The Compulsive Reader: 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016

I hate compiling my favorite books of the year in a single post until the year is actually dead, partly because, well, what if I read my most favorite book on December 31st? It would be ridiculous and untrue to include it in 2017's list (and anyway, I might not remember it very well a year from now). But I'm fully aware that most people stop caring about best of lists after January 1st, if indeed they ever cared to begin with, so here we are. If I read something truly great in the next three days, I promise that I'll let you know about it.

This was a weird reading year! For the first time since I've been keeping a reading record, I had no assigned reading for school. None! I was a free bird, and I used my newfound reading freedom to re-read a lot of childhood favorites. Most notably was the Great Harry Potter Re-Read of January, the first time I read all of the Harry Potter books straight through. That was wondrous, and I found myself enjoying the books just as much now as I did 10+ years ago, and reading them all in a row brought about some really interesting insights. Other re-reads include Phillip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series (oh, Freddie!!!) and Garth Nix's (original) Abhorsen trilogy. Now, I'm not saying that my re-reads caused this, but look, I re-read those books and suddenly 2016 gifted us with a Harry Potter sequel and an Abhorsen sequel...so...I mean...maybe I should re-read Sunshine by Robin McKinley a few times in 2017!? Hope springs eternal.

Anyway, all that aside, here are some of my favorites read in 2016, in no particular order, from no particular publication year, because 2016 was the year I embraced reading chaos:

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This middle grade book made my heart grow three sizes. The protagonist is believably discriminated against and neglected in an awful way, and her life begins when she escapes London during WWII and finds a home for the first time, and therapy in a delightful little horse. Plus, no terrible animal peril! Plus, there's going to be a sequel. I can't wait.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This book has been getting incredible buzz since 2014, so I was suitably blown away when I finally read it. It's smart and emotional and dark. I loved the Michigan setting, and the fact that many pivotal scenes occur in very familiar (local) landscapes. The way Mandel beautifully wove in between present and past to connect a great many characters still astounds me.

The Scorpion Rules and The Swan Riders by Erin Bow

I'll admit, I didn't read the first book in this duet as soon as I should have, and what sent me running to it was the fact that there is a f/f romance. I'm both shallow and predictable like that. But I am so glad I picked them up--these books are razor-sharp smart, with a memorable antagonist AI who speaks like a millennial and a plucky, strong protagonist who wants to be strong and do what's right, but learns that doing so requires great sacrifice...just not that kind she was prepared for. I desperately want Erin Bow to publish more books about Greta and Talis and Xi, so please please please support these wonderful books!

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

Alaska, 1970's. Four teenagers growing up in a very distinct, wildly beautiful, and sometimes harsh setting. Their stories stand independent at first, but slowly wind closer and closer together over the course of a year. The writing, the characters, the snapshots of life in Alaska were all so very beautiful. This is probably one of the most overlooked books of the year.

Of Fire & Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

I could say a lot about this book, but I'll leave it to this: Fantasy! Princesses falling in love! Magic! HORSES! KISSING! This book is pure fun, heart-flutteringly romantic, and quite adventurous. I could re-read it every month.

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

Gertie is memorable in the same way that Ramona Quimby and Gilly Hopkins is--a well-intentioned, sometimes misbehaving kid who wants so much, and who runs head-first into things without fully thinking them through. Her adventures are funny and real and sometimes painful, but always uniquely her own.

You Know Me Well by David Leviathan and Nina LaCour

This book! Is so gay! And I mean that in the best way possible, of course. It's like Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, only everyone is gay. And it's set in San Francisco during Pride Week. If those sentences haven't sold you, I honestly don't know what will.

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

You already know that I believe Melina is the Queen of Everything, and The Piper's Son is just proof of that. I loved this book as much as Jellicoe Road, if not more. It's an odd duck, not quite YA and not quite adult. But the writing is lovely and the emotions are real, and I read it in almost one setting, sobbing along the way.

Georgia Peaches & Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

I love this swoony, Southern romance about Jo, who falls for a girl she knows she shouldn't fall for, and struggles to prove that she can be both an out lesbian  and a good Christian. Brown gets all the props for tackling the gay and Christian issue so fearlessly and so gracefully, plus, you guys, this book is REALLY ROMANTIC.

Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

TECHNICALLY a 2017 release that I blurbed, and by a fellow VCFA writer. I heard Bonnie read an excerpt from this at her graduation in 2014, and trust me, it'll blow you all away. I so cannot wait for it to be out in the world, so look for it in May.

An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone already knows how amazing this series is but I just finally read it this year, okay? So I'm jumping on the caboose here, but let me tell you, I am here. An Ember in the Ashes was tense and exciting and then A Torch Against the Night was even better. Plus, Tahir took something that is usually a pet peeve of mine (adding an additional first person POV to a sequel) and made it incredible!

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

So, I read all of Fiona Wood's YA books this year (Six Impossible Things and Wildlife) and they are all great. I just wanted to say that upfront. Read them all. But this one was my favorite, because it has the sweetest love story at the center of it, and because the protagonist Van Uoc wants and wants so much, and her life and her emotions are messy, but she battles through her fears and doubts, and she is strong. I love her.

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I mean, ditto what I said about Tahir's books here. I finally read this duet and I am in love. All I can say is that Bardugo is Queen of Plot. I bow down at her throne. Also, I sobbed buckets at the end, damn it!

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

It's always a special sort of delight to read writing that is so lovely, a story that is so heartbreaking and enchanting, a book that is so very important for our world. This is one of those books. It's a fairy tale set in the real world, and it's about the power of love, and identity, and names. I will happily thrust this book on anyone and everyone.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

My girl Melina took a step out of her usual YA category and released an adult novel this year. I was so very worried that I wouldn't like it because it was so different from what I was used to, but I ADORED it. It's an adult mystery, but all of the things I love about her writing--strong ensemble casts, memorable teen characters, heartbreaking back stories, beautiful emotional arcs, and meditations on the immigrant experience--were present here. It was like a brand new recipe using all of my favorite flavors.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

This was a surprising little story. I've been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when I mentioned it to my mom, she exclaimed, "That's one of my favorite books!" I immediately borrowed her copy and was completely absorbed in this story about wartime courage and strength and resistance, and how the two characters who only chanced upon each other during the war found each other again years later and, together, built something greater than themselves. I truly enjoyed this book, and part of my sentimentality towards it is the connection it gave me to my mom.

