Books Read in April 2020

Middle Grade

P.S. I Miss You
Jen Petro-Roy

Letters! I’m always in. These are letters from a 7th grade girl to her older sister who has gone to live with their great aunt for the duration of her pregnancy.

The mechanics of this book worked well, though the story seemed to be trying to lead me away from the conclusion I’d drawn. My conclusion turned out to be correct, which caused some annoyance at the leading-astray shenanigans.

Young Adult

By the Book
Amanda Sellet

Things I don’t usually see in debut novels: Big families; Gaggles of friends.

Those tend to fall in the “too much to deal with” category and people trim things back. Not here!

Aside from a fun hook (girl steeped in 19th century literature enters public high school; uses her skills to navigate 21st century high school) this also has a protagonist with four sibings and two parents. In her new school, she makes friends with three girls and the four of them try to figure out love.

There’s a good romance subplot too, but this book is worth reading for its lit references, family and friendships.

Now That I’ve Found You
Kristina Forest

On the plus side: Famous!

Well, the main character, Evie, isn’t famous yet, but she wants to be and her grandmother is a reclusive famous actress.

On the minus side: I found Evie to be too self-centered for my full sympathy, but I enjoyed watching her navigate through this sticking point in her nascent career.

Almost American Girl
Robin Ha
Read for Librarian Book Group

In this graphic novel memoir (read via Kindle via the library—a mostly smooth reading experience) Robin Ha illustrates her life from the point where she moves from Korea to Huntsville, Alabama at age fourteen. Gripping setting, great illustrations!

This is All Your Fault
Aminah Mae Safi

A beloved independent Chicago bookstore is the setting of this novel, which was so very good, I checked to see if I’d read the author’s other books. (I had not! Lucky me!)

The prologue is from the perspective of Eli, who is the first to discover the bookstore’s secret. Eli makes a bad decision, which sets off the rest of the book, which is written in alternating perspectives. Daniella, an angry secret poet; Imogen, who just broke up with her girlfriend, and Rinn, a high-school-aged Instagram influencer.

Aminah Mae Safi reveals the hidden faces of the girls, ratchets up a tense situation, and writes many memorable scenes. I loved this book!

Not the Girls You’re Looking For
Amirah Mae Safi

I read this and immediately reread it because I wanted to see if the things that seemed wobbly had to do with me reading in an ebook format. Re-reading told me that the format was the problem. I skim (even more than I usually do) with ebooks.

This book is doing a lot, especially for a first novel. Friendship with three different friends, difficulties with being half Arab, boys. I loved that Lulu spent her time trying to take back a smidgen of what boys have (the ability to make out without consequences, the ability to be the subject and not the object. )

But mostly, I love that Safi examines fully the attraction to someone who is bad for you.

There’s a lot of great writing in this. Amirah Mae Safi is really great at capturing agency and how things can go wrong.

99 Days
Katie Cotugo

The one-chapter-per-day format means you always know how far along in this story you are—a plus when reading via ebook, where there are no pages for me to tap my measuring finger.

I’m all in on love triangles, and the setup for this had a delicious component of a mother’s betrayal. Still, there was that point where I didn’t really buy a turn of plot and the story was annoyingly opaque about consummation, which, given the setup, doesn’t really seem fair.

Last Chance Summer
Shanon Klare

This book’s setup is good. Pressed into work as a summer counselor at a camp for troubled youth, Alex is attracted too and repelled by Grant, her co-counselor. What it lacked was a rich back story.

  • Who was Marcus and what was their relationship like?
  • What about flashbacks with her friend?
  • Why did her aunt think she could handle being a counselor?

Without a window into Alex’s past, we’re adrift and left with Grant saying too many times, “You’re not qualified!” (Which she totally wasn’t!)

Virtually Yours
Sarvenaz Tash

A virtual dating experience is the setup for this romance which is a fun twist on the genre. The author did a great job keeping me guessing as to what would happen.

What I Carry
Jennifer Longo

Murial was dropped off at a hospital as an infant and never adopted. She’s eleven months from aging out of foster care. She knows how to navigate the foster system and knows how not to get attached.

Then she gets a placement with Francine on Bainbridge Island and plans get upended.

Tell Me How You Really Feel
Aminah Mae Safi

Dual perspective of two driven girls at an elite private high school. They haven’t been friends for the four years they have attended the school, but the last month before a May first deadline will throw them together.

Grownup Fiction

Call Me By Your Name
André Aciman

This book completely immersed me in Elio’s head which was a big change from the movie. A lot of the prose seemed like a swirling mass of thoughts. As evidenced by the star rating, I found this enjoyable.

Young People’s Nonfiction

The Fire Never Goes Out
Noelle Stevenson

A graphic memoir (with very tiny print in places) of the years of Noelle Stevenson’s life where a lot of things happened. You know, she went to college, developed a big fan following, started her career before she finished school, and became the showrunner for She-ra Princesses of Power

It was hard not to feel jealous, but Stevenson kept us appraised of her rough spots. And the visual part makes for a fun read.

Grownup Nonfiction

Manuscript Makeover
Elizabeth Lyon

A section-by-section guide to improving your manuscript. The edition I read had out-of-date information (courier as a font to use when submitting) but the revisions techniques seemed tried and true.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel
Jessica Brody

This takes the beat sheet idea of the original screenplay book and applies it to novels.

I especially liked the refashioning of genres to cross all types of novels.

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