Hello!

Here is that massive book post I promised you ages ago. (It’s been a crazy few weeks. My ebook should be available soon and I’m busy writing a second YA novel. I just finished the first part – about 80K words – and will start on Part 2 tomorrow. I’m very much in love with this book and working on it is really fulfilling, albeit emotionally taxing.)

And now, here are the books I’ve read…

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else – by Ursula K. LeGuin – God, by now I read this book about 3 months ago. I remember that the cover did not accurately represent the main characters and that I really loved the book, though I cannot for the life of me specifically remember why. The two leads were friends (as I recall) and I think there was some pressure to be more, but that wasn’t important to them. What was important was moving forward and finding something to be passionate about in life. She had her music. He had… well, shit… I don’t remember. But it was a good book, I swear!

The Shape of Things to Come – by Maud Casey – I’ve been reading a lot of YA books (since I’m writing YA books) but decided to deviate and read something about a 30something (because I’m 30). Wrong move, Kate. I was hoping this book would help me on my path to figuring out what to do with my life, but instead it just made me feel more confused and sad and depressed. I liked how it was written, but content-wise, this wasn’t the best thing for me to be reading at this odd juncture in my life.

The Geography of You and Me – by Jennifer E. Smith – I love Jennifer E. Smith’s writing style. Her stories are really very simple, but her characters are so layered and relatable and you just really want to see their journey through because you can’t help but care. And you want to know what happens, even though it’s pretty easy to figure it out on your own. This book was about two teens who meet one night during an epic blackout in NYC, only to be separated soon thereafter because of families moving and other unforeseeable circumstances. They keep in touch via postcards until they don’t. These are characters you root for because you want good things for them. And I will gladly read anything by Jennifer E. Smith. Always.

Dreams of Significant Girls – by Cristina Garcia – I thought this was a really interesting book. I loved how it followed the same three characters for three summers and showed how so much can really change over that period of time, especially when said characters came from such different backgrounds. It’s always fascinating to read about people who are stuck living with people they would rather not, but seeing how their relationships grow and shift was very fulfilling. Plus, the book was just super well written.

#16thingsithoughtweretrue – by Janet Gurtler – I had it in my head that I wasn’t going to like this book because I wasn’t too impressed by the plot summary. But then I found myself really caring about the roadtrip and the characters who weren’t the protagonist. This book seriously plot-twisted at the end and I remember audibly yelling, “NOOOOOOO.”

Adorkable – by Sarra Manning – I do fancy a good British book every now and again and was glad I pulled this one off the shelf at the library. Quirky girl snogs popular boy even though they kind of hate each other. But then they don’t. And it becomes a big to-do about independence and self-respect and identity and relationships and vulnerability whatnot. It was an entertaining read.

Franny and Zooey – by J.D. Salinger – I tried, you guys. I tried and I failed. I get that reading Salinger is supposed to rock my world, but I was not into this book at all. Perhaps I’m so far removed from the way of life depicted in this book that I just didn’t care. Or perhaps it was because I was having an off day when I read it. Either way, I sped through this just to be done with it. Go ahead and judge.

Divergent – by Veronica Roth – I had to see what everyone was talking about. I’m a little over dystopian books/franchises at this point but powered through. It’s not that I didn’t like Tris, she just is not among my favorite literary heroines as of late. Four, despite his obvious (read: purposeful) character flaws is a little too perfect. Too chaste. And, I could not wrap my head around how people thought it was weird or wrong to identify with more than one group. I did like the book better than the movie, though. For what it’s worth.

Eleanor & Park – by Raindow Rowell – My heart is gone. This book ripped it out of my chest, tore it in two and threw it in the Hudson River. (I read a lot of this book while sitting at the pier in between work.) I had heard really good things about this book and found they were all true. This was wonderfully written, devastatingly gut-wrenching and altogether feelings mangling. Eleanor reminded me so much of someone I once knew well and I wanted to reach through the pages and tell her that she deserves so much more out of life than what she was being handed by her shitty stepfather and terrible kids at school. Reading the ever-growing friendship/relationship between Eleanor and Park made my heart hurt. They ways they showed they cared for each other were precious gifts to the reader. Reading this book was so intimate because of how guarded Eleanor kept herself. And rightly so – holy shit that poor girl was not having an easy time out of existing in her circumstances. I loved this book. I loved Eleanor and Park. I hated how this book made me feel when I was done reading it. If I had my heart, it would still be hurting.

