Four YA novels and one feminist essay. I need to get better at writing shorter reviews haha.
Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Bailey Rydell moves in with her dad in a beachside town in California. She has great plans for the summer. Mainly, she hopes to track down Alex, a guy she has been talking to online and who lives in her new hometown. Her plans don’t go as planned when she meets Porter Roth at work. Porter comes from a legendary surfing family and his cocky attitude makes Bailey loathe him. But all their mutual dislike evaporates and well they fall in love. Duh.
This book was kind of adorable. I loved the setting. A beach town? Yes, please! Completely reminded me of my college days. The shark attack, yeah, that hit a little too close too home. The story itself was super predictable (You’ve Got Mail vibes). It’s not anything groundbreaking or new. But I was so here for Bailey and Porter. And all of the classic movie references! What can I say, I’m a sucker. *shrugs shoulders*
Oh and one another thing. What Cal Poly is referred to in the book? There are two of them in California ya’ll. I’m assuming SLO because it’s closer to the area in which the story takes place. Honestly, it’s not even important within the plot. But apparently I get really hung up on details. And I just realized that right now. Huh.
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
I was a little hesitant when it came to this book. The main character, Lucy, is a devoted Christian teen. Not something you typically find in a YA novel. And not something I can relate to. But I loved it. It’s a pretty remarkable story that centers on Lucy questioning her belief system and wondering who she is.
Simply put, Lucy’s experiencing a crisis of faith due to her mom’s cancer returning. So her mom asks her to spend summer not at their church camp, but at Daybreak, a camp for kids who have had a rough past. Lucy wants to spend every possible minute with her mom but reluctantly becomes a Daybreak counselor. And oh boy. What a beautiful story unfolds.
I am so here for Henry Jones!! What a straight up, wonderful human being. Ah, and Lucy. Sweet naïve Lucy. I’m not sure I bought all of her wide-eyed wonder. It was a little strange how everything went over head. She can’t be that sheltered right?? Oh, and can I just say that break up was so unbelievably amicable! I mean, whoa. Break up goals right there haha.
And that plot twist! I figured parts of it. But not the actual secret. I was way off. It was nice to see how everyone rallied around Lucy though. What I particularly enjoyed was watching Lucy’s faith grow. Yes, she questions. Yet she grows and understands. It was beautiful to read.
A heartwarming novel.
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Mim, Mary Iris Malone, is a teenage girl living with her father and new stepmother. One day she overhears a conversation from which Mim infers her mother is ill. She quickly decides to leave. She steals money from her stepmom and buys herself a greyhound bus ticket. On the ride, she meets a slew of interesting characters.
You know when you don’t really like someone, every little thing that person does annoys the crap out of you? Even the way they breathe gets to you? Yes? Well that’s how I feel about Mim.
It all started when she was on the bus. A British couple tries to engage her in conversation. And she is awful. In her internal monologue, she makes fun of the way they look, particularly their teeth. She puts on a fake accent and they catch her in the lie and she has the audacity to be butt-hurt. Little girl. Relax. Sit down and stop being so damn judgmental.
From that point on it was just more of her judging people. Which I didn’t care for. Her “woe is me” shtick had me rolling my eyes. No YA book has ever made me feel like such an adult haha.
To be fair, her dad is shitty. His sister was diagnosed with a mental illness and he worries his daughter may have inherited it or something. He puts her in therapy and things are good. Mim has established a good relationship with her therapist. But! Her dad wants her to be medicated. The therapist doesn’t think Mim needs medication. So her dad makes Mim go to a new therapist that instantly prescribes her drugs. Look, I get that parents want the best for their children. But Mim had a healthy relationship with her first therapist. Why would you get in the way of that?? Drugs don’t automatically make your mental illness go away! Ugh!!!
The best part of this read? Phoebe Strole. The narrator of the audiobook. This may be the best read I’ve listened to thus far. She got Mim’s nuances down and made her a bit bearable.
Mim definitely had her decent human being moments though. I felt for her in some instances. Do I think she changed by the ending of the book? Yeah, I think there was a bit of growth. But I simply couldn’t get over my initial impression of her.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor is the new girl at school and she has a shitty home life. Park is a mixed race guy, who befriends Eleanor on the school bus.
I was expecting a fluffy YA novel which I guess this book does have a bit of. But it is surprisingly kind of deep. It pulls at your heartstrings. Wow. I think Rowell did a wonderful job of portraying teenage life. And the 80’s setting didn’t hurt. The ending though! Why oh why must books have open endings?
I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra. I would probably not recommend it though. It’s too confusing. The story is told in third person pov, which makes the narration of the story a bit awkward. If the book were in first person pov, then the audiobook would be perfect.
All in all, a really good book. Now I can’t wait to read more by Rainbow Rowell!
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A short essay on feminism. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Adichie herself, twice. What particularly struck me were the points where she discussed how children are raised. Because I agree with her.
Parents raise their sons and daughters in a way that is not conducive to equality. My mother raised me with a very old-fashioned mentality; male and female roles were clearly outlined. To stray from those roles was wrong and shameful. Luckily for me, those ideals didn’t stick. I knew from an early age that my mom’s ways were ridiculous. Excuse me mother, but I was not put on this earth to cater to a man’s needs or to conform to a woman’s perceived role within society.
Our kids need to be raised better. To be decent human beings. To respect one another despite our differences. We, as parents and adults, need to do better.