What I’m reading: July edition

I was a painfully slow reader this month. (Example: there are two books on my nightstand right now that are still stuck around the 50% mark! I keep reading one chapter and setting them back down. Eek!) I got through just four novels this month, but they were a blast. Here’s what I read in July:

Fair warning: If you haven’t read SHATTER ME, there are light spoilers ahead.

I was so very lucky to get my hands on UNRAVEL ME, the sequel to Tahereh Mafi’s SHATTER ME, this month! Like its predecessor, this novel boasts gorgeous prose, unique formatting (strike-throughs, forced line breaks, etc), and a stream-of-conscious-like writing style. The story starts not long after where SHATTER ME left off, following Juliette as she adjusts to life at Omega Point and struggles to balance an ever-complicating relationship with Adam. I’ll keep this vague so as not to spoil things, especially since this doesn’t come out for nearly 6 months still, but UNRAVEL ME gives readers a nice look at the resisting forces in Mafi’s crumbling world.

Kenji continues to be my favorite character. He’s hilariously sarcastic, calls it like it is, and gives Juliette some tough love at the exact moment I was about to lose my patience with her. (I want to hug him and give him a trophy.) Readers will also learn more about Juliette’s powers and how/why certain characters are not susceptible to her lethal touch. (Get ready for a few twists!) A love triangle also makes it’s way into the sequel, but I refuse to even name a Team. In my mind, there are no teams, only a painfully obvious road to walk and if Juliette doesn’t see what I do in the end, I might end up shedding a few tears. For readers who dug the lose, poetry-like quality of SHATTER ME, and are anxious to learn more about the X-MEN-esque citizens holed up at Omega Point, this isn’t likely to disappoint.

 

I originally read THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky when I was a teen and remember being deeply moved. But beyond that, the book was a blur when I picked it up earlier in July. (I have a terrible habit of forgetting almost all details of a novel roughly 2-3 months after reading it.) Since it has been far more than 2-3 months since I was in high school and since this modern classic is headed to the big screen very soon, I wanted to give it another go. Once again, it struck a chord.

I don’t think this is a perfect novel. Charlie sounds about 7 years old throughout most of it–a harsh disconnect from the brilliant, advanced student he truly is–and the opening pages are a bit overwhelming–they seem to throw every possible “issue” at you upfront, almost for shock value, when they could be woven in naturally as the story progresses–but I don’t care. Not in the slightest. Why? Because something magical happens as Charlie tells his story by way of letters to an unnamed friend: Intense Feelings. There are moment in this book that are so heart-breakingly real you can’t help but feel them between your ribs. I was transported back to high school reading this, couldn’t help but re-experience the highs, the lows, the pain, uncertainty, hope, defeat, and angst of being a teen. The scene where Charlie sticks up for Patrick in the cafeteria made me as proud as it likely did the first time I read it, even if it did simultaneously hurt like no other. And the evening they drive through the tunnel in Sam’s truck with the perfect song on the radio, feeling momentarily infinite = a hundred, thousand, million snapshots of my own childhood. This is truly a remarkable book. Can’t wait to see how Chbosky brings it to life on the big screen.

 

The last of Sarah J. Maas’ THRONE OF GLASS novellas came out this month and I devoured THE ASSASSIN AND THE EMPIRE in a single sitting. Having read ToG ages ago, I knew exactly where Celaena (and Sam) would be at the end of this story, but it was still my favorite of the novellas. Yes, it was terribly frustrating. Yes, I wanted to scream at the two of them (mostly Celaena) the entire time. Yes, it was painful and tragic and depressing as hell, but it still ends with a glimmer of hope, and I am so glad I read it.

My favorite part of these novellas has been watching Celaena’s character arc. Some might claim she hasn’t changed. And in many ways this is true: she’s still stubborn, arrogant, passionate to a fault. But in others, she couldn’t be more different.

These novellas first introduced us to a girl who refused to let anyone into her life. Who didn’t know how to love, felt strongest on her own, and didn’t have things like “I’m sorry,” or “I was wrong” in her vocabulary. They end with a different girl: one who understands that she can be a better version of herself when she opens up to others. One who can admit she is scared, uncertain, and nowhere near as bold and unfeeling as her outer shell lets on. Above all, these novellas end with a girl who has truly transformed: it takes hitting rock bottom to get her there, but she comes to regret many of her decisions. She admits fault to herself. She realizes her stubbornness is both a strength and a weakness and vows to not let Endovier break her. She will not be afraid.

The lines about fear are my favorite of the novellas. When I first read THRONE OF GLASS I had no idea the mantra came from Sam, and hearing him say it for the first time in EMPIRE had me tearing up. I wish I could hug Celaena. I want to tell her we’re all afraid, but I suspect she finally knows this. I only wish she could have learned the lesson in a less tragic manner.

 

Fair warning: Minor spoilers for all books in the Chaos Walking trilogy ahead.

This. Book.

Patrick Ness’ MONSTERS OF MEN was my favorite read of July, which is funny because I have some serious gripes with it. For example: the final showdown with the “bad guy” felt anti-climatic to me, which was a bit disappointing after nearly 600 pages of build-up. The three POVs that I at first found brilliant began to blend together on account of how often the narration jumped around. Todd and Viola continued to be so blinded by their love for each other that they made foolish, risky, dumb decisions again and again. And then there’s the Noise. In general, it is an amazing, thrilling concept, but I’m still not sure I fully buy into it. In book one it was relatively basic to understand: men have Noise, women don’t. But we learn more as the series continues and by this final installment, I had more questions than answers. Why, exactly, does the Mayor’s chant help him control his Noise? How, exactly, is Noise used as a weapon? Why does Viola’s name give Todd the power to throw it at people? Are we to assume that if the humans truly opened themselves to each other they would end up like the Spackle, with a universal Noise? And speaking of unanswered questions, what on earth happened to the original women of Prentisstown? (We know they had all died at the start of book one and we hear two possible explanations for this throughout the series, but it’s never truly answered.)

BUT.

But, but, but…

I still forgive this novel (and series) for its flaws. It’s one of those rare examples of a story where the flaws barely mattered because of what I felt…in my chest, my gut, my entire being. Ness has such a talent for capturing human nature, and I think this is why I love this story so much. Because my small questions apply to the specifics of the world but not the people IN it. And this trilogy is about people. It is about settlers and natives. It is about love and hate and war. It parallels tragedies in our own world so clearly while still standing on its own. It shows how relying on each other makes people both strong and weak, sensitive and dangerous, sympathetic and blind. I can’t really put into words how much this novel made me feel. And the ending. Oh, god, the ending. Talk about perfect stream of consciousness!

If you haven’t read this series, know it’s an investment–the books are big!–but I think it’s well worth it. Cliffhangers, flaws, and all. <3

That’s it for me! What was your favorite July read?

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