Title: If I stay Author: Gayle Forman First Published: 2009 Genre: Young Adult | Romance
About the Book:
After a car accident that affects her entire family, Mia wakes up from a coma- without her body, that is. Instead she is left to watch the situation from a completely new point of view from outside of her body as she finds out what has happened to the rest of her family and has to watch her boyfriend Adam deal with the situation. She is aware of the fact that her body is still in mortal danger, and is faced with the ultimate choice: Should she stay- or go?
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read this book, and honestly I still love it. Even though the story is simple and almost cliché, Mia is easy to relate to and the story does not seem outlandish, despite its unusual setting.
I picked this book for my next review because I’ve heard rumors about a movie coming out in August with Chloe Moretz as Mia, and if that happens I feel like there will be a lot of people talking about this book. There’s also a sequel called “Where she went”, but if you ask me, the first one is about a million times better.
Title: The Lover’s Dictionary Author: David Levithan First Published: 2011 Genre: Fiction, Romance Setting: Definitions (see below)
About the book:
The male narrator tells his love story with definitions of words: Going from A-Z, he connects the word with a situation or a memory that is part of the story. Since the words are arranged alphabetically rather than in order of the events, the reader only has a vague idea of the story and a very clear one of the character that is described in the book.
Rating: 9/10 Age Recommendation: 15+ Educational Value: 5/5
Notes: I enjoy this book a lot because it’s literally a list of words that are described from a person’s point of view, you have half empty pages that make up a thin book, and yet at the end of it you have a completely fleshed out character and an everyday love story that somehow means so much to you anyway. The words that are defined are also not words people use in every day language, so if you’re interested in words in general, that’s a really good book for you anyway.
Also, it’s a quick read or a good book to read “on the side”, if you want to concentrate on another book and want to read something to relax.
Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime Author: Mark Haddon First Published: Mai 2003 Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
About the Book:
Christopher Boone is a 15 years old boy living with his parents in an English small town. As the narrator and main character of the book, he tries to solve the mystery of the murder of Wellington, the dog of his neighbor, which proves to be very challenging in very unexpected ways, because Christopher has Asperger’s syndrome.
It certainly isn’t easy, writing a book from someone’s point of view who suffers from that syndrome, especially since the book is actually written by Christopher in the story. I think that is the main reason why it’s so incredibly charming, because Haddon captured Christopher just perfectly, and when there are so many things happening in this story that actually have nothing to do with the murder, but Christopher writes down anyway, the reader doesn’t quite know the difference between an amused smile and teeth biting the bottom lip anymore.
It’s a book that touches you when you read it, and there is so much detail to this character and how he views this world without it being a heavy read. You’ll love it, I promise you that.
Rating: 9/10 Age Recommendation: 14+ Educational Value: 5/5 Language: 2/5
Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson Author: John Green, David Levithan First Published: April 2010 Genre: Young Adult | Fiction Setting: Chicago (present)
About the Book:
The story follows two Will Graysons who are both teenagers living in Chicago. While one of them lives for his online relationship, the other one lives his daily life in company of his eccentric best friend Tiny (who is really everything but tiny).
After meeting by coincidence, their lives keep intertwining as they become friends, each adding something to the other’s world that makes the story take unexpected turns.
I like this book a lot because the characters are very real, even though they’re all so eccentric that they could technically never exist in actual life. Since the chapters switch perspective between the two Wills, there are a lot of parts to their stories than then end up intertwining with each other, so that nothing is left without a conclusion at the end of the novel. It’s a Young Adult novel that is probably one of the most life-like and modern ones I’ve read. I know most of tumblr has already read every John Green novel there is, but I feel like this one deserves more attention than it gets.
Rating: 9/10 Age Recommendation: 15+ Educational Value: 4/5
Title: The Night Circus Author: Erin Morgenstern First Published: 2011 Genre: Fantasy | Fiction | Young Adult Setting: Victorian London
About the book:
Le Cirque des Rêves comes and goes without announcement. From sundown to sunrise, the circus is full of performers and wonders- only to disappear again the next day and show up in a different city. The devoted fans of the circus, the rêveurs, follow the circus around the globe because of its extraordinary spectacle no one can quite grasp the concept of.
Surrounded by that circus, Celia grows up as the daughter of the circus magician. As the book follows the history of the circus and this young woman in particular, Celia’s father, Prospero the Enchanter, plays a dangerous game with another magician who calls himself Mr. A. H.: The two men both picked a child at a young age to teach them magic, making them chess figures in their game and preparing them for a mysterious challenge that is to show up in the future. Prospero has picked his own daughter Celia, but who is the other figure in this game?
Rating: 10/10 Age Recommendation: 14+ Educational Value: 2/5 Violence: 3/5
Notes: I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Fantasy that is very, very close to reality. I must say I have only read a handful of books with such vivid descriptions. When Erin Morgenstern describes the smell of caramel popcorn from inside the white fence of the circus, you can actually smell it. The story itself, though set up in a typical YA literature way, proves to be spiked with plot twists here and there when you absolutely don’t expect it. Honestly, it’s just one of my favorite books and I don’t even know what else to say. It’s so good.
