I really liked this. I felt detached from the main character for more than half of it and while I think this was intentional (Drew is hiding out in aI really liked this. I felt detached from the main character for more than half of it and while I think this was intentional (Drew is hiding out in a hospital), it made it a bit of a slower read. I do love the hospital family Hutchinson created, the comic breaks, and the sprinkling of more emotional moments as the story goes on. I believe contemporary fiction can be as suspenseful as any other book category when there is a lot at stake for a character and this book had a lot of it. Another note: lively descriptions in this book and some great dialogue....more
Really loved reading some of this author's early work after being such a big fan of OPENLY STRAIGHT. Author's experiNot your typical coming out story.
Really loved reading some of this author's early work after being such a big fan of OPENLY STRAIGHT. Author's experience in sports writing definitely shines because this is the most detailed football-themed books I've read in YA. (Or perhaps ever.)...more
Despite a slow start, this book is one of the best crafted stories I've read in awhile. It also managed to have this dark fairy tale feel to it. Wow wDespite a slow start, this book is one of the best crafted stories I've read in awhile. It also managed to have this dark fairy tale feel to it. Wow wow wow. More to come....more
Officially my favorite of Dahlia's. Totally addicting, flowed really well, and I loved the alternate POVs of Josh and Vanessa. It was like getting soOfficially my favorite of Dahlia's. Totally addicting, flowed really well, and I loved the alternate POVs of Josh and Vanessa. It was like getting so many more layers to the story because they weren't the main "couple" (like so many other books like this). Kudos. A book to put in your beach bag this summer, for sure!...more
Last year, I really got a lot out of The Truth About You & Me by Amanda Grace. Sure, it was about a teacher and a student relationship but there wLast year, I really got a lot out of The Truth About You & Me by Amanda Grace. Sure, it was about a teacher and a student relationship but there were so many shades of gray/layers to the story that I found myself rethinking all my initial judgments of a relationship like this one.
Unfortunately, No One Needs to Know didn't have the same depth. I did like how naturally Olivia and Zoey feel for each other; there wasn't this big conversation about being gay. It just happened, and that was great but I never emotionally connected with the characters and I didn't feel that zing in their chemistry as much as I would have wanted to either.
This IS a complicated story because Olivia's brother, Liam, is seeing Zoey -- which is how they start to spend so much time together. It all progressed a bit too smoothly after that and I think a situation of this caliber needed to get messier before it was 'resolved'.
Even though this one wasn't a winner for me, definitely looking forward to what Amanda releases next. I do love her writing style -- when all the other elements to keep me invested are there....more
Sara Farizan’s latest is just another reminder of all the books I say I want to read, and never get to because after all this time, I still have not read her debut. (Don’t worry; I have it out from the library right now.) So Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel was my first taste of her work and I totally get what all the fuss is about.
Main character Leila is a junior at her high school, a girl with a Persian heritage who is constantly labeled as a Latina. Already feeling on the outskirts of her peers, Leila can’t imagine coming out too. Not at her school and most definitely, not at home. She fears her parents and her perfect older sister will abandon her just like a family in their social circle did to their gay son. Will she ever be able to be her true self?
This is the thing. All of this weighs so much on how Leila sees herself, and how she presents herself to the world, making it pretty massive life changing stuff. But there is such humor in her character; I loved hearing her thoughts, how she wasn’t exactly a fashion plate, and how she struggled with being a good student and wanted to make her parents proud of her nonetheless. There were no airs about her; as readers we were granted the opportunity to know the real Leila and watch as she wiggled through these challenges.
Enter Saskia — the exotic new girl who flirts with anyone who has a pulse, including Leila. Unlike the rest of her school, Saskia doesn’t assume anything about Leila and really appreciates her culture. Their chemistry is apparent in the beginning but it was also a little worrisome. Did you ever meet someone and just fall for them completely, friendship or relationship? It was like a Saskia disease that Leila could not fight, paralleled with the return of an old childhood friend, Lisa, who is going through her own periods of grief and emerging as a brand new person from who Leila used to know. I was so thrilled to see Lisa and Leila rekindle their friendship because they didn’t try to put pressure on each other when it came to anything. Instead they supported each other in this quiet, lovely way.
