Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I absolutely love parallel universe/alternate timeline type stories, and this one hit the spot - and even had a nice little twist. I liked the concept that all of Nora’s alternate lives could only be picked up from the current moment and lived on from there. There was no watching her past and being caught up with all that self had experienced, so that made it seem more immersive - Nora was just as new as the reader to these alternate lives.

I also like how this book handled depression at the beginning, and even the ending was deftly handled so it wasn’t hitting you over the head with its preachiness.

See more of my favorite parallel universe books here! Note that I need to update that post to include Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore, which is absolutely amazing.


(Did you stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled?)

I go back and forth, even now, well after finishing the book, on the actual ending. The idea that Nora, who has battled depression all her life, would want to live in the end seems a bit obvious. But then I balance that with some other lives where she died (presumably, since she couldn't experience a life that wasn't current), and figure it all worked out ok. I keep waffling though, so if you've read this book I'd love to hear your thoughts on that!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Pretty Funny for a Girl by Rebecca Elliot

Thanks to @kidlitexchange and @peachtreepublishing for a review copy of Pretty Funny for a Girl by @rebecca_elliot_author, which is out TODAY! Grab a copy if you’re ready to kick back with a hilarious YA novel.

Haylah has always been a huge comedy nerd. She watches stand-up every night before bed, and writes down anything funny she can think of. She’s a pro at laughing off anyone who tries to put her down, which happens a LOT because Haylah is fat. So fat, everyone (even her friends) calls her Pig. But Haylah laughs it off and channels all her energy into her comedy. When Leo, a student a few years ahead of her, performs a stand-up routine in the school’s talent show, Haylah is smitten. She starts slipping funny notes into Leo’s locker, and is thrilled to be writing his jokes. Except Leo doesn’t acknowledge her in the halls at school, because he doesn’t want anyone to know he doesn’t write his own jokes. Haylah’s friends think she’s being taken advantage of, but Haylah just wants to write comedy! And kiss the boy, but hey, she doesn’t have to admit that part.

This was a quick, funny read that I really enjoyed. As something of a comedy nerd myself, I especially loved that Elliot actually wrote the stand-up bits in the book! One thing I wasn’t completely sold on was Haylah’s body image - she spends the first ¾ of the book focused on her weight, and everything implies that she is pretty big. I am ALL. FOR. THIS. I love seeing fat girls own it in YA books - I think this is so important for teens. But in the last ¼ of the book, it’s almost like Haylah’s weight melts off. She starts being described as “curvy” where the words previously used definitely implied she was bigger than that. I can understand her focusing more on a comedy show than her weight, but it was such a major part of the book that it seems disingenuous to just drop it like that. As an adult woman who still struggles with body image, I don’t buy that a teen would just shrug it off all of a sudden after it being such a major part of her life - and her comedy act! So one small strike against the overall story for me, but it was a funny book and I absolutely loved that a bigger girl who loves being funny is being spotlighted in a YA book - I wish I had this when I was younger!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee

Thanks to @kidlitexchange, @simonandschuster and @barbaradeebooks for a review copy of My Life in the Fish Tank - out now! Barbara Dee is killing it with her poignant middle-grade novels, so you won't want to miss this one.

Zinny is used to her home life being pretty wild since she has three siblings, but when her older brother, Gabriel, is in a car accident, things at home completely change. Gabriel is admitted to a hospital to get his bipolar disorder under control, and Zinny feels horrible that she told an adult about Gabriel's strange behaviors. But now her parents don't want Zinny to tell anyone about Gabriel, so Zinny doesn't know what to talk to her friends about. They keep talking about boys they have crushes on, but Zinny isn't interested in that. She loves science, so she starts spending her lunch period in the science lab with Ms. Molina, her favorite teacher. Zinny starts using science as her outlet, to help her stay as calm as she possibly can, considering both her family life AND social life are in shambles. Zinny just wants Gabriel to come home, for her parents to understand, and to make it into the summer science camp her teacher nominates her for; but all of that seems like too big of a miracle.

Barbara Dee also wrote "Maybe He Just Likes You", about a middle-grade girl not liking the male attention she is getting. That book handled this age and this struggle so realistically, and "My Life in the Fish Tank" is written with that same level of reliability. Tackling the tough issues of mental health, family relationships, and changing friendships, this is a must-read for any middle-grade reader (and up!).