Thursday, September 3, 2015

Must Read in 2015: Update #3

Thanks to Carrie at There's A Book for That for this great idea!

My list of #MustReadin2015 titles (I picked 55 books -waaaaaay too many- but added The Carnival at Bray after the Printz Awards were announced earlier this year.  All the other Printz honor books I had not read were on my list, and that was the one I hadn't read from this year's awards).

Update #1 (I read 9)

Update #2 ( I read only 2!)

I am back up to 9, but it's only been 2 months since our last update, so I am feeling pretty good about that number!  I still have 36 (!) to read, and I know I am not going to get to ALL of them by the end of the year, but since last year I only actually read 3 on my #MustReadin2014 list, I'm feeling pretty good about getting through 20 by the beginning of September!  It's so entertaining to me to see which books that I'm still excited to read and which ones I can't even remember why I put them on the list 9 months ago!

Greenglass House by Kate Milford. 2014 Middle Grade Mystery
Pretty much everything a middle grade mystery novel should be.  Yes, it's unrealistically convenient in places, and maybe a little long, but the characters (especially the protagonist) have unusual depth for a plot-driven novel, the mystery is clever and satisfying (and complicated but not TOO much so), the setting vivid, and the twist completely unexpected but logical.  The added thematic heft (families, lost loves, identity, good vs. legal) incorporated seamlessly.  Well done. 

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.  2013 Young Adult Dystopian Fiction
The basic plot is ridiculously predictable and reliant on coincidence, with ideas that have been explored much better a million times before, but the thing that destroyed this novel for me was the character of Evan Walker.  He has to be one of the most repulsive romantic leads I've ever encountered.  A creepy controlling, condescending know-it-all, his problematic treatment of Cassie was questioned, but never actually condemned (because of his gorgeous CHOCOLATE EYES!).  Not a fan. 

One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke.  2007.  Young Adult Realistic Fiction.  Printz Honor.
A lovely little book.  Disarmingly sweet while saying some quite incisive things about family dynamics and racial relations.  One of the more realistic depictions of family drama that I've encountered in a teen book: typical, day-to-day problems, not major deaths and catastrophes (which seem to happen way more in YA novels than they do in real life).  Heavy on coincidence, but, since such a major theme of the story is our connectivity, it works here. I especially love how we get the viewpoints of so many peripheral characters of all ages which helps build sympathy even when some of them do some pretty rotten things. 

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.  2013.  Young Adult Magical Realism
 I didn't really understand what was going on most of the time, but I have a suspicion that the plot to this series doesn't matter much except as a vehicle for Stiefvater's delicious prose and riveting characters. 

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers 2008. Young Adult Realist Fiction
 It's crystal clear in this, her first novel, that Courtney Summers has tons of talent, and right off the bat she has the unlikable-teen-girl-protagonist-you-still-somehow-root-for down pat, but the plot was just too reliant on tropes and completely expected. 

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King.  2014. Young Adult Magical Realism
It's certainly got some flaws (can be unbearably preachy and heavy-handed, the author's voice tends to overpower Glory's at times, the ending is sudden and unexplained, and the romantic elements seemed like kind of a cop-out to me) but the positives most definitely outweigh the negatives.  Glory is a fabulous character, and this is one of the most nuanced portrayals of friendship I've ever read.  The dystopian future was unlikely but served as scary commentary on societal mores.  Grief, life change, and family dynamics, (not to mention the often disparate ways in which different people view the exact same things) all handled expertly.  My favorite A.S. King novel. 

Tenderness by Robert Cormier.  1997.  Young Adult Realistic Fiction
It's very readable, but more than a little dated.  At times it seemed downright silly when it was definitely going for creepy, but at other times it was genuinely unsettling.  Laurie's voice was excellent and through her Cormier touched on some though-provoking subjects, although most of these were mentioned and then dropped. Eric is disgusting, as he should be, but all the relationships rang true, I thought.  The ending would have been surprising if it weren't EXACTLY like a very famous scene from a classic American novel (which I won't name because it will spoil this book for anyone who has ever read that classic American novel or seen the movie of it!) 

Sammy and Juliana in Hollwood by Bejamin Alire Saenz.  2004.  Young Adult Historical Fiction (takes place in 1969)
It's a YA novel about regret.  Guilt, grief, shattered dreams, and sadness too, but mostly regret, dealt with in the most poignant and heartrending fashion.   A LOT happens, probably too much for one novel, but with characters as vivid and real as these, it's hard to file any serious complaints.  Probably the only novel I've ever read that has a twist BEGINNING instead of a twist ENDING, with one of the biggest shocks I've ever read in a book coming in the first 50 pages. The voice is fantastic, with a stylistic repetition I've never seen used before. It's sad, it's very VERY sad, with the tiniest faint glimmers of hope.  Emotionally brutal and tragic, yes, but maybe the best novel I've ever read about coming to terms with change, growing up, and the transient nature of life.  And I haven't even mentioned its piercing treatment of race and prejudice.  Between this and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, I am a die-hard Saenz fan for life.

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley.  2014.  Young Adult Historical Fiction (takes place in 1993-1995)
 It's not BAD writing, it's very readable, never awkward, and has a striking protagonist, but the plot is so hackneyed: teen girl from problematic family encounters tragedy.  Goes on reckless, ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment road trip to meaningful location with cute boy (*instalove!) to work her way through said tragedy and finds herself in the process.  There are problems along the way, but they are solved quickly and conveniently, there are sort of consequences for their actions, but not anything permanent.  The only thing really different here is the European settings, which don't seem particularly vivid or memorable, are occasionally stereotyped, and always banal (picture how an American who doesn't travel much thinks of Europe).  The 90's music scene was unique, but not terribly interesting to me, and I didn't feel the "power of music" theme as strongly as most people who have read it.  The imagery was vague and confusing (The Book of Kells? A closed carnival?) The relationships would have been great if a little more time had been spent developing them.  Maggie's mom is very nearly the best part of the book, a working-class woman with too many unrealistic dreams - a good person but not necessarily a good mother - but I felt she was written with a little too much condescension to be as moving as she could have been.  It's fine, it was just an all-around shallow read.


The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
Railsea by China Mieville
How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater
This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers
Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox


  1. Loved reading all of your thoughts on these books. Helped me decide definitively to NOT put some on my TBR list! Thank you! Isn't it funny when we look at our lists and think, hmm. . . why was I so sure I needed to read this book? Although, so far for me, I haven't been disappointed. I am such an A.S. King fan. Love that she is so prolific!

  2. I really enjoyed Greenglass House too. Glory O'Brien was a doozy for me. I agree that there were issues with it, but overall I thought it had a healthy helping of amazingness. My first time through Dream Thieves I was confused, but didn't really care. After listening to it in preparation for reading the second installment, it made way more sense. I love this series.

  3. I LOVE the variety and depth of your list, Hannahlily! I really enjoyed reading The Green Glass Sea aloud with my now 11-year old. My progress on my #MustRead list is pretty grim, but you can check it out here:

    Happy reading!



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