Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Giver - Lois Lowry Review

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Publisher: Ember
Published: 1993
Pages: 179
Genre: Children's/YA Dystopia
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I remember being on the phone to someone last week, talking about reading The Giver. I said something like “Yeah, this is one of the original dystopians, I think” and he corrected me. It’s apparently the original young adult dystopian. Bit pedantic, but there you go.

That’s the kind of correction Jonas faces a lot, in a community that’s very very strict on Precision of Language.

The Giver is a sci-fi dystopian about a twelve-year-old boy (Jonas) living in a community with no fear/war/hunger. Everyone goes around on their quaint bicycles, people are unfailingly polite and often clinical in their speech, and it seems like every second word is capitalised. People are assigned to roles/careers on their twelfth birthday and nothing is contested (or if it is, it doesn’t matter: any appeals go to a Committee that doesn’t do anything).

Also, the world has no colour or music, because they would disrupt the Sameness. 

Announcements come over an intercom that’s never turned off, enforcing a litany of rules: no lying, girls under seven must wear their hair up, no nosiness. Everyone has the same birthday. And love doesn’t exist. Neither do any other feelings.

On the day of Jonas’ Ceremony of Twelves, he is shocked to see that he hasn’t been designated a job. Instead, he has been selected as the new Receiver of Memories. His predecessor and trainer, the Giver, needs to pass it on. The Receiver of Memories holds the memories of Outside for the whole community, so that they don’t have them – again, to preserve Sameness. So the Receiver knows sunshine, and music, and colour, but also warfare and fear and starvation.

Jonas goes to begin his training and slowly unravels the truth about his world.

The Giver is a very fast read, with few pages and simple, direct prose. So I picked it up one day after school and read half of it in probably less than two hours. It’s quite powerful, though – and I’m finding it hard to pinpoint why, because I can spot plenty of faults.

For one, the surprises weren’t that surprising. I knew what Release was immediately from the context (and from having read Matched, I guess), and besides that there weren’t really any massive twists. I think the better part of that was how it affected Jonas and the others, the smaller details and ripple effects.

I like the characterization (though your mileage may vary – some find it quite bland), particularly of Asher and Lily, Jonas’ younger sister. The world-building details were very interesting and fresh, and I actually enjoyed all the capitalisation – at least it told me what to pay attention to!

What I loved most about it was the creepiness. Even from the first few pages, there was a sense of menace in the innocence of things. It's told from Jonas' perspective and, him being eleven at the start, he takes things in his society for granted that we get majorly weirded out by.

The ending, though: that annoyed the hell out of me. I hate it, honestly. It’s completely open-ended and probably allegorical (which is always annoying, and makes it seem very childrens-book-ish when until then it had straddled borders). The events leading up to it felt rushed too: the stuff before that had been nicely paced and then this wasn’t. Which was disappointing.


But I suppose I can’t complain, because The Giver did get me in trouble twice in Chemistry for reading it under the table. Let me just say though – just before the teacher gave out the second time, I finished the last page. Victory. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell Review

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Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 459
Rating: 5 stars (+)
Blurb: Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


*****

I'm just going to lead with a quote from the New York Times Journal of Books review, because it so perfectly encapsulates my feelings about it:

Fangirl is a deliciously warm-hearted nerd power ballad destined for greatness”

Can I just say I love the term “nerd power ballad”? Anyway. Fangirl is the second book I bought with the Eason book voucher I got for my birthday (thanks, Cian). I wasn't sure about it at first because I don't think I've ever read a book about someone's first year in college before, especially since it's contemporary. I wouldn't even have considered that YA before now. I'm glad to say Fangirl changed my opinion on that.

Whew. How do I start to describe Fangirl? I guess I'll start by praising the title: YA books with a catchy one-word title are all over the place, but too many of them don't have anything to do with the content. This one is great: one simply colloquial word in the teenage vernacular that runs on the story's hook.

