family, Parenting, reading, Young Adult fiction

Why Adults Should Absolutely Read YA

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Well, nothing like going in, guns blazing, with a hot topic discussion post at the start of the year!

First, how are you all? Did you survive the holidays? Thinking about emerging from the turkey dinner stupor to face the world? Still hiding under piles of discarded wrapping paper with bows and tinsel stuck in your hair?

Well, however you find yourself, I shall welcome you back! Let’s get right to it, then!

A few weeks ago, I read part of a rather irksome/disturbing thread on social media; the jist is that there are a lot of people over the age of 21 who strongly feel that anyone who is old enough to legally drink, get married, join the military, and live on their own should not be reading Young Adult fiction.

Excuse me?? Number one, when were the Reading Police established?! Number two, what is wrong with teachers, parents, pediatricians, school counselors and adolescent therapists knowing what our kids are reading?

And even more, what about those authors who write what our kids will be reading? How can they possibly know what their audience is interested in, or lacking, if they don’t connect with 12-17-year-olds?

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Years ago, parents could just let their kids pick up a novel from the YA/juvenile section in the bookstore or library, and be pretty confident that the content would be acceptable for their age. There were plenty of authors that tackled tough subjects like death, disease, drug use, sex before marriage with tact and in a way of presenting facts and both sides of the debate.

Nowadays teen readers are apparently told to go get stoned, get physically intimate, drive too fast, skip school, turn the air blue with their language. Don’t any of these authors have kids themselves?! Would they really want their own precious darlings behaving this way?

As a parent and a YA author myself, I take this responsibility very seriously. I’m not at all naive — I’m totally aware that nowadays many adults consider kids knowing all kinds of sexual lifestyles, swear words, and various political views to not be a bad thing. Well, I — an informed adult — disagree. It’s one thing to be well-educated; it’s another to instill harmful perspectives on young minds that are still forming their views and ambitions.

Warning: The Invisible Moth is officially jumping on her soapbox.

Encouraging teenagers to wait to have sex because they are too special to give their body to just anyone is showing we love them and believe in them to become solid, confident, well-adjusted future wives and husbands. Telling them the consequences of unprotected sex reinforces that we want them to remain healthy and emotionally whole. 

Warning them against using drugs and too much alcohol helps them develop self-care habits that could last a lifetime. Discipline and high self-esteem will provide our future doctors, teachers, parents, leaders with the power to change society, for the better, for generations to come. Showing them that a clean path can also be fun sets them on course for a productive, respect-filled life. 

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Okay, stepping off the soapbox.

Now, here’s why the idea of anyone “grown-up” reading YA is silly is just: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

1.) YA fiction is simply FUN. Since most children/adolescents aren’t past the point of wanting to believe — at least a little — in mythical creatures or flying cars or that you can access another world through your closet, the possibilities in a YA book are endless. 

What adult in the 21st century (with reality being so damn hard most of the time) wants to only read about fictional characters whining that they can’t get a date? Who cares?! Get out of your own grumpy head and go read about storming the castle and saving the endangered race of beautiful talking unicorns! Dream about being a hero! Don’t lose that passion!

2.) YA fiction provides an escape. Yes, most of us know very well that animals don’t really speak human, hypogriffs aren’t legal pets, and we’ll probably never get to live in a magical library. So?? Let us pretend for a few hours!

Children who regularly use their imagination often grow into big people who invent new technology, new medicines, the prototypes for hovercars, more effective academic systems, tools and inventions that make our lives better. LET US IMAGINE.

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3.) Parents and teens reading together is valuable. In recent years, too many high-schoolers don’t communicate or bond with their elders. Yes, this is a problem, trust me. Concurrently reading the same book or series with your 14-year-old is important. Find a subject that interests you both, and take it from there.

White Fang and I have both read and discussed Harry Potter, Warriors, The Illuminae Files, and Beaumont and Beasley, among others. This activity also gives you a great starting point for discussing tough issues, and encouraging your kids to do their research and develop their own points of view.

4.) Not all of us with a certain date on our birth certificates enjoy reading stuff aimed at that age group. I flatout find most murder mysteries/romances/spy thrillers downright formulaic and dull. Yes, I know that I’m somewhat of a square peg in a round hole in this instance. But it’s a fact, and it’s not changing anytime soon.

While I don’t necessarily want to read about being in high school, either, there are plenty more fantasy and speculative fiction choices among the YA sections than the adult. Plus lots of fantasy YA authors still take care to keep their language and explicit content to a minimum, whereas for adults, apparently ALL the barriers have come down. That just isn’t my thing.

