#35 Egypt In A Time Of Revolution

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This book tells the story of Egypt and the turmoil it had been going through. Throughout the nation’s struggle there have been many reports and logs on every event. The novel is a compilation of all of these things as well as the writer’s own personal twist on the events in egypt. Now, let’s look into what caused all of these riots and struggles in the first place. 

What’s most interesting about this specific revolution was that it was led in large by youth activists who believed that the police brutality and the unfair representation of the people was an injustice and immoral towards the people in their communities. This revolution was different from the previous ones because it was non-violent sit-out strikes. People made their voices heard by not working. They made their voices heard by standing up to the police and the army that tried to force them back to work. An army that was already small, and a police force that was one of the major causes of the strikes in the first place. They found that their lack of political freedom and freedom of speech was hindering them from becoming a better nation and people so they took it to their government and it actually worked. The Egyptian lower class was struggling to retain jobs and provide for themselves and their family as inflation continued to go up and their wages were going down, their country was on an economic spiral, and it was not headed in the right direction. A signal that the Egyptian police and military were weakened was their inability to enforce curfew among the civilians, extremely similar to what happened during the beginning of the Hunger games revolution when the government first started to lose control. The President had an Elite guard which were all loyalists but slowly they started to be replaced by the normal army, where less support could be found for him. On the eleventh of February 2011, the vice president of the nation spoke to everyone in Egypt telling them that the President had resigned and that martial law would be in place until a new president could be elected. Now this was a unique case out of the four revolutions we discussed. It’s clear that Egypt had issues, but they managed to solve them, or put themselves on the road to recovery without any major loss of life or bloodshed. Which shows how much our world has advanced in the past one hundred years, that we can go from mass executions of the upper class to a precise and largely bloodless group strike in order to effectively change the government.

 

#34 Catching Fire: Hunger Games

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Catching Fire was written by Suzanne Collins, and it is the second of three novels. In following the theme of the last two books I will briefly run over the plot and then explain how the society that it’s set in contributes to the massive revolution that takes place in the third and final book. 

In the beginning of the novel Katniss is spoken to by President Snow, an awful dictator who shows the twelve districts no mercy. He tells her that she has become the face of the rebellion in almost all the other districts and that she must find a way to subdue them or her family will die. She is then thrown back into the games, where she makes powerful allies and as they survive in the arena it starts to become clear to her that something more important is going on than just a simple game. She realizes that they will start the revolution. At first she resists but it becomes clear to her that every time she tries to play Snow’s game she will lose so she finally decides that she’s gonna take the fight to him and not just lay down and let him ruin her life. The book ends with her breaking the force field of the arena and being carried away in a plane. When she wakes up she learns that she will become the leader of the revolution. The question stands though, why does there need to be a revolution in the first place? That is a question I will try my best to answer now.

In Panem there are twelve districts each of which contributes something that the other eleven don’t. For example district 12 contributes coal to society. These districts are separated though, and communication is extremely limited between them. Most people in each district live extremely poor lives, and only those that win the Hunger Games get a taste of what Capital life is like. To go along with this district two is where all of the man power comes from, everyone there is trained to be a soldier for the capital and are raised to believe that people from other districts are less than themselves. When people from district 2 graduate they become “PeaceKeepers” who are like policemen but much more renown for their abusive behavior towards anyone who disobeys the capital’s laws. This polarization between districts tends to keep them fighting amongst each other instead of seeing the true threat, The Capital. Now this is a reason for the people to be upset, but what really causes the uprising is the lavish lives that people in the Capital live. In the Capital they love to eat extravagant meals unlike anything the districts have ever seen and when they get full they drink something that “makes you sick so that you can go on eating.” Another sign of the governmental issues in Panem can be addressed by a conversation that President Snow has with Katniss “It must be a fragile system if it can be brought down by a few berries” this is relating to how she and Peeta beat the Hunger Games and both won instead of just one of them. Now this could be overlooked but it alludes to Katniss future role in the revolution as its leader. A phrase that the Hunger Games coined throughout the second and third book “The symbol of the rebellion” is used in reference of Katniss and the fire that she has stoked among the run down people of Panem, it’s important to note that in the beginning of the story these people had no spark to light the revolution aflame. Katniss became that spark and sometimes in the case of a rebellion all you need is a figurehead, and then you will fight for what you believe in. Without Katniss those people would have just stayed as what they were, but she made them more and made the whole revolution possible.

