Year 11, Book 5

5. The Haters by Jesse Andrews

This book is by the same author as the acclaimed “Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl”. I never read that book nor saw the movie it was based on but since they both seemed pretty popular I decided to check this book out when I got access to an advanced reader’s copy. Wes and his best friend Corey attend jazz band camp where they hook up with a girl named Ash who convinces them to ditch camp and head out on the road as an actual band where they have a series of adventures and misadventures as they try to scrounge up gigs traveling around the country for a few weeks.

I pretty much have to say that I’m over the sort of magic pixie dream girl (but who turns out to have some flawed existence leading to her acting like that) fueled boy fantasy YA novels, and I even hate the term manic pixie dream girl. That’s pretty much what this book is. If you’re still interested in that kind of story then this might interest you. If not then stay away. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 4

4. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Up to this point Hannah has been a pretty good kid, until she makes an almost obsessive friendship with Lacey, the rebellious new girl at school. Little does she know about Lacey’s secrets until she is too completely pulled into her web. The people who have already reviewed this on Goodreads seem to like it way more than I did. I found it very tedious to read. Sometimes I give YA books leeway because I’m an adult reading them, but I don’t think I would have care for this one even if I was the age it was aimed at. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 3

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I read this book for a book club I didn’t wind up getting to attend because it got rescheduled thanks to a blizzard. It’s too bad because I would have liked to talk about it. The book takes place in some sort of dystopian future where certain kids (who appear to be clones) are raised to be living organ donors. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are three kids who were raised in one of the best schools for kids like them. Now as older adults they reflect back on their time at the school and try to make sense of certain things that happened there. I’m usually not that into dystopian future novels, but I thought this one set up an interesting world without really delving into much of a backstory about how any of this came about. I give it 6 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 2

2. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I was so looking forward to reading this book. It was nominated for prestigious awards. It was recommended for NPR’s Morning Edition book club by Richard Russo, who is one of my favorite authors. And yet I really did not like this book. I was so bored reading it. The book covers the 24 year marriage between Mathilde and Lotto. I guess they were supposed to have some great love, but I’m not really sure. The book did a very bad job of ever convincing me that they should be together. Mathilde never seemed like more than a cardboard cut out of a character. The writing itself didn’t do anything to make up for the snooze inducing plot. This book was a big disappointment to me. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 1

  1. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

This novel takes places in 1960s and 1970s Nigeria. In 1968, Ijeoma is an 11 year old girl who is sent away to keep her safe after her father is killed in the civil war that has broken out. In her new living situation, she meets another young girl named Amina and they fall in love. In a highly Christian nation that views homosexuality as an abomination Ijeoma must fight against what she believes is  her true nature or choose a life that is against everything that her mother and her county believes is wrong.

I wasn’t super in love with this book. I felt like it was one of those things where an author sets a book in another time, but then has characters act in a way that would not really fit the time. Ijeoma spends a lot of time sharing counter arguments to her mother’s Biblical lectures about why homosexuality is wrong that sound like very modern arguments being made now and not anything that I think people were saying 40 plus years ago. Mostly I’m just not sure why Okparanta would not have set the book in modern times. As she points out in an author’s note Nigeria even in present day is still extremely hostile to homosexuality and has some of the harshest laws in the world against it. I don’t think it would have changed the story much at all to have it set in present times and would have made some of the things that bothered me make more sense. I give it a 5 out of 10.