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Kim Reads Books About Things

I like most books, particularly children's and YA. The fact that I am 21 does not and will never hinder this, and it shouldn't. A good book is a good book is a good book. Anyway. I'll read anything I can get my hands on if the mood suits me.

Under a Painted Sky is One of 2015's Best Debuts

Under a Painted Sky - Stacey Covington-Lee

Some suspension of disbelief may be required to fully enjoy this beautifully-written western, but trust me: it's worth it. This band of cowboys (and girls disguised as boys) is wonderfully characterized, and though the pace can sometimes be a little bit slow, everything leads to a satisfying conclusion.


I'd write more about this one, but it's better read than talked about, really. It's too hard to go into detail about it without spoiling a few key plot points. But this book has something for everyone. There's plenty of adventure, a splash of incredibly complicated and forbidden romance, some truly grisly moments, and a thread of suspense that is so taut that one might start pleading with the characters to make the right choice... whatever that is.


The ending might be a little bit too neat for some, but that's a small complaint. I can't wait to see what Stacey Lee writes next!


Fig is a Strong, Sad Portrait of Life with a Mentally Ill Parent

Fig - Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

Comparable to last year's Nest (by Esther Ehrlich), Fig centers on a young girl's struggle with her mother's sudden onset of mental illness. It differs in numerous ways, though; here, Fig's mother's schizophrenia is not triggered by a physical illness, Fig herself spirals into destructive patterns, and the course of their struggle happens over a much longer period of time than that faced by Naomi/Chirp. However, both books are excellent in showing the loving, complicated bond between mother and child, as well as how two bright, nature-loving girls come of age during a very difficult time. I wouldn't give these books to the same audience, though-- Fig is far darker and deals quite graphically with self-harm and suicide.


I dinged this book a few points for having nigh-Tolkienesque problems with pacing for the first half, as well as ending at a point far earlier than it could have (and, bizarrely, immediately solving one of our heroine's psychological hangups). Despite the slowness and abrupt ending, though, it's a strong debut, and the prose is some of the strongest I've ever read in or out of YA. I look forward to seeing what Schantz does next.

Marbles is a Sharp, Endlessly Entertaining Look at Mental Illness

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me - Ellen Forney

A stunning depiction of life with a mood disorder that takes apart the "tortured artist" cliche and really analyzes all of its facets. I shy away from a lot of books about mental health issues lately because they tend to be grim (and more often than not, poorly researched), but Forney's memoir here is anything but. It's never too heavy that one can't read it, even if the subject matter hits very close to home It also boasts very smart discussions of medication pros/cons, the way it feels to disclose a mental illness to friends/co-workers... and since it's a memoir, it feels completely authentic and BS-free. Is it any surprise that I loved it, then, since I like my books about mental illness to be BS-free? A must if you're interested in the topic, if you have a mood disorder, or if you just like graphic novels, or anything like that.

And even more on the plus side, it ends with a very uplifting and reassuring conclusion. As a person who's had depression since she was eleven, I feel like we need to see more of this: books that acknowledge that things like bipolar disorder and depression are things that are hard to live with, but with proper support (be it medication, therapy, supportive people around you) you can live a very balanced and fulfilling life.

So, so good and important.

Infandous Lives Up to Its Title in a Good Way

Infandous - Elana K. Arnold

There are books with shocking endings involved, like We Were Liars. There are books about girls with horrible secrets they can't share, like Speak. Elana K. Arnold's Infandous has things in common with those books, but it's truly in a league of its own. It's a book about many topics-- sex, the male gaze, the way that girls become women, art, recovery, a complicated mother-daughter relationship--but it's short, written clearly and with beautiful language, and overall just an impressive little jewel. Strange, profound, and haunting: this is the kind of YA that should be rubbed in the face of anyone who thinks YA is "morally simplistic" or any other derogatory thing.


But be prepared: this one's likely to hit you hard. I wish I could say more about it than that, but this is the kind of book where you need to know as little going in as possible. And as for that super-cliche description on the front flap: ignore. After reading the book, it's laughable... though it gives a technically truthful description of what does happen...

My Book of Life By Angel is a Stunning Verse Novel

My Book of Life by Angel - Martine Leavitt

Sweet merciful crap.

(For the record, I mean that Simpsons quote in the best way possible-- if a book leaves me saying that, it's a REALLY good book.)


I like verse novels, but my usual complaint with them is that for all of their (general) beauty and good usage of language, they don't really read like poetry. So, naturally, this one comes along and blows that out of the water. By far one of the heaviest books I've ever read (probably about as heart-shreddingly, mind-blowingly disturbing as Living Dead Girl, though not quite as graphic), it's also got a lot of smart commentary about the way that the most particularly gross members of society continually devalue and debase women, especially young women and most especially young women who got pulled into the sex trade. It's fascinating, beautifully written, infuriating, literary (the integration of Paradise Lost quotes is truly splendid), and overall powerful. And that ending, perfect.