I can express its popularity this way: people in school have read it. Tons of people in my school. I mention the title and they say, “Oh, I know that one. It's really good.” This is often coming from people who generally don't read. I guess I'm mostly surprised by that because Fangirl hasn't (yet) become a phenomenon like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games – it's a quieter book, like everyone's secret.

The characterization was fabulous. I don't think I can adequately express just how brilliant Levi – my favourite – was, but I'll try. Levi isn't someone I immediately took a liking to. He spends a lot of the first part of the book sitting on the landing waiting for Reagan, Cath's roommate, to let him in, and Cath sees him as almost belonging to Reagan. Then he steals her protein bars (more on that later) and she starts talking to him.

Levi is ... unlike anyone I've ever read about. He's so genuine, so kind and caring, but not in a pushover Peeta-type way. He's funny and normal, studying Agriculture. And he has vulnerabilities – like the fact that he's unable to learn by reading (in direct contrast to Cath's love for reading and writing), and that Reagan cheated on him. Have some quotes:

It's okay if you're crazy," he said softly.
"You don't even know-"
"I don't have to know," he said. "I'm rooting for you.”

What's the plan?" she asked.
He grinned. "My plan is to do things that make you want to hang out with me again tomorrow. What's your plan?"
"I'm going to try not to make an ass of myself."
He grinned. "So we're all set.”

You give away nice like it doesn't cost you anything.” (Cath to Levi – he's certainly not the moody type. Honestly, Levi is just the most comforting person character ever. I want him in my life.)



I loved her Dad as well, who's portrayed as a brilliant creative (who's not a writer or artist, surprisingly, but rather an advertising person of some sort – words fail me), but so very absentminded. It's a wonder he's managed to mind the twins on his own all these years, and he and Cath have a very close relationship. He's a very endearing character, and I admire Rowell for making the father involved in a YA story.


Cath's chosen fandom is Simon Snow, the wildly popular series about a boy who goes to wizarding school. It's an obvious rip-off of Harry Potter, and I think that's an interesting effect – Rowell is using the exact hype and Pottermania (oh god, did I just say that?) there was all over the world. It settles Cath into the real world and lets us identify with her a bit.

Not a whole lot, though, which is where I have to talk about something that disconcerted me. Cath seems entirely unhealthy. We already know she's painfully shy, but when she goes to college she stays in her room all the time on the internet, terrified of her roommate. She hides boxes upon boxes of protein bars under her bed so that she doesn't have to eat in front of people in the food hall. She turns down invitations to every social event. And unless I missed something, it's doesn't say that she suffers from something like anxiety, and the only mention of attending a therapist is from ten years before, after her mom left. So that was worrying. You couldn't chalk her obsession down to fangirling alone. I'm a fangirl (look at this blog), and while I'm not a particularly intense one, I don't think anyone is as extreme as she is without underlying issues. She contemplates dropping out of college and failing a big assignment just so she can finish her fanfiction. (Finishing her fanfiction is framed as a big coming-of-age moment).


One of the parts that got me really emotional about Fangirl is the description of what it feels like to have a parent leave. Obviously it's different for everyone, and there are varying degrees of, well, badness – but as the story arc tilts towards Cath's mother who left when she was in third grade, on the day of 9/11, we feel her pain and her resentment incredibly strongly. Rainbow Rowell has an amazing ability for tugging on readers' heartstrings without ever descending into melodrama.
This part is about Cath and her twin sister Wren:

They were a package deal, period. Since always.

They'd even gone to therapy together after their mom left. Which seemed weird, now that Cath thought about it. Especially considering how differently they'd reacted – Wren acting out, Cath acting in. (Violently, desperately in. Journey to the Centre of the Earth in.)

Their third-grade teacher - they were always in the same class, all through elementary school – thought they must be upset about the terrorists . . . .

[...]

Her mom left for good a week later, hugging both of the girls on the front porch, kissing their cheeks again and again, and promising that she'd see them both soon, that she just needed some time to feel better, to remember who she really was. Which didn't make any sense to Cath and Wren. You're our mom.

Cath couldn't remember everything that happened next.

