Saturday, June 30, 2012

Last day in Costa Rica!

Sorry I haven't gotten much of a chance to blog. Today is the last day in Costa Rica, and I think we are going zip lining in the rainforest(in Costa Rica, zip lining is like really intense).

On Sunday, I got food borne illness from the restaurant mentioned in the last post. I could tell it was from there, because I had the ribs. Three other kids also got the ribs AND the food poisoning. I got to practice more Spanish with people from the church.  We went to the church to help out with the kids and run programs with them.  It was alright, but it wasn't as good as it could have been because it was our team's first ministry and I wasn't feeling well.

Monday was our first ministry and we went to two schools. Schools in Costa Rica(most of them) are poorer and very different. We were allowed to speak openly about the gospel in most of the schools. We did our pre-prepared programs/skits and played games.  The first school was very small and only had about four classrooms. Pastor Steve and Damaris(translator) and I dropped out near the end  to talk to some of the older girls about life in their town, their boyfriends, etc. The second school was much bigger.


One time we were waiting in the parking lot of a grocery store, and Ryan was like "Is that a pig in the grass?" There were really tall grasses and we could see animals moving around in them. We were like "That's the fluffiest pig I've ever seen", and "that's the cutest pig I've ever seen", because the pigs were actually dogs. For the rest of the trip, we just refer to dogs as pigs and "Instabacon"(what happens when the pigs(dogs) get run over by the crazy drivers here).

We also wanted to play punch buggy, but there weren't any Volkswagon beetles here, so we played punch piggy instead, where you just punch when you see pigs(dogs).

One of the hardest things to get used to on this trip was the "engage" aspect of ministry, breaking our barriers of shyness to really relate with and have fun with the kids as a whole, and individual kids. It was especially hard with limited Spanish, and I was shy around them. This lasted the first half of the trip, and I was depressed because I couldn't build connections with the kids as well as some of the other people on my team could.

On Tuesday, the second day of ministry, we went to work with a church in Heredia. They run an amazing theater ministry that puts on theatrical productions every week for free. It reaches youth who don't attend church. They have a new show every week. The whole theater, including the stage, curtains, scaffolding, make up, screens, etc, was made by teenagers like us. The teenagers (youth ministry)had the idea to found the theater and have run it ever since.

We went to two schools and ran our program a total of seven times. Today, the Sin and Salvation team was running their program. It must have been exhausting for them. It certainly was for us. We had to be high energy and engaging with each of the seven groups of kids. Our team made it through all right, though.

 I was starting to get frustrated because I didn't feel like I was clicking with the other members of my team.  They were almost all sixth-graders(my least favorite age group ever)and of course I couldn't relate to them as well. The exception was Faith, Tyler, and Jeremy(Tyler is a going into 11th like me, Jeremy is going into 9th, and Faith is going into 7th). The girls all seemed to enjoy being loud and messy and obnoxious and spraying people with water, fighting with steak knives, and like taking the sauces on the table and mixing them in people's drinks???

Faith is my best friend on this trip. She's a lot like me. I've known of her ever since I was like five or six, but I didn't really know anything about her until this trip. She's very funny, and likes making faces and macabre/slightly disturbing comments. XD She's also very responsible, kind/soft spoken, and has a very beautiful soprano singing voice. We also began to watch the three episodes of Fruits Basket I have on my ipod. She thought they were weird(especially Yuki) but wanted to watch the next one.


Tyler went with my brother, Jro, on the first trip to Costa Rica two years ago, but I didn't know anything about him until I met him on this trip.  Tyler, his dad, and his twin younger brothers are all on this trip also.  When we were getting on the bus ready to leave California, I was carrying my suitcase up and he offered to carry it for me and I was like "O.o well okay i don't really know you but sure". That pretty much describes him(and his brothers). They're all very gentlemenly/(gentlemanly?) and awesome. Tyler in particular is a true spiritual/ministry leader of our group. He gave our team devotional several times and helps the adult team leaders lead our program. Of all the kids on the team, he's the one who engages with the Costa Ricans the most.
He is very good at sharing the gospel and does it in a creative and engaging way. We nicknamed his talks "Tyler's Teachings". I got to watch him with a group of kids and it was very good. He's also very hysterical.  I'm very glad I got to know him and got to hang out with him on this trip. I'm going to miss seeing him when we leave. I didn't know guys like him even existed. XD This is going to sound really awkward, but he's kind of raised my standards for guys and when in the future I get a boyfriend, he better be a lot like Tyler or I'll be ticked. XD

We were going to do our program (Worship themed) the next day, Wednesday, so we got together to work on it. I was worried because ours was more complicated(two skits instead of one) and seemed unfocused. I was also nervous because I was narrating it, and I don't like talking in front of people.

