Every book I read this month was phenomenal. Phenomenal! Here was my June:
I’d heard numerous people rave about E. Lockhart’s THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS, and I finally picked it up this month. Why did I wait so long?! This novel is hilarious, moving, strange, and brilliant, all wrapped into one. Frankie is a fantastic main character. She’s spunky, determined, and a bit of a feminist. When she discovers her boyfriend is in an all-male secret society that revels in pranks and partying–an Order that’s been a part of her boarding school’s history since the 1950’s–she’s unwilling to be left out. What ensues is a series of laugh-out-loud shenanigans (as Frankie becomes the mastermind behind pranks of her own), all of which unfold amidst thought-provoking themes (friendship, identity, feminism, privilege, and then some). The third person narrative is pitch-perfect, the dialog is fantastic, and the secondary (and even tertiary) characters are incredibly realized.
This is a truly remarkable book. I really can’t do it justice. If you haven’t read it yet, you must pick it up. And then check out this incredible analysis of the novel, complete with video discussions.*
I’m cruising through Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy. This month I devoured THE ASK AND THE ANSWER, which picks up right were THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO leaves off. I’ll keep this vague so as not to spoil things for anyone that hasn’t read KNIFE. Todd and Violet are put to the test as they find themselves separated and then swept up in two different sides of a sparking civil war. The gritty and horrid side effects of such fighting are abundant: politics, lies, sacrifices, genocide, terrorism…it’s all in this book and it is all terrifying. Ness has an incredible gift in that I feel SO MUCH while reading, even given the sparse writing style. He can introduce a character and in a matter of one paragraph they seem completely realized. Two characters can share a look and I know exactly what they are feeling. A plot point can be hinted at, and instantly, my gut is churning. This is a powerful, haunting book.
The story is told in alternating POVs, jumping between Todd and Violet, which truly helps a reader sympathize with both sides of this battle. (Well, maybe not sympathize, but at least understanding the motives of each.) Violet’s voice did seem a little blunt and simple to me, almost too similar to Todd’s given how educated she is, but it didn’t stop be from tearing through the pages. Once again, Ness ends things with a cliffhanger (*shakes fists*), but I’m still rooting for Todd and Violet. (And the Spackle. The poor, poor Spackle.) If you’re not yet reading this series, you should be. I’ve got the final installment at the top of my TBR list.
I fell head over heels for Cynthia Hand’s UNEARTHLY last month and flew through the sequel, HALLOWED, in a matter of days. This novel has far less plot that the previous installment, but Hand is such a gifted writer that I didn’t care in the slightest. Clara is a fantastic protagonist, and her emotions and motives are so authentic its almost as though I were experiencing them myself. This truly is the most realistic and gut-wrenching love triangle I have ever read. On one side: destiny, or fate, what Clara believes is a path she’s been pre-determined to walk. On the other: a first love; a real, true, natural relationship that Clara fell into on her own and can’t ignore. I know who I’m rooting for (Tucker!) and if Clara does not get to follow her heart in BOUNDLESS, I might break.
But love triangle aside, this novel continues to flesh out Clara’s world. We learn more about the Angel Bloods and their concentration in Jackson Hole, and we watch pressures bear down on both Clara and her brother, Jeffrey. We learn more about her purpose from book one and how her actions have created consequences in the present. We love and lose and feel with Clara. Oh my, do we feel! There were some fabulous twists and turns, several of which I saw coming, but I still loved this novel dearly. I’m so very anxious for BOUNDLESS to hit shelves in January.
Amazing as those three books were, Markus Zusak’s THE BOOK THIEF was the best book I read in June, if not one of the best books I have read, period. This is one of those books that changes you. I went in one person, and came out another. There will now be books I read before THE BOOK THIEF and books I read after. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do this one justice, but I’ll try.
First, the narrator. Death tells this tale. He sees the world in colors. He doesn’t foreshadow subtly. He is surprisingly compassionate. He is brilliant. He tells the tale of the Book Thief, a young orphan named Liesel Meminger who grows up in Nazi Germany under the care of foster parents. This is a powerful novel, regardless, but I really think it is the lens through which we see this tale unfold that takes it from moving to masterful.
The characters. Every single character in this book is a layered, complex, real person. Even the small ones. Liesel is a determined ball of spitfire. Her Pa is endearing. Her Ma, harsh and hard, yet full of heart. Max, a Jew they harbor in their basement brought tears to my eyes. And Rudy, Liesel’s next door neighbor, nearly broke me. He’s as feisty as Liesel, a loyal friend, and as daring and sweet as they come.
The pace. It’s slow. It’s steady. I didn’t tear through it, but I also couldn’t put it down. This is one of those novels that you savor, that you want to truly immerse yourself in, and by the final pages you want to slow down even more because you don’t want it to end. (Even though you do already know 90% of what is going to happen because Death is a pesky narrator and already gave half of it away. Remember what I said about foreshadowing?)
The prose. It’s gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.
I don’t really know what else to say. This novel had me laughing, and smiling, and squeezing the book to my chest. It also had me bawling my poor eyes out. (I advice having tissues on hand when you read this novel. Lots of tissues.) But it was worth every single tear shed because this story is flawless, especially the ending, and even more so, the final line.
You know what, Death? I am haunted by this book. Thank you, Markus Zusak, for writing it. It has truly changed me, and I’m better having read it.
So in terms of new reads, that’s it for me. I did reread Veronica Rossi’s UNDER THE NEVER SKY and since my original review is still completely true, I won’t go into much detail. I’ll simply say that I fell in love with this book all over again, especially Perry. I can’t wait for the THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT. When it comes to series currently in progress, this is hands down my favorite.
But what about you? Let me know your favorite read of June in the comments!
* Courtesy of the lovely Caroline Richmond.