Danika reviews My Education by Susan Choi

myeducation

 

I have a weakness for media about a certain kind of relationship. The passionate, destructive, almost-certainly-doomed kind. (This probably doesn’t say anything good about me.) My Education fits neatly into this category, and it definitely delivered the kind of drama that I was looking for.

Regina, a university grad student, can’t resist the urge to take a class with a professor notorious for sleeping with this students. She finds herself drawn to him and his wife, and soon her life is absorbed in this love affair. I could relate all too well to Regina’s inability to extricate herself from an obviously damaging situation. She is convinced that this kind of love takes precedent over anything else, and when the inevitable moment arrives when it all comes crashing down, she is shocked. My Education deals equally with this relationship and the fallout, even more than a decade afterwards.

This was well-written and evocative, but I suspect that you’ll have to be a certain kind of reader to enjoy it. All the characters are insufferable in their own ways, but they’re understandable. They make the mistakes we wish we didn’t also make. Susan Choi effectively draws you into Regina’s emotions and perspective even when you know that she’s mistaken.

I found it funny that while listening to the audiobook, I found myself constantly thinking Of course you think that, you’re so young. This is a story about being young and feeling everything intensely. But Regina is 21, and I’m only a few years past that myself! I wouldn’t be surprised if some teenagers read this and had the same reaction, though. Maybe it’s less to do with age and more to do with having one’s first all-consuming love.

I really enjoyed this one, keeping in mind that all the characters are flawed and I disagreed with some of the things they would say. I thought this worked well as an audiobook, too. If you’re intrigued by catastrophic love stories, give My Education a shot–dip your toes into literary fiction with a generous helping of soap opera.

Danika reviews Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

ascension

 

As soon as I heard about Ascension, I knew I was going to read it. Although I haven’t read a lot of sci fi, it’s a genre that I want to get into more, and adding a lesbian main character is the best way to draw me in. In fact, in theory this seemed like exactly the kind of book I want a lot more of. In addition to being a lesbian, the main character is also black and has a chronic illness. The other main characters of the book are also diverse (in ways that are mostly spoilers), and all wrapped up in a space adventure story. Plus, that cover is gorgeous. In fact, I was a little bit worried to start this book because I wanted so badly for it to deliver.

Luckily, my fears were unfounded. Alana is a compelling lead, and though her life–her passion for repairing spaceships, her frustration with having a chronic illness–is not anything I have experience firsthand, it was described so well that I felt immersed in her experience. The plot was interesting and kept me turning the pages (especially that ending), but it was the characters that made this stand out to me. The romance is well done, but it’s a subplot, not any more important that the relationship between Alana and her sister. All the supporting characters were fleshed out, and I loved the intricate relationships and rapport they have with each other that seems to exist outside of Alana’s role. In fact, she finds it unintelligible at first.

This was a lot of fun to read, but is also thoughtful. There were several times that I stopped to note quotations to come back to, despite the apparent simplicity: “Standing near Tev felt seductively dangerous, like waving my bare palm over a flame.” Or:

My heart thundered. I almost wanted her to not answer Birke, to never move. If she never spoke. . . if we just didn’t look at them, we wouldn’t disturb those possibilities. We wouldn’t shake one reality into existence, eliminating all others. We could just hold our breaths and live inside this moment, letting endless possibility eddy around us. All that potential would go on and on, and one day the glass leaves outside would fall, shattering around us like stars, but we would persist, frozen in time.

There were a few plot points I didn’t understand (Spoiler, highlight to read: why did they have to detonate the device inside the ship? Why not just throw it out the airlock? Why did Birke blow up Adula? The explanation didn’t make sense to me.), but other than that I had no complaints. (And that confusion is very likely my own oversight.) I am really hoping that Jacqueline Koyanagi continues this series, because I’m invested–in the characters, in the world, and in the plot. This works well as a standalone, but I want more.