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'89 Walls by Katie Pierson

'89 Walls

by Katie Pierson

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I had the pleasure and privilege to read '89 Walls before publication. Not being an avid reader of young adult fiction I wasn't sure how much enjoyment I'd get out of the book, though knowing the author to be an exceptionally talented writer, I was sure it would not be time wasted either way. What I didn't expect was to be drawn into a world populated by characters to real, they haunted my mind even when I had set the book down. Seth, one of the young protagonists, is a complex, finely drawn character who feels more "real" than many humans I know. As the mother of a young son, I appreciated the care with which this highly intelligent high schooler was drawn. He's not perfect. Like everyone, he's flawed--and that's what makes him so authentic. Quinn, another well drawn character, is a young woman struggling to throw off the shackles so many of us lived with as young people: in trying to gain her father's respect, she hewed close to his political views. Quinn resonated with me because I had a similar experience with my own father. He was (and remains) insanely intelligent, well-read, and knowledgable, and he has this maddening way of exploding your opinions with a single phrase or citation. Quinn was in the same boat; though her father remains steady and kind throughout, his opinions are not easily pierced. That being said, he and Quinn's mother are, again, complex characters who upend, at times, one's expectations of conservatives. I love that about Pierson's writing--no tropes, no stereotypes. Instead, contradictions, complexity, and all the other things that make us human.

Another thing I liked about the book is that we get to see these young kids in the classroom, debating and thinking about some of the seismic political and social issues of the day. Where some books tend to treat the academic experience (which, in the hands of a skilled teacher, can be a spiritual experience as well) as a marginal issue, preferring to focus on relationships, Pierson's doesn't shy away from this important aspect of the high school experience. In fact, it's where crucial parts of the Quinn/Seth relationship are forged.

Finally, I want to say that it's clear that Katie Pierson respects her young adult reader. She takes it for granted that they care about the world, that they are pained when they clash with their parents, that they want to do the right thing but that sometimes doing the right thing isn't always easy. They are faced with difficult choices, find first-hand that life is not fair, and yet they make their way. That's how teenagers are, though sometimes as adults we tend not to realize it. Seeing this experience reflected in literature meant for their eyes gives me great hope. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
I did not know what to expect when I first received this book in exchange for an honest review. I found it to be a mixture of a teen romance mixed in with the politics of the late 1980's. It's not a typical teen angst-romance novel, and yet it is reflective of the angst of teens during that time, and also of the general situation of the world at that point in history. '89 Walls is an easy book to read, with no hidden agenda, and is not filled with fantasy romance topics as are so many of books available for teens today. It's simple, yet complex, and true to life. A good choice for teen readers today, about the walls we build up and take down daily, both in our personal lives and to help shelter us from the world around us. ( )
  Dmtcer | May 4, 2016 |
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my opinion in any shape or form.

In 1989 my mom was 17 going on 18 so I really wanted to read this book and get a glimpse of my mom the year before she got pregnant with me. When I had the opportunity to journey back in time to 1989, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to 89 Walls but I can say I am pleasantly surprised I really enjoyed the book.

It took me a long time to finish this book it seems that each and every time I tried to pick this up, I’d end up in a reading slump thanks to another book. But I was finally able to pick this up and finish it. 89 walls revolves around Seth and Quinn and their senior year. Quinn and Seth are from different worlds, Quinn can afford to go to college and not have to worry about the money and Seth has to take care of his sick mom. They’re from two different worlds but together they find each other and that was my favorite part of the story.

I am not big on politics it is something I find boring and I just can’t seem to pay attention when it comes politics so for me 89 walls was a bit heavy on the politics and sometimes I had to read passages over again to understand. But what I DID love about it was that I really liked how Quinn was trying to find her own views, she wanted to understand every aspect of an issue and would ask questions even if she felt dumb afterwards. I thought it was really awesome for her to want to form her own opinion. I really liked Seth especially his T-shirts. I loved his point of view of things and I especially loved how caring he was towards his mom. It was really nice to see a great relationship between mother and son.

Overall, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this because it was a bit political but I ended up learning something. You never know what can happen when you take a chance on a book you didn’t think you’d enjoy.

P.S. Katie is super awesome and includes a bunch of books that take place in the 80s in the back plus she also includes what political issues it has.

P.S.S. She also includes a timeline of things that happened in 1989 and its awesome to see what happened back then, it turns out my birthday was mentioned in the back so I really loved it. ( )
  tina_thebookworm | Feb 12, 2016 |
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author as a part of a book tour for a fair and honest review and rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

A coming of age story set in Lincoln, Nebraska, ’89 Walls by Katie Pierson is a genre crossing mix filled with teenage angst, first love, sex, politics, and religion. It’s also a mix of first and third person point of view, colorful and diverse characters and the reminder that regardless of how you may feel, time marches on to the beat of its own drum and takes you along for the journey. While written for the Teen/Young Adult crowd, this is a book many adults would enjoy.

Ms. Pierson does a good job developing both Quinn and Seth’s characters from the very start; while they are both the same age, in the same grade and even attend one class together at the same high school, they come from different political backgrounds, different socio-economic backgrounds and of course different genders. While they’ve attended school together for some time they don’t belong to the same “cliques” and have never really gotten to know each other on a personal basis. All of that changes when Seth takes a chance and gives Quinn a note letting her know he thinks she’s got it going on and hints at his willingness to go out on a date sometime – if she is so inclined. While Quinn is surprised, and is dating a young man in her own social circle, she soon realizes that she’s really interested in him and that her “current relationship” is going nowhere and is simply convenient.

The secondary characters play a large role in this book, especially Quinn’s parents, Seth’s mom and their history/current events teacher Mr. Levine. Using the political events taking place in 1989 (hence the title of the book0, Ms. Pierson covers a variety of topics that are still politically hot: War (the end of the Cold War and the future of the U.S. versus Communism), Race Relations (Apartheid), China and Human Rights (Tienemen Square), Women’s Rights via the battle over Roe vs Wade (Abortion), life threatening diseases, treatment and who gets to pay for it (Aids and M.S.). While Ms. Pierson allows some of her own political bias to come through in some of the commentary, she did try to respect other viewpoints and pointed out in the story that everyone should have a voice and be respectful of other’s opinions.

Ms. Pierson’s voice as a writer is enjoyable, her story is well paced and it’s hard to believe this is her debut novel; I’ve read quite a few books covering part of these topics from much more experienced authors that weren’t as well written. While I think this is an excellent book for young adults to read, I would have to caution against anyone under 17 reading this book. I think the subject matter is too mature for anyone younger than that. Overall I really enjoyed reading this story and wish something like this had been available when I was a freshman in college covering a part of my youth.

Will Quinn and Seth’s mutual attraction lead to their first real love? Will the issues they discuss and learn in school help them as they get ready to graduate from high school and begin their lives as adults? You’ll have to read ’89 Walls to find out. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Ms. Pierson’s work.

I would like to close out my review with a personal comment; while reading ’89 Walls, I was reminded of a song by Bob Dylan. While Mr. Dylan’s song was written when the characters in this book would not even have been born, yet I do feel that this song best describes how time and politics marches on as we and our children age. It was also the background music during a pivotal scene in the movie Watchmen that this book brought to mind – and yes, that’s a good thing:)

"The Times They Are A-Changin'" Music and Lyrics by Bob Dylan

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'. ( )
  MariaD. | Jun 27, 2015 |
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