Tuesday, August 11th, 2015...10:02 am

Words In – Summer Reading Edition

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I always think that I’ll have so much more time to read every summer than I do. My days quickly fill with trips to the pool, summer professional development workshops, reading for work and getting my kids snacks. Constant snacks. Nonetheless, I managed to read too. I also managed to read a few things that were outside of the usual genre I go for.

I started off the summer reading a book that I had no intention of liking. It sounded weird and I hadn’t liked the last book with a teenaged male narrator. But this book, even at the end of summer, is close to the top of my list of things I’ve read this year. Nogginwas just so unexpectedly good. A kid dying of cancer chooses to have his head cryogenically frozen and then five years later he is brought back to life on someone else’s body. Everything has changed – his friends are five years older – and he has to figure out how he fits back in to the world. It was really well written, with likeable characters and a plot line that avoided all the possible cliches it could have walked right into. I highly recommend it.

Just like I confessed yesterday that I’d never read Harry Potter, I also hadn’t ever really read a graphic novel. I’d read Maus and Persepholis, but a graphic novel outside of a historical or academic setting, hadn’t ever really appealed to me. In the spirit of broadening my reading horizons, I picked up This One Summer– the title sounded like a great book for a summer reading list. Going in, I thought it would be light and innocent and maybe even something I could read with Nora. Nope. It was so layered and complex and right away dealt with more adult content than I’d ever share with my 7 year old. The drawings were simple but managed to really communicate the depth of feeling these characters were going through. I loved the experience of reading this book. If you’re looking for one last quick summer read, add this one to your list.

On my journey through YA fiction this year, I’ve read so many books that make use of and pay tribute to poetry in various ways. As a reader, these poetic gestures are intriguing. As a writer, I love looking at how other authors have blended genres, and as an English teacher I love seeing the ways my students are most likely encountering poetry in their independent reading. And We Stay took some really heavy themes – school shooting, suicide, abortion – and mixed them in with the biography and poetry of Emily Dickinson. While this book doesn’t stand out to me after reading all the others, it was a book with interesting characters drawn in a unique way.

My favorite book that I read this summer was The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. At first I was really skeptical. It started with a lot of family history, something I don’t usually enjoy reading. Then a girl was born with wings. And I’m usually much more into realistic fiction. But Ava’s story turned out to be stunningly beautiful and painful and full of surprises. At one point towards the end I had to put the book down and text my friend Chelsea who had already finished it. I was scared to continue, I knew something terrible was about to happen and I wasn’t sure I could do it. She told me to keep reading and so I reluctantly picked it back up. The ending of the book was so good. So good. I will reread this book some day and I really hope that someone makes it into a beautiful movie. Definitely put this book on your to-read list!

I don’t let Nora watch movies before she’s read the book (Did you know the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies are pretty good? She’s read all those and we’ve watched some movies this summer. But I digress…) so I thought I’d hold myself to the same standard. I read Me and Earl and the Dying Girlon our trip to Florida earlier this summer. And while it wasn’t my favorite and I didn’t run right out to see the movie, I did enjoy it and was pleasantly surprised that it was not just another cancer romance story like The Fault in Our Stars. It was very different and had really well developed characters who I still have lots of questions about, but that’s a good thing, I guess, since I care enough about them to want to know more.

I’m a big fan of Sarah Dessen. She captures moments of teen years that still resonate as an adult and she usually paints really interesting family portraits. Saint Anything was a compelling read with interesting family dynamics and some really well-developed characters. It is getting a bit hard for me to remember which Dessen book is which, so moments of this now that I’m trying to remember it do run together with her other books. But there were some really great moments and some unique twists. If you like Dessen, you won’t be disappointed with Saint Anything.

Lastly, my only non-YA book of the summer was The Girl on the Train. A friend gave it to me for my birthday and it was a great summer mystery with some good writing. It was a strange book for me. I really disliked all the characters – not one of them did I find likeable. But at the same time, I had to know what was going to happen. That’s a trick as a writer – to be able to create some loser characters but still have the reader care about their fate. I was really glad that I read it and if you like mystery and drama and books told from various viewpoints, I recommend it.

What were your favorite summer reads? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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  • I spent the summer reading Harry Potter for the first time. Starting with the last book! (I listened to them all on cd and probably due to Mr. Dale – I was hooked) Chelsea and Ben are super proud. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed them. I’m looking forward to reading some of your suggestions!

  • I’m on my 7th book of the summer, too – but rarely do I read YA. I savor my reading time for titles I’ve been storing on my ‘to be read’ list all year. I love historical fiction – and prob my two favorite titles this summer were “House Girl” by Tara Conklin and “My Name is Mary Sutter” by Robin Oliveira. Since I teach American Lit I figure it’s kind of double dipping!
    Jennifer Wolfe recently posted…Summer Isn’t Just For VacationMy Profile

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