Books

I like books. Here is some record of what I've been reading recently and chosen (or remembered) to note down. If you care to, you can also see the complete list of what I've ever entered into this system.

June

  • Katherine Applegate. Home of the Brave. 2007 - [j] A stripped-down, poetic story of a Sudanese refugee resettled in Minnesota with his aunt and cousin and his impressive resilience.
  • Lauren Wolk. Beyond the Bright Sea. 2017 - [j] A girl adopted as a foundling by a reclusive painter in the Elizabeth Islands tries to learn about her past and stumbles into a hunt for pirate treasure. The treasure part is maybe a little shaky, but it holds the rest of the plot together; the development of the main characters is fantastic, as is the setting.
  • Cat Clarke. The Pants Project. 2017 - [j] A 6th-grader with a developing trans identity fights the girls-must-wear-skirts policy at her (still "her" for the moment) new middle school. Many traditional elements of middle-school drama don't ring quite true, but what do I know—and the strong non-traditional characters are refreshing.

May

  • Kate Milford. Greenglass House. 2014 - [j] A classic mystery story set in a modern-day (?) "smugglers inn". Good plotting and fine characterization, but lots of things about Milford's world-building just don't make sense to me. How could there be secret subways, ever?
  • Melanie Crowder. Three Pennies. 2017 - [j] Kind of a fairy tail about adoption, both in tone and plotting: an 11-year-old girl is adopted by a rich perfect single woman, and has to process her feelings about her own mother who abandoned her. And there's a literal earthquake.
  • Kristen Hubbard. Watch the Sky. 2015 - [j] The book before Race the Night, which I read first. A boy feels secure and safe in his counter-culture family, even when his step-father puts them to work digging an underground shelter against the end times; then he goes to school and meets some people that complicate his world-view.
  • Nicole Helget. The End of the Wild. 2017 - [j] The idea of a girl fighting fracking in her neighborhood is an obvious one—much more affecting is how this story describes the main characters' extreme poverty. In no way does the author suggest more money would be the only (or best) solution, which makes the message of resistance to development much stronger.
  • Ali Standish. The Ethan I Was Before. 2017 - [j] A family moves from Boston to coastal South Carolina after an unspoken tragedy. The events that happen in the book are only there to let the well-written characters reveal themselves, and develop.
  • Natalie Dias Lorenzi. A Long Pitch Home. 2016 - [j] A boy who moves from Pakistan to the US for his family's safety finds himself gaining American friends through baseball, despite his cricket skills not transferring as well as he might have hoped. A good story about cross-cultural experience, if a little facile.
  • Aravind Adiga. Selction Day. 2016 - A novel about cricket and India. Mostly interesting and good characterization, but after reading mostly YA fiction for a while I wonder if adults are all really that fixated on sex.
  • Kurtis Scaletta. Rooting for Rafael Rosales. 2017 - [j] Two intertwining stories, of a young man from the DR trying to break into baseball and a girl in the Twin Cities who worries that bees are disappearing. Some interesting parts about how young people relate to parents, but I think it tries to do too much all together and falls just a little flat.

April

  • Kirsten Hubbard. Race the Night. 2016 - [j] Kids living in a desert compound after "the end of the world", along with a Teacher who enforces strict obedience as she tries to teach them to read minds. Naturally they wonder about things. An interesting story, if a little unsettling, and well-characterized; I want to hear more about the kids.
  • Lisa Thompson. Goldfish Boy. 2017 - [j] A 12-year-old boy with terrible OCD, watching the world through his window, is the last to see a toddler before he disappears. Trying to solve the mystery, he gets drawn into interacting with the people around him and starts to recover. The ending is a little pat, but the book gives an idea of what it's like to suffer from compulsions—and also points out how weird and broken everyone really is.
  • Amy Sarig King. Me and Marvin Gardins. 2017 - [j] A boy discovers an animal that eats plastic—which is the only unrealistic part of this lovely book that explores identity and strength of character, environmental issues, and the unreliability of adults.
  • Kelly Barnhill. The Witch's Boy. 2014 - [j] In a medieval fantasy land, a boy everyone thinks is retarded and a the only daughter of the bandit king need to control the magic in the world and stop a war. Told in a matter-of-fact fairy tale tone like Kate DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant, with a few breaks into more typical fantasy. Reasonably good.
  • Clare Vanderpool. Moon Over Manifest. 2010 - [j] A strangely forgettable book—I swear I read it before, but I couldn't recall a single detail. Maybe it's because it's a "page-turner", driven by plot: a dense plot about two generations in a small Kansas town, and how they cope with diversity. It's an award-winner, but the characterization and description didn't do it for me.

March

  • Mary E. Lambert. Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes. 2017 - [j] A story about a middle-school girl whose Mom is a hoarder. Good characterization and a hopeful—but totally believable—story.
  • J. Anderson Coats. The Many Reflections of Miss Jame Deming. 2017 - [j] A 12-year-old girl travels with her stepmother to frontier Seattle, and finds that she is much more capable than she thought—capable of doing things for herself, and changing things around her. Very enjoyable historical fiction with good characterization.
  • Deborah Ellis. No Ordinary Day. 2011 - [j] I talk about how modern YA novels are hampered by the difficulty of getting the characters into meaningful adventures. That's actually only true for rich American characters. The young girl this book is about has plenty of adventures living on her own on the streets of Kolkata. A great story.

February

  • Kevin Henkes. The Year of Billy Miller. 2013 - [j] The rare skillfully-executed chapter book for younger grade readers; there needs to be more of them, with all the kiddies reading so early. A boy learns about himself over the course of his second-grade year. No big changes, just growing into himself in this quiet, comfortable story.
  • Kate Messner. The Seventh Wish. 2016 - [j] A girl finds a wish-granting talking fish while ice fishing and goes through a series of wishes, each of which full of unintended side effects. Despite the wishing fish premise—which isn't even so believable in the story: how can anyone catch the same fish seven times?!—this is mostly a realistic fiction book dealing with some serious themes like drug abuse, second-language learning, and Irish step dancing. Surprisingly passable despite a little bit of after-school special feel.

January

  • Sara Cassidy. A Boy Named Queen. 2016 - [j] A 5th-grade girl from a very conventional family becomes friends with a very unconventional boy, new to town. A good story about two strong, confident characters.
  • Mike Grosso. I Am Drums. 2016 - [j] A girl can't think about anything but playing the drums, despite social and familial pressure to the contrary, and despite not being really good. To start with, anyway. I wish there were more books about instrumental music—it turns out to be a terrific concept!