We practiced our skits a bunch of times, one themed on different views of God, the second based on the Parable of the Persistent Widow found in Luke.

The next day we sang in the van. The van trips are all over Costa Rica and always long, so we just decided to sing. We sang worship songs until we found out that Faith likes Les Miserables and has memorized almost all the Les Miserables songs we have, so we just sang Les Mis songs. We also listened to my ipod.

This ministry was way up in the mountains. The road is very twisty and the forest is very awesome, but it was hard on the carsick people(not me) There were people from the church we were ministering to. They were dressed up as circus people to entertain the kids. The clown had to stop, open the van door, and throw up on the side of the road. We all wrote in our journals that day, "We saw a clown barf".

At the first school we went to, we weren't allowed to talk about God at all, so we decided to just do a program on morals/values. The Sin/Salvation team did their skit with the Sin/Salvation part taken out, which was kind of lame but oh well.

This was the first school where I felt like I began connecting to the kids more. There were a couple kids that seemed to like me, and we played soccer for a while. I LOVE LOVE LOVE watching/playing South/Central American soccer. It's violent and no-holds-barred and a lot of fun.  you can play anywhere, on cement, in vacant lots, anywhere.

At the second place, we did our program for the first time. We did fine, but we needed more work, which I vowed to put in. We also made like a million sandwiches for the kids.

I had to like give a mini-sermon about prayer to the kids.  I was discouraged because I didn't think I did very well. I compared myself to Tyler a lot(we were the same age) and I felt totally lame next to him, considering we're in the same grade and he's so much more insightful and fun, and a lot better with the kids.  Our trip leader, Shawn, told me not to compare myself to other people.

The way back was very fun. We sang more Les Miserables songs, and Faith and I got to sing the soprano songs together alone. (everyone else in the van was a guy) and I think we sounded good. XD Faith sings in a choir/band/talent shows and I've taken voice lessons, so it was cool.  A girl from the Costa Rican church was in our van. She was my age and spoke English, so we got to talk about Costa Rica and her life. I don't think she liked our loud obnoxious singing much. But she taught us some songs in Spanish and called us "the music van."

On Thursday, we got to drive through the RAINFOREST! It was totally awesome, because I have ALWAYS wanted to see the rainforest. It was AMAZING>>>>. The trees were high and lush and on all sides of us, blanketing the steep sides of mountains. There were a lot of weird plants with huge umbrella-y leaves, and fog, and mountains, and birds and butterflies.

We didn't get to walk around in it, just stop to take pictures. We are going to the rainforest today, though.

The two ministries we did on Thursday were the best days ever. Our skit went much better, and I engaged with the kids more.
The first church we went to, there were coconut trees outside next to the sewer. The boys got them down and cracked them on the side of the sewer wall to open and eat them. There was this Costa Rican kid who was really good at opening them.

Something really really weird/strange/amazing happened to me afterward. The pastor of the church we were partnering with, Giovanni, came up to me after my skit/mini sermon and said he had a message from me. He said that while I was up there talking, God laid a message on his heart. He told me that God has given me a gift of teaching. He said that God told him that I would travel to many beautiful places, and that many people would come from far away places to hear me talk/teach.  I was kind of shocked because I have never been exceptionally good at talking in front of people. I can do it, but I've never been singled out for being very good at it before.


At the second church, we were all really tired, dehydrated, and sweaty, but we decided to make the most of it. It was the best ministry ever! The kids were the poorest we had seen so far on the trip, but by far the most open, friendly, and happy.
There were a bunch of kids who wanted to sit on my lap, do cartwheels with me, talk to me, etc. One even got me a cup of cold water without me asking!

We went to a different location of the restaurant chain where we got food poisoning. We were all like "DON"T ORDER THE RIBS" very loudly to everyone. I got to sit next to Tyler and talk to him some more. He told me stories of when he was an exchange student in France two years ago.

Yesterday, we packed up and came here to Jaco. We watched the second episode of Fruits Basket!

