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!