Hi everybody! This week’s post is coming to you from a severely sleep-deprived me, but that’s because I just had a reading week so awesome that I feel like this week alone will be responsible for about half of my favorite books of the year. I’m not kidding! Among others, I read one four-star and two five-star books this week, and I’m in the middle of what is looking to be another five star-read. Which never happens to me! I’m pretty picky with my ratings, and usually I’m lucky if I have three five-star books a year. So, obviously, since the books I read this week were so awesome, I just couldn’t go to bed before finishing them, even though I had eight o’clock classes pretty much all week… Hence, the sleep deprivation.
Anyway, some of these books were just too good not to go into detail about, so here are a few short reviews! I hope you end up finding one that sounds interesting.
Before I forget, though – if you missed it, there is an ongoing campaign this week to support Black authors and Blackout bestseller lists across the globe:
Personally, I used this as an excuse to purchase The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and Beloved by Toni Morrison 😁 (I love Butler’s Kindred and Fledgling, which I even wrote a term paper on – now that is a cool vampire book! And I’ve wanted to read Beloved for ages, but my mom swore we had a copy somewhere, so I originally thought I would wait until I found it. However, since I’ve searched the house multiple times by now and this supposedly existent copy has never turned up, it’s probably safe to say that I would never read this book if I stuck with that resolution… Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about these!)
If you’re in the need of something new to read and would like to join in, I highly recommend you do!
Now, though, let’s get into some awesome books that I’ve already read and need to talk about!
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (5/5 Stars)
This one is probably not everybody’s cup of tea – it’s a very slow, character-driven story about a group of six friends who met at this artsy/musical summer camp, and how their relationships change as they grow older. To put it frankly, there’s not really much action. I loved everything about this, though, and was immediately drawn in!
First, the characters: They’re so real that you can’t help but be sucked into their lives and that even when they make stupid decisions, you can understand where they’re coming from. There’s Jules, who attended Spirit in the Woods on a scholarship and desperately wants to fit in – and even though she tries not to, she can’t help but compare her average life unfavorably to those of her rich friends. There’s Ethan, the homely boy who loves to draw cartoons and has an unrequited crush on Jules. Siblings Ash and Goodman: one their family’s gifted poster child, the other their biggest disappointment. Jonah, who loves music and boys, but can’t really connect to either due to a traumatic childhood experience. And finally, Cathy, the friend the group lost when they picked the other side one tragic New Year’s Eve. I loved and hated them all. Okay, except maybe Goodman. I most certainly did not love him, or even like him, though I guess I did pity him a little. It must be hard when your parents think your sister can do no wrong but criticize everything that you do. But that’s no excuse for being an absolute dick.
The Interestings – which happens to be the name the friends christened themselves when they were still teens at Spirit in the Woods – spans several decades, from the 70s to present time. However, all of this is not told in strictly chronological order, which gives you as a reader the chance to slowly piece together the story of what occurred to change these people’s dynamics so profoundly. This is one of the few instances in literature where I think the non-linear timeline worked extremely well, and I really appreciated that!
The omniscient narrator also rotates focalization between Jules, Ethan, Ash (kind of) and Jonah, whose friendship forms the core of The Interestings. We get to see how the characters meet, how they grow up, have their first romantic experiences, found their own families, find jobs, and settle into lives that, maybe, don’t always live up to the name they gave themselves. Plus, these shifts in perspective really help you piece together a bigger picture, as well as compare how characters see themselves and how others see them, which I found fascinating!
Overall, I thought this explored some really important themes in a lot of depth – though some of these (like rape, depression, abuse) definitely aren’t for the light-hearted. It took me about a few pages to really get into this, but once I had made it past the first chapter and finally figured out who was who, I was absolutely hooked. I was so invested in these fictional characters’ lives, I can’t even tell you! So if you like very character-driven literary fiction with broad scope, even if there is little action, I think this might be the book for you!
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (5/5 Stars)
Suspense-wise, this is pretty much the complete opposite of The Interestings. While the latter was slow and meandering, this book constantly kept me at the edge of my seat (or should I say bed?). I actually only wanted to check out the beginning to see whether I liked it – the audiobook is available on Scribd – but was immediately so intrigued that I wanted to read it physically (i.e. faster). I got the kindle edition, and ended up staying up until one o’clock in the morning until I had finished it. I told myself I would only read one more chapter several times, but it just didn’t work…
This book, guys. It’s a YA novel following 16-year-old Mary B. Addison, who has spent the past seven years of her life in prison or juvie group homes. That’s because Mary, when she was just nine years old, viciously and cold-bloodedly murdered the infant her mother was baby-sitting. At least, that’s what everyone believes. And when you’re Black, poor, responsible for the death of a rich white child, and your own mother speaks out against you, people aren’t really ready to give you the benefit of the doubt.
