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The Ninja Reader

High-brow or downright pretentious, good PNR or sparkly vampires, I don't care about the premise so long as it entertains me.

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Bullying: The Social Destruction of Self
Laura Martocci
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Aimee Bender Magical realism is probably one of my favorite genres. Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel and Angela Carter are authors whom I greatly admire, and before someone acuses me of sexism, I have read Gabriel Garcia Marques and my opinion of him will forever be skewed because he forbade his books to be published in my country. So there.But that doesn't change the fact that this is a gorgeous genre, asking nothing of you, like Rose's Dorito chip, but to enjoy it. And then read book after book after book. "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" made a wonderful read - bittersweet, comfortable, lovely.Is there more to it? Yes. But Rose is not a character you love easily and immediately. She doesn't pursue any goal actively - throughout the book, her main worry is getting through the day without losing herself in people's emotions. She doesn't try to find a cure for her affliction. She definitely doesn't try to fix what's wrong with her parents and brother. It is, quite literally, a novel about acceptance.However, that acceptance doesn't come easily. Rose goes through all sorts of stages before she says "It's ok" . Her family is not perfect. It can even be described as disfunctional - her mother is a glutton for attention, love, fireworks and all that jazz, while her father, while well-meaning, just always seems to miss the mark, and she and her brother get caught up in the crossfire. The hardest thing, in fact, is not for her to accept that there is something wrong in the picture - it's for her to admit that she loves her parents in spite of it.Now that I've done my praising, I'd like to adress a couple of issues that seem to be the main weak points of this book. One of them is that there is no resolution, at least as far as Rose's family is concerned. She is shown to move in the right direction, to finally let people in after all the disappointment she's suffered thanks to her gift. But Joseph, her father and her mother are never given a reason why they're the way they are, nor are they shown trying to work through their problems. Scratch that - they don't even seem to want to. Which, while realistic, is not really uplifting, and adds a sour aftertaste to the whole experience.The second issue is with Bender's decision to obliterate dialogue marks. The last book where that was done was "The Road" , and we all know how that turned out with me. However, while McCarthy's book came off as pointless, I actually think that in Lemon Cake, it emphasises the whole 'inner journey' of the heroine. Since in this book the journey actually gets Rose somewhere, I think it's very appropriate.Think about it - Rose doesn't immediately take to hiding her gift. In fact, she does try to get people to believe her. Whenever she succeeds, she's either met with indifference or she's being used. When she tries to draw attention to the fact that she's NOT ok, she's suffering, when she complains loudly and violently, she's met with distrust and anger, and her mother pretty much informs her that it's not ok to try and fix people - best think the best and ignore the signs otherwise. The only road to healing she could take for many years is within herself, and quite frankly, I'm not surprised with what happened with Joseph later on. Every culture has its own characteristic mode of anti-intellectualism – some stronger, some weaker. Our American brand, paradoxically, equates knowledge and complexity with boredom. Thought becomes shameful. Best if not talked about. -M. T. AndersonIt rings a truthful tone, doesn't it? Let's take Twilight for example - Bella identifies herself with being intelligent, but how does she back it up? By reading exclusively Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and the Bronte sisters? By looking down her nose on her classmates for not being able to tell the stages of mythosis from sight? If she really wants to impress me, let her identify T18 without losing her dinner (she could have, too, but she spent that lecture thinking how she wanted to touch Edward).The same principle, don't ask, don't tell, can be identified in "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" - Rose is practically turned off expressing herself. For a long time, all she can do is watch. Before she can do anything for others, she needs to find her own voice, and when she does that, it's simply too late to do anything else but love.