Before the lockdown for Covid-19 hit a couple of years ago, I went to the library and checked out a bunch of books that I thought might be interesting. Included in that pile was Katie Henry’s Heretics Anonymous. I was completely hooked on the story and quickly reserved her next novel, only to be equally enthralled by it.
And so it was that Katie Henry went onto the list of authors who I will read anything they publish.
With her fourth novel, Gideon Green in Black and White, Henry has hit a new high. Sixteen-year-old Gideon Green is a retired private detective, content to stay in his room watching noir films on his TV and occasionally coming out to go to school and interact with his dad. When his old friend, Lily, shows up at this door asking him to come out of retirement, Gideon is reluctantly pulled into an investigation that is bigger than either he or Lily imagined and that just might be a pivotal point for him. Continue reading
Reading/listening to What’s Not to Love, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the early days of the Sam and Diane romance on Cheers. One scene, in particular, kept standing out, when during an argument that ends up with Sam and Diane smacking each other, Sam points out that he didn’t hit Diane as hard as he wanted to. It’s a dark moment for the show, one that indicates just how opposite these two romantic partners really are.
Of course, if you’ve watched Cheers (and if you haven’t, why are you still reading this?!? Get to streaming it immediately!), you know that Sam and Diane were on-again, off-again for several more seasons before she left.
I bring up that moment because it feels like the kind of moment you can’t really come back from — and there’s one like it in the middle of What’s Not to Love. Ethan and Allison have been rivals for all four years of high school, competing against each other with ever-increasing stakes and a blatant disregard for themselves or the people around them. Both of them want to get into Harvard and are on the school paper, which brings things to a huge boil when both parties do something equally unforgivable in an attempt to sabotage the other — again, not thinking about if or how their actions might impact other people in their lives. Continue reading
Learning that Cassandra Rose Clarke was penning a couple of Star Trek tie-in novels, I decided to sample some of her back catalogs. The first book that hit my library reserve pile was the young-adult urban fantasy, Forget This Ever Happened.
The town of Indianola, Texas is off-the-grid, even in the early ’90s. That’s because there are monsters who live out by the old power planet who live in a tentative alliance with the town’s humans. And anyone who leaves town forgets about the monsters and details of their lives in the small town.
In the summer of 1993, Claire is exiled to Indianola, Texas to care for her aging grandmother. When a monster shows up in her yard, taunting her, Claire calls the local exterminator to remove the creature back to the power plant. That’s how she meets Julie, whose family owns multiple local businesses. Claire’s grandmother is convinced that Julie’s family “stole” their family home out from under them years ago and is less than pleased with Claire and Julie’s strike up a friendship. Claire’s grandmother would rather she spent time with Audrey, the girl who is almost too good to be true.
The first third of Forget This Ever Happened builds the world of Indianola and the budding relationship between Julie and Claire. Pieces of the larger mystery of what’s happening in town and the connection to everyone are slowly sewn and established. Once the pieces are in place, the novel proceeds at a slow-burn toward the final revelations of just what’s going on in the town and why. Clarke earns each of the reveals, all while giving us a good dollop of teen angst. This angst comes in the form of Claire’s rising attraction to Julie and her feelings about it.
To say too much more would probably ruin some of the developments of the novel’s last third. Forget This Ever Happened is an intriguing treat with strong, female protagonists that earn most of the surprises from the novel’s final third. Given that Clarke’s upcoming TNG novel will focus on Dr. Crusher from season seven, I can’t help but look forward to that book arriving on my shelf later this year.
Until then, there are more novels from Clarke to explore — something I’m looking forward to doing.
One of my great literary pleasures of 2020 was discovering Katie Henry’s works. Henry’s young adult novels feature quirky teenage protagonists facing issues and dilemmas that most of us would struggle with as adults. The characters are all frustratingly relatable because, as readers, we can see how they could and should change themselves to make interacting with the world a bit smoother and easier. But, like all of us, they can’t or aren’t ready to make that change just yet.
Henry’s third novel This Will Be Funny Someday may be her best offering so far, which is high praise given how much I enjoyed her first two novels.
Sixteen-year-old Izzy has always felt a bit out of place. In her family, she sees herself as the odd person out when it comes to the matched pairs — her parents and her older twin siblings. At school, Izzy is protected by her relationship with her boyfriend, though even that has come at the cost of alienating her best friend. Izzy has deep-rooted issues when it come to assigning herself value — whether it’s the (misconception) that she ruined her mother’s career when her mom discovered she was pregnant with Izzy or the emotionally abusive nature of her relationship with her boyfriend. Continue reading
Lucille Price and Wynona Olsen met the night they headed to the local police station to turn in various family members for a variety of crimes. Realizing that going to the cops will probably make things far worse than better, the duo decides to head for a local dive-bar that won’t look too closely at their fake IDs for a few G&Ts.