Insurgent – by Veronica Roth – Here we go. Round 2. Tris and Four and those other people are doing stuff because of the government and whatnot. Honestly, I don’t really remember the plot that much. (I’m writing this about 2 months after I finished reading the book. You can tell it obviously didn’t leave that big of an impression on me.) I read this because I had just finished Divergent and the library had it. I still didn’t see what the big deal about being Divergent was… like, of course people are going to identify with more than one character trait. (I could not suspend the disbelief needed to enjoy this series.)

Better off Friends – by Elizabeth Eulberg – I very much enjoyed this book. Set in Wisconsin, it’s about a girl who befriends the new boy from California and is set from 7th grade through most of high school. They are best friends and everyone just assumes they are together or will get together. They date other people and ultimately come to terms with what kind of relationship works best between them. Friendships between teenage boys and girls are a tricky thing and I thought this book captured the ebb and flow of that time in a person’s life rather well. So many emotions. So much angst. So many changes. Sometimes just being friends is the best option. Sometimes it’s not.

The Distance Between Us – by Kasie West – West’s covers are awful, but her books are easy to get through and somewhat enjoyable. This time around, the girl is kinda poor, the guy is super rich, and class-based struggles ensue. There’s more to it than that, obviously, but that’s the general gist of it. I’ve read another one of West’s books and do keep an eye out for her name on my library shelves. I know her books won’t challenge me, but they are entertaining.

One Man Guy – by Michael Barakiva – A teenage boy comes to terms with his sexuality amid a very religious and culturally-focused family. Set in NYC, he befriends another gay kid and they have adventures throughout the city. This was an easy read and though it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me I was glad I read it, if only to get another author’s perspective on the subject matter.

Boy Meets Boy – by David Levithan – The story of a gay boy who meets and falls for another gay boy with minimal drama. That’s really it – their town is accepting of LGBTQ people for the most part. Miscommunications are worked through. I mean, there are some characters who are not all for all-things LGBTQ, but on a whole this is pretty much a paint-by-numbers with regards to plot progression. It was still a good read. Not my favorite Levithan book, but I did like it.

Then Again, Maybe I Won’t – by Judy Blume – I thought I had read every Judy Blume book when I was younger, but I never read this one. Maybe because its protagonist was a young man and when I was younger I kind of flocked to female characters. (Or biographies of people from various wars.) This was about a kid whose family becomes a little more well off than they used to be and how the new money affects them. It was basically a morality tale saying how you shouldn’t be a dick even though you’ve come into some money. I love Judy Blume, though. Forever and always.

The Beginning of Everything – by Robyn Schneider – I fell a little bit in love with this book and then it kind of threw me for a nasty loop when all the pieces came together. That being said, I would still totally recommend this because sometimes getting emotionally destroyed by a book is entirely satisfying (albeit rough on the feels). The main character was a tennis star at his school until his leg got smashed in a car accident. He quickly falls from the very top of the social food chain and goes through school limping to the beat of a new drummer, if you will. Plus there’s a mysterious new girl in town. That never ends well, does it? I’m keeping an eye out for other titles by Schneider in hopes of getting my heart ripped out again.

Boys Like You – by Juliana Stone – This book is about an NYC girl named Monroe who spends the summer down in Louisiana with her grandma after an unfortunate accident back home. She unwillingly befriends a local boy with a bad reputation and a super guilty conscious. Their relationship gets closer as they deal with their shit together and individually. I didn’t feel like this book covered much new ground with regard to the genre, but I get the appeal for a teenage audience (angst and a hot guy who plays guitar).

Winger – by Andrew Smith – This is a book about a 14-year-old junior who is in love with his 16-year-old junior best friend. Winger plays rugby, dorms with delinquints and has a hella intense year at school that involves drinking, injuries, love, death, cartoons and all sorts of coming-of-age plot that kind of just hits you in the feels. I very much enjoyed this book even though parts of it really made me sad. Smith’s writing style, though… I want to be able to absorb it just by clutching onto his books.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – I’ve seen this movie several times but never read the book even though this is one of my friend’s favorite books of all time. I saw it on the shelf at the library and grabbed it. I love David Levithan and will read anything with his name on it. I was glad I read this book and enjoyed it enough, but I think since I’m so in love with the movie and I saw that first, I’m going to favor the film adaptation. Sorry, but not really. Still read the book, though. For reals.

