Epic YA fiction! American Teenage Mariam is sent against her will to live for a while with her grandmother in Egypt. She is initially pretty bummed to leave the only life she knows (her peers at school have given her lots of crap about being Egyptian-American, so she carries a heavy dose of self- and cultural distaste). It turns out her grandmother isn’t bad and there’s lots of stuff to do (as well as some time for self-discovery, first love, first adultish independence, etc). But shit kind of hits of the fan due to the revolution going on (as well as some other stuff), and lots of growing has to be done. Amidst a great story, the book also subtly does lots of good work to dispel stereotypes about the Middle East and Arabs and Islam.
I haven’t seen one quite like this before; you should Check it out!
Welcome to a new mini series: the Express Book Review!
This mini series may also be known as: I read a bunch of books but also got really busy and didn’t have time to give them proper reviews, but also though people should know about them…
The Potential Hazards of Hester Day was nuts. I chose-a-book-by-its-cover on a mad dash on my way to catch a train, and it turned out totally awesome. Our protagonist is bizarre, quirky, and smart– in a relatable, but not always entirely admirable way. The plot and characters are kind of absurd– yet at the same time, they’re not. There is a marriage, public libraries, marriage, accidental-on-purpose child abduction, a first crush/love. All kinds of good stuff.
I found this cutie in the kids’ new books section at the library. Basically, 12 year-old Grayson was born a boy but feels like a girl on the inside. In this 243 page children’s novel, Grayson deals with various life crises, blossoms in new ways, and faces some hard truths about the world.
I’m all for children’s books that navigate the tricky paths of gender identity and difficult social situations. This one not only does so (ahem) gracefully enough, but also ends on an uplifting, hopeful note that will be desirable to its audience of 10-13 year old kids. If a queer kid (or future queer kid) happens to come upon this book, he or she will probably feel both relieved and empowered. I would have.
Yay! Another queer indie! Leap is pretty good. The year is 1979 and our protagonist Rowan has just finished high school in her small town and is spending her last summer before college working at the local burger joint. There’s lots of stuff going on (as there always is when you’re 18 and on the cusp of life), but the main thing is that there’s a new girl in town and Rowan’s about to get in her first relationship…
The writing is quite good– the 223 pages give you LOTS of information. There are lots of parallel side plots, the character development is good, and certain things are left unexplained in just the right way. I’ll be looking for more from this writer.
It’s crunch time. About a week ago I decided that I wanted to read 100 books by the end of the year, and right now I’m only at 80-something. I’ll be lessening the output of my reviews in hopes that I can somehow(!) make my last-minute goal! Must take more time to read!
Two estranged brothers are tricked by their parents into taking a vacation to Italy together. The book beautifully highlights that weird but too-common way that people can fence themselves off from others without a solid reason (and then it grows into something much larger and wordless).
If you typically like David Levithan’s writing, you’ll probably like this book.I didn’t find it quite as gorgeous and sentimental as his other stuff– but it’s still a good read.
I waited for-ev-er to get this book from the library. There were hundreds of holds, and for some reason our collections people only bought a handful of copies. I read through it in what felt like a matter of minutes, so the people behind me in the library holds line won’t have to wait as long as they thought…
I really, really love sugar. Give me sweet over savory or salty any day. I occasionally wonder if this is a bad thing, but then I reach for my daily dessert and all is forgotten… But really, as a person who’s now been vegan for half my life (and a picky eater my entire life), I’m all for reading about other people’s weird and nit-picky adventures with food.
The writing in this book is really quite good– Schaub is excellent with humor and sentence architecture. There were more than a few instances where I had to re-read sentences because I was so impressed with what she did with language. This surprised me. The story is decent– I’d hoped for a little more juicy personal information since the book has “Memoir” in the title, but I’ll live.
Was it worth the wait? The book is an account of something that actually happened, so it’s not like Schaub can go back in time and change history to make a more compelling story with sharper ups and downs or a rock-solid conclusion. As a reader, you get some research, some anecdotes, some justifications, and some moments of realization. I never read the blog, but I felt like the book form was a little anti-climactic. But I guess life can be that way. Sigh.
