Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Reviews

So yeah, I should be writing a ton. Just doing some revising and reading a ton instead. Went to the library on Friday and picked up four YA books. Read two Friday and two Saturday and my heart just basically broke, because sad books are the best and I LOVE them. So, here are my thoughts after musing for the weekend:

This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis

(Okay, Ann Dee was my faculty advisor at WIFYR, so I already love her, but holy cow, this girl can write!) In her stunning debut novel, Ellis tackles the difficult subjects of domestic violence and bullying with grace and honesty. Through poetic line breaks, illustrations with handwritten notes and an almost stream-of-
consciousness style, we learn that Logan is struggling with a secret. As the consequences of past events and the secret itself comes to light, the painful truth breaks through, stabbing out of Ellis' spare delivery with perfect and searing clarity. This is What I Did: is brutal, beautiful and honest. (I know it's the second time I used honest, but it's so fricken great how HONEST this book feels.) Ellis should be proud of herself. I cried over Logan and now I just want him to be okay. (Tell me he's okay, Ann Dee!) Wonderful book. Read it.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Seventeen year-old Tyler Miller isn't a loser. But everyone thinks he is. So are people's perceptions what make us? Or do we make ourselves?

In Twisted, Halse Anderson also raises questions about bullying and its effects. Do parents have to hit to cause trauma? Are we fated to become what people think we are? How much can one person take? Tyler takes a lot of abuse. The reader aches for him to come to an understanding of his worth as a human being as well as some kind of reconciliation with the characters who stand in his way. An uncomfortable look at a situation common to many teens as well as the current state of suburban familial decay. So many of our kids are in trouble, but where is the trouble coming from? Twisted rings true with frightening familiarity.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie

Chapter One Title: The Black-Eye-Of-The-Month Club

Our narrator Arnold Spirit opens telling us that he was born with water on the brain. Through his ironic tone and dry wit, the reader is led into an intimate view of his home, family and culture on the Spokane Indian Reservation. As Arnold attempts to navigate the uncertain world of his freshman year in high school, his tale is told with humor and heart-breaking honesty. I don't remember the last time I cried and laughed at a book simultaneously. This book reminds me of Alexie's script "Smoke Signals", another piece that made me laugh and cry at the same time. Alexie brings across the confusion, anger, fear and thrilling highs that accompany teenage years. In Arnold's own words, "It was a beautiful and ugly thing."

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

First line: "So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee."

Wintergirls is about Lia, an older teen suffering from anorexia. The writing style is gorgeous, with beautiful imagery, unforgettable characters, and a chilling message. It is a sad, sad, haunting story that gripped me from beginning to end. Lyrical, stunning, heart-rending. I read it with one hand either covering my mouth or my heart. The whole time. I can't say enough. Read it.

So my favorites were This is What I Did: and Wintergirls. Both radically different from one another in style. Both contemporary YA. Both fabulous. And after reading them, I think, "People are scary and beautiful and frightened and ignorant and broken and perfect. I need a good snuggle with my sweetie."


  1. now i've got to get myself to the library and check out these books! well, except for ann dee's, which i won. are the rest of these worth owning. i have a lovely gift card to borders that i got for my birthday, and i'm trying to figure out what to bring home with it.
    sad sad books are so great. but so haunting, too.

  2. Get Wintergirls for sure. Just so perfect in so many ways! I am going to buy it.


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