Robert L. Anderson brings us into the world of dreams and nightmares in his debut novel Dreamland.
The premise of Cammie McGovern’s Say What you Will sounds a little bleak. Amy is born with cerebral palsy and needs a walker to get around, a computer talks for her and often her arms and legs seems to have a mind of their own. Matthew suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder that hinders his ability to function in the world around him. When Matthew is hired to be Amy’s peer assistant for their senior year of high school, the two start and unlikely friendship and something more. No spoilers, that’s practically the synopsis on the back of the book.
Amy seems to be a disabled teen who is almost too well adjusted. She is extremely bright and not at all resentful of her physically limitations. Everyone thinks that Amy is stoic, brave and happy. Everyone except Matthew. Matthew was an average kid of nominal popularity until the end of middle school when puberty infected his small group of friends like a plague leaving Matthew behind mentally if not physically. While his former friends are busy hooking up at parties, Matthew is washing his hands obsessively and avoiding human contact. After yet another of Amy’s award winning student essay on how lucky she is to be blessed with the life she has, Matthew finally says what no one else will: bullshit. No well-adjusted person with Amy’s physical limitations would be happy, not if someone like Matthew who’s physically perfect is so miserable. Just before the end of their junior year, Matthew challenges Amy’s to live more in the real world rather than the bubble her parents have created for you and she accepts the challenge by trading in her professional school aids for peer assistants in an attempt to make friends her senior year in preparation for college life.
Amy starts emailing Matthew at the end of summer in preparation for the launch of the peer assistant program that will start senior year. Amy is non-verbal, but she’s extremely articulate. The emails between Matthew and Amy begin tentatively but grow more natural in the days that lead up to the beginning of the school year. Matthew finds that communicating with Amy is easy and not in spite of her disability, but because she’s funny and smart and interesting. Matthew’s quickly finds that his assigned time with Amy is the highlight of his week.
Through the peer assistant program, Amy is interacting with her classmates more than she ever has even though she’s known most of them since elementary school. Yes, all these peers are essentially being paid to be friends with Amy (and paid well) but she doesn’t mind. Amy is opening herself up to new experiences and feeling more alive than she ever has. But as Amy blossoms, Matthew falters. Despite the ease he feels being with Amy, his obsessive compulsive disorder is not getting better, in fact it’s getting worse. Amy may have the outward disabilities, but it is Matthew who lives in a crippled world.
There’s a lot that happens in Say What You Will as Amy and Matthew explore the boundaries of themselves, their relationship and what they can and should mean to each other. We see the characters in Say What You Will try new things, screw up, act out, mature, screw-up some more, but ultimately find their way. At the base of the story are the emails, texts, and letters, both sent and unsent, between Amy and Matthew. These various methods of communication try to convey what is shared between them when their bodies can’t or won’t do the talking. Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to say.
The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is very aptly titled, both for the way you will feel at its conclusion, wrath, that you must wait almost a year for the second novel to be published and dawn, for the time you will finish reading this book when you pick it up the night before. To be serious, though, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous reimagining of The Arabian Nights that will leave you with the biggest book hangover you’ve had in a long time. You are going to want to linger in the world Renee Ahdieh created as long as humanly possible once you have finished this novel. Continue reading “Swept Away By The Wrath & The Dawn”
The summer of 2013 at YAW was unofficially dubbed “The Summer of Rainbow”. We fell in love with Eleanor and Park and decided to binge read the Rainbow Rowell canon. Attachments, Eleanor and Park, Fangirl, Landline, we read it all, but Fangirl was definitely a favorite amongst the Rainbow offerings. Fangirl centers around the relationship between twin sisters Cath and Wren as they set off to college. Cath is more introverted while Wren is outgoing. Cath thinks their college experience will be a shared one, just like they share a birthday, an absent minded father and a completely absent mother. Just like they share an obsession for the Simon Snow books which are like Harry Potter if Harry and Draco were roommates / frienemies. But Wren wants college to be a chance for her to live a life separate and apart from her twin which means separate rooms, separate friends and no more Simon Snow. Cath and Wren must figure out if growing up has to mean growing apart from your best friend.
Illuminae is the story of the destruction of the Kerenza colony and the intergalactic fallout subsequent to those events. It is hard core science fiction, but it is also a story of friendship, family and love. There is so much heart and warmth in this book that is told largely in the form of emails, interviews, audio recording dictation and military/security files.
“So let’s raise our glasses to the accident season,
To the river beneath us where we sink our souls,
To the bruises and secrets, to the ghosts in the ceiling,
One more drink for the watery road.”
So much of what’s to come in The Accident Season is foretold in these opening 4 lines. Celebration, despair, pain and secrets are abound in Moira Fowley-Doyle’s debut novel.