So--eek--this will almost certainly be my last blog post from our home here in New York City! A week from today, we will be driving for eight hours (because I can't bear the though of inflicting air travel on our cat--or inflicting our travel-anxious cat on a plane) to our new home in Buffalo. In light of the fact that the movers are coming in a mere six days (this move is a two-day process) I will probably not be posting again until we have safely landed in our new place. Keep your fingers crossed that everything makes the journey safely!
My reading this week was slowed a little by two things--one, of course, was packing. Not a ton of fun (although we have been watching Friday Night Lights as we go through--we somehow didn't get around to it until now, and it's wonderful!) but very productive. The other thing, which is WAY more fun, is beta-reading Elodie's fabulous MS. This is my first time beta-reading so all I can do is hope I'm being helpful--but I'm having a blast because it's so good!
And, full disclosure: since this week's Field Trip Friday, I've been watching a lot of this Kitten Cam. I have stress; kittens relieve stress. If you like what you see, go check out the live feed and, if you're willing and able, I would encourage you to support the Purrfect Pals shelter (they even have an Amazon wishlist of stuff they need, which I really like.)
What I Read This Week:
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Do you ever get most of the way through a book, and the plot is such that you look at the dwindling number of pages and think, how on earth could this get wrapped up so quickly? I started straight-up panicking near the end of My Life Next Door. The pacing on this one is really interesting: the beginning takes its time in the best possible way, like the way a cat stretches out for five whole minutes before getting up and going anywhere (well, mine does, anyway). You meet Samantha Reed, the protagonist. You meet her family and friends. You glimpse the neighbors who she's been watching from her window since she was seven. And then you get pulled in a little farther. You get to know these neighbors--the Garrett family, the house in the neighborhood that's always a little unkempt, with toys on the lawn and floats in the pool. You especially get to know perfect third child Jase (yeah, he might be a little too perfect, but you quickly stop caring). You wonder WTH is up with Sam's best friend Nan, whose sharp edges seem to appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. You become exasperated by, then worried about, then provisionally, tentatively happy for Nan's screw-up twin brother, Tim. It all unfurls slowly, like you're living it, at the speed not of narrative but of real life.
Then, suddenly, in the last third of the book...everything changes. It's a whole other book. And while the first two-thirds would be a four-star read on their own, the last third adds what 30 Rock fans like myself would call "the third heat". It's fast and intense and often jaw-droppingly frustrating. And if you happen to pick the book up just before that change happens, planning to read one or two chapters before bed, well, I'm sorry. You'll be up until it's over. I was. So go pick this one up before summer ends and everyone remembers what bedtimes are! You won't be sorry (but you may be sleepy.)
Since You Left Me by Allen Zadoff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm in a bit of a quandary here. See, I enjoyed this book. I liked Sanskrit's voice. His sense of humor was right on, and his uneasy place among the more-observant Jewish students and professors at his private school was interesting to me. His Big Problems--the accident he invented that got bigger than he anticipated, his mother's sudden life changes--earned his angst and my interest. And I'm a sucker for spunky tween little sisters, like Sweet Caroline. All good, right?
Well, I have a big reservation. Sanskrit's dad--presented as kind of a mess of a human being, although a more or less decent guy--makes a few remarks throughout the book that really startled me. One is a weird nickname based on religious garments (non-Jewish ones) and one is a stereotype of hygiene habits in a particular country (a non-Western one). I won't quote them here, as I read an advance copy, and perhaps these have changed going into the final version--I have no way of knowing, as the book comes out a few weeks from now. They weren't huge or hateful, but they were enough to give me pause; if they remained in the final version, I might not choose to stock this in my classroom. I don't think they "ruined" the story, and I do actually think they were fairly realistic. Sanskrit's dad is a flawed guy and I guess not every YA character who says something obnoxious has to wind up being A Terrible Horrible Person. But I don't know that I could justify his remarks if a parent showed up and wanted to know why I gave their kid this book. That's just teacher-me speaking, but I felt I had to include a mention of that in my review. Reader-me thought it was an interesting way to flesh out that character, but YMMV.
I suppose my final word on this for now is: if you like funny, flawed male narrators, you will enjoy this book. I would never tell anyone that they couldn't or shouldn't read it. Just realize that, as in the real world, you may come across ideas or statements that you don't like, so be ready to read with a critical eye.
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