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2013 October



In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork

On 23, Oct 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

0-545-05474-5From GoodReads: Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear–part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify–and he’s always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm’s mailroom in order to experience “the real world.” There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.

He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file — a picture of a girl with half a face — that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

Personally: I really enjoyed this book which I was relieved about because it sat on my TBR pile for years. I had also recommended it to several people, and while I know I can recommend stuff I haven’t read, I don’t really like to. I think what appealed to me most in this book is something that’s been bothering me a lot lately in the YA I’ve been reading, and that’s crappy parents. I am so, so tired of books where the parents suck. I know that characterization frequently drives the character and it can be the reason a character has the issues and baggage they do, but I’m so tired of it. Marcelo’s parents on the other hand, are awesome and very real. His dad in particular is shown to be complex. He makes some poor decisions and can be total prick, but he’s also vulnerable and caring. I know bad parents exist, but I don’t think they are one-dimensionally bad. No one is and I love that Stork showed that people are not black and white, but gray.

I also appreciated that this turns the tables on the experienced boy-doe eyed girl schtick. Marcelo is the inexperienced and immature one. Whereas Jasmine is a bit more worldly (although not sexually experienced, that we know of). She recognizes their budding romance much sooner than Marcelo. It was refreshing to see the girl take the lead in the romance.

Target Audience: Honestly, I could see a wide range of young adults enjoying this. It’s long and well written, so it’s not for the hi-low audience necessarily, but if you like realistic fiction with a bit of romance, it’s great. Marcelo also has a sense of justice and fairness that makes him really likable and he’s kind of unintentionally funny. The sense of justice turns into a major plot point so kids who are unfailingly nice and always do the right thing will find something to connect with in the plot. Marcelo does have some form or autism and you really get into his head in this book, but it never felt like the author trying to beat you over the head with sensitivity even though you do come away feeling sympathetic.

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In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Unfinished Books and Tides by Betsy Cornwell

On 03, Oct 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten


From GoodReads: When high-school senior Noah Gallagher and his adopted teenage sister, Lo, go to live with their grandmother in her island cottage for the summer, they don’t expect much in the way of adventure. Noah has landed a marine biology internship, and Lo wants to draw and paint, perhaps even to vanquish her struggles with bulimia. But then things take a dramatic turn for them both when Noah mistakenly tries to save a mysterious girl from drowning. This dreamlike, suspenseful story—deftly told from multiple points of view—dives deeply into selkie folklore while examining the fluid nature of love and family.

I am the kind of person who can pretty much find any book enjoyable. Well, at least any YA book. It’s very, very rare that I put a book down and leave it unfinished, even the ones I don’t enjoy. Case in point, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl really irritated me, but I finished it. I promptly wanted my time back, but I finished it.

I know as a librarian I can’t read all the books in a collection or read all the new books that come out, but it’s still important to read a selection. I also know that not everyone shares my ability to like most books and that it’s important to find the right book for the right person.

For that reason I don’t like to give negative reviews. What I like about a book is so subjective. And many of the faults I find with it may not be things that even register with another reader. Or topics that are triggers for some may not be at all with others.  On the other hand, because we can’t all read everything, it’s important to give an honest assessment of the books you read. That way another librarian reading your review (or another reader for that matter) can use it to gauge whether a book is right for them or their collection.

All of this is a roundabout way for me to get at the most recent book I started reading, Tides. I put it down and returned it to the library without finishing it. And guess what? The world didn’t end! I thought it might, but it didn’t.

The premise sounded really interesting and I love when books incorporate mythology/legends into them, so I thought it would be a sure thing. While I think plenty of people could like this book, I didn’t. I think first and foremost there was just way way too much going on in this story.

*(kind of) SPOILER ALERT* The grandmother is gay and there’s a whole backstory there with an older selkie, Maebh. One of the grandkids has an eating disorder. Noah, the other grandchild, has a summer internship. Noah meets a selkie, Mara, and there’s a romance budding there. There are sibling relationship issues and baggage. There’s parental baggage. And then there’s more. It just kept building up. Problem was, the book is a little under 300 pages. There just wasn’t enough time to really explore anything.This in turn made the pacing feel off and too rushed. I couldn’t feel the attraction between Mara and Noah. Relationships and stories felt very rushed or they really dragged.

All of this was compounded scads of narrators. Noah, Lo, the grandmother, Mara, Maebh (the older selkie), and Ronan (Mara’s brother) all narrate. And I think later on at least one or two other narrators get thrown into the mix. As soon as you got something of one person’s story, it was off to another. Noah met Mara and was thinking about her and suddenly we’re on to Lo and the grandmother and Maebh. Then back to Noah where it picks up weeks later where it felt difficult to pick up the threads of his story and his feelings.

My final thought about it was that it felt (and looks) very middle grade, but some of the issues are way more YA. There wasn’t any sex, at least not that I got to by about halfway through, or even any questionable language. Still the eating disorder and the grandmother’s plot felt older to me while other plots felt younger and more simplistic. I would hesitate to offer it to either group just because it felt so hit-or-miss for me.

I really tried to get into the book, but I just couldn’t. Maybe someone with a higher tolerance for this kind of busy book and more of an interest in selkies could love it, but that person wasn’t me.

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In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Review: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

On 01, Oct 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

My Friend DahmerFrom GoodReads:

You only think you know this story. In 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer—the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper—seared himself into the American consciousness. To the public, Dahmer was a monster who committed unthinkable atrocities. To Derf Backderf, “Jeff” was a much more complex figure: a high school friend with whom he had shared classrooms, hallways, and car rides.
In My Friend Dahmer, a haunting and original graphic novel, writer-artist Backderf creates a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a disturbed young man struggling against the morbid urges emanating from the deep recesses of his psyche—a shy kid, a teenage alcoholic, and a goofball who never quite fit in with his classmates. With profound insight, what emerges is a Jeffrey Dahmer that few ever really knew, and one readers will never forget.

I don’t have a lot to say about this book except that I should never read about serial killers and for some reason I forget that from time to time. I was so throughly creeped out by this book that I didn’t sleep for a week. But the description above is correct, it is a sympathetic portrait of Dahmer. As Backderf says, what Dahmer did was unforgivable, but you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy in some ways too. He needed help and never got it for a lot of reasons. Mostly because all the adults in his life sucked. My Friend Dahmer was an interesting look at a story many people are familiar with.

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