You could read probably two of these books each day, and I suggest you do, as each of them has something unique to offer. Alright, maybe two a day is reaching but a few a week is definitely doable, even for slower readers.
I saw this book all the time, on Goodreads, on favorite lists, mentioned by authors, in a conversation about disturbing books, but I only picked it up after I put it on the wall and even then, I hadn't actually paid attention to what the book was about. This was probably a mistake. I basically read this book with bug eyes and slack-jawed astonishment, flying through the pages in a frenzy as I found out about how Alice was abducted and sexually abused for five years. She was starved to keep her body childlike, and she has received no education since her abduction. Some reviewers label this book as horror, and it honestly reads like a horror book, or a thriller, because it is off-putting and I was not sure where the story was going to end. I was compelled to keep reading. But one cannot call this story unrealistic. Pedophilia, child sex trafficking, and their like are very much still happening. I am uncomfortable recommending alternative reads to this one as most of the ones that come to mind do not actually cover the same topics: kidnapping is not always sexual, abuse is not always sexual abuse, captive/captor are not always deranged adult and young child, etc. If you want to read about what it might be like for the victims of a murderous pedophile or are looking for a shock, read this. It is uncomfortable and it is unforgettable. 4/5 stars
Robert Cormier wrote I Am the Cheese, which will forever be burned in my brain as it was a question at pub trivia that I got incorrect a few months back. As such, I made it a personal goal to read several of his books in the next year or two because 1. I hate getting questions wrong in pub trivia; 2. His books are supposed to be twisty and well-written (some are required in many high school curricula); and 3. Most importantly to me, they are very short. I immediately put Heroes on hold at the library when I read its blurb:
Francis Joseph Cassavant is eighteen. He has just returned home from the Second World War, and he has no face. He does have a gun and a mission: to murder his childhood hero.
Imagine you are sitting in a room with me right now. Now go ahead and look into my eyes and tell me that if you read a blurb about a soldier with no face coming back to his hometown to murder someone, you wouldn't be interested in picking the book up. You're a liar, that's jacket copy at its best. I am very confused about what this soldier looks like from the cover. Does the background image look like a woman to anyone else? Maybe it's the bangs? There is somehow a ton and yet nothing going on in this story. I don't want to ruin the motive behind his revenge plot but I will say that this book just feels bleak. I felt horrible that a naive kid joined the army, was seriously injured, and then returns to a town that's forgotten him, filled with other physically and mentally injured vets, and devoid of hope. Francis covers his entire face for the entirety so I never got a full idea of what he might look like but Cormier didn't play it down at all, instead (perhaps overly) mentioning the oozing crevices of Francis' face where his features used to be and the soaked-through bandages that filled with blood and pus. Heroes reads like a short story. It is a quick sketch of what one soldier's reasons were for joining the forces and how failing to act can haunt a person forever. In my opinion, the only reason to read this is the story. Those looking to get quotable quotes or flowery prose should just move along. 3/5 stars
Dear Sara Zarr,
How could you narrate the audiobooks of Story of a Girl, Once Was Lost, and Sweethearts and then NOT narrate How to Save a Life? Don't you have any respect for the "people" who get addicted to hearing you read your own books? I think you should consider the very real possibility that you are evil.
People is in quotation marks because I'm assuming from the level of my outrage that there must be other people out there. For now, though, it's just me. Story of a Girl is about a teenager whose family and social life were upturned when her father caught her having sex with her brother's best friend in a car. In typical Zarr fashion, the story is very contained, both temporally and in terms of side plots, but it is still contemplative. In one summer, Deanna does a lot of growing up, and the people around her aren't exempt from a bit of growth themselves. At times, it was painful to experience life in Deanna's home because I know what it is like to have something unsaid and undealt with hanging over a group of people until every interaction just feels awkwardly awful. I could feel how frustrating Deanna's life was and Zarr's unaffected tone of voice was perfect for Deanna's teenage skepticism. 4/5 stars
This awkwardly-covered book follows a teenager with cerebral palsy around while he attempts to break free a bit from the strict rules his grandmother enforces. He befriends a popular girl at school who exposes him to the wonderful worlds of dance clubs, drugs, and making out. I liked the book as a character study and I wasn't expecting more to happen but the author adds in a storyline about Ben's interest in filmmaking that overwhelms the second half of the book and changed the flow for me. (though there is a second book and it looks to be more about filmmaking) The dialogue is funny and Ben's addiction to going to the movies (where no one judges him) was endearing, but I lost all my attachment to this book as the story went on. It went from a 4 star book to a 2.5/5 stars.