However, when Mary finds out that she’s pregnant and that the government will never let a convicted infant-killer keep her child, she sees a reason to fight back for the first time in her life. She’s determined to prove her innocence, to be the mother she never had to her child. But it isn’t easy when the whole system is against you, when you have to sneak around and lie in order to get an education and be allowed to take your SATs, when you live in a home full of people who actually committed the crimes they were incarcerated for, and when all everyone has ever seen you as is a psychopath for whom death penalty age should have been lowered.
This book had me hooked from start to finish. It was suspenseful like nobody’s business, and since the odds against Mary were incredible, it made you root for her even more. And I love myself a good unreliable narrator! Throughout the whole book, you’re constantly trying to figure out if you can trust what Mary says – especially since her part of the narrative is supplemented with case files and excerpts from books about child murderers which tell you that she is basically one of the most evil and remorseless people who ever lived.
Please, please, do yourself a favor and read this one!
The Anti-Virginity Pact by Katie Wismer (4/5 Stars)
Okay, so this book, I might be a little biased about. I beta-read it in one of its earlier drafts, and it was such a cool experience getting to see this story evolve! Plus, I loved working with Katie, who is genuinely one of the kindest people I know, and whose YouTube channel, Katesbookdate, I absolutely adore. So be prepared to take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Still, I think this is a very solid debut novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in its finished form. The story follows a high school senior named Meredith, nicknamed Mare, a closeted atheist in a very religious family. Since she’s always been extremely shy and kept to herself, she has never really had “the typical high school” experience, as her best friend calls it, so when Johanna suggests that they sign a pact to lose their virginity before graduation, Meredith figures, why not just go for it. But Mare is about to learn that there’s a lot more to maturity than having sex, and she soon finds some of her choices coming back to haunt her once she does meet a boy she really likes.
There were a lot of things I really loved about this. First, the relationships. I loved Meredith and Johanna’s dynamic, their self-righteousness. They were mostly likeable, but also clearly flawed, which is something I always appreciate. Also, I absolutely adored Mare’s relationship with her love interest, Sam, and her sister, Harper, who is one of my favorite characters in the entire book. I loved how much Mare cared about animals (she volunteers at an animal shelter in her free time), and the way she struggled with anxiety and voicing what she believed in made her really relatable. Plus, Mare’s mother is French, and I adored all the French snippets in this – you guys know I am a sucker for different languages in books 😉 This is also much darker than many high school contemporaries out there, which I personally really appreciated. Don’t get me wrong – I do also love me some good fluffy cuteness, but I do like something different every once in a while!
I only really have two complaints. First, I think that the book could have explored the relationship between atheism and Christianity in a bit more depth – it pretty much only portrays things from Mare’s point of view, who thinks that religion has been oppressing her all her life and that it is responsible for a lot of pain in the world. I do think she has a point, but I think religion also has a lot to offer to many people, so it would have been nice to see a little bit more of Mare’s parents’ perspective and why their faith mattered so much to them. Second, I did feel as though the ending felt a little rushed – that might be a personal preference, though. I’m usually a huge fan of slower paced books 😁 And there were a few characters I really wanted to know more about! Though since this is primarily Mare’s story, it makes sense that her struggles were where the focus was, even though some of the things going on on the sidelines were also super interesting…
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I absolutely love it for a lot of personal reasons. This story will definitely stick with me forever!
And that’s it for these mini-reviews! Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought of them, I’d be genuinely curious to know!
Also, stay tuned for my June wrap-up, where I’ll be reviewing the rest of the books I read this month. I had a few other gems as well, and at the moment, it seems like my awesome reading streak is continuing 🙂 I’m currently in the middle of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which discusses what it is and was historically like to grow up as a person of color in the United Kingdom. The book is wonderfully written and I’m learning a ton, so I would definitely recommend this one, too! And if any of you could recommend any similar books about a German author’s experience, that would be great. I feel like I’ve read way too little about my own country’s history of discrimination (at least concerning incidents that don’t relate directly to the Holocaust or current racism against Muslim refugees), so I’d love some good recommendations to remedy that!
Anyway, that’s it for this week! Let me know what you thought of these books if you’ve read them, or tell me about some good books that you enjoyed recently. I’d love to know! 🙂