Title: Fangirl Author: Rainbow Rowell First Published: 2013 Genre: Young Adult | Romance
About the Book:
Cather and Wren are twins, “built in best friends” since birth. They do everything together- including writing fan fiction. But now they are going to college, and while Wren is suddenly going to frat parties and getting drunk most weekends, Cather prefers to stick to her own fans and the stories she is writing for her favorite characters. It’s a lot more comfortable than giving in to her loud roommate Reagan, who is making Cather her personal project. Or Reagan’s boyfriend Levi, who practically seems to be living in their dorm and eats her energy bar supply without asking.
I am Cather. I mean, we are all Cather. The entire community of tumblr is Cather. The book is entertaining and portrays fan fiction as the modern phenomenon that it has become, tying the parcel up with the story of Cather’s family and a cute love interest that makes you want to ruffle his hair.
Still, when I picked up the book and started to read it, I expected more than what I got. Some things are just so airbrushed that it’s ridiculous to read if you are familiar with fan fiction (for example, she’s making it seem that rated M fics are rather the exception than the norm), and sometimes Cather is so cliché “fangirl” that it’s hard to imagine that a person like that actually exists.
It’s really nice to have this acknowledgement of fan fiction and the concept of a fandom in a YA book, and I’ll definitely recommend it as a fun, light back-to-school or late-summer read.
Title: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore Author: Robin Sloan First Published: 2012 Genre: Fiction | Adventure (not-quite-fantasy)
About the Book:
It’s really more out of a need for money than anything else when Clay becomes a clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore. He doesn’t even mind the night shift, or that he has to write a log book about the more or less weird characters that show up in the middle of the night and request books without ISBN-numbers that can all be found on the incredibly high shelves of this shop.
“People believe in weirder things than this.”
I finished this book about 10 minutes ago, and I love it. It’s a love letter to books, with an incredibly sarcastic narrator, a somehow very magical mood that is quite a few levels darker than Harry Potter and doesn’t involve actual magic, and at the same time a huge attribute to modern technology in general and, specifically, google (though I do suspect that the book clearly glorifies that company. Maybe they were sponsored?)
But seriously, I would marry this book. And I cried for absolutely no reason reading the last page, because those sentences are nothing but nostalgic magic.
Rating: 10/10 Age Recommendation: 14+ Educational Value: 3/5
Title: My Family For The War Author: Anne C. Voorhoeve First Published: 2007 Genre: Historical Fiction | YA Literature Setting: Berlin/ London, 1938-1945
About the Book:
The story starts in Berlin, in 1939. Ten year old Franziska Mangold knows that she’s jewish- “technically”. Her family isn’t religious at all. Still, the Nazis pick up her father one night, and Ziska and her mother have to leave the apartment. When they stay at Ziska’s aunt’s, they hear about the Kindertransport- A secret mission to get German children out of the country to England, where British families will look after them during the war.
Even though she doesn’t want to leave, Ziska finds herself in England soon enough, where she has to deal with a new language and her host family, who is “actually” jewish- meaning they are orthodox. The story follows Franziska through the years of World War II, in which she learns a lot about herself, her religion and how to grow up between two cultures.
I absolutely adore this book. I read it in German only, so obviously the English translation could be extremely bad and I wouldn’t know. It’s fantastic to see this little girl grow into a young woman, and actually read about her thought process- you watch her become an adult right in front of you. The portrayal of the war is very realistic, too. I never had the feeling anything was exaggerated or not respected.
I recommend this book to people who are interested in history and Lovers of “The Book Thief”.
The Title of the German book is “Liverpool Street”, by the way, that’s the original language. It shouldn’t matter much, except for the part where Ziska (and later her host mother Amanda) struggle with the two languages, but I’ll go ahead and trust the English books in that matter.
Title: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Author: Raymond Carver First Published: 1981 Genre: Short Stories
About the Book:
Raymond Carver writes multiple short stories about the different faces and aspects of love. They are not connected, and from the very odd mother- son relationship to the young couple buying furniture from a man who is selling it in his back yard, you’ll find anything and everything.
I love short stories. All kinds of them, really. But Carver’s style really gets to me because it’s so simple and yet touches you in a way that makes you put down the book and just repeat that one sentence in your head.
There are much, much lighter short stories than Carver’s, that has to be said. This is why I will add a major trigger warning for character death and violence in general.
The dialogue is absolutely genius, the descriptions are precise and make your eyes just a big wider.
Even though each story is just about ten pages, it’s not a book to read “on the go” if you really want to understand the stories, I think. Still, it’s absolutely brilliant.
Title: The rehearsal Author: Eleanor Catton First Published: 2008 Genre: Young Adult | Fiction
About the Book:
A sex scandal at the local high school sends a group of female saxophone students into a frenzy as they are suddenly forced to emerge from their child-like existences. The saxophone teacher turns into a kind of therapist, a bulletin board of their thoughts as each of the girls comes to terms with a teacher/student affair, of which the circumstances are tinted and blurred by gossip.
