Summer Reads Pt. 2: Sisters and The Book of Bad Things

by Tessa

It’s part 2 of my “books I’ve read this summer about summer” posts! Today I’m covering 2 dece reads for middle schoolers (and other people who read and like books). Unfortunately, both of them won’t be published until the end of August. Which is a great time to read books about summer in order to hold on to that summer feeling.

[Disclaimer: I’m reviewing Advance Review Copies of these books, so between now and when they’re actually published, things could have changed in the book.]

Sisters

Raina Telgemeier

Graphix, 2014

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Raina Telgemeier is a godsend for realistic comics lovers who want to read stories about the middle school years. This is her follow up to her first book, Smile, which was about her totally falling on her face/mouth and having to deal with the messy dental aftermath of it for a long time, during her most awkward years.

This one’s about her sister. Actually, spoiler alert, it’s still about Raina and her feelings about her sister Amara. The framing is a road trip that she, her mom, her sister, and her little brother take, going from California to Colorado to visit family, and is punctuated by flashbacks that explain more about how the sisters grew to have their tense relationship, and why Raina won’t sit in the front seat of the van.

The flashbacks have a neat yellow filter on the pages, making it clear that the story is in the past. I wish all of the ARC I saw was in color, but that would be crazy expensive and I understand why it switched to black and white, but I’m glad I got a preview of what the coloring will be like (done by Braden Lamb, who does stuff for the Adventure Time comics!). The past sequences, with the filter, look like yellowed color photos, while the present sequences, and the present sequences capture the color of the late 80s, which is when I think this was set (maybe early 90s?), as does the fashion, of course.

Telgemeier’s writing and drawing makes me feel comfortable, like I’m reading a surprisingly interesting (and long) cartoon in a newspaper. Her family stories have the rhythm of a good sitcom, replete with punchlines and realistically wacky situations. I was so happy to slip back into those rhythms that I wasn’t bothered at first by the arc of the story. There is one scene at the end, though, that packed a big emotional punch, and it’s delivered by Amara. That made me realize that I didn’t know much about her. It’s a function of Raina not being allowed/distancing herself from Amara, so she doesn’t know what her sister is like. But it also leaves much of the book’s story obscuring half of what the book is about. It’s Sisters, not Sister, and it would have been a more powerful book for me if the big realization weren’t related to one sister not really being present in the story except as a mystery and antagonist to the other. This misstep in plotting won’t hurt the book with its core audience, though, and there are many solid scenes in there for fans to savor.

 

The Book of Bad Things

Dan Poblocki

Scholastic, 2014

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A colleague of mine brought this back from… BEA? And when I saw that it was middle grade horror and that SLJ compared it to R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and John Bellairs, I gladly took it off of her hands.

I’ve never heard of Dan Poblocki before, but he has written a lot of MG horror. Thanks for keeping the torch alight, Dan Poblocki. But you need to work on your tumblr.

The Book of Bad Things is about Cassidy Bean. She’s part of an exchange program in New York City, possibly part of a social work program, that lets her go and live with rich people in upstate New York during the summer. She’s visited one family, the Tremonts, for a couple summers, but this summer she’s arriving late to Whitechapel because the Tremonts took a while to say that Cassidy was welcome to come.

Something happened last summer to Cassidy and the Tremont’s son, Joey. They went out to the big house where Ursula Chambers, the town hermit lived. She yelled at them, and then later, Joey’s dog died, and for some reason, those two things became connected for Cassidy and Joey. Cassidy blamed herself for having the idea in the first place, and the summer seemed ruined.

Now she’s back with a new journal: The Book of Bad Things, where she writes down her fears and anxieties. Joey isn’t talking to her, and Ursula is dead. All her belongings are being raided by the townspeople, because Ursula didn’t have a family. Then, the people who took Ursula’s things start seeing her. And they start dying.

What I liked most about this book was that it wasn’t afraid to be scary and gruesome. It makes its characters question the line between reality and what they’ve seen in horror movies that feels more sophisticated to me than most horror setups in books for the younger set. Poblocki plays with the ideas of ghosts, zombies, psychic/emotional manifestations, and curses, and the real life scariness of hoarding, anxiety and hurt friendship. Sure, Cassidy’s narration is a bit stiff at times, but she’s a very serious girl, so it fits her. It also never states what race Cassidy is, so it’s possible to read her as black, which is important for many kids.

As an adult reader, I wasn’t terrified, but I can tell that if I had read this when I was a tween, it would have firmly lodged itself in my psyche.

 

 

 

 

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Too Much Fun!

Friends,

Happy Monday! This weekend, Tessa came to Philadelphia to visit and we had so much fun. We went to see Bruce Munro’s amazing light display at Longwood Gardens, which I thought were in Delaware and was therefore looking forward to saying “Hi. We’re in Delaware” while there, like in Wayne’s World, but it isn’t. We ate the most perfect meal ever at Amada: manchego cheese with truffled lavender honey, beef shortrib flatbread with horseradish and bacon, patatas bravas, lamb meatballs with truffle oil and pea shoots, and cocktails named after Pedro Almodóvar movies. We went to the art museum and I got to see my favorite room there (Cy Twombly) and Tessa got to see one of her favorites (Marcel Duchamp), made penny wishes in fountains, discussed how Medieval artists seem to portray Jesus with more ribs than people really have, and looked at armor. We rocked out to show tunes at a gay piano bar and Tessa killed it with “Where or When.” [ed. note: “killed it” is kind of Rebecca to say, but it was fun. – T.]

Cy Twombly    Marcel Duchamp

So much fun, in fact, that we couldn’t possibly stop to write about young adult literature. But never fear—we’ll be back on Wednesday with more YA lit than you can shake a stick at! (Also, while we were at the museum we were pretending that we were the kids in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and that we were going to be locked in the museum. Tessa would touch the Brancusi statues and I would climb on the armored horse.)

Check it Out: our blogroll

by Tessa

 

One of the supreme joys in life is making lists.  (But not bucket lists, ugh). If you come to our homepage and look to the right (and down a bit) you’ll see that we’ve added a list of some of the blogs we like to look at.  They can be roughly divided into blogs of authors and author/illustrators and blogs about books. I still dig picture books and am a huge fan of comics/graphic novels/art in general, and I tried to represent that.

And fascinating things like Rookie Magazine  get their own category, “Other Awesomeness”.

 

LEGUMES! photo by flickr user Ex-Smith

 

If you hover over each title you’ll see a short description of the content of the sites. I think 99% of these are on my personal Google Reader and they’re one of the reasons that I have so many books I want to read. (Damn you, Stacked and A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy in particular. And Bookshelves of Doom.) (I mean, thank you.)

 

One of the best things about having a blog is interacting with likeminded bloggers, and, scarily and wonderfully, being in close contact with the creators of art and words that are thoroughly transportative and thrilling.  Although I admit that Rebecca is so much better at Twitter than I am.

So here’s our tip of the collective hat to you, INTERNET. I’ll see you around. Tomorrow.

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