#33 Ten Days That Shook the World

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This book is extremely accurate to the events that actually led up to the revolution, the reason for this is because of the fact that the guy that wrote it was actually there during the revolution. He followed the leninist leaders around because he was actually a big socialist, but his ability to put his reporting skills above his appreciation for socialism makes this one of the most interesting books about the Russian Revolution of 1917 to date. Now lets look closer at the event and see what about Russian society prompted the revolution.

The seeds for the Russian Revolution were planted when WWI ended, the ruler of Russia promised peace, a better economy, and food for all. These thing never came. In the 1900’s  Russia was known for it’s outdated economy and people such as farmers tended to suffer from it because they couldn’t actually get modern day technology in order to benefit their crops. For farmers it was harder to grow food because of how cold it is making the growing season only 4-6 months instead of the average 8-9 months in other Western European places. The only reason that they were able to stay afloat in this part of the economy is due to the fact that Russia has so much land that they can actually afford to have a shorter season because they have more land for growing than any other country at that time. They even managed to supply the U.S. with some food in the 1900’s. Still their minor advances in machinery they continued to fall behind in the economy. Another contributing factor was the years of hate towards the lower class by the Tsarist Regime. While peasants had been emancipated from serfdom they still had to pay a tax which restricted them from owning any actual land, this resulted in two things. First there tended to be riots where these lower class people fought for the rights to their land and were almost always turned down. Second, Because the serfs had been set free they had no where to live so they lived in little homes with large groups of people causing over crowding and the spread of diseases. This inability to let the lower class own any land resulted in about 2% of the Russian population owning about 25% of all land. Most of this stuff had been going on before World War One but when it came it brought chaos. People were forced to work in factories, where there was not much safety equipment if at all, they were underpaid and many qualified workers were enlisted into the army. This left only peasants to work, which resulted in awful equipment and anger from the enlisted at their jobs being taken. While the Tsar ruled Russia the people had no representation and the Tsar made no attempt to try and understand their peoples problems. After years of strikes and riots the Tsar decided to attempt to introduce something along the lines of a democracy for the people but when he realized that it wasn’t really helping him he cancelled it and fired the Duma’s who were the democratic leaders. This denial of the peoples rights to a voice of their own fueled them towards the revolution. After years and years of mistreatment the people finally fought back, overthrew the government and replaced it with a new leader, Vladimir Lenin. This officially ended the reign of the Tsar’s and brought temporary relief to the Russian population.

#32 A Tale of Two Cities

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A note to the reader: the next four blog posts (including this one) will follow a slightly different layout, because I feel it’s more necessary to discuss a similar theme between these novels. This theme is the beginnings of revolutions – specifically the French Russian Egyptian and the revolution from The Hunger Games. I will discuss what caused these revolutions and I’ve found that they all share a similar trend that I will discuss in the individual blog posts.

This is the story of a family (a father and daughter) who were separated but they find each other again, they encounter other people who become a part of their circle but their world is shaken as the roots of the French revolution which had been placed years ago finally decide to overrun French civilization and as accusations start to fly about their party, they must flee France. The novel ends with the daughter’s husband in prison about to be executed but due to the kindness of their friend who sacrificed himself instead they escape. The man who dies was known for feeling like he had no purpose but in that moment when they killed him he found purpose in his life. But what caused these things? Throughout the rest of the post I will talk about what caused this upheaval and distress among the citizens of France.

