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BEA Books: Westerfeld, Alsaid, McGarry, Levithan

September 25, 2015

I’m going to go in order of how much I liked them.

First off, the McGarry. It’s called Nowhere But Here and it’s about a girl whose biological father is a biker. She ends up falling for one of the teen bikers who want to join his “club” and discovers seeeecrets about her family. Did not finish (or DNF, among booklovers). I made it to around page 150. Yes, I’d like to know what the big deal is about Emily’s childhood, but not if it means reading page after page of men, teen and adult, not telling her things because We’re Manly Bikers with a Club; We Only Tell Things to Other Manly Bikers in Our Club. Seriously, it makes biker gangs look like a bunch of boys in a treehouse yelling at everyone below that they’re not included. Do Not Want. Also, can’t read the word “hot” one more time. It’s a Harlequin, in both publication and spirit. It’s only that the ages are younger. Meh.

Before you think Harlequin Teen is only putting out Teen Harlequins, let me present to you Adi Alsaid’s Never Sometimes Always. This poor young man, who I’ve met twice at BEA and found to be very nice, will suffer terribly from John Green comparisons, but I feel like that’s fair. This is a good book to read between Green publications. It’s about two besties, and the guy’s in love with the girl. They have a list of high school cliches they’ve decided to never ever do, and then senior year they decide to try all of them. And it changes them. Like Paper Towns, there’s a sense that you need to get a life to have a life, and that mooning for someone does you little favors. This was a quick, solid read that I’d recommend to any almost fan of realistic YA. Just not the ones who need dark, dark books to read all the time.

Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti have given us Zeroes, a book about a group of kids who have oddly similar superpowers, except when they don’t, and even then they feel kind of similar? What is it about Australian writers that I can’t bring myself to straight-up love? Zeroes is a really good book, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something missing it from it. I say that a lot when it comes to Australian writers. The book follows the Zeroes, a group of powered kids who all found each other and started training together like a superteam, but then had a falling out thanks to one kid’s shitty power of having a “voice” that somehow knows things about other people and always tries to give the kid what he wants, even if what he wants is stupid and destructive. The kid gets in trouble thanks to his power and they rally to help him even though they’re still pissed from that time his voice told them all off saying things that hurt them to the core. And there’s a girl who controls the emotions of groups, or the emotions control her, who knows. Some of the powers are a bit vague, but it goes with the “we have no idea what we’re doing” vibe of the book, and most of the time it works. Sometimes, we’re left following characters that are spinning their wheels, or having rather sudden life-changing epiphanies, and I think the book could’ve been cut down a little, but probably at the expense of one or more of the writers, so I can see why that didn’t happen. But it’s a good book. Did I mention it’s a good book? I feel like I’m criticizing it more than it deserves. Wait, did I mention it also sometimes feels like they just wrote down a gaming session? (Villains & Vigilantes or Champions, guys?) And the guy in charge never gels for me. But it was a good book! Like, really good! I immediately put it on my order list for the library! Flicker and Anon are awesome! Read this book!

Anyway.

Last but totally best is David Levithan’s Another Day. A companion book to Every Day, it’s the perfect example of why companion books don’t always suck and in fact sometimes absolutely shine. Another Day follows Rhiannon through her life during the period of Every Day, but the thing about Rhiannon is that she is her own person with her own decisions to make. It’s not just that we get to see her making those decisions, but that we really do get into her head and see the why. We see the difficulty of the situations: first, the relationship that isn’t quite bad enough to leave (very common with teenagers; very common with me when I was a teenager and even in my 20s), and then the relationship that readers might blow off as “*I* could handle it” until they see it from her perspective. This was a completely engrossing book, and could probably be read as a standalone. I mean, I wouldn’t. I’d read them in order. But I read almost everything in order.

Another immediate order for the library, and possibly one of the best books I’ll be reading all year.

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