Three Mini Reviews: Warcross, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, and Turtles All the Way Down

Hi friends! I have somehow not posted a book review since October. How did that happen on my book review blog? Ugh to all other commitments that take my time away – like teaching and writing and friends, etc. Anyway, here are some books I would recommend to pretty much anyone – especially anyone who likes YA books enough to still be reading this blog. So …

WarcrossWarcross by Marie Lu is set in a near future where pretty much all of society is dominated by a virtual reality game. Emika Chen would probably be amazing at Warcross, if she wasn’t so busy trying to pay off her dead father’s debts and keep a roof over her head as a hacker and digital bounty hunter. In a desperate situation, she accidentally hacks into the opening night of the official Warcross games. She expects legal trouble, but instead the game’s creator – the teenage and smoldering Hideo Tanaka – offers her a job. He will put her as a wildcard into the Warcross games if she will serve as his spy. I’m not *quite* finished with this book yet, but I feel VERY confident recommending it. The weaving in of Emika’s backstory is done masterfully. In books like this, I sometimes have trouble keeping track of all the different characters and technology in play. But from page one of Warcross, I’ve been riveted.

Gallery of Unfinished GirlsThe Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz is one of the more quiet young books from 2017 that I wished got a little more attention from the YA community. I interviewed Karcz in July when her book came out, but don’t think I’ve followed up with how much I enjoyed this debut. Filled with magical realism, the story follows Mercedes Monroe, a teenage artist with serious painter’s block. Her mom’s out of town taking care of her abuela, who’s in a coma, and she’s keeping a seriously big secret from her best friend Victoria. The answer to her artistic problems, seems to be a mysterious neighbor with an invitation to an enchanted empty condo building. In the building, Mercedes is able to do her best work – but it has to stay in the building. And eventually she has to decide what’s more important, her life outside the condo or the expression and invigoration she feels inside.

Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green is a book that, by contras, has gotten lots of attention. Deservedly so. I had ridiculously high expectations after The Fault in Our Stars  and this book surpassed every one of those expectations. Every. Single. One. This was a stay up way too late to finish this book in one sitting kind of read for me. Part mystery, part chronicle of the difficult internal life of a character struggling with OCD, and part celebration of complicated friendships – I LOVED THIS BOOK. In case you can’t tell. It felt so nuanced and hard and true about knocking down the often used tropes and misunderstandings about mental illness. And it had the tight, exceedingly clever language that I’ve loved in Green’s previous books. It also made me cry all the tears and feel all the feels and remember how powerful and immersive reading a book like this can be.

What are you all reading these days (not that I need to add to my TBR, lol)?

 

There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins

there's someone inside your house

I’m a huge Stephanie Perkins fangirl. I’ve read Anna, Lola, and (my favorite) Isla too many times to keep track of. I cried when I met Stephanie Perkins. She’s one of my biggest influences as a writer. I wrote this blog post! But I was worried – really worried – when I learned her newest book would be a horror novel. I’m seriously the most sensitive person in the world when it comes to being scared. I didn’t know if I could handle reading it, but I also didn’t know if I could handle not reading it.

Well, in Halloween spirit I picked up the book. And of course, I sped through it. It had everything I love in a Stephanie Perkins novel – a nuanced and interesting heroine, a quirky love interest, the most swoon-worthy, romantic writing I’ve ever seen in YA. It also had someone killing people with a knife. And while I did stay up late to finish the book, I found I could handle it.  Continue reading

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez

I am not your perfect mexican daughterJulia and her family are grieving the death of her older sister, Olga. Olga was a perfect Mexican daughter to her immigrant parents. She didn’t go away to college. She didn’t move out after graduation. She happily cleaned and cooked with her mother and brought her father water to soak his feet in when he got home from his factory job. With her gone, Julia knows she can’t fill Olga’s role. She dreams of moving to New York City and becoming a writer, and has never been the obedient child her parents wanted. But when Julia discovers a pair of sexy underwear and a hotel key in Olga’s room, she learns that her big sister might not have been the perfect daughter everyone thought she was. In her grief, she focuses on finding out the truth about her sister’s life. At the same time, she struggles through growing pains with friends, the odds against her in applying for college, first romance, and her own mental illness. Continue reading

