Warcross by Marie Lu

I absolutely love Marie Lu, but her Young Elites trilogy was not my favorite. They felt boring and a little contrived, which was why I was so worried when I began to read Warcross. Additionally, Warcross centers around video games, a topic I am completely uneducated in. But, her Legend trilogy has remained a constant favorite of mine, so I picked Warcross up.

Initially, all my worst fears were confirmed. Warcross begins with bounty hunter Emika Chen flying around Times Square, following people who have amassed steep debts gambling on the popular video game warcross. From the moment Emika began describing the beauty of Times Square, it was clear Lu lives in Los Angeles.

“Everyone- everyone– played Warcross. Some played it intensely, forming teams and battling for hours. Others played by… lounging on a virtual beach… Still others played by wearing their glasses while walking … showing off their virtual pet tigers…. However people played, it became a way of life.”

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July Wrap Up

What Happened This Month

I cannot believe it’s August already! July seems to have flown by. Many books I’m excited about came out this month, such as Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana. Also, at the bookstore I worked at, I worked an event with Joyce Carol Oates, which was incredible.

40B239F2-556B-4B10-96B9-99D9C85906A4.jpgWhat I’m Reading Right Now

I’m reading When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. I’ve been searching for the perfect summer read and I think I’ve just about found it. Unexpectedly funny and heartfelt, Menon’s debut is perfect for a beach day. Although I’m not done with When Dimple Met Rishi, I have high hopes. Stay tuned!

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Be True to Me by Adele Griffin

It is rare for me to be unable to finish a book. I hate that feeling of guilt over the abandonment, that creeping thought that maybe it gets better, there’s just a slow build up. But, I could not bring myself to finish Be True to Me. I kept waiting for something to happen- some action, or drama, or something, but nothing did. I read until page 148, and all that happened was a never ending saga of rich girls whining and pining after a guy who, in my opinion, was pretty awfully stringing them along.

“Summer romances were made out of ice cream and cotton candy, intensely sweet before they melted into nothing. But I’d never thought of Gil as a summer thing.”

Initially, I was most excited to read Be True to Me because of the setting, Fire Island, NY, in 1976. But, I found the writing inauthentic and clumsy, like someone born in 2010 trying to describe 1990. The only difference between now and Griffin’s ’70s was a few phrases and cultural references. This is probably what disappointed me most about the novel. I am a sucker for a good setting- and lazy, not-entirely lucid days in a wealthy New York vacation spot sounded just perfect. Unfortunately Be True to Me was nothing special- the island too bland to have any summertime mystique.

Putting a book down is always hard for me to do. But when it came to Be True To Me, I just couldn’t keep reading. The characters were annoying and one dimensional, the setting not far enough removed from reality. My search for the perfect beach read is not over yet though- next on my list is Once and For All by Sarah Dessen.

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

A Million Junes was the last book I read in Morocco for a couple reasons. The first: I didn’t really want to read it. I didn’t love Henry’s debut, so I thought A Million Junes might be similar. Second: A Million Junes is pitched as a romance novel, which is not exactly the genre I gravitate towards. Third: This reason’s a little silly, but it’s true. All of the other books I brought were paperbacks, and I didn’t want to lug around a heavy hardback book in my bag. But, eventually, with no other options left, I became deprived of words on the page, and picked up A Million Junes.

While A Million Junes is technically a romance novel, the heart of the story is about a struggle all teenagers go through- growing up and reconciling their parents’ views with their own. June, the protagonist, falls in love with a boy from a family her late father believes is evil. June cannot fit this description with her boyfriend, Sal, who she feels is one of the only people making an effort to understand her. At the end of the day though, her father is dead. He can’t stop her.

“Grief is an unfillable hole in your body. It should be weightless, but it’s heavy. Should be cold, but it burns. Should, over time, close up, but instead it deepens.”

Simultaneously, June is entering senior year in high school. While her friends are all planning out college, careers, and beyond, she is content staying at home. She feels the need to be a homebody, a traditional, scrappy, farmer’s daughter. This is everything Sal and his family are not- which is what seems to fuel the divide. June is forced to reconsider her whole life when she meets- not a boy, don’t worry- her creative writing teacher. Suddenly, she has an outlet and a way to explore her world. Maybe leaving the farm her family has owned for generations wouldn’t be too bad after all.