She remembered crying a lot at school. Hiding with Wren in the bathroom during recess. Holding hands on the bus. Wren scratching a boy who said they were gay in the eye.

Wren didn't cry. She stole things and hid them under her pillow. When their dad changed their sheets for the first time – not until after Valentine's Day – he found Simon Snow pencils and Lip Smackers and a Britney Spears CD.”

Terribly long quote, I know, but it was so hard to choose. The writing here is just so emotive. And the matter-of-fact tone makes it worse.


Once I got into Fangirl I read it everywhere, even under the desk in school. It was so engrossing, and I felt so emotionally attached to – well, not specifically the characters, more the relationships between them – that I couldn't let it go. I sat in bed one night reading the last two hundred or so pages while listening to music, and for some reason I kept laughing and crying out loud. It could have been just me, but that book – to use fan language (fanguage? And come on, don't I use it already?) really really really gave me feels.  

And now I'm dying to read Eleanor & Park

Saturday, 20 September 2014

September So Far - Writing, Stress, Sciencing it Up

Yo. 

I finally got back to writing 1,000 words every day in my WIP* on Sunday 7th September, after easing back into it with 500 two days before that. So that's good. It means I passed 50,000 words this week (woo!) and am now at 53,049. Which is 114 A4 pages according to LibreOffice, and 212 book-pages according to my dodgy calculations. 

Oh, by the way, since my MS Word trial is about to run out, I downloaded LibreOffice. It's completely free and I haven't noticed any important differences between it and MS Word yet. Plus, I was able to 'Open' the WIP into LibreOffice and start working immediately (which was great because it saved me the 10 seconds copying and pasting 40,000+ words would have taken). So I highly recommend it. 

I did a detailed outline for the first half of the WIP (or about 45,000 words of it). So now I'm on shaky ground because I'm running without plotting everything meticulously. Fortunately, it's going well. I do have a broad outline for what's to happen which is a lot more than I had in last summer's novel-thing (that I have since ditched). 

Speaking of writing, my friend Jerry (who I mentioned in my CTYI post ) has started a blog where he's pledged to write one haiku a day for the next 365 days. I suggested this, so hopefully he'll keep going. Give him some love for me, or write a comment on his blog suggesting a haiku-worthy topic. 

In yet more writing 'news', I submitted an article pitch to the Listverse forum yesterday. I got pretty caught up in school and haven't written one in about three weeks, so I need to get a move on if I want to pay for CTYI next year. Apparently it'll be checked tomorrow so ... fingers crossed it gets greenlit. 

On a related note, do you ever realise just how much content there is on the internet? I can sit there brainstorming ideas for ages and find that 90% of the time someone's already written an article on that topic. Frustrating, but kind of amazing at the same time. 

My non-internet social life is effectively dead right now, thanks to Fifth Year and general commitments. I never anticipated how stressful 5th Year would be (That's ... Grade 11, I think, for the Americans), but its a huge level up from Junior Cert (and TY was a totally different kind of stress). The teachers just load us with homework and I already had stuff to study/catch up on in the second weekend. 

I picked up Physics after practically all the science teachers came after me and told me I should, which meant I had to drop Biology in school and am now doing it outside so I have all three sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics). Bit stressful, but what isn't lately? 

As if I didn't already have enough on my plate (I think I've mentioned before that I find it very difficult to say no to opportunities), I joined the Student Council this year, became the Choir Journal writer, joined Chess and will join the Ukulele Orchestra hopefully next week (I always bring my ukulele in on the wrong day and then have to cart it around. At least it's light.)  That's adding to all the stuff I mentioned in my first post. Chess is going okay though. I finally got over my paralyzing fear of losing and have won all (two) games I've played so far. I'm being put against someone who's certain to beat me next, but whatevs, be grand.

Me playing my ukulele. I'll get a better picture at some point. 


I'm still going well with Duolingo (currently on, I think, a 13-day streak, and haven't missed more than one day in a row since I started). When I started it in late August it said I could read around 29% of all French text, and today it told me I could read 63%. So it's working. (Phew, because I find French boring in school.) I need to get onto Codecademy and Vocabulary.com, actually. 

