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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

Holier Than Thou - Laura Buzo Does literature need to be the mirror of our own selves in order for us to enjoy it? This is what kept running through my mind during the few hours I spent curled up on my couch, having finished an unbelievably draining month of Inpatient Medicine, with this book as my celebratory companion."A nurse and a social worker took fifteen minutes out of their shitty thankless job in the roughest corner of town, sat on a couple of milk crates drinking coffee, flopped their real selves out of the cement and both liked what they saw."It seems that the whole point of young adult literature now is writing a protagonist that the reader should be able to relate to. Actually, scratch that. It may be the point of most literature. As I look through reviews of so many books that I've read, I keep seeing the sentiments expressed over and over again - 'I SO could relate to the protagonist!', 'The heroine reminded me of myself during this time of my life!', and 'I could easily see myself in the character!'Perhaps this is why young adult literature is becoming so increasingly popular. After all, almost all of us have been through high school, have met wonderful friends, have fallen in love feeling that this is "it", had our heart broken a few times, felt young and invincible and idealistic. So many of us got the round two of this experience in college - sheltering us for few more precious years from what is waiting 'out there'. These are the experiences most of us can easily look back on, remember, rehash, sometimes see through glasses rose-tinted by the distance of a few years or sometimes a few decades. The point is - most of us had these, and so most of us can RELATE. (*)(*) (On this note, is this why so many YA heroines are the talentless idiots who magically turn into Mary Sues and are secretly the absolute BEST without even realizing that? Is that the only thing that the writers/publishers think we can relate to? Sadly, I think we readers may have been patronized and underestimated. But this is the conversation for another time and place).Now, this book is what is apparently called the New Adult genre (as opposed to the *Young* Adult and not *Old* Adult, despite the unfortunate implications of this name). Apparently these kinds of books are for the new young college grads who have been removed from the safety of high school and college and now are expected to sort their lives out in the 'outside' world. And it can be big and scary and uncertain and hostile and overall not exactly what you hoped for. It's no longer sufficient to just have potential; it is time to live up to that potential now. That's the idea, from what I understand.But from reading the reviews of this book before I even got my hands on it (Thanks, Catie!) I saw the pattern - the lack of relatability, so to say, for many readers. Apparently, Holly's experience is not universal. And what more, many of the people reading this book are not even at this stage of life yet. They lack the distance and rosy-tinted glasses of been-there-done-it-and-survived that allow you to read this book with the level of enjoyability that it can carry. If you haven't lived it yet, can you actually understand it and see its flaws and non-flaws? Maybe you need to be a slightly 'older' adult to enjoy it? It seems that Catie thought that, in the lovely review that made me want to read this book, and I think this, too, from the overwhelming life experience of my twenty-eight years of life (that was sarcastically tinged, by the way)."I my fug I had walked right past a police cordon, erected because of a suicidal woman on the roof of the hospital. [...] I generally kidded myself that so much separates me from these people. That's how I managed to come to work every day. But one of these fine days it could be me. These strong core muscles of mine, the shiny steel... it could all come crashing down."What is this book about? Well, it's about the experiences of Holly Yarkov, an Australian brand-spankin'-new social worker who, like an adult she's supposed to be, has a real job (but also IMPORTANT AND IDEALISTIC!), an apartment of her own(crappy as it may be), a perfect live-in boyfriend, and a circle of high school and college friends. "I had been calm, strong and compassionate for all the fractured souls and grieving families that were my daily bread at Elizabethtown. I could feel my compassion seeping out, my cynicism and hopelessness hardening, baking themselves onto the pan."And then Holly gets to learn, like all of us eventually do, that even the most idealistic job can be a burden, that perfect boyfriend has very human flaws, that friends drift away, family may not need you to be their pillar of strength any longer, and that, basically, you are not as much of a center of the universe as you have been thinking. You may be the hero of YOUR story, but in the grand scheme of life you just may be a peripheral character, an extra, a face in the crowd. And how do you make your peace with it? How do you fit in this new mean world? "There was no script to follow for a friend who had gone MIA. If you get dumped by a lover there is a script. You grieve intensely, you cry, you don't eat for a few weeks, you take a deep breath and you move on. But the whole left by an absent friend never really closes over. You never stop missing them or wondering what the fuck happened."In terms of relating to Holly as a reason to like this book - I do a bit, actually - but not entirely. I stopped depending on my parents at a rather young age, I tasted real life before heading off to college and so post-college life was not a surprise. But on the other hand, having been to college and grad school for 8 years straight does give you a perpetual student mentality, a way to remain, at least partially, in a somewhat protective bubble.And having gone to the medical school where I did, I was taught to absorb idealism and altruism with every fiber of my body, to be proud of the changes I can make in the world - but having experienced medicine now as an actual MD, in a busy county hospital, no less, I can easily see what Holly refers to when describing her less-than-glamorous moments of a life as a social worker for mental health services. The frustration, the understaffing, the underfunding, the lack of understanding, the long draining days - it's all there, all taking your idealistic view and desire to help others and turning it onto its head. It was making Holly lose her compassion. It was trying to turn me into a tired and callousy person. It was reminding me of trying to not break under pressure, to preserve a bit of self that you like. This much I can relate to. This was what made this book feel real for me."By then the paramedics were well and truly over it, and I didn't blame them. I'd had nothing to eat since the honey toast Tim had made for me at 7 a.m. and now it was 3 p.m. Neither had I peed in that time. (*)"(*) Dear Holly, I will share a life-saving advice that I received from one of the surgeons on how to survive residency - 'Sleep whenever you can. Eat whenever you can. Pee whenever you can. Follow these three rules - and you're golden.' This has been my mantra since. And this was also reminding me of what it was like being younger and less experienced and making mistakes and choices that may seem like too much compromises at the moment - because life demands that. It reminded me of how many of my friends have moved into their post-college careers that included things I could not bring myself to care about - all while I continued to keep trudging on the road to change the world, in my rosy-tinted view of the universe, while my friends were dismissing medicine saying that it's not where the money is any more and me looking at them incomprehensibly and going - 'what money? I don't care!' and feel at those moments - wait for it... wait for it... Holier than thou! I guess that was the relatability factor that I found in this book, and it worked for me, and did not work for others, and it's all okay since the New Adult experience does not have to be the same for everyone. Most things are not there for everyone to relate to, and that's quite alright.This book is one of those that do not have a real ending. It's interrupted halfway through, and we are not sure exactly what are the decisions that Holly will make. And that's also was fine by me - after all, New Adults have quite a few choices to make once they figure out how to cope with this world, and Holly leaves this story with quite a few of them open to her, and I trust her to make the best choices for herself, or else fail and start over, because that is all a part of growing into the Old Adulthood, after all. 4 stars and recommend - especially if you are a bit closer to 30 than 20 and have been down some of these roads before.