What were your favorite books of 2016?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Books for the next four years

Well, last week was a week.

I can't pretend that I have any startling insights or, let's be honest, many coherent thoughts. I'm still trying to reconcile the hope and exhilaration I felt drawing the connecting line that made the arrow that pointed to Hillary's name with the horror and fear that came with learning the results. I've had more time to process, time to reach out to the people I love, and time to talk. I'm so inspired and comforted by all the action that's been taken over the past week and all of the planning for the future. I keep looking for actions to take, and inevitably find myself falling back on my strengths, the main one being Super Book Recommender. As I advocated for reading widely and diverse literature, a friend asked me for a reading list and I happily complied. I thought I'd share it, too.

And I should note that there are TONS of reading lists going around--check those out, too. My list is by no means complete, but a good start if you're looking for awesome (mostly intersectional) YA for teens (and adults!).

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Waters, etc.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (just finished this and WOW)
Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Cloudwish by Fiona Wood
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levitahn
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
George by Alex Gino
How It Went Down by Kekla Magon
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

And check out American Street by Ibi Zoboi (I know Ibi from VCFA and I've heard her read her work--she's astoundingly good!) and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas when they come out in February. Or better yet, pre-order them. I'd LOVE to see those books debut on the New York Times bestseller list, and pre-order help make that happen.

Another thing I'd suggest doing is considering adopting a classroom in a local community and making a commitment to donate at least one diverse book per month to that classroom. Coordinate with the teacher to see what's needed and where interests fall (and, I hate to say it, to make sure the books will actually be put in the classrooms), but make an effort to give diverse books that will show kids another perspective and help them gain empathy for others. I'm particularly fond of this idea because it supports diverse authors, and it benefits kids. Donate to classrooms where there might not be a lot of money for books, but don't hesitate to give to more privileged classrooms either. Just last week I subbed in a classroom at a predominantly white private school, and I left them with copies of Brown Girl Dreaming, I Am Malala, Shadows of Sherwood, and Kinda Like Brothers in the hopes that those kids, privileged as they are, start seeing other experiences.

Someone on Twitter said that the next four years are going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Keep going, friends. And know that I'm here for you.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Litsy Has Stolen My Heart

When it comes to apps and technology, I'm pretty set in my ways for a millennial. I didn't even download Instagram until four of my friends got sick of me saying, "What photo where?" and formed a pact behind my back to refuse to update me on anything so I caved, and then even my fifteen year old brother was all, "Welcome to the 21st century, no you cannot follow me." So I don't really know what made me download Litsy earlier this spring, when it was still in beta testing and no one I knew had it, except maybe fate because I am in LOVE.

The best way to describe Litsy is to say that it's like if Instagram and Goodreads had a baby, only without the drama of Goodreads and the insane pressure to create impossibly beautiful tableaus that make you think your life is somehow less fulfilled because you don't have fresh flowers and perfectly whimsical knickknacks and beautiful backdrops and everything you own isn't covered in dust and dog hair. (Quit judging me, Instagram.) Litsy is chill. Litsy just wants you to pick a book, snap a pic, and talk about it. Litsy doesn't care if the only backdrop you can find is a wrinkled t-shirt.

The basic gist is this: you pick between posting a blurb, quote, or review. Then you pick a book. You MUST pick a book, so all of your conversations are book-centered. You can include a photo, but no pressure if your immediate surroundings are a mess and the lighting is utter shit. Then you post stuff. When you tap on the book title, you get a timeline of what everyone is saying about the book, and it's all awesome until you find the one person who bailed on a Melina Marchetta novel and waste twenty minutes of your life judging their Litsy feed.

Blurbs are for just casual notes of observation, quotes are (obviously) for book quotes, and reviews include tags "pick," "so-so," "pan," and "bail." Can I just take a moment and tell you how refreshingly AWESOME this it is that Litsy doesn't mess around with the bullshit star system? I loathe stars. Stars tell me nothing. Stars are the laziest way to judge or review a book. I find fault in stars for book reviews every single time. And the people who try to keep making stars happen with emojis in their reviews can keep them, because I do not care. I want your words, people. The reviews are kept to a 260 word limit, so things never get to be too much for your phone screen. Plus, there is a spoiler screen that you can enable, not just for all of your posts but for COMMENTS, TOO! That's right, the comments section is truly a safe space on Litsy.

The Litsy community is also SUPER nice! Their tagline "where books make friends" couldn't be more true! I didn't have a lot of YA folks to follow at first, so it was great to follow just a bunch of funny, smart-sounding people and really diversify my reading lists right away. No one is judgmental when it comes to genre or reading category, and there is something really, really awesome about watching people's reading habits unfold in real time, with all their quirks and whatnot. I love seeing what quotes stick out to others, observing what they're excited about, the characters they love, at what point readers bail, at what point readers fall in love. When a review is finally posted, it feels like the culmination of something, and not just another blog post.

The best part? Litfluence. It's a completely meaningless but very, very important score that rates how much you use Litsy. Guys, it literally means nothing, but it's ridiculous how much I love watching my Litfluence rise. There is no prize! No magical number that I know of! Just rising numbers that somehow validate me in ways that I cannot explain with words. I mean, maybe if I hit a certain threshold, a golden ticket will appear and the meaning of the universe will be revealed to me (your Litfluence starts at 42, heh), but as far as I'm aware the only prize is READING. Gamification is awesome!

They also clearly have a fantastic sense of humor and a great appreciation for literary puns: 

Litsy is made by Out of Print, the same people who produce those wonderfully nerdy but weirdly fitting bookish t-shirts (and totes, socks, and scarves). You know, the company that threatens to blow your budget every month? So these people love books, they love to have fun, and they also give back a LOT. They'll host reading challenges that encourage Littens (not completely sold on that moniker, but I didn't promise everything was perfect) to give away books, and they match donations through FirstBook. So they use their platform to promote good things, which rocks.

