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.

When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon, is one of the best YA romantic comedies I’ve ever read. The premise is just too good. Dimple and Rishi are two Indian American teens who have exactly opposite reactions to their parents wanted them to *someday* be in an arranged marriage. Dimple cares way more about going to school and building a career as a web developer than who she’ll marry. That’s why she’s pumped to be spending the summer before she goes to college at a STEM summer program. Rishi cares more about art than computers, but he’s a born romantic and lover of tradition. So when his parents suggest he go to a summer program just to see if he is compatible with a one-day, some-day potential bride he agrees. This book was so sweet, and I loved that both characters had such different and complex reactions to being Indian American.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by Maureen Goo, also delivered on the romantic comedy front – although I think this one had a little more of the comedy than the romance. Since her mother’s death, Desi Lee has been a high achiever by making intricate plans and sticking to them. That’s how she’s become head of many clubs, a varsity soccer player, and student body president, and that’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But she’s never had a boyfriend, just a series of flailures (flirting-failures). After a particularly bad flail (pants may or may not end up around her ankles), Desi studies the K dramas her Dad loves to make a plan to reclaim her romantic destiny. This book didn’t just have me laughing out loud, it had me crying – because of how hard I was laughing. Don’t get me wrong the romance is there. But I think more of this book is about Desi figuring out who she wants to be and coming to terms with grief that she’s been pushing away for far too long.

What are you all reading these days? Anything good?

 

Author Interview: Betsy Cornwell

VenturessBetsy and I met in college, but even though I had a big friend crush on her I was way too shy to talk to her much. Then I reached out about how much I loved her first book Tides and an online friendship sparked into being. In another life, we are roommates conquering the NYC publishing world together and drinking beers on the weekend at The Way Station. But since she lives with her dreamy family in Ireland, I have to settle for some of the kindest, most supportive emails a friend/aspiring writer could ever ask for. Betsy’s third book Venturess is out today. It is the sequel to the badass, feminist Cinderella retelling Mechanica and my very favorite thing that Betsy’s written so far.  Expect a (glowing!) review soon. But for now, Betsy was kind enough to answer some questions for me…  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

Author Interview: Lauren Karcz

Gallery of Unfinished GirlsHi friends! Sorry I haven’t been blogging as much. This is pretty much how well I’m balancing teaching, plus writing, plus trying to exercise, and have some kind of life. But I’m completely thrilled to have an interview with Lauren Karcz for you today. Her debut YA The Gallery of Unfinished Girls comes out tomorrow, and I can’t wait to read it.

When developing the story, did you begin with plot, character, or setting?

Characters, for sure. Three of the main characters in Gallery — protagonist Mercedes, her sister Angela, and her best friend Victoria — go way, way back with me. I started writing about them when I was in middle school, and they featured in all kinds of stories, from contemporary romances to mysteries to adventure stories. I carried those girls with me as I grew up, as I became their ages and then surpassed them. I think Mercedes and Victoria were aspirational characters for me at the beginning, but they’ve necessarily evolved over the years. I could always identify with parts of them, and aspire to parts of their personalities, while also acknowledging their flaws. And so I returned to them again and again. Continue reading

Author Interview: Laura Silverman

Girl Out Of Water Cover

Hi friends! Happy summer and happy Friday! It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Laura Silverman and her debut Girl Out of WaterShe kindly agreed to answer some questions about writing routines, grad school (we went to New School together), book recommendations, and more. Read on for her writerly wisdom!  

How long did it take for you to write Girl Out of Water and do you have a consistent writing routine?

First idea to querying for an agent took about six months! I was able to write drafts quickly because I was in graduate school for creative writing at the time. After that, the timeline gets murky because there’s a lot of waiting in between stages. Continue reading

Sarah Dessen & Jenny Han & Jennifer E. Smith … Oh my!

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A very happy book blogger, at Books of Wonder last night!

Did you see what I was trying to do there in the title with the Wizard of Oz reference? No? Oh well, moving on with my geeky self. Last night, was like nonsexual YA orgy of amazingness. I got to go to my favorite bookstore and see/meet three favorite authors. The crowd and energy in the room was nuts. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen more folks come out to Books of Wonder before. I got their half an hour early and was apparently the 70th person there … bananas! 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