We got to stop over the river to see the crocodiles in their natural habitat. They were big and nasty and scary. Shawn bought two raw chickens. The first he just chucked over the side and watched them all dive for it. The second, he lowered on a rope and kind of played with the crocs for a while before he let them eat it. They just kind of chomped the chicken whole.

 We are staying in a resort, a really cool resort with like private beaches and pools and a butterfly farm and paintball. Our hotel room is all right. We couldn't figure out how to make the showers spew hot water instead of cold, so I had to take a cold shower D:<. We figured it out eventually. Also, I get my own queen sized bed! :D

The place is like a tourist town with like posh hotels/restaurants but LITERALLY right around the corner is a slum. It's a very sharp contrast. It's like what I saw in Mexico/the DR, with the corrugated tin and trash filling the streets, and the water pooling in puddles. Chickens/ real pigs/stray dogs were running loose everywhere snuffling around in the street. That's where we did our ministry, doing a skit program and passing out clothes. Some of the kids weren't very nice. They yelled what we think were insults, gave us the Costa Rican equivalent of the finger, and threw rocks at us.

The last ministry was at a park, it was very hot there. We got to go to Pops Ice Cream as a reward. We walked there from the restaurant, and there was this crazy drunk guy who kept coming and bothering us the whole afternoon. I got a pistachio/brownie cone. After, we played ninja in the parking lot, and the drunk guy kept trying to join in, but we ignored him.  When we left, he kept banging on our windows and trying to block our vans off.

Someone else awesome on this trip is one of the other drivers, Irama. She's very hilarious and likes to play pranks/jokes on us. She's also a crazy driver, who goes fast over speed bumps, pretends to try to hit pedestrians, uses her horn constantly and takes corners sharp. I love her!

Now I'm sitting typing in my dad's room. My brothers just got back from the private beach and are laughing at me sitting in my room typing. Thanks for reading it all the way! I have pictures but it'll take a while before we can put them on here.



Saturday, June 23, 2012

um

um today we went to a ministry conference at the church. The church is very awesome. it is made out of two buildings with corrugated tin over the alley in between so the middle is like a giant hallway with the sides of the building hanging over. And the back looks out over what looks like a rainforest(even though it's in the middle of the city.)

For lunch we had awesome chicken with rice and coleslaw and beans. For dinner I had an amazing rack of ribs. But my appetite was ruined because the restaurant was showing a scary science fiction genetic experimentation movie and they had like live animals without skin that they were operating on and exploding rats. For those of you who know me, I'm sensitive to scary/disturbing books/media so it pretty much sucked. :(


Tomorrow we're going  back to the church and helping with the kids!
Love ya
-Amaranthine

PS. I am practicing my spanish. :) It's fun! It's like magic.

PPS. There was a lady twirling fire batons in the street.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm in Costa Rica!



Currently, I am typing from my hotel room as we undergo a very loud and scary thunder/lightning/rainstorm. Apparently this is common...just a few minutes ago there was a huge red flash and a sound like a gunshot. My dad said lighting struck something(not us.)

So far, our trip has been very blessed. Although we have had to wait around quite a bit. Yesterday, we got to the church and drove an hour to the airport, then waited in a bunch of lines in the airport until we finally got to the gate, then waited for about two hours at the gate before the plane took off at 1:35 AM. Fun times.

Insert eight-hour plane trip here.

I ate dinner yesterday at about 6:15 at home...Red eye flights are not my favorite :(. it's hard to sleep on a plane and also they don't serve dinner, so I didn't really eat again until about 7 the following morning(not counting Goldfish and two granola bars).

Then it was more running around with luggage and customs, and then we FINALLY got to the hotel.

Our hotel is miles nicer than the one I had in the DR. The DR one was one tiny cramped dim room with two big bunk beds. This is more like a very spacious apartment, with four nice beds and a tv and kitchen and bathroom and plates and a fridge and a microwave.

And internet!

We went to a restaurant/cafe for lunch. I had beans and a steak and coleslaw and rice and plantains and something which I don't remember what it was, some sort of chopped root in...sauce.

It's good to be back. It's weird to say "back" since I've never been to Costa Rica before. But since I've been to so many other south/central American countries, the bustle of the streets, the Spanish,  the crazy driving, the tangle of telephone wires, the graffiti and humidity..they all bring back so many memories and feelings of familiarity. In a strange way, these Latin American countries feel like home to me.

Of course, it didn't rain so hard in the other countries...

Starting tomorrow it's gonna be ministry nonstop, but for today(this has been a very long day) I get to rest.

Love ya!



