Sunday, May 31st, 2015...8:51 pm

Words In: What I’m Reading

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I’ve been absent from here for a few weeks now. Long enough that I’m starting to feel uneasy about it. Uneasy with the lack of stories I’ve been slowing to take stock of, the absence of words aching to find their way out. In a few short days it will be summer. I won’t call it summer vacation since I’m working a whole lot, but it will be summer and it will be different and slower and I promise myself that I’ll take the time to find the words again.

These past few weeks I’ve once again been letting the words in. Since I wrote last time about what I read, I’ve finished five more books, some of which I was happy to end and some of which I will keep with me for a long time.

Here’s what I read this month.

Words In

High off of my Fangirl reading binge, I immediately dove into another of Rainbow Rowell’s novels.  Attachments was her first novel and it was a throwback to Y2K and  the start of Internet security. I really enjoyed the main character and his growth throughout the book. And while it wasn’t my favorite Rowell book (I’m not sure anything can ever top Eleanor and Park and Fangirl…) I did really enjoy it. If you remember the Y2K hype, want to read about a cute office romance and you’re looking for a quick and fun read from an amazing author, I recommend Attachments.

 

After Attachments, I started We Were Liars. It was so so good. I feel like I can’t really write about it without giving too much away. Not many books have endings that just blow me away. This is one that did. The setting of the book is so well developed, New England Island culture and wealth playing a huge role in how the story and characters develop. And, like a few other YA books I’ve read recently, there are multiple allusions to Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Since that is one of my all-time favorites, I find it so interesting that it seems to be a book that keeps popping up in all these other titles I’m reading. We Were Liars is well written and really takes you breath away at the end. Read it!

I really wanted to branch out from the girly books I love to read. Since a friend and I are trying to read our way through the Mock Printz 2015 list, we decided to try Grasshopper Jungle. Both of us excitedly read the first 50 or so pages. It was refreshing to read from a boy’s perspective about sexual identity and small town life. But the book promised a strange apocolyptical twist that just took too long to develop. And this book also made me realize again how important writing style is for me as a reader. This book was just so full of repetitive simple sentences. I skimmed a huge portion of the book and then read the last 50 or so pages. The ending was so disappointing. And the sentences grated on my nerves. If you share my taste in books, this one probably isn’t for you.

After a year of reading together, my students usually figure out my taste in books pretty well. This year a student brought me a suggested read, which I thought was super awesome. I love that our reading suggestions became a two-way street. After she read Eleanor and Park and loved it, she left me to read Wherever Nina Lies. I read the book in two sittings – it was quick and easy, had interesting characters and a nice flow. I knew from the start of this seeming romance book that there had to be a twist. And there was such a twist it wasn’t at all what I had worked hard to predict from the start. A girl who searches for her lost sister and finds herself in a tangled social web has to suddenly figure out how to grow up and fend for herself in ways she never predicted. I really enjoyed the book and the great conversation my student and I shared about the surprise ending. 

Last, and by far not the least, I read Brown Girl Dreaming. A memoir of a childhood told in simple verse poetry, this book took my breath away page after page. This is the writing I aspire to -the way to weave memory and words into moments that speak truth without saying too much. The poems lead us through Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood in South Carolina and New York City. The way she captures the moments – some vivid and detailed and some just a whisper of her past – represents how we all remember. Her story is unique and her ability to move the story forward in this unique style puts this  book in my top five recent reads. If you haven’t read this yet, and you love words and stories as much as I do, this is a must for your summer list.

While I might be disappointed that I haven’t been writing more often, I am proud of how much I’ve been reading. Checking out and into a book is good for me. So for now, words in outweigh words out.

What have you been reading? What should I add to my summer must-read list? I’d love to hear in the comments.

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