First person narrative from Fall 2020

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.

Narrators!

First-person POV books are fun to read because they make you feel like you’re following the hero along. There are some third-person books that I wish I could hear the main character speak for themselves (The Bluest Eye is one — I just want to hear from Pecola.) The books here are a mix of first- and third-person perspectives. I like how they play with unreliable narrators and give the reader a fuller picture of a character by having multiple characters describe them. The authors did it really skillfully!

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo is one in a trio of books about three girls and their unlikely friendship. Beverly, Louisiana and Raymie deserve so much better. I like how Kate DiCamillo’s books always leave me feeling hopeful, and they always include a cast of odd characters that seem to be exactly the ones they need at this particular moment in their lives.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman — I still have to read this one.

Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay explores power dynamics: gender, race and class. This is Cynthia Salaysay’s debut, and she told a story that was personal and despite being “quiet,” the events in this book are like an earthquake in a young woman’s life. I’m reminded of Chanel Miller and the real incidents in high schools all over the country, and world, of adult authority figures preying on young women, and in some cases, young men. At the time it happens, the consequences of speaking up are too high: risk of not getting into college, alienating friends, parents disbelieving you, then blaming you. So I’m glad Salaysay wrote this story, and I champion the young women who it is for and have gone through something similar.

Vanished by Sheela Chari — I still have to read this one. It’s one of the first books I bought at LibroMobile when I was only a customer!

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh is told by a super unreliable narrator. I didn’t finish this because I found it hard to follow, literally. Ottessa Moshfegh’s other books are very raw and engaging, but this one was a little too isolated for me. I may give it another try.