Cassandra and Rose start spending a lot of time with the two men, and Rose schemes to marry the elder, Simon, so she can escape genteel poverty. Cassandra helps, and it looks like everyone’s dreams have come true when Rose and Simon become engaged and Rose finds herself also, fortunately, in love with the man she said she’d marry whether or not she loved him. That is, until Cassandra falls in love with Simon herself.

Cassandra describing and experiencing her first—unrequited—love is the heart and soul of this book. I always feel her joy and her pain so acutely, especially when she says things like, “Just to be in love seemed the most blissful luxury I had ever known” and “Perhaps watching someone you love suffer can teach you even more than suffering yourself can.” Everything feels so much stronger and more intense for Cassandra because she’s in some ways extremely naive and a blank slate, and it’s made so much worse by the fact that she’s in love with her older sister’s fiancé. But you’re also very much aware that Cassandra knows her own heart and mind, that what she feels for Simon is real and not just puppy love, which makes Cassandra’s pain so much harder to bear.

“Even a broken heart doesn’t warrant a waste of good paper.”

Reading this book is like opening a window into the soul of a very kind, very funny, very warm-hearted young girl, and it’s also like reading your very own diary. Her soulful thoughts leap off the page, and I could fill up this entire post with just direct quotes from the book. My favorite is when Cassandra visits an empty church to find solace and thinks, “I am a restlessness inside a stillness inside a restlessness.” Cassandra is deep, brilliant, childlike, noble, funny and kind, and she’s made this novel one of the best I’ve ever read.

So I’ll leave you with this last quote:

“I only want to write. And there’s no college for that except life.”

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Blog goals and The Most Happy’s future

shadow-chandelier-decal-blackWhen I started this blog in October of 2013, I was a recent college graduate with no job and a lot of negative energy. This blog was an attempt to do something with my life that took my mind off unemployment, and maybe create something I could be proud of. Now, a year and a half later, that full-time job is still elusive but I’ve found a budding career as a freelance writer, and this blog was largely responsible for all the opportunities I’ve had since. It’s let me fulfill my dream of working as a writer, and has let me express all my diverse interests, from Victorian literature to Jeffrey Campbell shoes. I’m grateful to it for that, and I’m more than grateful to the little community I’ve created here. I’m so thankful for all of you who read, follow, and comment. You’ve let me go after my dreams.

So, that said, it’s time for me to monetize my blog, because being a freelancer comes with its struggles—no full-time salary or benefits, and often working for free. I don’t want to give up this space, so in lieu of banner ads (which are prohibited on wordpress.com), I’ve decided to integrate sponsored content on my blog. I’ve decided against moving to wordpress.org because it would mean losing my community of followers, and I cherish that community. So, every once in a while, you may see sponsored content here, and I’m going to be one hundred percent involved in the creation of the sponsored posts, to make sure it’s still my voice, my interests, my opinions that you all read. But instead of just the specific things I like, you’ll get to hear about new clothing companies, travel destinations, books to read, and all wonderful things like that. And I get to be the CEO of my little business here, at The Most Happy.

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A review of Kim Kardashian’s ‘Selfish’ & an expression of Kardashian love

I don’t make a secret of my love for the Kardashians. I’ve always thought that these women are geniuses if they managed to make their comparatively tame and boring lives the subjects of such intense interest and focus, Kim’s frequent nudity notwithstanding. I also think they’re all pretty innovative and groundbreaking businesswomen, as they’ve created an entire empire based on their looks and how to get them. Whether or not this is healthy for them or us is sort of irrelevant and dependent on the person. I, for one, have always found their message, if not necessarily inspiring, definitely enlightening.

The ways they approach beauty, insecurity, body image and self-love are undeniably influential. I cite Kylie’s lip plumping, Kendall’s subsequent assertion that “no one has to do anything [surgery-wise]…everyone is beautiful,” Khloe lasering her cellulite, Kim’s countless nude seshes, and Kourtney’s opinion that she feels best when she’s pregnant as examples of the myriad ways women relate to their bodies and perceive their beauty. They’ve had a positive influence on my life, and I’m not ashamed of that (but unfortunately I did feel the need to explain my love in this little intro, which shows that loving the Kardashians is perceived as something foolish). They’re a lot more than their public personas, a lot more than their apparent fame-seeking tendencies. They’re all that and more. Anyway—

I love Kim. She’s often ridiculous, but I feel for the girl. She’s a self-made woman who made her fame on her looks and with that scrutiny comes intense pressure that she obviously puts on herself. But she rises to the occasion time and time again, in big ways. Enter SELFISH, the book of selfies! The announcement of the book both made me laugh and gave me this intense desire to read it. So I did. And here’s what I thought, in a neat little list.

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She takes this stuff seriously—but not too seriously. I expected a lot of photos of just Kim in various outfits, in varying states of dress and with her signature full face of makeup, and while the book is 70% exactly that, it also feels and reads like a personal scrapbook. Her family and friends are featured heavily, and the onslaught of gorgeous selfies is punctuated with thoughtful and lighthearted reminiscences on the memories she has made.

