These are some of the prettiest books I read this summer. 🙂
Ruth Frances Long, A Crack in Everything: I love books involving mythology, and I love books involving Dublin, so this was perfect, really. Based on Irish legends, this story involves the fae world Dubh Linn running alongside our own. Protagonist Izzy stumbles right into it. I liked the insights into Dublin itself (the description of Smithfield, for example, was especially interesting). A dark and twisty tale.
Claire Hennessy, Nothing Tastes as Good: This book is narrated by a teenage girl (Annabel) who has died of heart failure due to anorexia, but been assigned as a spirit helper to one of her classmates (Julia). This narration device is genius in that deals with extremely difficult topics while making the reader laugh – Annabel’s irritation over her own death, and her snarky, sarcastic humour mean that, on a page-to-page basis, the book is darkly funny more often than sad. I’m not going to say too much on this one because I don’t feel like I have the authority to comment on the eating disorder-related parts (this is an excellent, informed review which covers those aspects). However some things I especially loved were 1) How Annabel having access to the thoughts of everybody gave depth to the minor characters, e.g. we see the motivations and merits of the bitchy character, not just her mean side. 2) The pleasing feminism throughout.
Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: This may be the gorgeous-est love story I’ve ever read. So so good and so readable. Also has really insightful things on e.g. what it means to “come out”, and how the rest of the school might react to that – as in, yes, there will be some people who are awful, but there will also be more than a few who are not. Simon is blessed in that coming out won’t put him in any danger necessarily or lose him any friends, but it’s still something that people need to get their heads around and adjust to. This book did a great job of demonstrating how people can be unsure how to react or behave while still meaning well and doing their very best to be supportive. (Only thing that bugged me: At one point Simon ditches one of his friends, then basically gets annoyed with her for being annoyed, and eventually she forgives him. That is not an acceptable way to treat your friends. Just saying.)
Robyn Schneider, Extraordinary Means: Ahhh, so lovely. I generally prefer books that have an interesting premise. A story set in an isolated sanatorium (to treat total-drug-resistant tuberculosis, which is fictional, though multi-drug-resistant TB is not) was entirely new to me. This book feels like a depiction of what that experience would actually be like, if it were a real thing and it happened to you. Looking at your old Facebook account, having an ex-girlfriend who essentially wrote your obituary for her college application, trying to talk to your parents on the phone, having healthy teachers who are a little scared of you, having rule-breakers who deal in biscuits from the outside world instead of in drugs…It all feels accurate, so that it wasn’t until the author’s note at the end of the book that I was completely, 100% sure the concept was fiction at all. What was more, the big-old-house-in-the-woods setting gives a lovely boarding-school vibe. There’s lots of humour and banter between the friends. And also the writing is just really good, really atmospheric with plenty of interesting observations and pretty metaphors. The main thing that made this book work for me, however, was the main characters, Lane and Sadie. Lane is determined upon arrival not to let this illness obstruct his life plans, and Sadie has already been there for so long that the mere idea of living in the real world scares her. They are both complex and beautifully constructed, and I could relate to both of them in different ways – this was some of the loveliest characterisation I’ve come across in a long time. (Two small things – warning, SPOILERS: 1. It goes almost without saying that a book with this premise is going to get pretty sad. 2. I was a little wary of the treatment of the character Nick. Diversity is always good, but it seems a liiiittle dodgy when the main character of colour turns out to be one of the story’s main assholes.)