Books read in May 2017

It’s a month where I read three adult fiction books!  Amazing!

Middle grade: See You in the Cosmos
Young Adult: The Upside of Unrequited
Young Nonfiction: Stone Mirrors
Adult Fiction: Long Division

Niko Draws a Feeling
Raczka/Shin
Read for Librarian Book Group
Honestly, I cannot remember a thing about this book.  Upon discussion in book group, there were good points made about people “getting” you.

Five, six, seven, Nate
Tim Federle
A fitting sequel to Better Nate Than Ever, I found this to be even more enjoyable, due to it not being quite so manic.  Insider information into a the makings of a Broadway show was also interesting.

See You in the Cosmos
Jack Cheng
Read for Librarian Book Group
Eleven-year-old Alex loves rockets, and his dog Carl Sagan.  He is headed to New Mexico to launch the rocket he built at a rocket enthusiast festival.  We know about these things, because he’s recording information on his golden iPod, which will be included in the rocket launch, just like his hero Carl Sagan launched the Golden Record into space.

Why is Alex traveling alone to New Mexico from Colorado?  Does his rocket launch go as planned?  Who does he meet on his travels? This is one of those books that reads like a dream, and manages to be funny, sad and hopeful.  It’s one of those books I read without stopping, because I was enjoying myself so much.

American Street
Ibi Zoboi
Read for Librarian Book Group
Fabiola and her mother board the plane from Haiti to Detroit, but only Fabiola makes it to all the way to Detroit, her mother is detained and sent to an ICE unit.  While waiting for her mother to be released, Fabiola acquaints herself with her aunt and cousins, as well as American culture.

Fabiola’s cousins are tough–they are known as the Three Bs in their high school.  But Fabiola is also tough. My favorite interchange comes between Fabiola and a cousin. When the cousin tries to put Fabiola in her place by mentioning drugs, guns and dead bodies, Fabiola calmly responds to her experiences with these things in Haiti.

I loved the intertwining of Haitian culture into the US landscape and the complexities of being a citizen immigrant to the US.

The Upside of Unrequited
Becky Albertalli
Molly has amassed a lot of crushes in her 17 years, but no relationships.  She tries to put herself out there amidst the backdrop of summer, her first job, her moms getting married and her twin sister falling in love for the first time.

As with Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Albertalli warmly and accurately captures the ups and downs of the adolescent self.  She also includes complex and changing relationships, among friends, parents, sisters and love interests.

Molly is fat, which is captured in a way I did not find authentic.  Other than that, this is a good time capsule of the summer when the Supreme Court decision came down and everyone who wanted to marry someone could.

Stone Mirrors
Jeannine Atkins
Read for Librarian Book Group
This is the story of Edmonia Lewis, an African American and Indian American sculptor who worked in the late 19th century.  Lewis’ story is told in verse and includes her time at Oberlin College, life in Boston and Italy, and her return as an exhibitor in the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

Much of Lewis’ story has been lost to history which is why Jeannine Atkins chose to write this story in verse.  As we’ve lost many of the stories of women, I will happily read a novel in verse. Though I do think a well-written historical fiction novel about Edmonia Lewis is just waiting to be written.

The Music of Life
Elizabeth Rusch
Read for Librarian Book Group
Here’s a story of how the piano came to be.  It’s full of interesting details and those slightly messy, brightly colored illustrations that I enjoy.

Eligible
Curtis Sittenfeld
Matt and I finished reading this during our 15-year-anniversary trip to Bend, Oregon.  I’m glad that I’ve spent 15 years with Matt and that I have now read this book three times.  Matt liked it too.

Long Division
Kiese Laymon
A friend lent me this book, thinking I would like it.  His thoughts were correct, I was a fan.  The story is layered in a way that makes it difficult to describe, but I enjoyed the main character, City and his many travels.

The Mare
Mary Gaitskill
Velvet, a girl from New York City, and Ginger, a childless dry alcoholic forge a relationship via the Fresh Air Fund.  Their story is told in alternating perspectives,  mostly Ginger and Velvet, but with other people chiming in now and again.

I was uncomfortable reading this book. The characters fall into standard brown/white racial stereotypes, Velvet’s family is poor, and her mother is verbally abusive, while Ginger is a well-off artist (who doesn’t paint anymore) married to a college professor. The author’s photo indicates she probably falls into the Ginger camp of life experience, rather than Velvet’s, and I had a lot of “own voices”-type struggle wondering if this author should be telling this particular story.  (And yes, I made that judgement based on a photo and with no additional research, which I shouldn’t have done.)

The story shines while showing nuance in the day-to-day interactions of the character’s lives, particularly Velvet’s experiences in school and with unrequited love.  And then there are the horses.  Velvet’s powers of observation and connection with the horses (again, are we trending toward stereotype here? Would I be thinking the same thing if the main character was a poor white girl?) is masterfully written, with many painful moments due to one of the trainer’s psychological training styles.

What may have set me off on the wrong path was the blurb printed on the cover, something about “an amazing story of hope.”  What I got was a long and meandering–but carefully observed–novel that had a hurry-up ending that was not at all full of hope.

 

3 thoughts on “Books read in May 2017”

  1. What?!?!? You read books created for grown ups? Amazing!

    And PAST YOU! Way to hook up future you with these pre-prepped posts! Your Out-and-About-ers appreciate it!!!

  2. I absolutely loved Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, so The Upside of Unrequited is already on my list, although I think it will be a while before I get to it. Other than Simon, I haven’t been super thrilled by any of my books so far this year. Liked them? Yes. Thrilled enough to rave? No. Maybe it’s me.

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