Farizan skillfully balances the distance Leila is feeling from her family as her secret becomes harder and harder to conceal with the changes happening in her social life. She also injects some great moments from the school theatre program (which Leila reluctantly joins) and a teacher who confides in Leila more than she should. Most importantly, I really liked how Leila, who was so aware of people and their beliefs in certain stereotypes, was something she adopted without even noticing it. To me, this drove home the point that we are always works in progress, and are going to be encountering people all the time with no way to know their real story. It’s so important to listen, and to remain open-minded and compassionate.
Tell Me How a Crush Should Feel is a refreshingly authentic story of friendship, heartbreak, family, and acceptance — of yourself and others. If I haven’t sold you yet, there’s a Muppet reference. You are welcome. (Psst. Thanks, Sara.)...more
Initial thoughts: Wow. Close to perfect and just -- wow -- I was worried about the LGBT AND race issues but Talley handles them both so beau4.5 stars.
Initial thoughts: Wow. Close to perfect and just -- wow -- I was worried about the LGBT AND race issues but Talley handles them both so beautifully. Plus Sarah and Ruth, the sisters in this book, wow. Why don't I read more books with great sisters? At times very difficult to read, I was so engrossed by the story and I love this time period.
Imagine starting a brand new school with no welcome committee. Instead people are calling you names, telling you that you smell bad, not wanting to sit next to you, automatically thinking you are dumb because of what you look like, and even going a step farther than verbal abuse. They want to hurt you and they want to hurt you bad.
This is exactly the situation that Sarah and her friends are walking into as they step in Jefferson High School for the first time in 1959 Virginia. There is very little support from the administration a.k.a. the adults of the school, and even keeping your head down doesn’t stop them from singling you out. Sarah is miserable. She loved her old school, enjoyed her classes, got to sing in the choir, and now she’s stuck in remedial classes, doesn’t have any friends, and can’t participate in extracurricular anything. It’s hard to think she is “making a difference” like her parents remind her when she is dealing with this crap every single day. Scared for herself, her sister, and her friends. Instead, she feels lost and she’s not sure she will survive the few months until graduation.
Linda, a white girl in a few of Sarah’s classes and the daughter of someone who isn’t quiet about how these changes make him feel, feels like Sarah and the other African Americans have ruined her senior year. No prom, so much distraction. She can’t stand it. But so many of her opinions are formed from her father’s. A very busy man who has no time for his daughter and her opinions. Despite Linda not wanting Sarah and her friends in the school, she finds herself standing up for them a few times. When she is assigned a French project with her best friend (Judy) and Sarah, Linda acts like she has all the answers when it comes to Sarah returning to her old school and even why that school couldn’t afford enough books or equipment for all students. Calmly though passionately (most of the time), Sarah tries to explain why things are the way they are, and you can practically see the little cracks starting to affect Linda’s beliefs.
It was fascinating to watch Linda process what was happening around her and what was right vs. what she has always been told. So many times, I could see how close she was to realizing that her school’s treatment of Sarah and her friends was completely wrong. Then another wall would appear and we would move a few steps backward again. As much as people in this town and at Jefferson High did not want integration, it’s interesting to think how much of that was because they truly felt that way or because they were just listening to the arguments of others, believing that people with different skin type were actually lesser beings. Lies We Tell Ourselves does not shy away from how truly ugly people can get in the face of change and the unknown, and I had to close the book so much as I was reading because I was utterly disgusted. But by Linda’s character raising questions and asking why, we are able to gain more insight into this treatment without excusing it.
