Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea. San Francisco : McSweeney’s, c2013. Review copy provided by my local library.
One of the main reasons I was interested in reading Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea was because of the cover blurb from Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). His glowing blurb ends with, “I can’t keep still to write a blurb about it. Just read the thing, read it now.” In a sense, that is how I feel about Mermaid in Chelsea Creek as well. It’s a beautiful book, and part of me certainly wants to just shove it at everyone who passes by me.
But another part of me–the part that went to library school–knows that this is not a book for everyone. Let me tell you about it, and you can decide if it is for you or not.
Carrie by Stephen King. Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1974. Review copy provided by my local library.
The first thing to say about Stephen King’s Carrie is that most of the time, you’re already diving into the book with the knowledge that it doesn’t end well. Carrie does not have a happy ending, believe me. If you’ve heard anything about the young girl Carrie with mysterious powers, an overbearing (and extremely religious) mother and bullies to boot, you know that this book goes under the “Most Deaths Ever in the History of..Ever,” section.
But just because it doesn’t have a happy ending doesn’t mean it isn’t a compelling, heartbreaking and masterfully woven story with twists and turns and personality traits that fall perfectly with the characters, antagonists and protagonists alike. You see the characters either become sick and twisted, or have revelations about how Carrie is, in fact, human.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. September 10, 2013. Review copy provided by NetGalley.
I loved Rainbow Rowell’s first YA book, Eleanor & Park, so I was eager to read anything else by her. And when I heard her newest book was called Fangirl, I jumped at the chance to read it. (Figuratively. It’s hard to read anything while literally jumping.) I read an advance copy of this several months ago and told all my nerdy friends to read it as soon as possible. The nerds of the world took this to heart and chose Fangirl as the first pick for the Tumblr Reblog Bookclub.
Winger by Andrew Smith. New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013. Review copy provided by my local library.
Winger by Andrew Smith is one of those books I wanted to read because it felt like everybody was reading it. “So funny,” everyone said. “Such a great look inside a teenage boy’s head!” everyone said. (Note: by “everyone” I mean “all the other librarians I follow on Twitter.”) So I picked it up mostly due to librarian peer pressure.
“Winger” is the nickname of the book’s protagonist and narrator, Ryan Dean West. (“My name is Ryan Dean West. Ryan Dean is my first name. You don’t usually think a single name can have a space and two capitals in it, but mine does. Not a dash, a space. And I don’t really like talking about my middle name.”) Winger attends Pine Mountain Academy, which is “not only a prestigious rich kids’ school; it’s also for rich kids who get in too much trouble because they’re alone and ignored while their parents are off being congressmen or investment bankers or professional athletes.” As for why Ryan Dean himself is at Pine Mountain? “I know you’re going to ask, so I might as well tell you: it was for breaking into and trying to drive a T train. I was twelve. Boys like trains.”
OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu. New York : Simon Pulse, 2013. Copy provided by my local library.
You know how they say not to judge a book by its cover? Well, I’m definitely guilty–I only picked up OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu because the cover caught my eye. Honestly, I was expecting to be a bit annoyed by it. One of my pet peeves is when people use “OCD” when they really just mean “I clean my room.”
Well, Bea, the protagonist of OCD Love Story, doesn’t want to be called OCD either. Sure, she’s a bit quirky, but she doesn’t belong in Dr. Pat’s support group for teens with OCD. Those kids are crazy, like Jenny who’s pulled almost all of her hair out, and her boyfriend Beck who works out for hours at a time and whose skin is rubbed raw from washing it so much. It’s not OCD if she drives carefully, right? Even if she can only bring herself to drive thirty miles per hour, max? Even if she has to keep doubling back to make sure she didn’t hit anything?
Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. Copy provided by my local library.
Sometimes I read criticisms of YA fiction that complain that “teens don’t really talk like that.” So what? I ask. How many adult fiction books have adults who talk like regular adults? Characters in books can be more real–sharper, funnier, more honest–than people who are just out walking in the world. Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos is the realistic, moving, and very funny story of James Whitman, a 16-year-old who loves the poet Walt Whitman, hates his dad, and frequently consults with his imaginary therapist, Dr. Bird. Who is a bird.
Pigeons strike me as good listeners–they discern the voices of mates over the cacophony of the natural world. They move the right way too. A pigeon’s head-tilts suggest the kinds of things that I imagine therapists say: “Really?” or “How did that feel?” or “Tell me more.” Plus: one intense, glassy black eye staring at me, the neck-bob of agreement, the puffing of feathers when I’m being evasive.
Mountains beyond Mountains : the Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world by Tracy Kidder, Adapted for Young Readers by Michael French.
New York : Delacorte Press, c2013.
The original book Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder is one of my very favorite books, so when I saw that Michael French had released an edition “Adapted for Young People” I decided to order it for the library and see how it was different from the original.
The subtitle of Mountains Beyond Mountains is “The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, the Man Who Would Cure the World” and that is a fairly accurate summary of the book. Paul Farmer excelled at Harvard Medical School and likely could have worked at any hospital or office in the USA that he chose. Instead, he found himself drawn to treating patients in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. When you read about the conditions Farmer lives in and how hard he works to save his patients, it’s hard not to think of him as a saint. In the book, Kidder comments on this:
It wasn’t the first time Farmer had heard himself called [a saint]. When I asked him for his reaction, he replied, “I don’t care how often people say, ‘You’re a saint.’ It’s not that I mind it. It’s that it’s inaccurate.”
Then he added, “People call me a saint, and I think I have to work harder. Because a saint would be a great thing to be.”