I’ve read a number of memoirs of authors’ year-long special projects. What I can say, is that this one didn’t seem to get more tired as the months progressed. And that’s a plus, I guess. And it gets a gold star for not being a creepy weight-loss diet book.
get a copy here
This is the book that everyone was talking about at the beginning of the Summer. It was love-love-loved by lots of mainstream book reviewers, and everyone at the library was rushing to put it on hold because they’d heard it was the ultimate beach read.
It’s perfectly good, but I think I loved it less because it wasn’t as life-changing as all the hype made me think it would be. Plot-wise, it’s a classic slightly humorous, kinda gossipy NYT best seller about a wealthy white family from the east coast that goes on vacation and discovers things about each other and comes of age both as a unit and as individuals. I mean, it’s a solid book, an easy thing to recommend to someone who just wants to chill out and not think too much for a stretch of a few hours. You know how when you read a tabloid the nuances aren’t new but some of the people/places are? Kind of like that.
It’s not gonna change your life, but it will fill a few hours with well-written and nicely paced pleasantness.
Fangirl was so worth the 3 month wait at the library. This book is a lovely package: there’s romance and family and relationships and new things and life changes and personal development. You’ll love this book in the park or on the train, on the couch, or in a waiting room (or at least I did)…
Plus, it’s about a twin. The wonderful World of Sweet Valley predisposes me to love anything about twins. Especially twins with different personalities.
Cath’s a twin who writes online fan fiction about a popular Harry Potter-ish book character. She followed her sister to a college a few hours from home, and instead of continuing to be twinny BFF’s, her sister becomes a popular partygirl, and Cath becomes a lonely dorm room fan fic writer who has thousands of fans online but no friends in real life. On top of her sister’s new habit of binge drinking, her dad’s fluctuating mental health, and her MIA mom’s reappearance in the periphery, Cath might sorta be finding her voice, finding herself, and falling in love.
Fangirl is super well-written, and you’ll be sad its world is over when you get to the last page.
A popular choice! The book review world and the internet world were generally pretty excited about this one.
I wasn’t as obsessed with it as I was with some of Lahiri’s other writing, but it was still a pretty sweet book. The beginning was pretty slow for me, but as I got used to unfamiliar names and places and dug further into her characters’ lives, I kept reading (fairly raptly). There are tons of details in this book that don’t all necessarily peak– the text is more about the story than the solution (this would have been obnoxious for me at other parts of my life, but right now I’m ok with the mellowness). But with that said, Lahiri tries to bring some solution into maybe the last 15 or 20% of the book, and it felt a little unnecessary.
But still, it’s a pretty epic book that takes place across oceans and generations. Check it out.
So I had this giant stack of well-respected adult literature that I was intending to read– and instead I gravitated toward teen stuff (and returned the adult stuff to the library). So much for faking like I’m fancy and grown up. Here goes:
45 Pounds (more or less) by KA Barson
So teenage Anne has been told that she is 45 pounds overweight, her (super skinny) mom is a total jerk about it, and as a result, she has a pretty big complex. Her lesbian (!) aunt’s wedding is in a few months and she wants to lost the weight so she can look thin in the ceremony, so she goes through some extreme measures to start– and ends up having to get a job to support these new measures, and meanwhile there’s a boy she likes and her little sister is starting to get emotionally distressed about something, and there’s a mean girl out to sabotage her…
Ultimately lots of the right lessons are taught, but I really wish the “happy ending” could have been made happy without the stereotypical things that it ended with. I kind of also wish that we’d gotten to know Anne a little better. BUT this teenage “problem novel” is still solidly multi-dimensional, entertaining, and interesting.
Find a copy here
Hot Girl by Dream Jordan
14 year old Kate’s had a tough life. She’s been bounced around group homes and foster families, is a former gang member and former pot smoker and all-around tough girl– but she finally had a good social worker, good grades, and an ok (but strict) family she lives with. But when her BFF goes away for the summer, she befriends Naleejah, a super-fancy girl who has tons of money and designer clothes– and sleeps with guys to get them. Naleejah gives Kate a makeover, and the kind of attention that she gets starts to change… Will she fall in too deep with her new friend and risk losing everything that she’s worked so hard to make stable in her life?
This is a decent YA novel. It features multiple characters’ complications and complexities, and is realistic in the sense that it doesn’t try too hard to clean up supporting characters’ messes. Kate is weird enough that we can actually believe that she’s a real person, and while some of the other characters might be jerky, they still elicit some empathy.
Find a copy here