Some things I read and enjoyed in the first quarter. Bookshop links included.
This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey - Jess starts to notice her life is weird. Her friend at school has a fancy gadget she won’t explain, she can hear weird voices chanting, and her dog is different. When the guy she’s been making out with confesses her life has been televised, Jess can’t believe it. And so she decides to take matters into her own hands. Because Jess believes it’s 1998, it was somewhat nostalgic for those of us who can remember it. Someone asked me if it was basically “The Truman Show” and I feel like yes-ish. Because it’s a book, it can delve more into how Jess feels, and what she learns about why some people engaged in the choices they made.
Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao - A college girl uses a rental service to bring home a guy to convince her parents to stop trying to set her up with this awful guy in town, and well, it is both more and less successful than planned, especially when her rental boyfriend becomes the person who understands her best, and she maybe falls in love with him. This is one where the parents are really not great at listening (the need for a rental boyfriend might have tipped you off there) but the parents motivations are clearly based in a different methodology. Also for folks who like holiday books, this covers Thanksgiving through Lunar New Year.
We Could be Heroes by Mike Chen ended up on my radar because amnesia. It also involves someone with memory manipulation abilities but also takes a look at some things some superhero stuff ignores, from why super speed might make you a great delivery gig worker to what is the acceptable civilian interruption and loss on behalf of better super heroes. Gosh, that sounds super boring. It’s also about two people who are trying to figure out if they are friends when their memories keep getting zapped.
Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova - I read this book in very tiny snippets, because when one is a spy, one’s life is very stressful. ** has magic in a world where the people in power don’t much like magic, and her form of memory retrieval magic is the most mistrusted, even among her band of magical resistors. So when she decides to go to the castle to enact her biggest plan yet, well, it was fascinating and entirely stressful. Excited for the second in the duology.
The Sea in Winter by Christine Day - This book mostly takes place on a spring break where Maisie is processing a lot of things. She’s been focused on ballet her whole life, but a knee injury at the beginning of the year has forced her into pause, and watching her ballet friends move forward and her lack of non-ballet friends, plus living in a blended family means it feels like everything is fine for everyone else. It sounds super sad, but it was a really interesting look at being in that place of recovery and change when everyone keeps asking if you are fine and you are obviously both fine and not fine.
Legendborn by Tracey Deonn - This book is kind of a commitment if like me, you are used to shorter books. That sad, while I personally could always do with less fight scenes, the look at a secret Arthurian society, and what it might mean for such a society to exist in the US, and what it must mean for it to have remained pretty darn white all these years was just fascinating. Because it’s me I also need to mention there’s some memory zapping. There is a lot discussion of what grief looks like a bit later as Bree grapples with being in a place where her mother was, and also some microagressions.
Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala - A dual timeline unwraps a story of a cosplayer falling in love with a jock, and well, in the future timeline they are at the convention on opposite teams. Lots of parental mishandling, but just a cute story about the things we share and the things we don’t and all the smoochy things.
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger - Gosh, this book was a fascinating world with ghost dogs and vampires. After her cousin dies her cousin’s widow doesn’t believe the story about his death, and Elatsoe’s investigation pokes at something none of them quite expect and the accidental unleashing of a thing that now needs to be put back where it belongs.
Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri - This is what we are apparently calling an autobiographical novel, but is is basically an inspired but maybe not exactly true story of a teen in the 1990’s who is not in Oklahoma writing assignments for English class that include tales from his family’s life in Iran, from his experience in the refugee camp in Italy, and of course his life in Oklahoma. I found the book fascinating, even if I think the framing device drops a little too often. The story involves both bullying and depictions of interpersonal violence.
Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega - Super cute story of a girl who with her friend accidentally uncovers a very big ghost while trying to drum up a good ghost story for her dad’s economically depressed ghost tour, and well, they have to call in reinforcements including the friend’s aunt who might be (totally is) a witch and some family ghosts. Oh and cats.
Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor - Was my unintentional theme for this quarter memories and/or pets? Kind of. What if you are super shy and at a new school and have anxiety and want to be in the play but like just in the chorus or something but the very cutest girl in school convinces you to audition for a main role and then you get it. Friendship, crushes, cats and adults who mean well and tell you boneheaded things, like just take a deep breath and everything will be fine.