That night a new friendship is born. Each girl has someone (or multiple someones) they want to escape from. Wynona’s is her controlling father, the popular, enigmatic weatherman Stormy Olson. Stormy keeps Wynona on a short leash, saying he’s saving her from becoming like her drug-addicted mother who passed away a decade ago. Stormy cultivates an image of the perfect family and life, all while abusing Wynona and keeping her rich grandfather carefully under his thumb. Continue reading
Eighteen-year-old Natalie’s life is in a bit of turmoil. Waiting on her final exam scores that will determine her future collegiate and possibly professional choices, her parents pick Christmas Day to inform her they’re divorcing. Meanwhile, her best friends Zach and Lucy are dating and Natalie finds herself suddenly attracted to Zach’s “bad boy” older brother, Alex.
Natalie suffers from self-esteem issues from severe acne that has left scars — both physical and emotional.
But as she continues to be drawn to Alex, could it be that he’s drawn to her as well?
Nina Kenwood’s It Sounded Better in My Head is a refreshing entry in the young adult genre. As Natalie tries to come to terms with the vast changes taking place in her life, the first-person narration is always authentic. Natatlie’s confusion and concerns at this crossroads in her life ring true on each page (or in my case, in each minute of the audiobook). As Natalie struggles with her feelings about Alex and her changing world, I found myself rooting for her. And not necessarily for a perfect ending to everything, but one that rings true and works for Natalie.
It Sounded Better in My Head doesn’t find an insta-fix for all of Natalie’s concerns by the final pages. But it find a nice conclusion to the journey she takes over the course of this book. And while I was completely satisfied with where Natalie’s story ends in this novel, I wouldn’t be opposed to future books checking in on her and giving us a bit more of her journey.
Alex and Lulu are as close to star-crossed lovers as you’ll see in Coffee County High School.
Beginning in their freshman year, both run for class president on the platform of how to best use some of the school’s vacant land. Alex wants a batting cage, Lulu want a garden to provide the cafeteria with sustainable fresh fruits and veggies. Despite being opposites, there is an unmistakable attraction between the two.
That attraction plays out over the next four years of their journey through high school in Miranda Kenneally’s Four Days of You and Me. The story unfolds one day in May as their class takes a field trip — whether it’s to the local science museum, a theme park, New York City or London. Continue reading
Bookish and Not-So-Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they’ve encountered during the week, etc.).
- Finished John Green’s new novel, Turtles All the Way Down, last night and I’m having mixed reactions to it. On the one hand, the way Green puts us inside the head of his OCD character makes it a compelling, fascinating read. On the other, it feels like a YA novel where the teens are far too precocious and witty for their own good.
- Finally closing in on the end of the audiobook of One of Us Is Lying. It’s entertaining enough, but I’ve got some issues with parts of it. If you’re not familiar with it, the premise is that five kids walk into detention and only four walk out. One kid dies from an allergic reaction to peanut oil and the other four are left looking like suspects. Told from shifting first-person perspectives of the four surviving students (each one out of a John Hughes movie), I can’t help but get a bit frustrated at the adults in the novel, especially the police. They’re fairly ineffective and seem to not be investigating anything beyond our four suspects for long stretches of the story. Meanwhile, our suspects band together and start to Scooby Doo what’s really happened and happening. I wonder if the audiobook with its ten-hour runtime is contributing to this.
- I see that One of Us Is Lying has been optioned as a tv-show. I think it would work as a single-season mystery.
- Finally starting to get over the cold that Shortcake brought home from daycare. It’s not been fun. I hate taking prednisone because I feel like I’m about to bust out my skin and then I have insomnia. I sometimes wonder if the cure is worse than the disease.
- The Vols need a new head football coach. I like Butch Jones, but after Saturday’s debacle, I can’t see how he stays. Nice guy who is going to get fired. That said, I do NOT want Lane Kiffin to come back like a subset of Vols’ fans want. He’s a violation waiting to happen and he dumped us in the middle of the night to jet for USC. I can forgive, but I won’t forget.
- After a week off from exercise due to illness, I got out and ran for the first time yesterday. And it was glorious. Great weather for it. Alas, my phone reset in the middle of my run, meaning that RunKeeper didn’t track the whole activity, thus bringing up the age-old dilemma of “If I ran but RunKeeper didn’t track it, did I really run?”
- So many shows I want to catch up on, so little time. Seriously, I need to make a list and just starting being intentional about what I watch and catch up on. First up may be finishing Stranger Things season so I can watch season two when it drops next week. I’ve also got to find time for Bosch, The Man in the High Castle, most of the Netflix Marvel shows that aren’t centered on Daredevil and 13 Reasons Why. And this list doesn’t include Game of Thrones (I stopped in season four)!
Ever since she dipped her toe into a pool, Maggie has been obsessed with being the water. Driven to be one of the best swimmers in her state and country, Maggie is training hard for her final year of high school and her college career as well as a shot at the United States Olympic team.
But in between keeping her grades up and swimming laps, Maggie can’t help but wonder if she’s missing out on something. Namely, dating, guys, relationships and the logistics of making out. As Maggie ponders this situation, she begins to see her best friend and fellow swimmer, Levi in a new light. So Maggie proposes that Levi teach her the basics of making out before she graduates from high school.
What could possibly go wrong? Continue reading