Monday, April 21, 2008

Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde + Book QnA!

I'm VERY happy to announce that our first-ever Author Week features Catherine Ryan Hyde! If you haven't read my post with the story behind Author Week, please click here. If you did, then you'll know that Author Week was inspired by a certain book. Well, that book was Becoming Chloe! *applause*

Without further ado, I introduce you to the book that blew my mind!

Meet Jordy. He’s on his own in New York City. Nobody to depend on; nobody depending on him. And it’s been working fine.

Until this girl comes along. She’s 18 and blonde and pretty–her world should be perfect. But she’s seen things no one should ever see in their whole life–the kind of things that break a person. She doesn’t seem broken, though. She seems . . . innocent. Like she doesn’t know a whole lot. Only sometimes she does.

The one thing she knows for sure is that the world is an ugly place. Now her life may depend on Jordy proving her wrong. So they hit the road to discover the truth–and there’s no going back from what they find out.

Grade: A - Simply Because (Whoa)

Memorable Quotes:
"I miss one shovel motion, the way a heart will miss one beat worrying about something. I wonder if that heartbeat ever gets made up again. If we ever get that back." (Page 65.)

"Jut tonight I was feeling sorry for myself because all I had was somebody else's pickup truck. The whole time, the truck was actually mine. I just didn't know it yet." (Page 77.)

This book is certainly unusual, far as the YA family goes. We have a gay male narrator, an incredibly fragile female main character, and distressing stakes. The mixture takes a lot of skill on the part of the writer to pull off--but it worked. Brilliantly so.

Jordy's in the Big Apple with no actual money or much of a plan. In the middle of the night, he hears some commotion outside between two people. Chalking it up as characteristic of the New York nightlife, he ignores them. Until he realizes it's a rape. And then he tries to help the girl. Chloe--as the girl comes to be called--turns out to be the turning point of his life.

The strong point of Becoming Chloe is its characters. Jordy is extremely well defined (the story is told from his perspective, after all). He's well aware that his life has no security, and while he focuses on maintaining the little stability he has, he's also scared. When Chloe comes along, Jordy is unsure of what he wants: to help her or not. Chloe's character is hard to decipher because you never understand what fully goes on inside her head. On one hand, she's got this terrible, literally unspeakable past that we never get to know in whole. On the other, her moods and attitudes change constantly in ways that are harmful to her and unpredictable to Jordy.

The quest in the novel is to show Chloe that the world is a beautiful place. It's hard for her to accept that--and to want to keep inhabiting it--with the knowledge she has of the ugly things. But Jordy, because he comes to care so much about her, understands she needs to see that this life is worth it. So they embark in a trip cross country, where they explore sites such as the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the Niagara Falls, and find their perfections and flaws, big and small. And it's big enough to make Chloe come to her verdict--just not one anyone was expecting.

This book is wonderful for many reasons. The dynamics between the characters is unmatched in any other novel I've read, in that its so complex and unique. Like Catherine says in the Book QnA below, it's need-based, but I also think it somehow runs deeper than that. The writing, while rich in detail and imagery, is very tight and doesn't linger anywhere. The characters are well-rounded and distinct--I felt like I knew Chloe and Jordy, as much as possible, by the last page. The message is powerful and comes naturally (not to mention succinctly) through the development of the characters and their discoveries. (Oh, and I also thought the cover was amazing and fitting to the story as well!)

This book goes in my top ten favorite books of all times. It blew my mind. I challenge anyone to see if it has the same effect on them.

Book QnA (with Catherine!)
Where did you get the idea for Becoming Chloe?
A: Probably one of the harder ones to track. I just know it started with Jordy. He was a character I was able to "find" in my head, and he seemed to want to talk to me (sounds more like mental illness than it really is). He seemed to have a story he wanted to tell, and I just tried to be patient in letting it unfold. Now I can look back and note that I lived in New York at age 17 (on my own but not squatting in a cellar) and it really left a mark on me. And I can also see that I wrote this book at a time when I was questioning the unpredictablity of the world. Trying to love it even though it seemed so dangerous and harsh. But that's after the fact. At the time I just put down everything Jordy told me.

Q: Both Chloe and Jordy are both interesting, unpredictable characters. When you were writing them, did you ever get surprised at some choices they made or how they ended up?
A: Yes, I think my characters always surprise me. If they didn't, I would think I wasn't doing it right.

Q: Chloe and Jordy formed an interesting bond with one another, almost (if not) family-like. What do you think is the biggest factor that makes their relationship work? Do you think they will drift apart in time?
A: I think it was a very need-based relationship. Chloe needed somebody to look after her and Jordy responded. But then it turned out she had some things he needed, too. Like her simplicity, and her childlike view of things. I don't see them drifting apart because I don't think she would ever be totally okay on her own. But of course, after the last page, the reader is free to continue the story in whatever way s/he pleases.

Q: Have you been to all of the places mentioned in the book? Were any scenes or details drawn from real life?
A: I think with very few exceptions, those were all places I'd been. I hike the Grand Canyon fairly regularly. I love the Painted desert. I grew up near Niagara Falls. And, as I mentioned, I lived in New York when I was young. Despite being an avid hiker, I have never hiked up to Wheeler Peak in New Mexico. I put that together from trip reports I found online. Someday I may do that trip. Sign their names at the summit.

Q: What message do you hope readers take with them when they read this book?
I'm not so much trying to convince people that the world is a beautiful place. Obviously, it's mixed. I think my point is that if you decide to see it differently, you can. And also that you can love your life unconditionally. You can love the world in spite of its faults. It's a choice we make, though I think sometimes we don't see it that way. Sometimes things seem more out of our control than they really are. In my opinion.


Author Week: Catherine Ryan Hyde is off to a great start!! Stay tuned tomorrow for the review of the second book I've got by her! Also stay tuned for the upcoming contest!


Amee said...

Great review! I just got The Day I Killed James and can't wait to review it! Catherine seems like an amazing author. :)

Anna said...

Great review! I've been meaning to read this book for a while and I'll be getting it really quick now. [:


Chelsie said...

I'm really looking forward to reading Catherine Ryan Hyde's books, they are so highly recommended... =D

Absolutely, I'd love to do a blog link exchange... I'm adding you to my blog list right now... =D

Te amo,

Steph said...

Hey everyone :) Thanks for the awesome comments :P Like the review says, check it out!

Chels, adding you right now too!

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