Coming up on the 2020 election, I’ll be including an action that you can take to make a difference at the top of every post. Today, I encourage you to support the U.S. Postal Service by buying something from their store, mailing stuff, calling your representatives and asking them to fund USPS, and learning about what’s going on in the first place and other ways to help.
For regular readers, it should come as no surprise that I have some unpopular opinions on books. I’ve found that my favorites are often not the New York Times bestsellers or the ones everyone always seems to be recommending on #bookstagram (part of the reason I quit is because everyone always seemed to be posting about the same five books at any given point in time). Anyway, if you know me, you’ll know I can find much more to comment on than just the tiny review snacks I offer below, so click on the links in the book titles for the full reviews!
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
YA / DISABILITY / REALISTIC FICTION
So here’s a caveat: like most other reviewers, I love the accurate OCD/disability representation in this book. Unlike most YA books about mental illness, this one doesn’t romanticize or glorify OCD, and doesn’t present romance or friendship or whatever else as a “miracle cure” for an otherwise incurable disorder. We need more #ownvoices books about mental illness, and more well-written disability rep more broadly.
But. The representation was ultimately the most fleshed-out part of the book. Aza is an otherwise very forgettable protagonist, the Sherlockian dynamic that I think Green was going for didn’t come through (Aza’s last name is Holmes and she’s solving a mystery), and the whodunnit was not very well executed. The supporting characters were also pretty blah, and my overall impression of the book would’ve been eh if not for the OCD rep.
Recommended if you want to learn more about OCD/see well-done mental health rep in YA, but not otherwise.
Invisible Women: Data Bias In a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
NONFICTION / SOCIAL SCIENCE / GENDER
If you know me, you know I’m a proud nerd. I absolutely love delving deep into the topics that interest me, one of which is gender/racial bias. So many have recommended this book to me, it’s so hyped on Goodreads, and the cover is oh-so-pretty, but it ultimately disappointed me for three reasons: (1) it equated women with mothers, when not all women are mothers, and non-mothers face different obstacles than mothers do, (2) it didn’t include trans women in its definition of women and equated gender with sex assigned at birth, and (3) it focused on white women without even caveating the differential impact of gender bias on women of color in many critical places.
Recommended if gender bias in data is a brand-new topic for you, but not otherwise.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
EPIC FANTASY / THAT’S IT.
This book has a 4.53 average rating on Goodreads. Every single book blogger I follow swears by it. Rothfuss’s fans may be more loyal than George R.R. Martin’s. And I didn’t like The Name of the Wind at all.
To me, Kvothe, the main character, is a textbook misogynist/young genius. He’s always better than everyone else, always gets the women as a result, and never appreciates them for anything other than their pretty faces once he does. And because I couldn’t stand Kvothe, I deeply disliked this book, because nearly every character except one, who exits the narrative early on, has no personality or interesting features. I also deeply disliked the unfinished ending of the book: I get that it’s a trilogy, but did it really have to end like that? I just didn’t like it.
Recommended for everyone except me, it seems.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
FANTASY / MYSTERY / ROMANCE
So maybe fantasy isn’t for me? I also went into this book thinking it was a fantasy version of a mystery novel, and boy was I wrong! The magic component of the fantasy world made zero logical sense to me (I am a very logical person. I need logic to survive!) and as a result the mystery (which depended on the magical world) made zero sense to me. Reading through other reviews also made me think that this book was incredibly character-driven, so I’d, at the very least, get some wonderful friendships and fleshed-out book people. Nope. Every character, including our narrator, Scarlett, fell flat for me. And to top it all off, Caraval was wildly predictable. (Honestly, the tagline gives it away!) It seems like everyone except for Scarlett guessed the ending. Oof. Not for me.
Recommended for fans of fantasy or romantic carnival, maybe? The second only because NPR tells me “romantic carnival” is an actual subgenre.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
THRILLER / MYSTERY
So I gave this one a go because it’s a mystery that centers on non-white people, and while I love mystery, it seems like every. single. literary detective is white, for some reason. While I loved the premise—a woman helping her psychopathic sister cover up the serial murders of her boyfriends—the book ultimately ended before anything was resolved, and never gets to the heart of why Korede does what she does to help her sister. It’s set up to discuss so many things—a misogynistic society, pretty privilege, sister relationships—but ultimately never commented on anything or made a point. Disappointing.
Recommended for lovers of light, shocking thrillers with little to no psychological depth.