Every Day by David Levithan

How would you feel if you woke up inhabiting the body of a different person each and every morning?  You awake and have to adjust to their world, access their memories, and go along with their life, relating to their families and friends, doing their homework, going to their parties, and then the next day, move on to the next person.  This is how A lives.  And A is fine with this, until A meets Rhiannon, who changes everything.  Because, for the first time, A has fallen in love. What this does to A and what this does to Rhiannon creates a very beautiful, if not difficult love story that is imaginative and a little insane all at once.

This young adult novel has been around for a bit of time (has already been made into a movie even), but I have only just had a chance to read it – and I’m happy I did.  The premise is so creative, and while you might think it would get “old” after a few times of switching, it does not because of how wildly varied each of the lives are that A inhabits .  It is, of course, implausible, but because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it is quite fun.  The author also creates a slight undercurrent of threat that adds a little suspense to the plot, which enhances the story and enables the twists that occur.  Along the way, too, there are many opportunities to wax poetic about the ways in which we are all fundamentally similar, whether it is with regard to gender, sexuality, religion, or culture, which the author never passes on – and which I appreciate.  This is the beauty of the story, I believe.  (I will say that because of this, I am quite surprised when A is quite stereotypically critical of the body A inhabits that is extremely overweight.  He shames him to no end, even lowering to accusing it as stemming from laziness –  so surprisingly pedestrian.  Amidst all the other open-mindedness, this is an utterly disappointing moment in the book.)

I think it’s a very cute story, with a very creative premise.  A quick, fun read.  Great for the young teen in your world!

 

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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So because I truly am a book nerd (and because I am incredibly jealous of my daughter who is a new editorial assistant working with young adult literature and gets to read all the time), I like to keep up on some of the current popular YA novels that are out there also.  Here’s a new one that is very cute and timely…

Simon cannot believe the predicament he’s found himself in.  He’s been emailing with an intriguing but anonymous guy on Tumblr, but he’s been caught by Martin, who’s taken a screenshot of one of their conversations.  Will Martin seriously use this to blackmail Simon into fixing him up with Simon’s friend Abby?  And what if it doesn’t work out?  Simon is not sure he’s ready to come out to everyone just yet…

This is a great coming of age story – great because it is fraught with all the normal teen angst but it also has much in the way of understanding of what might be going on in the head of someone who might be considered “different.”  He repeats more than once that the “default” in our minds should not necessarily be heterosexual, and/or the default should not in our minds should not be white.  That we all make presumptions based on a default and that we as a society should be shaking that up.  That there should be no “default” and no presumptions.  People – myself included – make careless statements and random comments with these presumptions with disregard for how they may affect those around them.  We cannot presume how the comments will be heard.

But the story is told with humor and warmth and using great, engaging characters whom we easily like and feel attached to.  Even the worst of the characters has his reasons and while we still dislike him, there is some pity and sensitivity toward his position as well.

This is a well-written, entertaining and insightful book that many adults could benefit from reading.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

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This is a sad but sweet, young adult novel that was recommended to me by my daughter.  It is the tale of Marin, named after the county in California from which she came, who is stranded, alone, in a dorm room in NY, during Christmas break.  As she anxiously awaits a visit from her friend, Mabel, the memories of her recent, tragic life events come back to her in waves, and she is forced to reconcile what she thought were the circumstances of her life with what was real.

This is a story in which sensuality is very striking.  The cold, stark setting really creates a mood for the whole book.  Descriptions of the freezing snow create a palpably silent backdrop for the awkwardness between the two old friends.  The cold blowing onto their faces as they trek through the snow freezes any attempt at conversation between them.  And when they finally break through, they start to feel the heat come back on – and warmth starts to emanate from one character to the other.  They are in a shop in which Mabel picks up bells, and the reader can almost hear the tinkling of those bells as if we are in that store with them.  Light is used also, contrasted with darkness, such as the stark darkness on a beach on a moonless night, when one’s eyes cannot adjust to the darkness and one has to give up trying to see.  It’s a beautiful way to pull the reader in to each scene.

What initially appears as a simply melancholic book ultimately reveals itself to be a complicated and intimate tale that leaves one thinking about it for days after closing its covers.

 

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

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Noah and Jude are twins whose mother, an art critic, has decided that they should apply to a high school for the arts.  Noah, who is very much his mother’s son, is ecstatic and dives into preparing his portfolio.  Jude, is less confident about her talent and expresses this by rebelling and turning away from her mother.  Unfortunately, as they each are grappling with their adolescent yearnings and unfolding sexuality, their lives are torn apart by a sudden family tragedy.  Will they be able to retrace their steps to find each other’s heart again?

This YA story is somewhat complicated and engaging, but a bit contrived.  There are a few clever plot twists that sneak up on the reader which definitely took me by surprise.  Unfortunately, there are also a few too many utter coincidences for it to be entirely believable.  It is real teenage struggle and angst tangled in a fairy tale plot.

On the other hand, what saves this book is the writing, which is full of striking imagery and gorgeous sentences.  The way the author ascribes colors and pictures to emotions is quite beautiful.  There is humor and sarcasm and a tenderness in all of the characters that keeps you caring so much about them through the whole book.

An enjoyable, light read with some great writing.