Bossypants – by Tina Fey – This was one of those books that made me laugh out loud when I was reading it in the park. To the point where I had to cover my mouth and try to disguise my laughter as a coughing fit lest I be judged. I love Tina Fey. She is one of my lady heroes and I will forever be indebted to her for her work on SNL, 30 Rock and Mean Girls. (And since I love her so much, I’m going to, from now on, pretend that I didn’t see Date Night or This is Where I Leave You.) Fey is a smart, strong woman who knows comedy well. She’s a great writer and she knows what works. I admire her candidness and appreciate her comedy and writing pointers. This was a great read. Between this and Mindy Kaling’s book, I feel like there are people out there who might just understand my weirdness.

Fangirl – by Rainbow Rowell – Okay. So this is all about fandom obsession. I’m on Tumblr. I’ve read stuff on fanfiction websites. (Hell, I even wrote a paper for my grad school internet ethics class about the legality of fanfiction.) But I’ve never been as far into fandom as Cath so I could not really sympathize with how far she dug herself into the fandom lifestyle. I get being a fan of someone/something to the point of decorating your room, wearing shirts, etc… But when you submit fanfiction for a college assignment – sorry, but that’s not acceptable. Fandom is great for fitting in with people online (or even in person), but that can’t be your only thing you have going for you. And I guess that’s what frustrated me most about this book. I wanted to reach through the pages and shake Cath a bit and tell her she needs to find a hobby. I’m a hermit who spends a bulk of her time reading and writing too, so there was definitely stuff I could relate to too. But on a whole, the book mostly frustrated me despite how much I liked how it was written.

Allegiant – by Veronica Roth – Finally. The last one. I breezed through the first two books and this one as well. I kind of felt obligated to finish out the trilogy even though I wasn’t entirely on board with it. But, I’m glad I read them all so now I get what the hype is about with regard to the movies. (I don’t agree with it, but I get it… there’s a difference.) I wasn’t that surprised by the ending, though I can see why so many people flipped out over it. Props to Roth for not shying away from doing something hard as opposed to appeasing the fans.

Happy Accidents – by Jane Lynch – I love memoirs that don’t just paint a rosy picture of what it’s like to be rich and famous these days. It turns out Lynch wasn’t the nicest person ever, nor did she ever have it super easy as she tried to launch her acting career. I liked reading about her struggles with coming out, trying to get featured more in her early days in comedy, and how hard work and a lot of luck played a major part in getting her where she is today. I did find it awkward to read all about how she met her wife because they are now divorced and that’s sad. I’ve seen a lot of her films. A Mighty Wind will always be my favorite. Those New Main Street Singers are awesome.

100 Sideways Miles – by Andrew Smith – I will read anything Andrew Smith writes. So when I saw this title on the shelf, I grabbed it and debated between flying through it or taking my time to savor Smith’s writing style (which I envy like whoa). Smith is such a great storyteller and I love the relationships he forms between his characters. He writes teenage male friendships so well. And I loved how this book measured passing time using distance the Earth travels around the son. (The title refers to five seconds – or the amount of time it took for a dead horse to fall off a truck on a bridge and onto him and his mom below.) Even the most far-fetched aspects of this book are still believable because the narrator is just so damn convincing and likable. Thank you, Andrew Smith.

If You Find Me – by Emily Murdoch – Wow. I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did, but then again you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, are you? (BUT I DO! I TOTALLY DO! ALL THE TIME!) This book was about two girls (15 and 8, I believe) who live in the woods with their mother ever since they were little. Their mom leaves them and the older girl’s biological father and a social worker come find them. The girls have to acclimate back into society in their new living situation (which includes a stepmom and stepsister) and going to school. Of course some serious shit went down in the woods, but the girls persevered because survival was all they’d ever known. Good book. And now I’m on the lookout for other titles by Murdoch.

The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak – I not so secretly am fascinated by stories (fictional or not) set during the World Wars, especially WWII. I was unaware that this book was written from Death’s perspective (that’s not a spoiler – it’s easy to get that right off the bat when Death speaks about taking people’s souls…), but found that to be a really intriguing POV. I knew the title character was a little girl (I saw the movie trailer, though have yet to see the movie) and figured this book would break my heart. That’s a bit of an understatement. Death gives you some of the bigger, more gut-wrenching plot points ahead of time but the blows are still just as big and painful. This was a long book (500+ pages) with very, very tiny font. I was still able to get through it in a few days because it was such a good read even though it made me sad. I very much recommend this book.

