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Summer Reading with My 3 Nieces: The Hate U Give, Into the Wild, and Everything, Everything (and Read Harder Task 10)

11 Aug

In my last post I wrote about recommending books to my eldest niece for her summer reading assignment. This gave me the idea to assign myself the same books she and her two sisters are reading this summer so we can discuss them. This is the first post of that series.

Aimee wrote last week in her post about 1000 Books Before Kindergarten about how she enjoys reading with her son, and the importance of parents and caregivers reading to children before they start school. My nieces are all past kindergarten now, but I think it’s important to keep talking to kids about books even after they’ve learned to read independently. My friend Jenny has a whole blog about this idea called Books, Babies, and Bows, where she writes about reading with her daughters that is worth exploring.

My niece read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (my recommendation!) for fiction, and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer for nonfiction.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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This debut novel by Angie Thomas, whose title references rapper Tupac Shakur and is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, is hands-down one of the best books I have read this year. Sarah reports that she enjoyed this book, too. After finishing it I took to my social media channels to tell everyone to read it. And I am telling you, dear reader of this blog, to read it too. 

Starr Carter is a typical teenager who loves a fresh pair of Jordans, LeBron James, and Harry Potter, and believes she is somehow related to Jay-Z (aka Sean Carter, aka Mr. Beyonce Knowles) because they share a last name. She finds herself in an extraordinary situation after witnessing her friend Khalil’s murder by a police officer she refers to as One Fifteen. This book follows that aftermath in her gritty community and at her suburban private school interacting with her rather un-woke classmates, including one she considered a close friend.

I was more interested in the adults in The Hate U Give. Starr’s parents, Momma and Daddy (proper names Lisa and Maverick), are well-written and multifaceted. They too struggle with staying loyal to their community and their desire to give Starr and her siblings a better life. I will have to ask my niece for her thoughts about Starr’s parents, but they’re the ones I’m still thinking about after finishing the book.

Reading this book completed the Read a Debut Novel task for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, which I am still working on. More about that journey at this link.

The most important lesson that Starr learns in this story is to use her voice, even when it’s hard and scary and the circumstances are not ideal. I hope that is the takeaway for my niece. 

The Hate U Give will become a film. Click here to see which actors will play Starr, her parents, and her older brother Seven. But … please read the book before you see the movie!

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Sarah chose this book (which was published in 1996, seven years before she was born!) on her own. I have long heard of it, but hadn’t read it until now. Into the Wild appears on many school summer reading lists (an edition written for a young adult audience exists), and after reading it I understand why. This story includes science, geography, family drama, mystery, human psychology, history, practical information about survival, and even ethnography. Truly, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this book.

After his 1992 graduation from Emory University in Atlanta, Chris McCandless donated his savings to charity and drove to the American West with the goal to reach Alaska. Two years later his emaciated body was found in an abandoned bus used at shelter in the Denali region of Alaska. The book grew from an article that Jon Krakauer wrote for Outside magazine published in January 1993 about McCandless.

The biggest questions about Chris McCandless start with “why”. Why did he start this adventure? Why did he cut off contact with his family, including his sister Carine, to whom he was close? (Carine wrote The Wild Truth, published in 2014, about her and Chris’s life growing up.) Why did he take on the name Alexander Supertramp? Into the Wild explores those questions, with in-depth reporting from Chris’s family and friends and the people he encountered on his journey to Alaska.

Sarah reported that she is reading the adult edition and had trouble understanding the story at the beginning, but she likes it. What I noticed in the book was what my mother calls “ten dollar words”. Some of the language Krakauer used in the book tripped me up! My hope is Sarah remembers those words when she takes the SAT in a few years.

Sean Penn’s film adaptation of the book is remarkable. Emile Hirsch’s performance, especially in the final scenes of the movie, is haunting. Don’t make my mistake of watching this movie before going to sleep.

Sarah also read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, which she said was an easy read and really good. Now I feel compelled to add this to my bursting summer reading list because I’ve heard lots of good things about, and was recently made into a movie.

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Stay tuned for the next post, where I write about the books my second niece Alyssa (who I wrote about here) read this summer.

How is your summer reading going? If you have young people in your life, do you talk about books with them?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Two More Read Harder Tasks Down, with a Shared Theme of Adulthood: Tasks 8 and 9

2 Jun

In my last post I wrote about how vacation and illness gave me time to read four books for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. These are the two latest books, All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg and An Age of License by Lucy Knisley, which are about two characters wondering if they’re acting their ages.

These two books are different but share the theme of adulthood, and the theoretical questions that come with it. Am I an adult yet? Am I doing things “right”? Am I where I want to be in this point in my life? I realized the books had similar themes as I was writing this post, a pleasant coincidence.

To read past posts about my experience with the Read Harder challenge, click here.

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All Grown Up, by Jami Attenberg

Task 8 was Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location, for which I chose All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg.

My hold request in Cloud Library for this title came through while I was on vacation, and I downloaded the book to the Cloud Library app on my iPhone. (Click here to learn more about what devices support Cloud Library.) The app has a nice, user-friendly interface. In particular, I like the subtle page-turning animation when reading the eBook. I also used the Cloud Library app to listen to How to Murder Your Life, which I wrote about last month. That foresight proved helpful as I finished another book (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, which doesn’t fulfill any of the Read Harder Challenge Tasks, but is still a terrific nonfiction read) on the flight home and was able to read All Grown Up on my phone.

All Grown Up follows Andrea, a woman in her early 40s living in Brooklyn (geographically 3 miles from Hoboken) who fumbles her way through men, a job she’s terribly bored at but won’t leave because it pays well, and her evolving friendships–feelings many adults around the world have. Her Brooklyn neighborhood is undergoing gentrification, and she is sad to lose the Empire State Building view she once had from her apartment that is now obscured by a new building. I can relate to that, as two giant cranes now blight the view from my window.

Andrea is a complicated character, and sometimes her behavior can be appalling. For example, she is upset when her mother moves from Manhattan to Vermont to help her brother and sister-in-law care for their severely handicapped child.

Through flashbacks we learn more about Andrea’s experiences, which have shaped who she is in the present and allows the reader to sympathize with her. She aspired to be an artist but abandoned that dream and regrets. This a spare, beautiful novel that features a character with whom you may identify but dislike.

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An Age of License, by Lucy Knisley

For Task 9, Read a Travel Memoir, I chose to read An Age of License by Lucy Knisley. After being invited to participate in a comic con in Norway, Lucy decided to travel through Europe to meet up with friends and pursue a love interest based in Sweden, and her experiences are documented in this graphic memoir.

Lucy features many drawings of food she ate on her travels, which appealed to me as I love trying new food when I travel. (Remember how I wrote about in my last post that reading Crazy Rich Asians has inspired me to travel to Singapore and eat at the food stalls in street markets?) Her drawings of cheese and wine and baguettes she ate while in France made me recall my trip to Paris, which was the best food destination I’ve visited so far. (Maybe until I get to Singapore…)

The title An Age of License comes from what Lucy believed was a French saying about youth being a time when you’re free to do whatever you want. Although the phrase turned out to be folly, it’s an interesting idea to ponder.

I liked this book and following Lucy’s travels through Europe, and plan to read more of her work soon. The author was in her late twenties when she wrote it, and she had a lot of Deep Thoughts about her age and life etc. I will celebrate my 35th birthday later this year and have little patience for the navel-gazing that afflicts many twenty-somethings, so my eyes involuntarily rolled while reading some of these sections. Was I as insufferable at that age? When I’m in my forties will I roll my eyes at thirty-somethings? Time will tell.

Stay tuned for my next post on another completed task.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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