Saturday, December 29, 2018

What If It's Us

WOW--NINE YEARS OF DEVOUR BOOKS! Happy Birthday to this little memory device.

Another review in GIF form because I'm a bit conflicted by What If It's Us.  I really like author Becky Albertalli and had never read Adam Silvera before, so had high hopes. I usually enjoy novels that trade off between authors and characters, but this one didn't quite hit it for me.

At first, I had a really hard time distinguishing between the two characters, Ben and Arthur. Although they were very different, I had to keep up with who was in summer school and who was doing an internship, as well as the various friends in their squads. It took a minute.

I realize that everyone has their faults and issues, but this book seemed to really highlight all of the character flaws. The only characters I found extremely likable were Dylan (one of the best friends-would have to open the book to figure out whose) and his girlfriend Samantha. They were funny and thoughtful and really. Not so much angst.

Am I happy that there are YA romance novels about gay teens?

Will I be recommending this to my students?

It was too long, the characters irked, and the ending was unsatisfying.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Graduation of Jake Moon

I was in my 30s and living in another country when my grandmother got Alzheimer's disease, but it was still awful to see the vague confusion on her face when she tried to figure out what was happening. This experience stuck in my mind as I read The Graduation of Jake Moon, about an eighth grader whose grandfather is slipping away to the disease.

During middle school, the last thing anyone wants is extra attention, so the embarrassing incidents that come along with the disease are devastating to Jake. He withdraws from his friends and his school so that nobody can make fun of him. But such a serious disease can only be hidden away for so long.

I ended this novel in tears because there really aren't many happy endings with Alzheimer's. Still, I feel like Jake grew as a character throughout the novel and the reader will, too. This slim volume will appeal to readers who like "issue" books, but is also perfect to hand to a student who may be in a similar situation.

Sunday, December 16, 2018


What a journey with this one! I never imaged when I was on page 100 of Orphaned and the plot was dragging that I would be in tears as it finished. I should have had more faith in Eliot Schrefer and that he would finish his Ape Quartet powerfully. Still, I hope young readers will have the patience to get into the meat of the story where really beautiful writing happens.

Schrefer goes for a bold challenge with this book: it is written in verse and from the perspective of a gorilla named Snub. While it makes sense that a gorilla's point of view would look very different from a human's, I found it frustrating at first to understand what was going on. And I love novels in verse! I had so many questions until I decided to let go of them and let the story unfold. When I did, I grew to appreciate the characters and story, and ended up in tears.

I'll be encouraging readers to persevere and finish this book because it is worth it in the end.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Hey, Kiddo


There's a huge buzz around Jarrett J. Krosoczka's graphic memoir, Hey, Kiddo. All of the praise is well-deserved. Krosozka delves into his family history and shares about his mother's heroin addiction, his loving but troubled grandparents, and his absent father.

While his mother popped in and out of his life (and jail), Jarrett grew in his artistic talent. By including many of his childhood drawings and museum clippings, Krosoczka shows young readers that cartoonists aren't born full formed; they develop their skills and take classes to improve. The emphasis on hard work is clear and I hope it is a takeaway for all readers.

This is a story that will speak to so many young readers, so it surprised me that there were only 5 copies in the Worcester area library system. This is where it is set and where the author's lie was shaped! I am going to encourage my local branch to get their own copy because it is another way for readers to see themselves in print, and because it is a book that deserves to be read.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Mez's Magic

As I've mentioned before, I don't like animal books, but Eliot Schrefer is the exception! As I make my way through his oeuvre, I find myself continually looking forward to what comes next.

Mez is an abnormal panther: while most of her kind sleep all night to avoid the Daywalkers, she is able to stay awake and explore at all hours. She is recruited to join a group of animals like herself, all with the goal of defeating the evil Ant Queen. But there are many challenges along the way and it is difficult to know who to trust.

I liked that Mez's Magic was educational. I don't know much about jungle animals and found myself learning about them in my favorite way, through fiction. While the secondary characters all had a prominent trait to identify them (Rumi is knowledgeable! Gogi is self-conscious! Lima talks too much!), Mez is relatable in a way that occasionally makes the reader forget she's a panther.

I loved the ending of the book and how it sets up the sequel, which will be published in a month. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.