5.) If you don’t have a long attention span or not much free time to read, novels aimed at juveniles are usually less than 400 pages long. This is a big deal for me, since my spare time is certainly limited, and if I can make it to the end of the paragraph without losing my place, then, wow, it’s an awesome evening!

Also, since I currently carry all my library books literally on my back, there is just no way in Hades I’m attempting to haul the latest 650-page New York Times bestsellers. No way, sir.

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6.) Whether it’s my personality, my mindset, worldview or whatever, I simply relate better to characters in YA. If you present me with an adult character who’s narrating about whether they can squeeze in an extra 10 minutes at the gym, or if they interpreted the fine print in their car lease properly, I will be either falling asleep or using the book as a footstool.

Whereas, show me the elf who’s hoping to return the enchanted sword to its sacred mountain before the kraken’s released, and I’m on the edge of my seat. Any night I spend reading Warriors will result in big stupid grins and lots of tears on my face. Finding out a secret about a beloved Clan cat will resonate with me for months.

7.) Reading about characters who aren’t jaded yet, full of hope and plans and enthusiasm, makes you want to have that again. Remember when you were in kindergarten, and making an extra blanket into a cape was the most natural thing? When you looked to the skies with an unending sense of wanting more?

Go for that, whether you’re 25, or 30, or 40.

Save the unicorns! Rescue the flying cats! Storm the castle!

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family, historical fiction, movies

Presenting What We See Versus What We Hope For: Historical Fiction

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This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. We live in an age where certain things — like racism, sexism, and discrimination — are considered wrong, but this wasn’t always the case in the world. While I am 110% for preserving authentic historical representation (even the stuff we don’t like is important not to cover up, folks), I also feel it’s important to portray a healthy viewpoint for the next generation — especially since we truly hope they’ll live understanding, tolerance and acceptance much more than previous eras of humans.

 

Last night, White Fang and I watched Leap!, which is supposed to be a cute kids’ movie about a pair of French orphans who run away to Paris in the late 19th century to follow their dreams of being a ballerina and an inventor. Now, the premise is fine. But the plot that unfolds is riddled with holes — more holes than 10 slices of Swiss cheese.

The filmmakers have the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty being built at the same time (hint: that didn’t happen), the main character wearing denim (again, would not have happened in mid-1880s France, especially for girls), all the dialogue being very modern, most of the soundtrack 2010+ pop hits, two 12-year-old orphans running around the city like they own it, and a girl with zero previous training becoming an expert ballet student in less than a month.

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Now, while I expect some suspension of disbelief to be necessary with animated movies aimed at 4th-graders, this is taking it too far. As a classically trained dancer myself, I know for a cold, hard (and often very painful and achy) fact that there is simply NO WAY ON EARTH a girl who didn’t even know the basic 5 positions would be starring in The Nutcracker about two weeks later.

Yes, there is a great message in “don’t give up on your dreams, work hard and keep trying.” BUT we have to present realistic goals and ambitions for our kids. If we’re going to encourage little girls (and little boys!) to enroll in ballet classes for the love of dancing, they also need to know that learning a skill — any skill — requires constant practice, self-discipline, and competition. Some of the other pupils in your dance class will always want to be better than you, not support your progress, not be a team player. You won’t get every role you audition for — you may never get to be Clara in The Nutcracker — and you need to be okay with that.

Back to my point about getting the historical details right: The filmmakers also didn’t know anything about The Nutcracker — its first performance was in 1892 (which definitely wouldn’t coincide with the building of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty). Nor is it just a duet (there are whole big scenes with tons of dancers and vivid costumes and a sort of fairytale to it all), as the movie claimed.

And — this was quite disturbing to White Fang and me — there were a couple scenes where an 18-year-old boy was hitting on a 12-year-old girl. Now, while that’s (disgustingly) more historically correct, these days we would absolutely label that child abuse and make sure it was stopped. Can we — seriously, Hollywood — please NOT release a film that suggests that kind of behavior is totally acceptable?

AND a film that clearly shows it will take you approximately 4-6 years of lessons and busting your butt to be Clara in a professional company’s performance of The Nutcracker?

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My complaints on this issue are about far more than blurring the lines between what happened and what we wished had occurred in history. It’s about establishing what a healthy attitude is towards life now, based on where we’ve come from. The rather 1950s Disney version of “happily ever after” is not realistic, and should not be anticipated. We will have to struggle with disappointments, missed chances, mistakes, and other people not liking us (no matter how nice we are to them).

