Friday, April 6, 2018

Goodbye Days

Volume Thirty Four in the Books That Matter Series

Even though I have been reading a lot lately, it has been a few months since one resonated with me in such a way that it became a book that mattered. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner reminded me just how powerful a book can be.

One text changed everything. Seven words caused the car crash. An unfinished response for Carver Briggs was found on the driver's phone.  As a high school student in a creative writing program at Nashville Academy for the Arts, Carver is used to telling stories but his words have now caused an ending for his three best friends: Blake, Eli, and Mars. Carver blames himself and he's not the only one. Eli's twin sister openly blames Carver for the loss of her brother. Even Judge Edwards, whose son was driving, holds Carver responsible and persuades the District Attorney to open an investigation against him. According to Carver's lawyer, he might be responsible if he knew Mars was driving and that his friend would answer. As the investigation closes in around him, Carver surrounds himself with the few people he can count on: his sister, Georgia; Blake's grandmother, Nana Betsy; and Eli's girlfriend, Jesmyn. But as those relationships grow distant, Carver embarks on a series of goodbye days with each victim's family as a way to pay his final respects to his friends and lay their memories to rest.

Goodbye Days tears at the heart. The investigation brings up the question of who is to blame in this new age of technology: the driver who answered the text who is no longer alive, the passengers who didn't offer to text Carver for Mars so he could focus on the road, the friend who texted but wasn't even in the car, or the society of instant gratification that never lets a text wait. Author Jeff Zentner shows how Carver's world grows smaller due to guilt and grief while some well placed flashbacks offer insight onto all he has lost. This is a book that truly matters.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Whole Thing Together

Volume Thirty Three in the Books That Matter Series

Ray and Sasha have never met but they live in the same house--the same room to be exact. Ray's mom, Lila, used to be married to Sasha's dad, Robert, but that was before they were born, before Lila and Robert married other people. Now the two families are kept apart by the bitter divorce that connects Ray and Sasha to their three half sisters: Emma (the perfectionist), Quinn (everyone's favorite), and Mattie (the beauty). Even their second house in Long Island is kept divided with both families alternating weeks in the summer to live in it, including Ray and Sasha staying in the same room on their separate weeks there. The two families never mix.

But all this separation is about to change when Emma announces her plans to marry her boyfriend, Jamie, next  summer. The two families will have to mix for one wedding so Quinn and Mattie decide to throw an engagement party on August 9--a trial run for the actual wedding. Will this be the thing to bring the two families together or the disaster everyone fears? One thing is for sure, August 9 will be a day none of them will ever forget.

Author Ann Brashares weaves a masterful third person tale into the eye of a storm known as divorce, covering all points of view from the innocent victims who are kept as two separate families due to the bitter resentment of the people who are supposed to be the adults. The Whole Thing Together is a young adult novel that is as beautiful as it is devastating. It is truly a book that matters.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Highly Illogical Behavior

Volume Thirty Two in the Books That Matter Series

"It's like on Star Trek: The Next Generation, really. We're just floating in space trying to figure out what it means to be human."
-Excerpt from Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Solomon Reed is sixteen years old, a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, likes the water, has a family who loves him, and suffers from a panic disorder that has kept him inside his house for three years--ever since he had an episode that drove him into the fountain at school.

Lisa Praytor has her sights set on the second best college psychology program in the country, but to pay for it, she needs to apply for a full scholarship and write an essay about her personal experience with mental illness. And Lisa knows what--or rather who--she will write about: Solomon Reed, the boy from her school who she hasn't seen since his breakdown at the fountain.

After tracking down Solomon's mom, Lisa finds a way into his life and soon so does her boyfriend, Clark. But as the three of them get closer, things get complicated and life might not be the same as any of them once knew it.

Author, John Corey Whaley, takes readers into the life of an agoraphobic teen and the struggles that come with that. Highly Illogical Behavior is the young adult novel about mental illness, friendship, love, loss, and the unpredictability of life.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Things We Know By Heart

Volume Thirty One in the Books That Matter Series

"'s terrifying to realize how much of your world is wrapped around loving another person."
                                            -Quinn's reflection (Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby)

It has been four hundred days since Trent died. Four hundred days since his organs were removed and given to someone else. Four hundred days after those transplants and his girlfriend, Quinn, has still not heard from the recipient of Trent's heart. Having done some research of her own, Quinn decides to find him herself. But when she meets nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas,the present owner of Trent's heart, everything she thought she wanted to know is about to change.

Things We Know by Heart is the young adult story of grief and love, moving on and letting go. With every chapter opening by means of quotes pertaining to hearts or relevant facts about them (including information on organ transplants, cellular memory, and organ rejection), Jessi Kirby tells a poignant story about one girl's journey for closure in the most masterful way: through the journey of one's heart. Things We Know by Heart is truly a book that matters.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Symptoms of Being Human

Volume Thirty in the Book That Matters Series

"'As for wondering if it's okay to be who you are--that's not a symptom of mental illness. That's a symptom of being a person.'" - Doctor Ann in Jeff Garvin's Symptoms of Being Human

Is Riley a boy or a girl? That question is at the forefront of everyone's mind in Jeff Garvin's young adult novel, Symptoms of Being Human.

Riley is a gender fluid teen with an internal gauge that sometimes points more feminine, other times more masculine, and at times hovers somewhere between the two. The novel is told in first person from Riley's point of view so readers are not aware of the gender assigned to Riley at birth. And as Riley reflects it is usually the first thing people want to know about someone. Even Riley, occasionally, makes mistakes when assigning genders to new people.

This powerful novel shows the struggle of a teen trying to find acceptance in a new high school,  in a home with a conservative congressman father up for reelection and a mother supporting that campaign, in the blogging community where Riley writes under the anonymous name of Alix, in friendships with Bec and Solo, and in one's own self. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin is a book that matters.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Phantom Limbs

Volume Twenty Nine in the Books That Matter Series

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner is a tragic young adult novel about three teenagers coping with the pain of all they lost in the past few years. Otis lost his younger brother, Mason, three years ago and hasn't spoken to Meg, his best friend and first love, since she moved away around that same time. Meg has been dealing with a lot since Mason's death and is returning to Willow Grove after years of separating herself from the town and all that happened there. Dara has known Otis since Meg left and is coaching him to become an Olympic swimmer, having lost her chances at achieving that goal when part of her arm was amputated years ago. Each character has their own baggage and their own unique way of getting through each day but all three are dealing with phantom limbs and the pain that comes along with that. Phantom Limbs is beautifully written and so heartbreakingly devastating, earning its place as a book that matters.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

I'll Give You the Sun

Volume Twenty Eight in the Books that Matter Series

"'Maybe we're accumulating these new selves all the time.' Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things."
-Jandy Nelson, author of I'll Give You the Sun

I'll Give You the Sun is a young adult novel of family, love, loss, and being true to the person you are. Noah tells part of the story when he and his sister start off as NoahandJude, thirteen year old twins who are half of a whole. Jude tells the other part when she and Noah are sixteen, no longer talking to one another, and have become totally different people than who they used to be.

Jandy Nelson writes a masterful tale told in alternating points of view set three years apart. This story pulls at the reader in the most emotional, heartrending ways. I'll Give You the Sun is a beautiful story told with intrigue and mystery. Characters are woven in with careful precision. Because like one of the story's characters reflects: "Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story."