There’s past tense and future tense, and then there’s Leavitt-tense. Leavitt-tense is when the main storyline so seamlessly intertwines with backstory that the reader can’t remember how it is they have come to know these characters so deeply. All they know is that they have.
Is This Tomorrow is a mystery with suspense enough. A child goes missing and his community struggles to carry on with no answers as to why or how. Were this story to include only the linear plotline, it would be as gripping. But Leavitt isn’t the kind of author who goes for suspense alone. Leavitt’s real strength lies in the characters. Flawed, scared and sometimes deceitful, these characters are your brother, your parents, your children, and perhaps even you. This is why Leavitt’s plots can never stop at suspenseful and always move on to haunting.
The 1950’s setting is pitch-perfect. You can practically feel the uneven shaggy carpeting of Eve’s house under your toes and taste the warming nutmeg in her pies. And you can smell the animosity that this Norman Rockwell-type community feels for a divorced Jewish mother who dares to date and has to work. Is This Tomorrow is a gem. And (hopefully) a future film.
15 DAYS WITHOUT A HEAD
My youngest daughter and I sometimes go through the day speaking with an English accent. She’s very good at it, mine’s a little squirrely from having lived in Australia at one point, but it’s not terrible. I love the English accent more than life itself. And I love reading in it even more than that. All this to say that I adored 15 Days Without a Head. This author, this Dave Cousins, can REALLY WRITE.
It’s probably impossible not to fall in love with Laurence Roach who yes, narrates with an English accent (!). It’s definitely impossible not to fall in love with his little brother, Jay, who thinks he’s a dog. (Jay’s 6 year-old voice is spot on, btw.) And it’s completely impossible not to want to rip their mother’s head off. But that’s really the point here. You can’t. Laurence can’t, Jay can’t and even Nosy Nelly can’t.
Mrs. Roach is a pathetic alcoholic, frequent liar and overall whiner, but she’s family. And you can’t give up on family even when you really really want to. This is the story of how a son teaches his mother to become one. Just in time.
It’s great. Read it.
Lizzie and Angie are best friends until Prom night when Lizzie is caught in bed with Angie’s boyfriend, Drake. Devastated, Angie stays silent as unidentified students at Verity High School seek her revenge by writing “slut” on Lizzie’s locker. For three weeks, Angie watches while Lizzie is bullied and humiliated. But everything changes when Lizzie commits suicide. Rather than putting Lizzie’s bullying to rest, the hazing continues. “Suicide Slut” appears on Lizzie’s locker and photocopies of her diary show up all around the school. Now, Angie sets out to find the tormentors.
What follows is a complicated plotline wherein those who were seemingly innocent are suddenly guilty, and those that were obviously guilty might actually be innocent. Pitcher has an enviable handle on teen dialogue and angst, and her lowercase and random font changes keep the reader focused – to say the least.
The ending, while not giving it away here, is however a bit contrived. It is asking quite a lot from the reader to believe that a single hand-written diary could be the key that unlocks so many of these secrets. That said, there is still much to love here. Angie’s character is complex and compelling and flawed, and yet we root for her. And Pitcher’s writing style is at times mesmerizing and overall daring. This alone makes The S-Word a worthwhile read.
Where Things Come Back is one of the more unique books I have ever read. Whaley’s style is different from most YA authors. He seems to depend on the fact that his readers are as savvy and clever as he is, and that comes across as a compliment. The story alternates POV’s and Cullen’s voice is, to me, the best. In fact it’s one OF the best YA male voices out there. The plot line, while clever, is a little anti-climactic. This story could have ended in a dozen different ways (as long as the one thing that does happen, does – I can’t say because big spoiler and all that), and perhaps that is why it seems a little anti-climactic. Nonetheless, Where Things Come Back is brilliantly written and well worth the time. Look out John Green.
When Bee comes home with straight A’s she reminds her parents of the little promise they made to her at the beginning of the year: Anything she wants she can have. So naturally she wants a family trip to Antarctica. This surprises her seriously smart TED-talk star father and her seriously eccentric mother. But a promise is a promise. Thanks for yours.
So begins this hilarious novel.
If you didn’t have ADD before, you might after reading this book. And I mean that in the best, most creative and daring of ways. Told through letters, emails, documents, and what one suspects are diary entries, this book just never stops (you know, until the end of course.)
Coming from Arrested Development, we would have expected nothing but clever from Semple. But the truth is, she over-delivers. Anti-social, unimpressed and a hundred percent dedicated to her family, Bernadette Fox is one of the most entertaining characters to ever escape from someone’s head. And that’s what it feels like – that she’s escaped from Semple’s impossibly hilarious brain. The rest of the cast is equally weird and simultaneously normal. Bee, a perfectly rendered teen daughter, captures the reader’s heart despite her frequent sarcasm because well, sometimes she’s got a point. And Elgie… you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy, despite his disappointing indiscrimination. I mean, Bernadette? She’s a handful.
