Dessen, Sarah. Once and for All.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Dessen’s latest YA novel easily maintains the high standards set by its predecessors. The protagonist in each of her books is usually part of an unusual setting, which adds interest for the reader in addition to her romantic adventures. At seventeen, Louna Barrett has been deeply immersed in the wedding business for nearly a decade, thanks to her mother’s busy schedule. “A Natalie Barrett Wedding” is always a big deal and usually pretty expensive, so the pressure is always on.

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Published in: on 29 December 2017 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

NY: Random House, 2000.

I have no excuse for the fact that this marvelous Pulitzer-winning epic sat on my “To Read” shelf for most of a decade before I got around to it. Once I started it, though, I found it difficult to put down. I’m ordinarily a fast reader (I never skim, I just take large mouthfuls of text), but this one is more than 630 pages of dense narrative, so it took awhile. You’ll want to read slowly and savor Chabon’s use of the language as well as the immense amount of social history and artistic detail he packs into every scene.

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Wolitzer, Meg. The Interestings.

NY: Penguin, 2013.

Wolitzer has published close to a dozen novels but her record has been somewhat uneven. This may be one of her best, though, especially to those of us born before 1960. It’s the story of six kids who first come together one evening, aged fifteen and sixteen, in the summer of 1974 at Spirit-in-the-Woods, a determinedly artsy summer camp in the Adirondacks run by a couple of aging Greenwich Villagers.

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Published in: on 16 December 2017 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland.

NY: Penguin, 2000.

I’ve been working my way slowly and sort of randomly through Dessen’s Young Adult novels, all of which have been well above average in many ways. This is one of her earlier ones (she’s published thirteen books now) and it’s much darker than any of the others I’ve read. I can’t even say I enjoyed it, exactly, though it certainly has a powerful impact.

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Published in: on 7 November 2017 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. What Happened to Goodbye.

NY: Viking, 2011.

Dessen is a first-rate author whose novels are directed at young adults but which should be of interest to anyone who enjoys a good story and thoughtful writing, regardless of age. The protagonist of this one is seventeen-year-old McLean Elizabeth Sweet, who was named after her basketball-fanatic father’s favorite college coach. But then the coach retired and his younger replacement ran off with McLean’s mother, which kind of soured both of them on the sport.

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Modesitt, L. E., Jr. The Magic of Recluce.

NY: Tor, 1991.

Modesitt is one of those fantasy authors who specialize in long series of fat novels mostly relying on magic. I’ve been aware of him for some time but have never read any of his stuff. I have attempted to read similar authors — Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Tad Williams — but the plots tend to be childish, the characters cardboard, and the prose excessively purple. Everyone deserves a chance, though, so I thought I should try this opening episode in the “Recluce” series, of which there are now eighteen thick volumes.

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Published in: on 24 October 2017 at 12:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Eisner, Will. Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories.

NY: Norton, 2007.

Eisner is very much the godfather of the modern graphic novel. There’s a reason the field’s most important award is named for him. This fat compilation volume brings together five previously published pieces, two of them quite long, which are drawn from his own life and ancestry — and if not entirely in a factual sense, then in tone and in general approach.

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Backderf, John. My Friend Dahmer.

NY: Abrams, 2012.

Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t the only serial killer America produced in the late 20th century but he was one of the most disturbing ones, if only because, after he was caught in 1991, he was candid and forthright about what he had done. Unlike Gacy and others who come to mind, he didn’t make excuses or try to shift the blame. But he really didn’t know why he had killed sixteen men, either.

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Dessen Sarah. The Truth About Forever.

NY: Penguin, 2004.

I’ve become a fan of Dessen’s books, which are marketed as “young adult” but the themes of which are of interest to all readers. While there’s always a romantic element, it’s never cut-and-dried and absolutely never clichéd. Certain themes recur, too: The sibling who is either much more perfect than the narrator, providing a role model it’s impossible to live up to, or else a complete disaster, which reflects on the sibling and makes her life more difficult.

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Dessen, Sarah. Saint Anything.

NY: Viking, 2015.

I’ve become thoroughly hooked on Dessen’s novels, for all that they’re marketed for young adults. Her narrative and character-development skills make her books engaging reading for any age group. There’s rather more trauma this time, though. Seventeen-year-old Sidney Stanford used to practically worship her older brother, Peyton, the local golden boy, but that was before he started making bad decisions and getting arrested.

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Published in: on 2 October 2017 at 5:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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