My thoughts on the books I read this June were about as varied as they come. Things went from high to low to back again at nearly every turn. However, I can now officially say I have a five star read (two actually, as a matter of fact) that I’ll proceed to gush about at every available opportunity. Exciting I know. On the agenda for discussion in this post is a contemporary, a horror/supernatural, a contemporary, and a contemporary. Can you tell what I was in the mood for? Must be the summer vibes. So without further introduction, let’s cut to the books!
American Girls by Alison Umminger- 5 stars
My first ever 5 star read of this year, and a strong contender for best book 2K16, goes to this dark horse! I’ll admit my snobbish tastes were initially hesitant to start a book with such a Kardashian-esque cover, but thankfully I did not let that detour me away. As I mentioned above, American Girls is a contemporary, but an incredibly unique one at that. It’s filled with snarky criticism on society and has some really cool/thought provoking themes, both of which are done in the most non-precocious way possible. The plot line is fairly simple, basically following teenage Anna as she becomes entwined in researching the Manson family. There’s a lot more by way of side stories, but for the sake of spoilers I’ll leave it at that. Alison Umminger shows truly stellar talent as a debut author, and I’m so very excited for her next book. While I wait for it though I wrote a review summing up all my feelings, and am preparing for an author interview with Ms. Umminger. Yay!!! I volunteer this book as the YA summer book of your dreams. Go ahead and thank me later.
Conversion by Kathleen Howe- 1 star
Why did I read a book that came out a million years ago (or 2014), you ask? For the same reason all book lovers pick up disastrous reads; the cover. It’s color scheme was on point, Conversion has sat on my TBR since its publication, and I just walked into the library with no plans in sight. A recipe for bookish distaste as I now know all too well. It’s not that Kathleen Howe is a bad writer, but Conversion is just so, so stupid. Utterly and entirely. For those of you not in the know, the story follows an elite private school whose students have befallen with bizarre twitches and illnesses. It also has some tie to the Salem Witch Trials. Not that it ever became apparent to me. More than that, Howe commits just about every bookish sin I hate to see in YA. The list includes: poor protagonist characterization (ie boring as a brick), supporting characters that appear and disappear out of thin air, inconsistent characterization, mysterious plot lines, unresolved plot lines, plot lines that make no sense…and the list goes on. Surprisingly I read this book relatively quickly, so props for being fast paced. Spare yourself and remove this from any bookish platforms.
Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu- 2 stars
I was soooo excited when I received a review copy of this one as I’ve heard great things about Jennifer Mathieu’s debut The Truth About Alice. Unfortunately though, Afterward (set to be released in September) did not live up to my expectations. The story line follows the developing friendship between Ethan and Caroline, the former of which has just been rescued four years following his kidnapping. There was a lot of great potential for this one to take in regards to healing post-trauma, but Mathieu never chose to go beyond the most basic of avenues. A big part of my trouble connecting was due to the writing; first person stream of conscious. There’s never been an instance where I particularly enjoy such a style, as it typically leads to a disconnect and lack of reflection. Such was the case here, where I felt like the book was over before it even had the chance to address any big issue topics. I also needed to see more of Dylan (Caroline’s little brother who is taken in conjunction with Ethan) as he’s an integral player downgraded to mere pages of appearance. Ultimately I felt Mathieu shied away from anything of substance and just hoped the pieces would come together.
Exit, Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnson- 5 stars
I just finished this one yesterday, so all my intense feelings of admiration for this book (and E.K. Johnson) are entirely fresh. I highly doubt I ever would have picked this one up, outside of the fact it’s a little nugget at only 240 pages. Occasionally though the bookish cosmos do align, and I find myself with a new, unexpected favorite. Exit, Pursued By a Bear is one of those rare books that somehow manages to make you feel ALL the feels. I went from happy to enraged to emotionally dried out to cautious hope to full blow optimism. Now that is the mark of a truly gifted writer. Not only that, but E.K. Johnson further earned her authorly chops by crafting what I think might be the single greatest friendship in all of YA history. Polly and Hermione, you are the stuff of friendship bracelets and Gilmore Girls marathons. As a matter of fact, all the characters present in Exit are extraordinary in their presentation. Johnson truly understood the deep impact each one had the potential to give, and she went right for the jugular in nailing her readers with their importance. May all my hypothetical bookish Oscars be won by this one of a kind book.
What did you read this June? Interested in any I mentioned? Let me know in the comments!
-Keep Calm and Read On