Well, September ended! My life has been a whirlwind this school year, with a grad school class that involves a TON of reading academic articles and writing a bunch (not my favorite, I’m ready for another math class) and me literally not staying in town for an entire weekend yet this school year. So, I have not had as much time to read as I would like. Or to write this post. Or to clean my house, but that’s another story.
You can read previous posts from this series here:
I just said I haven’t had time to read, but that was only in the last month of the quarter. The other two months were SUMMER, so I’ve still logged a fair number of books: 14, to be exact, bringing my total for the year up to 46.
Here’s the best 5 of those 14.
This book was originally a speech that Jason Reynolds gave at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. For every person who has a dream.
The artistic presentation of this speech/poem was just stunning. This is a message for everyone who has a dream, but especially for everyone who has ever felt like they can’t accomplish their dream, or that their dream isn’t good enough. It will make you feel good and driven and ready to GO GET THAT DREAM. Or at least keep trying.
This story comes with a huge trigger warning for sexual violence and rape. Mara’s best friend Hannah accuses her twin brother of rape. Mara just broke up with her girlfriend Charlie who has also been her best friend forever. Mara has no one to turn to – she can’t talk to her brother or Hannah, she can’t talk to Charlie anymore, and her parents are pretending nothing happened. Does she side with her family, or with what she knows is right? Are those different things right now? How does she move on from this?
I got a text from my friend Tedi saying “this has to be the next book you read”, and I trust her, so I immediately put it on hold at the library. It is DEVASTATING. It confronts head on all the worst parts of rape culture. Mara is such a real and beautiful character and the reader is tormented along with her about what to do and how to just fix everything, which she can’t. It has LGBT representation with Charlie trying to find their identity as a nonbinary person, it has people messing up with getting identities right. It is so incredibly raw and powerful and vivid.
Shay, Autumn, and Logan are all hit by grief. Grief for different people, from different circumstances, but all tragic. The story follows their grief, and the way that one band connects them all and helps them to cope.
First, on the very first page of this book, someone dies in a car crash. I had gotten in a pretty bad accident about two days before starting this book, so that set me off completely sobbing through most of this book. Maybe not the best book to read at that point in my life. I would put a lot of trigger warnings on this for trauma, death, suicide, drugs. It is, however, gripping and beautiful. It deals with all the raw emotions of grief and how other people around you move on when you don’t. The music element of the book is perfection: the shows, the album reviews, the underlying element of Unraveling Lovely (the band). I cared so much about all of these characters and desperately wanted to see them process their grief in healthy ways and find their new normal lives. The little multimedia bits provide a nice transition through the three character perspectives and I think the subtle tie-ins between the three are masterful.
Claire loves the show Demon Heart. She even writes fanfiction for it. When she gets to ask the main actor a question at a Comic Con panel, though, he laughs off the possibility that his character could be gay, crushing her dreams. In a PR stunt to try to fix the bad optics of the actor’s answer, Claire ends up going on a tour of Comic Cons with the cast and crew of Demon Heart, meets Tess, and many shenanigans ensue.
This book was just so sweet. I am a sucker for stories that treat fandom as a legitimate thing and not a silly-teen girl hobby (see Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, for example). I loved the looks into Claire’s fanfics and the show itself. I loved the overdramatic plotline of them bringing her with them on tour and her interacting with the stubborn actors and awesome actors and show writers. Tess’ character is an interesting juxtaposition to Claire as a fan. This one is not super deep, but it is fun and cute, and does have some good representation going on.
Lucy was struck by lightning when she was little. And it gave her extraordinary math abilities. Now, her grandma is insisting that she go to a regular, public middle school for one year before she does college – to get the regular preteen social experience. Make a friend. Join a club. Lucy has no idea how to do any of this, and does not want to. She’s going to make it through the year in one piece, somehow, and move on. Or at least that’s what her plan is.
This book seemed so cheesy at first blink, and then I fell in love with it. It’s a pure celebration of friendship, which you don’t often see and is so beautiful. Lucy’s little math nerd tendencies made my heart happy – even though a lot of them were very surface level things, the use of math to frame her understanding of fitting in was lovely. I loved the teacher character, and the animal shelter inclusion. It’s a middle school read, so it’s quick, but it will leave you in a good mood and I think it would be a perfect read for a middle schooler looking for their place.