Hope Was Here – by Joan Bauer – This was a super quick read about a girl named Hope (nee Tulip) who lived with her aunt. They moved around working at various diners in various states. This book was about their latest move to middle of nowhere Wisconsin (which I could relate to, as I used to live in Minnesota). Though I never worked at a diner, I caught on quick to the lingo and could empathize with the customer service woes (I worked at Macy’s. I get it.) Hope was a straight-laced girl with a crush on a good guy and the gumption to fight for what was right even though she got the short end of the stick in big ways throughout her life. I liked this enough that if I come across any more of Bauer’s books at the library, I’d give them a whirl.

King Dork – by Frank Portman – This book had a bunch of blurbs on the covers and inside boasting how hilarious it was. I realized halfway through the book that almost all of said blurbs were written by dudes. The book had its charming moments and I did laugh out loud a couple times, but I’m sure it would have had a bigger impact on me if I were a 15-year-old boy. Thomas (aka Chi-Mo, aka Moe) was likable enough and I did feel bad that he was at the bottom of the social food chain. There was a lot of plot (a LOT of plot) and at times I felt like there was too much going on, but it wasn’t impossible to keep straight and if you thought about it, you could see how most of the plot twists came to be/kind of made sense.

So, yeah! If you’ve got any book recommendations, please let me know!

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So, I haven’t posted on here in forever. But I have finished reading a few books over the past few weeks and have a few recommendations among them.

 

I think the last time I made a post about books I was reading Stick, so I’ll start with that…

 

Stick – by Andrew Smith – This book about Stick (real name “Stark”) and his older, gay brother Bosten was an enjoyable read. It wasn’t a super happy read (their home life was terrible), but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I wanted to give most of the characters hugs. I liked that it was mostly about a sibling relationship, and brothers at that. I am drawn to stories about boys/men dealing with emotional stuff and having to talk about it with other boys/men. Man feelings. Can you dig it?

 

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn – I very much enjoyed the premise of this book. Lily and Dash communicate via a shared notebook and they make each other go on little adventures. It was a friendship story where people were friends through the written word before meeting in person. (Of course it develops into a story about teens liking each other, because that’s how these things take shape…) I loved this book until I really didn’t. It took a really strange (re: wholly silly/unbelievable) plot turn toward the end and took me out of the magical cuteness that the story had been up until that point. I don’t like when things get silly. I don’t feel it advances the plot and it actually is quite insulting. As a reader, I don’t like it when the author (or authors, in this case) takes the story on a route that pulls you completely out of the book. I honestly stopped reading at one point, shut the book and heaved a heavy sigh of disgust. I still liked this book (for the most part), I just wish it would have taken a better route to get to the ending.

 

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List – by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn – This is the first thing (co-)written by David Levithan that I hated. I couldn’t wait to finish the book because I needed to return it to the library as soon as humanly possible. I could not stand the female protagonist and her immaturity. Naomi (straight high school girl) was basically madly in love with her gay guy BFF Ely and she kept getting mad at him for not returning the feelings (and for kissing her boyfriend, who turned out to be gay). It’s frustrating to read about characters who are best friends even though one of them is a kind of terrible/selfish/ignorant person. I liked Ely for the most part, but even he got on my nerves. I do not recommend this book. I just… ugh.

 

Maurice – by E.M. Forster – I’ve seen just about every E.M. Forster film adaptation except for Maurice, so I was very keen to track down this book and read that before I ultimately track down the film. It was interesting to read about the relationship between two guys set in the early 1900s, but heartbreaking at the same time. I admit that I skimmed the last half of the book (it was due at the library the following day and couldn’t be renewed), but I got the general gist of it. It was a good read and I really do want to see the movie.