There is absolutely so much to discuss in this novel (book clubs and schools, take note!) but I wanted to say how nervous I was when I saw this book would also include a lesbian storyline. Conflicts because of integration is a lot to take on in the first place but to add in a plotline where Sarah and Linda fall for each other? Would it be too much? I shouldn’t have doubted Robin Talley and I won’t ever again; the feelings growing between the two never overpower the book and I thought that was a good move. It’s hard enough for the two to be seen in the same classroom, much less pursue a relationship but it was authentic and great to see each of their thought processes (was something wrong with them? were they going to hell?) and how the time period reflected their hopes for the future.
For all the pain and all the judgement in this book, there are also beautiful moments which shocked me with how much they affected me. (I would be crying and not even notice.) From the wonderful first moment Sarah shares her voice with two strangers, the bond between Sarah and her lil sister, Ruth, how Linda found strength in her own words, and the bravery that both girls had to tap into to move forward in ways I never would have predicted. Lies We Tell Ourselves is an important book and not only for the treatment of this sensitive and confusing time in our history but for how well it manages to fold in the conflicts and changes between family, friends, and how we see ourselves. ...more
4.5 stars. Wow. I loved all the complicated relationships in this book. And Greece! I need to go to Greece.
"There were a lot of things in the world th4.5 stars. Wow. I loved all the complicated relationships in this book. And Greece! I need to go to Greece.
"There were a lot of things in the world that won't make sense, I decide. A lot of things religion can't explain. And maybe we're supposed to live in a world of mystery."
"Back then, only three days ago, the world was black and white and I was simply choosing black. Now, sunset, the sky explodes beyond the restaurant in a flurry of color and even though it's beautiful, it's complicated."
I think no matter how inseparable two people are, how much fun together, how many memories they make with one another, there is always some kind of difference between the two. Even before Colette and Sadie stopped being friends out of nowhere, Colette was feeling it. Sadie was concerned with how she looked and interested in boys, and Colette knew she wasn’t there yet. It was a small crack in the foundation, one that could have easily been worked through except for the big mysterious thing that causes the two to go from peas in a pod to total strangers for 3 years.
How would you feel if your ex-best friend appeared out of nowhere and asked you to take a trip to Greece? Would you go?
Colette is not an easy character to understand; she lives her life a certain way, a product of her parent’s upbringing. Her mom who urges her to remain chaste, to remain protected and covered up while her dad just blurs into the background of her life, never speaking up. I believe Colette’s parents had good intentions. They wanted their daughter to grow up to be good with boundaries, and have only the best influences infiltrate her life. Instead Colette is insecure in her own skin, feels like any decision that will not garner the approval of her parents is “bad”, and has tiptoed through her high school life being very careful not to experience too much of anything.
Her day-to-day life has grown to be so black and white (especially after Sadie has left it) and she is yearning for some gray.
Freedom. Adventure. Fun. All of these words are synonymous with Sadie. This was how they balanced each other out. So it’s not a surprise that Colette wants to ditch her summer plans (volunteer work in another country with her long-time boyfriend) and see Greece and, most importantly, figure out why Sadie left her. For the first time in a long time, Colette defies many people to do what she wants. (Though her support comes from an unexpected place; I liked this choice.)
Caela Carter did an exceptional job painting a portrait of Greece: the beauty of the water, the food, the vineyards, the hot water near the volcano. It was exactly like I was there alongside Colette as she spent time with Sadie’s family — people she believed were her family until they weren’t anymore. It’s not entirely paradise; against this gorgeous backdrop, Colette is feeling constant tension with the family, knows Sadie is keeping many somethings from her, and is afraid she made the wrong choice and fractured relationships at home for no good reason.
