In what’s becoming a semi-regular blog spot for me, here’s the post in which I offer my random thoughts on the random books I’ve been devouring recently:
From Goodreads: In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?
In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.(
Commentary: Um, please allow me to hand sell this book to you. It’s so freaking good I wish I could tie it up in a little bow and send it to your house. It’s so good they gave away bound copies of the unedited manuscript that initially sold at Book Expo America this year. It’s so good it started an auction that almost exploded the universe. And it’s so good it’s been touted as the next Harry Potter….but with torture (my own addition). For once I actually get the Harry Potter comparison. It’s really dark and tense and part of it is told in second person–whaaaaaaat? But the world is wonderful and highstakes and seriously, buy it.
The Kitchen House
From Amazon: When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family.
Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.
Commentary: It’s been a strange year in reading for me because a number of my favorite books have been on subjects that I’m a bit “over”…at least for now. Plantation society falls firmly within that category, but The Kitchen House is different, beautifully written, tragic and will make you feel all the feels. It’s also a great book club pick, with themes and devices worthy of extended discussion. I’ll say that the book relies pretty heavily on dramatic irony to keep you turning the pages, but even so, the end justifies the means.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox
From Amazon: Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn’t remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?
This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson’s vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.
Commentary: This one had been sitting on my Kindle for awhile and I finally got around to reading it. Now I’m not sure why I waited so long. I’ve been interested in bioethics for a long time and actually majored in something similar at Penn and had every intention of becoming a bioethicist out of law school (spoiler alert: I’m not). I guess I didn’t realize that bioethics was the thrust of this book. It’s a fascinating read both from the teen protagonist side and the role of Jenna’s parents. If you pick this one up, be sure to read Mary Pearson’s explanation behind the final chapter, which surprised me. You’ll like this book if you’re looking for a bit of philosophy mixed with some proper teen angst.
From Amazon: “When all choice is taken from you, life becomes a game of survival.”
Five teenagers from different parts of the country. Three girls. Two guys. Four straight. One gay. Some rich. Some poor. Some from great families. Some with no one at all. All living their lives as best they can, but all searching . . . for freedom, safety, community, family, love. What they don’t expect, though, is all that can happen when those powerful little words, “I love you,” are said for all the wrong reasons. These are five moving stories that remain separate at first, then weave together to tell a larger, more powerful story–a story about making choices, taking leaps of faith, falling down, and growing up. And figuring out what sex and love are all about.
TRICKS is informed and inspired by living near Las Vegas–a big teen prostitution scene–and by the fact that teen prostitution is not exclusively the result of kids running away from abuse. Kids from “better” families are selling themselves for hefty sums in order to finance addictions or even just to buy jewelry or clothing. In some cases, parents prostitute their children for the same reason. So what happens to the kids who are asking themselves, and asking us, “Can I ever feel OK about myself?”
Commentary: This is my first Ellen Hopkins book. I know, I know, don’t take my author card away. For those not in the know, Ellen Hopkins writes tough issue books in verse, which as my husband would summarize: Wait, you’re reading a book of POEMS? Yes, I guess they are poems, but they aren’t difficult poems. Don’t worry, you’re not going to have any hormonal teen boys reciting these to you during a slow dance. Tricks is a tough read in subject matter, but not not made tough because of the form. The book, though, is relentlessly dark and incredibly graphic, so come prepared to leave a tad depressed. Expect violent sex scenes–like quite a few. But it certainly shed light on the reasons teens find themselves engaged in prostitution in Vegas. Often more relatable than you think.