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Going to Costa Rica on a mission trip tomorrow! :D

image

Somehow I'm not as excited as I feel I should be..probably because it hasn't sunk in yet. I haven't even packed. XD Our flight is at like 1:30 AM on Friday, but we're leaving for the church at 8PM Thursday. We're going to be going and helping out at a conference, as well as organizing ministry programs in poor areas of Costa Rica.

I'm really looking forward to it! I LOVE traveling, everything about traveling, packing, airports <3, airplanes....you name it! 

Our trip is for 8 days...I'll be back July 1st. We DO have internet access some times, but I'm not sure how often we'll get to use it...Hopefully I will take a bunch of pictures and make blog posts!

I'm reading four books right now: Brisingr, A Tale of Two Pretties(The Clique), Ender's Shadow, and Fruits Basket 22...Like a BOSS.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/70/Brisingr_book_cover.png/200px-Brisingr_book_cover.png


Opinions:

Brisingr: This series definitely has improved from Eragon,methinks. I'm firmly settled in the story the way I settle into blankets on a warm day. Eragon is boss. So is Roran. This series has somwhat screwy morals/values, but hey. 

Tale of Two Pretties: My literary equivalent of cotton candy. My beautiful cheesy gimmicky love <3

Ender's Shadow: I'm actually saving it for the trip..this is a Ender's Game parallel novel. I read the first chapter, and I'm already reminded of how gripping Card's writing is. Ugh, this book is gonna be merciless with my feels(as always).

Fruits Basket 22: I'm trying to drag it out so it doesn't end too soon..:'( I feel very very slightly more sympathetic for Akito now. Like I said, this manga is boss at completely flipping and reversing your opinions of characters on a moment's notice. I don't think Akito(or anyone else) is gonna die though. This manga kinda sucks at killing characters off....I mean, I'm glad they don't have to die, but seriously, no deaths at all? (there are those who would argue that Fruits Basket is already sad enough without any deaths..fine.)
I know I already posted this gif but reblogging because WINK

We went to see Les Miserables yesterday...It was awesome. It was amazing to see a musical that I've loved for so long, done all full out. The Jean Valjean and Enjorolas were amazing. Javert, Marius, Cosette, Eponine, and Fantine were satisfactory. Gavroche was played by a teeny tiny kid that was really cute but NAWT how I imagined him to be. Oh well. XD I cried during a song...I think it was Bring Him Home. That or the Finale. The musical had really amazing special effects and projections! :D Gavroche's death was sad though. He crawled out over the barricade while he was singing, you couldn't see him, but you heard the gunshots and him  struggling to finish his song, and then the final gunshot when he's one word short of finishing. :'(

Thanks for all of you who prayed for my piano recital! It went really well! I'm surprised, because I was super nervous. O.o

I have to go pack now! :D More postness later.
<333 sigh XD




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Going to see Les Miserables this afternoon!

I'm so excited! Les Mis has been my favorite musical forever, and I know all the songs by heart, and..yeah. I watched the 25th anniversary concert on youtube. And I want to see the movie when it comes out!
Here's the movie trailer:

My favorite characters are Gaveroche and Eponine and always have been.












Friday, June 15, 2012

One of my favorite things about blogging is..









...looking back at all my old posts and all the memories. :) It's like a legit journal! This time last year was when my blog was really starting to pick up..I averaged ten comments on a post, booyah. (hitting 17-20 a few times, even). T'was awesome. I danced, but I hadn't really gotten into it. I didn't even have my precious WIP! :D I didn't read Maximum Ride or Harry Potter yet. I had just found out CVI was going to be in Orlando (again!) ! ! !.

One thing's similar...I have my post from last year two hours before the piano recital..and I have the June recital yet again tomorrow! Yay. Whoohoo. Allright.

Please pray for me..I practiced a ton for this recital, and I have a regular piece as well as a duet(even though I get to use the music on the duet.) I always have bad stage fright...sigh...Piano stage fright is one of my worst fears. :PPPP Like legitly.

Last year I was really into intense blogging too. Like in January, I had 34 posts, meaning AT LEAST one post a day. Compared to this January, a measly 9. I think they have improved in quality though. (That's what I"m telling myself, at least.)

Blogging has really calmed down for me. A huge part of it is that Blogger isn't the premiere social network for me(or anyone) anymore. Before, if I wanted to talk to Jedi~Chick (love you <3) I had to a.) post a post addressing her or b.) comment on her blog.

