Here I am again! I know one post a month isn’t all that exciting. Sorry. You can always pop over to the Hub, where I wrote four posts in January and one last month. I’ve taken over the LGBTQ feature over, which means you can expect more queer-friendly books showing up in my posts here as well, including one this month! But let’s start at the beginning of the month:
The Lost Hero
Hyperion Books for Children
My reading New Year’s Resolution was to read one book every month that was recommended to me by the teens at my library, and this was January’s pick. I didn’t quite finish it in January for two reasons. One, I was simultaneously reading the next book on this list, and two, I didn’t enjoy this at all and really had to slog to finish it. It’s almost 600 pages, and it’s 600 pages of then EXACT SAME THING happening. Meet supernatural/mythical creature; battle; one of the three protagonists saves the day. As I said on Goodreads, “I can understand why kids like him: the books are absolutely action packed, and the main characters are infinitely relatable (I think this is mostly because they’re so bland they aren’t much more than Mary Sues),” but I have absolutely no interest in finishing the series.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Random House, 2010
While I was reading Percy Jackson Redux, I was also reading this, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and it was lovely. In a lot of ways, a pretty old fashioned novel with clearly drawn lines between good and evil. Some of the people at my book club seemed to take issue with this, but I think Mitchell was doing it on purpose, and it was so beautifully written and throughly researched that I didn’t mind a bit. Can’t wait to read more David Mitchell.
The Way We Fall
A slightly different take on the YA thriller – this one is set on a little island where people suddenly start getting very, very sick. And dying. It’s all very Outbreak-y, but unfortunately, it fell a little flat for me. Maybe because it’s written as series of diary-style letters to the protagonists estranged best friend, who happens to be off the island when the outbreak occurs? In any case, I appreciated the realism of this-it all seemed very much like it could happen-but I never got emotionally involved, so the moments that should have had a big impact just didn’t. Bonus points, though, for a science-inclined, mixed race female protagonist for whom neither of those characteristics are at all defining.
First Second, 2011
This is the kind of graphic novel I love, a story about a teenager who doesn’t quite fit in, and genuinely isn’t sure whether she wants to or not. Great art that transcends it’s cartoon-y style, particularly in it’s use of a limited color palette, and surprisingly creepy.
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012
Yet another YA dystopian series. An intriguing premise (everyone older than 18 or so and younger than 65 is dead; the elderly live well into their 100s and young people–Starters–have basically no power) is marred by sloppy, unwieldy world building, minimal character development, flat dialogue, and telling-not-showing in general. There are many, many dystopias out there; with that in mind, this one is a pass.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
emily m. danforth
Balzar + Bray, 2012
A bildungsroman set in early 1990s rural Montana, and so beautifully done. It’s about growing up gay in small-town Montana, but also small-town Montana itself, from the sun-baked summer days to the barn-like mega church to the movie store where the same clerk always checks you out and knows every movie you watch. The characters (well, except for a very few) are complex and sympathetic even if you find yourself appalled by their actions. Highly recommended, although be aware if you’re giving it to teens that it’s got plenty of drinking, drug use, and sex, all handled frankly and without condemnation (which is how I prefer it, btw).
Ready Player One
My February teen-recommended read and a 2012 Alex Award Winner. Peppered (is there a word that’s stronger than peppered? Overflowing?) with references to 80s and 2000s pop culture, this is a funny and, really, kind of silly novel. The world building is the best part. It manages to be equal parts unsettlingly close to reality, absurd, and funny. The plot, while exciting, always seems like it’s on the brink of a twist that never comes, but it’s a quick and unique read. A great pick by the Alex Committee – gamers and nerds of all ages should enjoy this one, and it will introduce younger readers to a host of classic pop culture (hello, John Hughes and War Games).