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Winter break wrap-up

Kaelen’s Books

Staff Photographer Kaelen ’23.

To be completely honest, I hardly had any time to read during the first semester of school. Between homework and extracurricular activities, I was completely booked for basically the entire day every day. So imagine my excitement when Winter Break came, and I finally had time to read. I read a lot of books over break. Which means I also shed a lot of tears (books make me cry very easily) and slammed multiple books shut to process characters’ stupid decisions. In case you want to join me in agonizing over characters’ stories and foolish decisions, here are two of my favorite books I read over Winter Break: 

“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelly

Admittedly, I was not particularly excited to be reading “Frankenstein” over my winter break. After an entire semester of reading mostly classic literature, I was looking forward to catching up on all the fantasy and contemporary fiction books that I had been wanting to read. However, I dutifully picked up “Frankenstein” with the hopes of getting a head start on my extended essay assignment for English class. 

“Frankenstein” quickly surpassed all of my expectations. I had expected a drab, unengaging plot, but instead found an exciting storyline and enthralling narrative style that had me completely immersed in the world and the characters of the story. 

One aspect of the book that I loved was that it highlights the perspectives of multiple characters through letters, conversations and narration. The majority of “Frankenstein” is narrated through the point of view of Victor Frankenstein, the man who creates the creature that serves as the focus of the story. However, his narrative is interrupted with lengthy speeches told by other characters, in which they share their experiences and views. Reading the views of multiple characters, who all have different takes on the events of the novel, forces the reader to determine who they believe and sympathize with. 

Despite the mostly pleasant experience of reading “Frankenstein,” I did find the plot to be slow at times. There were points where Victor would ramble on about the healing properties of nature or go on self-pitying rants about the state of his life, which I found to be boring and unnecessarily long. If you’re willing to put up with egotistic, whiny narrators, then I would highly recommend reading “Frankenstein” because of its interesting plot and engaging narrative style. 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo

When I heard about this book, I immediately ran to the bookstore to pick up a copy. “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” is a queer romance novel set in 1950s San Fransisco that focuses on identity, love, and lesbian culture. It sounded too good to be true, however, I am very happy to report that it was, for the most part, just as fantastic as I expected it to be. 

My favorite part of this book was definitely the setting. Lo did an amazing job characterizing San Francisco in the 1950s. You definitely don’t have to be familiar with U.S. history to appreciate this book, as Lo makes sure to explain cultural references and important historical events. She also describes the setting, including both the physical elements of the city and the political and social climate of the time, in a contextual, yet illuminating way. 

Another aspect of this story that I loved was the characters. “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” follows Lily, a young Chinese American growing up during the Red Scare, as she navigates her identity and relationships. I was instantly drawn to Lily’s character, and found myself invested in her story. I cried when she cried and celebrated when she did, which, to me, is the mark of a good book. Kathleen was also a charming character, and I admired her persistence and ambition to follow her dreams. 

The only aspect of this book that fell short was the occasionally slow plot. There were points at which I felt that Lo spent too much time describing the setting or background stories of other characters, which made the story boring at times. Overall I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it, especially if you love historical fiction! 

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