The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

Find in catalogIf you have a bad habit of sitting down to read for a “few minutes” and then waking up to realize you’re starving and you’ve finished the entire book, this is the kind of story you’ll want to watch out for. I think my mind is still a little lost in Aquavania. I’m impressed with this author’s ability to connect everything you see into the plot. Things that I thought were slice-of-life details turned out to be crucial information later on. The feeling I have upon finishing? Mostly satisfied, but like there’s still a couple loose ends. But I believe it’s a series… Good thing, too. I hope a couple things from the ending get a better resolve later on. Overall, an engrossing read. The kind of well-written book that’s hard to put down.

As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

Find in catalogI don’t usually re-read books. I also don’t usually re-read bits and pieces of books because I love them so much I want to study their craft. You can probably guess what I’m about to tell you: This book is the exception. As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth is the kind of journey that starts out like many great experiences in life–entirely by accident. Perhaps that’s what makes this work so beautiful. The story follows the very human main character as he meets mentors and friends along the way to a new destination–one that may or may not involve a black eye, a thousand-mile road trip, a tiny plane, a sailboat, and a large windmill. It’s the story of how sometimes we set out looking for one thing, yet find something else entirely–the thing we didn’t realize we needed all along. That last sentence is trying way too hard to try and say something meaningful. Just go read the book. I dare you. 5/5 stars.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Find in catalogThis is the newest work by the author of Holes, and also The Cardturner, which is equally awesome if less known. If you’re a fan of friendship, kindness, and human beings who eventually do the right thing, this is a book for you. (Even if it does make you feel like washing your hands after reading it.) 4.5/5 stars.

Drawn Away by Holly Bennett

Find in catalogI have to admit it–I first picked Drawn Away up because the cover typogrpahy is just so darn beautiful. I didn’t know if I’d actually like the book. Guess I got lucky! The premise was interesting and the story kept me hooked through the end. A YA with likable characters, Drawn Away made me feel for all sides–not just the lead. Nice job, Holly Bennett! 4.5/5

Everland by Wendy Spinale

Find in catalogTwo of five stars. Spoilers ahead-

I enjoyed the book. Mostly. I had a good time reading it, so you’re probably wondering why I’ve only given Everland two stars. It’s like this: I didn’t feel great when it finished. And not because I was left anticipating the second volume. Why didn’t I feel good when it finished? The fact that the main character is basically a total heartless jerk and (spoiler) cuts off a certain other character’s hand. I get that the author did this to try and tie-in even more with the whole Peter Pan thing, but seriously. This was a bad way to do it. The main character was already only marginally-likable. There was this long moment where I was like, certainly she’s going to have a change of heart and despite doing this awful thing, at least she’s going to try to redeem herself by helping him. Yes, that’s right! They will take him with them. Of course! This is how the previously-dangerous antagonist will reform his ways. La, la, la………Woah, wait, what? They’re leaving? They’re leaving him? You can’t be serious. Especially since this previously evil character became harmless as soon as he was defeated. They just straight-up murdered him. And then went on to the kissy-kissy happy ending for the main characters. I know. That is how this book ended on a very bad note. I wanted to like this book. I did. I even enjoyed reading (skimming?) it, for the most part. Until the end. I guess the over-use of similes should have turned me away from the start, but hey, I’ll put up with a lot for the prospect of a romance within an interesting plot. Too bad the supposed good guys were ultimately unrelatable and heartless.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Find in catalogMy favorite kinds of books are the ones that teach you things about yourself that you’ve always known but didn’t quite realize until you read them. It’s like this: A good book shows you something new about the world, but a great book shows you something new about yourself. Maybe that’s why I love When You Reach Me so much. If it hadn’t been a library copy, I would have highlighted all the passages that resonated with me–there were a lot–and then I could have written them here to show you what I mean. These are the kinds of things that really should be quoted. Okay, since I like the book so much, I’ll go look for one. (Spoiler alert?) I didn’t find the exact quote, but there’s this bit about how Miranda notices that she cries sometimes when she’s caught off-guard. And I hadn’t thought about it like that until I read it, and then I realized I was the same for me. Especially when I was in sixth grade–like Miranda. Suddenly this little detail of my life made sense. Plus, there’s the other quotes that are bigger and deeper and easier to find if you Google them. Like this one: “Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.” See what I mean?

This is the kind of story that you can’t sum up in a marketing blurb for Amazon or jacket copy. It’s the kind of narrative that’s made whole by the powerful voice of an intelligent character with real observations about what it means to be human. To Rebecca Stead–nice work. Five out of Five.