Books I Read In March

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You guys, it is a sad day when I admit that I think I am done with pulp romance for a while, especially the self-published stuff. My brain needs some quinoa and organic kamut, or what have you. This month was…not so good. Not so good at all.

(I’m only linking to books I liked, FYI, from here on out.)

23. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle

I loved the beginning and the end of this book. The middle was weird, and with all fantasy, I find myself looking at all the plot holes, unwilling to suspend disbelief. It’s a good thing the end was so great. I am still thinking about the metaphor of the Black Thing. Lovely.

24. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I started reading this book and was like, “Hey! This is funny!” And then I was like, “Hmm, this is really familiar.” And then I was like, “Wait, I’ve totally read this book already, haven’t I?” I had. It was still good.

25. The Rock Star in Seat 3A by Jill Kargman

I checked this book out of the library because I wanted a romance and I’d heard Kargman was a great writer. She has a fantastic voice and great writing skillz; it’s too bad she wasted it on this complete shit for a book.

26. Faking It by Jennifer Crusie

I cannot remember reading this book, or anything about it, but I do remember enjoying it.

27. Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

This numbered list is really out of order, because THIS is the last book I read in March. Like I’m going to renumber them? No. Anyhow, basically the perfect feminist romance. Okay, not perfect because it was too short and the romance was a little underdeveloped but GOODNESS she’s so fun and good I’ll overlook that any day.

28. Losing It by Cora Carmack

Oh, wait, this was a pulpy, self-published book that was fantastic. It was FUNNY. It was WELL-WRITTEN. All the best to this author. She’s got talent.

29. On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

Why did I read this?

30. The Siren by Tiffany Reisz

I would rather poke my eyes out than reread any of this book. People RAVED about it, but I have to remember: 1) I do not read erotica and so, er, this was a little much for me, and 2) OH MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS WITH THIS PLOT WHAT THE HELL I NEED THERAPY. Ahem.

31. Reckless by S.C. Stephens

This was the last in the Kellan Kyle series of books, and while I didn’t quite enjoy the first two, I was still somehow hooked. If this book were first? I would have been unhooked. It was just…oh god, SO BAD. Not as bad as The Siren, but WOWZA. BAD. I feel like all these self-pubbed authors that get picked up by publishing houses are being steamrolled, or the publishing houses have the shittiest editors in the world. The voice and all the action was sucked out of this book. There was no hook. There was no conflict. There was absolutely no motivation to turn the page.

32. Flat Out Matt by Jessica Park

Flat Out Love was one of my favorite books of 2012, so I REALLY wanted to like this. I did not like this. Not even one little snippet of it. It was short, it was unenlightening, and the reader would be better off never having read it.

I’M SORRY. I hate that I hate so many books TOO. I want to clap and be happy for every author ever, but you know what? I’m kind of an asshole. BUT I’m an asshole that reads a lot of shitty books so you don’t have to.

 

The Future of Us, Because Apparently Nothing Else Matters

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Oh, hey, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a book review. That’s probably because I’ve been reading good books. But boy do I have one for you today.

It’s The Future of Us by Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher. (Its cover is a bunch of 0s and 1s, because you know, that’s how programmers work, right? They just…type out zeroes and ones.)

Asher and Mackler have both written some really good books in the past, collectively. So they got together, I’m assuming, in an attempt to suck more as writers.

The first thing you need to know about The Future of Us (besides that is obviously going to suck) is that it’s set in 1996. Here are things that I, who LIVED through 1996, did not know about 1996:

1. Phones look like this:

2. Rollerblading is really hot!

3. These things are not in wide use yet: anything faster than dial-up, caller ID, reasonable parents who give a frack about their children, homework required to be done on a computer, dental care, medical intervention that does not involve using leeches.

Also, we had just started to recover from the Black Death and Shakespeare was really, really big. Oh, that cad, I remember when I went to high school with him and he used to do Jell-O shots. Never change, Will!

Anyway, the premise of The Future of Us is that two teenagers get a CD-ROM for AOL (ha!) and when they install it, it gets them to FACEBOOK. IN 2011. Fuh-reaky!

Here is where I expected it to get ultra awesome, revealing future worlds or magical powers or the fate of the universe or something life altering.

But…but…

 The only thing they do THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE BOOK is find out who they’re dating or married to, and then see if little changes they can make will alter this future.

THAT’S THE ENTIRE BOOK.

