Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review: YA Roundup

Since I work at an elementary school library, I can't really call my YA reading "professional."  In light of that, I don't usually post reviews here.  But sometimes I just have to say something about what I've read!  So I've decided to occasionally indulge in some mini reviews of YA books that got my attention.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys

What fascinates me about this book is that almost nothing is revealed.  There's a murder, but the killer is never convicted.  There's a shakedown, but the gangster never faces justice.  There's a gay character, but that person never comes out.  The heroine begins the novel wondering who her biological father is, and by the end, she still wonders.  People die or disappear rather than being confronted by anything.  I think this is actually really realistic.  A single young person can't change a bad neighborhood.  They can only get out of it.  It feels unusual and morally ambiguous, but contains a powerful message for young people who feel trapped in bad situations: solutions aren't found by making sense of the past but by creating a different future. 

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

This is either a cool ghost story or a lame murder mystery.  Or it's both.  It takes place during a smoldering summer when a serial killer is loose in a suburban community.  The main character doesn't actively investigate, but she does have unique access to information about the crimes because she works at the Photography store that develops the crime scene photos.  You can figure out the murderer by process of elimination, so that part's not so good.  At the same time, the main character is being visited by the ghost of her best friend, who died of Anorexia.  Hard not to compare the book to Wintergirls, which is a hard book to be compared to.  It's just so chillingly good.  But this is a genuine ghost story as opposed to a story of madness, and although I saw the ending coming, it still left me with a lot to think about.

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

This was more like Froi of the Exiles II.  I liked how the author focused on a surprising and different character in the second book in this series, and I wish she'd switched perspectives again in the final installment of the trilogy.  There weren't any new characters in this book, and while it was satisfying to find out what happened to all the people I'd met in the other books, it wasn't thrilling.  Marchetta wrote a short story about Lady Celie.  I feel like this should have been Celie's novel.  Also, the explanation of what almost kept two very important characters apart at the end?  Very contrived.  In spite of that, it's an essential read for anyone who liked the first two.

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Holy-Oh-My-Goodness-and-Good-Night!  No wonder this won the Boston Globe-Horn Book award.  I started it and thought, this is cute, and put it aside.  Then it won the award and I thought, there must be something I missed.  So don't let the charm trick you: it's not a light book.  It's delightful, but not light.  There's a sad little rich girl in modern London exchanging letters with a popular boy on an impossible mission in another world.  There's bunches of characters in both worlds, most of them dealing with rather serious issues against the backdrop of utterly whimsical settings/situations.  So it all comes off as sort of fluffy and adorable--as though the author just wrote down the first thing that popped into her head.  But then, in the end, it All Comes Together and it becomes obvious that the author always had a grand plan.  I haven't been so delighted by an ending since I read Special Topics in Calamity Physics.  Seriously wondrous.

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