 

Gone, Gone, Gone – by Hannah Moskowitz – This book is about a gay teen named Craig who is living near DC post-9/11 (when all the sniper stuff was going on). Someone broke into his house and all his pets ran away. Also, his ex-boyfriend’s father died in 9/11 and was now at some mental institution. Craig falls hard for a new kid, Lio (he was a cancer kid and his twin brother died when they were younger). So, basically a lot of drama on top of even more drama. Oh, and these boys love each other after a few weeks/months. Do 15-year-olds really fall in love like this? Every time I read a YA book and the 13-16 year old characters go on and on and on about falling in love, I’m like, “Really?” I think back to when I was in middle school and early high school. I wasn’t in love with anyone. I had massive crushes on people, yes, but even then I knew I wasn’t mature enough to be in love. So when I read all these books about kids falling in love, I wonder if I just missed out on something early on, or if I’m supposed to suspend disbelief because everyone just loves reading about people being in love. (For the record, the book I’m writing is about high school juniors and though they like each other an awful lot, they are not going to profess their love for each other because they’ve known each other for, like, two months.) I thought this book was a little too heavy on the drama, but I liked Moskowitz’s writing style and decided if I came across any more of her books, I’d give them a whirl.

 

When Love Comes to Town – by Tom Lennon – I pulled this book off the shelf at the library because the spine was the hands of two guys clasped. I was pleased to see that once I got the book off the shelf, the book front and back had the two guys – just two dudes wearing plaid shirts and jeans holding hands. Adorable. The book itself was a little less adorable, but really interesting. It was about this gay high school senior named Neil who knew he was gay since he was about 10 or 11, but was scared to come out because it was Ireland in the early 90s. Throughout the book he told some people and tried to embrace his identity. He went to a gay bar, he chatted up and befriended some other gay guys, and he finally told his parents he was gay. His story had obvious ups and downs and I just kept asking “But what about Ian?” as Neil found himself falling for a guy named Shane even though Ian from school was the better choice of who he should be with. I liked this book a lot and it was really cool to read an Irish book about LGBT youth.

 

Marco Impossible – by Hannah Moskowitz – See, told you I’d read more of her books if I found them. The premise of this book was kind of cheeseball – 13-year-old Marco and his sidekick/BFF Stephen were going to break into the high school prom so Marco could confess his love to Benji, who was on his way back to England for the summer. (Again – 13-year-olds in love?)  Though I balked at the premise, I actually enjoyed the book. It was cool to read about Marco and Stephen’s friendship and how Marco being gay was not a big deal but a very big deal at the same time. Straight Stephen was mad that Marco was going to a different high school than him come the fall, but during their night of shenanigans in order to get Marco into that prom, Stephen finally pieces together that Marco has a target on his back at all times because he’s gay and he’s not safe because some of the other kids are out to get him. Reading about hate crimes makes me sad. I mean, I got picked on in school for being a bit of a nerd, but little Marco gets his locker bashed in and death threats because he likes boys. You legitimately worry that Marco’s plan to publicly proclaim his love for Benji is a fatal trainwreck just waiting to happen, but you still want to watch it happen because maybe, just maybe, it won’t turn out as bad as you think it probably will. I liked this better than Gone, Gone, Gone because there was a healthy dose of comedy surrounding the more serious moments.

 

The Death Cure – by James Dashner – This is the prequel to the Maze Runner trilogy and I haven’t finished reading it yet. I actually started reading this after Gone, Gone, Gone but I find it so boring that I put it down and read the other books instead. It’s due at the library this week and I don’t feel like renewing it, but I will try to finish reading it even though I am really not liking it. I thought it was going to be about Thomas and Theresa pre-Maze, but it’s not. It’s about characters I don’t really care about thirteen years before The Maze Runner takes place. I’m maybe 11 or 12 chapters in so far and I’m very underwhelmed by the writing and the plot. I honestly wish I hadn’t started reading this, but I feel obligated to finish it. Once I finish it, I have two newer David Levithan books waiting for me.

 

So, yeah… this is what I’ve been reading the past few weeks.

 

If you have any good recommendations, let me know!

Hey y’all.

So, reading. It’s the bee’s knees.

(You know what is not the bee’s knees? Robin Thicke. I’m watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve right now and he’s singing “Blurred Lines” and as catchy as this song is, it is terrible. And he’s a creep.)

But I digress.

I finished reading four books in the past couple weeks and just started another book today. READING!

