Summer 2013 Reads – part two

16 07 2013

Even though the summer started off fairly promising, bookwise it seems to have taken a turn for the mediocre…

The cat went on holiday to Zeeland and in her book bag, she had…

The Disenchantments (by Nina LaCour)

Colby has a plan: grdisenchantmentsaduate, go on tour with his best friend Bev’s band, and then off to Europe with Bev (who he’s been in love with forever, of course!). That is until Bev confesses she did after all apply to college and actually got into her number one choice. Gone are all of Colby’s plans…or are they? This book definitely has everything people expect from a “summer read”: music, fun, tears, road trip, …  nothing too original in terms of “teen finding himself” either and even though it really is an OK read, after reading Hold Still I definitely expected this one to stand out more than it did.

3 stars

I am J (by Cris Beam)

iamjOK, so I’m all for diversity in books. Really I am: in terms of race, gender, sexuality… one reason why I like losing myself in books so much is because it offers so many different opportunities, it shows so many different types of people, so many conflicting emotions and decisions, and … well, you get my drift. But what I also want – and probably even more so – is just a kick ass read. I want an author to explore all possibilities and go for the hard choice. The boyfriend has a T-shirt that says “Keep Books Dangerous”, and I couldn’t agree more. Have at it, writers, explore the hell out of yourself, your characters, your story… but please, please, please, don’t do it one-dimensionally and keep your readers on their toes. If you don’t, everything is just so incredibly boring.

I really don’t want diversity for diversity’s sake either. And with Cris Beam’s I am J, I feel that this is “just an issues book” about a transgender person, and when “the issue” is the book, rather than just part of the story, you know something is wrong. I am J is the story of 17-year-old J, who knows he is a boy, even though he was born biologically as a girl. The book is supposed to be his struggle against the social definition of “gender”, but there really isn’t much of a struggle going on, really. The way that his best friend and his parents deal with this is definitely not worked out enough. The worst part of this book therefore is definitely how politically correct this book is.

2 stars

I’m With Stupid (by Geoff Herbach)

I’m glad Herbach is done with this series. Seriously, I am. I think that Herbach can write incredibly funny scenes and great characters and Felton is a GREAT male voice in YA. I loved the hell out of Stupid Fast. But unfortunately, after Stupid Fast, it sort of went downhill… Nothing Special really was…nothing special (like Stupid Fast was), and I’m With Stupid is more akin to Nothing Special than it does with Stupid Fast.  What I’m With Stupid does accomplish is bringing the Felton arc to a satisfactory ending, so I guess it’s not all bad… still, I want to be surprised again in Herbach’s next book!

imwithstupid

2.5 stars





First summer impressions…

29 06 2013

OK, so the weather pretty much sucks at the moment. Nevertheless the cat has read 4 really excellent “summer reads” in the past week:

Game by Barry Lyga

game1Game is the sequel to last year’s I Hunt Killers, which has Barry Lyga doing something completely different from his previous YA books. Jazz (or Jasper) Dent is 16, and the son of the most infamous serial killer who’s still alive … and (spoiler alert) on the loose at the end of I Hunt Killers. To be honest, even though I Hunt Killers is clearly still YA, this sequel is a lot less “straight up YA”. By this I mean that it’s not so much about the character of Jazz, the teenager struggling with having a serial killer for a dad and not knowing whether he has/will have the same…err.. urges as his dad and how he should deal with that, but more of an actual crime novel/psychological thriller. If you could describe I Hunt Killers best as Dexter-Lite, then Game is like a mix of Criminal Minds and The Following…although admittedly a whole lot more entertaining. And that’s the immediate appeal of Game: it  is such a thrilling and enjoyable ride (after you have shown a great amount of suspension of disbelief, though: it doesn’t really make sense that a 17-year-old would be able to assist the NYPD in the way that Jazz is doing. Despite the often gruesome stuff that’s being described it’s hard to see how this could not appear to young adults, so yeah, maybe, YA is still a good enough “box”… A little bit disappointed that “the case” didn’t really get a resolution at the end, though. Sequilitis is catching, I guess.

Also, props to the people who came up with the hardcover design: that’s how you do the hardcover justice (not that boring black, but something that pops!).

game2

3.5 stars

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

moonmore1By now, my Sarah Dessen adulation knows very few bounds. The Moon and More has not changed that. It’s almost predictably good. Every time I open one of Dessen’s books, I know the world – in this case Colby, which is also featured in a few of her other books – she has created will be painted into the very finest details. Everything is so recognizable: the settings are perfectly drawn, the characters have believable parent-child relationships, the relationships between friends are great, the love interest is (usually) hard to dismiss, etc. Nothing spectacular ever happens, but Dessen’s appeal definitely lies in the meticulous build-up of a her main character’s surroundings, and The Moon and More is no exception: everything fits, the puzzle is always complete by the end of the book. And although Dessen does deviate a teensy weensy bit from the Dessen-formula (the love interest Theo for instance), everything still stays very much within her (and her readers’) comfort zone, and everything remains Dessenesque. She’s a true author, not a writer. Love her books!

4 stars

P.S. I do have a remark in terms of packaging. The protagonist in the book is called Emaline. On the paperback cover I read (UK), she’s called Emeline. I just thought this was really sloppy work of the art department responsible for the packaging here.

moonmore3

moonmore2

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

For a “cancer book”, this easily makes the top 3 of funniest books I’ve read this year! Greg Gaines has done his utmost not to make any friends in the place that universally sucks so bad: high school. Instead, he’s only “friends” – but co-worker would be a better way to describe him – with foulmouthed Earl, who’s not really from the most stable of families. Together they make movies. Their biggest inspiration is Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, a movie that not only strengthened their belief that they were totally different from all other high school specimens (hence the no-friends rule), but which led them onto the path of making their own fucked up movies themselves, movies that no one ever in the universe are allowed to watch. When his mom tells Greg to contact Rachel – the dying girl – again (they know each other from Hebrew school), his meticulous plan to fly under the high school radar goes horribly wrong.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is fucking awesome. Read it!

Also, check out the picture… just to illustrate that Greg Gaines is not alone in the Werner Herzog Adoration Society.

medg1

 

4 stars

Hold Still by Nina LaCour

holdstillIf Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was one of the funniest books for me this, year, Nina LaCour’s debut Hold Still is definitely the saddest book I’ve read in a long time. I guess topic-wise  this can hardly be called a summer read, but since it’s set over the course of a year – from one summer to another summer – I am including it nevertheless. Caitlin’s best friend Ingrid commits suicide and what Caitlin is left with is a whole lot of sadness… and Ingrid’s journal. Throughout the course of a school year Caitlin learns to deal with the sadness, the guilt, how to make friends again, finds her love for photography and building stuff again. LaCour’s strength is her poetic language, combined with a poignant use of symbolism and metaphor, which evokes a sort of serenity that ensures that this book is one of the best I’ve read to deal with the grief and guilt after losing a loved one. Highly recommended!

4 stars








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