The French Revolution of the 1790’s was the result of France helping America in their revolution. This heavy spending as well as that of the King at that time led them into a near bankrupt position as the royal treasure had been emptied and there was no money to go around. It certainly didn’t help that France had not had a successful harvest in over two decades. This caused simple things, such as bread to skyrocket price wise making it almost impossible for everyday people to survive. On top of these France had a distinct elitist section which was exempt from land taxes that the lower classes had to pay for. These elitists made up around two percent of the population but still held the majority of the power because of the money they had. The people had no true representation so they retaliated with strikes and other things along that line. Because of this France became very polarized, with everyday citizens who had been enlisted seeing other citizens as trash because they simply stood for what they believed in. This is an example of the Rulers turned allies against each other by forcing division between them. Eventually the Capital reached such a state of depravity that they went against the elites and began taxing their land as we’ll in order to continue living the lavish lives that were digging France even deeper into the ground. With this came revolution and as they started to gain momentum the murders began. First it was just a couple people but then it became clear to revolutionists that anyone that wasn’t with  was against them. They murdered anyone who was against them, killing over 17,000 people, some without a trial and some who died in prison. As it reached a fever pitch Napoleon came to light as an up and coming general. He made himself the first consul of France and ended the revolution. Then the Napoleonic Era where France became a super power in Europe began. This a walk through of what caused the French Revolution of the 1790’s, and when you think about it, it’s clear that the rulers didn’t see the power that every day citizens could have so they overlooked them and neglected them, forcing them lower and lower into poverty. Around that time there were philosophers who believed that if your government was mistreating you, you had a civil duty to stand up to your government. The rulers over-looked the power of the people and treated them in horrible ways and eventually enough was enough and those same rulers who were killing people with their awful laws were finally given the punishment they deserved.

 

#31 The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby was published on April 1925. It was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald who lived a life coming up from poverty into great wealth and popularity and then ultimately falling back into the background of society. The Great Gatsby is known for it’s symbolic colors and thematic locations such as the famous Vally of Ashes. The book is written from the perspective of a man telling a story about the summer he had and the people who he not only encountered but came to a deeper understanding about them at the end of the novel, whether good or bad.

The main characters are Nick, an up and coming bond’s man. At the beginning of the story he moves into a cottage next to an immense mansion owned by none other than the great Gatsby who is a wealthy but mysterious man. Gatsby is the next character, he is man new to wealth who doesn’t quite belong among the ranks of the upperclass but stays there all the same in desperation for a girl who is Daisy Buchanan. Daisy Buchanan is the “golden girl” she was born into a wealthy family with all the status she ever wanted and is renown for not only her physical beauty but her beauty within and the wonderful personality which seemingly is the source of Gatsby’s affection. Tom Buchanan is Daisy’s husband and is an immediate issue when it comes to Gatsby getting the girl of his dreams. Tom is extremely wealthy as well and it seems as though his status goes to his head for he is known to have other lovers and has forced Daisy him and his daughter to move many times in order to keep his other love interests at bay.

At the start of the story Nick has just moved into his new cottage on West Egg where all of the new money people live. This is important because of the fact that all of these people may be just as wealthy as those that live on East Egg (where Daisy and Tom live) but they desire the status that comes with having old money. Nick goes over to Tom and Daisy’s where they have dinner together with a mysterious guest named Jordan. While the dinner progresses Jordan mentions a “Gatsby” on West Egg, this name seems to strike a chord with Daisy and Nick realizes that his neighbor is the same Gatsby. The next day Tom invites Nick over for an outing where they go to the Valley of Ashes a place where all dreams are dying or have died. It is watched by the all seeing eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg which seem to represent God watching the Earth and the moral wasteland that humans have made it into. Tom then picks up Myrtle (in the valley of ashes), the woman that he is cheating with, he converses with Mr. Wilson (Myrtle’s husband) about some car that he owns but then they head into the city where Nick gets drunk for the second time in his life and see’s how awful Tom is when he slaps Myrtle, Nick heads home because he snaps back to reality. Later that summer Nick receives an invite from Gatsby to one of his elaborate parties which are held every weekend all weekend. When Nick attends he meets Jordan again and they converse, wondering who Gatsby really is. That night Gatsby appears to them in a superfluous gesture right as fireworks go off and the music reaches a fever pitch, then summons Jordan into his study for some mysterious reason. The next day Gatsby comes over to Nick’s house and invites him on a trip to the city. Nick happily accepts hoping to learn more about the elusive Gatsby. Gatsby picks him up in a yellow car, yellow symbolizes joy at the begging of the story and then symbolizes the destruction that can be caused by wealth. As they travel into the city Gatsby tells Nick that he was an Oxford man and also received a medal of valor from some sort of military feat that he had done in his past, he says all of this while speeding and is eventually pulled over but the simple flash of a white card scares the policemen away showing the power that Gatsby has gained from his wealth. When they arrive at their destination they proceed into a secret basement where they meet a Mr. Wolfsheim a sly character who notoriously fixed the 1919 world series. Wolfsheim leaves quickly after and Tom arrives meeting Gatsby for the first time. He was disdainful at first and his opinion of Gatsby remains pretty constant throughout the story. Gatsby tells Nick that his purpose for bringing him out here was that he must go on a date with Jordan where she will explain further. Jordan reveals that night that Gatsby has known Daisy for five years and has been in love with her since their first encounter. Gatsby bought his house directly across from Daisy’s in hopes that she would one day wonder into one of his elaborate parties. This desperate need for Daisy is represented by the green light at the end of her dock which Gatsby is known to look to. This green symbolizes Gatsby’s dreams, how they are so close but just out of grasp and Gatsby believes that with Nick’s help these dreams can finally become reality and that green light will be put to rest. Jordan says that Gatsby wants Nick to invite Daisy over for lunch one day so that they can reacquaint themselves. From there the story really starts to pick up and finally reaches it’s shocking conclusion, but I’m not going to write about it because I’m concerned i might downplay the brilliance that is the ending of this book.

