Books Read in June 2020

Middle Grade

Coo
Kaela Noel
Read for Librarian Book Group

A baby is abandoned in a rail yard and a flock of pigeons lift the baby to an abandoned dovecote on the top of the building. It is here where the baby grows into a little girl.

I’m unclear how the baby got through the milk-only stage of development, as pigeons can’t supply that. I also never understood how old the girl was.

Aside from these things, this was an engrossing middle grade novel with a bit of danger, a bit of wonder, a bit of outrage, and a bit of fantastical things.

When You Trap a Tiger
Tae Keller
Read for Librarian Book Group

Two girls and their mother move abruptly to Washington state from California to spend time with their grandmother. On their way there, the younger sister Lily sees a tiger near her grandmother’s house.

Good Korean folktales and good stuff around loss and sister issues.

Tornado Brain
Cat Patrick
Read for Librarian Book Group

Frankie is getting through middle school as best she can. She doesn’t have a best friend anymore and sometimes it’s hard to communicate. But when her former best friend turns up missing, Frankie focuses her attention on figuring out where her friend might have gone.

Efrén Divided
Ernesto Cisneros
Read for Librarian Book Group

Efrén lives with his mother, father, and twin brother and sister in a tiny studio apartment. When his mother is deported to Mexico he steps up to take care of his siblings while trying to keep his life (school, friends) in balance.

Wink
Rob Harrell
Read for Librarian Book Group

Man! Middle school is hard enough without Ross getting cancer and radiation treatment that causes his eye to drop. Plus he has to wear a cowboy hat all the time.

This book is packed with interesting characters and dilemmas. It’s well-paced and engaging and I’m impressed.

Young Adult

We Didn’t Ask for This
Adi Alsaid

It’s Lock-in Night at an international school and the kids are excited. But when Marisa and her friends chain themselves to the doors of the school to protest the degradation of coral reefs they REALLY lock people in and plans change.

Alsaid effectively manages point of view of six characters plus a few more. Nicely done.

Heroine
Mindy McGinnis

Mickey knows where she belongs: playing softball.

When here right hip is torn from her body in a car accident, she does what she needs to do in order to start conditioning with the team. It’s not the best choice for Mickey, but it sure is in terms of plot.

Another eminently readable novel from Mindy McGinnis!

The Afterlife of Holly Chase
Cynthia Hand

Christmas in June! I loved this modern-day take on the Scrooge story, but with a teenage girl as a failed Scrooge. A great blend of the fantastic with the normal. Another great novel by Cynthia Hand!

When You Were Everything
Ashley Woodfolk
Read for Librarian Book Group

My senior year of high school, my oldest friend ghosted me, though we didn’t have a term for it then. It hurt. A lot.

Friendship breakups are inevitable, but I don’t see a lot of them in fiction. But this book has the friendship breakup front and center.

Cleo is dealing with the loss of her best and only friend. As we bounce back and forth between now and then, we see bad acting on both sides, a lot of hurt, and forging a new path. There’s also new friends and a dreamy guy.

In the author’s note Woodfolk says this was a hard book to write. Partially because it was her second published book (which are known to be difficult beasts) and partially because she had to relive all those dead friendships. I’m glad she struggled through, because this was a great read.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
Samira Ahmad
Read for Librarian Book Group

Oh my god, an Art History Mystery that also is grounded in the female experience! This book hit all my pleasure points, including a nice romance.

Heartstopper Vol 1
Alice Oseman
Read for Librarian Book Group

A graphic novel about two boys who *might* like each other. Maybe. There’s a ton of emotion on each page. I wasn’t clear until the end (where you get handy stats for each character) how old everyone was. They were younger than I thought.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Maureen Goo

High-achieving girl turns to Korean dramas to teach her how to get a boyfriend, specifically hot new art guy. This was an amusing book, with mostly predictable results.

