Every Day by David Levithan
Every Day is weird. It’s YA fiction about a “person” who switches bodies every day (hence the title) and does not have a body of its own. (I say “its” because not having a body means not having a gender.) This person then falls in love with a girl and the whole thing is them trying to make their relationship work even though the protagonist, A, is in a different body (although all the bodies are sixteen years old) every day. There are interesting plot aspects that get introduced then ignored entirely (such as how the whole switching bodies thing works) and the book focuses almost entirely on A’s feelings and emotions. This novel definitely had an interesting concept and was executed well, just maybe not how I would have done it. That being said, it was an interesting, quality read. I felt, however, as if the whole book was simply a push for LGBT equality. What does it matter who we fall in love with; gender is just a body. That was the message being pushed—although there were other messages as well, like don’t make fun of people and depression is a real thing and needs real help. My favorite part was a reference satirizing the poet William Carlos Williams. I generally like David Levithan’s work (The Lover’s Dictionary is one of my favorite novels of this genre and one of my favorite twitter accounts), but this book was a little too much for me. The novel, in my opinion, was a thinly-veiled social commentary. A well-written fictional one, but one nonetheless. I would suggest it, if the plot sounds interesting to you, but I would warn you to read it with a grain of salt.
The Truth About You and Me by Amanda Grace
The Truth About You and Me is about a smart high school student in college classes who falls for her college professor. He falls for her too, and then all hell breaks loose. That may be dramatizing it a bit, but it’s the general gist. It’s your typical teen angst novel, only it’s written in the form of a letter from the protagonist (Maddie) to her teacher/lover (Bennett—on a side note, can I just say how much I love the name Bennett?), which was an interesting twist from the normal cliche. It was interesting enough that I finished it, but not quite interesting enough that I would read it again or recommend it to someone looking for an enthralling book. I would, however, recommend it to someone who wanted something easy with an interesting, if somewhat cliched, storyline that he or she could read in a day/weekend. Keep in mind I may not have been the intended audience, too. This book was written for sixteen/seventeen year old girls. Anyone not in that category wouldn’t quite appreciate the level of angst that only those in that category are capable of. I finished it; it wasn’t bad.
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
The Other Boleyn Girl tells the story of King Henry VIII of England and his first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. It’s told from the perspective of Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister, and follows Anne’s ambitious rise to power. I found this book at a thrift store, so I wasn’t sure if it was going to be any good; I started it thinking I would just give it a chance, only to find that I was two hundred pages into it. The Other Boleyn Girl is a fascinating and character-driven story that will keep you interested the whole way through, even if you already know the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. While not necessarily entirely historically accurate (it has the bare facts and a lot of artistic license), it’s an interesting novel about 16th century English court and the flirting and intrigue that goes with it, showing the struggle of women to be more than just pawns in someone else’s game.
Unfortunately, the movie is not on Netflix, so I can’t tell you how it compares. :(
Update: The book was better than the movie, naturally, but the movie is definitely worth a watch. The acting is wonderful, although the movie leaves out a lot of major plot aspects in the book. Oh, and Benedict Cumberbatch is in it.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent is a dystopian novel about a girl who must decide which faction of society to put herself into now that she is sixteen. The factions are based on which character traits are strongest in a person. I know I’m a little late in reading this novel, but at least I read it before I saw the movie. (I would recommend doing that, by the way, I would always recommend doing that.) Anyway, once she picks her faction, she novel follows her struggle to fit in there and understand herself and the society of which she is a part. Except there’s a lot more action. I’m not really sure how to go into more detail without giving away elements of the plot. Also, if you can help it, don’t watch the movie trailer before you read the book, there are a lot of spoilers. I’m sure it would have been a little more intense if I hadn’t already known part of what was going to happen. Still, it was difficult to put down. This novel is faintly reminiscent of The Hunger Games, but it’s unique enough to not feel simply like another teen-angst-set-in-the-bad-future book. (Disclaimer: That’s not what I thought of The Hunger Games, but plot lines do have a tendency to get old, especially in the YA genre.) The writing style is simple and easy-to-read, and the characters are lovable and fascinating (although there are quite a few and some of them are not very memorable). I love a good action-adventure heroine, and Tris does not disappoint.
