1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Greg Cooper has worked to maintain a perfect level of social invisibility. He has many acquaintances–he can easily slip from clique to clique–but he has allegiance to no one. Except Earl, his sort of best/only friend who he’s made awful movies with since they were kids. Greg prides himself on his ability to fly below the radar at school, but all that changes when his mom forces him to befriend Rachel, a classmate with leukemia.
This book was hilarious, expletive-filled, and super over-the-top metafictional. I won’t give away the narrative situation here, but basically, Greg refers to himself as the author of this book and frequently bemoans how terrible it is, but readers don’t learn why he’s writing this story down until the very end. His voice is strong and really witty–it reminded me of the fast-paced dialogue in Gilmore Girls or Juno. And sometimes Greg gets tired of straight up prose, so he starts writing in a script format (he is a filmmaker after all). Some people might get tired of the constant witticisms and hilarious tangents, but I loved them. As John Green did in The Fault in Our Stars, Andrews proves that yes, life is serious and full of sadness, but it’s also full of humor.
2. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
On the day Rory moves from her native Louisiana to London to attend boarding school, the whole city becomes shaken up by a mysterious series of murders that seem to replicate those of Jack the Ripper. Rory witnesses the only suspect to the murders, but there’s a catch–she’s the only one who can see him….
A little heads up about my reading tastes. If a book takes place in England, my ears perk up like a curious puppy. I am a hardcore literary Anglophile. If a book takes place in a boarding school, I’m pretty much sold. I also have a soft spot for things that are gothic-infused without being too super-scary. This book fits all of the above requirements! Needless to say, I was hooked by this story. Maureen Johnson is known for her contemporary realistic YA lit (some of which I’ve loved, some I’ve been more meh about). I was totally into this though. I love the way this book blended the realistic school story genre with a paranormal mystery. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out!
3. A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle
Hey look, a book for adults! A Star Called Henry is the first book in an epic trilogy about the life and times of Henry Smart. I have tried in vain to write a succinct summary here but nothing quite does it justice. Here’s Amazon’s take: “Born at the beginning of the twentieth century, Henry Smart lives through the evolution of modern Ireland, and in this extraordinary novel he brilliantly tells his story. From his own birth and childhood on the streets of Dublin to his role as soldier (and lover) in the Irish Rebellion, Henry recounts his early years of reckless heroism and adventure. At once an epic, a love story, and a portrait of Irish history, A Star Called Henry is a grand picaresque novel brimming with both poignant moments and comic ones, and told in a voice that is both quintessentially Irish and inimitably Roddy Doyle’s.”
Man, isn’t “picaresque” one of the best words ever? Anyway…
Roddy Doyle’s The Barrytown Trilogy is one of my favorite books of all time, so when I came across an audiobook of A Star Called Henry at the fanciest library ever, I jumped at the chance to give it a whirl. I was excited about listening to an entire book read with an Irish accent! (Oh, and how fabulous that reader was!) I really enjoyed this book. Roddy Doyle is a freaking brilliant writer. He can be raunchy and disgusting and heartbreakingly gorgeous all in one sentence. Pro tip: If you’re interested in reading this one, do a quick Google search of the Irish War of Independence. It would be helpful to have a bit of background knowledge about the key players and events!
4. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
Sixth grader and notorious weirdo Dwight comes to school one day with an origami Yoda that he claims is full of wisdom. Strangely, Origami Yoda’s advice manages to get several of Dwight’s classmates out of some serious scrapes. There’s no way Dwight could possibly know the answers to the questions the kids ask Yoda…so is Yoda for real? Dwight’s classmate Tommy especially wants to know–he needs answers and he’s got to know whether or not he can put his faith in Origami Yoda. Tommy chronicles the whole sordid affair in order to get to the bottom of things.
This middle-grade novel came highly recommended to me by my nine year old stepbrother. It was a really fun, fast-paced read. I love the way Angleberger portrayed the classroom dynamics of the tween age group, and I think it’s one of those rare books that can appeal to both boys and girls. I’ll be checking out the sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back.
5. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Lucy’s just finished high school, and all she wants to do is go out with her friends and find Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist whose work has a serious hold on her. She’s got a crush, and this guy seems like he could be perfect for her. Ed, a former-classmate (who got his nose broken by Lucy a few years back on an ill-fated date!) claims to know where to find him. Graffiti Moon is the story of their all-night quest.
I was expecting this book to be a wacky romantic adventure, but it ended up being much more serious and poignant. Crowley is a lovely writer, and her characters wax poetic on art, philosophy, illness, the nature of love, family, etc. and have some very beautiful insights. The writing and themes reminded me a lot of Francesca Lia Block’s work. There are times that the book takes on an almost magical quality because the descriptions of art and emotion are so dramatic and unexpected. Just listen to this:
“Every time he looked at me I felt like I’d touched my tongue to the tip of a battery. In art class I’d watch him lean back and listen and I was nothing but zing and tingle. After a while, the tingle turned to electricity, and when he asked me out my whole body amped to a level where technically I should have been dead. I had nothing in common with a sheddy like him, but a girl doesn’t think straight when she’s that close to electrocution.”
Dang, girl! Sometimes writing like this makes me roll my eyes because it just feels like the author showing off. Not the case with this book. The over-the-topness totally works. I will definitely be checking out more of Cath Crowley’s work. (P.S. Bonus points–this book takes place in Australia!)
6. Heist Society by Ally Carter
Kat Bishop has been conning since she could walk. All of her family members are noted criminals. Kat conned her way into boarding school after deciding to leave “the life” behind, but when herfather gets falsely accused of a robbery by a super-villain mobster type, it’s up to Kat and her crew to attempt the biggest heist of their lives in order to get him out of trouble.
This book is like….if Nancy Drew, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Carmen Sandiego, Ocean’s 11, and Gossip Girl all hooked up and had this really fun book baby. The glamour and mystery of Kat’s circle was so much fun to be a part of, and I loved the eccentric cast of characters. I recently read that Drew Barrymore will be making a movie version, written by Shauna Cross (author of Whip It!) and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Definitely recommend this for a fun summer read!
Well that’s it for April! Let me know if you check any of these books out!