I went to the lab in Trinity yesterday to work on my project. It went well, though I won't go into detail because there's not really any point. Just glad, because I'm feeling a bit under pressure now. Need to download the application form this weekend.

Recently discovered I love Kelly Clarkson's music, particularly 'Because of You", "Since U Been Gone" and "You Found Me". And I'm probably missing some. Also, Pentatonix are the absolute best. I've been listening to their covers of "Somebody that I Used to Know" and "Say Something" a lot while writing lately. I so regret not going to their concert with my school choir last year, but I couldn't afford it. Working to recify that.

Plans for today? Very little. Can't see boyfriend due to the fact that he lives across the country, and Dad's not keen on my paying for a train again today since I was up in Dublin just yesterday. Might be seeing Jerry tomorrow if things go right. 

There you go: my recap of September so far. 


Legend - Marie Lu Review



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Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 305
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 Stars


Last YA dystopian for a while, I swear. I have an incredible contemporary up next (Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - perf).

Legend is a Young Adult dystopian novel published in 2011, at the height of the dystopian frenzy. This, I think, is why it’s so original and freshly-spun – because otherwise, it never would have survived.

The dual narrative follows June, the city’s prodigy, their rising star, the only known person to have achieved a perfect 1500 in the Trials (exams taken at the age of ten that determine your future), and soldier-in-training, and Day, a fifteen-year-old criminal on the fringes of society. When June’s brother and caretaker, Metias, is killed in action, June learns that Day is the culprit. She’s accelerated to take Metias’ place in the patrol – first mission, track down Day.

I wouldn't have bought this book based on the back cover (it just didnt grab me) but the first page drew me in. Boiled down to its most basic (“Someone kills family member, character departs to avenge their death”), the plot is nothing new, but I think it’s interesting that it was put in a Young Adult (and dystopian) setting, because I haven’t seen many of those around, and the feelings and actions involved are different when the protagonists are only fifteen. For example, in an adult novel a cop might seek to avenge his wife, but here Metias acted as June’s parents (yes, it’s one of those Young Adult novels where the parents are dead).


I was surprised at first to see that the book is so short, clocking in at only 305 pages, which very nearly dissuaded me from buying it. But it's extraordinarily fast-paced, speeding up as the book goes along. It's so tight that I could forgive how short it is. 

(Ouch, practically this whole review has just been backhanded compliments). 

Lu made it easy to visualise the world, which is good because I'm normally terrible at visualisation. Gritty details are left in there, and it's a very visceral read (as it has to be, because honestly the world-building might not hold up if I examined it too quickly). 

The protagonists' ages are so unrealistic. Day's age was mentioned early on in the book but I missed it and was blindsided by it later on. Sure, they're both smart as hell, but the things they endure are just too much for fifteen-year-olds - or are we just used to 16 being the age when teens are out having dystopian adventures? 

I don't want to analyse this too much, because I'm afraid I'll spoil my enjoyment of it. Let's just say that it was exhilarating and exciting, and I'm glad I bought it.

Grrr, why couldn't it just be a standalone?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Breathe - Sarah Crossan Review

Publisher: Greenwillow (2012)
Genre: YA Dystopian
Pages: 373
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Anyone so thoroughly sick of YA Dystopian they can't stand the sight of them is going to want to look away now. For those not irredeemably jaded ...

11544466Breathe by Sarah Crossan has three protagonists, each with point-of-view chapters; Alina, Bea and Quinn. The premise is that all trees are dead and Earth has run out of oxygen.

Everyone lives inside a Dome (sound familiar?), where they have to pay for artificial air if they want to, y'know, breathe. Quinn is a Premium, a rich boy whose family can afford all the air they want. Bea is an Auxiliary who struggles to pay for breathing: she can't dance, sing or exercise enough for fear of using up too much air. Quinn and Bea are best friends. On top of that, Bea is in unrequited love with Quinn.

