Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Happy Valentines day! I thought this was the perfect book to review for today. I won the ARC from a contest on Goodreads. And it’s a very different kind of YA book. The book, itself, is a story mostly told in photographs, postcards, and instant messages. I’m debating buying the ebook because it’s supposed to be very interactive. The book involves a lot of links to YouTube and a lot  of songs. And the electronic version of the book is supposed to have the songs and video.
A lot has been happening recently in regards to cross methods of literature. I love the 39 Clues books because there is the book series, the online game, and then also a trading card game. And I know there are other books that involve a mixing of online culture with story. And frankly, I think this is genius. Chopsticks takes it a step further by combining, story with photographs, with art, with music, and with video. The links to a lot of the videos in the hard copy version, are displayed with photographs.
The story is about a piano prodigy: Glory. It’s about her handling her mother’s death, and about her remarkable piano talent. Her father has her practicing all the time, and when she’s not practicing, she seems to be performing. And she performs all over the world, music hall to music hall. The book is a love story between Glory and Frank, the boy who moves in next door to her. Frank is an artist. So, once he’s introduced, there’s a lot of painting and drawings added to the mix of music, photographs, and concert tickets. And there’s a lot of interesting racial/cultural conflicts for Frank (short for Francisco) who’s from Argentina.
The book is supposed to be about the events leading up to Glory’s disappearance. And from the beginning I was questioning whether she runs away or if something happens to her. The creators of the book really leave a lot up to the reader to decide. And the actual moment of her disappearance is never talked about. It’s all about the news after her disappearance and then the years leading up to it. And the years leading up to it, minus the love story, seem to involve a steady decline in Glory’s sanity. She keeps messing up at her performances and playing the song Chopsticks. And eventually, Chopsticks is all she can play.
I both loved and hated how much I had to decipher and fill in for myself. It was a totally unique reading experience. When the majority of the story is told through visual media, there’s a lot of filling in the lines the reader has to do. And this is no simple tale. There are certain things I caught on to, certain symbols, certain moments, and certain interactions that I could easily see a young person not getting. However, you don’t need to catch a lot of the clues and details to fully love this book.
The book is just beautiful. And while I think the best experience would be with the digital book because of the interactive elements, I’m glad I also have this hard copy because it’s gorgeous. Some photographs just demand to be looked at and thought about. Seriously, some of this could be framed and put in a famous gallery and no one could argue its artistic merit. Rodrigo Corral designs book covers for famous authors, and it’s clear he has a fantastic sense for how to fill a page.
The story, as I kind of hinted at earlier, is not so easy to follow. I’m pretty sure that if I had not read the back of the book, I would not have gathered the finer details for what was happening. It’s rather abstract. And at first this annoyed me because I felt like I actually had to work at getting this. But, then I loved it. It’s just so different, so beautiful, and such an amazing idea, that I can’t see anyone really hating it. It works as an authentic example for what art has evolved into over the years, and what social media and technology means for art. And like all good art it makes you think. I give this a 10/10

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