Monday, February 29, 2016

Read Harder Challenge Check In (4 out of 24)

This year, the Readers' Services Staff is encouraging all staff at my library to do the 2016 Read Harder Challenge - a list of 24 challenges that are intended to stretch your reading boundaries. To add a little incentive, we'll be doing a drawing each quarter for staff who turn in what they've read so far. It's a great way for us, as librarians and recommenders of books, to learn about books outside of the genres and topics we gravitate toward. Here's what I've read so far:

Challenge #18: Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie.

The Martian 
by Andy Weir

Mark Watney is left on Mars after his crew evacuates for safety, mistaking him for dead. A gripping survivor story that's out of this world - literally! This was this year's Read Across Lawrence pick for adults, and the library partnered with a number of organizations in the community on several fantastic programs.  (I admit, I haven't watched the movie yet - but I intend to once it's out on DVD.)

Challenge #15: Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900.

by Janice Young Brooks

Set in 1898 (cutting it close I kow!), 29 year old spinster Janet Sullivan leaves her overprotective aunt and uncle to follow a gold-seeking man she's only known for 3 days into the Yukon. In order to survive on her own and ward off unwanted attention, she dresses as a man and calls herself John Glory. An adventurous romance!

Challenge #5: Read a middle grade novel.

The Shadowhand Covenant
by Brian Farrey

The second book in Farrey's Vengekeep Prophecies trilogy about an unforgettable family of thieves turned heroes. Jaxter gets caught in a conspiracy when a highly secretive clan of thieves known as the Shadowhands recruits his mother for a mission. The trilogy is a perfect "next read" for fans of Harry Potter!

Challenge #10: Read a book over 500 pages long.

The Bone Clocks
by David Mitchell

Fifteen year old Holly Sykes runs away from home and encounters the "Radio People" - a group of psychics who follow her throughout her life. I found Mitchell's prediction of the future world most fascinating. A number of shifts in perspectives and jumps through time settings - this is a dense one!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review - The Great American Whatever

Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.

Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—a hot one—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.

     Summary from
I really enjoyed Tim Federle’s two middle grade novels, Better Nate than Ever and Five Six Seven Nate! and I was happy to hear that he was trying his hand at Young Adult. After reading The Great American Whatever, I’d have to say he’s graduated with honors.

I’ve never experienced a loss of a sibling, and hope not to a child, but Tim’s characters illustrate exactly how I’d imagine it would feel. Quinn and his mother pretty much give up on everything after Annabeth dies. Quinn sticks to his room and gives up on writing; his mother sleeps on the sofa and overeats. Annabeth's death leaves both of them in a believable depression and affects their whole community.

The only thing that didn’t really sit well with me about the situation was that the principal of the high school had middle schoolers paint a portrait of Annabeth on the side of the school and it makes her look like a pug. I would have expected flowers and maybe a framed photo?

The novel starts with Geoff, Quinn’s charming best friend, encouraging him to go a college party (I’m discovering a lot of YA novels involve house parties) where not much happens besides Quinn meeting this hot guy, Amir. Geoff and Quinn’s relationship is a positive example that a straight guy can be friends with a gay guy – even if the straight guy does disgusting things like name his farts. Quinn isn’t quite out of the closet – he hasn’t told his mother – but the story isn’t centered on that.

The novel then focuses on Quinn’s developing relationship with Amir, his dealing with the events that surround his sister’s death, and his finding his way back to his passion, which is writing screenplays. Quinn and Amir’s relationship starts out healthy, but it’s evident that they both have different ideas of what they want out of it and its direction. I’m not sure I’m happy with where it did go – but not all relationships go the way we want them, do they?

There’s a lot of great YA coming out this year, and I’m pretty sure The Great American Whatever will be at the top of my list of favorites. I would definitely recommend it to older teens and adults looking for a funny, yet heartwarming story.

The Great American Whatever is due out from Simon & Schuster on March 29, 2016. *Disclosure: I received an advance review copy from a coworker.