So while this book may cause a few people to get a speeding ticket of the brain, it’s quite worth the risk. Move over Oprah, Bernadette is my new hero. Or maybe it’s Semple, I can’t be sure.
Here’s the thing: I do not like Hawaii. I’m sorry if I am offending anyone. But I’m a freckle face (before lasers), pale, heat-melting girl. Hot = Bad. I’m the only one in my family who has this problem … they are forever begging me to go tropical. But I’m the mom and Ice Land = Good.
However, when my friend Dee DeTarsio (Goodreads Author) sent me Opium Dreams, she had no idea I felt this way about Hawaii and all those other melt-alicious Islands. (If you read her book, The Kitchen Shrink, she will be your bff too. Well, it will seem like it anyway. We’ve never actually met.) So. I read Opium Dreams. And now I have no idea, zero, why I’d never read any Kiana Davenport before.
Each short story is a small masterpiece. And each one is so completely different from the others that I was a bit skeptical this was the work of a single author. How can one author create such completely unique and captivating voices? Then I realized how: Davenport is the Meryl Streep of authors. Put on a different wig and the transformation is complete – this is what Meryl Streep has said of her characters. I’m thinking Davenport must have a closet full of wigs herself.
I still don’t like Hawaii. But I love this book. Thanks, Dee.
Goodreads does a much better job delivering a synopsis than I could ever do. So here it is:
“Why the hell can’t chicks be more like guys?
That question plagues high school senior Sam Cruz. Sam is perfectly happy being a player. He just wishes girls wouldn’t change the game from sex to relationships. It makes him look like an asshole. But when Sam’s best friend, Ally Klinger, gets dumped, she begs him to transform her into someone who can screw around then screw off. No risk of heartbreak that way. It’s Sam’s chance to create the perfect female AND cheer up his best friend. Armed with Sam’s Three Step Guide to Backseat Success, Ally gets the game better than Sam thought she would and before long, Sam has his wish: the female version of himself. Too bad it’s driving him nuts. Told from Sam’s and Ally’s alternating POVs, Sam Cruz’s Infallible Guide to Getting Girls is a fast-paced romantic comedy that follows these teens as they navigate the minefield of sex, love, and friendship.”
See what I mean? Goodreads is the man here.
Now then, Sam Cruz’s Infallible Guide to Getting Girls starts off with huge promise. The dialogue is quick and cool and entertaining until about halfway through the book. Then, unfortunately, this same dialogue begins to straddle funny and contrived. And this is important because much of the book is dialogue. Still, the alternating POV’s are well-written and both characters are likable and fun.
This is probably not a book for the younger teenager, however. The pace is quick, and sometimes even a little too quick. So much is happening all the time! You sort of feel out of breath just reading it. Which isn’t a bad thing, of course, but worth mentioning.
Overall, this is a fairly entertaining (older) teen read, with a lot of crude language and a great title.
Rape Girl By Alina Klein could have been so many things: it could have been depressing, it could have been unconvincing, it could have been hard to read. But it wasn’t any of those things. It was great. And not just a little bit great either.
Valerie’s story makes me mad, and it will probably make you mad too. If you are a teen girl, it will make you wiser. If you are a teen boy, well, consider yourself informed. And if you are a parent of either, this book will do both. This is the kind of story that chips away at taboo topics and makes the world a better place. Really. It’s that simple.
Valerie’s character makes me proud to be a girl. The courage and strength she summons will make any girl proud. Because what Valerie suffers during the rape is horrid, but what she suffers afterwards is a longer version of horrid. Bullied, ignored, blamed, Valerie becomes a shell of her former self. Almost. But then there’s that courage and strength and inner power ever present and ready to bloom in all of us that peeks out for a tiny look. It takes an undefined faith in the human heart to rise above a horror that a fellow human being has caused, and not everyone can or maybe should do it. But Valerie does. Valerie’s mom does. And after reading the author’s notes, you will know too that the author does as well.
Klein is a magical writer. This is her recipe: start with a pinch of John Green, sprinkle with a bit of Wally Lamb, punctuate with some Laurie Halse Anderson. Then cook on perfect pace and speak in dead-on dialogue until done. Cool. You’ve got the amazing Alina Klein. Trust me, you won’t be able to put your fork down.
Dee DeTarsio told me all about the time she agreed to do a TV reality show called The Kitchen Shrink. This is what I thought the whole time I was reading her book. The thing is though, I’ve never met Dee and I’m pretty sure I’ve never talked to her on the phone unless she works at Verizon which I hope she doesn’t because they spend a lot of time redirecting phone calls. Anyway. After every time that I remembered I didn’t know Dee, my next thought was: Wow, her writing is good. She writes like she’s speaking to me and only me. That’s not an easy thing to do.
The Kitchen Shrink was a delight. I suspect (my friend) Dee works in the TV industry because there are insights here that only those on set could know. Which makes her book that much more fun to read. This is the perfect summer read. Thanks to (my friend) Dee for making me laugh on the trains, planes and automobiles that I took last week.