Today, I could a.) Skype her, b.) TLF PM her, c.) TLF post her, d.) TLF chatbox her, e.) Email her, f.) IM her, g.) Skype her, h.) call/text her, i.) mail her a letter, j.) fly to Florida and show up at her door(last resort).

I actually don't mind or feel sad about toning town the blogginess for now. As long as I still love it (and I do!) I don't mind. I was wayyy too into it before anyway. XD I just love seeing how I've grown and having a nice track record of my high school years. :D I actually started this blog in the end of middle school...and now imma be a junior...scary.

Blogger has really opened a window to the rest of the internet though, mostly TLF. Before, I really wanted to participate on the internet, have a blog/internet buddies, but I didn't know where to start! Really hard to believe. My mom actually half convinced me to get a blog. XD. Now, the internet life is awesome! It has caused a lot of trouble and angst, but for now, I'm good with where I am.

On TLF, we're gearing up for CVI...I think we have somewhere around 14 members going, and a bunch of surprises hopefully TBA!  Ahsoka, SWA, Snips, JG, and Kayla are on the chatbox....I can't join them though because once I log on, I can never log off and I have to do things this afternoon. XD

I don't know why I'm suddenly so nostalgic...Must have been the measly salad/corn on the cob I ate for lunch. I NEED MEAT/CARBS DANGIT. Especially after reading a special on celebrity diets in People. Seriously, how do they survive on  egg whites and almonds?


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"when the dark unfolds its wings/do you sense the strangest things?"

2011 NaNoWriMo WIP stands at 69, 687 words today...gahhh I'll never finish.



Character model for Katrin.
(sophiawilhelmina on deviantart..LOVE HER)

I've been reading it over, and good news, I don't think it's crap. It's still unpublishable for copyright reasons(EXTREMELY loosely based on a video series by my church) but I'm really proud of it. It's getting near the end..there are still like three or four major scenes not to mention all the transitions/conclusion...

Someone ought to make a blog post on expletives/insults that Christians can safely put in their stories. A list would be handy. ("Hades" in place of  the other word is really useful. it's really cheesy though. I'll probably take it out if I can think of something better. "Dang" is a nice substitute for you-know-what and not as crotchety sounding as "darn".)

I can't really find anything properly excerptable for now, so I'll pass on that.

I'm going to see Les Miserables next Tuesday! I'm really excited.

I still have my piano recital on Saturday ahh it's so close more on that later.

//listening to//
 

"The Beauty Underneath" Andrew Lloyd Weber-Love Never Dies. I watched the musical yesterday. It's the Phantom of the Opera sequel. It has its pros and cons, but overall I would recommend it for any fans of the original Phantom. Even if you aren't one, this song is incredible. And the boy that sings it is just totally amazing.

//watching//
  <3 "Keep It Burnin" Chloe Lukasiak Dance Moms
and
This girl is the star of my very own dance studio and I think she is amazing! <3 I love her solos.

//browsing//
ThisIsWhyImBroke 
YOU CAN BUY A WATER JET PACK. AND EARRINGS THAT ARE SHAPED LIKE EARS. AND A FLYING AIR SHARK.
 
//reading//
http://images.amazon.com/images/P/1595324089.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg 
of coursee... XD Don't worry, I'm almost done!
Rin I love you <333
Fruits Basket - Chapter 84 - 6
And lil' Yuki/Akito.
 
 I'm off to go write now! MWAH! <3
 
 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss{life update}.


    I accomplished something on my bucket list last Monday...I've always wanted to be, just for once,  one of those people in black SUVs in sunglasses who play hip hop music really loudly and tick off everybody at the crosswalk.  Well, I was with one of my friends on the way home from Girl Scouts, and we were in her pickup truck. She asked me if I minded loud music and when I said no, she turned it up and we were totally awesome for like, three quarters of the song. Then it cut to a commercial for albertsons and my moment was ruined :(.
I got a free half hour ballet private yesterday! It was amazing and totally God's doing. It was recital picture week and our studio was in total chaos. We had a sub, but nobody showed up for my class but me! I thought the teacher was just going to tell me to go home, but she offered to give me a private! I was so nervous cause I had never had one before, and I didn't think I was ready. It was really fun! She fixed a lot of my technique. I heard privates were the best way to improve, but I never thought I'd have one cause usually they're really expensive. :D

I have a piano recital in a week...I have such bad stage fright that I never can get over.  It just happens again and again. I think I'm getting better, but then I'm not. I've been practicing so much...all I can do is pray. Please pray for me! I'm playing Rachminoff's prelude in C# minor.