Well, there’s a side plot where the boy likes the girl, but she’s such an idiot because all she cares about is who she might be married to, so I don’t know why. There might be some longing glances thrown in to indicate feelings or something.

THAT’S IT. I can’t write more, because I wrote the entire book.

I guess books in 1996 were more simple. Ah, the good old days. I think I might call ole Chaucer and see how he’s doing.

Sisterhood Neverlasting

I like YA books. They’re usually quicker reads and more plentiful and less depressing than adult versions of the same thing. So it’s probably no surprise that I read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. Actually, I loved it.

So when the last book in the series, Sisterhood Everlasting, was released, I was super duper extra luper excited.

That was a mistake.

First, we find out that all the main female characters, Bee, Tibby, Carmen and Lena are pretty much losers. They used to be goal-oriented, reach for the stars girls. They attended private, expensive, limited admission schools. They had impressive internships. You’d be proud to have one of them as your daughter. That’s all you really need to know about the previous three books, because, well, because they’re not really the same characters any longer.

[If you have any desire to read this book (you shouldn't, but I can't mind control you yet), stop reading now. Spoilers ahead.]

Bee graduated from an Ivy league and was an excellent soccer player, but now she lives with her boyfriend and mooches off of him while she stays home and bakes cookies.

Lena wanted to be an artist and after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design and having some success in gallery showings, she’s…destitute and teaching part-time. (OK, this one is kind of accurate for an artist.)

Carmen wanted to be an actress and—wait for it–IS. She went to Williams and starred in lots of plays. Now she’s successful and on Law and Order but it’s not called that for whatever reason. She’s on Fake Law and Order.

And she’s engaged to some random rich network TV dude! Which is a step up because in all three of the previous books, they never really talk about Carmen with much in the way of romantic prospects. My theory on that is it’s because she’s a little bit round and also half Puerto Rican. You know how men don’t find Hispanic women attractive ever, right?

Oh, but even though Carmen is successful, she’s miserable. Her fiance is a douchebag, her job is really boring, and she’s basically lost her soul and only thinks about her career. How awful!

Oh, and Tibby? She wanted to be a filmmaker.

Now she’s dead.

But that’s OK! Because before she died, Tibby got married! And had a baby! And…what? Do you want more from her? She succeeded as a human being, clearly. She was the best off of the four! Sure, she didn’t have a job and she died mysteriously, possibly from a suicide, but listen. SHE HAD A BABY. And she married a rich man! That’s all it takes for a woman to be happy, right?

That’s clearly the thesis of the novel, because this is what happens to Bridget, Carmen and Lena by the end of the book:

No, seriously, that’s the end of the book. Bridget is pregnant and engaged to a (rich) lawyer. Carmen has lost a good job but met a man with babies (He speaks Spanish and so does she so it was clearly meant to be! That’s seriously all they have in common.) on a train and is in love. Lena gets engaged to a (rich) businessman and paints in a hobby sort of way.

What more can a woman want? Oh, and they have their BEST FRIENDS! Womenfolk to surround them and help raise their babies! Awww!

Now, you, dear reader, can go out and ditch your career and your aspirations and find yourself a rich businessman/lawyer or, if you’re not white, anyone who speaks your language. You’ll be happy you did, ladies!

Thanks Ms. Brashares, for the insights, and for obliterating the message of your previous three sort-of-feminist books.

I Read _One Day_ So You Don’t Have To

(If you want to read this book, please skip this post. It has lots of spoilers.) (But if you want to read this book, read this post, because it was terrible and I’m saving you. Really.)

Hey, I just finished the book, One Day. It looked romantic and sweet and there’s a movie out about it now that I wanted to see, so I read the book, too. How fun!

Except that the book One Day isn’t fun. Here, let me explain.

A girl and a boy meet on their college graduation day and have some smoochy fun times together:

For whatever reason that goes completely unexplained, they somehow end up friends. For twenty freaking years. Throughout this time, the man, Dex, basically has the world thrown at his feet because he’s good-looking.

He constantly sleeps with gorgeous women, has tons of money, is on television and famous, falls in love, gets married and has a kid.
Meanwhile, the smart, attractive woman who finished at the top of her class has a life that makes me want to cry.
She’s poor, she ends up serving tacos in an English Tex-Mex restaurant (huuuuurl) for TWO YEARS, dates ugly, unfunny married or otherwise emotionally unavailable men, is a good person who volunteers at Amnesty International and is rewarded with a terrible teaching job where the kids fight each other.
But then! THEN! Things start to turn around for Emma. She publishes a book and makes some cash. She moves to Paris and meets a handsome Frenchman and they have fun smoochy times.
And Dex is a raging alcoholic whose wife leaves him, his career goes down the toilet, Emma finally stops being his friend, and he ends up working in a sandwich shop on Saturdays. Justice!
Except that Dex just lurves Emma and is broken-hearted over his stupid cheating ex-wife. Because Emma is essentially the same low self-esteem girl she was twenty years ago, she decides to leave her hot Frenchman and marry Dex.
Of course, this happens:
(I’m surprised John Green didn’t write this book.)
That’s right. Emma, the only good character in the entire book, DIES. She freaking DIES right after she and Dex get together.
Dex still has it all. He has a successful shop he started up because Emma gave him both the idea and the money to start it. He has a great kid, and he dates the manager of the shop for a long time, who’s a gorgeous painter who he’s flirted with since Emma was alive. OF COURSE.
And that’s the end. That’s it! Emma loses, Dex wins, the Universe cries.
It’s like Forrest Gump, where the pretty, smart, inquisitive girl dies and the dumb idiot lives and is a kajillionaire but is sad, and like, totally misses her and stuff while he’s rolling around in his piles of cash at night.
The moral of the story is that you should never read “romantic” books written by men (*cough* Nicholas Sparks *cough*) because somehow it’s always “romantic” when the woman dies and the man gets to be the good guy for picking her and yet still have lots of sex with the hot pretty girls later in life.
There’s my good deed for the day. I saved you from One Day! Pretty much the equivalent to volunteering at Amnesty International in my free time while working at an English Tex-Mex restaurant.
(Psst, there’s a giveaway below.)

Review: Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (Twitter link; I wish she had a blog where I could stalk read about her.)

Audience: YA

Oh, look, a book review! Honestly, I thought I was over writing book reviews since it’s been so long, but I realize that’s mostly because I hadn’t read a book I wanted to share with all of you with the mandate of READ THIS NOW, SERIOUSLY. Ah, so glad I found one.

Caveat: only read this book if you are a) in love with YA books, b) a romantic, c) a girl. Because I’m not sure this is a very guy-friendly book, despite the moniker being attributed 50% to a guy. But this is pretty much the perfect girl book.

Amy’s father died three months ago, her mother left her in California one month ago to start a job on the East Coast, her brother went to rehab, and she’s left all alone in a house that’s up for sale. She and stranger-to-her Roger are supposed to drive to Amy’s new home in Connecticut in four days, in her mother’s Jeep Liberty.

Roger has some issues of his own. He’s supposed to spend the summer in Philadelphia after bombing his first year of college in Colorado, and it seems like Roger’s girlfriend may have walked all over his heart, too.

So, there you go. Simple set up: a road trip book between two attractive teenagers who, based on the cover, will probably do some handholding (but hopefully not in the middle of the highway). Oh, and they hash out their problems with each other, of course.

This novel reminded me of the best kind of romantic movies, where the characters aren’t just instantly attracted to each other and then “fall in love” forever, whatever that means in the span of a 90 minute movie. These characters seem to genuinely like each other; they care about each other, slowly, throughout the course of the book. And they evolve in a reasonable way: Amy is still sad about her father; Roger is sad about his girlfriend still, too.

And it’s reasonable that the two would maybe-possibly crush on each other. It’s more of a real relationship than most movies and books, and since the majority of the book is Amy talking to Roger, and vice versa, this is good.

There’s also a bunch of nostalgia involved in road-tripping, if you’re a fan. Matson didn’t cover any of the states I roadtripped through heavily (Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Oregon and Washington), but it was still reminiscent of the experience. Oh, and there’s a lot of fast food and a lot of diners. So if you have a soft spot for diners, you may go out and eat some French fries right after reading this book.

Amy & Roger was the perfect light, sweet, romantic YA novel I was looking for to cover up the gaping hole in my heart left by A Visit from the Goon Squad. It was a refreshing change to read about nice people who like each other.

*Bonus, the author photo in the back looks almost exactly like Janssen. Maybe Matson and Janssen are the same person?

I Am Draco Malfoy

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Gregg and I saw the last Harry Potter movie on Saturday. Spoiler: Harry lives, Voldemort dies. Hope I didn’t ruin it for you. Also, Darth Vader is Luke’s father.

Overall, I liked the movie, just as I liked the book, I just wish that it was about more of the minor characters instead of Harry. After all, Hermione is the real hero. She’s the smartest one, after all. She’s the one who saves Harry and Ron about 90% of the time (although I will concede that in this book/movie it is mostly about Harry).

And I identify with Hermione. I was completely the girl who knew all the answers to the questions, who was a perfection, who had the frizzy hair. I was Hermione minus the magic. And minus the confidence, too. That’s what her magic really was: confidence. She knew, most of the time, that she was right. She knew that she could do things that other kids couldn’t do.

I wish I was like Hermione, but I’m not, really. I’m shaky and unsure of myself. I care about how others perceive me. I want to succeed so much, but don’t trust that I will. I’m not Hermione at all.

I’m much more like another minor character, Draco Malfoy. That’s right, I’m identifying with one of the villains. Where the rest of the characters grew into these mature, almost perfect versions of themselves, Draco was left with all his imperfections. So, yeah, I get Draco. I get his pushy parents. It makes sense. Every Indian kid was asked to be a death eater doctor, even if she didn’t want to.

I get that Draco was a miserable husk of a kid, who didn’t want to have his parents, who didn’t want to go to Hogwarts even, who didn’t really know what he was supposed to be doing. He’s, in a sense, the most realistic character in the whole series. He’s got faults. He doesn’t always know the answer. He doesn’t show amazing acts of courage at the age of 18, but is instead kind of a coward. He doesn’t peak in high school (none of us should) (sorry, Harry).

Everyone knows that there is only one Jesus Luke Skywalker Harry Potter. But there are millions of Draco Malfoys, people who make mistakes, people who are jerks and then realize it later, much later, sometimes too late. Sure, I’m not mean like Draco (I hope). But I’m not confident or daring or brave. I’m just this normal person stumbling over the same faults over and over and over again, hoping one day I get it right, hoping one day to stand up to the people or ideals that push me around. Who doesn’t struggle like this?

So, yeah, he’s not popular, or good looking, or confident. He’s not very likeable, but I have a feeling he’s the one who learns the most, who grows the most. In that way, I don’t mind being Draco.

Recommended Reading: The Funny

My favorite kind of books are the funny kind. Sometimes I wish that writers weren’t so encouraged to write serious plotty plots, because it ruins the flow of jokes. Why must there be plot, publishing industry? WHY?

Plot problems aside, I’m going to tell you what to read that was hilariously witty and comical. (No room for debate; my word is absolute.)

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and the whole Georgia Nicolson series:

In my opinion, this is the perfect series. It’s a set of diaries entries from funny Georgia, where she talks about her boy problems, her friend problems, and her school problems. It’s not necessarily about any one thing–the unifying theme is hilarity. The author, Louise Rennison, is maybe my favorite writer ever. This isn’t literary or high concept or anything; it is really good and certain to make you smile.

The Princess Diaries series: I think it’s Meg Cabot’s best work. Like Angus, it’s a series of diary entries, and while I suppose there’s plottiness involving princess lessons and Mia’s crush Michael Moskovitz, it’s mostly just a bunch of funny setups and great observations about New York, high school and life.

How I Became A Famous Novelist

This book suffers from excessive plottiness toward the second half, but I still recommend it because the first half is GENIUS. It’s about a loser who plans out a way to become a bestselling novelist to impress an ex-girlfriend, and it includes a lot of cutting remarks of the publishing industry. My favorite parts involve when he’s talking to his editor friend and she admits to the main character that no one in the publishing industry has any idea what is going to be a success, but it’s not usually the books the editors love. This gives me some comfort. (OK, a lot of comfort.) (I would have more comfort if someone would buy my novels without me having to submit them.) (Or write them.)

The Big Love

I have a soft spot for this novel. I really love Dunn’s descriptions of single life, of what it’s like for someone who grew up in a small, conservative, Christian background to go into dating life in New York. Not that I know exactly what this is like, but I could see it. I could picture her world, and it was funny and sad at the same time. Note: It has nothing to do with having multiple wives or the TV show of the same name. It suffers from an unfortunate coincidence, being published right before the show went on the air.

Austenland: I know I have a documented love of all things Pride and Prejudice, but this may be the funniest interpretation of it. I read one of Hale’s other novels, The Actor and the Housewife, and I hated it. It may have been one of the worst books I read in 2010. It grated on my nerves and I really hated the main male character. So I wasn’t really interested in giving Hale another shot. But Austenland? Austenland makes lots and lots of observations about women who are obsessed with Jane Austen, about the fantasies that women have, and it also manages to follow the P&P plot while still feeling inventive and new. (And funny. Did I mention funny?)

A Walk in the Woods Bill Bryson goes on the Appalachian Trail and manages to talk about Americans, our laziness, our history of parks, the environment, and the AT while being clever and insightful and educational. I have no idea how he did it, but it’s one of my favorite books of all time.

Committed I know a lot of people have issues with Elizabeth Gilbert, but I am not one of those people. She’s genuinely a good writer, and anyone who can make the history of marriage and divorce interesting and laugh-out-loud funny deserves success.

Traveling Mercies and Plan B and Operating Instructions and all of Anne Lamott’s NONfiction

These are all hilarious. Just don’t read her fiction. It stinks. It’s depressing. It’s not even that well-written. It’s a good thing she’s so darn gifted at writing essays. And funny. And self-deprecating. Most of these are religious in tone, but not in the way where if you’re not Christian, you’d cringe. It’s more Oprah-ish than Christian-ish, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t, but you know, you don’t come here for logic, do you?

But seriously, stay away from the fiction. Stink bomb.

Mostly Good Girls Yowza is this book funny. And! It has a plot that works! AND! It’s YA and short-ish! Which is actually part of its downfall because I just wanted it to KEEP GOING. Leila Sales, you need to never stop writing funny books.

Emma

I didn’t read Emma for a long time because I tried to watch the Gwyneth Paltrow movie and kept falling asleep, so I assumed the book would also be boring. No! It’s awesome! Emma is so self-centered and sweet at the same time. I can totally picture her being that popular girl at school that everyone actually likes. Also, Austen is a good writer. Did you know that? It’s true! You heard it here first.

Anna and the French Kiss

Alright, I know everyone already read this book (unlike Emma, right?), but it’s funny. Anna has a Nicholas Sparks’-esque father who writes books he thinks are literary which are actually poorly constructed sob-fests. There’s also a good rapport between Anna and her love interest, St. Clair (except that he’s SHORT and that’s my dealbreaker, attractiveness-wise) (and I talk like I could a) actually date these characters and b) haven’t been with Gregg since the beginning of time). Good, sweet, romantic, light, funny.

Otherwise Engaged Suzanne Finnamore writes about a fictionalized (but it reads like great nonfiction) account of one woman’s courtship and engagement. She has follow-ups to the story in The Zygote Chronicles and Split, but this is her best. I’d tell you more, but I don’t want to ruin the jokes. This one has plot, too, but it also works. (Darn you, Finnamore, for doing it all.)

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

It’s been three years since Mia was in the car accident that killed her entire family, and almost took her life. Three years ago, her boyfriend Adam promised he’d do anything for Mia, even if that meant leaving her alone, if she would stay, and live.

She disappeared from Adam’s life, and now Adam and Mia have one evening together to find out what happened. He has one evening to figure out where she went, and why she never even said goodbye.

I debated not reviewing this book. I only review books that I really, really enjoyed. And here is the problem with this book: it is a sequel. It is a good book, but the first book, If I Stay, was just…just…perfect. It is WHY the YA genre exists and flourishes, because of writers like Forman.

And Where She Went is still a good book. But it’s a sequel, and I never like a sequel as much as an original. Not even The Godfather, Part II. Not even The Empire Strikes Back (my husband and friend Susan are gasping and speed-dialing me right now to tell me I am WRONG WRONG WRONG), but there you have it. I never like the sequel as much. It pales in comparison to the original. Where She Went has the same problem.

It’s also told not from Mia’s perspective, but Adam’s. And Adam is not as complex as Mia. Adam is a rock star. I don’t identify with rock stars. Sorry, I don’t. I don’t know any personally. I know artists and musicians and hippies and Republicans and evangelists and I even know a little bit about the homeless guy who sits outside our grocery store, but rock stars? No. I don’t know anything about them. It’s a bit of an unattainable point of view, in my opinion. Also: ugh. Rock stars, right? Who cares? Not me.

This is where you, the reader of this review, now asks WHY AM I REVIEWING THIS BOOK, if I didn’t like it? But I did! I liked finding out about how Mia handled the catastrophic loss of her family. I liked hearing about the little parts of New York Mia fell in love with while she was at Julliard. I liked hearing about how Mia related (or didn’t relate) to other people after the accident. I liked hearing about how she totally crushed Adam’s heart, rightfully so, I would say.

And the writing is still Forman’s. She’s incredibly talented. And if you like sequels or love stories or If I Stay (so ninety eight percent of the American population), you will like this book. You will. So that’s why I’m writing the review. For people who don’t mind the rock star narration as much as me, and for people who don’t have a thing against sequels.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Have you read the excerpt from this book in the Wall Street Journal? It sums up what this book is about, on the surface: it is a memoir about Chua’s time as a mother, raising her daughters the “Chinese” way to succeed. The article is sensationalized, talking about how Chua yelled at her daughters, threatened them, withheld food and sleep and bathroom breaks until they did what she wanted. It’s abuse. She details abuse of her children, for their own success.

And it worked! Her older daughter has already played piano solos at Carnegie Hall, and her younger daughter was also a successful violinist. So: are Chinese moms better than Western moms? In th essay, she clearly thinks: yes, to Chua the abuse is worth it.

That’s the article, though. The book? Well, the book is a different story. It becomes pretty clear that the WSJ article was used by a very, very smart publicist to get people talking about, and more importantly, buying, Chua’s book. Of course it worked. The book is more of a discussion, an “us” versus “them” debate. The “us” are those that mother like Chua, who push their children to the brink, who yell and threaten in the name of obedience and success. The “them” are the Western parents who supposedly coddle their children, only to receive mediocre results and backtalk.

The most interesting part of this book, though, wasn’t the “us” versus “them,” but rather the melding of the two. I argue that Chua’s children aren’t successful solely because of her parenting. It’s because of the melding of her and her husband, and partly because the daughters are the products of two very intelligent people. The most curious part of the book is not why Chua’s children did well with such strict parenting, but why, despite her husband’s “western” upbringing, he did well, too.

Chua is married to a Jewish man, who, I would say, is MORE successful than her. Observe: he is a graduate of Princeton. He went to Julliard, and then Harvard Law School. He became a tenured Yale Law Professor far before Chua, and is a renowned novelist, spending lots of time on the top of many bestseller lists. And he did all of this without a Chinese mother.

So why the discrepancy? I mean, sure, lots of Asian kids do great in school and are successful. But does that automatically mean happiness? Is her husband a happier person than Chua? The book subtly answers the questions, and I am happy to report that it is a lot more complex than the WSJ article. Chua even capitulates to one of her daughters, something not usually done with Tiger Moms, she claims.

I recommend the book NOT because I necessarily recommend this method of parenting whole-heartedly. No, I recommend it because it’s a thought-provoking essay on parenting styles and in cultures, and it’s insightful enough to make me think about how I treat my own kids, and if being “kind” is always the kindest route.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

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What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

After a very public and ugly divorce, Mclean chooses to move out of her mother and stepfather’s house and live with her itinerant father instead. In the past two years, she’s travelled all over the country, and now she finds herself starting in her fourth high school. Every time she moves, she reinvents herself as someone new, Liz or Lizbet or Beth, but never Mclean. She doesn’t want Mclean’s baggage. But somehow, when she arrives in Lakeview, she ends up being herself, almost on accident. And that’s when her real life finally has the chance to catch up to her.

Oh, I love Sarah Dessen. I love how she can take a totally ordinary girl and write an extraordinary story about her. This is a quiet book. No one is going to die and nothing is going to explode. It’s funny and perceptive; it’s not bold or brash, and there are no starcrossed lovers reaching toward each other. It’s just the type of book I’m always looking for, the type that aren’t published nearly enough, the type of book that can be hard to write because everything depends on the talent of the author. But she does it.

This story is about how Mclean hates her mother for divorcing her father. It’s a story about how Mclean hates herself for loving anything associated with her mother. It’s how she somehow fails to see all of her father’s faults. Oh, and of course there’s a cute boy that helps her through it.

Dessen’s previous novel, Along for the Ride, is probably my favorite of her ten, so I was hoping this one would be even better. I don’t think it is, but that’s not to say this is bad. It’s still Sarah Dessen. It’s still a great bildungsroman about a girl that’s realistic, that has some great writing in there. The end is better than the beginning, but that’s also because after ten books, Dessen doesn’t have to try and catch our attention. We can read through, and let the story build up naturally. That’s nice.

If you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen, you won’t be disappointed in this book. It is very much like her. If you’ve never read her, may I suggest you start? She’s one of the top YA authors for a reason. She earned it.