The Dead House (Dawn Kurtagich) | Goodreads | 4 stars
I don’t really know what to say about this book – but in a good way?
This was a long book, roughly 400 pages long, but I sped through it. The premise is that there’s one girl but two girls in her – Kaitlyn gets the night, Carly gets the day. There’s plenty of creepy stuff going on and they’re locked in an institute before the story begins (well, technically everything happened before the story started – this has a collection of journal entries, transcripts, and other formats to try and show what happened when the school partially burned down and multiple people died). I thought this had some interesting ideas about identity and mental health, but that all definitely took a backseat to the creepiness happening.
This was definitely a creepy book – like, I did not want to read it right before going to bed. I enjoyed it, but I don’t quite know what to say about it. Definitely a Halloween/spooky kind of book.
World Without Fish (Mark Kurlansky) | Goodreads | 4 stars
I picked this book up for a school project and thought it looked so interesting that I just had to read it myself.
This is a middle grade book, but it had so much interesting information and never seemed like it was talking down to the audience because it was meant for children. Our earth is a very important topic – after all, we’ll only have the one – and everyone needs to know what’s going on in it and how we can save it for ourselves and future generations. There’s no reason to shield children from the harsher realities – after all, if they don’t know how dire things are now, then they’ll never manage to save the world when they’re older, plus there’s still plenty that you can do as a child.
So, read this and start saving our world, one fish at a time.
Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here (Anna Breslaw) | Goodreads | 3.5 stars
I wanted to love this debut – a girl who loves a paranormal show and writes fanfiction about it starts writing fanfiction about her classmates after the show is cancelled – but it was a little uneven for me. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.
I had trouble really bonding with Scarlett as a character. She seemed a bit overly bitter than I wanted her to be, complaining about her mother and her immature classmates, including the needlessly mean girl. As a result, the book started off kind of slowly for me, but then I was reading it at the airport before getting on a metal death trap (luckily it wasn’t, but I don’t like flying so that’s how I felt) and I sped through it. Things got better for me in the second half – characters got fleshed out, the romance didn’t seem as irritating, and Scarlett started to grow on me, especially when she called out some pretentious middle-aged white men talking about Good Literature (so, literature by middle-aged white men about their lives of suburban ennui). By the end, I didn’t love the book, but I didn’t regret reading it.
Maybe it was because this book and I started off with some great disbelief – come on, the Emmys are way too pretentious and stuffy to nominate a show called Lycanthrope High for multiple awards – but this debut didn’t quite work for me, but things got better toward the end – I’m definitely curious to see what Breslaw will do next.
When We Collided (Emery Lord) | Goodreads | 4 stars
I have uneven experiences with Lord – I basically hated her debut for all its girl hate and prickly protagonist, and then I fell in love with her second book. So I didn’t really know what to expect with her third book.
It’s about mental health, so that was a big pro for me. Vivi has bipolar disorder (although it’s not spelled out until much later in the book, it’s obvious that she’s dealing with depression and has a pretty manic personality, so I don’t count it as a spoiler). She’s the definition of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, filling that role for the other POV character, Jonah. I didn’t really like Vivi, but the fact that she’s a MPDG actually makes me respect her. You see, this book acts as a good deconstruction of a MPDG – she is her own person, and her mania is a real part of her personality, for good or bad.
To be honest, I liked Jonah’s story more while I was reading – he has a big family, which is always my favorite whether they’re broken or not – but it’s Vivi’s story that will probably stick with me. I didn’t like Vivi most of the time, but I felt like I understood her, even though we’ve very different people. That’s 2 for 3, Lord – let’s see what you come up with next.
In the Country We Love (Diane Guerrero and Michelle Burford) | Goodreads | 4 stars
All hail Diane Guerrero, for she is awesome.
I first saw her on Jane the Virgin (and that’s all I’ve seen her in, since I’m one of the few in my age bracket who doesn’t seem to have a Netflix account and therefore haven’t seen her in Orange is the New Black), but she didn’t stand out next to bigger characters like Gina Rodriguez’s titular Jane. Then my mom was listening to her regular NPR programming, and of course she was on there talking about her story as she worked on her memoir tour. Her story caught my attention because, as much as I like to think I understand the world we live in despite my privilege, there’s a lot I’m blind to, including the harsh reality that American citizens with immigrant parents face, including Guerrero. This book is about the difficulties she faced after her parents were deported and no one seemed to notice that she had been left behind, but there’s more to her story because every is more than their darkest moments and their heritage. The day she came back to find that her parents had been taken was such an important event, but she had to deal with a lot of stuff after that – the story doesn’t end when she finds that empty house. This book, written with a co-author who has experience writing memoirs, seemed very conversational, which would probably annoy some people, but worked for me, made Guerrero seem even more realistic. She opened up about her experience as a girl and then woman of color, but she also dealt with horrifying things like mental health issues, which made her seem even more relatable.
I was surprised by how much build-up there was before we really got to the so-called premise, but that’s because this is a memoir, not a fictional tale – just like there was so much that Guerrero had to deal with after that horrible event, she had a life before that, and you get to see all that in this story. It worked for me, but I can see how some people might not be interested in more details (although this is still a fairly short book). This book made me want to welcome all immigrants in with welcoming arms and see Guerrero on my TV screen way more.