Monday, August 27, 2018

Books to Give You All the Feels

I'm back (as I always am) with another quartet of reviews! While this was quite a mixed bag of content with a fictional letter collection, historical fiction, a graphic memoir and a YA love story, they also had a common thread of packing lots of emotion, particularly around relationships. 

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher is a fictional collection of a faculty member's recommendation letters for students. Through his letters, you are able to learn about the author's relationships, teaching/life frustrations, and even where he's formed connections. At the core of the letters is his relentless push of one particular student who he believes deserves to get into a program. As someone who has written and read many a recommendation letter, this one was an intriguing read that unexpectedly included a variety of emotions. There was the humor of the writer's letters for students who didn't know. There was the inappropriately included vengeance of his own life as he wrote to people he knew. Then, there was the frustration laced with care for one specific student. The book ended sadder than I expected. However, my unexpected takeaway from this one was considering how often we write rave reviews of humans in these letters, but don't say them IRL.

Read this book if - You want a uniquely emotional look at the life of a faculty member. You want to read something centered around the idea of saying what we'd really like to say sometimes.

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman was a read that was different than I expected. I received it as an ARC from St. Martin's Press. I wish the back of the book hadn't compared this one to The Lilac Girls (a book I adored) because I went in thinking this book would be more about the war given the comparison. That was definitely not what this one focused on at all. Looking at the title, this book is significantly more sisters than wartime. It just happens that the timing of the story is during World War II. Ruth and Millie are sisters, but struggle with their relationship. The book waffles between the sisters reconnecting at an armory in Springfield, Massachusetts and the time before in Brooklyn, New York. When they reconnect, one sister has found a comfortable life while the other has encountered significant struggle. As the story progresses, you realize this struggle involves both sisters in a way that is a bit of a bombshell. The revelations of this story made it an emotional read. I don't have a sister, so I don't know the ups and downs of that connection, but this one told the story in a way that made me really feel the pain and hurt these two shared.

Read this book if - You want a book about the rocky relationship of sisters. You enjoy historical fiction and want a book set more on the homefront than overseas.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosockzka was outstanding. I received this graphic novel as an ARC, and I'm telling y'all now that this is a memoir you need to check out. This is the true story of the author's life and all its complexity. Much of the complexity is that his mother is a drug addict. Through his pictures and stories, he recounts the downs and ups of his life with (and without) his mother. Due to his mom's addiction, Jarrett is primarily raised by his grandparents. He talks about his relationship with such beauty. Their relationship is unique in many ways, and he does a brilliant job of capturing this loving dynamic. Through all his stories, Jarrett also shares how he found his way to art. It's a beautiful thing that he was able to use his art to then tell his story. This one was an emotional one, y'all, but so, so great. I found myself in tears near the end as I read letters from his grandparents and the included author's note about the truth of his story. While a painful topic, this story brilliantly shares the realities of how addiction can impact a family.

Read this book if - You want to read a unique graphic novel. You want to see the depths of impact addiction can have. You want to see someone masterfully using their art to share their truth.

To All The Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han was a book I decided to read after I watched the movie on Netflix. I just didn't feel right not reading the source material. Also, I LOVED the premise of the movie, so wanted to spend some more time with Lara Jean and crew. This book's plot focuses on Lara Jean and the love letters she writes to her crushes. She doesn't ever send them, but it's the way she gets her feelings out. True Story: I used to write letters like these as a crushing teenager. I'm beyond happy I never, ever, ever sent these and then had the good sense to destroy them, so they could never see the light of day. ANYWAY. Lara Jean's letters are accidentally sent setting a whole bunch of unexpected things in motion as those she once loved receive these letters. Y'all, this one is so my jam. I absolutely loved reading (and watching) this story. In addition to the story of Lara Jean, there are her sisters (and the complexities of their relationship), her dad (who is raising three daughters solo after her mother's death) and all the angst and such that high school brings. This story had me captivated, and I'm going to have to keep going with this series because I need to know what happens next!

Read this book if - You watched the movie, and you haven't yet read the book. You plan on watching the movie and want to read the book first. You love a good story about unrequited love and what could happen when a crush finds out your feelings.