Hey anon! I didn’t give it all that low of a rating… anything over 5 is a good rating in my book (no pun intended). But I base my ratings on a mixture of plot, writing style, intensity, character development, and my level of interest in the book. I know that’s not a perfect rating system, but it’s usually what I am looking for in a book. The rating I gave it is a mixture of these aspects, and I thought it was a little lacking in the intensity and character development aspects. I know lacking intensity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, which is why that number didn’t figure much into my final rating, but I do tend to prefer books that aren’t spoon fed to me. I also had to read it for a class which may have played a part in my lower level of interest, though I tried not to let it. I thought it was good overall, it’s just not a book in which I would normally be interested or ecstatic about. I also tried to give it a fair explanation saying that it was a good book by other standards, but not something I would normally read. I hope that answers your question.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart is an African novel focusing around the main character, Okonkwo, and what happens when white missionaries come to his village. Since it’s written by a native Nigerian, the language is different from any other book I’ve read. The sentences are long and flowing and altogether pleasing to the ear. He also introduces the reader to many foreign words that give flavor to the story. The plot is easy to follow and, even with the foreign concepts, it’s pretty easy to understand what’s happening. Things Fall Apart, according to Wikipedia, is the most widely read book in modern African literature—so it’s a pretty big deal. It’s an easy read, and I would highly recommend it, if only to say you’ve read it.
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Geektastic is a collection of short stories written by popular YA fiction authors including Cassandra Clare, John Green, David Levithan, Scott Westerfeld, and others. In order to rate this book, I’d have to rate each story individually, which would take way too long. So I’ll just say that all of these stories are pretty great in their own way and anyone who even remotely considers himself or herself a geek should read this book. The stories all focus on some aspect of geekdom and cover all the basics including comic books, fantasy stories, live action role playing, online gaming, and a lot of conventions. It’s an easy read, considering the longest story is less than fifty pages. It’s a book with great geeky charm and even better geeky comics.
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is a cute story about a boy and a girl who meet by chance and the eventful roller coaster of a night that follows. Both Nick and Norah are trying to get over their exes when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. She agrees and a night rife with heartbreak and puppy love follows. This book is interesting in that it’s written by two authors giving alternating points of view. Because of this, the reader can really get into the character’s heads, making them more relatable than your average teen novel lovers. The only downside to this book (other than the predictable plot line characteristic of most teen love stories) is the amount of cursing. Both the main characters have the mouths of sailors and there are very few pages that don’t have the f-word (seriously—who says f*** that much in one night??) on them. Other than that, it’s an easy read and a cute story about new love, moving on, and music.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a paranormal teen romance. The cover tries to tell you that this book is about a girl caught in the middle of an otherworldly war, when in reality it’s more about a girl with love interests on both sides of a war. The book follows a solid storyline of a girl trying to figure out who she is (literally—she may not be altogether human) until about two-thirds of the way through when (plot twist!) she sort-of figures out who she is. The characters are easy-to-understand, however a lot is left to interpretation. The plot is slightly confusing but not to the point that it’s impossible to follow. The book sets itself up for the sequel, and I’m definitely going to read it.
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
each book is approximately 1000 pages
A Song of Ice and Fire is an incredibly long, yet incredibly interesting, series set in Westeros, a country perpetually stuck in the middle ages. As suggested by the titles, the series focuses on the complex fight for who will be king (or queen) of Westeros and the wars that result from this “game of thrones.” The books are told from alternating characters’ points of view. The characters are fascinating, however there are so many of them it’s hard to remember who’s who and who’s fighting for who (although there is a helpful directory of characters and allegiances in the back of each book). It’s a series filled with intrigue, betrayal, and plotting mixed with witty banter and often graphically described violence and sex. These books will require your full attention, so they take a while to read. They are worth the time, though. I wouldn’t suggest these books to anyone under the age of eighteen. Or anyone who doesn’t like to see his or her favorite character die.