This book is an amazing book and I think that while its message may not be timeless because it was written for people in the roaring twenties I think it shows the importance that we can’t rewind time and sometimes we have to be happy with what we have, while that may not be the main message, that message is timeless.

#30 To Kill A Mockingbird

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To Kill A Mockingbird is the revolutionary story written by Harper Lee in 1960. It shook the world and was black listed from being read in elementary and middle schools all across America for and as far as my research has shown it is still being black listed in some places. It is the story of a case. A case which rips a small Alabama country apart about a man who is being accused of raping a white girl, even though it’s clear that it never happened. The only thing that keeps the case going is the fact that the man is black (Tom Robinson) , and the man prosecuting him is white (Bob Ewell) , and it’s in the 1930’s when racial prejudices ran high.

At the start of the story, Scout ( the daughter of the attorney, Atticus) is an innocent girl who doesn’t see the lines between races or ethics but is quickly thrown into a changing world where everything she saw as a true or safe is being torn down. When the story starts Scout is hanging out with her brother, Jem when they meet a neighbor of theirs who is only their over the summer (Dill) . Dill is important to the story because his innocence never changes throughout the story, while Scout grows up Dill refuses to give up on his innocence and his belief in the good of all people. The case of Tom Robinson comes about when a lonely poor white girl is out in her front yard, her family – the Ewell’s – is extremely poor and is considered to be the outcasts of society even if they are white. One day this poor girl decides that she should invite Tom over to fix something for her, little does Tom know that she has feelings for him and then she throws herself on him and while he’s pushing her off Mr. Ewell see’s and lies about it in order to punish Tom and hide his shame that his daughter is in love with a black man. This results in the case which seems to shatter Macomb Alabama. Dill is a prime example of how things should have gone. Dill knew that Tom had done nothing, as did everyone else, but in the end the adults decided to convict where Dill would have let Tom go. The thing that’s special about Dill is that even after these serious flaws in humanity became present to him, he never stopped believing in people. Jem saw the case as a way to ruin his view of society. After he realized the fails of those humans who juried for the case he gave up on society which is a complete contrast to Dill’s idea about society.   Scout saw this case as a way to grow. It showed her the power that race has on society and although it may have complicated her life she grew from it and I feel as though even if it changed her world she felt more secure where she was at the end of the book then at the beginning. She realizes that the color of your skin or the myths people make up about you aren’t always your whole personality, and she shows just how powerful reality is vs. what society tells you things are.

I really loved this book, and even though I have read it a bunch of times I couldn’t remember all of the details and it made me realize that I need to reread this book. This book has a much more simplistic storyline but because of my amazing english teacher I am able to understand the deep symbolic meanings of the story, and that’s what I wrote about in this articles summary. I think anyone who is old enough to understand that racism exists and the issues that come with it should read this book just so that they understand even better the issues that are still around today even if the book was written about a time period almost a hundred years ago.

