So, friends, this week I read like a crazy person. As a result: an epic four-book Sunday Sunshine!
I definitely enjoyed all the books I finished this week. However, I have to draw attention to the last one. I mentioned on Wednesday that April had been a good reading month for me--but you guys, then I read How To Save A Life and (as I did with The Scorpio Races) wished there was a secret sixth star button on Goodreads. My review doesn't do it justice, but if you like YA Contemp at all, pick this one up. I mention Speak in my review, and I think that's right--Sara Zarr reminds me of Laurie Halse Anderson in the way she creates totally fleshed out, real characters who aren't always likable but who are impossible not to love. For me personally, that's the nicest possible thing I could say about any writing in that genre, I think. Read it read it read it, you guys. Pretty please?
What I Read This Week
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the rare case where I think I should have read more about this book ahead of time! I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. Judging this book by its cover totally doesn't work. I mean, it is sometimes creepy and does feature old-timey children(ish). But I was caught off-guard when it started in a time and a place that were, roughly speaking, here and now.
I did enjoy this book, despite my poor research skills! The pictures were often crazy creepy, and Riggs had pretty good explanations for most of them. It sometimes felt like something was a little shoehorned in to justify sharing an awesome picture, but only small details. Mostly, my reaction was, "Whoah, I can't believe there's a picture for that too!"
By the end of this book, I was definitely sucked in to the world and the story. I hope that book two will clarify a little bit of the timey-wimey stuff, but I'm definitely rooting for Jacob & Co. If you're looking for something different from the norm, with adventure and monsters and time travel and tiny strange child-adults...this is for you.
Eve by Anna Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I tore right through this one! Eve is a quick, exciting read. Betrayed by the school where she excelled and hunted by the King's soldiers (and let me just pause and mention how delightfully offensive it feels to have someone be the King of New America--bold move, pal), Eve has a lot to learn about the world. This is sometimes frustrating, as she often does things that are CLEARLY terrible ideas. There were times when I totally just wanted to shake her and go "Hey, friend, stop trying to get yourself and everyone else killed." But if you were locked in a school from the ages of five to eighteen, and all you knew about the world was what your teachers told you, you might not be such a quick thinker either, so her dopiness is, ultimately, plausible. I'm hoping to see some improvement in that department in Once, the next book in the trilogy. When I went to the Spring Into the Future tour, Anna Carey said that (unless I have badly misremembered) there will be more on the City of Sand in the next book, which I look forward to. The world is intriguing but there are definitely a lot of blanks and question marks...good for getting people to keep reading, I suppose!
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Under the Never Sky, Veronica Rossi has created one of the most imaginative, rich post-apocalyptic worlds I've come across. The way she segmented the world--the Pods, the Realms, the tribal lands, the compound--gave a sense of a still-changing, complex land. (I think sometimes it's too easy in a dystopian to be all, "Ok, there's the Tech-Savvy Civilization and there's the Natural But Savage outer lands, and there are no gradations in between." This book blurs the lines a lot more, which makes it feel more realistic.)
That said, I kind of wish we saw more of Aria in her world before everything changed--which is always my wish, so maybe that just means that if I ever bring a manuscript to a critique partner or agent, it will come back with big red slashes through the first chapter. But in this case we got even less than usual, so I had a hard time latching on to Aria at first. By the end I really cared about her, but I think her change would have been more dramatic if we had seen her in the Realms in "real time".
Perry--who, I'm sorry, I have to call Peregrine, because Perry just sounds so tame to me--like it should be the name of someone's valet in a tuxedo--anyway, Perry was great. I think my favorite part of Rossi's world-building had to do with the different ways that Dwellers and Outsiders passed genetic gifts on to their children, and Perry's double gift made for a fascinating piece of his character. I love the idea of rendering (even as it felt like it was treading a little bit close to the creepy imprinting of Twilight) and I loved the way the gifts moved the character interactions along. And all of Perry's family story really made me care about him.
I liked the ending, too--just enough closure to be satisfying, but with enough left open that I am eagerly awaiting the rest of the story.
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Honestly? I don't feel like I just finished reading a novel. It's like that feeling when you wake up from a dream and you're convinced it was real. This book is beautiful. It's a master class in creating characters that breathe. I haven't read a contemporary novel with a character voice this strong since Speak and in Speak there's only one voice to worry about. In How To Save A Life there are two, Mandy and Jill, and they are extraordinary. Mandy is one of those people who, I'll admit, makes me uncomfortable in real life. It's hard to put your finger on, but something is just a little off in terms of the way she understands things and the way she interacts with other people. We've all had people in our lives like that--people it's just a little harder to be nice to, sometimes, even though they're perfectly nice themselves. I felt like I recognized Mandy within ten pages. Jill took a little longer to get to know, but that's who she is. And once I did get to know her, I realized that she had suddenly hopped on to my all-time favorite characters list. I want more time with Jill. Not a sequel, necessarily, because the book doesn't feel like it needs one (although I'd be first in line if one ever happened) but just...more. (I would love to see, fifteen years in the future, a book that splits Mandy and Jill and Lola's perspectives.) I really don't feel like I can do justice to this book...but I can tell you to make a little space in your life, set aside some time to really be with this book, and read it.
View all my reviews
Waiting in the Wings
(This one, obviously, is a re-read...in anticipation of...)