Alina is different, due to the not-so-inconsequential fact that she's a rebel (although what passes for rebellion here is growing illegal plants. Growing plants, full stop). One day, Quinn spots Alina in the cafeteria and fancies her. Quinn and Bea leave the Dome for a weekend holiday with air tanks, but Alina's leaving at the same time. Of course, where Alina's going is trouble. Quinn and Bea get caught up in it and bam, drama and danger and adventure.*

I gave this 3.5 stars because it's a good solid read and a pleasant surprise The three points-of-view was quite hefty to pick up at the outset and I didn't enjoy having to get used to three narrators. Their voices are reasonably distinctive, thankfully, and well-characterised, in my opinion.

Not that I know what goes on in boys' heads, but Quinn seems like the most realistic one I've ever read. He's not exactly shy in his internal monologue, I have to say. You can almost feel the hormones. Bea is sensitive, studious and compassionate. She was easy enough to sympathise with, I suppose, but you certainly wouldn't be in awe of her strength. Also, at the start of the book she spends half her time being a teatowel and wishing Quinn would notice her. Alina is your typical strong rebel girl, though even more aloof and hostile than usual. She's not just snarky; at first she seems genuinely uninterested in talking to or mixing with the other main characters (non-rebels, but in the same school).

I quite like the premise, and there's a decent amount of attention paid to the scientific-authenticity side of things. The plotline twists and turns skilfully and there's a real sense of danger, though not as much suspense as there could've been. The setting was really well-described, particularly a certain place outside the Dome that I can't talk about because of spoilers.

Twists! Fabulous twists, both in the main story and in the relationships between characters.

Didn't completely wow me compared to some books I've read recently, but worth a look. It's the first in a trilogy, which I miiiight continue. Depends.




*too snarky?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

CTYI

I said in my last post that I'd talk more about CTYI, so here it is. (If you want to skip to the pictures, they're at the end). 

A bit of background: CTYI stands for Centre for Talented Youth Ireland, a.k.a nerd camp. There are two parts, one for students aged 6-12 and one for those between 13 and 17, both held in DCU.

The latter is the Older Students CTYI, and that's what I'll be talking about. The idea of CTYI is that you take a test and if you score above the 95th percentile for your age in Critical Reading, Writing and/or Maths, you qualify for the programme. There are two sessions during the summer, each just under three weeks long. You attend classes in a college subject of your choice (e.g. Journalism, Japanese, Economics & Politics, War & Conflict, Philosophy, Social Psychology, Biotechnology, Medicine) Monday to Friday during the session, and on weekends there are outings and activities.

It's brilliant.

I've gone twice now. Last year I stayed residential, but this year I commuted for cost reasons. Last year I studied Journalism (with the best class group ever, don't even try to fight me on this). Before I went I was looking forward to the academia but honestly the social side was just phenomenal. I made such great friends and had the time of my life. The course was fab too, but the people are just amazing.

That did open up a lot of opportunities (unless it's just coincidence) - after that course I got on the school Yearbook team, did work experience in the Irish Times and wrote for an article that got published on thejournal.ie. So that was fun.

This year I did Biotech(nology). The course was very interesting, and useful, but overall the session was somehow better this year than last year. I didn't know that was possible, but it seems it. It was euphoric, really. Plus, the session ended over a month ago and I've stayed in contact with my friends from there. 

I'll focus on this year.

Here's a countdown:
21 How old CTYI is
20 The amount of quotes Bridget has on the wiki
18.5 days
17 Nevermore age, the age too many of my friends are
16 Spar bread rolls (approximately)
10 What C is
5 Koist priests
4 marital partners (Cian, Ciarán, Bridget, Cathal)
3 Koist marriages (EllexBridget; EllexCianxCiaránxBridgetxCathal; EllexCiarán)
2 oversleeps (I managed to sleep in 'til about half ten twice. Three hours late = very embarrassing)
2 years of CTYI
1 undersleep ( The time on my phone was wrong so I was walking to DCU at 6 a.m. thinking it was 8. Bear in mind this means I got up at 5. Although really, every day I didn't get enough sleep)
1 CTYI

Timetable

I'm trying to make a reasonably comprehensive CTYI post, so here's what generally happens during the day. 