If you want to join the fun, and if you want proof that I am still reading tons despite becoming a terribly infrequent blogger, follow me on Litsy! I'm (shockingly) TirzahPrice! I'll follow you back and we can watch our meaningless Litfluences rise and nerd out about books together!

Monday, October 24, 2016

10 years

November marks ten years since I created The Compulsive Reader.

In so many ways, writing this blog was the first step in my exploration of who I was and I wanted to be. I'd always defined myself as a Reader, and blogging was my first real outlet for my love of books and story and YA. It also led me to a community that's pretty amazing and has expanded to include some of my very best friends. So many of the bloggers I met back when I first started are now amazing booksellers, teachers, librarians, editors, and publicists and I am so incredibly proud to see how far we've come. We were a mostly teenaged crew of book fanatics who've grown up and have started to take over the book world and I know that we're going to do amazing things because we've already shown that we have the passion and the work ethic and the insane love for YA and its readers.

That said, I think it's been pretty evident for a while now that I am not really the book blogger I used to be. That change really began in 2013, when I entered into the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Believe me, if there is anything that could pull me away from blogging, I'm so glad that it's doing what I dreamed of ten years ago when I started this blog: writing my own YA books. I love writing. I take it very seriously. Much more seriously than I've taken this blog. Which is why I think I need to stop hesitating and just admit that this is no longer the book blog it used to be. It's still my blog, and I am happy to keep it around occasionally update it as a YA writer, but I won't be posting frequent reviews anymore. I'll still talk about the books I love, though! And you can always find my writing over at Book Riot (here's my author link). A lot of my former blog-writing energies have gone to producing content over there, simply because I get paid to write for Book Riot, and while this blog has always heaped wonderful and sometimes unexpected rewards, cold hard cash was very, very rarely one of them.

In addition to Book Riot and occasional updates here, you can also find me on on Twitter at @tirzahprice, and you can follow my in-the-moment reading escapades on Litsy at Tirzah.Price!

And finally, I'll end with my most exciting news of the last week--I'm now represented by Taylor Martindale Kean of Full Circle Literary! The dream has become a little more real, and I'm really excited to see what the future brings. Thanks so much for reading.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Some TCR Reading for You on Book Riot!

I've been busy over on Book Riot! Most recently, I wrote a follow-up to my popular TCR post "Lesbian Hands Are a Thing" for National Coming Out Day, which was October 11th. It's called "Out and Proud vs. Hiding in Plain Sight: The Evolution of YA Book Covers." If you remembered the original lesbian hands post, I argued that we need more covers that are out and proud. In the new post, I examine the pros and cons of that argument, and how book covers today attract and deflect queer teen readers.

I also have a 100 Must-Read list of Historical YA Novels and a separate list for YA Historical Fantasy Novels. Because they both deserve their own lists, and because there are SO MANY GREAT BOOKS.

October is my most favorite month of the year, so I curated a (non-horror!) reading list, and it's not too late to start reading!

And here are the top 5 Fictional Libraries I'd Love to Visit IRL.

If you're a YA super fan, see if you can match these taglines to their YA novels in the quiz I wrote! Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

And finally, do you #bujo? If yes, then I have some cool bookish bullet journal ideas for you!

Thanks for reading and following along!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Leaping for Joy for Kate Beasley's debut Gertie's Leap to Greatness!

 Next Tuesday is the release date for of my favorite middle grade books of 2016! Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley features a bold, lovable, and intelligent protagonist who is just as memorable as Ramona Quimby or Matilda or Gilly Hopkins.

The novel follows Gertie, who goes on a mission to become the best fifth grader ever in order to prove to her estranged mother that she doesn't her one bit. Gertie's methods are anything but conventional, and it doesn't help that she's thwarted at every turn by a real life Mary Sue. Everyone thinks Mary Sue is great, even Gertie's best friends. In order to be the best, Gertie is going to have to take drastic measures.

Everything about this story is charming--the Alabama setting, Gertie's worldview, her friends (and enemies), and her funny (and sometimes heartbreaking) methods to demonstrate her greatness. The kids act convincingly, the adults are just clueless enough about the characters' interior lives and politics, but also pretty astute, too. Under hijinks and laughs, Gertie is a character who's been hurt, but she's got a great support system and people who love her, showing readers that unfair things happen even to the greatest kids, but love and acceptance can come from unlikely places. 

I love Gertie because she's bold, and she's not afraid to defend herself (or the ones she loves), even when she knows that she might be ostracized for it. One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the book is when Mary Sue's mom makes an impassioned speech against oil rigs to Gertie's class, and Gertie marches up to the front and defends the rigs because it's where her father works. It creates some great tension that punctuates the rest of the book, and offers young readers a really great opportunity to grapple with big issues in an age-appropriate manner. 

(Oh, and did I mention that the book is illustrated by Jillian Tamaki!? Because it is, and she does a brilliant job.)

I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself and a kid you know and love, because Gertie will not fail to delight! And if I can't convince you, then perhaps this photo of Kate and her sister Cassie (author of Circus Mirandus!) leaping for Gertie will!

How can you not go out and buy the book now? I mean, really.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Writing Under the (Childhood) Influence by Bruce Hale

 Today we have Bruce Hale on the blog! He is the author of multiple books for kids, most recently The Curse of the Were-Hyena!

During author visits around the globe, I’ve given all kinds of answers to the author’s most-asked question, “Where do you get your ideas?” I’ve said it’s a mystery (true), that they come from paying attention and asking questions (also true), and that they’re manufactured for me by a gnome called Guido who lives in my backyard (I’ll let you guess about that one).

However, it would be just as true to say that often my story ideas have their roots in my childhood. A reluctant reader at first, I was nevertheless a big fan of monster movies and comic books. Then, on a tragic day my family still calls The Day the TV Broke, my parents began reading aloud to us. The Tarzan stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs were what turned me into a reader, and I find that his influence still lingers.

