Oh my god, it’s another 5 book post! That seems like…a lot, but two are middle-grade, two I started over break, and the 5th was just really really good, so you definitely should not expect this level of dedication from me going forward. HOWEVER, three of these are fantasy, and looking at my library holds list, you can definitely expect a lot more of that coming up!
I know this’ll go long because of all the books, but I do want to offer up a quick TV recommendation. I spent a lot of the last week watching and thinking about the truly wild Lifetime-then-sold-to-Netflix show ‘YOU,’ starring Penn Badgley, among many others. It’s…a lot. As writer Kara Brown said on Twitter:
and she couldn’t be more right. The show is twisty and baffling and hilarious and ridiculous and I think it might actually be a little bit brilliant so please watch it and then freak out with me about it.
The Thanatos Syndrome – Walker Percy
Just gonna get this out of the way up top, cause…phewwwwww. I’m pretty sure this is the last book I’m reading for this Percy project, which is mostly a relief, but also means now I don’t have any more excuses not to work on the writing of it. As with Love in the Ruins a couple months ago, I don’t care to spend much time here on it; there are some ways in which Thanatos shows some growth on Percy’s part that I appreciated…ish. Like, dude still definitely has a boner for Ye Olde South, but at least now he’s…kind of self-conscious about it? It felt like he was trying to make about 20 points at once, and sometimes got far afield of one point in service of another, and the last quarter of the book takes a sharp left turn into a pretty lurid use of sexual abuse of children as a plot point, which I sure didn’t appreciate.
Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America – ed. Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding
This has been on my list for quite awhile; I listened to the editors’ short-lived but excellent podcast “Feminasty,” which almost serves as a companion to the book, which is made up of a collection of essays by a diverse group of women reflecting and/or reporting on the necessity of a critical and intersectional resistance to 45’s administration. It also came out in October 2017, and I wish I had read it closer to when it came out. 2018 being the year when every week felt like a month, especially politically, it was a bit difficult to read some of the essays without thinking “oh god they don’t even know about [awful thing] yet!!”
On the other hand, it was helpful to be reminded of some of the awful things that have been overshadowed as the situation grows more and more dire. For example, did you remember that immediately upon gaining office, 45 signed a global gag order stripping federal relief funds from international organizations that even provide information about abortion? Because I sure didn’t! Jill Filipovic’s essay reminded me of the very real and devastating potential consequences worldwide of this policy [note: international organizations are already not allowed to use U.S. federal funds for any abortion-related care; this policy removes funding from organizations that so much as educate folks about safe and unsafe abortions, even if it’s funded using other sources], and this TIME article goes into further detail about what some of those consequences have looked like.
I appreciated that the book included a wide range of diverse perspectives and it was really clear that the editors were committed to intentional inclusion. All of the contributors are exceptional writers, and my feelings effectively ran the gamut from sobered to inspired. I did have a bit of a quibble with a couple of essays that linked particular reproductive issues as a universal of womanhood in a way that felt trans-exclusionary. Of course, this is a widespread issue in feminist discourse and not unique to the book, and one of the book’s contributors is a trans woman who wrote specifically about this, but just as white people shouldn’t leave the burden of fighting racism on the shoulders of people of color, cis people shouldn’t leave the burden of fighting for trans inclusion on the shoulders of trans and nonbinary people.
Shadowshaper – Daniel José Older
Alright, now for the fun fantasy stuff!
Older’s young-adult/middle-grade fantasy series, started off with this book, is only a few years old and already on its way to becoming a classic in the genre. Sierra Santiago, the protagonist, believes she’s an average teenage girl. She spends her time with her close group of friends, painting murals, and trying to decipher her grandfather’s cryptic apologies. And then she starts seeing movement in Brooklyn’s fading murals and being chased down by creepy corpse-looking figures. She’s introduced to Shadowshaping, a legacy of spiritual warriors who use art as protection, expression, and weapon. Expertly paralleling encroaching gentrification, a dark supernatural force is threatening Sierra’s community, and it’s up to her to figure out how to stop it.
The book is aimed a little younger than I anticipated, and where my personal taste is, but I still really enjoyed the book and am excited to read the second. Sierra and her friends have an endearingly clever sense of humor, the writing is engaging and nuanced, and there’s some absolutely beautiful descriptions, so even if some of the plotting seemed a bit convenient at times, I was more than willing to roll with it.
When You Reach Me – Rebecca Stead
Even more middle-grade than the last, though again I still liked it for what it was. There’s a cozy, dreamy quality to this short book about a sixth grade girl whose simultaneously trying to figure out why her former best friend won’t talk to her anymore and who’s been leaving her mysterious notes claiming to be a time traveler. I think I found this book through a “if you love A Wrinkle in Time…” recommendation, which was maybe a bit misleading. I really love AWIT, as does the protagonist in this book, and it’s clear where the author drew inspiration. However, the time quintet is much more grounded in science fiction, while this book has more of a magical realism tinge, which is fine and works well in Stead’s writing, which also shows a believably mature portrait of a pre-teen navigating the transition between childhood friendships and teenage friendships. I wasn’t as into it as I wanted to be, but it was very sweet and another quick read, so I mostly enjoyed it.
Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
Ahhhhh! Okay! So this book, another first in a series, is very very good. It’s been awhile since I read a good thick YA book (Shadowshaper is pretty slim) with very involved worldbuilding and I’m so glad I listened to all the rave reviews I heard about it. Drawing from Yoruba mythology, Adeyemi’s series about a kingdom divided between those who were once able to use magic and those who feared the maji and the possibility of magic’s return is captivating. Her writing and characterization is excellent, and she deftly weaves in themes like colorism, police brutality, and fear of the “other,” just to name a few.
Seriously! Read it! The buzz is only going to grow with the next book in the series coming out this spring and a film adaptation in development. It’s YA in the best possible way, the kind that’ll leave you breathlessly turning pages way later than your bedtime because you just have to know what’s coming next.
Whew! Okay! That was really long! See you next week! [and hopefully you’ll be seeing YOU this week!!]