Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Silver Linings Playbook

I have a love-hate relationship with first person narratives. I first realized this when I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I loved the premise and the characters but the way it was written detracted from the story. Instead of being able to see the various ways the districts were revolting or even how the 'game' worked and what President Snow was up to, you only got to see and hear Katniss's story. While she's an amazing character, I can't say that it helped the book. Instead the movie flushed out those details.
Back to the point,  I don't think writing in first person is the easy or lazy way out. I find it limits the way a story is being told, and it keeps facts and other events away from the reader. Some stories require the first person, because it's a personal story. But I firmly believe not every story should be written in this format.
I mean... Can you imagine reading Harry Potter as a first person narrative?
This is not to say a first person narrative severely injures a good story either, simply by the way it is written. It can be a major pitfall, but it can be made up in other ways. Incorporating letters, having an interesting narrator, or even just creating an interesting atmosphere adds to the book, which is why I loved The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye. The voices within those books are so unique and the stories they told were their own. I'd like to believe that's why their considered classics, and every 11th grader has to read these book in the English classes. The Silver Linings Playbook does exactly what The Great Gatsby did and The Catcher in the Rye.
At this point I'm assuming everyone knows the general idea of this story, due to its movie adaptation being nominated for several awards and winning many, but either way...
The main character, Pat Peoples, believes his life is a movie created by God. He believes that his life's silver lining is to be reunited with his wife, who has left him. After coming back from his stay at a mental institution and he is forced to move back in with his parents. Since coming back, he has no memories of why he was at the institution and for what reason. To win his wife, Nikki, back, Pat decides to become a better person by practicing being kind instead of right. This includes all facets of his life including his physical appearance and his knowledge of literature. Pat strikes up a deal with a woman named Tiffany, in which he would be her dance partner for a competition in order to reconnect with his wife.
This is the plot of the movie and the book, but the book explores the confusion of a mental disorder. This is what I really enjoyed about the story. I loved the way it was told, and it flowed really well. It was written in a way that seemed very natural and understandable. It wasn't heavily descriptive but it definitely wasn't the case of a self-insert story. The characters are incredibly believable, as our their motivations and desires. The book does portray some characters not as likable as some others, unlike the movie.
Some of the themes that are present in the book are not in the movie either, but I believe it would have been hard to portray that. The Peoples' family ties are definitely more intriguing, and the dynamic is brilliant. There's a lot of secrets and hidden stuff going on that Quick was able to reveal in the end. Unlike most stories where there is a major twist in the story, you can kind of see what is going to happen. (If you've seen the movie, the twist is the memory Pat describes within the first 30 minutes of it.) But reading it in Pat's voice and just understanding his train of thought will make you as anxious while reading it.
I can definitely say this is one of my favorite books I've read. It's different and funny but not overwhelmingly so. I love the positive message of the story even if not everyone got their happily ever after.
One favorite passage:
“Why is this dance competition so important to you?” Cliff asks me. I look up at the sun painted on the ceiling of his office and smile.
“What?” he says.
“The dancing lets me be that,” I say, and point up. Cliff’s eyes follow my finger. “It lets you be the sun?”  
“Yes,” I say, and smile again at Cliff, because I really like being the sun, exactly what allows clouds to have a silver lining.

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