Here’s what I finished:

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (by Helen Fielding) – Oh, boy. I really wanted to like this book because I loved the first two Bridget Jones books. But this… this was not v.g. Fielding spent so much of the book having Bridget obsess over her Twitter follower numbers and talking about farting with her toy boy that she missed an opportunity to tell a really heartfelt story. There were a few moments where her words tugged on my emotions, but they were few and a far between. I was really upset as I read the book because I found myself wanting to smack Bridget and being frustrated about her screenwriting when I didn’t think that character had that kind of clout. It’s not a spoiler that Bridget is no longer married to Mark Darcy (that is mentioned within pages of the book). They didn’t divorce; he died. Fielding killed off Mark Darcy. Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhy? I sincerely hope they don’t adapt this into a film because it was so depressing to read, I don’t think I could handle seeing Squints McGee Zellweger reprise her role.

The Death Cure (by James Dashner) – a big HUZZAH that my library had the last book in the Maze Runner trilogy without me having to put it on hold. While this was my least favorite of the three books, I devoured it because I needed to know what happened to Thomas and his friends from the Glade. This is totally on me, but I never had a clear picture of Brenda in my head as I was reading and that bothered me because she was such an important character. I’m actually a lot surprised that Dashner had so much about Thomas’s feelings toward the two girls in his life. It didn’t distract from the overarching story and it definitely added a layer to Thomas that his male Glade friends weren’t entirely privy to… but these books are definitely aimed toward young men (though the two people who recommended the books to me are female). I told my brother he should read this trilogy. The books are all well written and Dashner really created very vivid pictures of the Glade and the Scorch. I’m really looking forward to The Maze Runner movie. These books were a quick, fun read. They aren’t too long and they are very much page-turners. You just want to know what happens next 🙂

Every You, Every Me (by David Levithan; pictures by Jonathan Farmer) – David Levithan, let me love you down. I very much admire his writing and this book was no exception. The story was really fascinating (a high school boy’s best friend is sent away because of her self-destructive ways because of her mental health issues… he receives photos of her and tries to figure out who they are from with the help of his bff’s boyfriend). There are words/phrases/passages that are crossed out (but still readable) so you know what the narrator was thinking. His thought process is very relatable and it’s interesting to read how he interacts with other characters juxtaposed against what he’s actually thinking. Throughout the book, there are photos that the narrator receives and they allow you to better follow along the story. I read this book in about 2 hours because I couldn’t put it down. (I was also on a plane and it was a good distraction from flying because I hate flying.)

someday this pain will be useful to you (by Peter Cameron) – I’m so glad I grabbed this book off the shelf at the library. I honestly had no idea what it was about, but it turned out to be perfect for me because it fit within the genre I’m writing. The title is what grabbed me, but the writing is what kept me reading. (This was another book I finished in less than a day.) I really loved Cameron’s writing style and will definitely be on the lookout for anything else he’s written. His protagonist, James, was relatable and likable (albeit a bit of a troublemaker… though I found myself siding with him). James liked being alone and didn’t like talking. As I read, I thought to myself that this was the kind of boy I would have wanted to be friends with and probably would have had a crush on. James, though, was gay, but it wasn’t really a huge part of the story. (Sure, both his parents asked him point blank if he was gay and he did admit to liking a colleague… but he also said that he never acted on his homosexuality, nor did he ever think that he would be intimate with anyone.) The bulk of James’s story had to do with not wanting to go to college and how he had run away for a couple days during school function in Washington, D.C. (James lived in NYC). I really, really liked this book. It was adapted into a film, so I’m going to try and track that down.

Stick (by Andrew Smith) – I’m not done reading this, as I just started it this afternoon, but I am 88 pages in and I’m enjoying this as well. This was another book I kind of just grabbed off the shelf, but I’m glad I did. It’s about a 13-year-old boy named Stark (his nickname is “Stick” because he’s really tall and thin) and his older brother, Bosten (16). Their parents are terrible people who beat them, have odd house rules, and only let them shower on weekends. Both Stark and Bosten have best friends (Stark/Emily, Bosten/Paul) and they are basically in love with said best friends. Stark just found out that his brother is gay and I’m already scared for Bosten and hope that their parents won’t find out. (Though, I’m fairly sure they do at some point – because that would be the predictable plot line.) Oh, and Stark only has one ear. He was only born with one ear. So, some of the book is written how he hears… with large gaps/spaces between some of the words/phrases. Stark is a likable protagonist and I’m eager to read the rest of his story.

