Year 13, Book 28

28. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom Hazard has a secret. He may look like a man in his 40s, but due to a rare condition that causes him to age much slower than normal he is actually centuries old. In order to make sure he’s not found out he has been living a life on the run moving every 8 years, but now he’s tired and just wants to live a normal life. He’s taken a job as a high school history teacher and is starting to feel something for a woman for the first time since his wife died 400 years ago. The only problem is the Albatross Society, an organization whose goal is to protect people with this condition and their rules to never fall in love and to always keep moving.

This book worked much better in premise than it did in execution in my opinion. The story just never felt compelling to me and I didn’t much care what happened to Tom. The Albatross Society never came together as a proper villain. I also didn’t understand why the people who were part of this society and shared this condition didn’t actually ever come together with each other. The society just seemed to really be one person trying to pull strings over the lives of all these other people who had never even met each other. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 27

27. Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie was born to an addicted mother who brought a steady stream of men through her life. The one thing she lived for was keeping her younger sister Mattie safe until Mattie turns up murdered. The murder has gone unsolved and now Sadie herself has gone missing. Sadie’s story comes to the attention of West McCray a podcast host who takes on the mystery to see if he can figure out what happened to these sisters. The story is told alternating between chapters that are written as if they were transcripts of the podcast episodes and what is actually happening in Sadie’s life to fill in the gaps and finally bring everything together.

With the current craze towards podcasts like Serial it was an interesting exercise to use that format in a book. Even though this is fictional I can see people who are drawn to those types of narratives enjoying this book. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 26

26. Coming of Age in the Other America by Stefanie DeLuca, Susan Clampet-Lambert, and Kathryn Edin

Based on research of a longitudinal study following youth in Baltimore for over a decade this book looks at the things that help raise children out of poverty and into a better life but also the things that pull them back down. It looks at policies that can help elevate families out of poverty and help children rise beyond the circumstances they were born into.

As a Baltimorean I found this book really compelling, but I think it would be interesting for anyone to read. It really made me think about some things in ways I never had before like why teenagers from impoverished backgrounds tend to make decisions that lead to more short term benefits even if they are less good decisions for the long term. One thing that really stood out to me was the fact that a lot of these teenagers wind up in technical schools or community colleges in very specific career oriented programs which they often don’t complete for various reasons and sometimes starting other programs instead sending them into a spiral of debt. Unlike students at traditional universities who can try out different courses and majors and apply those credits to their final degree many times without additional cost or time, students in this career oriented programs walk away with debt and no benefit every time they realize their choice in courses is not for them. I had never thought about it in those terms before and it really opened my eyes to one more way that being poor can be more costly than having money to start with.

I give this a 9 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 25

25. The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin

This book follows two interconnected families in Cleveland across generations. There’s drug deals and mental illness and the search for a hidden treasure. I didn’t much care for this book. I had a hard time figuring out how everything was connected for much of the book and couldn’t figure out what part of the timeline I was in as a result which made things confusing. I didn’t care about the characters or what happened to them. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 24

24. Nothing Like Paris by Amy Jo Cousins

I read the first book in this series of interconnected romance novels and enjoyed it well enough so when I was looking for something light to read I picked up the next one. Jack is facing expulsion from his university after taking out his anger on one of the characters from the previous books. Now he’s stuck back in his small hometown in Iowa facing the life he ran away from with his alcoholic mother and the ex-boyfriend he left behind. This was another decent read. I might read my way through the series when I need some lighter fare than my normal reads. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 23

23. Welcome to the Goddman Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Hope in the Great White North by Blair Braverman

Braverman writes a memoir about her experiences in Norway and Alaska beginning with her experience studying abroad in Norway during high school and her continued pursuit to outrun her feelings about the past in even more remote environs first as a dog sled musher on a glacier in Alaska and then in the remotest parts of northern Norway. As someone who hates the cold and enjoys civilization her desires are the complete opposite of mine, but despite that this book was less what I wanted it to be than it what it really was. It was mostly about her terrible experiences with men and how horrible men are to women no matter where you go and less about the actual experiences of doing the things like dog sledding. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 22

22. All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

Nina has a picture perfect life. Her husband has made a lot of money in the tech business and their son has just been admitted to Princeton. But she discovers that her life may not be all that it seems after her son is accused of taking a suggestive photo of a drunken classmate and sending to the whole school. Lyla just wants to forget the whole thing happened, but after her overprotective father finds out he won’t let it go and neither will Nina who wants her son to take responsibility for his actions while her husband just wants to make the whole thing disappear.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way the characters were written and they way the book looked at privilege. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 21

21. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

This one of the those books that ties two stories together from the past and the present. Willa’s life has not turned out like she planned. After the university where her husband had tenure closes they wind up living in a falling down house with her ailing and often unpleasant Greek father-in-law, her teenager daughter, and now raising her grandson after the baby’s mother dies and her son basically abandons his child to his grandparents. In an attempt to raise funds to fix their historic house Willa attempts to tie it to some famous residents of the town, a female scientist who was connected to Darwin and a local science teacher causing controversy in the town by teaching Darwin’s controversial new theory of evolution.

I enjoyed the present day story and did not give one whit about the story from the past. I don’t have much to say about that piece of the story because I found it boring and not something that had much payoff to the present day story. I really liked the relationships between the characters in the present day story. I liked how Willa and her husband still had a great relationship even in their late middle age. It was not without its problems, but there still seemed to be genuine love and affection between them. I also really liked how Willa’s father-in-law and daughter got along. I wish the story had just been about their family and hadn’t kept throwing me back into the tedium of the story from the past. I give it 5 out of 10.