The holiday season is over. All the hustle and bustle of shopping for gifts, wrapping, going to holiday parties has passed, and as I settle into the New Year, I think about the New Year’s Resolutions I’ve made. How many will I keep and how many will be thrown into the wind by the end of this month? One in particular is important to me: make more time for myself. More time to do the things I enjoy doing, like reading and writing. I have an entire list of books I want to read this year, and I want to accomplish this!
In keeping with the sentiments of this time of year, I have reviewed two books that are the authors’ firsts. I hope you’re tantalized into reading them as well, and that you enjoy them as much as I did.

A Happy and Healthy 1999 to all!

Elizabeth Shepard
Viking/Penguin Putnam Inc. 1995
160 pages

I chose this book because it is the author’s first novel, and I always enjoy reading a first novel just to find out what made it get published.

H is the story of Benjamin Sherman, a twelve year old boy whose best friend is Elliot, a stuffed letter H. The first part of the book details the concerns that Benjamin’s parents have for him as they prepare to send him to summer camp. It is written in the form of letters from his parents, camp counselors and doctors to each other.

The second part of the book is Benjamin’s, mostly in the form of letters he writes to Elliot, a stuffed letter H that he keeps with him all the time. Benjamin suffers from a mental disorder, which is never specified in the book. As you read his diary, you come to realize that his disorder may very well be a sign of genius.

This is a touching story, but disturbing at times. It contains strong language, but if you can deal with that, I recommend you read this book.

The Beach
Alex Garland
The Berkley Publishing Group Penguin Putnam Inc.1997
436 pages

The New York Times Book Review said, “The Beach is impressive in its group portrait of a new generation of young vagabonds. Raised in an era of diminished confidence, they have set out in search of something that feels genuine and fulfilling. What they find turns out to be not utopia but hell.”

The Beach is another first novel by twenty-six year old Alex Garland. This book is incredible! It is a modern-day Lord of the Flies, and places a group of young people on a private beach on one of the islands near Bangkok. They are there to live in a perfect world, a world without rules, a world where each and every person has a function, and everyone works for the common good. The private beach is secluded; the only way to find it is to go through the center of the island, through a fiercely, militia-guarded marijuana plantation. Once you are there, you don’t contemplate thoughts of leaving.

I don’t want to give this book away, because it is a gem. I think young people should read it because they will realize that “all that glitters is not gold” and older people will enjoy it because they have already learned this lesson and will appreciate the approach taken by the author to demonstrate the point.

The Beach appears to be biographical, but I can’t tell for certain if it is a true account of the author’s experiences, or if it’s an example of excellent writing skills. I’ll be looking for more work by Mr. Garland. He has proven his ability with The Beach.