She’s funny and sweet. There are a lot of “lol”s in the commentary and she’s smiling in so many of the pictures! Yes! The woman who has said she doesn’t smile because it gives her wrinkles and who shot a video on “how to take a selfie” praising the duckface is smiling, laughing, pulling faces, rolling her eyes and showing a side of herself that only fans see. This is Real Kim, the Kim you won’t get from red carpet shots and scathing articles about her.

The book transcends narcissism. Look—Kim is a narcissist. You just have to accept that about her and move on. But this book, literally named “Selfish,” is more than an expression of narcissism. Kim is a woman who truly loves to let her fans and everyone in the world into her life. She thrives on it. It makes her happy, and it’s made her into one of the most recognizable and most photographed celebrities in the world. Honestly, Selfish transcends narcissism and becomes this window into her life that she likes letting us look into.

It’s honestly sort of a natural career move for someone like Kim. We should all have seen this book coming, and should not have been surprised. A book of selfies is a natural career move and next step for the woman who pioneered the selfie movement.

She’s constantly in a dialogue with her fans and critics. She refers to one risqué selfie as “infamous” and cites the moment she was taking a photo with the elephant and says the photo was taken “right before it scared her,” showing that she knows what her fans see and say about her, and she’s commenting on her public image.

It ends with her fairy-tale wedding. Also not surprising that Kim, ever the romantic, ends her “story” with a happily ever after.

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There’s an entire nude section, complete with black pages. Kim’s entirely nude selfies are also included, like the ones she sends to Kanye and the ones that were hacked. She said she didn’t intend to include the naked ones, but when her photos were hacked, she decided to put them into her book. That’s controlling the narrative.

She’s self-deprecating. At one point she writes, “Any excuse, right?” referring to her frequent selfie-taking. She knows she takes too many pictures, but she places so much importance on them because she knows how powerful they are for her fame. She’s playful and self-aware.

It’s a gorgeous coffee-table object, but it should lie flat. So many of the photos are cut off right in the middle because of the binding, making this horrendous seam that cuts off her face. No! Not the face! It’s also a nice small trim size, giving off this personal feel and making it very easy to hold and flip through. Very sleek and monochrome, the book is how I imagine Apple would print a book of photographs.

There will probably be a “sequel.” I’m throwing my hat in the ring for “Selfless.”

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Fashion | Wild Canyons

I love this sage green maxi from Forever 21, it’s got a romantic, slightly Grecian feel to it. I also love how I can wear all these muted colors and still look bold and loud, cause my hair’s this colorful accessory! I paired this dress with some old peacock-feather earrings I bought from Etsy a little while ago! Yaaay for color!
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dress from Forever 21, belt from H&M, earrings from Etsy, purse thrifted

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John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the third novel I’ve read by John Green, Looking for Alaska. I read it a few weeks ago, so I’ve had time to let the thoughts process and now I feel like I can properly review it. So—here we go. John Green’s first novel—and my third, after The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns—is somewhat weak and fails to be edgy or poignant in the way his other two novels (that I read) succeed spectacularly. I was underwhelmed by this one and frankly, sometimes annoyed while reading. Here’s why.

99561For starters, this book begins with an unpopular but circumspect teenage boy named Miles Halter, who leaves his public high school for boarding school in Alabama. He hopes that a change of scenery will cause him to have great adventures, something he calls “The Great Perhaps,” quoted from Francois Rabelais’s supposed last words. That’s another thing—Miles is obsessed with memorizing famous people’s last words, and he knows hundreds. When he arrives at Culver Creek boarding school, he gets mixed up with some less-than-popular but lovable students, among them his roommate “The Colonel” and the fiercely independent, smart, beautiful and self-destructive Alaska Young, whom Miles falls head-over-heels in love with.

Alaska is a foul-mouthed, philosophical, brilliant and severely depressed young woman with self-destructive tendencies, but she’s fascinating to Miles. I think that I liked this book so much less than I thought I would because I had no patience for Alaska’s antics, and little reason, besides the superficial attraction Miles feels, to understand why Miles falls in love with her. Still, there are a few beautiful turns of phrase that Green is famous for:

“So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”

Honestly, Alaska annoyed me. She also reminded me of a much more interesting and complex character, Green’s own Margo from Paper Towns. They both have the same “hurricane” qualities and the same magnetic personality, but Margo was much, much less selfish than Alaska. Miles also reminded me of a less polished version of Quentin of the same novel, so I was left feeling like I had read an unfinished sketch of Paper Towns.

There’s also a thread running throughout Green’s novels, including An Abundance of Katherines (but missing from The Fault In Our Stars, to great effect), of a young, insecure teenage boy who becomes obsessed with a girl he doesn’t understand and therefore romanticizes in his mind. I’m becoming impatient with this storyline.

What also added to this feeling was that this is a semi-autobiographical account of something that happened to John Green, so there’s this feeling of apology, something Green had to either explain or get off his chest, and the novel felt like a true story being sloppily repackaged into something more easily digestible. This may also be the reason why the characters don’t feel true to life; ironically, I often feel like characters based on real people don’t come alive as much, bogged down as they are by the author’s own experience of them in real life.

The story’s events are a little uneven, but there are a few beautiful moments of philosophical introspection that rang very true to me. John Green is obviously a very talented writer and this just seems like a typical imperfect first novel, and if I hadn’t started backward with his oeuvre, I’m sure this one would stand out so much more in my mind.

“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia…You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.” 

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