The only thing I liked about Leap! was the fact that the main character did not give up on her dream, despite her poverty, her lack of formal training, the disadvantages her culture threw in her way. Yet, the extremely impossible way in which she got there meant that impressionable young minds will still be swayed in the wrong direction.

I really, really want 21st century girls to understand that their ancestors had to fight for the laws that protect them from child marriage, not being able to choose their occupation, and just being treated as property by men. I really, really want them (and their male peers) to respect the advances we’ve made and not take them for granted. How do I convince my sons that sexual harassment is wrong if they see it in a movie released in 2017?

We currently have a very disjointed, unbalanced view of the past that we’re portraying to the children of today. Not all white people were evil racist bigots. Not all men were sexist pigs. Not all little girls who wanted to be ballerinas danced in Paris.

We need to find a better way to objectively state facts, accept that we can’t change them, and get over it, so that we can pour our present energies into changing perspectives and behavior that we publicly proclaim should not be a part of our lifetimes.

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family, health, writing

Hello from the Other Side…

So, this past week the Muffin and I were sick. Really sick. The sort of can’t-breathe-can’t-sleep-can’t-eat-for-coughing sick. BLEHHHHH.

It was a very, very hard week. There were times I literally could not get off the couch, or recliner, or floor. The snot was an uphill battle. The aches and chills made me fear for the safety of my joints. Sleep was a rare, precious gem.

I have not been that sick in quite some time.

Muffin did not make the process of getting better very easy. He was a massive pain in the rear. He wouldn’t nap, or blow his nose, or stop throwing a tantrum when we asked him to let us wipe up the snot. (At least he cooperated for the doctor.)

There was a lot of other crap going on, too. We were out of everything, at once. (Doesn’t that always happen, though?) The weather — thanks to recent hurricanes — was downright miserable until yesterday. Since Muffin and I weren’t sleeping well, tempers were short.

All of this combined meant that by Thursday, I was utterly exhausted.

I did manage to post a couple pre-scheduled blogs, and keep up on my social media, and even engage with others a little (in the form of comments), partly to keep my own sanity. But there was far too much else that I had to let slide.

I have packages to mail that won’t be going out until next week. Future blog posts are definitely up for debate.

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And my plan of completing the Volume 2 revisions this week went completely out the window.

And although I know there was a very good reason for it, I still feel bad.

After all, I have been trying to finish this particular story since April, and I really wanted to get all the plot holes filled up and the characters flushed out by October 1st. So that I can do NaNo if I want to. Also because there are people eagerly awaiting Volume 2. I know this for a fact, as they’ve told me. (And not to sound intensely selfish, but I am not made of a money-growing tree, and some sales would be nice.)

But after this week, I’ve begun to rethink a few things.

The concept of attempting NaNo this year feels equivalent to Frodo and Mount Doom and the One Ring. Or escaping Smaug without getting fried to a crisp. Or winning the Scorpio Races. You get the idea. I am quickly realizing that to spend my November on a brand new, timed-down-to-the-wire project would not be wise.

Last year, I was honestly really proud of myself for finishing NaNo (although my family was not supportive in the slightest after the end of week 2, and in fact became a major pain in the neck — #sorrynotsorry for saying that out loud). But this year — which I was originally expecting to be easier — is now seeming like an even greater monster.

However, I do have writing to accomplish. At least the bare bones of Volume 3 and the companion prequel to the series. And I know that having the deadline of NaNo helps inspire the discipline to create something and get it into some formation.

BUUUUT…

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When something happens like getting hit with an unexpected flu, something that is easily fixed in the grand scale of things, and yet in the moment completely throws off your whole schedule and leaves you scrambling to pick up the pieces those first few days, it makes you remember what you’re really trying to accomplish.

This isn’t a huge philosophical statement (it was just a week of upper respiratory misery). But seeing how my whole household nearly came crashing down just because I was out of commission (which is not a good thing in itself — don’t take your mothers/wives for granted, guys) made me feel that the burden is simply too heavy.

So, this fall, I will make sure Volume 2 becomes the best it can be. And I won’t guilt myself into entering a writing contest.

Or stress out about my blog stats.

Or sign up for any more ARCs. Or panic if I haven’t reviewed every single book I’ve ever finished on Goodreads.

Really. I swear.

You get the idea.

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blogging, family, reading, writing

Time to Start the Monthly Recaps!

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Hello there! So, haven’t I said this before, that I was going to start doing monthly update posts of what in general was going on? Didn’t I then abandon all such attempts a few months ago? Okay! We’re going for this again!