For instance, about eight years ago, I wrote a hybrid graphic novel series called Underwhere about these kids who discovered a world beneath us. Not until after it had been published did I recognize echoes of Burroughs’ Pellucidar books in my wacky tales.

Flash back to little kid time: After we finally got a new TV, I used to love watching old Humphrey Bogart movies with my dad. The rat-a-tat dialog and tough-guy attitudes enthralled me, and the plots intrigued me. Years later, this influence came out in my Chet Gecko mysteries, which borrowed heavily from film noir. In fact, that hardboiled voice came so easily, I had to make a conscious effort to move away from it for other books.

But though I’d once been a huge fan of monster movies— particularly the Universal Pictures classics like Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Wolf-Man—I’d never tackled a horror story before. Until now. The Curse of the Were-Hyena draws directly from that childhood love. Just like my boyhood friend Billy and I, the book’s two heroes love comic books and are obsessed with monsters. In fact, even the series title, The Monstertown Mysteries, comes from a book I wrote in second grade, The Two Brothers at Monstertown.

I felt a certain comfort and familiarity writing about a subject and characters so close to home. That’s one of the joys of returning to a childhood influence. And yet there was a freshness to the process as well. Unlike me, the book’s narrator is Latino; and unlike those Universal movies, the monster is a made-up one: a were-hyena. Something old, something new.

As I grow more aware of my early influences, I feel freer to stray from them, to play with them, to mix them up with other notions. That’s what the creative process is about, after all. But I know they’ll always be there, informing my writing and providing a wellspring of ideas. In case, you know, Guido the gnome ever gets tired of churning it out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pasadena by Sherri L. Smith + Giveaway

Jude is on the other side of the country when she receives the worst possible news: Her best friend Maggie Cho has drowned in her swimming pool. She rushes home to Pasadena, and tries to unravel the tangled web of Maggie's last days. Maggie was Jude's best friend, but Maggie had lots of friends who confided their secrets in her, met her in secret, kept her secrets...and had motivation to kill her. The deeper Jude digs, the more convinced she becomes that Maggie didn't just drown--she was murdered.

This contemporary novel evokes the eponymous setting through languorous descriptive passages. The slow-burning mystery with relentless questions keeps readers hooked as Jude slowly pulls back the layers of Maggie's lives and uncovers her secrets. The tone of the novel is reminiscent of classic noir stories, but her investigation techniques don't have the same panache as the other famous teen noir sleuth, Veronica Mars. Nevertheless, the twist of the mystery about what actually happened to Maggie more than makes up for the novel's unhurried pace, forcing Jude to finally come face to face with her own buried, ugly past. For a setting-rich YA mystery that explores twisted friendships rather than the criminal element, Pasadena is the perfect choice.

Thanks to the generosity of Penguin Group, I'm giving away a copy of Pasadena to a blog reader! Just fill out this form!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday, Roald Dahl!

Well, 2016 is quite the hallmark year for children's writers. In April, Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old, and next week, on the 13th, would be Roald Dahl's 100th birthday. I don't know about you all, but when I found out that two legendary authors whose books were touchstones in my childhood were also born in the same year--it was a bit a surprise. Their lives and careers were both very different, I sort of imagined them as living in totally different times.

Most of us know and love Dahl's most popular books--Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG--but Dahl taught me a very important lesson when I was a young reader: if you like a book, go look up that author in the library because you might be surprised by an extensive backlist. It's safe to say that Roald Dahl's books were the first I ever binge-read. It was awesome, because all of his books are delightfully weird, but also because it then allowed me to be a young, smug reader who went around saying stuff like, "Oh, you like Dahl because you read the BFG? Well, have you read Danny the Champion of the World? Because that's where that story comes from!" I know, I know. I was terrible.

But Danny the Champion of the World sticks in my mind for some reason. I think it was perhaps because most of my peers tore through Dahl's books but I was the only one who read Danny. Maybe it's because the first few chapters contain the origin story of the BFG (it's a bedtime tale told to Danny by his father), and I was so charmed by the connection between books. Maybe it's because the plot is so odd. I recently re-read it for the first time since I was a smug little reader, and the entire time I couldn't help but marvel at the plot, which I think would be a hard sell in today's market. It's about Danny, who lives a charmingly humble life with his dad in a gypsy wagon at a filling station. Danny's dad is the best in the world--kind and humble and entertaining, and provides everything for Danny. They're poor, but happy. Then when Danny is nine, he learns his dad's deep, dark secret--he's an illegal poacher! He loaves to poach pheasant from the rich man's woods, and soon he starts taking Danny with him even though there is a legitimate chance that both Dad and Danny would be shot on sight. But the rich man is understandably awful, so it's okay. Danny comes up with the most excellent plan ever to poach all of the pheasants from this man that everyone hates, making him the champion of the world, and learns a lot about his community in the process.

Basically, the book is about breaking all of the rules and finding out that the adults are not only complicit, but encouraging of this. No wonder I loved this book as a kid.

But this new understanding of my childhood love of Danny made me think of a troubling trend I've encountered at work recently, where I'll suggest a children's book to a parent looking for reading material for their kid, and after explaining the premise, I'll get a variation of, "No, not that one. My kid is energetic/mischievous/has a history of getting into trouble, and I'm afraid that that book will give them ideas."

To which I always want to say, "Well, isn't that the point?"

Unpacking this issue would talk another post, but I think stories like Danny the Champion of the World--ridiculous, over the top stories about illegal poaching--are fine. I don't think any child is going to turn into a criminal after reading this book. I think kids are going to read it, and be inspired by Danny's bravery (even when he's scared) and delighted to find that he has so many adult supporters. I think this book will entertain and inspire and spark curiosity. Luckily, I don't need to hand-sell this book to any parent, because Dahl's name sells itself. And Danny isn't the only rule-breaker in Dahl's canon. I'm glad that these preposterous, delightful, mischievous stories are still finding their way to kids. It gives me hope--that kids will turn into readers, that they'll go to the library and look up the rest of Dahl's books, and that they'll keep on discovering stories about crazy, rule-breaking kids.

Thanks for the great books, Roald Dahl, and happy 100th birthday!

