Books read in December 2016

I was finishing up Mock Printz reading this month.  I will attend two Mock Printz discussion groups in January.  (For those of you not in the know, the Printz Award is the YA equivalent of the Newberry Medal).

Picture Books:  Juana & Lucas
Middle Grade: Frazzled (and not because it’s the only one)
YA: The Sun is Also a Star
Young Nonfiction: Animals by the Numbers

Ape & Armidillo Take Over the World
James Strum
Read for Librarian Book Group
I think if I were a kid today, I’d totally be into these TOON books.

The Princess and the Warrior
Duncan Tonatiuh
Read for Librarian Book Group
More of Tonatiuh’s really fun illustrations (love those ears that look like 3s) and the story of how two mountains came to be.

Maybe Something Beautiful
Read for Librarian Book Group
A girl makes something a little beautiful and suddenly everyone is pitching in to brighten the neighborhood.

A Child of Books
Read for Librarian Book Group
I enjoyed how the text morphed into many things.

Juana & Lucas
Juana Medina
Read for Librarian Book Group
Juana loves her dog Lucas.  But she doesn’t want to learn English. Very fun early chapter book.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we in the United States started learning another language when Juana does?

Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom
Booki Vivat
Read for Librarian Book Group
Abbie Wu is starting middle school and it’s a problem.  All sorts of things about middle school are hard, from picking an elective to navigating the school lunch room.  It’s also a problem that no one else sees what a big problem it is.  The level of drama resonated strongly, I loved the illustrations and am incredibly jealous of author Booki Vivat’s neat handwriting.

The Sun is Also a Star
Nicola Yoon
Read for Mock Printz
O! Such a wonderful swoony love story! I practically sells itself:  Girl meets boy , boy says they are going to fall in love, cue a day wandering through New York City.  The twist?  It’s her last day in America. Her family is being deported back to Jamaica.  He’s on his way to interview for college to please his Korean parents.  We see glimpses of the lives of the people they encounter as their story winds its way to its conclusion.  Yoon is a crazy romantic, and it shows, in the best ways.

The Reader
Traci Chee
Read for Mock Printz
After happily gobbling down Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star, I ran smack into this book, which took me 12 days to get through. Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy, but I am a big fan of stories that move along.  This one takes its time to get going.  And when it gets going, it’s more of an amble.  There’s also a very detailed map at the beginning which seems to have little relevance to the narrative.  It was page 125 before I successfully located a place name mentioned in the story on the map.

I think it was a mistake to use multiple perspectives to tell the tale, and a mistake to wait so long before switching narrators.  Though the way the different stories came together at the end was interesting, at that point I didn’t care.

In addition, books eligible for the Printz Award must stand on their own, which I don’t think this one (Book One of the Sea of Ink and Gold Series) qualifies.

The publisher seems to have great hopes for this novel. It’s got the series announcement on the front cover, the annoying edges that make it hard to turn the page, and many effects–drops of ink, faded text–scattered throughout the book. Plus that mostly useless detailed map.  I’m interested to see who the fans of this are, and what about this story appeals to them.

The Head of the Saint
Socorro Acioli
Read for Mock Printz
Fantastically weird story of a young man who, in fulfilling the last wish of his mother, travels to his father’s hometown and takes refuge in the head of a statue of Saint Anthony  That there’s a statue-sized head available for shelter is strange, but even weirder is that, when inside the head, the young man can hear women’s prayers to Saint Anthony.  All sorts of things happen after that.

Our Chemical Hearts
Krystal Sutherland
Read for Librarian Book Group
What happens when the right girl appears at the wrong time?  Henry Page is a high school senior who has never been in love.  Nothing about the drama of teen romance has seemed appealing to him until Grace Town walks into his classroom.   Grace is amazing, but also clearly going through something.  Their attraction is palpable, but complicated.

For the vast majority of people, their first love isn’t someone they will spend much of their life with. I appreciated the story’s exploration of when that amazing first love finally happens, and when it doesn’t go quite as the first-love narrative proscribes.

I found the level of parental chill annoying enough to be distracting.  Henry Page and his two best friends all have incredibly laid-back parents, unlike real life, when friend groups inevitably include some people whose parents are sticklers about curfew, drinking and girl/boyfriends staying the night.  There were also a ton of pop-culture references, which are a particularly annoying peccadillo, as I know in five years this book will be dated and in 10 years, from another time entirely.  Which is too bad, because I think it’s a kind of book that I don’t run across often.

Beware That Girl
Teresa Toten
Read for Librarian Book Group
Things I liked:  psychological thriller for the teen set, by which I mean the gross stuff is present, but lightly touched on. Interesting characters and a plot that clips along.  Katie O’Brian had just the right amount of scrappy and manipulation.

Things that didn’t work well for me:  I wasn’t convinced by the end, especially given what had happened a few chapters before.  There was no need to render the housekeeper’s speech in dialect, it was very distracting and came off as marginalizing.  I think I read the word dry-swallow (in reference to pills) more times in this book than I have in all other print sources this year.  This is the second book in two months I’ve read with main characters perspective told in first and third person.  This technique is, thus far, jarring, and feels like an attempt to avoid making the voices distinct.  It also feels very trendy.

Biggest Flirts
Jennifer Echols
There’s a particular phase in ones life where two people in mutual like can’t keep their hands off of each other.  This often happens in adolescence and results in headlocks, much wrestling and the like.  Echols nicely captures that phase of like/like in this book.  I enjoyed her spot-on depictions of back-to-school band. The standing.  The sweat.  The boredom.  I also enjoyed Tia, with her purposeful noncommittal nature.     Thanks to friend Sara for recommending this book.

ps.  Book cover gripe:  Tia is half Puerto Rican.  Was it too much to ask to get a cover model who looks like she might be something beside Celtic?

Animals by the Numbers
Steven Jenkins
Read for Librarian Book Group
Many infographics of animal facts.  They are quite fond of the pie chart, which isn’t the best way to present information, (humans have trouble dissecting degrees of pie in pie charts) but there are also bar charts and many fun facts.  The tongue one was my favorite.

4 thoughts on “Books read in December 2016”

  1. Lots of teen romance this month! I’m enjoying the swing back to contemporary that YA has been taking lately, but could still do with a little less romance and/or the perfect/quirky/pixie girl.

    1. I feel like we’ve moved away from the perfect/quirky/pixie girl (and boy) for now, which is good. You might like Allegedly, given your true-crime bent. It’s a book that is turned up to 11, and nearly too much, but I couldn’t stop reading. We had a long discussion about it at Librarian Book Group, which included the people who hadn’t read it saying, “What the heck is going on with that book???”

  2. I am reading The Sun is Also a Star RIGHT NOW! Well, it’s on my kindle app and I have started it. Since last week got busy I seems to be chilling from reading a bit, but I added read for 30 min to my to do list for today. So there’s that!

    1. I’m so glad you got to read it! It’s such a good book on many different such-a-good-book levels. If it weren’t still in hardback, it would be the new read aloud. Instead, we are reading Graceling. Have you read that? Good fantasy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *