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We’ve still got a good month or so of summer left, which means there’s still time for summer reading. I for one have been taking advantage of the sun’s periodic pushes through the fog to sprawl on my mostly dead lawn and get some reading in, because once winter comes, I’ll be staring gloomily out the windows at a curtain of rain and longing for these lazy August afternoons.
So, what have I been reading lately? Well, a lot of young adult, which should come as no surprise, but I'm not solely on a diet of YA.
First up on the list: “Team Human,” by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier
With a metric fuckton of vampire books out right now, you have to do a lot to stand out, to my eye. Especially since I’m about as interested in reading yet another soppy romance with cardboard characters as I am in sticking a fork in my eye. Vampires have passed the overplayed point at this stage, my friends. But I love both Larbalestier and Brennan, so I had to give this one a shot, because two is always better than one, right?
Friends don't let friends date vampires!
As it turns out, yes. “Team Human” is a delicious romp through the vampire canon that doesn’t mind skewering a few tropes along the way, and it’s also a tale that’s as much about friendship as it is about romance. When Mel’s best friend Cathy falls in love with a vampire, it tests Mel’s anti-vampire commitment and her friendship, forcing her to reconsider her view on the world. If you love books that are hilarious and heartbreaking by turn, with a healthy homage to writers who have gone before without being derivative, you’re gonna like “Team Human.”
My next selection takes us into a wholly different world. “Wildwood,” written by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis, is a rich and imaginative adventure that reminds me of nothing quite so much as “The Phantom Tollbooth,” which is one of my favorite books of all time. I do not make literary comparisons lightly, so rest assured that I’m deadly serious here. If you’ve been searching for a book like “The Phantom Tollbooth” all your life, you have found it at last.
Prue McKeel lives in Portland, Oregon, ignoring the Impassable Wilderness like everyone else does, at least until her brother is kidnapped by a flock of crows and she’s forced to go in after them. What she finds there isn’t what she expected, and what she finds in herself along the way is a shock as well. If the lively, whimsical narrative isn’t enough for you, the illustrations are simply outstanding. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series.
Yes, there are full-color plates!
David Levithan’s “Every Day” isn’t due out until 28 August, but you’re definitely going to want to read it when it hits bookstore shelves, because it’s outstanding. Levithan plays with an intriguing concept, exploring what would happen if you woke up in a different body every morning, living someone else’s life for a day. These Freaky Friday-esque doings are the only life A’s ever known, and he’s been forced to learn about the grave consequences of messing up when he’s in charge of someone else’s life.
You’d be amazed by how much damage you can do in a day, but A really gets into trouble when he falls in love with a girl, breaking his rule about remaining emotionally distant and not forming connections with the people around him. It’s a relationship that seems doomed to never be, which forces him to make some difficult choices. I love the premise of the story, and I love where Levithan went with it.
To liven things up a bit with an adult recommendation, even though I’m way behind the crowd on this, I love “The Night Circus.” I love it so much that I’ve already re-read it twice, and I’m about to start in on a third round. This book, people, it’s so good. So good. It’s so good that I actually mutter “Damn, this book is good. I wish I’d written it” out loud to myself as I’m reading it.
This cover hints at a whole world of magic inside.
I was well aware of the buzz around “The Night Circus” but was initially really slow to pick it up, in part perhaps because of the buzz. There was also something about the jacket copy that kept turning me off. When I finally got over both of these idiosyncrasies, what I got was an amazing book written like someone had gone inside my head, harvested all my weirdest and most complex dreams, and fed them back to me.
“The Night Circus” is beautiful and it’s bold, with a very distinctive style that breaks some significant rules along the way. The prose is so lush that I periodically have to stop and read a portion out loud just to revel in it a little bit. It's so immersive that I like to read it in big chunks, because I get totally sucked into the world of the book and the characters.
And as for the story, well. Suffice it to say that it’s magical.
What's been on your summer reads list, xoJaners?