Skip to main content

Shorter Musings: Recent YA Reads

Here are some shorter musings on some recent YA reads.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
I wish someone would have warned me that 2016 was the year the majority of my favorite authors would disappoint me. This book has won a lot of awards (including the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for fiction announced today an hour or so after I finished reading it), yet I feel it is the weakest of all Hardinge's books to date. The concept of the tree itself is intriguing but the way it manifests itself in the narrative is unimpressive. It is a tool of supernatural forces in an otherwise realistic setting that allows the heroine to investigate her father's death, but then conveniently doesn't need to be dealt with further at the end. When you add to that the feeling I could not shake that I was meant to be taking a lesson in how dumb religion is and pure and perfect science is form its thematic presence, well....I lost all tolerance with the book. I would LOVE a book that explores the tension between science and religion with nuance. Hardinge could have done that. She has dealt so well with tricky themes (censorship, imperialistic racism, political and economic oppression) brilliantly before. The difference is here every character and plot point feels manipulated to make her point whereas in her other books they flow naturally out of the intricate worlds and characters she created. Yes, this has won a lot of attention, but I recommend reading pretty much anything else Hardinge has written if you are trying to find a good starting place for her books. (My favorite is A Face Like Glass, which tragically still hasn't been published in the US. But this was. Grrrrr.)

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Mercy is a progressive and modern female character yet she never feels out of place in this historical setting. Lee did an excellent job of balancing Mercy's independence and drive within the historical constraints of the time. Mercy never felt like a girl out of her time, just one ahead of it. Having a novel about the San Fransisco earthquake told through the eyes of a Chinese heroine is also a great plus. All around this is really good: great story, wonderful characters, just the right amount of romance.

Rook by Sharon Cameron
This book is a lot of fun. It is a futuristic adventurous retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. As such, there is a lot of double-speak, spying, melodramatic shenanigans, and a hefty dash of romance. It is just fun. I do wonder how a person who had never read the source material would approach it or respond to the characters. I think a lot of my connection to them came from what I knew the characters in the original. There are some things that don't make a ton of sense to me. Like how centuries into the future France and England are repeating almost exactly the history they lived during the French Revolution. There is also a lot of double and triple crossing in the book that requires a lot of exposition and people explaining themselves. In all honesty it could be shorter. But still. It was fun. And it is a stand alone-a definite plus if you're looking for a read that won't have you anticipating a sequel.

Up to this Pointe by Jennifer Longo
This is a book that is equal parts ballet and science station in Antarctica. I bet no one ever predicted that combination and yet it works incredibly well, because at the heart of both stories is Harper. Harper is a girl who is figuring herself, her future, and what she wants from life out. She has friendship troubles, romantic troubles, and has experienced having her dreams crushed. That is a story any teen can relate to. I thoroughly enjoyed the relationships here and the dialogue. The author is a talented writer. I do think there is a lot that could have been cut out to make it shorter. The author clearly did a lot of research and knew her stuff, but we as readers don't necessarily need all the information she gave us for the story to have impact.


Maureen E said…
I had such a different reaction to The Lie Tree that now I both do and don't want to go back and reread it to see if my perception changes.
Brandy said…
Looking through the GR reviews, I saw others that came away with the same reading, but we are definitely in the minority. Maybe give it some time? That's often what I have to do if I want to reread something I love after seeing it critiqued.
Kim Aippersbach said…
I will say that The Lie Tree wasn't my favourite Hardinge, and I totally get what you're saying about the treatment of religion. But I was still blown away by her fantastic writing, so I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

I started Rook and really wanted to like it because I love The Scarlet Pimpernel. Now I can't remember why I gave up on it; I think it was the writing that bothered me.
Brandy said…
The sentence level writing was still extraordinary. (as Hardinge always is) I could not shake my annoyance though.

Rook was too long. There were a lot of pages I skimmed. Like I said, could have used more editing. But it's fun for what it is.

Popular posts from this blog

Shorter Musings MG Fantasy

Here are some shorter musings on recent MG fantasy reads. Anya and the Dragon   by Sofiya Pasternack This book is fun. It is a book full of adventure, an obvious bad guy, some more complicated morally gray area characters, and a strong, brave heroine. It is also a book about friendships, community, and fighting for what is right. All things that usually work for me really well. While I enjoyed this, I did feel it was a little overlong and there were certain plot points at the end I didn't love. However, there were things I thought were done really well, such as Anya's Jewish faith and the idea that power needs to be challenged. In the end it was a middle of the road read for me, but it is one I will certainly be recommending to dragon and fantasy adventure lovers I know! R is for Rebel   by J. Anderson Coats This is tough because I usually really like Coats's books. I had such a hard time with this one though on so many levels. It's difficult to get into because t

TTT: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by  The Broke and the Bookish  and now hosted at  That Artsy Reader Girl . This Week's Topic: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List From Most Recent to Least: What books have recently caught your eye?

Future Favorite Friday: June 2018

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments. Two Naomis  was one of my favorite reads of 2016 so I was understandably excited it's getting a sequel.  In this sequel to  Two Naomis , now that Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi E.’s dad are married, the girls have learned to do a lot of things together, like All-Family Sunday dinners, sixth-grade homework, navigating the subway system by themselves, and visiting their favorite bakeries. Until sixth grade in a new school presents a whole new set of surprises and challenges. Trusting her gut has worked for Naomi E. all her life, and she figures that it will be an asset to her role as a Peer Mediator—until she realizes how much of the job requires the Art of Compromise, which she’s only just starting to get used to at home. Naomi Marie i

The Reece Malcolm List

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding surprised me. Enough people I trust enjoyed it so I knew I would like it, but wasn't expecting to like it as much as I do. It is a really great book that is fun and has real heart and soul too. Synopsis: Things I know about Reece Malcolm: 1. She graduated from New York University. 2. She lives in or near Los Angeles. 3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week. 4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon. 5. She’s my mother. Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much. L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love. But the

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak  by Robert Beatty is a thrilling tale of mystery and adventure set at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in 1899. Having lived in Asheville and visited the house several times, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to read this. (Also it's MG fantasy, always a bonus for me.) Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Vanderbilt's spacious vacation home. She has lived there most of her life. Her father worked on the house as it was being built and is the mechanic who runs the massive generator and keeps the electricity going. Serafina is the chief rat catcher, slipping through the halls of her massive home secretly and quietly. She is light on her feet, sees well in the dark, and is quick enough to catch the vermin and keep them out. Serafina knows she if different and strange. Her father insists she stay hidden. But all that changes when one night Serafina witnesses a horrible crime. A little girl, a guest in the house, is fleein