Not for the faint of heart, but immensely rewarding, and somehow even better than Leavitt's Heck Superhero (one of my favorite books when I was a teen). This one's going on my shelf of honor.

You Should Probably Read Lumberjanes Immediately

Lumberjanes, Volume 1 - Grace Ellis,  Noelle Stevenson, Brooke Allen

Hey, kids! Do you like comics starring five hardcore lady-types who aren't remotely stereotypical characters in any way? Do you like funny things? Seeking a comic with one of the most adorable sure-to-be couples ever, but also hipster Yetis and three-eyed foxes? Want something that you'll like as much as your middle-school-aged daughter will? Just wanna stare at some pretty pictures?


Buy this immediately.


And devour it in one sitting, and then run around hyperactive like Ripley out of all-consuming love for it, and share it with every hardcore lady-type you know. (Heck, share it with all the hardcore types that you know!)


I'm not planning on long-form reviewing this one because it's part of a comic series, but it's easily my favorite read of 2015 so far and I really need to track down issues 5 through 12 now. So so so good.

Also-read recently: We Were Liars

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

My review from Goodreads didn't carry over, so... here we go.



I hated this book at first. It felt like Gatsby-lite, which was baffling, and I wasn't feeling all of Lockhart's storytelling choices. (As I am a gigantic fan of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, this shocked me.) However, after many struggles and much wondering about whether or not I should finish, it clicked with me, and I really enjoyed it and started really caring about what happened.


And that, my friends, was more shocking than any twist ending. Give it a go. It's polarizing, but it's certainly unique.

Also-read recently: Mosquitoland

Mosquitoland - David  Arnold

My review from Goodreads didn't carry over, so... here we go.


While, since reading, I've read some very well-thought-out objections to some of the content in this novel (it didn't bother me but it's not my place to say whether or not it's worth getting up in arms about; I totally see where those involved are coming from), I still love this book. Why? Mim, primarily. She says/does things that I don't approve of, and yet she's so funny and odd and interesting that I couldn't help but be sucked into her story. She's the sort of heroine I always wanted to see in YA growing up. This girl and I, we could've been friends (though I would've had to talk to her about some of her more uncomfortable behaviors).


The writing is beautiful and Mim's journey hit me right in the heart. I love this book a lot. Not everyone will, and I don't blame them. But it's one of the best books I've read in a very long time.

I'll Meet You There

I'll Meet You There - Heather Demetrios 4.5 stars.

There was some stuff I didn't care for that stems from my dislike of romantic story tropes, but it was more than balanced out by everything I liked and a lot that I loved. A touching love story, and yet so much more. Heavier than it might appear at first glance, but so much worth it.

X: A Novel

X: A Novel - Kekla Magoon, Ilyasah Shabazz One of the few YA titles from this year that I think everyone should read. A gut punch of a story, whether you know anything about the subject or not.

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus - Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet Fantastic picture book biography of the man indirectly responsible for most of the world's purple prose problems.

In all seriousness, this book is hard not to love. Bryant's prose is eloquent, Sweet's art is incredible, and the subject matter is presented beautifully. I remember really liking A River of Words back when I read it in 2009, and this one is even better. When I have kids, this is a must for their picture book library. Though that may just be because I've loved words ever since I was about eight years old, much like Roget...

Something Real

Something Real - Heather Demetrios Choosing to part ways with this one. It's not a bad book, it's just not for me. Can't wait to give I'll Meet You There a shot, though.


Divergent - Veronica Roth Ignoring the fact that this has pretty much every YA sci-fi cliche in the book. It makes really good usage of those otherwise-tired tropes, Tris is characterized well enough that she doesn't feel like a typical blank slate, the prose is strong without being overdone, it's an incredibly fast read, and it's never boring (well, okay, maybe a bit at the beginning). It's essentially a popcorn book: the literary equivalent of a good summer action flick. And this book reminded me strongly of the massive fun I had reading The City of Ember when I was fourteen, which is never a bad feeling to have. I'd like to see where things go from here.

Nana in the City

Nana in the City - Lauren Castillo Really cute and sweet. The artwork is wonderful.

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go - Laura Rose Wagner (Actual score: 3.5/5 stars.) Took me a very long time to get into it, but once I did I couldn't put it down for very long. Now about that ending... Full review to come later.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole - Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett Another winning Barnett/Klassen tale.