I can't wait to read The Serpents Shadow(Kane #3). I put it on hold today..I'm 165th in line..(sigh)
http://www.thousandconfessions.net/DFC/reference/nouvelle%20ref/akito_sohma.jpg
I finished watching Fruits Basket and I'm continuing with the manga. This series really has touched a nerve in my heart. The anime is pretty loyal to the manga, but they are different in that the manga is a tiny bit deeper and darker(neither are Shakespeare XD). Enough to be noticeable. The characters have more layers and are a lil less simple(particularly Yuki and Shigure).

Shigure might be one of the most interesting characters ever. On the surface he's a loveable lazy goofball, but he also is potentially wise..in the manga, he also shows hints of being cowardly, disloyal, and manipulative.



I'm at the part where they're at the Sohma summer vacation house(volume 12) and SO MANY FEELSS. I cannot tolerate Akito..I just cannot stand the guy. Sadistic, ambivalent, creepy,  selfish, freakily young..best villian ever. XD The way he was set up is a masterpiece, with his seemingly frailness and how everybody does exactly what he says and how his name strikes fear into even the most rowdy Sohma.

He totally psyched out Kyo and nearly undid that year of good influence Tohru has on him...:( I cannot believe he punched poor lil Momiji in the face...MAY HIS BACON EVER BURN.

Tohru is hilarious. I love how after Akito gets all up in her face and tells her to quit the Sohma affairs, to not interfere, to forget about them, or else.
and Tohru is like


http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m270d2V7RI1r3tlbto1_500.gif

"I think I"ll try and break the curse!"


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

the world just got a million times more awesome

cover and first chapter of Mark of Athena released.

October 2nd, 2012 can't come fast enough.


http://disney.go.com/disneybooks/heroes-of-olympus/the-mark-of-athena/

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!



Monday, June 4, 2012

(spoiler free) review-Uglies by Scott Westerfield


"Like The Hunger Games, it's set in a warped future with a totalitarian government, only here all the kids are forced to get plastic surgery instead of fighting each other to the death.

It's, er, a lot more exciting than I'm making it sound, though. Honest."

-Epbot Jen

Uglies is a 2005 science fiction novel by Scott Westerfeld. It is set in a future post-scarcity dystopian world in which everyone is turned "Pretty" by extreme cosmetic surgery upon reaching age 16. It tells the story of teenager Tally Youngblood who rebels against society's enforced conformity, after her new found friends Shay and David show her the downsides to becoming a "Pretty". They show Tally how being a "Pretty" can change not only your look but your personality. Written for young adults, Uglies deals with adolescent themes of change, both emotional and physical. The book is the first installment in what was originally a trilogy, the Uglies series, which also includes Pretties, Specials, and Extras.

  I heard so much, both good and bad about this book, so I was on the fence about picking it up. So yesterday, I got it from the library. Before bed, I gave it my one-chapter test, where I read the first chapter or so to see what it's all about.

I just ended up sitting there, reading, for forty five minutes until I was about a a third done. The first thing I did the next morning was grab it off my nightstand and read the rest.

Good thing it's summer.

I'll tick off some of you when I say this--Uglies agreed with me. I didn't love love love it(but then I rarely do with new series.) I didn't shove it away from me or fall asleep. Here's what I had to say:

Plot/Pacing/Voice:

Unlike THG, Uglies isn't edge of your seat suspenseful. It didn't have me biting my nails off. But it was mesmerizing enough to keep people reading past the first chapter...and the second...and the third. So that was definitely a plus. The book is actually quite mild in terms of violence/disturbia for a dystopian or any fantasy novel in general. I thought the plot was decent and twisted in interesting ways. I actually liked the way the book ended

I thought the pacing was pretty good. A lot of people complained about the hover-board scenes being too drawn out or boring. It did seem like a teensy bit much(Get to know your audience, SW. :P Teenage dystopian-reading girls do nawt hoverboard or skateboard or care about hoverboarding or skateboarding) but I didn't feel like it was that disruptive.

I felt really connected to Tally even though it was third-person. I could feel her feelings and see through her eyes. The voice was something very refreshing and new. Unlike The Hunger Games, which somehow has a more rustic, classic voice despite being set in the future, Uglies was very eerie and desolate and new.

