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!
Check out The Jacket by Andrew Clements– this isn’t so much of a book review as it is a book acknowledgement. It’s 2014 and you still don’t get to read about racism too much in contemporary children’s fiction (that takes place in the modern era). Sure, there’s plenty of historical children’s fiction that talks about racism as a thing of the past, and there’s certainly a bit of fiction about kids of Color that sometimes hints at racial injustice.
But this is a book by a (super famous & popular) white author about a white kid who does something to a black kid and then starts thinking critically about race and racism for his first time ever. While as an adult, the sequence of the protagonist’s thoughts is maybe a little too idealistic, it’s still admirable and lovely and totally groundbreaking in its deconstruction of race and racism in mainstream suburban white America. It’s 89 pages of 14-point font with occasional illustrations. You’ll read it in a single train ride and wonder why more mainstream children’s lit hasn’t gone there. Find a copy here.
I have been reading so much but not posting as often! I blame job, travel, summer, and illness.
I’m still kinda sick (immense ear pressure– ouch!)– and on my way out the door to work, so I’ve quickly grouped together two of the recent “best seller” types that I’ve read.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
This is one of the more stylish book covers I’ve seen in a while. It was in my bag one day and it matched a bunch of the other things in there (zipper pouch, glasses case…). And as a reader, you really get a lot of “value” from this single volume. Basically, the story starts back in the 1970’s at arty summer camp, and follows a select few of the campers (who have all kept in touch) into adulthood in the present day. I don’t think I felt the passion that the author wanted me to feel, but I still enjoyed reading about most of the interesting things that happened, and getting hyper-personalized peeks into characters’ lives. I felt like some of the plot devices were kind of trite and draggy, but again, all the different little parts were compelling and well-written enough that I will still be recommending this book to people as something nice to read on the plane/beach/park/lunch break.
get a copy here
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
I’m usually silly-obsessed with Jennifer Weiner’s books. They’re full of little pops of brilliance and allusions to contemporary pop culture and they have a delightful really personal feel that makes you really, really love the protagonist. All Fall Down has some of that. But it’s about painkiller addition, which is a kind of ugly subject that nobody’s really talking about. It’s the story that nobody really wants to read: privileged white woman has a lot going on, gets hooked on pills, hits a pretty ugly bottom, goes to rehab, and starts to get a little better.
But it’s a solid story, and a culturally relevant one. And I think that it takes someone with the mainstream clout of Jennifer Weiner to get a book like this out to the world on a mainstream publisher.
I don’t mean to say that it’s a drag to read– I read it in about a day; I put off doing other “important” and “fun” things because I wanted to find out what happened next. It’s a good book. Just different from her other stuff. Find a copy here.