I feel like July was a slow reading month for me because of all of the house bullshit we’ve been doing but I just counted 16 books so I guess it still pretty literary, lol. Anyway — let’s talk about the first half SHALL WE.
I did not enjoy this book at all. I actually started it at the tailend of June but it wasn’t holding my attention enough for me to feel very inspired to power through it. It’s about a Jamaican woman who essentially abandons her small daughter (I think she’s 4? 6?) in order to go and start a new life in America. She leaves the daughter with her bio-dad and swears she’s going to send for her, but the real reason she’s gone off to America is to rekindle an old romance with her childhood best friend, who has moved on and gotten married and now Patsy has to start from scratch and newsflash, America AIN’T THAT GREAT.
The book goes back and forth between Patsy’s struggle in America and her daughter’s own struggles growing up in Jamaica with some major sexual identity crises. I wish we had gotten more from the daughter’s perspective because Patsy pissed me off and I truly didn’t care about her selfish ass.
2. Saints and Misfits – S.K. Ali
I was excited to read this after buddy-reading the author’s latest book, Love from A to Z, with Henry last spring. This wasn’t *as good* but I still enjoyed it. It’s billed as a “modern day My So-Called Life, but with a Muslim teen” and I think that’s pretty accurate. The main character is all up in her head for the entire book and it can get tiresome at times, and there’s also a guy who sexually assaulted her but she won’t tell anyone and that was SO FUCKING FRUSTRATING to me because he was such a fucking creep and just kept appearing and I was like SCREAM IT LOUD, GIRLFRIEND.
I think I gave it a 4 but it’s definitely more of a 3 now that I think about it.
3. Rules For Vanishing – Kate Alice Marshall
Man, this book was SO TRY-HARD. I’m not even sure I would have liked it when I was a teenager. I picked it up because I had been reading some heavier subjects and thought this would be a nice light supernatural mystery because it’s supposed to be urban legend-y with a disappearing teenager, but it was so poorly written with way too many characters, none of which I gave a shit about, and there were entire chunks of chapters that I ended up skimming toward the end because I wanted to know how it was going to end which was the only reason I didn’t DNF it, but it was pretty bad, and it had an open-ending so I’m sure we’ll get a sequel at some point and I promise you I won’t be reading it.
I wish I had listened to my Booktuber friends who said it was dumb but I always get swayed by a gimmick!
4. Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender
This is another book that everyone has been hyping lately and while the main character was kind of unlikable (for me, anyway) I’m glad that I read it because I admittedly have not read many (if any) books with a trans main character and I actually learned A LOT about this, for instance: I never knew that calling a trans person by their old name is called Deadnaming and it’s incredibly offensive and triggering for them (that part I could have guessed, but I never knew it had a term).
Felix is already very much out but this book is more about the struggle they face with trying to bury the person they were before. For example, Felix goes through great lengths to hide all of their old photos, and confronts their dad at one point for consistently refusing to call them Felix.
So many things made me cringe and flinch though. I mean, there’s a HEAVY Catfishing plotline and Felix just makes so many shitty choices. I just really didn’t like them very much at all but I enjoyed the book? Just not as much as I hoped? I’m getting worse at book reviews, if that’s even possible.
5. Diary of a Murderer: And Other Stories – Kim Young-Ha
This is, as the title suggests, a short story collection. The title story was SO GOOD, definitely the best one. Though I wonder: would I have enjoyed this book as much if I wasn’t super-absorbed in Korean culture? I’m not sure. But the vibe I got from this was reminiscent of one of my favorite Korean dramas, “Come & Hug Me,” which is about a serial killer and made me feel so tense and uncomfortable, much like this book did. Well, the first story, anyway. I already forgot the other ones.
I’m just not a lover of short stories, I think. I’m learning things about myself this year.
6. The Ghost Notebooks – Ben Dolnick
SHIT I LOVED THIS BOOK. It got very mediocre reviews though and I guess I can of understand because it’s not a ghost story in the traditional sense, but it’s very much an exploration of a deteriorating relationship. The atmosphere in this was thick, I felt like I was really in some New York farm town, but the best part was Ben Dolnick’s writing. This book is written from the POV of the boyfriend and I just felt so sympathetic toward him and, when shit really starts to unravel, I was rooting for him so fucking hard to prevail. When I’m that invested in a character, I don’t care about anything else. Honestly.
Anyway, Nick’s gf Hannah gets a job at some small-town museum called the Wright House, but the catch is that they have to live in the old-timey house-cum-museum. Everything starts out fine, they’re excited to start a new life away from NYC, but then Hannah, who has a history of mental illness, starts acting weird. Do not go into this expecting a traditional haunted house story – this is a slow burn, and it’s very focused on the relationship between Nick and Hannah, so we get a lot of flash backs into the beginning of their relationship, as well.
I just thought it was so well-written and beautifully layered. There’s another “ghost-y” book that I read later on in the month that was a bit similar except that I didn’t care about the couple at all. But this one was a full-on chef’s kiss for me – now granted, my palate is probably very different than yours, so if you read this and hate this, don’t come knocking on my (goodreads) door.
7. Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrand
Another YA book that is well-lauded throughout the Booktube community but just fell flat for me. I liked that it had very strong female leads and featured a sapphic romance, but the story just felt convoluted and am I dense or something because this book is literally for young adults and I had a real hard time following the plot.
I don’t feel like writing anything else about this one. I’m bored just thinking about it. tbh.
8. Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevado
OK, can we give it up for Elizabeth Acevado? SHIT SON she is definitely one of my favorite writers, having read two of her books now. This one, like Poet X, is also written in verse, but here we have alternating perspectives: two girls who will come to find out after their dad perishes in a plane crash, that they’re sisters. It’s actually based on the flight from NYC to the Dominican that crashed in November of 2001, two months after 9/11. I truthfully do not remember this which makes me feel like an asshole but I was 22 and quite honestly was definitely not watching the nightly news and this was pre-smartphones so I was getting tragic news alerts every hour like I do now, fml.
Anyway, this book goes back and forth between the two teenage sisters, exploring how their dad’s death affects each of them and how very different their lives are, one growing up in NYC and one in the Dominican.
(I’m actually tearing up as I write this because this story really hit differently for me, because I went 19 years of my life not knowing that my birth dad had other children. He died when I was 3, so meeting them was something I had to do on my own, without him, and…it was strange. I do not have a relationship with either of them.)
If you’ve never read an Elizebeth Acevado book, I HIGHLY recommend listening to the audio because she does her own narration, and especially for Poet X, it just feels like a PERFORMANCE. I never thought I would like a book written in prose, but Poet X turned me into a believer, and this book sealed the deal. I just got her other book from a local Little Library on my lunch break walk with Chooch on Friday, so I am stoked to compete the Acevado trifecta and then patiently await her next book like a good little reader.