Untangled by Henry Sienkienwicz

Untangled Cover Sienkiewicz Final 8 March 2013 

Untangled by Henry Sienkiewicz is not a narrative or a memoir—it more closely resembles a textbook about life, relationships, and self-awareness. The book begins with the image of a Boy Scout troop taking a hike across an island. This image may fool the reader into thinking that the following pages will be filled with interesting anecdotes. In reality, Sienkiewicz uses the hike as a metaphor for life and how people choose to discover themselves and their surroundings.

A majority of the prose is packed with inspirational quotes, ideas, and terminology that at first glance seem mostly self-explanatory. The metaphor of the hike is never really expanded upon, just sort of peppered in between quotations and definitions as an illustration. The ideas that Sienkiewicz addresses are both interesting and relevant. However, some readers may be left saying, “Yeah, so?” Moreover, the metaphor falls flat—it is superficial and fails to capture interest because it is clearly used as only a vehicle for vague ideas.

The questions and concepts raised in Untangled are interesting, relevant, and full of truth. As a psychological textbook, it introduces important terminology for thinking about contemplation and self-awareness. However, for the average reader, the book falls short of its mark. The real life examples are flat, uninteresting, and do not apply to the majority of people. Sienkiewicz neglects to connect his ideas to any practical application. He asks questions and suggests ideas, but never applies them to everyday life.

This book is a great idea if the reader wishes to springboard a discussion about self-awareness, but not helpful to the reader looking for advice.

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Above by Mackie Burt

ABOVE-CoverAbove by Mackie Burt is a novel that speculates what happens after death. The journey begins as Callie Lane stands over her gravestone listening to the mournful comments of family and friends. Before she realizes what’s happening, she is pulled into a world where everyone around her is dead. She is reunited with her grandmother, her neighbor, and her dog as well as making some new friends.

Hardly given the time to adjust to her situation, Callie is told that Above is a lot like school…and life in general. She is expected to take classes to learn how to be a Guardian. She must learn from her mistakes and continue to grow if she is to survive death.  But why is she the only one having flashes of a life not her own? And why does her family keep pulling her back when everyone else has to fight to see theirs?

Burt spins an intricate, beautiful, and emotional tale. The reader will find herself completely immersed in the world of Above, completely invested in each and every one of the characters. Just like Callie, the reader will wonder until the very last page why certain things are happening, how certain things will play out, and what it all means. This story is full of wonder, sorrow, and joy. In the end, the reader may even find herself hoping that Burt’s idea of life after death is accurate; it doesn’t seem so bad, after all!

Embracing You, Embracing Me by Michelle Bellon

Embracing You, Embracing Me is a coming-of-age story that begins when Roshell is a teenager and follows her into adulthood.  The book begins with a prologue by Roshell that outlines her life at sixteen: she lives in a small town trailer park and has an intense desire to make something of herself, unlike her family in the past.  In the beginning chapters, the reader meets the core cast of characters: Roshell who is outgoing and honest, her two closest friends Amber and Sabrina, and Gabriel – the new guy at school and Roshell’s crush.  The reader also learns that Roshell’s dad cheated on her mother when she was pregnant and left before Roshell was born; therefore, Roshell trusts men about as far as she can throw them.

After much exposition about Roshell’s childhood and friends, the reader learns that Roshell has been invited to the Junior/Senior Prom by Tim who is a good friend.  At the Prom, Tim and his buddies get kicked out for drinking.  This leads to Gabriel offering her a ride home and then asking her to dance; they have an instant connection.  Roshell spends the next few weeks pining over Gabriel from afar, too afraid to initiate anything.  When Sabrina asks Roshell to sneak out to a friend’s party, the two girls have a great time until the unthinkable happens: Roshell is raped and refuses to tell anyone. Sabrina has no idea what to do, so she silently vows to be there for Roshell in whatever capacity she is needed.

Bellon writes an amazing tale that is heartbreaking and real.  At its core, it is a tale about a woman trying to survive her life as she is dealt blow after tragic blow.  Roshell has some terrible events happen to her and in order to move past them she must learn to accept her own faults and bad decisions; she must reconcile her past in order to have a future.  Readers will devour this book in one sitting because the characters are so relatable and there is a compulsion to find out what happens to Roshell and if she ever escapes from her own insecurities and fears.  Embracing You, Embracing Me is a story about past mistakes and future hopes, a story about moving on; it asks the question: “how does one accept happiness after a lifetime of sorrow?”  Although this is a story about a girl, the message is one with which all readers can identify.

Embracing You, Embracing Me

Michelle Bellon

Copyright 2012