I am so busy, so here is a 2fer.
Book Review: Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust BY Leanne Lieberman
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
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!
234 pages went by in a flash; if you’ve liked FLB’s other books, you’ll enjoy this one. Like many of Block’s books, this one includes some good magical realism and has elements of a love letter to LA, companionship between weirdos, inspiring sartorial descriptions, and a female protagonist as an explorer.
Plot-wise, Julie lives a sweet life with her awesome mom and grandma, but then grandma dies so she and mom move to an apartment in a new part of LA. Amidst the change and mourning, mom goes weird and gets a strange boyfriend, and Julie makes a friend at school and tries to bring her grandma back with a Ouija board that she finds in the bedroom closet of her new apartment. But it’s not her grandma who comes back. What happens next is surprising and interesting.
I could have gone for a little more length and depth (maybe a little more magic and more details about Julie’s job), but in all, Teen Spirit was quite good.
find a copy here
I’m really glad that I found Dana Johnson! I forget how I found out about her as an author– Maybe Library Journal reviews, maybe Amazon recommendations, maybe an old photocopied book list. I wrote a bit about her short story collection, Break Any Woman Down, about a week ago. My write-up was really disjointed because I got all distracted in between reading and writing– but I was interested enough to read more by her.
Break Any Woman Down has two stories about a character named Avery– one as a child, and one when she’s older. Elsewhere, California is a more fleshed out meditation on Avery’s life, flip-flopping between the present and the past to illustrate that your personal history never entirely leaves you. Avery did most of her growing up as an African American female in the suburbs of LA, often in a sea of white kids. As a grownup she’s an artist and a stay-at-home girlfriend to a wealthy Italian immigrant who’s white. The publisher and cataloging descriptions of the book that I’ve found aren’t really the greatest– they tend to be kind of essentialist, I think in hopes to “package” the book nicely for specific “sets” of readers. Basically a lot of stuff that is often rather poignant happens. These happenings involve gender, class, art, and most prominently the state of race and racism in America. These details aren’t really spelled out– it’s more like they’re positioned in a ways that the reader will hopefully notice.
The book is well-written, engaging, and doesn’t take too long to read. The structure of flipping between the past and the present is not problematic, and I found that I was disappointed when it was over.
Find a copy here.
Third Girl From the Left – By Martha Southgate
This book was pretty great! In the 24-hour span that I read it, I found myself continually shunning actual responsibilities in favor of settling in with the book.
It is realistic fiction and tells the story of three generations of African-American women in Tulsa, LA, and New York. Though each of the women are quite different, they are tied together by a love of/connection to film (it’s really not as cheesy as I just made it sound, in any way). Through the course of the novel we read about relationships, playboy bunnies, the Tulsa race riots, film school, affairs, the early Blaxploitation film era, and more. It’s super engaging and well written!
My one critique (structurally speaking) is that one of the women’s stories had much more put into it than the others’, but this actually worked for me because I liked that character the best.
Find a copy here