#29 The Catcher in the Rye

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The novel The Catcher in the Rye was written by J.D. Salinger and ended up getting published in 1951. Holden Caulfield is the narrator of the story and even at the beginning of the story it is clear just how different he is from the people around him. The rest of the story is his struggle towards becoming a true adult and the consequences that he goes through for not having an adult mindset

At the beginning of the story we find Holden in his dorm room while the rest of his high school is outside watching a sporting event. Soon after he learns that he is going to be expelled from his school so he leaves three days early, he states that everyone is phony. As he heads out he goes towards New York City, the city that never sleeps, but also where his parents live. As the story progresses we learn that part of Holden’s social disability comes from the death of his younger brother Allie Caulfield. He believed that his brother was the best one in the house hold and that this death seemed to have set him back so that he can never believe in the goodness that humanity has. Then while in New York he meets up with an old girlfriend of his and realizes how phony she is, they end the night with a huge fight and he ends up going to a bar. during the middle of the book it is clear that his mental state is clearly declining, he starts to think of suicide because it feels to him as though there isn’t any other route to growing up other than to never grow up. His final moment before he crosses over into adult hood is when he is truly down on his luck, he’s with his sister and he see’s her on a carousel. This sparks a memory of his with Alfie and he realizes that in order to grow up people have to experience things even if it can hurt them. At the very end of the story we find him an emotional adult who is in the hospital reflecting back on the past couple weeks

I really enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye but I don’t think that kids can read it and actually understand the total depth of the story. If you are an adult though I would seriously recommend it.

#28 Hotel Life: The Story of a Place Where Anything Can Happen

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Hotel Life is a book which dives into the real meaning of hotels. What society has said hotels really mean and what the hidden meaning and power of hotels really is. This thought provoking book was co-written by Matthew Pratt Guterl and Caroline Field Levander in 2015. When people are proposed the question why did you stay at a hotel? People often reply with something along the lines of “I was on the road and I needed a place to sleep,” but that is a simple utilitarian answer which doesn’t fully convey the “unspoken needs, wants, hopes, and desires” which often people believe a hotel can give them.

The novel is broken down into four parts of hotel life, space, time, scale, and affect. Each one of these aspects is what makes the importance of the everyday hotel room.

In the start of the aspect of space the novel addresses a movie written back in the 1930’s called Grand Hotel. The movie begins with an overhead shot of a telephone wire, while you can’t hear any one conversation it is apparent that everyone seems to be living great lives. You hear an old man say “All the best people are here.” Now know that this scene was filmed during the Great Depression and was made to keep people’s hopes up. Showing that just the idea of a hotel can make a safe space. The contrapositive of this very open very happy “space” was a hostile environment which showed that not always are hotels the safe place that Grand Hotel portrayed them as. The example used in the novel is Charlie Sheen and the great disaster in the Plaza Hotel. One night Charlie Sheen desecrated a hotel room and was found with alleged porn-actress Capri Anderson locked in the bathroom. He had caused more than twenty thousand dollars in property damage and had to be constrained by the police before Capri would leave the hotel room. This particular story shows a complete contrast to the safe space which was the Grand Hotel. This two stories have become complete reverses of each other representing different views on how space can be used.

In the other section of the four that I will discuss-affect-the novel talks about what sort affect a hotel can have on someone who can go the whole 9 yards and buy a gaudy hotel room lavish with sweets and king sized beds but it can also be a place where fortunes can be undone. At the start of this section we are presented the idea that when the rich go to a hotel they go to “hit the refresh button on their bodies, souls, and sexualities within the hotel”. The book shows us that when the wealthy and upper class go to a hotel they go to have a great time and party and altogether just relax. While that is the success side to a hotel the failure side is a lot chancier. While on the success side it is the side of a lucky person who went to a vegas hotel or someone who has millions of dollars lying around. On the side of Failure we have the lone human being who thinks that if they go to a hotel they could experience a piece of wealth or become the lucky man who went on to win millions at the vegas games. This man at the end though goes home with less money in his pocket and the realization that he may never be rich and that whenever he goes into a hotel he realizes just how far away he is from the lavish life that the rich live. He walks away believing that he has in some way been cheated from the wealth that the upperclass have or the luck that some other man had during a fortuitous game of black Jack. While the man with a fortune walks away feeling revitalized in every way, the failure walks away feeling as though he has been beaten and has not really gained anything in the way of their hotel trip. Those two opposite affects make up the layout of a  hotel man’s experience.