A Million Junes is the story of a girl caught between two worlds- where she is and where she might want to go. While there are whimsical elements to the story (a pink ghost, dandelion fluff that lets you jump into memories), I found the most touching moments were grounded in realism. Henry’s second novel felt real in a way her first did not- it is clear to me she has grown enormously as a writer.

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud

“I just don’t like how she feels the need to describe every chair in the room when writing,” a friend told me when describing Harvard professor and Guggenheim fellow Claire Messud’s latest. With this review in mind, I went into The Burning Girls was doubt on my mind. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised. It may just be a difference in preference, but I really enjoyed the detail Messud wrote in- I feel it added layers and dimension to the suburban Massachusetts town she was describing.

The Burning Girls is the story of a crumbling friendship as told by teenage Julia, who feels left behind by her childhood best friend Cassie. The two meet as toddlers and the story follows them through tenth grade as their dynamic shifts and they grow into their adult selves. Julia lives a predictable life- the middle class daughter of a dentist, she is comfortable but always reaching for something more. It seems she is drawn to Cassie because of the unpredictability she adds to Julia’s life. Cassie has a tumultuous home life and a lack of foresight- when her hand is mauled by a dog in the beginning of the novel the circumstances make it no surprise to the reader. The two grow apart in high school. Cassie falls into a party-girl persona and obsession with someone she will never have. Julia follows the path lined up for her- success on the school’s speech team, nice boyfriend, new friends with similar interests and aspirations.

“Sometimes I felt that growing up and being a girl was about learning to be afraid. Not paranoid, exactly, but always alert and aware, like checking out the exits in the movie theater or the fire escape in a hotel.”

 

It is nice to see a realistic depiction of growing into yourself as a teenager written by an adult, but something just felt off in the novel. I found the observations about growing up as a girl relatable and introspective, but the sometimes the depictions of teenagers felt outdated. Cassie and Julia talked almost like modern teenagers, but not quite. They almost acted in the same way as modern teens, but not quite. The liked the same things as modern teens, but not quite. At times, The Burning Girls felt like a novel written about teenagers by an adult.

June Wrap Up

What Happened in June

June was an insanely busy month for me, so I hope you can understand why my blog posting has not been as consistent as I would like. I had finals the first week, then was immediately off to Rabat, Morocco for a month, which is where I am writing from now. I’m really looking forward to a calmer July.

Debut Author I Loved

I have written this before, but I will write it again. I have been overwhelmingly disappointed by the lack of debut authors in Young Adult recently. Of the debut authors I read this month (only one, out of six authors) I felt dissatisfied with their work. I am hopeful Fall will bring talented new names, but it looks like the forecast for summer will be same old, same old. Here’s to being proven wrong.

What I’m Reading

Right now, I’m about 150 pages into The Burning Girl by  professor Claire Messud. Friends haven’t enjoyed it, but I really have. Her prose can get a little excessive and windy, but that’s one of my favorite parts of the novel.

What I Blogged About

Blog: The Best Books to Bring on a Long Flight

Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Review: This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

What I’m Excited for in July

July 4: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy hits shelves. Something about the soupy summer air always bodes well for chilling thrillers set in small Midwestern towns.

July 9: Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY hosts Adele Griffin, Morgan Matson, and Jenny Han.

July 11: The Lake Effect by Erin McHanan comes out. Set of the shores of Lake Michigan, this coming of age novel is the perfect beach read.

July 18: The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana is released. With an absolutely stunning cover and a backdrop of Indian mythology, I’m excited to see what Khorana’s debut has in store.

This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

Books like This Savage Song are like candy to me. Easy to read, fast paced, and a little predictable, I enjoy reading these novels as a break from denser novels with more complex themes. Books like This Savage Song are often labelled as bad, but I believe a book doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece with layers of meaning to unfold for it to be an engaging read. A good book should be defined as something you enjoy, and that was exactly the case for me in This Savage Song.

