A look back at what I reviewed in November 2011.
Also, how can it be November already?
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai. From my review: “Saigon, 1975. Ha is ten, the youngest (and only daughter) in her family. While the war has touched her life — her parents fled North Vietnam years ago; her father has been missing for years — Ha is a happy, loved child, with three older brothers who tease her and a mother who works two jobs. A family friend helps Ha’s family get a blanket-sized space on one of the Navy ships full of refugees; eventually, the family winds up in Alabama. One year later, it is a different life — new language, new foods, new friends — but it is, once again, Tet, the new year, celebrated with her brothers and mother. . . . Ha is only ten; a wonderful age. She embraces life and gets frustrated and moves forward.” A quick note. This review remains my most popular! Every week, someone comes to my blog because of this review.
The Returning by Christine Hinwood. From my review: “A young man comes home from war, returning to the small village he left as a boy. At first it seems that only Cam Attling, missing an arm, has been changed by the war, but it touches all in both large and small ways. People are freed from doing what they had always done, being who everyone expected them to be. Some changes are internal: the realization that one can leave, whether it’s leaving an abusive husband or just wanting a different life than one’s parents. Others are more obvious: a young woman, alone and abused, determinedly creating her own future; a second son suddenly becomes the heir; an arranged marriage upsets all a girl thought she knew about life, love and family.”
The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska by Colleen Mondor. From my review: “The myths and realities of flying in Alaska is explored, using the time period of the 1990s when Mondor worked for “the Company,” an Alaskan commuter and charter airline. In attempting to understand those who fly in the dangerous Alaskan conditions, the risks they take, and the reasons they crash, Mondor also looks at the past and the first Alaskan flights in the 1920s. This is as much about story, and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our lives and our choices, as it is about the high-risk stakes of flying in Alaska.”
Carter’s Big Break by Brent Crawford. From my review: “Carter, Carter, Carter. As with the first book, I listened to the audiobook narrated by the brilliant Nick Podehl. Podehl does such a terrific job of channeling Carter that I sometimes thought I was carpooling to work as the book played. He captures Carter’s attitude, his bravado, his sweetness, and his general, inevitable tendency to be a total dumbass. Just as important, Podehl had me laughing so hard I was crying. Carter is — well, he’s a teenage boy. He sometimes talks before he thinks. Acts before he thinks. He is often clueless. But, underneath the friendly insults with his friends and his fumbling romance with Abby, he is a good, sweet boy (who would hate me saying so).”
Saving June by Hannah Harrington. From my review: “Nine days before her high school graduation, Harper Scott’s older sister June commits suicide. Harper, 16, doesn’t understand. June was the good, popular, nice sister; Harper is the unmotivated disappointment. Harper’s family is no help: her father is with his new, younger girlfriend; her mother is either drinking too much wine or going to Church with Aunt Helen. The last straw is when her divorced parents decided to split June’s ashes into two urns, one for each of them. Harper decides to take June’s ashes to California, the place June never saw, the place she was obsessed with. It’s a crazy plan, but luckily Harper’s best friend Laney is always up for an adventure, and Jack Tolan, the boy with the mysterious connection to June, offers up his van. The three take off to make June’s California dreams come true.”
The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta. From my review: “Two years ago Tom Finch Mackee had it all: a girl he’d spent one and a half wonderful nights with; good friends; a large, loving family. Now, he’s pursuing oblivion through drugs and alcohol and hasn’t spoken to family and friends in months. Two years ago, his Uncle Joe was alive. Two years ago, Joe hadn’t been blown up on his way to work. Two years ago, the family hadn’t buried an empty coffin. Can Tom find his way — if not back to who he was two years ago, can he find his way to a Tom who doesn’t hide from the grief and pain of Joe’s loss, and his family splintering, and of messing things so badly with Tara Finke that she and their mutual friends can barely say hello to him? While, for me, Tom’s emotional journey of putting his life back together, still broken but together, is what resonates with me. For others who, say, may want more action? Here’s the pitch: Two years ago Tom had a one and a half night stand with a girl he loved and after, treated her so badly that not only won’t she talk to him, she has left the country. When you’ve treated someone horribly, is it possible to fix it?”
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. From my review: “It’s 1996 and Emma Nelson, 16, just got a new computer. She takes an AOL CD-ROM and downloads the program using dial up; a few hours later, she is on-line looking at something with an odd name. Facebook. Even odder, there’s a photo of a woman who looks like her, only older. An Emma Nelson Jones, “contemplating highlights,” married to someone named Jordan Jones Jr. This Emma is a graduate of Lake Forest High School — Emma goes to Lake Forest High School — and has a birth date of July 24, Emma’s birthday. What is going on? Who is Jordan Jones Jr.? As Emma tries to figure out what is going on, she shows her next door neighbor, Josh, her ‘Facebook’ and he looks at his which shows an older Josh married to the prettiest girl in school, with three cute kids and an amazing house. Is this a joke — or a real look into the future? And if it is the future, can it be changed?”
The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan. From my review: “Sin and Mae have been named as the two potential future leaders of the Goblin market. For Sin, 16, a fourth generation Dancer in the Market, the Market is her life. Life used to be simple. Her enemies were the Market’s enemies: demons and magicians. Tourists, even her own father, are best kept at arm’s length. Take care of your own: those in the Market and her younger siblings. How can Mae possibly become a leader when she is just a tourist, even if she is able to Dance up a demon? Plus, Mae’s brother Jamie is a magician in the deadly and ruthless Aventurine Circle. It’s not just magicians Mae seem close to; there are also the Ryves brothers. Know it all Alan, so self righteous, who Sin owes because he saved her baby brother. And Nick . . . Nick, whose handsome exterior masks a demon. Will Sin win leadership of the Market? Or will she lose everything?”
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin. From my review: “The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, that resulted in the deaths of 146 women. Marrin places the Fire within the context of the immigration and labor; turn of the century sweatshops and factories; unions and workers rights; and the current status, world wide, of the garment industry. . . . Imagine — a fifty-two hour work week is a “win” for the labor movement. I am thankful to not live a hundred years ago. Before the reader can feel smug about “now” being better than “then,” Marrin informs the reader of current factory conditions in other countries that are far from safe.”
Revenge, on ABC. From my review: “Emily Thorne has just moved into a beach house at the Hamptons. Just another rich young woman looking to have fun in the sun with fellow wealthy people, right? Wrong. Seventeen years ago, Emily was Amanda Clarke, living with her beloved father in the Hamptons. At age nine, she watched as her father was wrongly arrested and convicted of treason. Amanda disappeared into the juvenile system. She is now Emily, and she has one purpose, one goal, one need: revenge on those who destroyed her father. To make that possible, she has returned to the Hamptons to seek her own form of justice from those who betrayed her father.”
My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson. From my review: “September, 1960, and brothers Luke, 12, Bunna, 10, and Isaac, 6, are on their way to the Sacred Heart School. Luke is not his real Inupiaq name, but that name has sounds that white people find hard to say so he goes by the easier name of Luke. My Name Is Not Easy is about Luke and his four years at Sacred Heart School, but it is not just his story. At that time, Alaska, instead of funding local schools, had boarding schools. While the Bureau of Indian Affairs ran many boarding schools, Sacred Heart is a Catholic school that includes children who are Eskimo, Indian, and white, boys and girls. Other voices telling the story of this time and place include Chickie, a young white girl; Sonny, the informal leader of the Indian kids attending the school; Donna, an orphan; Amiq, the leader of the Eskimo kids.”