22. In Another Life by C.C. Hunter
Chloe’s life has fallen apart in the past year. Her parents had a messy divorce after her father left her mother for a younger woman. Then her mother got breast cancer. Now she’s having to start all over in a new town in her senior year of high school. On her first day of school she meets Cash who has a troubled past of his own and becomes obsessed with figuring out why Chloe looks exactly like the age progression image of the kidnapped daughter of his foster parents.
This was a super teen angsty book. The feelings all felt justified given what is happening to the characters, but it’s a lot of emotional drama. I thought the ending of the book got a little ridiculous, but for the most part it’s a well written teen drama. I give it a 6 out of 10.
21. The Weight of a Piano by Chris Candor
As a small child in Russia Katya is gifted with a Blüthner piano, which becomes the love of her life. Forced to emigrate to the United States she is separated from her beloved piano for a time before finally losing it forever. Decades later 26 year old Clara whose father bought her a Blüthner piano for her birthday as a young girl right before her parents died in a fire is trying to figure out what to do with it as she is forced to move after the ending of yet another relationship. Her decision to sell the piano sets in motion the events that reveal the secrets the piano has long held.
I liked the way the pieces of this story came together and connected. The art project that sort of spurs the story along I thought was very clever and completely something I could see hanging in a modern art gallery. I felt like the pieces with Clara’s romance felt like a weird side part of the story that didn’t quite fit with everything else, but for the most part I liked this book and thought it was a good contemplation on the things we hold onto and why.
20. Lost You by Haylen Beck
After years of trying for a baby and then having her husband leave immediately after they have one things are finally looking up for Libby. She has a wonderful three year old boy and she has just sold a book for a hefty sum of money. She decides to celebrate with her first vacation in a long time. But things go terribly wrong when her son goes missing and is taken by someone claiming to be his mother. It seems like Libby’s past is catching up with her, but who is this mysterious woman and why is she claiming that Ethan is her son?
This book wasn’t perfect, but it was a decent enough thriller that kept me engaged while reading it. A lot of the plot was kind of ridiculous, but I definitely wanted to keep reading to find out what the story was. I give it a 6 out of 10.
19. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
This book was pretty much all the things I hate about stereotypical chick lit. A man obsessed woman who does all kinds of things against her self interest and then who we’re somehow supposed to feel sorry for or be on her side. It is dressed up a little more with issues of race and childhood trauma mixed in to give some reasons behind some of Queenie’s decisions, but I was still annoyed by the character and did not care for this book. I give it a 5 out of 10.
18. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Elwood is a black teenager in 1960s Florida getting ready to go to college when one innocent mistake leads to him being tossed into The Nickel Academy, a reform school detention center. The school based on a real school that existed in Florida rather than build up the young men sent there abused them in unspeakable horrors both physical and sexual and even sending a number of boys to their deaths intentionally and unintentionally. Told from the future looking back at this time Elwood recalls what led him to his time at The Nickel Academy and his time there including his friendship with Turner, a fellow resident at the school. The Nickel Academy is a compelling and haunting story. I give it an 8 out of 10.
17. The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh by Jess Moore
Jeremy is a high school senior who expects to wind up spending his life in the same small town he grew up in and working at the same grocery store he does now, but a turn of events starts him thinking about what more he could have in his life. With help from his best friends Stuart and Kasey and a boy he meets at a party Jeremy starts to plan for a life bigger than he ever could have dreamed. This was an enjoyable young adult novel. I give it a 7 out of 10.
16. There, There by Tommy Orange
This book is a series of interconnected character stories about Native Americans who are on their way to a big Powwow in Oakland. It uses these characters to look at the history of American Indians and tell the stories of urban Native Americans that is rarely seen in the stereotypes of Indian reservations. I was compelled by the characters’ stories, but this book lost me in its sort of short story like structure. Although it’s not really a book of short stories each character is fairly siloed in his or her own chapter(s) until the very end at the Powwow where there is some overlap. Characters get no more than two chapters if they even get that, which very much resulted in what I don’t like about short stories which is that everything feels stunted. I feel like there was a much broader to story to hear about each character and I resented only getting a little piece of each one. Obviously that’s by design, but it’s not a structure I personally enjoy. I also felt that way about the ending of the book itself which just made everything feel like it was cut short. I also wish I had some sort of diagram that showed how all the characters were related to each other because I had a hard time keeping track since they would show up and then get a mention many chapters later in someone else’s story and I’d have a hard time remembering who they were. It is a well written book with interesting characters that tells a story that I haven’t heard before. I give it a 7 out of 10.
15. The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine
Until recently Kate seemed to have it all. She was a successful doctor with a loving husband and an adorable daughter, but now she’s worried that her husband is having an affair, her mother was just murdered, and now she’s receiving threats that she’s going to be next. With her life thrown into disarray and unsure who to trust Kate welcomes back her old best friend Blair who she has been estranged with for years after Blair warned her off marrying Simon on the day of her wedding. Blair who has become a famous mystery author decides to take it on herself to help solve the mystery of who is threatening her friend. The book kept me engaged enough to want to keep reading, but I also figured out pretty quickly at least part of the story behind who did it and the part I didn’t figure out I found to be ridiculous. I give it a 6 out of 10.
14. Little Faith by Nickolas Butler
Lyle and his wife Peg live in a small town in Wisconsin. For the past few years their daughter Shiloh and grandson Isaac have also been living with them, but Shiloh has become more and more involved with a cult like church. Under threat of losing their grandson Lyle and Peg start to visit the church to make their daughter happy and causing Lyle to examine the faith he lost after the death of their baby decades earlier. It’s a good meditation on family and faith. I give it a 7 out of 10.
13. On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by Deray McKesson
Deray McKesson shares how he got involved as an activist in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Michael Brown and how it inspired him to continue the mission. He talks about his life, his work, and the things that bring him hope to continue fighting and believing that the world can be changed for the better. I do very much appreciate reading a book that tries to inspire hope in a cause as I am very much inclined to feel hopeless about large, systemic problems like the ones McKesson writes about. I give it a 7 out of 10.