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Posts tagged “coming of age

Express Book Review: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

We need new names : a novel

Everyone is going to love this book.

I thought it was awesome, and have been recommending it to library patrons like crazy.

The basic plot is that Darling and her peers grow up in a shantytown in Zimbabwe with memories of the past (when they had school and food and before their town got bulldozed to make way for fancy rich people houses) and dreams for the future (move to America or to the fancy rich people houses that were built atop their old neighborhood). The surprisingly plucky and resilient kids (despite some pretty gnarly circumstances) steal fruit from the rich, play games in the dirt, and have some surprising impressions of their sparse interactions with NGO workers. It’s simultaneously heartbreaking and warming, told in really talented writing.

Eventually Darling moves to America to live with her aunt. Her new life has shelter and indoor plumbing and plenty of food- but there is a whole slough of new issues for Bulawayo to skillfully tell the story of. For reals, just check out a copy.


Book Review: Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters

Far from Xanadu

Who: Closeted teenage lesbian weightlifter/plumber/softballer Mike

What: While dealing with her dad’s death, her messed up family, and her “blossoming” sexuality, a new “big city” badgirl named Xanadu moves to town and rocks Mike’s world.

When: present day in an old-fashioned place

Where: A small town far, far away from the West Coast

A totally legit, multi-layered book. Sometimes I only believed in the characters 90%, but that might be because I’m at least 10 years older than the intended audience. But. There’s dimension and it’s well-written and things don’t all come together perfectly–  and you really do get a lot in the 282 pages that you’re given.

 


End of the Year Rush Book Review: How to Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran

How to build a girl

This book is pretty popular right now– I’ve seen a review of it in almost every magazine that I’ve opened up. Teenage Johanna Morrigan is from a family that is comically bad to epic proportions. After nerdily appearing on TV she makes herself over into a gothy music reviewer named “Dolly Wilde” and gets herself a job at the cool regional rock magazine (it’s the 1990’s so there are still cool regional rock magazines).

It’s quite an entertaining and well-written read, lots of good insight if you’re a fan of– or familiar with the real-live bands that the (possibly semi-autobiographical) character interacts with.

This is one of those cases where I learned that the author was really famous after reading the book. I just looked at Amazon– and goodness, she’s written a ton. I guess she’s on TV too?


Book Review: Adam by Ariel Schrag

Adam

About 25% into this book, I started to think Oh man, this book is hilarious but is gonna seriously ruffle some feathers.

(upon checking out the 1-stars on Amazon, the answer is yes! it did!)

The premise, alone, made people uncomfortable– and I’ll admit, is the reason why I waited for this book from the library instead of buying hot off the shelves of the store. Adam, a “typical” privileged hetero teenage boy from the ‘burbs in the Bay Area spends a Summer with his queer big sister in NYC. It turns out that her peers think he’s trans, so he plays it that way in order to get action with the older queer girls (and it works). It turns out that (even though this book definitely treads some dangerous terrain in the trans and queer department, and what the characters say and do isn’t always politically correct or right) I could’ve bought the book and been ok about it.

If you’re a person who’s ever thought about internal and external queer politics and you can read through the description without getting upset, I recommend reading Adam. I didn’t always fall in love with the characters, their motives, or their actions– but they were a really good backdrop for Schrag’s smartly pointed critiques of elements of our queer culture, different layers of privilege, sometimes superficiality, and deeper “queer insider” knowledge (it’s written by a queer insider through the gaze of an outsider discovering it for the first time). Her writing is hilarious and interesting– in addition to great pointed critiques, there are also a lot of really great cringe-worthy moments that sometimes feel kind of universal.

check it out!

 


Book Review: Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

Between here and forever

You see the cover? That’s kind of the mood of this book.

Mellow, introspective, and no big climax– but interesting enough to get me through the 250 pages.

It’s a YA novel about teenage Abby, who’s big sister (the radiant, charming, and beautiful) Tess is in a coma following an accident. Average Abby’s always felt overshadowed by Tess, and does a lot of internal processing while Tess is comatose. There’s a cute boy with issues, a surprising-to-Abby (but not to the reader) revelation about Tess, and an obnoxiously bad self-esteem that improves.

This is, indeed, a YA book. It wasn’t as lovable as Stealing Heaven, but that’s ok.

 

Check out a copy here

 


Book Review: Nochita by Dia Felix

Nochita

Whoa.

I kinda bought this one on impulse when I went on vacation and read though the book I brought faster than expected.  Glad that happened!

