Thursday, October 22, 2020

This Is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey

Thanks to Quirk Books for sending me an ARC of this book! It will be released on February 2, 2021, and you won't want to miss it. 

“At once thought-provoking and hilarious, This Is Not the Jess Show is a timely, incisive book so masterfully-plotted you won't want to put it down.”—Tahereh Mafi, New York Times best-selling author of the Shatter Me series and A Very Large Expanse of Sea

I have a love/hate relationship with social media (as I’m sure most of us do), and I love taking a step back to try and understand how it affects everyone in different ways. For example, I cannot WAIT for the wave of memoirs written by influencer kids that is sure to come in 10-15 years! Until then, this book is as close as you can get, and I’ll take it!

Jess starts noticing things that are slightly off in her world, but no one else seems to see. Actually, others seem to see the problems, but they try to redirect Jess when she brings it up, so she starts to feel crazy. But when Jess realizes that her whole life has been faked for a TV show, she doesn’t know how to feel or what to believe. Now her mom making sure she always looks great makes total sense, and she sees how a bunch of drama in her life was created just for ratings. But this life is all Jess has ever known - can she escape? Does she even want to?

Whether you scoff at seeing moms on Instagram pose their kids in a pumpkin patch just for pics, or you think the kids are really getting something out of the experience, this book will make you think critically about reality vs social media. 

This book is billed as a “thriller”, which I don’t really agree with, but then again I read a lot of adult thrillers, so maybe I’m biased. It’s also described as having a hint of Black Mirror, which I totally agree with. It’s twisted in the best way, and the 90s references make me think readers in their 30s and 40s will love this just as much as the young adult audience it’s intended for!

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!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Office: A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary

The Office: A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary is by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Melanie Demmer.

This book is a must-have for any fans of The Office, whether you have kids or not.

My son is too young to watch The Office with me, but he loved this book! It has a lot of inside jokes for fans, but still works as a stand-alone school story for kids.

Michael is chosen to be line leader for Ms. Levinson’s class, and he wants to be the best he can be! He won’t accept help from anyone, but he soon realizes he can’t handle everything on his own.

This book has callbacks to the show hidden in every illustration, so there’s an extra engaging aspect (for kids and their parents!). There’s also a fun bulletin board beneath the dust jacket, and the endpapers are super cute!

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!