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.



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.


Friedman, Aimee & Christine Norrie. Breaking Up.

NY: Scholastic, 2007.

This is a graphic novel about high school kids, undoubtedly aimed at high school kids, which is fine. But it doesn’t quite work. The focus is on four third-year girls at an arts magnet, each one of whom is (naturally) completely different from the other three. One is essentially a slut and the dominant personality, one is the shy hugger-peacemaker, one is being driven crazy by straitlaced parents, and the fourth, the narrator, is interested in a guy no one else approves of.


Published in: on 5 August 2017 at 7:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tamaki, Mariko & Jillian. This One Summer.

NY: First Second, 2014.

The Tamaki sisters, one writing the story and the other doing the art, made a splash a few years ago with Skim, about a rather geeky and overweight teenager in a private school. I really liked the true-to-life writing, though I had some reservations about the slightly strange artwork. This one again follows a young girl through a very ordinary piece of growing up, though it seems much more complicated to her.


Dessen, Sarah. The Moon and More.

NY: Viking, 2013.

Dessen has won a number of awards for her novels and frequently appears on “Best of the Year” lists — but always as a “Young Adult” author. That’s a form of ghettoization I try to avoid. I consider her simply a first-rate author of highly enjoyable fiction, period. Her eleventh book is about 18-year-old Emaline, plowing through her last summer at home, working in the family’s three-generation beach-rental business before heading off to a nearby state university. A perfectionist, highly organized (she was the only 5th Grader with her own filing cabinet), and a naturally helpful sort, she’s very well liked in the little coastal town of Colby (which feels like North Carolina), and she knows absolutely everyone.


Griffith, Nicola. Stay.

NY: Random House, 2002.

This is the second novel about Aud Torvingen, six-foot-tall Atlanta ex-cop, private investigator, self-defense and martial arts expert, new multimillionaire by inheritance, Lesbian, and experienced killer (“violence is a tool like any other”), whom we first met in The Blue Place. And it’s a doozie.


Published in: on 22 August 2016 at 4:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mina, Denise. The End of the Wasp Season.

NY: Little, Brown, 2011.

Mina has a knack for taking a novel, supposedly a single story, and reworking it as a cluster of related and converging stories, each with its own principal characters, its own interrelationships, its own plotline. The POV person in one will be a supporting player in one or more of the others.


Tamaki, Mariko & Jillian. Skim.

Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2008.

It’s been my experience with graphic novels that, usually, either the art is really good but the writing is a bit lame, or vice versa. There are exceptions (like Neil Gaiman’s work), but not many.


Tartt, Donna. The Goldfinch.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

I’m a very heavy reader. I get through 120-150 books per year, and have for several decades. So when I say this is one of the absolute best books I’ve read in several years, that means something. Usually, when I begin a really fat book (and this one is 775 pages), I know that, however good it is, the sheer size will become wearing and I’ll have to take a break from it halfway through and read something else for awhile. But that never happened with this one.


Mendelson, Cheryl. Morningside Heights.

NY: Random House, 2003.

Remember those big, fat multi-generational family sagas that were popular early in the 20th century? This marvelous novel reminds me in some ways of them — except that it’s only about 300 pages long. On the other hand, the narrative is so dense on the page and the writing is so rich, it feels like three times that length — and I mean that in a good way.


Published in: on 23 November 2012 at 6:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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