September sort of ended up being the month of YA books. While I enjoy them, it’s not a category I read often, and I rarely read more than one a month, if that. But there were a few that released this month that just looked so damn good I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them.
Like Violent Ends. Told through seventeen points of view, with each of the seventeen chapters written by a different YA author (Delilah S. Dawson, Steve Brezenoff, and Kendare Blake, to name a few), the story that unfolds is of a boy not unlike Eric or Dylan (of Columbine High School) – a kid with friends, who’s involved in school activities, who lives in a quiet, stable neighborhood – who hides untold pits and pockets of anger and hate. He walks into his high school one day and starts shooting, then turns the gun on himself.
Some of the chapters are about Kirby; others are about how his actions affected others. But each adds to the broader picture of how one person’s violent choice can affect so many people. Like Dave Cullen’s Columbine, it was difficult to read at times. Difficult, but easily one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.
Courtney Summers’ Some Girls Are popped up on my radar after it was challenged by a North Carolina high school and dropped from its optional reading list. Regina’s one of those girls, the Mean Girls, who helps her best friend Anna belittle, deride, and generally make life miserable for various students for real or perceived slights against her. Regina’s conscience bothers her, to the point she’s constantly popping antacids, but it doesn’t stop her from participating. When a Friday night party gets out of hand and Regina ends up in trouble, she does the right thing – tells someone – only to find herself shunned and ridiculed on Monday morning.
Like Violent Ends, Some Girls Are was difficult to read at times. The things Regina suffers through run the gamut from mildly embarrassing to excruciating. It’s a solid, well-written story on bullying and slut shaming, but that’s not the whole of it. After a few attempts to explain to Anna what happened, Regina gives up and doesn’t make any further overtures. She grows over the course of the book, and I really liked that her interactions with Michael, a kid she used to bully and finds herself spending more and more time with. Michael doesn’t forgive her easily, and their conversations often end in an argument. But they’re real. Regina’s life is hard now, and everything around her – including the one person who lets her lean on him, just a bit – reflects that.
Continuing with the difficult themes, I read Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian. I read her debut (Sex and Violence) last year and loved it, and I loved Cut Both Ways. Will’s seventeen, about to start his senior year of high school, and never kissed anyone. In the final hot days of summer, he finds himself kissing two people: his best friend Angus, and Brandy, a cute sophomore. He loves them both and doesn’t want to choose. Constantly stuck between his divorced parents, they’re some of the only bright spots in his life.
While it deals with some potentially heavy subjects, Cut Both Ways was lighter overall than Some Girls Are and Violent Ends. Will’s refusal to label who and what he is bothers Angus, but it fits. He shouldn’t have to have it all figured out at seventeen. Mesrobian does teen boy point of view very, very well. He has his perceptive moments (he does a pretty damn good job of figuring out when Brandy’s upset, even if he doesn’t know why) and he has his dumb moments, too. I do wish that Angus hadn’t been so passive about how Will treated him, which sounds odd, but if you read the book (and you really ought to) you’ll understand.
There was also N.K. Traver’s Duplicity (review over on Vampire Book Club. Spoiler: LOVED IT.) and I just started Heather W. Petty’s Lock and Mori. Teenage Sherlock Holmes meets teenage James Moriarty…and Moriarty is a girl 🙂 It promises to be an entertaining take on how their rivalry started, and I’m looking forward to finishing it.
I didn’t read just YA books this month. I also read the first two books in Meredith Wild’s Hacker Series (Hardwired and Hardpressed) and while the neediness and codependency bothered me, I was still intrigued enough to move on to book three, Hard Line. I hit the 30% mark and I started twitching. Hit 37% and had to stop. Just full out stop, deleted the book from my Kindle. I liked Erica in the first book. Smart, driven, unwilling to give up her independence and determined to make her fledgling business succeed on her terms, she keeps Blake away from the professional side of her life while giving in on a personal level. But by the time we hit book three, Blake’s become possessive, extremely jealous, controlling, and demands Erica’s total submission in every part of her life – including her business. He manipulates every negative situation to make her feel like it’s her fault, either for refusing to give him what he wants, or because she’s somehow made a mistake. And if that doesn’t scream abusive, I don’t know what will. He never physically hurts her, but not all abusive relationships are physical ones. Blake’s behavior is classic emotional abuse. In reading the reviews, I get the impression that Blake does eventually capitulate about the business, but I couldn’t bring myself to keep reading to find out for certain.
October brings us the release of the last book in the Original Sinners series (The Queen releases at the end of the month!) as well as the next book in Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series (hint: it’s good!). Fall weather’s starting to make its way to the PNW, and I’m looking forward to some quality reading time while the BF watches football.
What did you read this month?