You guys, adult books take so long to read! I'm nearly a third of the way into The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin and it's good but it just keeps going! Sigh. So in order to at least have two books to post about this week, I totally grabbed the quickest-reading book on my TBR shelf (a novel in verse!) and downed it in one sitting. I don't know when I will finish The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms but I may have to get my YA in first each week and then go back to it.
And before I get to my reviews, a question for you all: Is anyone thinking about going to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York? It just occurred to me that maybe that's something I might want to do. Sure would have been easier for me to do a New York conference last year, but I can still usually get there pretty cheaply and I know my way around and everything, so I'm thinking about it. (Julie Andrews is speaking. Y'all, if I met her, I'm pretty sure I would just start to cry. My history with The Sound of Music would fill its own blog post. Plus, by then I should be working on revisions and starting to think about querying, so the timing seems good.) What are your thoughts?
What I Read This Week:
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sara Zarr is really great at balancing high stakes with realism. Her characters start out in bad situations--like Deanna Lambert, whose father found her having sex with her older brother's best friend when she was thirteen, and who can't escape that story in her tiny town, and whose beloved older brother now lives in the basement of their parents' house with his baby and girlfriend--but they never teeter over into implausibility. She writes about people in these situations, not Teen Issues. And her characters should be required reading for any writer trying to portray teenagers working through their feelings and making choices in a real, organic way. There are no Adults With All The Answers, or Magic Moments, or Signs From The Universe. Sara Zarr's books are messy. It's what I love most about them. And in the midst of all the mess, she also manages to give her characters some resolution--not perfect, but satisfying. I'm planning to hunt down the rest of her books when I get a chance; if you haven't had a chance to read her work, definitely do so, especially if you like grounded, authentic contemporary stories.
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is often on lists of "classic" YA, meaning it's like ten years old. A novel in verse, it gets right to the heart of some of the near-universal experiences of adolescence: shopping with your mother, falling for someone cute, falling for someone not-so-cute, trying to reconcile your own feelings with your friends' feelings. It's definitely a quick read and it's a lot of fun. Sophie is funny and honest, and I really rooted for her. Some of the poems would definitely work as stand-alones, too--I kept thinking about which ones would grab my students' attention during a poetry unit. If you haven't read this, I recommend it; its relative longevity is definitely justified.
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Waiting in the Wings