I like the messy books. I like when we are privy to ALL the parts of the characters. These books are near and dear to me because they are truly representative of real life. We don’t all see things in the same way. We often don’t understand the reasons why people do things the way they do. People can surprise us: in good and bad ways. I applaud Carter for thrusting us into this unsteady friendship. Colette missed Sadie; she wanted to patch things up. Sadie obviously still felt she could trust Colette or she never would have asked her on this trip. But could it be more than just a trip? (Sometimes friendships sound a lot like relationships, don’t they?)
Despite the heaviness of the conflicts and secrets in My Best Friend, Maybe, I gobbled this one up. Read it in under 24 hours. I had to see how Greece would change Colette, get her thinking on her own without constant pressure from her parents. I had to know if Colette and Sadie’s friendship had anything left after all these years and after this trip. Plus, there’s a sweet romance that felt just right. I think young adult books sometimes underestimate how hard it is for kids to break away from their parents; it’s impossible for us to share the same beliefs and constantly agree on how to live our lives. How moving forward has nothing to do with the level of respect or love we have for those parents. In addition to that, it’s not so often we see two best friends break up and be granted a second chance to be truthful with one another.
My Best Friend, Maybe did that + then some. It was thought-provoking, tough, visually beautiful, and certainly made me a Caela Carter fan....more
This is another one of those situations where I love an author’s past work (Love + Leftovers is just amazing) and was highly anticipating th2.5 stars.
This is another one of those situations where I love an author’s past work (Love + Leftovers is just amazing) and was highly anticipating their next book… only to be disappointed.
Sigh. It makes my stomach hurt just to say that.
I liked a few parts of this novel but, collectively, something did not click when all the pieces were put together. First, Jamie. He’s gay and in love with his male best friend, Mason. Though his parents are open and supportive, Jamie is struggling with coming out to Mason, much less telling him how he feels. He doesn’t want their years of friendship to disappear with his honesty overload.
As readers, we hear all of his insecurities and his fears. I work very hard to be a compassionate reader but, at some point, I really needed him to move forward. It was almost like the worrying when on for so long; it didn’t create a story arc. It was more of a straight line. Add in conflicts within the literary magazine (that started a little bit too late in the story) about an LGBT comic a student has submitted. There’s a group vote about the piece, but when it’s met with such indignation, it starts to eat away at Jamie. He feels every student should be represented in the literary magazine, and rejecting the piece is not the right thing to do.
His taking matters into his own hands does create a level of anxiety in the book. What will the consequences be? But, at the same time, the driving force of the book should have been something more.
The bright spot of the book was Jamie’s new friends with fellow art geek, Eden. She’s overcome with pressures of her own, but for once, he has someone to talk to about coming out and being himself… in front of everyone. Their friendship grew to be so special, and I loved how they supported each other and were also a little tentative with one another — just like new friends growing to trust each other would be. Another sweet detail was Jamie’s relationship with his baby sisters. They loved him so much, and he truly came from a loving family who tried to connect with each other despite busy schedules.
On their own the poetry included was beautiful and gave us a glimpse into the different personalities at this school but it also made the book feel a little uneven. Introducing other mediums into novels is something I personally love. It gives a book a collage feel, but the story also has to benefit from these breaks in the story and it didn’t in Fan Art. I almost wish the book had been more rooted in the lit magazine environment, and less in art class and in Jamie’s head. It was hard for me to get a grasp on all the different characters, and more of a focus might have helped with that.
Despite unbalanced storytelling, I was rooting for Jamie and Mason. I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite authors, J.H. Trumble, who has written some great romances that reminded me a bit of these two. (Check out Don’t Let Me Go.) In the end, Fan Art was too much of one thing and not enough of another....more
There’s nothing like clicking with a narrator like I did with Naomi.
Her voice was so vividly judgy — I was immediately wrapped up in her story and the indignation she felt about her annual summer plans: the Hamptons to visit her mom where quality time meant hearing her mom complain about her clothes and push her to socialize with the well-connected kids her age. (Delilah and Teddy tolerate her, mostly. But she does not fit into their posh lifestyle at all.) It’s no shock that all Naomi wants to do is study and survive until she can get back to her best friend and dad in Chicago.
