So here’s the deal. I’m currently taking a class on library resources for teens so I’ve been reading a lot of YA books. And I mean A LOT of YA books. Too many YA books if I’m being quite honest. It’s not that I don’t like reading YA, it’s just that I don’t like reading too many of the same kind of book at one time. I get bored. So anyway, I’m going to quickly go through some of the books I’ve been reading for class. (Haha, laughing at myself for complaining about reading YA books for a class. It’s just a lot of them at once, okay? Also, I just don’t have time for personal reading when I’m in a class like this so it takes some of the joy out of reading).
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
First of all, you should know that this book deals with some very weighty topics: depression and mental illness, bullying, sexual abuse and rape. I will say that it’s a very well written book. Anderson really captures the mind of a teen recovering from childhood trauma. Because yeah, Melinda is thirteen at the beginning of this book (in my mind that is still a child). I still just don’t get the purpose of this book. So Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls both address childhood trauma but they are both framed in a way that gives you hope for the future. I don’t mean in a “everything is butterflies and rainbows” kind of a way, but in a way that addresses the terrible things that have happened and yet looks to the future. Vance and Walls are both looking back on their lives and reflecting on how they got through the tough periods and made it to adulthood. Speak gives us the fictional story of a teenager who has experienced what far, far to many teens in our world have also experienced (and that is heartbreaking and makes me sick. I cried so many times while I was reading this book). I just don’t know what the message of the book is? What is this book trying to tell the teens who have had a similar experience to Melinda? Maybe there is no greater meaning and Anderson is just trying to give teens a character who makes them feel less alone. I just don’t really understand what the author was trying to do with this book. I think I need to find someone who really loved it and ask them to tell me all the reasons why I should too. I don’t really know how to rate this one. Does an accurate portrayal of a horrible experience make a good book? Idk.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
So I thought the content of this book was amazing, I just didn’t think it was super well written. Not terrible, it just wasn’t great either. However, I was really moved by the story and the characters. Also, I will say that the dialogue was great. There are large portions of the book that are written in back and forth dialogue between the characters and those parts were fantastic. It was just whenever the book transitioned back into third person that it felt weird and jarring. I feel like it would have been fairly easy to turn this book into a play and then I would have loved it. This book begins with a racial profiling incident involving a 17 year old named Justyce. After he is released from jail, Justyce begins writing letters to Martin Luther King Jr. as a way of processing what happened to him and reflecting on current issues related to race in the U.S. As the novel goes on Justyce considers the kind of person he wants to be and how he wants to respond to unjust situations. I was really humbled by this reflection because I immediately understood the anger and desire to fight back, and then to turn that around and look at current issues in light of the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. was really humbling. I wish this book had included even more quotes from MLK because when it did they were super powerful. Anyway, I’m actually super glad I read this book because it really affected my perspective regarding unjust situations and the way I respond to them. I wish I could give this book an even higher rating, I just didn’t feel like it was super well written. (Oh, also, all of the summaries I’ve seen for this book give spoilers for something that happens like half way through the book. I’m super confused?)
Rating: 3/5 stars.
I also just finished reading Renegades by Marissa Meyer but I think I’m going to write a longer review of that one at some other point. I am currently reading The Smell of Other People’s Homes, Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism, and Looking for Alaska.