8.00 - 9.00 Breakfast in the canteen. Good for catching up on/analysing whatever crazy shit happened the night before, although a lot of people are like zombies during breakfast (I'm looking at you, Briain). Some didn't even come at all, Cian. 

9.00 - 11.45 Class! There was a short break in the middle of this to get snacks in Spar. This passed relatively fast.

11.45 - 12.45 Lunchtime. Usually in the canteen but whatever. Canteen food at lunch included soggy rolls, questionable soup and sometimes nice crisps. There was also pizza sometimes but that might have been dinner. 

12.45 - 15.00 Afternoon class. I always found this half to go slowly but your mileage may vary. 

15.00 - 17.00 Activities! At 3pm, everyone left class and went to the Quad to choose an Activity to do for the next 2-ish hours. There were usually eight on offer, each headed up by an RA. Activities are great, especially since they're usually not sporty. When I went to the Gaeltacht we had 2 hours of sports every day after class (basketball, volleyball and something else if I remember correctly). Worst. Thing. Ever, since I'm dangerously bad at volleyball. I'll talk about  some of my favourite activities in CTYI below. 

17.00 - 18.30 Dinner. RA meetings were scattered throughout dinner, which was a bit inconvenient for inter-RA-group friends. 

18.30 - 20.30 Study. Either back in the classroom or in one of the computer labs. Led by a TA rather than the teacher. Usually pretty good craic. 

20.30 - 22.00 Social Time. Best part of the day albeit way too short. Everyone gathered in the Quad or in Res to, well, socialise. More on this below. 

22.00 - 22.30 Commuters tragically go home at 10pm, but residential students have until 22.30 to have their showers etc. before lights-out. 

So yes, it is very structured. Can feel a bit constrained but I think it works well. 


Some memories

I remember being confused on the first day: transitioning from residential to commuter during a big session was weird. It got sorted pretty quickly, and then I was back into familiar CTYI. I was in the same building as last year, the Biotech building, which was handy for navigational purposes (but decidedly irritating for getting to quickly after lunch. I think I was late pretty much every day). 

Class was so interesting. The level of challenge seemed unbalanced, but other than that it was fab. We learned tons of new things and had the bants in class too, which is always a good mix. 

I can't remember many of last year's activities, but Harry Potter Appreciation sticks out. Talent Show Auditions were also an Activity. That year I got in and ended up singing and playing ukulele to the Lumineers' Ho Hey. Fun times. 

This year there was a new activity called Feminist Discussion. It was really what it said on the tin. I remember joining the line and it being 90% boys cracking anti-feminist jokes. I gotta tell you, they really weren't funny. If you're going to make a rude joke, please make it actually funny. Thankfully, loads more people joined after that and the Activity ended up very reasonable. Which was a little disappointing in a way. Confrontation is entertaining. The RAs were irritatingly strict and wouldn't let anyone give a dissenting opinion. I felt sorry for some of the boys there to be honest, they just got booed a lot. 

Anyway, there was Harry Potter Appreciation again (which I didn't enjoy quite so much this time around because I was having a bad day, but still). There was also Rom-Com Appreciation, in which Cian and Ben narrated my wedding, which got interrupted by Adam Sandler (Ciarán?). Because the 'Com' part wasn't complete without Adam Sandler. 

Book Club was on at some point. Book Club is great, 'nuff said. There was also something about Shakespeare, and Karaoke, and then a faction insisted on having some sports so RA Éamonn led an Activity known as 'SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS', which included Ninja, probably Knutsack and ... I don't know, ask someone who's into Sports Sports Sports. 

A bunch of the science-related classes went to the Festival of Curiosity to listen to a woman talk about mola mola, which are ... sunfish, I gathered. We got goody bags and T-shirts, which was nice. It's nice how CTYI opens up things like that. 

Also, there was no Journalism class this year. Sad, since that was my course last year. Ironically, one of my articles for the newspaper was about discontinued courses. 