So it’s as much of a surprise to her, when Naomi is suddenly giving her mother a little bit of what she wants — getting invited to parties, wearing expensive dresses, going on dates with Nick (whose dad owns a record label), and girlishly texting with Delilah. This switch in behavior is all thanks to Jacinta, the girl next door who has the means to throw the most excessive parties and maintains a highly-visited fashion blog that everyone wants to get featured on. Naomi is curious about her at first, but almost immediately takes a liking to her — even introducing her to Delilah (Jacinta’s #1 goal for the summer).
This is where things start to intensify because Jacinta and Delilah’s bond is — BOOM — super close, super quick and they are totally inseparable. Delilah is hardly seeing Teddy, Jacinta and Delilah aren’t including Naomi, and when Naomi does manage to see Jacinta, her every thought is wrapped up in Delilah.
Their behavior is bordering on obsessive, and it’s changing the dynamics of the group in a huge, dramatic way.
Most of all, it’s baffling what so many people in this story are willing to sacrifice because they don’t think the rules (of the world!) apply to them. It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, and it’s tremendously effed up. Naomi is caught in the storm of all of this, and as she skirts the line between these “two” realities, her character is forced to make super tough decisions. Great is so well-paced, the tension is built so tightly, I literally could not put the book down — debating right and wrong, and who the true villain of this story was.
I definitely empathized with Jacinta and rooted for her in a way that I don’t remember doing with Gatsby. It’s tremendous how far she is willing to go for acceptance and for love. I didn’t blame Naomi for being so torn over her friendship with her and I loved the author’s choice of creating an internet maven out of Jacinta — oh, the great dangers and advantages of the world wide web. Without it, this story wouldn’t have existed.
Truth be told, it’s been a really long time since I read The Great Gatsby (I haven’t seen the latest Leo movie either) but Benincasa got my memory rolling and I was so excited (this is geeky) to pick out the parallels between the classic and Great. (Favorite detail, hands down, was how she named each character by using the first initial of the character’s name from the original.) Best of all, my familiarity with the original text in no way affected how hooked I was to this story.
Committing to a modern Gatsby retelling for young adults couldn’t have been an easy task and with the exception of a few too-modern references that I didn’t think would stand the test of time, I couldn’t have asked for a better crafted book to save me from a reading slump and get me excited about a new author. ...more
Openly Straight is a novel that encompassed so many of my favorite things: a flawed main character who felt a lot, supportive and enthusiastic parents, and heart-tugging friendship and romance. And best of all? It made me think.
Basically, I want to hug and squeeze this book until I can’t anymore.
Rafe is pretty lucky when he comes out to his parents. They are completely supportive; they barely blink an eyelash. The liberal town of Boulder, Colorado responds pretty much the same way. His teachers want his thoughts on the gay movement, he trains to give speeches to others about sexuality, and his family surprises him with an awesome coming out party. Life is pretty much hunky dory. We’ve all heard people’s hurtful experiences regarding coming out, so it’s kind of hard to believe that Rafe has anything to complain about, right?
Well. Wrong. He feels totally pigeonholed by his sexuality, and decides to go off to a boarding school on the East Coast in hopes of wiping the slate clean. He won’t exactly be back in the closet because he knows he’s gay… he just won’t really tell the peers in his all-boy school what his deal is.
The idea of going to a brand new place and being a whole new you is pretty tempting. Of course, part of it, especially in Rafe’s case, isn’t awesome because he is kind of lying in some instances. But in others, he’s finding out things about himself that he never knew. Like maybe the jock isn’t always “the jock” and maybe he can actually keep up with a bunch of guys playing football in the quad.
