I took a YA lit class in grad school with David Levithan. One of the first things he said was to make the details in our writing as specific as possible. More detailed. More specific examples. These were two phrases, I became accustomed to seeing on my personal essays. It’s one of the lessons that I try to keep in the very front of my brain while writing. It’s also a lesson that no one needs to teach Julie Murphy, apparently. Because Damn! Ramona Blue, the latest book from the author who brought us Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary, is one of the most specific, detailed, and unique books I’ve ever read.
As with people in real life, Ramona’s history looms large over her present struggles. She was a small child when Hurricane Katrina dramatically changed her family. She’s been a kind of surrogate parent to her little sister, who is now pregnant. She likes girls. She wants to leave town, but doesn’t know if she can now that her sister needs her more than ever. Continue reading “Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy”
I met Laura Silverman at the end of my orientation at New School. I was a nervous and slightly overwhelmed new student who’d moved to New York City that week and was still scared of taking the subway. She was a confident and wise second year in my MFA program, who told me to check out my now-favorite bookstore Books of Wonder and gave advice about professors. Even though she was younger than me, I definitely looked up to her – and I still do. So it was lovely to lose myself in her debut novel Girl Out of Water this weekend. I started reading it on a sunny day in the park. After having to take a break for a friend’s dinner party, I finished the book late that night. As much as I like sleep, I liked Anise’s story better. Seventeen-year-old Anise loves surfing and is intensely connected to her California hometown. But when her aunt is injured, she and her Dad must spend the summer in Nebraska helping to take care of Anise’s three younger cousins. Anise expects a summer of boredom and wistfully checking up on her friends back home. But a cute, one-armed skateboarder named Lincoln (swoon!) and her growing connection to her cousins, cause her to lose touch with her friends and her surfer identity in Santa Cruz. Continue reading “Girl Out of Water, by Laura Silverman”
I have major love for Lara Jean Covey and all the Song girls. I like that she is a shy, quiet, bookish girl who finds her confidence not by losing her shyness or a boy liking her – but through her own journey. I like her relationship with her sisters and the way Margot and Kitty have changed over the last three books. I like the cultural details of being half Korean American that are weaved in and out of the narrative. I’ve said this several times now, but reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was formative to my interest in writing contemporary YA. Hearing Jenny Han speak at The National Book Festival in 2012 was formative to my decision to move to New York City and get my MFA in writing for children and teenagers. So yeah, I’ve been looking forward to reading the third and final Lara Jean book since I found out it was happening. And, as expected, it did not disappoint. Continue reading “Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han”
I knew I’d like this book. Correction: I knew I’d love this book. Becky Albertalli’s debut, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was pure magic (I’m shocked I didn’t review it when it came out). But I didn’t just love this book – I love, love, LOVED (add in a million heart eye emojis) it. I know as a writer I should probably have better, more specific words, but I don’t. My love of this book, of these words that Becky Albertalli wrote, transcends my ability to describe it. The story was that good and, perhaps more specifically, that perfect for me.
The story starts with 17-year-old Molly saying she’s had 26 crushes and no boyfriends (you and me both, girl). When her twin sister Cassie starts dating her first girlfriend, Molly vows to be less careful. She should probably be less careful with the new girlfriend’s flirtatious, hipster-boy best friend, Will. But there’s also Reid, her new coworker with too-white sneakers, Middle Earth (correction Middle-earth) t-shirts, and an awkward affinity for Renaissance Fairs. Who Molly totally doesn’t like. Because she can talk to him. And she can never talk to her crushes. That’s how this is supposed to work, right? Continue reading “The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli”
When it came time to think of my favorite read of March, two books instantly came to mind. One I already reviewed (and by reviewed I mean gushed over) on this blog. The other is We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour. Gosh, this book is beautiful. With full, nuanced characters and an emotional, nonlinear, sparse pacing my emotions were running high while reading the story of eighteen-year-old Marin. After a family tragedy, Marin leaves her California beach town to head to college in New York City two weeks early. She doesn’t say goodbye or offer explanations to anyone in her life, not even her best friend Mabel.
In the present of the story, Mabel is coming to visit Marin during winter break. They haven’t talked since the summer. Mabel has questions. Marin wants to avoid thinking about anything having to do with her old life. Continue reading “We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour”
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas has received no shortage of praise. It’s been #1 on the New York Times YA bestseller list for two weeks in a row and received eight starred reviews (which I didn’t even know was possible!). John Green called the book “a classic of our time.” Kirkus said the book was “necessary” and “important,” while Publisher’s weekly wrote that it was “heartbreakingly topical.” I could go on and on and on and on an on, etc. My point is there are far better and more insightful reviews of this book that spell out why it is so important and so good in equal measure. In fact, I would check out my friend Charlotte’s review and Amanda at The Bookcraft’s review; both discuss race and representation in a way that I cannot. Still, despite all the voices currently singing the praise of this book, I want to add my thoughts to the masses.
I. Loved. This. Book.
Continue reading “The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas”
I’m a big Corey Ann Haydu fan. I know I’ve written here about my love for OCD Love Story and Life By Committee. I started reading her because I wanted to read books from alumni of my MFA program, but soon she became a must-read author for me. I’ve also met Corey a few times, and she’s always been delightful. All of these factors, plus the drop-dead beautiful cover, made me extra excited to open this book on my flight to LA earlier this week. It wasn’t a surprise that I quickly lost myself in the nuanced characters, smooth writing style, and world building. The book is set in an America where recent history has followed a different path. After terrorist attacks, people are obsessed with superstition and commemorating victims. The book jacket can explain the story setup better than me: Everyone who really knows Brooklyn knows Devonairre Street girls are different. They’re the ones you shouldn’t fall in love with. The ones with the curse. The ones who can get you killed. Lorna Ryder is a Devonairre Street girl, and for years, paying lip service to the curse has been the small price of living in a neighborhood full of memories of her father, one of the thousands killed five years earlier in the 2001 Times Square Bombing. Then her best friend’s boyfriend is killed, and suddenly a city paralyzed by dread of another terrorist attack is obsessed with Devonairre Street and the price of falling in love. Continue reading “The Careful Undressing of Love, by Corey Ann Haydu”