I’ve been writing like crazy for the past few weeks; apologies for the blog silence! Unfortunately, I can’t yet talk about what I’m writing, so for now I decided to do a book recommendation post.
So! Books I’ve read lately:
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Before I Fall is, simply, one of the best depictions of the ‘mean girl’ character I’ve read. Even describing the main character as a mean girl doesn’t present the full picture: she’s a flawed character, with both good and bad aspects. This book also has some of the most fantastic teenage characterisations I’ve read in YA fiction–throughout the narrative, I kept thinking, “Yes, these characters are recognisably teenage, I fully believe this.” They don’t represent every type of teenager, obviously, but the ones they do are wonderfully developed and authentic. I started to suspect over halfway through the book how it would end, but reaching the last page and having to close the book was still wrenching.
White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black
I’ve read Holly’s previous YA books, but was really excited by this new series, where magic was outlawed in the 1930s, turning it into a dark, almost feared profession operating underground and leading to the rise of prominent, morally-dodgy magic (or ‘worker’) families. Cassel is the youngest of his worker family, but the only one unable to work magic. Cassel has more important things on his mind, such as the fact he killed his best friend when he was fourteen, but can’t actually remember the murder.
The world-building is wonderful. The little details are delicately woven into the narrative as needed, and the scope of the consequences of these differences intensify as the novel goes on. The family interactions are also great–Cassel’s brothers are both distinct and his relationships with his mother and grandfather are also intriguing (and also a little crazy, since the family is incredibly dysfunctional). I didn’t see the twist coming at all, and the ending has me wanting the next book so badly. (Roll on, Red Glove!)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
I picked this up based on several recommendations and WHOA BOY did it not disappoint. I devoured this on a train ride and the first thing I did when I had internet access again was check the release date for the next book (“November ’10! The same year, oh my god, this is so exciting!” were my exact words). I’m not even sure where to start: the world building is fabulous, the characters–both human and god–are fabulous, the writing is fabulous. The disjointed, literary, almost conversational style perplexed me at first, but when I realised what it meant… well, it was a slightly embarrassing reaction to have on a train around other people. I’m just sayin’. Basically: if you enjoy fantasy and want to be surprised by something new, pick this up. Immediately.
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
I heard about this book when a co-worker from another branch sent an email raving about it. So I picked it up when it came out, and it was everything she said it was and more. I couldn’t put it down once I started it and read it while cooking and eating and when I was supposed to be writing… It could be termed an “issue” book, with Lennie struggling to cope in the aftermath of her older sister Bailey’s death, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a book about grief, and living, and death, and loving, and music, and things you probably shouldn’t do but doing them anyway.
All of the characters and wonderfully developed with endearments and flaws, the setting of Clover is exceptional (seriously, read this if you’re struggling with the setting of your book, it was a huge help to me), and the slow and wonderfully developed romance between Lennie and Joe had me actually squealing in delight more than once. Interspersed throughout the narrative are snapshots of Lennie’s poetry, written on scraps of paper, takeaway coffee cups, tree trunks and more, all scattered throughout Clover, which are actually mentioned in the book. (A little detail that I adored.) One of the best teen books I’ve read this year.