Westmark is a compact, quick-paced start to a fantasy series and it is the first of Alexander's works I've read. It won't be the last, as I already intend to finish this series sooner rather than later. Theo, the main character, is apprentice to a printer in a kingdom where the king rules in name only, as he's been overcome with grief since the disappearance of his daughter years before. In his stead, Chief Minister Cabbarus rules with an iron fist and ridiculous ineptitude. When Theo agrees to print up an order for Musket, a dwarf working for a traveling magician/con man Dr. Absalom, it runs contrary to the Cabbarus' rules and sets up a story of escape, evasion, and intrigue. Theo becomes part of Absalom's show, along with Musket and Mickle, a young street urchin girl. Though the outcome is predictable, I was pleasantly surprised by the road the characters took to get there and by several plot twists. If you're looking for an entry point into Lloyd Alexander's fantasy books, this one is perfect. At least, it was for me. On to the next! 4/5 stars
This book is one of the creepiest I've ever read, no question. Stuck in Neutral is about an intelligent child who is a prisoner in his own body. While Shawn's mind is fully functional, he has no control over any other part of his body and the entire world, including his family, believes him to be intellectually disabled. Every so often, he is struck by a seizure. Shawn has come to love these times because he feels like he can break free of his body and partake in the world. His father, however, sees his child in pain. Shawn's dad left the family home when Shawn was a child because he couldn't deal with his son's cerebral palsy. He also wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning poem about Shawn's birth and early years and still gets lauded for doing so. (I am not usually into "fake award-winning writing within novels" and I wasn't into this poem) The creepy factor came into play when the narrator, Shawn, informs the reader that he believes his father is going to murder him. This short book explores what it might be like for a child inside an immovable body, what it might be like as a father who is always wondering what is going on in the mind of his son who can never tell him. I won't tell you the ending but I will tell you one more thing: Terry Trueman is the father of a son with cerebral palsy. I cannot imagine what life would be like to be constantly wondering what, if anything, your child is thinking or to know if they are in pain. Stuck in Neutral is absolutely a worthwhile read with a unique narrator. I can't guarantee this book won't make you feel awkward but it will certainly widen your perspective a bit. 3.5/5 stars
I found Daddy-Long-Legs courtesy of the lovely ladies over at Young Adult Anonymous and then devoured it in one sitting. (it is free for Kindle, though devoid of illustrations) Published in 1912, it is a series of letters from the fictional Jerusha (Judy) Abbott to the mysterious benefactor who plucks her from an orphanage and pays for her college. The conditions of receiving the monetary support are that he will remain anonymous (as such, Judy calls him many things but most often Daddy-Long-Legs because she's only seen him once in shadow against a wall and he looked tall and thin) and that she write him monthly letters. Fans of epistolary fiction will love this, as well as Anne-girl fans, because Judy is spunky, hilarious, and outspoken in an Anne of Green Gables way. After a while I wanted the story to get to the point, though I never really tired of Judy's voice. Once the endgame of the author becomes clear, it is funny to see the actions of Judy and her benefactor change. I also think this book would appeal to fans of movies like Meet Me In St. Louis and the older versions of Cheaper by the Dozen. The descriptions of the homes, families, clothes, and such really made me picture those movies I've seen time and time again. (I feel kind of like a badass that I placed both those movies in the same time period as Daddy-Long Legs before looking the dates up.) 4/5 stars
- Ken, a teenager with terminal brain cancer, decides to go out with a bang by going on a murder spree.
- Christmas dinner at The Smiths is a bit awkward when Bree's long-lost half-sister, her biological brother who has secretly transitioned to female, and her aunt and uncle who are in love but have to keep it a secret all show up for some rotisserie chicken.
- Everybody's a twin. (Liz Lemon shoutout!)
- For years, Holly's grandmother has been sending her $50 gift cards every month. Only they haven't been going to Holly's current address, they've been going next door. A boy from school has been spending them every month and sending her grandmother regular thank you cards. Obviously arguments and then true love occurs.
- The most popular girl in school throws a Halloween masquerade ball where everyone has to keep their face covered at all times. Who Was It? checks in with all the attendees the next day, but you'll never believe who did what with who.
- A Juggalo who loves Insane Clown Posse so much that he wears his makeup every day to school explores his life-long dream of being a taxidermist.
What are your ideas? Let's hear them.