Enter to win a full set of Roald Dahl's kids' books from Puffin!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Illuminae, An Ember in the Ashes, and Other Books I Finally Read

There was once a time in my life when I was so on top of reading all the new releases right away, and that time lasted for about six months, and now I just live under piles and piles of books and sometimes read something the week it comes out and feel very proud of myself. Mostly, I note new books and add them to my list and only get around to them when my friends yell at me. That's how I ended up finally reading these books.

So, Illuminae is a giant book but it's a cool epistolary novel in the form of a massive dossier, so it reads super quickly. It's centered on Kady and Ezra, teens living on an illegal mining colony on a distant planet. The story begins with them breaking up, and then their planet is attacked by a rival corporation! Because that's how awful break up days are. In the madness of the evacuation and rescue, they get separated from each other and find themselves on different ships in the same small convoy headed for a distant space station, pursued by their attackers! When the AI on the battle ship Kady is on starts to go wonky, they realize that the battle isn't over--biological warfare, dangerously personal ulterior motives, and a possibly mutinous AI may kill them before they are rescued.

Basically, Battlestar Galactica with Reavers!

So, I really loved it. Kady and Ezra are sort of adorable in their post break-up funk, the stakes are incredibly high, and the AI is almost as fascinating/delightful/terrifying as Talis from The Scorpion Rules (another awesome sci-fi book that I read because my friend threw it at me, and I am SO GLAD I did). The identity of the person assembling the dossier is another really great mystery, and the narrative voice is very sardonic and fun. The story has a terrific inevitable twist, and a twist I didn't see coming. The find words of the story got my pulse pounding: Now run. I can't wait for the release of the sequel, Gemina, in October, which I am totally going to read right away and not six months from now.

An Ember in the Ashes has been recommended to me approximately ten million times by five million different customers, and I finally caved and read it because I was worried they'd stop liking me and maybe go elsewhere for their books. I'll be the first to admit that Roman Empire-inspired fantasy doesn't exactly get my pulse pounding, but I am super glad I caved to peer pressure! It's a dual POV, with Elias, a Mask (think elite warrior) and Laia, a Scholar slave who's actually a spy. They're both living at an elite academy where nefarious dealings are underfoot for power, and though it takes some time for their stories to intersect, they eventually do in a very exciting way. The rotating perspectives were really seamless, and the wordlbuilding was beautiful. Every time I thought that the stakes couldn't get any higher, they did. Plus, the story was full of really fantastic, really complicated characters. I have A Torch Against the Night on order already and I can't even imagine how things can get worse for these characters, but I'm sure Tahir will torture them (and her readers) appropriately!

I also read The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig because one day my friend asked if we could start a book club wherein we read the same book and discuss it over snacks, and although I am never one to turn down a good snack plate over book talk, I realized this suggestion for what it really was: a request for me to finally read this book so she could openly discuss spoilers. So I obliged. I love the cover, the tagline, the title, and the premise--a girl who lives aboard a time-traveling ship must try and stop her father from going back to the moment her mother died because doing so might unravel her own existence. This was an interesting book, very trippy and tangled in time. It might have been because I was coming off of two very action-packed speculative novels, but this one didn't keep me as riveted at Illuminae and Ember, but I liked all of the plot elements and the historical Hawaiian setting was so, so good! And I shall be very curious to see what the premise of book two, as well!

Maybe I can keep this trend going and finally read Six of Crows! I am an eternal optimist where my TBR stack is concerned.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Well, this is embarrassing.

I don't think I've ever gone almost two months without posting since I first started this blog nearly ten (10!!!) years ago. Chalk it up to very busy, very exciting things happening over on my end. First, I finished draft #6 of my YA in progress--the book I've been working on for about two years! It's been a long road, but I'm feeling great about it.

Second, I went back to Vermont! I was the grad assistant at my lovely alma mater, Vermont College of Fine Arts. Residencies are always inspiring and overwhelming, and full of laughter and learning and late nights singing Hamilton songs and so. much. book. talk. I was so grateful for the chance to go back and see all my wonderful friends, make some brand new friends, and see the Themepunks graduate.

Third, I've been pretty focused on pulling together the next print issue of Hunger Mountain, the VCFA journal of the arts. It's the only literary journal that accepts children's and YA lit for publication, and our deadline is September 15th! So if you or someone you know would like to submit, get on that! We want to read your work!

Finally, I've been pretty focused on starting the next book and gaining some momentum on that. After spending so much time with one project and a very specific cast of characters, the changeover is a little jarring but I'm getting more and more into it every day!

I'm hoping to start posting again a bit more frequently, but in the meantime here are some great books I've read recently:

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Daniel is one of the newest faculty members at VCFA, so I was super excited to read this urban fantasy novel about Sierra, a shadowshaper who has the ability to infuse her artwork with the spirits of the dead, and must learn how to control her ability to prevent a dark presence from taking over in her Brooklyn neighborhood. It was exciting and smart, and I highly recommend it.

Lumberjanes Vol. 4: Out of Time

I've talked about how much I adore the Lumberjanes before, so I'll just say that this volume delighted me because it furthers the mystery of the Lumberjanes organization, answering some questions that only give us...more questions. We get to see a little bit of the camp's history, and we discover something startling about the girls' experience there. Plus, there are Frozen jokes.

Paper Girls, Vol. 1

I didn't quite know what to expect with this new series, but salty twelve year old paper delivery girls solving a crazy alien invasion mystery with time travel completely blew me away. If you're a fan of the show Stranger Things, pick this one up! Trust me!

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater was the visiting writer at this summer's VCFA residency, so I had to finish the Raven Cycle! I re-read the first two books, and then got into the third and fourth for the first time. It's quite a rollercoaster ride experience reading all four in order. I really enjoyed immersing myself into that world and I think I was able to enjoy the connectivity of her writing a little bit better when I was reading them back to back rather as the books came out.

Plus, Maggie was awesome! Here's a photo of all of the grad assistants with her!