At the same time, Stanley starts his education as an actor at the Drama Institute, which is in the same building as the saxophone teacher’s studio. As the first year students have to create their own play at the end of the school year, the recent topic offers itself to be dramatized on stage.
The thing is that I cannot summarize this book. Goodreads doesn’t do it justice, the back cover of my copy doesn’t either. Maybe that is because the book is more about the characters than the story itself. While the scandal is very important to the story line (was it rape? Was it an affair?), the book follows each of the girls individually. Only ever told from the saxophone teacher’s point of view, the story lines of the girls are nicely woven into Stanley’s world, where the saying “all the world’s a stage” becomes incredibly literal.
This is the most interesting and most confusing part about this book: The reader cannot tell how much of the story is real, how much is a play that is put on a stage, what is a line and what isn’t. The very accurate descriptions of real people are suddenly laced with stage lights dimming, or one of the girls acting out a scene as if she were someone else, right in the saxophone teacher’s studio.
I recommend this book to everyone who loves theater and acting, to people who are up for a bit of a challenge, and to anyone whose thoughts like to be provoked by a book.
The age rec isn’t set that high because of the content, but rather because the book is at times really hard to understand. If you are younger and feel interested, the book is in no way unsuitable for you.
Title: Looking For Alaska Author: John Green First Published: 2005 Genre: Young Adult | Romance
About the Book:
Miles “Pudge” Halter leaves Florida to go to the boarding school Culver Creek, Alabama, where life is a whole lot more exciting than his existence before the Creek, which consisted mostly of remembering famous people’s last words. His new friends change that. Most of all Alaska, the clever, fun, and incredibly fucked-up girl down the hall that Miles doesn’t really get, but is definitely very, very interested in trying to understand.
Okay, yes. Here it is. Take a moment to take in the cliché. I think that most of tumblr has read John Green, and still I’m putting this up here. I recently re-read this book for about the fifth time, and it never gets old. The portrayal of this kind of naive boy being completely infatuated with this depressed girl to a point where he doesn’t even get that she is depressed- it simply doesn’t seem to matter that she is “a sullen bitch” at times- is described in such a painful and bittersweet clench-your-hands-tightly-together-kind of way that I have really only ever found in John Green’s debut novel.
Title: The Snow Child Author: Eowyn Ivey First Published: 2012 Genre: Adventure | Fiction | Fantasy (?)
About the Book:
Alaska, 1920: Jack and Mabel are a couple from “back East”, who decide to start a new life up North in the rough wilderness- The land comes cheap, but the work is hard. As winter comes, the couple is growing apart, trying to shoulder the loneliness and Mabel’s decision to come here, due to the fact that she can’t have children.
During one of the first snowfalls of the winter, Jack and Mabel build a little girl out of snow. In the morning, she is gone, and there is a living, wild mountain girl running through the trees of the forest instead. She slips through their fingers like mist, even when Jack is convinced that she must be a wild trapper orphan, and Mabel is halfway convinced that she has come straight out of a Russian fairytale.
I have to say, I was sceptic at first. The first couple of chapters are dark and hopeless, and even in the middle of the book, the style alternates between an almost-fantastic way of writing, and the very harsh reality of the Alaskan wilderness in the early 20th century.
This is what kept me: The way Ivey manages to capture Alaska in 400 pages. There are description of landscapes and snow and summer valleys full of mosquitos, sure. But beyond that, she captures the absolutely reckless beauty with characters’ words and a story somewhere in between reality, clattering teeth, nightmares and fairytales.
Title: Chocolat Author: Joanne Harris First Published: 1999 Genre: Novel | Fiction | Drama
About the Book:
The Story begins with Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk moving into the small French village Lansquenet-Sous-Tannes and opening a chocolaterie, which is eyes suspiciously by the conservative and close-minded people living in the village, most of all Francis Reynard, the village priest. He despises Vianne, her chocolate, her unorthodox way of living, and how she seems to change the entire village and its inhabitants with something as simple as sweets.
With a feeling of velvety dark chocolate and the image of Vianne and Anouk in their red cloaks, blown into this old French village by the wind, the atmosphere is by far the best aspect of this book. The characters are infuriating, comical at times, and seem just real enough to exist in this vaguely magical world of Vianne’s chocolaterie.
It’s a book that feels like dark chocolate should taste- rich, sweet, not-quite-scandalous and a little bitter.
Title: Bittersweet Author: Sarah Ockler First Published: January 2012 Genre: Young Adult | Chick Literature
About the Book:
Hudson bakes cupcakes. In fact, she bakes a lot of cupcakes at the bakery of her mother. She bakes cupcakes instead of skating, even though she used to be pretty amazing at that.
Bittersweet is really one of these books with a quite ordinary story, but an amazing writing style. It’s one of these books where you know where every character will end up at the end of the story arch, but you keep on reading because you will like this story, and you will relate to Hudson when she’s filled with this longing for something else when she hears the train rattling away (again) without her. You will (maybe) keep on reading for the very predictable love story of the book. And you will definitely stay for the cupcake recipes in the beginning of each chapter (I have tried almost all of them by now).
Age Recommendation: 13+ Educational Value: 2/5
minor trigger warning for descriptions of claustrophobia