Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer

Boy oh boy did I hate read this whole book.  We received a box of galleys and this was sitting in there.  And it continued to sit there for a while and I got it in my head that someone on the staff needed to read it.  I thought to myself well, his kids books are really popular and I’ve heard good things so why don’t I give this one a try?  I made a huge mistake.

This book is the perfect example of why I am hating on YA right now.  Reading through, I felt like Colfer thought to himself, “I am a young gay celebrity.  I must write a book for teenagers in the LGBTQ+ community.  What characters will they relate to?  Oh yeah, stereotypes!  I know all about those because I was on Glee!”  Each time he introduced a character, I felt like he was checking off a stereotypical character from a list he had created.  It was infuriating.  This book could have been important.  It could have helped teens see themselves in characters.  Instead, it turned them into flat characters.  I found myself yelling, “WHY?  STOP!  I HATE THIS!” so many times but just couldn’t stop reading.   Part of the reason was that, each time I was about to quit, Colfer would have a great one-liner.  I would think, well, if he can do this, then maybe he can save this book.  I was wrong.

The end was supposed to be a huge, shocking twist, but I saw it coming from very early on.  I cannot explain how disappointed I was.  I guess I am mostly disappointed in myself for expecting something more.

 

2-stars

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

I read this book because we will be doing an event with Brendan later this month.  I have been feeling a little down on YA recently because I feel like a lot of the YA I have been reading is disappointingly formulaic.  So I went into reading this a little reluctantly.  But this book was a lovely surprise.

Nemesis tells the story of the sophomore class in a small town, told mostly through the perspectives of Min, a poor girl who lives in the trailer park, and Noah, the son of the richest man in town.  Flipping between the two, we follow them as they try to figure out what is happening to them, why they are haunted by murder, and why the adults in town seem to think they are crazy.  These two voices are very distinct and interesting, with Reichs never giving into the stereotypes for YA characters.

There were a couple of times when I thought “Oh man, why is this starting to fall into a YA trope trap” but the very end of the book answered that question for me.  I was honestly disappointed when I had to go to work cause it meant that I had to stop reading and I just really needed to know what was going on!  I am in desperately in need of the next book to come out.

4-stars

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

Patricia Lockwood grew up in an unusual position, as the daughter of a Catholic priest.  Priestdaddy chronicles Tricia’s life as she and her husband find themselves moving into her parents’ house as adults, as well as discussing her childhood experiences with her father.

Lockwood’s poet background is incredibly obvious, allowing her to craft beautiful sentences about weird and awkward things.  Lockwood opened my eyes to a world that I have no experience in.  She deftly explains the world of Catholicism, explaining both the things she enjoyed as well as the things that made her life hard.

I was luck enough to meet Tricia at Heartland Fall Forum in October and loved her.  Her book is so completely true to her.  I was so glad that I could spend some time back in her world.  I laughed at almost every page (and those I didn’t laugh at made me feel strong other emotions).  Lockwood’s use of language gets the most out of every word she writes, with each and every word being particularly chosen.  I usually read memoirs for the stories, not necessarily the writing, but this one was definitely an exception.  I took my time reading this one, savoring each chapter.

 

5-stars

 

#famous by Jilly Gagnon

Jilly Gagnon’s #famous tells the story of two teenagers, Kyle, who becomes suddenly famous after a picture of him goes viral, and Rachel, the girl who took the picture.  This book brought back memories of how terrible teenagers can be but also reminded me that, sometimes, they could be cool.  Nevertheless, this was another book that reminded me that I am so glad that high school is over and that I never want to go back there.

The book is based on real events, namely the Alex from Target internet phenomenon.  While the characters and specifics of the story are fabricated, I felt like Gagnon stuck too much to the real world and events at time.  Her talk show host, Laura of The Laura Show, is exactly Ellen only with a different name.  Details like this made it hard for me to relax into the story.  Instead, I kept finding myself drifting off and wondering about the actual people involved in the real events.

That said, this book is adorable and, as I have said with other books I have read this year, I enjoyed her writing.  Talking to Gagnon at her book launch about this book, she told me about other books she is working on and I am excited for those.  I believe that she will be more successful in the future when she is able to craft the world on her own and not try to adapt real events.  I think she let reality get in her way sometimes with this book.

3-stars