The Last Star by Rick Yancey

Finally got to the end of this trilogy! It was an intense read, and while it did have a plot, I felt like the characters' desires got a bit muddied in the middle of this. There was lots of angst and feelings and explosions. The ending was fairly surprising, but in a good way? I'm glad I pushed through to the end, and I'm curious to hear what others think!

On the adult side of things, I read Out by Kirino Natsuo and I can safely say it was the most disturbing mystery I've ever read! But the writing was so great, and I loved the setting (Japan), so I'll definitely be looking for more of her books. I also read one of the Jane Eyre retellings on my to-read list, Re Jane by Patricia Park. In this novel, Jane is a Korean American orphan working at her uncle's grocery store after college when she takes a nannying job. It follows the Jane Eyre story pretty well, with some interesting divergences--first, the "crazy wife in the attic" is very present from the first day that Jane takes the nanny job, and second, it's not a romance. I found it to be a fascinating story about identity and multi-culturism in the early 2000's.

Of course, I still have articles going up on Book Riot on a more frequent basis, so definitely check over there for great bookish content! Today I have two posts up: where to start with the books of Melina Marchetta, aka one of my favorite authors ever, and how to make your bullet journals more bookish! You can see everything I've written for Book Riot here!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

Aspen Quick is born into a strange family, with very strange and very important powers. They have the ability to reach--into objects, into people--and take things. Memories, thoughts, emotions, even physical characteristics. They use this ability as a part of an old ritual to keep the cliff overlooking their small New England town from tumbling down and crushing everything. But Aspen uses his ability outside of this ritual, and he's never given it a second thought...until the summer after his cousin's mysterious death, when he meets Leah, who is a little too curious about his family's strange legacy.

Aspen is a surprising, not-exactly-reliable, and privileged narrator. He makes terrible decisions, but his confidence is engaging, and the flashbacks that Ribar sprinkles in among the present-day drama add depth and complexity to his character. The premise of this story and Aspen's family history is fascinating and fresh, especially as the consequences to their actions become more apparent and nuanced as the story progresses. Aspen starts out confident in his abilities and what he thinks he knows about his family, proud of what he can do and secretly hurting over is mother's abandonment. But as he gets to know Leah, who inexplicably knows about his abilities and his family's legacies, he begins to question what he thought was true about his family. This development is drawn out realistically, a result of Leah's new information and Aspen's own poor decisions pushing him closer to the truth. The somewhat serious story is balanced out by terrific sarcastic humor and banter between Aspen and his friends, and great flashbacks. Like its excellent title, this novel may appear flippant at first, but it's a lot darker, a lot more complicated than it seems.

ARC provided by publisher.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On Book Riot: Mysteries for Fans of Tana French

One of my favorite non-kidlit authors is Tana French. I adore her dark and atmospheric mysteries, and I am super excited for the sixth book in her Dublin Murder Squad series, The Trespasser. On Book Riot, I wrote an article with four mystery recommendations for people who love Tana French, just to tide you over until The Trespasser releases!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Giveaway: Return to the Isle of the Lost

Hey, Descendants fans! Thanks to the awesome generosity of Disney Hyperion, I'm giving away a copy of Isle of the Lost and the sequel, Return to the Isle of the Lost, both by Melissa de la Cruz! Return to the Isle of the Lost is the latest book in the Descendants series, and it is out now!

About Return to the Isle of the Lost:
Mal’s an expert at intimidating her enemies, but she’s broken the habit since leaving her villainous roots behind. So when she and her friends Evie, Carlos, and Jay all receive threatening messages demanding they return home, Mal can’t believe it. Sure, she’s King Ben’s girlfriend now, and she’s usually nice to her classmates, but she still didn’t think anyone would be silly enough to try to push her around.

The thing is, it kind of worked. Especially since she and her friends have a sneaking suspicion that their villainous parents are behind the messages. And when Evie looks into her Magic Mirror, what she sees only confirms their fears. Maleficent’s just a tiny lizard after her run-in with Mal at Ben’s Coronation, but she’s the worst villain in the land for a reason. Could she have found a way to escape? Whatever’s going on, Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay know they have to sneak back to the Isle and get to the bottom of it.

Without its infamous leader, the island’s even worse than when they left it, but the comforts of home—even a home as gloomy as the Isle of the Lost—can be hard to resist for recently reformed villains. Will the kids be able to beat the evil bubbling at the Isle’s wicked core, or will the plot to destroy Auradon succeed?

To enter, fill out the form below!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Hermione Winters is at the top of her game: she's cheerleading co-captain with her best friend Polly, and they're about to have the best-ever cheer camp before launching their final season. Their team has been cursed for the past few years with losing a member, and Hermione is determined to break that curse through hard work and teamwork. But her carefully-constructed plans are derailed one night at camp, when something is slipped into her drink. She wakes up the next morning in the hospital, unable to remember the sexual assault that occurred after everything went black. In the weeks that follow, Hermione deals with the aftermath of the assault, resisting the stigma of being a victim while at the same time attempting to make peace with the fact that she may never know what happened that night.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a bold re-imaging of A Winter's Tale that takes an unflinching look at the aftermath of an assault and how Hermione forges ahead. The nature of the subject matter is emotional, enraging, heartbreaking, usually within the space of a page, but I have a fierce admiration for Johnston in that Hermione's story never once felt exploitative, and that it didn't gratuitously linger in the awfulness of what Hermione experienced. Hermione is tough and determined, but she doesn't muscle her way through this experience on her own. She has an incredible support system in her parents, her coach, her best friend Polly, and some of her cheerleading teammates. This network and how Hermione assembles her team of people to help get her through this--and her acknowledgement of her vulnerabilities and need for help is what makes her truly strong.

As much as this book is about the aftermath of a life-changing assault, it's also not. It's about growing up, being on the brink of something new and unseeable and scary and exciting, and it's about making decisions about an uncertain future. It's about learning learning to value your established relationships even as you grow into new ones. This is what makes Exit, Pursued by a Bear stand out to me--the simple fact that it's about positive healing and a support system makes it unusual and remarkable to me. On one hand, I feel a tiny bit sad that this idea is so revolutionary to me, but mostly I am just so grateful that Johnston has given us a book that will help influence and change the narrative about healing from sexual assault. Hermione's story is not everyone's story, and her journey isn't easy or magical, or even solved simply, but it shows readers another positive way towards healing. It reaffirms that that sexual assault isn't the beginning or ending of a person. That's a story that will always be important.

