Wow. It’s been a while since I last posted about the books I’ve read and I’ve read a bunch more since then. Even though I want to be getting back to the book I’m writing (I’m in the middle of re-writing/editing a second book and just started writing a brand spanking new book that I really wasn’t planning on writing but the words just started flowing… so, lots of writing the past few weeks!), here’s what I’ve been reading:
Dairy Queen – by Catherine Gilbert Murdock – A high school girl who grew up in a football-loving family and works on her family’s cow farm is coerced into training a rival team’s player. He’s a jerk at first, but of course they start to like each other. She then decides to try out for her own high school’s football team without telling him. I’m all for girl power when it comes to hard work and overcoming obstacles, but this book was predictable and a bit cheesetastic.
Debutante Hill – by Lois Duncan – Written in the 1950s, this “aw shucks” and “gee” filled book is about a rich high school girl who is upset that her dad forbids her from partaking in all the debutante events that one of her peer’s mom’s starts up. There is a definite rich kids vs. poor kids aspect to the story, as the protagonist agrees to go out with Dirk, a boy from the other side of the tracks (even though she’s totally seeing a rich guy who just went off to college). I liked Dirk a lot and really felt for his character throughout. He wasn’t a bad guy, just misunderstood and overlooked. I enjoyed this book for what it was worth and always appreciate it when a rich kid gets a reality check.
Unbreak My Heart – by Melissa Walker – This book is about a high school girl on a summer-long boat trip with her family and how she deals with a fallout with her BFF and befriends/crushes on a boy who is taking a boat-trip with his dad. The cover for this book is awful (as I’ve found most YA covers are) and I was embarrassed to be seen holding this book even though the story itself actually wasn’t half bad. I thought the protagonist was selfish, but most high school girls are. (I would know… I was one once.)
Catalyst – by Laurie Halse Anderson – Talk about a dramatic turn for the worst. Geez. I did like this book, as I like LHA’s writing style for the most part. Another selfish high school girl, but this time it’s one who was determined to get into the one and only college she applied to and be an overachieving perfect person. Her odd friendship (that’s too strong of a word, but I can’t think of anything better) with the troubled girl from school whose house burned down was really interesting and I thought this book went to a lot of dark places. I would recommend this, for sure.
If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period – by Gennifer Choldenko – Um, so I was the completely wrong demographic for this book. (I mean, I am for all YA books, lets be real, but this book should have been labeled Middle Grade, as it was for younger middle schoolers at best.) If you are at a 5th grade reading level and want to read about a chubby white girl befriending a black boy and then them finding out they have more in common than they think, than go right ahead and read this. It was sadly an epic waste of my time even though it was well written.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight – by Jennifer Smith – I love stories that are mostly set over 24 hours because it gives you a crash course in who these people are and whether they are compatible with each other as they are forced to be by each other’s side practically the whole time. (I’m writing a script about something similar, so this helped a lot in that regard.) I’m a huge fan of Smith and will gladly read any of her books. This was cute, funny, sad and just overall very enjoyable (albeit so far-fetched… I mean, stuff like this doesn’t really happen to m/any people). This was a quick, lovely read and I very much recommend it.
Subway Love – by Nora Raleigh Baskin – Nope. Just no. I was not a huge fan of the writing style or the plot once I got going. (A girl from the 70s and a boy from the present meet/interact/fall in love on a subway car that somehow lets them transcend time.) Each chapter had the same grainy picture at the beginning of it, which was credited to being from a Wikipedia page. Really? I sped through the second half of it so I could return it to the library as soon as humanly possible. While I respect the author for getting her work published, this book was unfortunately not for me. At all.
Pieces – by Chris Lynch – A boy’s brother dies and some of his organs are donated to other people. The boy then meets up with some of the recipients and questions what his relationship is/should be with these people who now house a piece of his brother. I thought the book was headed a different direction than it ended up going. I didn’t not like it, but I wanted more.
The Darlings in Love – by Melissa Kantor – I had a problem with the protagonists being 14 because their problems seemed more fitting to 16-18 year olds. The BFF-ness of it all was fine, but I don’t think that 14-year-olds can properly grasp the concept of being in love with someone. Like, crushes and whatnot, sure. But end-all-be-all relationships and love does not happen when you’re 14. (Did you see what happened to Romeo and Juliet? Wait till you’re older and actually understand, kids.)
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin – by Josh Berk – I liked that this book had a deaf protagonist who was friends with a nerdy polite kid, and that they solved a crime together. But I thought some of the word choices were silly. I’m not really a fan of silly. But, I get that this book is aimed at younger boys and younger boys seem to eat silly up. So, there you have it.
Everybody Sees the Ants – by A.S. King – This book has been staring me in the face for months and I finally checked it out. I regret not reading it sooner because it was just such a satisfying read. I think I’ve read 3 or 4 of King’s books so far and this was certainly my favorite. It’s about a boy who gets picked on a lot and his parents are worried he’s going to harm himself, so his mom takes him on a three-week vacation to visit his relatives. He keeps having dreams about rescuing his POW grandfather and then wakes up holding weird items from said dreams. He befriends a girl while on vacation and learns a lot about himself and his family. It’s just a really good book and I’m definitely not doing it justice.
Project Sweet Life – by Brent Hartinger – A super quick read about three friends and a summer of shenanigans as they tried to avoid getting summer jobs (but still trying to make money). I like Hartinger’s writing style, having read one of his books before. This book was good, but I won’t need to read it again.
