Full-on Mock Printz prep this month. Plus a great non-Mock-Printz-YA Novel which will probably be a top 5 favorite for this year. And Dennis Lehane’s new book, which I didn’t like very much, alas.
The Brides of Rollrock Island
Read for Mock Pritnz
This is that kind of fiction that I think is supposed to be “literary” because there are a lot of words, and pretty, carefully written words at that, but not a lot of explaining because, I guess, the author thinks the reader should be smart enough to figure things out. But when it’s not really clear to me from the beginning what is going on, it’s hard for me to attach to the book. Also, I didn’t find the characters very distinct from one another, so I was always a bit confused. That said, there are a few pages in the last quarter of the book that are beautifully written and if you “need” to finish the book, just keep waiting for them. They might make the whole book worth it.
A very clever plot device (main character wakes up in a different body every day) executed brilliantly by Mr. Levithan. This book questions the nature of gender, love, brain chemistry, sibling relationships, family relationships, body type, race, sexual orientation and probably other things I’m forgetting. I couldn’t figure out how he was going to end the book in a way that made everything okay, but he did it. I will be recommending this for years, so you should go and read it now so I don’t have to harangue you.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Emily M. Danforth
Read for Mock Printz
I recently lamented that all the up-and-coming actors in my age demographic have either become “too old” and disappeared (mostly the women) or have become established actors, full of gravitas (mostly the men.) However, it seems the novelists in my age demographic are just now really getting started. Ms. Danforth would be a novelist in my age demographic who has set her story in the same period (more or less) when I attended high school which had a lot to do with my enjoyment of this book.
But! I also liked that it was set in a tiny Montana town where a friend lived and worked after college and I have even visited that town so I could picture it in my mind’s eye.
And! I loved it was a coming-of-age novel about a lesbian as those are in short supply (at least I think so, I don’t come across them often.)
Also! I loved the writing–at least three passages made it to my quotes page–and the characters were great. Danforth is quite good at capturing little details that made the story come alive. The hair tucking of the young minister who looked like Jesus, or Eddie Vedder was one such example. This was one of those books I liked so much I was recommending it to people before I had even finished it.
Read for Book Group
Eh. It’s a graphic novel, which aren’t my medium. And I’m not the biggest fan of Harvey Pekar’s schtick. I thought the art was a good fit for the time period, but I didn’t love this book.
Live by Night
Dennis Lehane, here are the things you do very well as an author: You create fabulous characters, fully-formed, flawed, smart and smart-assed. You write plots that are interesting, complicated, a bit dark and have a social justice bent to them. These things are very good and will keep me always reading your books. But you know what you do better than everyone else? Star-crossed love. And when your book, interesting as it might be and this one was, does not have star-crossed love I feel a great sadness and find myself feeling a bit cheated. So you maybe you want to move away from star-crossed love. Okay, I’ll still read your stories. But I’ll be patiently awaiting your next book with star-crossed love.
Ask the Passengers
Hey look, it’s another book about a girl who likes a girl! And it deals with that whole “questioning” issue. That’s a good thing. I think there is a lot of questioning going on. Overall, I thought this was a pretty successful book. The main character’s relationships with her sister, family, friends and girlfriend felt pretty true-to-life. The “ask the passengers” device never stopped feeling like a device. But I kind of liked it.
Started and did not finish
Read for Mock Printz
I get a big heavy feeling in my chest when I read about species in peril because it seems to be too big of a problem for anyone to solve and the whole thing feels hopeless. This book is about the amazing journey of a bird, but it’s also about the trouble his fellow birds are in. I don’t know what to do about that and dealt with my despair by putting the book down and never picking it up again.
Also, I found the prose rather breathless. And that annoyed me.