Venturess, by Betsy Cornwell

Venturess

If you haven’t read Mechanica – the feminist, steampunk Cinderella retelling – yet, what are you waiting for? Seriously, it’s so so so good. I’m obsessed with Cinderella retellings and it’s my second favorite one of all time (Ella Enchanted will ALWAYS be number one to me, sorry Betsy!). If you have read Mechanica, then I’m guessing you are already so enchanted by the amazing world building and nuanced characters that you don’t need me to tell you to read this sequel. But I had some thoughts I wanted to write out and this is my blog, so … here we go!

Also there will be some necessary SPOILERS for book one in this series. Proceed with caution.  Continue reading

Three Mini Reviews of Some Good (No Great!) Books I’ve Been Reading

Happy weekend! I am having a huge good book streak. I’m really hoping it doesn’t end anytime soon – obviously. I might be losing sleep, but it’s one hundred percent worth it. Here are some favorite YA books that I’ve read in the last few weeks!

Eliza and her MonstersEliza and her Monsters, by Francesca Zappia, blew me away and kept me up late at night. In some ways it felt like Fangirl on steroids. In others, it had its own special and unique magic. In the story, teenage Eliza is the creator of one of the most popular webcomics on the internet. She doesn’t do friends, at least not IRL, and her identity on the internet is a closely guarded secret. Then Wallace, her comic’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school and they develop a relationship through their shared interest. But he thinks that she’s just another fan and doesn’t know how to tell him. Ugh. This writing is beautiful. Like makes you want to cry and throw up at the same time beautiful. And the story is … I said on twitter that it made me feel like a mix between having a crush and the night before a new Harry Potter book comes out. And I stand by that strong endorsement. More people should be reading this book. Aside from being oh so swoony, it also has some of the best descriptions of anxiety I’ve ever read. Continue reading

Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy

Ramona BlueI took a YA lit class in grad school with David Levithan. One of the first things he said was to make the details in our writing as specific as possible. More detailed. More specific examples. These were two phrases, I became accustomed to seeing on my personal essays. It’s one of the lessons that I try to keep in the very front of my brain while writing. It’s also a lesson that no one needs to teach Julie Murphy, apparently. Because Damn! Ramona Blue, the latest book from the author who brought us Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary, is one of the most specific, detailed, and unique books I’ve ever read.

As with people in real life, Ramona’s history looms large over her present struggles. She was a small child when Hurricane Katrina dramatically changed her family. She’s been a kind of surrogate parent to her little sister, who is now pregnant. She likes girls. She wants to leave town, but doesn’t know if she can now that her sister needs her more than ever. Continue reading

Girl Out of Water, by Laura Silverman

Girl Out Of Water CoverI met Laura Silverman at the end of my orientation at New School. I was a nervous and slightly overwhelmed new student who’d moved to New York City that week and was still scared of taking the subway. She was a confident and wise second year in my MFA program, who told me to check out my now-favorite bookstore Books of Wonder and gave advice about professors. Even though she was younger than me, I definitely looked up to her – and I still do. So it was lovely to lose myself in her debut novel Girl Out of Water this weekend. I started reading it on a sunny day in the park. After having to take a break for a friend’s dinner party, I finished the book late that night. As much as I like sleep, I liked Anise’s story better. Seventeen-year-old Anise loves surfing and is intensely connected to her California hometown. But when her aunt is injured, she and her Dad must spend the summer in Nebraska helping to take care of Anise’s three younger cousins. Anise expects a summer of boredom and wistfully checking up on her friends back home. But a cute, one-armed skateboarder named Lincoln (swoon!) and her growing connection to her cousins, cause her to lose touch with her friends and her surfer identity in Santa Cruz.  Continue reading