The challenges though… outweigh that lack of boundary Rafe feels. And as a reader, you are just waiting for everything to blow up in his face. His parents are confused by this “phase”, he’s making up stories about his closest girl friend, and this intimate friendship with Ben, a soft-spoken jock who loves to read and have deep conversations, is definitely in jeopardy, especially as he and Rafe continue to get closer. Is Ben gay? Are they just best friends? The lines are so blurred at times, that it was really hard for me to figure it out. The possibility of heartbreak is so palpable.
Konigsberg also included pieces from Rafe’s writing class — a great way for us to get this character’s back story but also to see him grow as a writer. (I adored the teacher’s comments so much because so many times what he was saying was criticism I have about what I’m reading: “show don’t tell!”) Mr. Scarborough also gives him room to think about his choices to be someone new at the school, and subtley offers some helpful perspective. He would definitely have been one of my favorite teachers too.
I feel absolutely so much love for this book that my heart is actually seizing up as I write this review. From Rafe’s refreshing narrating to watching him painstakingly make blunders and attempt to get himself out of them, Openly Straight unveils a different kind of journey towards self-discovery — one filled with laughs, love, late nights, and finding out how to balance all the parts that make you you....more
His work in Two Boys Kissing is like a performance arts piece. As I was reading it, super savoring each word, I kept thinking about how I would love to hear all of it spoken aloud to an audience. The words, so beautiful when strung together, are just that effective. I was smiling, I was tearing up, my heart felt heavy, my heart felt light. How he writes such poetry without being overly flowery and keeping these lives so grounded, I will never know.
What I do know is that Two Boys Kissing has moved my favorite David novel (Love is the Higher Law) down a slot and will reign as number one for a long, long time.
Harry and Craig are best friends, ex-boyfriends, who are vying for the ultimate world record of longest kiss. They plan on kissing for over 32 hours in front of their high school, friends, family, and strangers. At the same time, a town or two over, Avery and Ryan meet at a gay prom, hoping it’s the start of something. Peter and Neil have been in a relationship for a stretch of time and are working through what happens when things aren’t so new anymore. Cooper is only out to those he “hooks up with” online but when his parents discover his truth, he flees.
With narration provided by those who have succumbed to AIDs, readers learn about their hardships, their joys, and how far the world has come and how far it still has to go for acceptance. The four stories weave within one another detailing varying degrees of relationships, honesty, and support. For every time my heart would break a little bit for these characters and even their “ancestors”, there were equally wonderful moments to be had around the corner (i.e. the most romantic visit to a bookstore ever and evidence that you can tweet and kiss at the same time).
Levithan challenges his reader with use of the “Greek chorus” and while I think it might take a little getting used to for some, their presence makes Two Boys Kissing feel epic without losing its accessibility. It’s touching without being melodramatic. Their commentary and their observations really lend a ton of perspective to how society has evolved and struggled and continues to do both today. And the characters! I have no doubt that each of these characters truly represents a living and breathing person dealing with similar situations, and I think it’s a testament to David’s talent that he makes them feel that way (and not like caricatures) in 208 short pages.
Two Boys Kissing is honestly one of the most profound and powerful books I have ever read. It needs to make its way into as many hands, homes, and bookshelves as possible....more
When I wrote my review of J.H. Trumble’s Don’t Let Me Go in March, I wrote about how I kept thinking of the main characters of that story like they were people I had actually known in real life.
Fast forward almost nine months later, and I’m standing in a store parking lot in the freezing cold, on the brink of what is going to be a difficult two days for my family, and I am thinking about Robert and Andrew in the same way. What are they up to? What are they thinking? If they lived in my hometown, would I be calling them to hang out right now?
I’ve wracked my brain trying to figure out how Trumble makes her characters so human — flaws and all — and I come up short every single time. Because it just happens. It is so natural how these characters live and breathe on the page, even when I disagree with their actions and especially when everything becomes right in their worlds.