Victoria, “V. E” Schwab’s debut for young adults follows two teens, Kate Harker and August Flynn. Kate is a stereotypical Young Adult heroine: rich, white, rebellious, and somehow, despite her upscale grooming, a fantastic fighter. August is not so stereotypical. In fact, he’s not even human. He is a Sunai- a being borne of a tremendous tragedy (in his case a school shooting) who looks human but feeds on the souls of “sinners” (defining who that means is a main topic in this novel). The two live on opposite sides of a city and meet at an affluent prep school. But, little does Kate know, August is spying on her for his family which is on the brink of war with her family. Their parents are not exactly mob bosses, but pretty close to it. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Romeo and Juliet? Not quite. August and Kate are never romantically involved, instead working as friends to stop a looming uprising of beings similar to August- Malchais, who are borne from the violent death of a human.

“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he only felt human after doing something monstrous.”

This Savage Song is not completely original, but that is kind of nice. I like the comfort of knowing what’s going to happen and the certainty of an ending with a bow wrapped around it. Still, This Savage Song surprised me in some places. Occasionally the script veered off a typical YA dystopian novel, but overall, it remained on brand. Again, this isn’t necessarily bad. I’m going to read the next in this duology, Our Dark Duet, and I encourage you too as well. It can be nice to escape your world sometimes.

The Best Books to Bring on a Long Flight

Recently, I flew nine hours from JFK airport in New York all the way to RBA in Rabat, Morocco. The trip was long, but made much nicer by all the books I brought along to read. If you have a lengthy flight coming up and are stressing over what to read: relax! Hopefully, these recommendations will give you an idea.

The Novel You’ve Been Wanting to Read Forever

A long flight is the perfect time to crack open a novel you’ve been wanting to read but are perhaps intimidated by (whether that be because of length, language, themes, etc). For me, this book was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This read was probably my favorite out of the five and I cannot recommend it enough!

The Page Turner (Preferably Fantasy or Adventure)

This novel is for when you just want to lose yourself. Best for quickly passing time, I would recommend This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab. I recently saw her at an event and was immediately fascinated by her easily phrased yet thoughtful writing. Another great read is Strange the Dreamer or Daughter of Smoke and Bone both by Laini Taylor.

The Guidebook

A friend gave me Insight Guide to Morocco, but I would also recommend any guide by Lonely Planet. My advice is to use these guides to get a general sense of your destination, but to not make exact plans from them. Sometimes, it can be more rewarding to just wander.

The “Research” Novel

Under the guise of research, find an interesting book by a native author or book set in your destination. I checked out The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah.

An Old Favorite

Sometimes, when venturing so far from home, you may begin to feel homesick. I associate certain novels with times or places in my life, so I will usually bring an old favorite that reminds me of home. Besides quelling homesickness, this book will allow you to rediscover why you love to read. I brought To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

5 Sunny Reads to Transport You Away From The Cold

We’re deep into the winter, and without the cheer of the holidays, everything can get a bit dreary (especially if you’ve been reading the news lately). While a spontaneous trip to Palm Springs or Hawaii might not feasible, don’t worry, these YA books will have you covered.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

A Fierce and Subtle Poison follows seventeen year old Lucas, who spends his summers at his dad’s hotel in Puerto Rico. The way Mabry weaves the native plants and flowers of Puerto Rico into her dark magical realism is ingenious- and will have you buying tickets to the next flight to the tropical island.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

This romance set in sunny Los Angeles never skimps on describing the details of the setting. After all, the main character is an aspiring set designer, so she spends an unhealthy amount of time observing the space around her.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

I really don’t know if Out of the Easy is set during the summer or the main character Josie just doesn’t go to school. Either way, Ruta Sepetys’s second novel set in the humid French Quarter of New Orleans is not to be missed.

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

The only novel on this list that will make you want to skip Spring Break this year, Haas’s murder mystery set Aruba doesb’t leave out a single gruesome detail. Dangerous Girls draws major inspiration from Natalee Holloway’s murder.

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

This roadtrip romance is the perfect novel for feeling adventurous on a $9.99 budget. As someone who has taken a summer roadtrip, I can attest that Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is  completely realistic, and captures the unexpected moments of driving across the country for three weeks.