So my blogging has been sporadic since I moved to DC to work at the Library of Congress for the year, but since last Tuesday's government shut down my excuses for not writing have all but disappeared. The good news is that I have mostly been using my time wisely to visit the museums and attractions that are still open and reading. I finished three YA gems in the past few weeks:
1. Jessica Darling's It List by Megan McCafferty I will start by saying I loved McCafferty's YA/adult series about Jessica Darling that began with Sloppy Firsts. Part of the appeal was the Ocean County, NJ setting. But beside the frequent references to the Seaside boardwalk, Jessica Darling was a delightfully flawed main character. Simply put, she is believably real, which to me is the mark of a well-written character. This new novel takes us back to Jessica's middle school days. This is obviously a bid to catch some younger readers who will hopefully follow Jessica through this new series and then move to the five original books. It has been a while since I read them, but I feel the younger Jessica is true to her older self. Her worries and challenges are also in line with those of actual 7th grade girls. I definitely recommend this for actual middle school readers as well as those who liked the tales of Jessica's high school years.
2. The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon I can freely admit I had not heard of this author when I won my copy of this book from The Beheld, a site dedicated to the deconstruction of beauty stereotypes. The blogger was promoting the author as someone who turns fairy tales around to look at the dangerous underside of their presentation of "happily ever after." This story combined Rapunzel and Snow White into a fairy tale mash-up. While I appreciated the look at feminine power based on beauty and what happens when beauty fades, I did not feel the tale was entirely natural. There were plot elements that felt contrived in order to meet the needs of the message, but since I felt the message was a positive one I can overlook the minor flaws. I think this sort of retelling is important if only to remind us to consider stories from multiple perspectives.
3. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson I had to wait longer than I would have liked to read this because I had it shipped home rather than to DC and it sat there alone in its box until I could get it. This was the final in the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. I have kept reading despite the second book falling victim to the 2nd book syndrome. This was a satisfying end to the series, though I have not yet figured out if the author intended Christian/religious overtones or not. It does not really matter because Elisa's story of having to find internal strength to lead her people trumps any reliance she has on a higher power....so I guess I answered my own question there.
Right now I am finishing up Empty Mansions about Huguette Clark and started reading The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond.