We’re half way through July and deep into the summer. I had my first summer visit to an ice cream truck this week, and when I’m not writing, I’m reading. Now’s the perfect time to curl up with your toes pointed towards a window screen and get lost in another world. Want some ideas? I read with a YA heart, so naturally, it wanders.
Sweet by Emmy Laybourne is a dark comedy about a teen who joins her friend on a weight-loss cruise, but the artificial sweetener hyped to help patrons lose weight has unanticipated side effects. Think violent zombies. I liked the two points of view from nice, down-to-earth Laurel and celebrity Tom.
Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu explores the difficulties of a young girl who tries to escape her religious cult. It’s a glimpse into the Quiverfull movement and makes you wonder if extremely rigid gender rolls could ever be any good for anyone.
The Heart of Betrayal by Mary Pearson is the sequel to Kiss of Deception, which I adored. In the first book, Lia was threatened by an assassin and a prince, but in a deft mind game by the author, Lia and the reader didn’t know which was which. I’m eager to read this, but my daughter stole my copy before I could and now I need to get it back.
When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds is a story of three friends in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, who end up at the wrong party and make some dangerous enemies. Poignant and thoughtful, the award-winning novel takes us into Ali’s mind as he grows up in a gritty place and discovers the limits of friendship and loyalty.
Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark is written in verse and tells of a popular high school wrestler who becomes increasingly uncomfortable in his own body. While he grapples with gender fluidity and his identity, he weighs how to be honest with himself, his girlfriend, his friends, his family, and the victims of his violence. This is a book that stays with you.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is her controversial adult novel about familiar characters from To Kill a Mockingbird. Written before her famous story of Scout Finch as a child, this one promises to show a dark side to Atticus. I’m not ready to go there, but I expect I won’t be able to resist for long.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is a sweeping epic which seems especially timely in light of recent controversy over the Confederate flag. The racism in the novel, both obvious and subtle, makes for a disturbing read, and Scarlett really is the most unyielding character. I read this as a teen and it was well worth revisiting.
If you want to give yourself a crash course on writing, try these three back to back:
On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King is by far my favorite book about the work of writing. His example of sticking to it over decades is inspiring, and I love reading advice from a man who writes books I admire.
Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, is a free-flowing, humorous, tortured take on how to write, and it’s also a singular expression of one woman’s thought process. Her episode of devoting two years to a book and then having her editor advise her to scrap it is moving, as are her subsequent efforts to salvage the book.
Story by Robert McKee is aimed at screenwriters, but his hard-boiled approach emphasizes how central story telling is to novels as well, and he has some nuggets in there about keeping it real. At the other end of the spectrum from Lamott, he nevertheless conveys, as she does, that a lot of work and mess goes into the creation of a worthy screenplay or novel.