The State of Us
Shaun David Hutchinson

Presidential election year! In this book, the two presidential candidates each have a son who is a high school senior. They meet during a lock down at a debate and though they are initially wary, they get to talking.

I don’t love alternating perspectives, but this was a good example of the technique done well. The different ways the two boys texted was amusing. Also Shaun David Hutchinson seemed to get all his feelings about the current administration out through via the villainous third party candidate.

Just Breathe
Cammie McGovern

A boy with cystic fibrosis and a girl coming back from a major depression meet at a hospital.

McGovern writes really good internal feelings.

Solitaire
Alice Oseman

Oseman wrote this when she was seventeen years old. An impressive feat! The book was published in 2015 and has multiple examples of teenagers blogging and using Facebook—both of which I feel like teenagers had moved on from by that time. I blame a lag time in publishing.

Aside from that, our main character was depressed in a very authentic way that is hard for me to read. I also felt the central mystery wasn’t very well paced.

But was it better than any book I would have written at seventeen? Most certainly yes!

Save the Date
Morgan Matson

I love me a novel with a big family. Plus, the family has comic strip counterparts because their mother has featured them in her syndicated strip since they were still small children.

This is the story of a wedding where everything goes wrong and highlights things we find when things don’t go according to plan.

Grownup Fiction

No Judgments
Meg Cabot

In the past week I’ve read a book about a high school athlete who develops an opioid addition, a neurotypical middle schooler whose friend goes missing, a middle schooler who’s mother was deported, and a seventh grader with eye cancer.

I needed a break, and so grabbed this breezy romance.

Unfortunately, the traditional gender norms bugged the heck out of me and it wasn’t the respite I was looking for.

Snow Falling on Ceders
David Guterson
Little Free Library Late-Night Insomnia Read

I grabbed this from a Little Free Library to use as my time passer for those nights when I’m awake for an hour or two.

This was my first read since the 90s (when we weren’t too concerned about who was telling the story of the Japanese Internment). My recollections are that I liked it, and that it was the first time I’d really read about the event.

It retained the careful and colorful descriptions of people, places, and events. Guterson is not worried about retaining readers with short attention spans. It’s interesting how restrained the writing is that describe action or big emotional moments. Perhaps it’s that contrast that drew me in.

Normal People
Sally Rooney

A good work of fiction in that I couldn’t decide whether the main characters were better or worse off together. Also excellent in bringing up uncomfortable feelings in me.

Which made for a unpleasant reading experience.

Young Nonfiction

Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism and You
Jason Reynolds
Read for Librarian Book Group

Jason Reynolds remixes Ibram X Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning into a not-history book that examines how racism has affected every facet of American life.

They explore a variety of movements and historical figures in therm of segregationists, assimilationists and anti-racists.

Jane Against the World
Karen Blumenthal
Read for Librarian Book Group

A history of abortion in the United States that keeps reminding us that controlling fertility is always harder for poor women, even today.

I found this to be an interesting and readable book! Did you know that a Rubella outbreak in the 60s loosened controls on abortion in some states? This is just one of the many facts I learned!

Grownup Nonfiction

Because Internet
Gretchen McCulloch
Read for Northwest Editors Guild Book Group

A linguist analyzes how language changes specifically through the growth and dominance of communication via the internet.

I loved her divisions of internet people, which have more to do with when you really started using the internet, than with the year you were born. According to her categories, though I could have easily been an old internet person (one from the days of early chat rooms and coding and the like) I’m actually a semi internet person because my first regular exposure to the internet was through my work environments as an adult. Whereas one of my former co-workers born 8/8/88 fit exactly into the description of the full internet person.

There’s a thorough discussion of memes (which are something that, as a semi internet person, I’ve always been on the fringes of). McCulloch also explores how language travels.

My favorite takeaway: girls learn language from their friends and boys learn it from their mothers. Apparently, this is so common that linguists barely remark on it. Teenage girls advance the language!

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