Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I picked this up simply to cross off another title from this year’s Caudill award nominated books, and I wouldn’t have made it past the first couple chapters if I hadn’t assumed people liked it for a reason.  The protagonist is a little wooden (although that’s definitely part of her genius personality), and I didn’t like the way paragraphs tended to be one sentence long.

BUT THEN.  But then, Counting By 7s became something really beautiful.  Middle grade books have the opportunity to delve into the darkest parts of life (grief, racism, poverty) and address them with simple optimism.  This story was all of that, and it was so refreshing.  It’s not that these issues are resolved easily, but every page is infused with hope.  Whereas an adult novel might veer into something maudlin, Counting By 7s is fierce in its assertion that all things can be endured and overcome.  I loved it.  Continue reading

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

THIS BOOK.  Holy cow, it’s been a while since I’ve torn through a book in one day, but I’ll Give You the Sun was impossible to put down.  Art, mystery, family, love, grief–this book is absolutely beautiful, both in the way that it is written and in what it covers.  I’m still stunned.  This book shook me up, made me lighter, and weighed me down.  It even made me start thinking in contradictory metaphors.

I was skeptical of Nelson’s setup–she alternates chapters between twins.  This is a common writing device, but Nelson adds a twist.  The chapters told by Noah are from his 13-year-old perspective, while the chapters told by Jude jump ahead three years to when they are 16.  I didn’t know how Nelson could keep the plot moving if we found out in Jude’s chapters everything that was going to happen to younger Noah.  But I was wrong!  This worked out so well!  The hints and foreshadowing only made me more curious.  On top of that, Noah and Jude keep an incredibly amount of secrets from each other, and this makes their individual chapters all the more interesting. Continue reading

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

WOW.  What a necessary book.  I feel like there is decent representation of depressed and suicidal teens in YA books, but there are not very many novels that deal with the affects of suicide on others.  Cody’s grief over losing her best friend Meg is palpable–the anger at her friend for killing herself, the blame she places on herself for not seeing it coming, and the slow hope of moving forward by finding her own strength.  I thought I Was Here did a wonderful job of honoring the mental illness and pain of those who commit suicide without ever glorifying or justifying the action.

There’s really not much to say about this book other than Read It.  It handles a difficult topic with delicacy, is full of memorable characters (and kittens!), and creates a vivid picture of a part of the country I’ve never experienced (rural Washington).  Most of all, it is a hopeful story.  It is about a girl who loses what she loves the most…and continues to live.  It is about the brave task of living one day at a time.  I adored it.  Continue reading