It’s a really good way to squeeze in all the details you meant to relate about certain topics, projects, or reasons for forgetting — er, I mean, accidentally neglecting other tasks or plans. And since I just found out today is July 30th, it feels like a good time…

Is it just me, or did July kind of…get cut short somewhere? Is there a nefarious force at work in the universe that is actually stealing hours or even whole weeks from our planet? Or maybe just American calendars…

What am I talking about? Oh, right — monthly wrap-up and review.

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So, here’s a quick overview of what July was like for me in writing:

My head exploded. Okay, not literally. But there were days when it was close. I finished the beta-read version of my Volume 2 manuscript, which was going to be Camp NaNo for me, but I changed my mind on about July 1st, because I could tell that simply wasn’t going to work. I was feeling pressured, and planning to stick to a deadline just…well, ker-splush.

I did, however, for many intents and purposes, complete the latest draft of Volume 2. This is important, since it means I can now look forward to editing once I get the feedback from my beta readers (cries a little on behalf of the suffering they are about to endure), and preparing for my next releases!

I have officially decided on switching publishing companies. Technically this isn’t writing itself (meaning not pen to paper or keyboard to screen), but it’s still a very vital part of the whole process. Since conducting all sales and shipping myself has become a bit of a handful, I shall be making future releases through a self-publishing website (which one has yet to be 100% determined) that will handle orders and distribution for me.

So, look for a new edition of Volume 1 (with new cover and available online — same content as the first edition!) pretty soon (I’m aiming for sometime in September). If you already purchased my first printing (thankyouthankyouthankyou!), and wish to own the re-release as well, I shall make sure the new edition is offered at a low price.

And then Volume 2 should be available before the end of fall! My goal is to schedule an official date for that while summer is still with us!

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Now, onto what reading was like for me in July:

I am a bundle of sadness because I polished off my TBR… And so many of the reads I’d been looking forward to were disappointing packets of meh. Not that everything I picked up was terrible — not at all, in fact! But my issues are the following:

Too much of what is currently on the market simply does not appeal to me. There are tons of new releases in the last couple of months that I just could not give two random apricots about, and it means I am rapidly running out of new things to read. (The horror.)

I prefer shorter books, so that I can go through them quicker. The down side — I go through them quicker. Yes, this seems a bit silly, since I just stated I prefer novels that only run about 220-300 pages. It is a personal, and practical, choice, and often it works. However, if I don’t have several shorter books lined up, then…yeah, eventually my TBR sort of vanishes of its own accord.

On the plus side — I read two ARCs, Chivalry’s Children and Tomb of the Sea Witch, both by indie authors, which is definitely encouraging my goals to promote more self-published works! And with my birthday coming up, I’ll have a chance to place some orders for indie titles that I’ve heard really good things about!

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A look at life in general around The Invisible Moth:

White Fang is in film camp for the second summer. He is becoming a master at cinematic editing. Way cool for my future programmer to add that to his list of skills. As part of this camp, he has also gone swimming, to a nature center, been to see Wonder Woman and Spiderman: Homecoming, and generally has more of a life than I have in ages.

Muffin was accepted into the special needs preschool program we’ve been on the waiting list for. This is a big deal because having all his services (physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy) come to the house is getting a bit tedious for me; and he needs constant exposure to age-appropriate special ed — which is, of course, so much easier for a classroom run by 3 or 4 formally-trained adults to pull off, than one rather stressed and harried mom trying to also clean and work from home.

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And here’s what I have planned for August:

My birthday approacheth. I am already too old for my liking, and I shall only be growing older. (Who could’ve guessed that would happen?!) I have until the 14th to make my peace (or not) with this cold, hard truth.

We are expecting visitors in the middle of the month. We don’t often have company (lots of reasons for that), and these visitors are two of my most favorite people in the world (and I completely mean that), so my family will be very blessed by this occasion.

There will be the premiere of White Fang’s finished camp film, and preschool orientation for Muffin. Pretty self-explanatory; still, big things that we’re looking forward to.

Hope July went well for all of you, moths! And here’s to August not leaping off the calendar pages into oblivion!

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Autism, family, Parenting

Runt, Inc.

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Years ago, when White Fang was little, we referred to him as “the Runt.” Obviously he grew out of physically or emotionally fitting that title, yet we still fondly remember. We joked that the name of our family business (which we do not have) should be Runt, Inc.

Now we do actually have a Runt once again. But interestingly, we don’t refer to Muffin that way. It’s like White Fang secured that term so concretely in our memories that we never even considered applying it to Muffin.

Yet in so many ways Muffin does fit the idea of “a runt.” He was tiny when he was born, and he’s still a pretty little guy. However, White Fang certainly taught us that “runts” are not to be underestimated.