I didn’t address the other two sections because I didn’t want this entry to seem to long or to make reading the book unnecessary. This book takes a strictly academic course which will more often than not discourage most casual readers. I would say that this is definitely an adult read due to the in-depth analysis of  “the cultural, social, and political implications” of a simple hotel stay. Personally I think this book is a great book, but it is a bit of a hard read.

#27 Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus

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Frankenstein has become a living legend in today’s society. Kids dress up as “the Creature,” which is commonly mistaken for Frankenstein.  The novel was published by Mary Shelley in 1817. It was a wonder that it was published at all, because at that time women didn’t normally publish things. Frankenstein is the story of a mad scientist who gives life to a creature, shuns it, and then bears the repercussions of that action.

The main characters are Frankenstein and the Creature. Frankenstein is a scientist who separates himself from all other men in his pursuit of science. The Creature was created by Frankenstein during a lightning storm and then he was abandoned. Frankenstein at first saw the beauty in his creation, and then in a fit he ran away, casting it out causing it to be alone. The creature was born totally innocent, but because it wasn’t raised at all it had to learn for itself between good and evil. You can assume that its perception of good and evil wasn’t ideal to say the least. It was born alone and angry at its creator, Frankenstein.

It then travels around until it comes upon Frankenstein’s little brother and then, in a fit of rage, murders him. This causes Frankenstein to rush home to mourn with his family. On the way home, he wanders around the area where his brother died and see’s the creature and deep down knows that it is him who killed his brother. A little while later, he confronts the creature who asks him for a significant other. At first he believes it to be a simple and smart request – until his project is almost done and then he worries that the creatures will sire offspring. He then destroys his second creation, causing the original creature to promise Frankenstein that he will see him on his wedding night. He holds true to his word and murders Frankenstein’s bride the night of their wedding.

Frankenstein starts off slow, but starts picking up towards the middle and became something that I just couldn’t put down until the end. I would say that you should read it if you’re up for a challenge. It’s a tough book to get through.

#26 Sherlock Holmes The Red Tower

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The Red Tower is a classic. It is the continuation of a multitude of Sherlock Novel which are set all over England. The story is set in 1894 at in the Crain manner a place set on the outskirts of civilization. Watson is invited there by an old friend, James Crain, who has recently taken up with a bunch of spiritualist. James invites Watson and a handful of other higher-ups to try to prove to them that the spiritualists ideals are true. While performing a séance, Madame Farr (the spiritualist leader) appears to summon the “Red Lady”. A woman who cursed the house of the Crain’s and certainly spells doom to a single Crain on the night of her appearance. As per the rumor Crain’s sister passes away in a locked room leaving everyone to guess who did it.

The main characters are Watson, a detective second to Sherlock Holmes. Crain, a man desperate to cling to the hope that his mom is still alive, at least in the spirit world. Finally there is Madame Farr who is a conniving monster whose only goal is to manipulate James into tearing his whole family apart.

At the beginning of the story everyone is happy and safe, but then James calls a seance lead by Madame Farr which uncovers some dark secrets from each of them, but worst of all it leads to the death of Esther, Crain’s sister. Her death causes the father such a shock that he dies. Then Watson calls in Sherlock and the start to solve the case. They learn that while Madame Farr did not kill Esther she has killed other people in attempts to get a fortune like James’. We learn that Esther was actually suffering from cancer, she ended up killing herself though and trying to frame it on Madame Farr. The Final and most terrible secret is that James was addicted to drugs after his mother died and he was still hooked to it, and it never allowed him to let go.

This book was not very great, but I had read it for summer reading, all in all it was pretty boring. My opinions a little onsided though so I would advise you read the book before agreeing with my opinion.