Tuesday, November 24, 2015

If anyone asks, just lie

I've been listening to a lot of audio YA lately and I'd like to recommend a book.  Here's the problem: I can't really say much about it without spoiling it.  It's called We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  I guess I can tell you that the main character's name is Cadence and she goes by Cady.  She comes from a very wealthy East Coast family, and spends summers on her grandfather's island off the Massachusetts coast.  Something happened a couple years earlier... but I don't want to say much about that.  The ending is kind of a surprise and it reminded me a lot of... no, I can't say that, either.  Ummm...

Well, I guess I'll just say it was a very popular YA book last year and most people either loved it or hated it.  I liked it, although the way the suspense is drawn out was kind of uncomfortable.  But I quickly became hooked and couldn't stop listening.  The Los Angeles Times said it was "a classic story of decaying aristocracy and the way that privilege can often hamstring more than help."  If all that vagueness sounds remotely interesting to you, I strongly suggest you not go looking for much information – the Times article is pretty good but too many reviews have spoilers, which you'll want to avoid if you hope to enjoy the book.  Profanity was much less than some books I've read lately.

Another interesting YA book, although I'm not so sure how much I'd recommend it, was Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King.  It's about Lucky Linderman, a smallish fifteen-year old who seems to be a favorite target of the town bully, Nader McMillan.  He tries to tell adults about the bullying, but no one really listens.  He gets in trouble when his school project tries to survey students on how they would commit suicide if they were considering it.  His parents are concerned but disconnected – his dad withdraws into work and cooking while his mom swims more and more laps at the community pool – and even school counselors give him a hard time.  Lucky's only escape is in his dreams when he visits his grandfather who never returned from the Vietnam War.

First of all, my lukewarm endorsement of the book is due to the profanity and crassness, which is pretty bad (and disappointing to hear coming from the reader, Kirby Heyborne, whom I really like).  Also, some characters and a few situations felt overly cliché, and most of the adults are buttheads, but that's typical of much YA fiction.  But, it's also a very compelling story and I couldn't stop listening.  Lucky draws the reader's sympathy without being self-pitying – King does a very good job in that regard.  It's an interesting story about the regular problems of adolescence for a mostly timid kid, but overlaid with the POW/MIA issue and just a touch of magical realism in his dreams.  And I actually kind of liked it. 

So, for what it's worth, those are my recommendations – with varying levels of enthusiasm.

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