I remember Ciarán carrying me around pretty much everywhere. Plus overdosing on Skittles. The Discos, too. There are a ton of traditional songs, my favourites being Mr. Brightside, Gay Bar, Bohemian Rhapsody and Bad Touch (although I've really warmed to American Pie and Iris this year), but there's also a certain intangible quality to them ... I don't think I can describe it. Super-emotional. Shoutout to Cian for his unique dancing, and to Bridget for our Gay Bar-ing. Also, Ciarán picking me up and spinning me around during Footloose. Awesome. 

CTYI's very into traditions, so we have Pirate Wednesday (complete with resident Pirate Tom), Hitchhiker's Thursday, where you wear a towel or dressing-gown until 12 noon in anticipation of the world ending (or remembrance, I'm not sure), and Formal Friday. I also was given a ceremonial labcoat last year to wear until my last year of CTYI. I would've given it to my newbie Bridget this year but I'm not a Nevermore (thank god). 

I think my favourite thing about CTYI is the intimate friendships. You really bond with people there. My friends already know how I feel about them, so I'll leave you with photos now. 

I have so much more to say but .... no. Pictures.


(l-r) Victor, Cian and Cathal. All fabulous people. This picture was taken in the quad on one of the first days of the session.

 Here's James and me. James is tall, ridiculously strong and very stable (which is good, since throughout the session I just leaned on him without warning every so often). He's my literal support structure, ba dum tish. He's also awesome at guitar. And singing.

This picture is from when we were up in the common room with Micaiah bleaching Paddy's hair.

And eating pizza. I think.



Paddy with Pascal the frog/chameleon/green creature on his head. Notice the green hair and steampunk gear.
(l-r) Cian, Ciara and me. This is from our visit to Farmleigh on the second Sunday of the course. Such a good day. We didn't do much walking to be honest, spent a lot of time playing Sevens & Eights (the card game that goes by many different names) and talking. Also getting leaves off Cian's back. He's like a debris magnet.
Niamh! I met Niamh eight months before this year's CTYI, at a physics work experience in UCD. So it was awesome when she came as a CAT (Centre for Academic Talent) to CTYI. She did have to go home after two weeks, which was tragic, but still. Also, her outfits were always awesome.
 Cian returns, alongside a new face: Ben. For much of this session I thought Ben was a Nevermore (i.e. couldn't return next year) but it turns out he's not. Which is fab. Ben is the High Priest of our religion, Koism. Cian, Ciarán, Bridget and I are also priests. Cian's called Julius Koisar, I'm Nessie and Ciarán is Carpspawn Nekoi. Bridget is Nova Kelpie and Ben is Quasicarpo. I'm spelling these all terribly wrong.

Anyway, Ben and Cian performed The Confrontation from Les Mis at the talent show - with lightsabers! They were fab.
 There are so many of my favourite people in the world in this picture, it's great. Back row left to right is Jack, Cian, Teddy and Cathal, then front row is Ciarán.
 Here we have Jerry a.k.a Wally and the best person ever, a.k.a Bridget. Bridget was a newbie this year (as was Jerry, I think) but she's super fabulous and hella popular in CTYI. You go girl.


On the left we have Cian and Bridget - you already know about them. On the right, there's me and Ciarán in the corner, then Cian, Bridget and John Joe.
 Here's Ciarán looking magnificent. Ciarán wore cat ears essentially all the time. Commendations. He also carried me everywhere, which was fun.
John Joe! John Joe is hella smart and scarily perceptive. He did Game Theory. Also, he's really nice. He stayed over at my house twice for my birthday and we watched a lot of Glee. He has incredibly bouncy hair (which this picture sadly failed to capture). 


Dermot is the fashionista. He liked to remind me how bad my dress sense is every day, multiple times, and in turn I reminded him that he's a horrible person. Nah, he's fab. Ily.


This is Leona during probably our first class, where we modelled DNA using jelly snakes and jelly babies. Yup. I taught her a little bit of ukulele. She knows how to play a lot of instruments but not ukulele. Yet.