Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates

Title: Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You
 Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: August 21st 2012
Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought

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It wasn't like she had not warned us.
It wasn't like she had not prepared us.
We'd known that something was wrong those last several months.
But then, Tink hasn't actually vanished. Tink is gone, and yet—she is here somewhere, even if we can't see her.
Tink? Are you—here?
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I really hate my terrible memory. I thought Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You sounded like something I'd like, but the name Joyce Carol Oates sounded familiar, and I didn't know why. If I'd thought about it more, instead of going with the "Ooh. Want. Buy." instinct, I would have remembered that I'd read Big Mouth & Ugly Girl by this author and that I didn't like it. I probably wouldn't have read Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You knowing that, and that would have been a good thing, because I had more of the same issues with Two or Three Things that I'd had with Big Mough & Ugly Girl.

Joyce Carol Oates's style just doesn't work for me. Somehow, I found the writing both immature and confusing. The sentences feel overdramatic and just really, really weird. I can't even explain it, so I'll give an example - this is how the book starts (page 3):

"Merissa! Congratulations!"
Hannah's excitement was genuine. Hannah's happiness for Merissa was genuine. Merissa could see.
Merissa had been afraid - just a little, putting herself in Hannah's place - (for Hannah Heller's grades were inevitably just slightly lower than Merissa Charmichael's, not to mention the fact that Merissa was associate yearbook editor, Drama Club president, and cocaptain of the girls' intramural field hockey team as well; and Hannah had applied to virtually all the same colleges and Merissa) - that Hannah would be hurt, and envious, and even resentful, for it is not nearly so easy to be happy for your closest friend's good news as it is to (secretly) rejoice in your closest friend's bad news.

I don't usually like using quotes in reviews, but that shows it better than I could explain. The writing is like that the entire time. If you don't have a problem with that style, it might be a good read for you, but for me, the writing was just frustrating.

Asides from the writing, the story and the characters didn't work for me, either. To be honest, I didn't really see the point of it all. I hate saying that, because I'm not someone who thinks that literature always has to have a "point," that it always has to teach you something. But I just mean that for me personally, I didn't see the point, because the story didn't really go anywhere. It sort of circled around Tink's suicide, but not really. Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You is about three of Tink's friends, after Tink's suicide. It's split into three parts, with each of the girls telling their story individually, and none of the three really worked for me.

I never felt like I really got to know any of the characters, and that's a big part of why I didn't end up liking this book. They each have their problems, and there's some pretty messed-up stuff going on, but I don't feel like we got to go deep enough to explore those issues in any meaningful way. The way it is, they're just kind of... there. I don't feel like any of the characters are fully developed, and there was none of the character growth or resolving of issues that I'd hoped for.

I also struggled with seeing how these three stories tied in with each other; other than Tink, I didn't see a connection. And everything about Tink is just sort of weird. Tink, like, visits them in their dreams, or her ghost visits them, and she gives the girls advice. I didn't get what all of that was about, and since it's never addressed what's really going on with Tink, it felt kind of pointless to me.

Somehow, I just felt removed from the story throughout. I've been having a hard time getting into books lately, so it might have to do with my reading slump, but I think it was at least partly the book's fault. The weird writing style, the lack of character development, and the plot that didn't go anywhere made it really hard for me to enjoy this book. I guess Joyce Carol Oates just isn't for me.


  1. This seems a bit annoying to read. The way she put words together in that exerpt was the most off-putting to me; I completely agree about the style being immature, and that is one LONG sentence.

  2. What a muddle that excerpt is. That would drive me ballistic.

  3. Nooooo :( I was actually looking forward to this one. I actually quite like Joyce Carol Oates' writing, perhaps YA is not her forte. Her adult books We Were the Mulvaneys and The Gravediggers Daughter were quite good.


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