It’s been a while since a new show absolutely enthralled me, so I was actually very excited for last night’s premiere of RISE on NBC.

I am a sucker for musicals. I love high school drama. I love Friday Night Lights and This Is Us…this show had all the ingredients of something I’d love.

And, ok, RISE is not bad. It’s actually relatively good, but let’s look at a synopsis –>

RISE stars Regular Joe teacher, Lou Mazzuchelli aka Lou Mazzu (aside: can we discuss how amazing this name is?) who aspires to take over his school’s struggling drama department. Also in the cast of characters includes the star football player with a hidden talent, a queen bee, a newcomer with an amazing voice, the kid with the overly strict parents, the disapproving school staff, and the skeptical spouse.

Now, if you’re reading this and thinking, “Hmm…this all seems oddly familiar. Didn’t someone do this show already?” You’re absolutely right. And it was called Glee.

RISE is essentially Glee filmed with Friday Night Lights-style cinematography. For the entire 40-some odd minutes I honestly just sat there and laughed at the similarities. And Glee definitely went off the rails relatively quickly, but you cannot deny that the pilot and the front 13 of the first season was immensely quality television. Comedy with heart. A ragtag group of kids who learn to love and respect each other while doing something they all love.

First things first, Josh Radnor cannot carry a show. I’m sorry. I do not understand why he keeps getting cast as a lead.

Secondly, granted, I went to Catholic school and our school plays consisted of a rotating schedule of Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but is Spring Awakening like legitimately performed in high schools? It’s an AMAZING show, do not read me wrong. But this seems hella, super risque, especially for a school.  And the fact that Lea MIchele aka Rachel Berry originated the role of Wendla is also just a fun coincidence.

Thirdly, if Robbie doesn’t have some variation of this conversation this season, I’ll eat a handful of Carolina Reapers:

Adult: But, you’re throwing away your dream!
Robbie: No. I’m throwing away YOURS.

Fourthly and tangently, RISE going the “we’re-going-to-blackmail-the-QB-into-auditioning” angle, it made me think of Finn and Will and the Chronic Lady and I got all sentimental because first season Glee, man…

For the remaining 10 episodes, I just hope that RISE separates itself from Glee and goes more the FNL route. I definitely think this show has potential and I am very much looking forward to hearing Spring Awakening music every week. I trust you, Jason Katims, but if you kill off Ted Mosby’s wife I will drop you like it’s hot.

Did you watch the RISE premiere? Any thoughts?

REVIEW: A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

My face looked exactly like the cover for the 820 pages of this book.

Imagine every single horrific thing that could happen to a person. They happen to Jude. Yes, everything. The entire time you’re itching to reach through the pages and give the poor guy a hug.  Dude has been through the wringer.

And if you’re looking for a “I get by with a little help from my friends” sort of story, you’re only going to be marginally satisfied. This book is brutal. B-R-U-T-A-L.

A LITTLE LIFE follows four friends, Willem, Malcolm, J.B., and Jude, from college (where they meet) into old age.  Each guy has their individual challenges: J.B. is a drug addict, Malcolm is questioning his sexuality, and Willem is an aspiring actor (I think that’s ’nuff said).

Then we have Jude. The mysterious, ever elusive Jude.

Throughout the first section, we learn as much about Jude as his friends know: he’s an extremely quiet person who reveals little to none of his past. His racial background is ambiguous. His sexuality is never defined.  All they know is that they feel an innate desire to protect him from the world, Willem in particular.

Starting with section two, our POV switches to Jude and we get an extremely detailed first hand account of the horrors he experienced as a child, as a grown man, and how they’ve shaped him into the person he is today.

You’re either going to love this book or you’re going to absolutely hate it. I am positive that there is no in-between here.

Ok. Real talk: this is hands down the most depressing and emotionally-wrought book I have ever read. And I live for depressing and dark books. The trigger warnings are up the WAZOO. Self-harm, emotional abuse, pedophilia, rape, suicide…Basically you are even the slightest bit iffy about any of these things, this is NOT the book for you.

Yanagihara writes beautifully, but it’s graphic. No holds barred. By the time you close this book the final time, you will feel like you know Jude on an extremely intimate level. While covering the lives of Willem, J.B., and Malcolm, as well, A LITTLE LIFE is a 800+ page character study of Jude. And it’s brilliant in its simplicity and portrait of a broken man.


Over the course of his life, Jude attempts suicide multiple times and the book finishes with him finally succeeding. Throughout A LITTLE LIFE, Jude tries over and over to make the best of his life. He tries to get better and he just doesn’t. By the time he actually does kill himself, it feels like an inevitable conclusion. Yanagihara said in an interview,

“It’s not that I don’t think people can’t overcome great trauma, but I think for some people, there is a line. There’s an amount. And they’re not able to come back from it.” 

Whether you agree with this statement or not, the death of Jude feels like a release. And then you’ll sit with your pool of tears and mangled heart and contemplate the meaning of life.

The bottom line: If you can stomach it, I highly recommend A LITTLE LIFE. You’re going to cry and you’re going get angry and you’re going to feel emotionally spent. But the payoff is so worth it and completely deserving of being a National Book Award finalist. ✰✰✰✰✰