I find it helpful to read books with young male protagonists because I’m writing a book with a young male protagonist. And since I’m a female and don’t have firsthand experience to write from, it’s really educational and insightful to be reading books written by men about male characters. Yay for fun research 🙂

If you have any book recommendations, let me know!

Okay, so I know I’m for reals behind on posting on here about books I’ve read and life in general. I’m now going to hit you with a few paragraphs about what I’ve been reading and how it’s impacted me and my quest to write the next great American (YA) novel.

The last book I wrote about here was “The Spectacular Now”, which was a bunch of books ago… so here’s what I’ve read in the past few weeks:

“Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan – I flew through this book because I seriously could not put it down. (I posted a summary/recommendation of it on the Fandom For Equality blog – I urge you to check it out here.) There were no chapter breaks, yet the story bounced around between several storylines that mostly revolved around two boys (high school ex-boyfriends) trying to set a world record for longest kiss. The story was beautifully told via omniscient narrators (gay men who lived/died during the AIDS epidemic) who punctuated the plot with wisdom and a constant reminder that there is so much potential for positive change. This was the second thing I read from Levithan (he wrote the half of “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” that John Green did not…) and I fell more in love with his writing style. This book was heartbreaking and hopeful in the best ways possible and definitely made a lasting impact on me.

“Love is the Higher Law” – by David Levithan – See, I told you I was in love with Levithan’s writing style. So much so that I immediately sought out anything else he wrote. The library only had this book, so I grabbed it as fast as I could and plowed through this in a couple days. This book takes place during and after 9/11 and is told from the points of view of three teenagers whose lives all intersect because of school or mutual friends. It was an interesting read because the characters were about the age I was when 9/11 happened and the story took place in the neighborhood in NYC where I presently work. (I lived in Ohio in 2001. After moving around the Midwest a bunch, I ended up in NYC in 2012.) The book had a lot to do with relationships forged in the time of tragedy. That’s not to say that those relationships don’t mean anything, but people bonding over a shared experience of pure terror is definitely a unique way to meet, for better or worse.

“The Order of the Poison Oak” – by Brent Hartinger – I was unaware that this was a sequel to “The Geography Club” (which I haven’t read), but I was able to glean all the relevant information I needed from the exposition. I would like to go back and read the first book to get a more in-depth feel for the protagonist’s experience about coming out at his high school (as that’s something I’m writing in my own book), but I liked this book just fine. The main character decided to go work at a summer camp with his friends so that they could get out of town and he wouldn’t have to deal with being a novelty in his own community. Though he planned to stay in the closet at camp, he developed a crush on another camp counselor (who may/may not be bi). Despite the predictable story line (I guessed the plot twist well before it happened), I thought this was a decent read. Hartinger’s writing style, like Levithan’s, hooked me right away. Even if I wasn’t completely blown away by plot, I definitely wanted to keep reading because of the phrases he used and his ability to write awesome description. I’ll be on the lookout for other books by this guy.

“David Inside Out” – by Lee Bantle – This book was a great example of how not to write. While its subject matter was relevant to what I’m writing (gay/questioning high school boys on a sports team), I thought this book was pretty awful. And it pains me to write that because I would be heartbroken if someone told me what I wrote was pretty awful, but I was not a fan of a majority of the characters (including the protagonist) and I thought the writing itself was not engaging. I didn’t care about what was going to happen and I didn’t think the book really went anywhere. Instead of feeling any sort of merit having finished the book, I just felt disappointed. I post what I read on Instagram, so I clicked on the hashtag of the book’s title and one other person posted about it. He (baritoneblogger) wrote, “Worst YA book I’ve read in a while. Definitely not gay literature.” The book’s jacket was praising it as something special, but it was mostly just cringe-inducing. The one thing I did find interesting was that it was set near where I used to live in Minnesota. So, every time the author name dropped some lake or landmark, I knew what he was referring to.