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White Fang was diagnosed ASD at age 4. He couldn’t speak proper words or sentences then. He needed occupational therapy and went to a special needs preschool for a year. He only graduated from speech therapy in 6th grade.

But he’s also spent those years learning to play percussion, singing in chorus, making the honor roll, and now he’s a programmer in training.

Muffin spent the first week of his life in the NICU. He still has to go to physical and speech therapy, and has fought hard to be as mobile as he is. He survived jaundice, acid reflux, lazy eye (and its surgery).

White Fang has sensory issues with texture, smell, and taste that mean he’s not a fun person to cook for. But he’s a master at changing diapers.

He and Muffin already have a very strong brotherly bond. I already know they will be there for each other in ways I can’t even imagine yet. White Fang knows what it’s like to have a rough start in life, and that you don’t have to let that define you. Muffin only knows his big brother takes care of him and plays with him and looks out for him. But he loves White Fang, too; and to Muffin, the ASD is normal. I have a feeling he’ll have White Fang’s back in ways we can’t even imagine yet.

So, yeah, don’t underestimate the runts.

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Autism, family

The Lens

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We all see the world through a lens. We often don’t want to admit it, but it’s true.

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But we need to speak up. Not the neurotypical folks who profess to have our corner — those of us on the spectrum. A lot of NTs do love us and support us being who we are — no forced conforming, no cure. And that’s the part I want to address right now.

We are not “broken.” We do not need to be “cured.” We are simply a way of living, a way of being that the rest of the world hasn’t caught onto yet.

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I put all these pleasant pictures in this post to remind myself that I don’t want to go on a rant today. There are other things I have to get to, and they feel more important this morning than focusing on the negative.

In a very loud and busy world, we are the quiet, the simplicity, the sense of taking a deep breath for the pure reason of feeling the sensation of our body and mind filling with fresh air.

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We hold up a lens to the world, and adjust it until we find the stillness, the colors, the tranquility of rest.

We love, we laugh, we observe. We think, we explore.

We create music and art, we write and some of us dance. We know the power of words and feelings, maybe better than most.

We hope to be accepted, because we really don’t see any reason to change our perspective.

Being appreciated as we are, and even respected, would be just great.

Hopefully one day there will be no need to adjust others’ lenses.

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family, movies

My New Favorite Movies

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We watch a lot of movies in my house. Cable television isn’t a complete waste of money these days, but getting close, so we’re soon going to be cutting back on certain services, and we’re sick and tired of all the repeats and/or stuff we don’t watch anyway, er, anyway. Even the kids are getting bored of the “seen it…seen it…seen it” bit. So, we’ve been making the most of our Netflix account and the local library to watch things we haven’t seen a hundred times before. Therefore, I have developed some new favorites, and I am going to share them with you today, because my brain can apparently think of nothing else to post about  I am a generous soul who wants to broaden your horizons.

Doctor Strange

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For those of you who have already seen this masterpiece of fun and excitement and tributes to the art of M.C. Escher, this will come as no surprise. Over Christmas vacation, we were in the mall, and of course this title was everywhere, having recently been released on disc, and I was drooling rather badly. My husband actually said, “What’s that about, again?”, but I let it slide, because he tends to do that. Rather than letting the moment escape, I grabbed a copy off the rack and said, “We are getting this one.” It worked; we purchased it, and viewed it a few days later.

Kubo and the Two Strings

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White Fang and I watched this a couple weeks ago, and we were both moved by how complex and astounding the plot is. Just by watching a preview, you could tell the art was going to be the most MARVELOUS thing since never before; but having interesting characters and a lot of twists and heart really help make this film a true stand-out. If you haven’t seen it yet, do it, do it, do it!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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White Fang has decided he wants to become Newt and take care of all the beasts in the suitcase. I can’t say I blame him. Constructed against the backdrop of 1920s New York City, we get to see a glimpse into the workings of the American wizarding world, and Newt is the most precious Aspie wizard ever (come on, I know I’m not the only one who saw that).

Finding Dory

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This is my opinion of Finding Nemo — “blehhhh.” This is my feels on Finding Dory — “Oh my gosh, that’s so sweet, that’s so funny, oh my gosh, I am loving this!!!” Of course the animation — just being released on Blu-Ray this year — is top-notch and absolutely gorgeous. But again, if the plot and characters don’t contribute, the whole thing can fall flat. I love the premise of this film. The whole idea of using these fun marine animals to address various challenges is awesomely executed. The filmmakers explored things like injuries and impairments (memory loss, agoraphobia, and more) in a very realistic, sensitive, and overall beautiful way.

Happy viewing!

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