So I went mildly crazy in the YA section recently, which is massively out of keeping with my usual “all backlist all the time” review tendencies. But sometimes I’m just in the mood to booksplurge, I guess.
Here are the first splurgings (all worth reading, and I’ll include Amazon links):
Title: Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here
Author: Anna Breslaw
Thoughts: This is probably my favourite read out of this batch, and I loved everything on here (I don’t usually even write reviews of books I don’t like, tbh). Scarlett was funny and feminist (in a non-overt but resoundingly lovely way that consisted of recognizing that, for instance, the flaws of female characters written by men have nothing to do with real women and everything to do with the male writers).
During the course of the novel she also learns to appreciate the intelligence and strength of non-bookish people, a thing I don’t think I fully managed until I was about thirty. It’s both heartbreaking and encouraging to see her work out that her father, an author with an aspirational lifestyle that includes being married to another author and living in New York, is actually a mild form of jackass, and her not-bookish-at-all mother who cleans houses is a damned impressive person who deserves to be happy.
And, okay, the recognition of the limits of Jonathan Franzen breaks no new ground for anyone who spends time online discussing the sheer LOL MENness of his work, but I still think it’s amazing and empowering to have a book with a teen protagonist who is already over him.
Title: Down With the Shine
Author: Kate Karyus Quinn
Thoughts: I knew nothing about this book going in (I think someone rec’d it to me, but I don’t know who; whoever you are, THANK YOU). It’s a delightful fantasy novel in which the heroine has inherited the ability to grant wishes, only because she doesn’t know that she spends one amazing night doing incredible damage at a house party: the next morning she’s got classmates with, for instance, the scariest version of the Midas touch imaginable and batwings and whatnot.
The story of how she works out what’s been going on with her own family, how her utterly terrifying father got that way and what further damage he’s waiting to inflict, and how to undo all of that just races along. I read the whole thing in one massively enjoyable rush one Saturday, and it brought back my love of reading in full force. Seriously, the fun I had reading this is the reason my current book binge is happening.
Title: You Were Here
Author: Cory McCarthy
Thoughts: Oh, my heart. Jaycee has been mourning her daredevil brother for three years, and she’s still in that painful place of clinging to memories and being brutally honest with everyone around her (although not with herself about her brother’s flaws; accepting the real him is part of what she’s pushing towards). Meanwhile her former best friend’s controlled persona is imploding, again partly because of the fallout from Jake’s death; the former BF’s slacker boyfriend is sweet, self-aware, and anguishing over the losses in his life (including the impending loss of his girlfriend, which he knows is happening); and his best friend is suffering heartbreak of his own.
It’s gorgeous and painful to read, but it’s as honest and unflinching as Jaycee is, and so beautifully put together (including illustrations of Bishop’s poems and graphic-novel bits for selectively mute Ryan’s POV chapters) that I can’t bear to give it away (the usual fate of my novels).
Title: Summer of Sloane
Author: Erin L. Schneider
Thoughts: This was my most recent acquisition out of this first clump of YA, and I admit I bought it because it popped up as an Amazon suggestion and I loved the cover. It’s a quietly impressive book that sneaks up on you. The pain and teen-drama situation of being cheated on (by her boyfriend and her best friend, no less) leads Sloane to decide, wisely, that this summer will be all about her as she attempts to heal from the betrayal and find some happiness.
She ends up understanding more about human weakness and how to move on and forgive people than she ever wanted to, but the book doesn’t make the mistake of having her forgive her friends to the point of forgetting what they did. I cheered a little when she realized that, however much she cared about him and forgives him, things can never be the same with her former boyfriend. It hits a nice balance, showing the fallout from a loss of trust but also not collapsing into lifelong-grudge territory.
Which is okay because I’m GRUDGY ENOUGH FOR BOTH OF US apparently; I will never forgive her best friend. I don’t care who you think you’re in love with, child, you just don’t do that. The best friend’s misery at the end is a little over-the-top, but honestly as a reader I kind of needed to see her suffer a bit. Sorry. The real world lacks justice sometimes, so I like to soak it up in fiction.
Title: Kill the Boy Band
Author: Goldy Moldavsky
Thoughts: This was darkly funny, and perfect in its portrayal of totally-not-One-Direction fandom. Okay, I’m too old for 1D and I was too old for bandom, but that didn’t stop me from loving either of those things, so I was laughing and cringing all the way through this as I recognized the attractions and perils of fandom. (For the record, no one I know actually killed anyone. That I know of.)
I loved this book, although I was troubled on behalf of poor Apple. She’s definitely a known fandom type, and I worry about her real-world counterparts too, because even their fellow fans can be cruel to the fat girl. If anyone writes fic for this book, I would be all over Apple-centric stories that show us what she’s really thinking.