For many of you, a little red flag is going to pop up when you see “student/teacher” relationship. I’m not here to talk about a moral code or the importance of maintaining boundaries. Because as soon as I started reading about Andrew and Robert, all of their labels seemed to dissipate and I was left with two young men who really cared for each other. Two men who needed each other in different ways, and two people who actively tried to keep themselves at a distance (time and time again).
One of the most fascinating details about these characters is just how differently they deal with their sexuality. Robert was very open, and frustrated with a boyfriend who would rather hang out with “his girls” and not bother to kiss him, while Andrew was very focused on keeping his private life private (those nosey teachers!), even if it meant allowing people to think he was attracted to women. As the novel goes on, this difference created many scenes of role reversal where Robert actually seems to be the older one and Andrew, the more giddy.
On the surface, Where You Are was this kind of epic love story but the author also developed complex and intertwining back stories that allow the reader to dig deeper into these characters and help us to understand who they really are. I really loved Robert’s relationship with his mother (even the messy parts) and Andrew’s ex-wife, Maya, who always kept me guessing. (This is a good thing.) Trumble also skillfully integrated the influence of social media in our lives — from the accounts Andrew chooses to follow, secret fan pages, and a partner in bullying.
I read this book twice before I wrote the review (and I’ve only done that one other time this year with Marisa Calin’s Between You and Me) because I had to relive it again. I had to make sure I didn’t miss out on any one detail. Trumble has officially spoiled me with rich characters, feelings that make me feel everything, intricate details, the cool balance of family and school life, and a controversial topic that is dealt with so delicately and so passionately.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Trumble is an author to look out for.
(And I apologize in advance because if you react to this book like I did, you will not be able to get much done before you finish it.) ...more
This is going to sound like a strange comparison, but I couldn’t help thinking this as I read througReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
This is going to sound like a strange comparison, but I couldn’t help thinking this as I read through Silhouette of a Sparrow. Dirty Dancing is one of my favorite movies for many reasons but when I was a kid I most identified with Baby’s need to do something out of her comfort zone and to have her own secrets. Her life was always so dictated by her father that it was no surprise that she wanted to spend some extracurricular time with Johnny Castle, dancing dances and hanging out with people her father would have never approved of. It wasn’t even because she wanted to defy anyone… she wanted to be her own person and make her own decisions. And she did.
Garnet Richardson, a 16-year-old spending the summer of 1926 with distant family in a lake resort, is so similar. She has a natural curiosity, and is looking forward to a summer of freedom, away from her mother’s hovering and her father’s unfortunate depression (brought on by his time fighting in World War I). She struggles with being the proper “lady” her mother (and society) tells her she needs to be and the tomboy, bird loving gal who may not want marriage and children immediately but a college degree and a career.
Griffin is a beautiful writer; she captures the natural details of this lake setting so perfectly, especially because Garnet cannot help but notice these little details herself. She has memorized so many facts about birds, a hobby that her and her father once shared, and is always prepared with a pair of scissors in her pocket to cut out silhouettes of the birds she sees and write their Latin name behind them. Can you see how quirky and wonderful Garnet is? I loved her spunk and her excitement and her observations about the world.
Her summer takes an unexpected turn when Isabelle, a flapper, trots into the hat store where she has taken a job. Garnet is immediately taken with her and embarks on a secret relationship that has her questioning the meaning of love and why there are rules about certain people partaking in these relationships together. I loved how Garnet discovered a little bit about herself, and also found a piece that had been missing, as she got to know Isabelle better. (“I thought about egrets and fathers and aunts and beautiful girls in pants and I thought about how many kinds of love there are in the world.”)
A few big happenings occur when Garnet is away from her family, and I think the entire summer gives her a courage she didn’t think she needed when she left. In true coming-of-age style, Silhouette of a Sparrow feels comparable to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and lives and breathes with so many of the same predicaments we hit time and time again in modern times (or since the dawn of time?): we cannot choose who we love. Women are more than cooks in the kitchen and should be the decision makers when it comes to their path in life. Do our own desires outweigh the obligations we feel to our family?
