24. Invisible Americans: The Tragic Cost of Child Poverty by Jeff Madrick
Madrick looks at child poverty in the United States and the tragic effects our unwillingness to ensure that children don’t live in poverty has on them, their future, and our country. I didn’t really learn much reading this book as it referenced a lot of material I’m already familiar with. It is a nice little primer for those who aren’t familiar with the topic though. I give it a 6 out of 10.
23. Those Who Wander: America’s Lost Street Kids by Vivian Ho
Journalist Vivian Ho uses the case of three homeless teenagers who murdered two people in the Bay Area as a jumping off point to look at the larger problem of street kids, what leads them to lives on the street and the culture that they have created. To some degree I feel like the book doesn’t entirely hang together as it seems to be both a true crime book as well as a sociological study. I give it a 6 out of 10.
22. Flavor of the Month by Georgia Beers
I was really disappointed in this book because I adored Beers’ previous book, The Fear of Falling, so much. I moved this book to the top of my reading list as soon as I got my hands on it because I adored that book and was excited to read another book by that author. I sadly did not like this book nearly as much. I felt like the main character was given a lot of crap for doing very realistic things like growing away from her high school girlfriend while they were trying to have a relationship in college and then choosing to go to New York and not return to their small town after graduation. I give it a 5 out of 10.
21. The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian
An ER doctor and her boyfriend travel to Vietnam on a bicycle tour, but when he fails to return from a solo ride he insisted on taking she begins to uncover that he might have taken them to Vietnam on false pretenses and sets out to find out what really happened to him and why he lied. This was a very interesting book to read in the time of coronavirus since it’s about the attempt to create a new version of the plague to use as a bioweapon. I’m not sure I loved the end of the book, but I really enjoyed reading it along the way. I give it a 7 out of 10.
20. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Although it doesn’t contain any of the same characters this book is set in the same world as Thomas’s previous book, The Hate You Give, shortly after the riots that took place in that book. Bri is a teenage girl who is trying to follow her dream to be a rapper while dealing with her mother losing her job and getting harassed at school by the security guards. I didn’t care for this book as much as The Hate You Give. Also having read that book this one seemed a little bit repetitive to some degree. I suspect that most people who liked The Hate You Give will like this book too though. I give it a 6 out of 10.
19. Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Frank Li is a first generation Korean-American teenager whose parents run a convenience store while wanting more for their son while still trying to keep him insulated in their Korean culture. They have already stopped speaking to his older sister who married a non-Korean against their will. Now Frank finds himself falling for a white girl and to throw his family off the scent he cooks up a scheme to pretend date a fellow Korean girl he knows from their Korean family gatherings. It’s written with a fun tone but it also addresses a lot of real and difficult issues. I had a lot of fun reading it. I give it an 8 out of 10.
18. The Rural Diaries: What Moving to Mischief Farm Taught Me About What Really Matters in Life, Love, and Dandelion Wine by Hilarie Burton Morgan
I’ve always enjoyed Hilarie Burton as an actress on shows like One Tree Hill and White Collar and occasional Christmas movies, so I decided to read this memoir about building her life with husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan and their kids in Rhinebeck, New York. I enjoyed reading it in a kind of voyeuristic way that most of read celebrity memoirs for. I’m not sure I would have found it as interesting if I was reading it as a memoir written by an unknown author. I give it a 7 out of 10.
17. A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight
Lizzie had a job she loved as a low-paid prosecutor, but due to financial issues caused by her alcoholic husband she had to take a job working for a large corporate law firm to make extra money. Now after only a few short months on the job a former law school classmate is begging for her help to prove that he didn’t murder his wife. As she gets more and more drawn into the case she starts to wonder if her client really is innocent or not.
This book kept me very engaged. It was a very good psychological thriller mystery. The story was well written enough that I didn’t figure out what actually happened for the most part, but I also didn’t feel like it was just completely out of left field when what happened was actually revealed. I give it an 8 out of 10.
16. Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City by Wes Moore with Erica L. Green
I’ve been avoiding writing this review for weeks now because part of me just doesn’t know what to say and this book covers events that as a Baltimorean still feel very real and raw even coming up on five years later. These events set off something that we as a city are still reeling from and which only seems to be getting worse instead of better.
The book itself is an excellent look at the five days of protests following the death of Freddy Grey in police custody that culminated in the uprising that became national news. Moore follows 8 people from various parts of the city as they lived through those five days in order to examine the systems and the structures in place that lead to these events. He follows a black police commander, the lawyer for the Grey family who makes his living getting settlements on police brutality cases, a city councilman, a juvenile public defender, the sister of a man who died a few years early in police brutality case who had been staging her own protests long before Freddy Grey, son of the owner of Orioles, a young protestor whose future once seemed bright but who encountered countless obstacles that derailed his life, and the manager of Baltimore’s famous roller rink Shake ‘N Bake.
He also talks about how our country needs to reckon with the systems that lead to the deep poverty that many people in Baltimore experience, and how it results in people like Freddy Grey being expected to “pick himself up by his bootstraps” even though every card was stacked against him from the second he was born. It’s a book I hope many people read to help understand not only what is plaguing Baltimore but also many other places in our country. I give it a 9 out of 10.