And, okay, switching gears here--how amazing is that cover? if you're going to have a cheerleader on your book cover, it better be that cheerleader. Such a kick-ass cover. It's perfect for this story.

Book purchased via indie Brilliant Books!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

Jessica Spotswood is the author of the Cahill Witch trilogy, which I read and loved about two years ago. (The books are Born Wicked, Star Cursed, and Sisters' Fate!) She's also the editor of the fantastic A Tyranny of Petticoats anthology. Wild Swans is a little different from these previous books, but no less enjoyable!

Ivy Milbourn has always felt the weight of her family's legacy. Milbourn women are extraordinary: Her great-grandmother was a famous poet, her grandmother a talented painter, and her mother was a beautiful singer--right before she abandoned Ivy with her granddad. Ivy's spent most of her life looking for her great talent, and she's finally managed to secure a summer free of art lessons and college classes. She plans to swim and hang out with friends, just have fun. Then her mother shows up for the first time in years--with two more daughters Ivy didn't even know existed, complicating Ivy's previously held ideas about the Milbourn legacy.

I'm going to admit upfront that I am a sucker for the estranged parent/surprise sibling trope. Perhaps it's because I spent so many hours imagining that I had a long-lost sibling as a kid (weird, I know--but hey, I was an only child for a long time, and I watched a LOT of Parent Trap). The drama of the story appealed to me immediately, and Spotswood takes it up another notch (and genuinely surprised me) when Ivy discovers that her mom has told her little sisters that Ivy is their aunt, not their sister. Crazy, right? The family dynamics are so fraught and interesting at the same time and Spotswood does a really great job exploring the nuances of the tiny dramas alongside the big ones.

Ivy's intense family dynamics and the expectations placed on her are balanced with a pretty swoon-worthy romance with her granddad's literature student, Connor. Connor is pretty much perfect, but his presence creates some interesting tension in Ivy's life. Her long-time friend Alex is hurt when Ivy starts dating him, and Ivy works to keep her relationship with Connor secret from her family--her mother is looking to exploit and evidence of Ivy being reckless, and Connor is Grandad's student. Add this romantic drama to how Ivy navigates her relationships with her two best friends, each with issues and family problems of their own, and there's more than enough interesting threads to fill the novel while Ivy grapples with her own feelings of inadequacy as a Milbourn girl. The plot is pretty tame compared to the plots of Spotswood's earlier books, but this standalone is just as emotionally hefty and breathlessly romantic.

Book purchased from my indie!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Summer Days and Summer Nights Blog Tour

One of the most fun anthologies I've read in recent years was Stephanie Perkins' My True Love Gave to Me, a Christmas/holiday-themed collection of short stories by a great range of YA authors. What could possibly top that? A new anthology, called Summer Days and Summer Nights, featuring (you guessed it) summer-y stories!

"Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. 
Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love." 
Authors in the anthology include Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, Jennifer E. Smith, and of course Stephanie Perkins!

As the editor, Stephanie was kind enough to answer a few questions here about summer reading!

TCR: Which do you prefer--poolside or beachside summer reading?

SP: Beachside! Ocean waves are the perfect white noise to a delicious book.

TCR: Do you have any go-to summer books you like to re-read summer after summer?

SP: I’ll recommend one of my mother’s favorite summer reads: Sarah Dessen’s Keeping the Moon. It might be my favorite Dessen novel, too.

TCR: If you had to pair Summer Days and Summer Nights with a summer-y drink, what would it be?

SP: Watermelon juice. It’s so simple—it’s just watermelon that’s been put into a blender, but it’s heaven.
Summer Days and Summer Nights is out now!

Monday, May 16, 2016

On Book Riot: How to Up Your Book Browsing Game in 5 Easy Steps!

I love bookselling, but I am only human and sometimes I have pet peeves regarding my job. The biggest of these is when customers pronounce "tarot" like carrot, but the next one is regarding people who don't/can't properly browse, which is why I wrote this post on Book Riot on how to be a better browser. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Headed to BEA!

Hey all, I'm headed to BEA in Chicago today, where I plan on reconnecting with friends, having heated conversations about books, and attempting to resist the lure of a bajillion ARCs (wish me luck on that last one). I'll also be at BloggerCon in somewhat official capacity--I'm leading a round table in the afternoon discussing business and monetization, about which I have many thoughts! Come talk with me if you're registered for BookCon! Otherwise, say hi if you see me wandering the exhibit hall! Let's all have a nice, safe, happy BEA and that means no biting while going for an ARC pile, okay?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

You know how some books are just made for you? You read the description and it has all your favorite elements and you just know before you even pick it up that it's totally going to be your jam? Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix was that book for me.

I haven't read a Garth Nix book since roughly 2004, when I discovered the Abhorsen trilogy at my local library. My memory of this experience was that the books were totally weird and I was totally into them. (And they are also totally on my to-read list this summer!) But Newt's Emerald is not at all like the Abhorsen trilogy! It is a Regency-era romance, with magic! Basically, it did what it could to fill the Gail Carriger sized hole in my heart.

Lady Truthful Newington (Newt for short) is very eager to turn eighteen and come out to London society. She's pretty, smart, passable at magic, and eager for her adult life to begin. On the evening of her birthday, her father presents the Newington Emerald, a magical gem that will one day be Newt's...only to have it stolen right from under their noses. With her father in hysterics and her cousins quite incapable of rescuing it, Newt heads to London to track down the emerald herself. Unfortunately, she can only do so much as a lady. So she gamely dons a male disguise and entreats the help of one Major Harnett. Together they uncover an insidious plot decades in the making...and an attraction to each other that is threatened by the secrets they both keep.