The(attempt at) slang seemed over the top at times, but it didn't drive me away. Like Artemis Fowl, it has a environmental message combined with an annoying name for us, "Rusties". And unlike Artemis Fowl, there isn't a good explanation for it either.



Characterization:
Reviewers I read disliked Tally. And it's understandable. She's naive, prejudiced, reluctant, conflicted, and impulsive. Her only real strength is her knowledge of Ugly "tricks", or ways to skirt around the government's rules. In other words, she's utterly normal in every way. Readers can't look up to her or admire her. They can only experience the story through her wide eyes. And that's the way the story works.

Readers may find disgust in the way Tally has been brainwashed by her culture, and her inability to accept anything else. However, she does gradually change throughout the novel, the change feeling both gradual and natural. 

One thing I really liked about Tally and SW's characterization was that Tally plays a role in the events of the novel. SW is careful to have Tally instrument her own fate, deciding and making changes in the story instead of just experiencing it.

The secondary characters were good and brought out Tally very nicely. Shay was a fantastic character in the same way that Tally was, very real and emotional and conflicted.


Themes:

You would think that the most obvious theme is one of self esteem and society's obsession with appearance. And in a way, the novel does deal with that. Tally's culture brainwashes everybody into thinking that without the surgery, they are completely and wholly ugly, inside and out. And they eat it up, even joking about it.

The idea that anyone could be beautiful "just the way they are" is ridiculous. Tally also speaks true on human reaction to beauty. People do unconsciously think better of attractive people.

At school, they explained how it affected you. It didn't matter if you knew about evolution or not. It worked anyway. On anyone.

There was a certain kind of beauty, a prettiness that everyone could see. Big eyes and full lips like a kid's; smooth, clear skin; symmetrical features, and a thousand other little clues. Somewhere in the backs of their minds, people were always looking for these markers. No one could help seeing them, no matter how they were brought up. A million years of evolution had made it part of the human brain.

And I was like: THIS IS HOW I FEEL WHEN I WATCH ANIME OMW.

Uglies had the potential to talk to America and the world about the problems with self esteem and being obsessed with beauty. And in that, it is effective to a point. I did think about how insecure and ugly I felt sometime and felt convicted about how wrong it was. How unfair and wrong it would be to expect everyone to look like the people I saw in TV or art or magazines.

Unfortunately, that's not what Uglies is about. Not really.

The disturbing part about Uglies is that it never says or explains that the surgery is wrong or unnatural. Because (in the story) there is no God who uniquely created us in His perfect image, there isn't really a reason why the surgery should be wrong.

In fact, Shay claims that the only thing wrong with the surgery is conformity. She doesn't want to be "just another Pretty" and doesn't like the way it dumbs you down and changes your personality, which implies that if the Pretty operation weren't so common and it didn't change the way you thought, it might be okay.

Uglies is more about growing up. Tally, who's grown up in the Ugly dorms all her life, learns to reject society's brainwashing and think for herself. There's pain involved too. Tally is attached to her childhood friend, Peris, who has recently had the operation and moved to New Pretty Town. She needs to make the decision to stay anchored to her past and try to keep things the way they were, or move on and leave Peris behind forever.


Christianness:


Evolution is mentioned several times in the story as a basic fact. Eh.

The book is very family friendly. No cussing, little violence, no lust/immoral stuff. 

Conclusion:


 For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Eph. 2:10)

God planned us and made us with infinite care and effort a long time ago. He created you to be exactly who you are. If you think you're not good enough, if you think you're ugly--you're calling God out. You're telling God he made a mistake.  He spent exhausting and meticulous hours designing every part of you. Can you not see how ungrateful it sounds for you to ask: "Why have you made me this way? Why I can't be more like one of the other creations?"

God created you to fill a specific hole in society that only you can fill. If you waste all your time and energy trying to be somebody else, that hole will remain unfilled. If you're not you, who's gonna be you? You are one of a kind. There has never been anybody and there will never be anyone like you.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7 B.

People's appearances are deceiving. They wither and fade. There are many many verses and stories about the dangers of selfishly focusing on your own fading, temporary appearance. 

To say that Uglies does not get these points across is an understatement. And perhaps that's not what the story was meant for. However, it's good as a starting point, to incite discussion and thought on the matter.

Uglies is a thought provoker, a worthwhile read, and a good story. Definitely read if you have the time, or if you're trying to get into dystopia. I'll be picking up its three sequels soon.