Grand & Humble – by Brent Hartinger – Oh my god, I’m only just now getting the second meaning of the title as I’m writing this out and I read this book two weeks ago. DAMN, SON. This was the first book in a long while where I was actually super caught off guard by the plot twist. I thought I knew what was going on, but I totally did not. It’s about two high school boys and how their lives are eerily similar even though they have nothing and everything to do with each other. I’m describing it poorly, but it was a good read. Man, I feel so stupid for not getting the title sooner. (An accident happens at the junction of Grand & Humble, but there is totally another meaning behind it… oh my god.)
The Burn Journals – by Brent Runyon – This is a first person account told years after the fact about a 14-yr-old boy who set himself on fire in a suicide attempt (that he immediately regretted) and the physical, emotional and mental recovery he went through. Runyon is a phenomenal storyteller and I am so grateful that he shared his story like this. What a horrible, horrible thing to go through… but he did get through it. And it took a lot of work, and seemed very painful on a lot of levels. This book will stay with me, that’s for sure.
The Miracle Stealer – by Neil Connelly – A girl’s younger brother is seen as miracle worker in their small community and she thinks that they are using him. She tries to protect him, but some bad stuff goes down. I’m not a super religious person and I don’t really buy into the belief that some people are tools of God, so I could see where this girl was coming from. The book was okay, but I had a hard time believing that the kind of mom this book depicts would name her daughter “Anderson.” I know that’s a petty complaint, but it took me out of the story several times.
New Kid – by Tim Green – I yanked this book off the shelf at the library because it was about a boy playing baseball. While on vacation, I leant it to a friend and she read it before I did, saying I was going to hate the ending. And she was right – what a terrible ending. Geez. This was another book in the YA section that should have been labeled Middle Grade. Basically, this kid and his dad move around a lot because the dad’s job has kind of forced them into hiding. And his dad has a habit of making them move when the kid is literally in the middle of a baseball game. Sigh. It’s not great. And then the terrible ending happens.
Wintergirls – by Laurie Halse Anderson – This book is about a high school girl with anorexia. Her bulimic friend dies alone in a motel room and then the anorexic girl must deal with that death on top of her own body image issues. This is one of the few books I’ve ever read about eating disorders. I know I will never be able to fully understand the struggle of people who suffer from anorexia and bulimia, but I’m thankful for books like this to give me a glimpse into that world. This was a good read, albeit a sad and frustrating one.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – by Jesse Andrews – A Jewish high school boy and his black BFF who like to make shitty home movies befriend a Jewish girl from their school who is dying of cancer. No one falls in love and no huge lessons are learned, but it was fascinating to see how the characters all coped with what was going on. There were a lot of cultural stereotypes, but I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised about that.
Somebody Up There Hates You – by Hollis Seamon – More teens with cancer, but these kids are in Hospice. And there is love and sex and other shenanigans. This was a mostly enjoyable read despite the subject matter. I think I’m going to lay off the “kids with cancer” books for awhile, though.
Boys Wanted – by Flynn Meaney – There is a sudden shortage of desirable boys at the Wisconsin high school featured in the book. Told from Hunter and Kelly’s points of view, we follow them through their school year and how Hunter’s stock rises even though he was kind of a slacker. Even though this book was totally predictable, it wasn’t half bad. Hunter and Kelly were both likable.
On the Fence – by Kasie West – Another shitty cover that wasn’t even remotely close to depicting what actually happens in the book. (SOMEONE MAKE BETTER YA COVERS, PLEASE) The book is about a tomboy who has feelings for her next door neighbor and sometimes late at night they talk to each other through the fence. The girl ends up working at some clothes shop and along the way allows herself to be a bit more girly (clothes, makeup, whatnot). She thinks that’ll help in the guy department, though she is repeatedly told by her brothers and the boy next door to be herself (even though that has landed her zero dates thus far). This book wasn’t terrible, but it was also very predictable.
My Heartbeat – by Garret Freymann-Weyt – Fourteen year old Emily (I think?) looks up to her 17-year-old brother, Link, and his best friend, James (who she is madly in love with). Link and James love each other, but Link is afraid to define himself as gay and James doesn’t like that Link is not open with how they feel about each other. They fight and part ways, but then James starts hanging out and then seeing Emily (which is basically a dream come true for her since she’s loved James since she was little, but also confusing because she knows James and her brother loved each other, though that love was never consummated for reasons). I had no idea what this book was about when I grabbed it off the shelf, but I’m glad I read it. Self-acceptance and acceptance from society are always hot-button issues and I thought this book was written really beautifully.
So, yeah… that’s what I’ve been reading. I’m in the middle of two books right now, but will wait until I’m done reading those (and several others) before I post about books again.
I’ve been super busy with the books I’m writing too. I’m presently querying agents/agencies regarding the book I finished writing in May. I’ve heard back from three places (all No) so far, but I’m going to just keep on querying. In the meantime, I’m re-writing/editing a book I wrote last summer (YA book about two high school teens and how they meet on vacation) in addition to writing a book about two high school freshmen navigating the challenges of self-perception/the public’s perception. I think I might put the vacation book on the backburner for a bit because I’m really finding some momentum with this college book. I got 15 pages written so far and hope to write a few more tonight before I head to bed.
As always, if you have any suggestions on books I should read, please let me know!
Have a good one