Garth Nix writes this fantastical romance with charm and plenty of humor. The story unfolds and flows easily, and contains many delightful surprises and twists. The characters are all top-notch--from Newt's indulgent but clueless father, her passel of Newington boy cousins, her mysterious and resourceful aunt Lady Badgery, and even Major Harnett himself, who is not at all what he seems. I love Newt because while she does not entertain any great fantasies of adventure or heroics, she is capable and willing to do what she must for her family and doesn't let anything stand in her way. The delightfully ridiculous plot promises a great tour of the Regency era, taking characters from slum warehouses to ballrooms, across London, the countryside, and to sea. Throughout it all, Newt's energy, good humor, and clever thinking continually save the day, making for a fun pseudo-historical and feminist book.

Book purchased from my local indie! The cover and packaging were too pretty to resist!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

On Book Riot Today!

My guest post "Lord, Show Me How to Say No to This: 30 Thoughts Booksellers Have When in Bookstores Not There Own" went live on Book Riot today! Click here to check it out!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

If you haven't read Six Impossible Things, click over here. If you don't care about book chronology (and I won't hold that against you, much), then keep reading!

Wildlife is Fiona Wood's second book, but the first one published here in the U.S. Set during a tumultuous term at their school's wilderness campus, this story follows two very different girls who are both somewhat lost, confused, and searching for their true selves. Sibylla has never been the center of attention, but in a strange twist of fate she ends up as the one-time model for a popular ad-campaign, fanning the flames of her best friend Holly's long-held jealousy. Lou is the mysterious, quiet new girl who's not interested in fitting in or being liked. Tensions, rivalries, and emotions run high as the wilderness term tests everyone's limits.

Wildlife trades perspective between Sib and Lou, who are two very different narrators. They barely know each other at the beginning of the novel, and at first it seems like a semester in the woods is the only thing that they share in common. Lou is still reeling from the death of her boyfriend and first love, and her chapters are meandering, occasionally short and abrupt with her grief. Sib is more relaxed and cheerful, and her worries don't seem to be any heavier than wondering where she stands with the cute boy she kissed at a party, but she's struggling to understand and define herself and lets other people influence her in the meanwhile. On their own, each of the voices might become exhausting, but Wood balances them out brilliantly. Lou's quiet observations complement Sib's social interactions, and the two characters slowly start to come together via Michael, who is very much (secretly) in love with Sib, and as a result of Holly's increasingly cruel manipulations.

Wood's writing submerges the reader into the minutiae of the girls' daily lives and their social circles, and even though the plot isn't terribly dramatic, the shifting relationships are all fascinating. The inner lives of Lou and Sib and how they slowly open up to the world are what drive this book, and their experiences and revelations make for a beautiful, deceptively complex novel about the nature of friendship, loss, and the importance of honesty. Fiona Wood is now officially on my Author Watch List, which sounds way creepier than it really is.

Book received as a gift! At Christmas. I know. But hey, I finished all of my Christmas books before June! That has to be a record.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

Fiona Wood is an Australian author whose first U.S. publication was Wildlife. Given my sometimes alarming adoration for Aussie YA lit, it went on my wishlist in about two seconds flat. Then, Wood's novel Six Impossible Things was released in the U.S. I acquired a copy immediately, but did not read it for inane reasons (I am weird about my TBR list and I wanted to read Wildlife first).

Well, friends, I am here to tell you that this was a MISTAKE. Because months after receiving it for Christmas, I finally read Wildlife, adored it, and then discovered that *gasp* Six Impossible Things is actually Wood's first novel. And it has characters from Wildlife! And it takes place before Wildlife! And American publishing had duped me! And by letting my crazy personal TBR rules take over, I had actually committed the cardinal reading sin of reading books out of chronological order.

I know that there are just as many others out there who care about chronology and avoiding spoilers as much as I do, so consider this your word of warning. READ SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS FIRST! DO IT AND AVOID A HEARTBREAKING SPOILER.

Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, I can safely tell you that both books are awesome, and they aren't direct sequels, just companions with shared characters but still. And a third book by Wood is coming out in the U.S. this fall, and yes, the main characters are secondary characters in Wildlife, so to all my fellow reading sticklers, don't even think about reading Cloudwish until you've read Six Impossible Things and then Wildlife.

So, Six Impossible Things! It's the story of Dan Cereil, whose life is not fantastic at the start of the story. His dad has just declared bankruptcy, left his mom, and come out as gay. Dan and his mom are pretty much broke, and they end up living in a very large, very old house that great-aunt Adelaide left them. The only think that makes life bearable for Dan is Estelle, the girl next door. He's hopelessly in love with her, and he knows for a fact they'd be perfect for each other--only they've never met. And if Estelle ever finds out the reason why Dan knows they'd be perfect together...well, she'd definitely hate him.

Six Impossible Things reminds me of a John Hughes movie, only if that movie were set in Melbourne, Australia, and not the suburbs of Chicago. Wood's novel is populated by weird and interesting and funny teens whose struggles and senses of humor are totally relatable, and they make some bad decisions, but sometimes they make some good decisions and it's all so entertaining and heartfelt. Dan's pursuit not only to win Estelle, but to figure out how to be a good person, is a struggle we all face and his misadventures are funny and heartfelt. It's really refreshing to read this kind of a story from a male perspective, and I enjoyed the characters all so well.

I also really appreciated how Wood explored the family's financial situation within the book. The sudden shift from financial security (and implied wealth) to nearly out on the streets broke is an interesting dynamic, and in some ways just as traumatic as a death. Money worries take up a lot of Dan's brain space, especially as he tries to keep his mom from sabotaging her own wedding cake business and find a job himself. Wood does a great job at showing how a lack of money can have a domino effect on teens' lives and bring about other challenges--Dan outgrows his clothes, can't buy a dance ticket, and he worries when he can't afford to take his dog to the vet. Wood writes with sensitivity and empathy that teens will appreciate.

Wood creates a world that readers will want to inhabit, with an ending that is just an convenient (but not less genuine) than a John Hughes movie ending, and easily twice as satisfying. Trust me, you'll run to the bookstore for Wildlife once you've finished.

ARC provided by publisher, like, ages ago. Thanks, guys. I'm sorry I'm seven months behind on everything.