Books read in February 2017

February.  Also known as the month where one must catch up with all the award winners from the ALA conference.  I prioritized YA, so there’s a lot of that.  This February is also known as the month where I realize Carrie Mesrobian has published three books since writing Sex and Violence in 2013 There was a flurry of catching up.

Picture Books: Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist
Middle Grade: The Only Road
Young Adult: Cut Both Ways.  Also Scythe


Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist
Read for Librarian Book Group

Never has the use of an exclamation point in a book title been more appropriate.

Flying Lessons
Ellen Oh
Read for librarian book group
A collection of middle-grade short stories.  There were a lot of good stories to choose from. My favorite was the children of the painter.

I’m enjoying this trend of short stories for YA/MG audiences.

Jason Reynolds
Read for Family Book Group
Also enjoyable the second time around.  This received a score of 7.580 by the children in family book group, with the adults giving it an 8.625.  Overall rating:  8.044.  People are looking forward to the sequels.

The Only Road
Alexandra Diaz
Read for Librarian Book Group

A harrowing journey undertaken by two teenagers from Guatemala to the US.  This book was unsparing in the details of traveling through Mexico and across the border.  I appreciated it for that perspective and also for giving me a better of understanding of what it means to need to escape gangs that have taken over villages.  Recommended.

Neil Shustermann
Read for librarian book group
Ah, how refreshing!  A book set in the future where computers have taken over everything and: life is good!  People can reset back to younger ages–when you hit 90, there’s no reason not to become 25 again and start over.  It’s very hard to die.  Some people jump off of tall buildings just for the rush.  Once they splat, they are put back together again.

There’s just one small problem: the threat of overpopulation.  Enter the scythes.  Their job is to end life.  In Shusterman’s book, two teenagers reluctantly become apprentices to a scythe.  As they undergo their year of study, problems crop up.

This was a fascinating book, filled with many interesting concepts and discussable details.  Shusterman has created sympathetic characters, so much so that after one plot turn, I had to take a break for a few days, because I was too worried about what would happen.  There’s also a low-key humor that pops up throughout.

I’m quite happy this was chosen as a Printz Honor book.

Just a Girl
Carrie Mesrobian
I was a huge fan of Mesrobian’s Sex and Violence and so eagerly grabbed this ARC.  As with S&V, I was fascinated by the exploration of the early sexual experience and its ramifications.  This book follows a similar path.  It’s the kind of book that is very discussable, especially around what it means for a female to have sex.    It’s also interesting to see a relationship that the girl is only partway invested in.

Sex is graphically described in a way that would have been too much for my 14-year-old self, and exactly what my 16-17-18-year-old self would have needed to read.

I seem to have missed two of Mesrobian’s books.  I look forward to catching up.

Asking for It
Louise O’Neill
Read for Librarian Book Group
This was a hate read for me, for a variety of reasons.

  • I thought rape culture was explored more thoroughly and from a nuanced perspective in Female of the Species.
  • This takes place in 2015, in Ireland. I don’t buy that all of the main character’s friends (save two) and seemingly every single member of the community blamed the victim. It may be that Ireland is far behind the US’s baby-steps conversations about gang rape and it’s aftermath,  but I hope not.
  • This is one of those books where many character’s names are thrown at one all at once, few characters are fleshed out so when the characters are mentioned later, it’s confusing as to who the person is.
  • By the end, I was on board with the character’s feeling that she would be better off killing herself.  Pushing the story further down the line to the slightest glimmer of hope would have made this book bearable.

The Serpent King
Jeff Zentner
Read for Librarian Book Group

Solid story of three outcasts living in a small town.  I appreciated the depiction of the two working-class characters’ lives, especially in comparison to their wealthier friend.  The writing was vivid, and the story moved right along, though I found the dialog stilted at times.  I also appreciated that one of the characters was a songwriter and yet there weren’t any song lyrics to read.  (Reading song lyrics in books has always been an uncomfortable experience for me.)

This is the second book I’ve read this year where someone is internet famous and not at all famous/popular at her school.  That’s not how fame in our country works.  At the very least, people should be sucking up.

See No Color
Shannon Gibney

Interesting insight into how racial identity forms when a bi-racial child, Alex, is adopted into a white family.  There were a lot of details, some of which were uncomfortable to read about.  Overall, this was a good book.

Though I did wonder why there was no discussion of when the Alex’s baseball playing days would end.  The family seemed to operate under the belief that she would just keep playing through high school, into college and then to the majors.  2016 was the first year a woman played college baseball.  Yet there was no talk of Alex being the first, or among the first to do this.  It seemed strange, and I couldn’t figure out if it was intentional–like her family’s lack of understanding about her curiosity about her background–or if there was just some alternative space where a girl would get to play baseball as long as she wanted.

March Book Three
Read for Librarian Book Group

John Lewis’ story continues.  I found the framing device to be awkward.  It’s been a few years since I read Book 1, and the first jump back to President Obama’s inauguration was jarring, as it came mid-book.

While I appreciate all that John Lewis has done and I feel that this is a solid graphic novel, I don’t think this book meets the Printz criteria of standing alone.  I also don’t think it’s a YA book.

Cut Both Ways
Carrie Mesrobian

I don’t think I’ve read a YA novel that depicts a teenager stuck in a common reality:  one week at dad’s house and one week at mom’s house.  Just as Will splits his time between two houses, he finds himself split between two people: his friend at his mom’s house, Angus and his classmate, Brandy.

Will attempts to untangle his involvement with a girl (and also a boy) as he navigates his senior year, his father’s downward slide, his first new job and also his future.

There’s a lot to unpack in this book, and I enjoyed thinking about various aspects of Will’s life.

As with Mesrobian’s other books, sex is explicit in a way that would have been too much for my younger teenage self and just right for my high-school teenage self.

ps.  I would love a book about Carlos, Will’s co-worker.

Perfectly Good White Boy
Carrie Mesrobian

Two things I like about this amble through Sean Norwhalt’s senior year:  he’s a guy who for-sure isn’t going to college; it’s a depiction of a friendship between a boy and a girl that might have gone full-on romance if the stars had shifted the slightest bit.

I appreciate that Mesrobian’s characters often live in families on the lower end of the economic spectrum.  Their problems seem very true-to-life. This is true with Sean who is managing living in a crappy rental since they lost their home, also his father’s absence due to drug rehab, and the planning of his older brother’s wedding, which is a continual background happening through the year we spend with him.

There’s not a lot of plot arc going on.  Maybe the biggest thrust has to do with Sean’s decision to join the Marines.  But mostly you spend a year wandering through life with Sean.  He’s an enjoyable fellow though, so I didn’t mind just hanging out.

Caren Stelson
Read for Librarian Book Group

The story of a survivor of the Nagasaki Bombing.  This would be a great companion to any study of WWII, especially a study of the war in the Pacific. The story was top-notch.  The maps were terrible and would have been better being left out.

3 thoughts on “Books read in February 2017”

  1. Am I reading right that the main character in Cut Both Ways is bi? If so, I’m thrilled. There are so few depictions of bi men/boys in media.

    Scythe sounds right up my alley! It immediately went on the list.

    1. You are! It’s the first bi-boy book I’ve read. I really liked it.

      I really liked Scythe and hope you do too.

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