This is a very long overdue post of books from Fall 2020! This is Candelwick’s young adult list from two falls ago, and they are very strong first-person narratives. I gave my copy of Rural Voices away, but I really want to read it again. I also want to read Everything I Thought I Knew! These are the two books I did read, and I loved them. They are both novels-in-verse about young women who find themselves in a world that wants to label, sexualize and take advantage of them.
Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew is a novel-in-verse about periods, girls’ reputations, and the way words and images travel instantly in high school. All it takes is the person sitting behind you looking over your shoulders, or your friend hearing your conversation with a teacher in passing, for a rumor to grow. I felt for the way the main character felt like she could not even go to school anymore, and the rumor literally made her sick. Rumors do spread like cancer — ask any woman who has had words, whether true or untrue, spread about her. Rumors are toxic and I so feel for the way women have to deal with that. But the best part of Blood Moon is how the girls came together and reclaimed their reputation and their bodies. Love to see that!
Somebody Give This Heart a Pen by Sophia Thakur is a series of poems / spoken words from a young woman’s perspective. Fans of Elizabeth Acevedo may enjoy this — it reminds me of The Poet X , except written from the author’s perspective instead of fictional Xiomara’s. She talks about her body and how it attracts looks, the way she feels both minimized and hypervisible, and how becoming a woman is just a really full experience. It’s an experience I love reading about in spoken word! Thakur’s energy really comes through.
Last year between October and December, I checked out a big stack of books and did not get around to reading them. I finally am again! I will review and update as I finish each book.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
I loved this book! It’s about children being literally on fire whenever they feel angry, upset or a kind of strong emotion. I relate to how Lillian feels like a failure and deficient, and raising the two fire-children gave her a new sense of purpose. On paper, she’s the furthest thing from a parent, but she bonded with the Bessie and Roland because they are outcasts and weird, too. Wilson’s writing is wry and sentimental. I love Lillian’s straight-forward way of talking and her jabs at the propriety of Madison and Senator Roberts’ life. Her interactions with Carl were fun, too. Lillian reminds me a little bit of Ottessa Moshfegh’s female characters because she is so weird, yet it’s fun to follow her on this adventure of becoming the ~governess~ to a senator’s unwanted children. Kevin Wilson’s writing resonates with me, and I’ll be reading more of his books about families.
Flor and Miranda Steal the Show by Jennifer Torres
The whole time I was reading this book, I pictured the L.A. County Fair in Pomona. Flor and Miranda work the carnival: Miranda is in her family’s band, and Flor’s family runs the petting zoo. The problem is the carnival manager wants to cut the petting zoo to pay for Miranda y Los Reyes’ fees. It’s a nice rivals-to-friends story in a very specific setting, and I loved seeing them describe the carnival behind the scenes. Middle grade books about working families always bring me back to teaching for some reason! It reminds me a lot of students, and how they have a rich life with things going on at home that they don’t let on at school.
There are many protagonists in kidlit that are very mature and evolved, and when you read a lot of fiction, this starts to feel normal. However, children in real life are flawed and not nearly as together as most kidlit protagonists are. Kidlit characters can be so developed that when you come across a flawed protagonist, they feel unlikable.
I thought these books did a good job of depicting true and flawed kids. Kids are not always likable and motivated, and it is really great to see protagonist who have attitude and make mistakes. Continue reading →