I have always been a huge Deb Caletti fan. Her books always include some deep and dreamy romance that in no way exists for real teenagers. But she also has long introspective inner dialogue that leaves me feeling like I’m in a sundress in a field of flowers, or something.
Anyway, her newest book has all of that. It is a great YA book. The characters are charming and quirky. The story is different than some other YA books. There are some moments of humor. But I do not care about all of that. This book is getting five stars from me because of a speech that the main character gives at the end of the novel that is so relevant to current times and so important for young women to read, or anyone to read actually who wants to affect some change, that I don’t even care what the rest of the book is about.
Annabelle Agnelli lives in Seattle with her divorced mother Gina and her genius younger brother Malcolm. Annabelle is popular and pretty and perfect, but has gone through some kind of tragedy before the book starts which she refuses to let herself think about, so much so that as a reader you do not get the entire story until the end of the book ( but you can pretty much guess). She obviously is not handling this tragedy well and everyone seems to be handling her with kid gloves. Annabelle has so many pent up feelings that she decides to just…run. As in run cross country. As in run with her own two legs to Washington D.C. and she decides this in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant and she takes off with the clothing on her back and nothing else. Cut to a month or so later when she is actually on this trip in a more organized way (accompanied by her Grandfather and his RV) and with a GoFundMe bank account that people who are inspired by her cause (what is her cause again?) have been donating to. Annabelle wants to keep her journey personal but people can’t help but to be inspired by her ability to move on from her tragedy (which is what?) and persevere. Whatever.
Towards the end of the novel is where the speech happens. In a world where school shootings are regular news, the #metoo movement is taking over, and Supreme Court Justice nominees can also have (allegedly) committed sexual assault: Annabelle’s own personal tragedy can take all of these topics into one and she finally is able to speak out loud on her story and MAN does she say everything that I have been thinking for the past few months about all of these topics. I cried while reading it. I wrote it down in an e-mail to myself.
Go Deb Caletti. You are my new personal hero.
Based on the 1970’s novel by John Bellairs, the movie reviews (see Common Sense Media site) seem to be saying dark, creepy and perhaps too much horror for little kids. The book, however, reads like a creepy, gothic tale of an orphaned boy who goes to live in an old house with an uncle he never met. Set in the mid 1900’s, the grim tale is less than 200 pages. Released in a timely manner for Halloween season, the movie has “jump-worthy” scenes and may be over the top for very little ones. Perhaps best to stick with the book for the younger set where the original Edward Gorey illustrations will satisfy the haunted mood necessary to conjure up goosebumps.
Marcus Zusak, author of The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger, has a new teen book being released on October 9, titled The Bridge of Clay. It is being touted in Amazon as “an unforgettable and sweeping family saga”. It’s the story of five brothers, the Dunbars, who help to bring each other up, since their mother is deceased and their father has disappeared. The title refers to one of the brothers, Clay, who will be responsible for building the metaphorical bridge referred to in the title. Booklist gives it a starred review. I am looking forward to reading this, stay tuned…
Australian author, Sally Hepworth, has created a family drama set in an Australian suburb. Three married couples all appear to have perfect lives until peeking beneath the surface. Essie has 2 children and a husband she adores. She is close to her mother who helps out all she can. Yet she has a secret and all is not as it seems. Fran and Nigel are another couple who seem to have it all. Fran, however, is afraid she will lose Nigel if she is honest with him. Ange and Lucas are the third couple living on the same street. Ange would like to believe she has the most wonderful marriage, but is suspicious there might be something her husband is keeping from her. When a single woman moves in next door, each family is exposed and secrets are revealed. Recommended.
Recently I have been so impressed by the amazing writing and topics that I have been encountering in YA literature. Sometimes YA books tend to approach tough subjects in the same linear way, but, sometimes, like in I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez, it hits you with feeling, emotion, and understanding in an entirely new way.
Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed. But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
Nothing about this book is lighthearted. Nothing about it indicates that there will be a happy ending. You won’t ever warm up to most of the characters, including Julia. But there is raw emotion and hope that the main character sometimes feels which will touch you all the same. Sanchez makes you feel the depression crawling into Julia’s skin like it was your own. You feel oppressed and misunderstood just as Julia does by her extremely overbearing and controlling parents. This book is one of my five star books of last year. A MUST READ!