I fell deeply into Griffin’s language and her wonderful characterization but my one gripe was the screeching halt of an ending. I would have loved a little bit more; maybe even retracting and touching upon a few of the tiny tiny storylines happening back at home. But this strong young adult YA with lovely writing and a charismatic main character make for an enchanting reading experience. Through each happy and exhilarating experience, and even the more raw and painful occurrences, I was truly living in the moment with Garnet from page 1. She’s a grounded, multi-layered, imperfect and valiant female protagonist that we need to see more of in the literary world. ...more
“Maybe there will be a day when this shit will be over and I can just be a dude with normal regulaReview originally posted on RatherBeReadingBlog.com:
“Maybe there will be a day when this shit will be over and I can just be a dude with normal regular stuff in his life.” - Gabe
Many of us can agree that music can be a haven, a safe place.
For Gabe, who was born Liz, working the late shift at a public access radio station is a place where he can be himself — sharing the music with a small group of people who are just about as passionate about music and its history as he is. John, Gabe’s next door “grandfather-figure” neighbor, has hooked him up with this gig and also serves as his music guru; the two staying up all hours of the night sifting through his extensive vinyl collection like little kids. Gabe’s on-air discussion of our “A-side/B-sides” becomes a theme woven through the entire story; a theme that is not only true to his whole being, but one that also manages to connect us all.
I applaud Cronn-Mills for welcoming us into Gabe’s story, post-coming out. I thought that was a fresh and bold choice. It’s not surprising that his parents cannot bring themselves to fully accept who their daughter really is. Gabe just wants them to be able to look him in the eye but it is understandably tough and the depiction of their behavior and distance was never over the top, did not monopolize the plot of the book… it was just naturally there. (In many situations, Gabe proves to be impressingly patient, knowing that what he is going through can be difficult and confusing to those around him.)
While Gabe is supported by both his best friend, Paige, and mentor John, he knows that not everyone is going to accept him. He can’t wait to escape his town, move to the city, and work for a radio station. When a contest opportunity pops up (or, rather, John enrolls him), Gabe sees his ticket to the future and even participates under the name Gabe. At the same time, his following is growing on the radio (there’s even a Facebook group!) and a girl he knows from school begins calling in and suggests meeting.
This is where we have a problem. Because 1) Gabe is in love with Paige. This was heartbreakingly sweet for me. They two had such amazing chemistry and I just never knew if it would work. The second problem was that everyone in school thought Gabe was Liz, including his date and he wasn’t sure if agreeing to meet her would blow up in his face. (Whew!) Teenagers worry about dates all the time but it seemed like Gabe always had to triple worry because of other people’s judgements and unwillingness to accept him for who he was. I could tell it was exhausting but it never brought Gabe down.
I’ve read many LBGT books this year, and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a moving story full of the ups and downs of life, totally magnified. Each chapter begins with clever quips pertaining to Elvis (i.e. “Harry Potter is the new Elvis because they’re both magic”) and the music knowledge seeping from the book was so impressive (the research must have been extensive!). The music genres featured were so vast that I really wish I had a playlist handy to listen to while Gabe worked his own magic.
I really liked how the author was not focusing on some horrific event and how it affected this character and focused more of an every day account and how certain circumstances affected his thought process, decision making, and also the leaps Gabe had to take to be the person who always knew he was. I really felt for him in his struggles. (And really wanted the boys who were threatening him to be exiled to another planet for their smallmindness and insecurities.) I came to care for him so much, enjoy his humor, and just wish the best for him.
BMFUG is one of those books I wish could’ve gone on forever. It has engaging characters, sheds lights on a subject that is not brought to the forefront enough, and also illustrates the varying degrees of acceptance in this world — our own and the people around us.
Here’s hoping you take a chance on Gabe too. ...more