I got a lot of reading done this summer (almost 30 books!) so while that means I won’t be writing in-depth reviews of all the books I read, I’m choosing a few to share mini-reviews of! See part one (which includes reviews of A Few Good Men, Sadie, Hope Never Dies, and The Dry) here. Click on the titles to see an extended review.
CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman
A deep exploration of mental illness, Challenger Deep is written from the perspective of Caden Bosch, who descends deeper and deeper into the throes of his mental illness as the book goes on. The book alternates between Caden’s real life in a psychiatric hospital and his imaginary one on a ship headed for the Marianas Trench. As Caden gets better and worse, the lines blur between reality and imagination. Unlike many “mental illness” YA books, Challenger Deep does its research. Mental illness is not used as a plot device or romanticized, and romance is not a cure-all. Challenger Deep is a raw look at what mental illness does, both to an individual and to a family as a whole. 4 Wagging Tails. Read it if you’re interested in learning about an individual’s experience with mental illness.
FAWKES by Nadine Brandes
Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Set in a 1600s England where magic is real, Fawkes is a retelling of Guy Fawkes, told from the perspective of his fictionalized son, Thomas. While an imaginative idea, Fawkes largely falls flat. The system of “color magic” is difficult to understand, and there’s no real reason for the divide between the Keepers (Catholics) and Igniters (Protestants). While both sides are portrayed as flawed, one side seems to be deemed as more “right” than the other, which seems inappropriate, given the religious allegory. The characters also fell flat, and despite the author’s attempt to include diversity, the discussion of race is very simplistic (essentially “racism is bad”), and the one black character seems to exist only for white characters to react to their blackness. 1.5 Wagging Tails. I wouldn’t recommend Fawkes, but YA fantasy fans might enjoy it.
I DO NOT TRUST YOU by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz
I received a review copy from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.
IDNTY follows young adults M and Ash on their quest to find pieces of a statue in order to rescue M’s father from a religious cult that’s holding him captive. While an intriguing premise, M and Ash had very similar voices, which made POV-switching quite difficult, and no friendship ever really develops between them. And while traveling around the world seems fun, Kirkus and other reviewers have noted quite a few cultural inaccuracies. 1.5 Wagging Tails. Read this for a fun adventure story, if you don’t mind inaccurate representations of non-Western cultures.
NOTORIOUS RBG by Irin Carmon
A hagiography of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While very informative and easy to read, with lots of fun pictures and fan art, Notorious RBG risks driving away non-liberal readers. This book focuses heavily on the “good” attributes of the liberal-leaning justices and the “bad” attributes of the conservative-leaning justices. However, a great book if you’re looking to learn more about RBG. 3 Wagging Tails. Read if you’re a liberal fan of RBG.
MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan
When out-of-work graphic designer Clay Jannon takes a job at an eccentric San Francisco bookstore, he gets quite a bit more than he bargained for. With book cults, discussions about the smell of books, and plenty of Googlers, this book has something for every book and/or tech lover. Mr. Penumbra was a wonderful, archetypal odd old man, and Neel and Kat (Clay’s best friend and girlfriend, respectively) were perfect representations of Silicon Valley people. While Kat was a bit annoying at times, I loved most of the characters, and this was just a great, bookish book. 4 Wagging Tails. Read it if you love books, San Francisco, or the Silicon Valley.