The Cute and Quirky Love Story of "George and Lizzie", by Nancy Pearl - Book Review

Lizzie may go down as one of my all-time favorite book characters. Raised by two aloof psychologist professors, she’s like a wolf pup left to fend for herself most of the time. When her parents are actually paying attention to her, she’s being evaluated like a trained rat. Not surprisingly, she develops idiosyncrasies which author, Nancy Pearl, writes in thoughtful, humorous ways.

Lizzie is both obsessive and dedicated. After being left broken hearted by Jack, a college boy she dated for less than six months, Lizzie determines that he is the secret to her life’s happiness and lets it occupy much of her head space for years. In the midst of her Jack musings, enters George. Staid, honest, kind, and head over heels for Lizzie in as much a way as a straight-laced dentist can be head over heels. While George courts Lizzie and follows the standard steps for taking a relationship to its next logical level, Lizzie seems almost surprised to realize they are actually seriously involved. Lizzie seems to just acquiesce to George’s love and companionship although she does so, at times, begrudgingly.

Pearl is a librarian and that becomes apparent through her writing. She is a master of detail and her extended vocabulary doesn’t make her a show off; it just makes her pages more interesting. She’s clearly a big college football fan, which I reveled in, and she knows the game. She is also a grammarian who even has Lizzie correcting her own grammar in the book!

There are times when the cadence of the book drags a bit, but the need to find out what happens to Lizzie and George shines through all the way. And, surprisingly, Pearl wraps up seemingly insurmountable hurdles in a few short pages and delivers the ending like a beautifully wrapped gift. After the last line, I shut the book with tears in my eyes and muttered a quiet: Hurray!

Published: 2017
Publisher: Touchstone

Elizabeth's rating: 4 stars

Punk's Not Dead in "Die Young With Me", by Rob Rufus - Book Review

To be honest, I didn’t want to like this book. A book about a punk kid (no, really, he was in a punk band), I feared it would be another sad cancer story that would make me feel bad. It did that, yes, but it cracked into my heart in deep and unexpected ways.

Rufus grew up in Huntington, WV, and was living a single dimensional life until one day he found punk rock music. Then, the technicolored lights turned on. He and his identical twin, Nat, fell in love with the genre and after consuming any and every album they could physically get their hands on, they started their own punk band, Defiance of Authority.

The band was gaining traction, Rob was dating a hot cheerleader, and things were on the upswing for the Rufus twins except for the nagging cough Rob couldn’t shake. Rufus’ experiences with the local ER shed light both on the inadequacies of medical care in smaller locales in the country as well as the prejudices that go beyond the color of one’s skin.  

Once properly diagnosed, Rufus began treatment in Columbus Children’s hospital hours away from home. Rufus tells his cancer story in such a gruesome and heartbreaking manner, the book is simultaneously hard to read and tough to put down.

What sets his story apart, I think, is his age. Rufus was seventeen at the time of diagnosis, so still legally a minor. He was far from a child, though, and his stories of the pediatric cancer ward in Columbus are told from the perspective of a man-boy suffering from teenage angst, but with one foot in the adult world. The one person he truly found common ground with was the janitor who cleaned his room.  

And as Rob underwent the horrific chemo treatments necessary to save his life, his brother and the band headed out on the Warped Tour. As Rufus lost his hair, weight, organs and puked at least a million times, his brother – his identical twin - got buff, honed his music skills, toured with their idols and had girl groupies. Rufus took it in stride. It is hard for me to imagine being that magnanimous NOW if I were in a similar situation much less at the self-centered, self-righteous age of seventeen.

In the end, Rufus got through his trials through his own grit, the staunch love and support of his parents, a close, small network of friends, a caring team of doctors that actually appreciated his ‘punkness’ and that unbreakable, unknowable bond that twins always seem to share. One night when Nat was on the road and Rob was stuck in the hospital, Nat urged Rob to look out at the moon. It is the same moon in both places, Nat said. In other words, I’m with you. Always with you.

This isn’t a literary work of genius, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s the story of a punk rocker who fought his way through the mosh pit of cancer hell and got back up on the stage.   

Published: 2016
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Elizabeth's rating: 3.5 stars 

Fatboy and Priss in "Crazy Love You", by Lisa Unger - Book Review

I have read a few Lisa Unger psychological thrillers so I picked up her latest, Crazy Love You, with high hopes, which unfortunately, were dashed. Unger’s story tracks a treacherous relationship between Ian, the pill popping graphic novelist, and his childhood confidante and protector, Priss.

Ian, an overweight, acne-ridden kid, met Priss in the woods behind his house after suffering a traumatic childhood event. Always in awe that Priss, this lovely, seemingly caring spirit, would actually befriend him. Ian worshipped her and ultimately made her the protagonist in his widely successful series “Fatboy and Priss”.

But as Ian grew, he began to realize that Priss’ devotion to him was a dark force. While narrowly escaping brushes with the law as a child for crimes committed by Priss in her role as his avenger, tensions come to a head between Ian and Priss once Ian meets Megan, the woman he intends to marry. Priss is none too accepting of the proposition and makes her displeasure known through increasingly violent acts of ill will that all circle back to Ian.

Along the way, you begin to realize that Ian’s perceptions about Priss just don’t add up. Is she a real person or a figment of his imagination? This becomes the pulse of the story, but the resolution lacked the catharsis it deserved. I finished the book thinking that there were a hundred pages too many leading up to the denouement and thirty pages too few wrapping it all up.

Published: 2015
Publisher: Touchstone

Elizabeth's rating: 2.5 stars