“How to Say Goodbye in Robot” – by Natalie Standiford – This book just about broke my heart. It’s the story of a girl named Beatrice (Bea) whose family moves to a new city for her senior year in high school. She befriends the boy she sits next to at morning assembly (Jonah) and they form a friendship that everyone around them seems determined to define for them. Bea and Jonah love each other, but it’s purely platonic. (Other people question if they are dating or if Jonah is gay, etc…) Their love for each other is strong and substantial – they are outsiders, but since they have each other, they aren’t really alone. Both are going through some serious shit with their immediate families, so their friendship is really a lifeline. As much as they love each other, though, that’s not enough. They fight, among other conflicts that arise, and it’s painful to read about them drifting apart and finding each other again only to have your heart hurt as the book drew to its conclusion. I picked up the book because of the title and didn’t really realize what kind of nostalgic horror I was getting myself into. But, I’m so glad I read this book. It was great to read about a strong relationship between a girl and a boy who have complete (unromantic) love for each other. I found it refreshing, even though it was ultimately quite heartbreaking.

“Paper Covers Rock” – by Jenny Hubbard – This was about boys at a boarding school who had to deal with the unexpected death of one of their classmates. The protagonist, Alex, and one of his friends was there for the other boy’s death and Alex spends the bulk of the book writing/talking about what happened and his part in the whole thing. Alex has a huge crush on his young English teacher, who also happened to be there during the aftermath of the accident that caused Thomas’s death. As the book progresses, she tries to get Alex to expand on his knowledge of the situation through his writing and by talking to her. I wasn’t expecting to get much out of this book, but it turned out to be a great learning experience because the book itself was filled with passages about how to write better. That is what I will take away from reading this story – that I can be a better writer if I make the best choices I can with the words/phrases that I choose to use.

“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)” – by Mindy Kaling – I took a break from reading YA for awhile to cleanse my palette, but it turned out that this was just another great, inspiring read. I really look up to Mindy Kaling and reading about her path from childhood to college to where she is now was really educational. I found myself relating to her a lot (she didn’t have a crazy childhood or college experience either, among other similarities) and enjoyed reading her stories about the people she knows and how stuff relating to the entertainment industry is definitely not as glamorous as we perceive it to be. She’s a great writer and I’ve been a fan of her work for awhile (I used to like The Office and I definitely love The Mindy Project) and she’s just all sorts of inspiring. She points out on numerous occasions that she is not stick-thin and that she maybe gets one hour of productive writing done in an eight-hour window. See – those are things that I can relate to! What it really boiled down to, for me, was that I just need to keep at it. I don’t want to have my own television show like she does, but I do want to finish my book and I do want other people to love it as much as I am thus far.

And that’s all the books I’ve finished in the last 3 weeks. I just started reading the latest Bridget Jones book, but I’m only about five pages in, so I can’t tell if it’s v.g. or not (see what I did there?).

I’ve been working on my own book when I can (though I will admit to being a little lazy with writing this past week – I’ve been so exhausted from work). I did get a few more pages done (I’m up to 55 thus far), and I plan on writing some more tonight and tomorrow in between other stuff I have to do (a blog post for FFE, trying to sign up for healthcare, cleaning my room a bit, etc…). During a phone call with one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world the other night, she said she wanted to read what I wrote. She was one of the few people who read the script I wrote last year, so of course I’ll let her read this and I said she could read the start of the second script I’m working on (I have 80 pages of that completed, but it still has a ways to go). Last night I texted her, though, and explained that I’m afraid to show her what I wrote because I’m afraid she’s going to think it’s bad.

I’ve read and reread what I wrote so far. I know it needs help (my ability to write description and add colorful phrases and whatnot is nowhere near on par with Levithan or John Green, or any of the writes who I wholly admire), and I know it’s nowhere near being done… but what if she thinks it’s bad? What if I just spent months writing something that is just awful?

I’m probably my own worst critic, and to be honest, I don’t think what I wrote is terrible. I’m proud of my outline and I think what I’m writing has potential to be something. (Note that I didn’t say “something great” or “something earth-shattering”… just “something.”) And I have read some less than stellar books over the years in the genre I’m writing, so my theory is that if those people can get published, then there is a chance I could too… but there is always that legitimate worry of showing someone your literary baby and them just scrunching their nose and handing it back to you like said baby just soiled itself.

So, yeah. I’m going to keep writing. And I’m going to finish my book.

But I’m also going to keep reading. I’m so, so grateful that I actually have time to read. (Yes, I’m crazy busy with work, but ten free minutes here and there can turn into chapters read, you know?)

After the holidays, I’m definitely tracking down “The Death Cure” (I loooooved “The Maze Runner” and “The Scorch Trials” and need to finish that series!) and then try and get a hold of more stuff written by Levithan and Hartinger.

If you have any book recommendations, please send them my way!