If you like postmodern/experimental lit or queer lit or feminist lit or lit in general you should check this one out. There are two distinct parts and they’re about the same person but they’re both really different. The narrator is not always reliable, and don’t expect to ever fully touch down in the plot. But. What the author has done with language and feeling is really awesome, and was enough to keep me reading and fascinated. The idea of re-reading a book generally makes me feel a little sick inside (I will never be that person who says they’ve read Jkjsdfghkjl x many times because they love it so much), especially when we have so many choices– but I’m kinda tempted, now that I’ve got the plot down, to go back through this one and savor the language and style a little more.

It’s published by the City Lights/ Sister Spit Collab. Omg, buy it or check it out.


Double-teen Book Reviews Edition!

I am so busy, so here is a 2fer.

Book Review: Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust BY Leanne Lieberman

Lauren Yanofsky hates the Holocaust

I appreciate that this book plays with a topic that is so often ignored by YA lit: religion. And in particular, discomfort with religion.

Our protagonist Lauren has grown up Jewish in a pretty observant family; she had a bat mitzvah, she used to go to the Jewish youth group, and she had to beg her parents to allow her to exchange the fancy Jewish private school for the ordinary public school. Oh, and she might be questioning her belief in the religion– but that’s to the side of the main point. The main point is that the boy who she’s been flirting with plays Nazi games when he gets drunk and this really appalls her because you see, in addition to it being generally messed up, she has built up multiple layers of holocaust-related trauma. And it’s starting to  seem like the entirety of her and her religion is based around the holocaust and her friends don’t understand… My description may seem clunky, but the author actually deals with it all pretty smartly.

This is a really solid book in lots of ways. It’s well-written and has surrounding friendship drama plots, coming of age stuff, imperfect relationships and choices, problematic parenting, familial imperfection.

This unusual book is quite good and it won’t take you too long to read. Check it Out!

The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis

The secret ingredient

Olivia is 16 and lives with her 2 dads in LA. The family owns a fancy little restaurant that Olivia (genius cook that she is) cooks the weekly specials for. But Oh No! the bankers are coming after the family’s restaurant and house because the business hasn’t been doing so hot. Meanwhile, Olivia gets a really cool part time job, bends some legal rules to try to meet her birth-mom (she’s adopted), spends time with a boy from her past, and encounters a lovely little dose of magic. What will happen?!?!

This is a nice read that covers lots of ground and has a good amount of dimension. I wish there was more character depth and physical description of people and outfits, but that’s just me. There are some really good and detailed descriptions of the food– and I guess that’s closer to where the plot’s at anyway. I’d been missing magic, and this had a tidy little dose of it. Get a copy!


Book Review: If there’s a Heaven Above by Andrew Demcak

If there's a heaven above

Small press gem! It’s the 1980’s. 18 y/o gay goth Matt lives in the ‘burbs near LA with his mom and step dad. Works at May Company. Spends his free time with his gothy girl bff’s getting fucked up, listening to music, buying stuff, going to clubs.

Interesting, upbeat writing, and if you were around in the 80’s– or know a lot about 80’s music (specifically the band Love and Rockets), you’re gonna be pretty jazzed. The writing in general is pretty good– you can tell that it might secretly be a just little bit autobiographical, and that the author might’ve been smirking a little (at himself) as he wrote it. Some of the plot devices kind of bugged me– but now that it’s been a couple weeks I’ve forgiven them. I saw Demcak read at a Radar reading and he’s a delight irl.

Check it out!

Get a copy at the library or buy one from the publisher.


Book Review: Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert

Ballads of suburbia

I totally would have loved this book as a 15 year-old. At my library it’s cataloged as an adult title, and I don’t think that fits. It’s about Kara– our protagonist– and her coming-of-agey teenage times dealing with sex, drugs, music, divorce, independence, and more. Ultimately things go bad at home, she meets some new kids, gets into some bad relationships, falls into using heroin, and OD’s. The bulk of the book is her looking back on these happenings as a now-sober youngish adult. The story itself is pretty captivating, and those of us who grew up in the 1990’s will appreciate the alternative pop culture nostalgia.

For me, it got a little too Go Ask Alice-y near the end, which was kind of a drag. But hey, it’s only one story.

I think it would do really well as a series of interconnected artistic short films.

Find a copy here.


Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments

So I read Eleanor and Park  by Rowell a bit back, and liked it pretty well. After a long wait on the reserves list at my library, Attachments finally came in. I liked it even better.

The pace is really good and the wit is super clever. The premise is very modern: Lincoln and Beth work in the same office, but never see each other, as Lincoln’s job is as a graveyard shift “internet security officer” (a.k.a. a person employed to read staff emails). But they find a way to fall for each other anyway…

Generally speaking, it’s a love story. But it’s also about coming of age (even if it’s happening a little late). I’m not sure what to write without giving away too much, but it’s really enjoyable, so taking the time to read it won’t ruin your life or anything.

Find a copy here