Sunday, January 20, 2019

Book Reviews: Windows into Worlds and Stories of Redemption

You know the drill at this point, right? This round was full of some feels y'all! 

The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams was outstanding. This is an emotional read, but worth the journey given the beauty of the writing. This is a memoir (posted posthumously) built around the author's terminal cancer diagnosis at 37. She uses her writing to chronicle the emotions of living with this disease. This includes her relationship with her husband, young daughters, and extended family. The title speaks to the fact that it is somewhat of a miracle the author even made it to adulthood. Born blind, her own grandmother wanted her parents to have her euthanized. After coming to the United States as a refugee to escape the turmoil of Vietnam, she is able to eventually get surgery to restore some sight. She spends some time on what it means to overcome such obstacles to achieve all she has, but really this is a reflection on the emotions that come with coming face-to-face with your mortality. There are days where she details the beauty in the world, and there are others where she is overcome with the pain and grief of cancer and what this means for her, as well as what will never be. By the end of this one, I was a mess of tears. However, I also found such power in this story. Throughout, she stresses the importance of living while you're living. Given her situation, she has a unique understanding of working with the time you've got, and her message is going to stay with me for awhile. Thanks to Random House for the ARC that I'm a bit behind in reading. The good news? This one is out now, so no need to wait on a release date to check this one out right now.

Read this book if - You want to really got up in your emotions. You want to read an honest, emotional, and powerful reflection on the impact of cancer.

The Unteachables by Gordon Korman was a middle grade novel that had a bit of "Breakfast Club for kids" vibe. Kiana shows up for her first day at a new school, and through some first day chaos, she ends up in Room 117 with a group of students known as the Unteachables. This is a group of students that the school's educators have kind of given up on for one reason or another. This year, the school has assigned Mr. Kermit to class. Mr. Kermit is counting the literal days to early retirement. He once had the joy of teaching, but having to take the fall for a cheating scandal wiped that joy from his work. Overall, this was a story of redemption. It was about the power of finding your people to believe in you, so that you can believe in yourself. Sure, there are some aspects of this plot that seem unrealistic when it comes to how schools work, but the sentiment of the emotion is what counts for this read.

Read this book if - You're looking for a sweet middle grade novel about rediscovering joy by finding people who believe in you.

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Story by Debbie Tung was a book I absolutely loved. I mean, y'all, it's a collection of comics about being an introvert! I loved the relatability of this one. Throughout, I smiled and nodded as I knew just what she was talking about in nearly all of the vignettes. I appreciated that these weren't outlandish situations, rather these were simple, everyday feels that introverts know well. This was overall just a gem of a read. I loved the illustrations and how it was just page after page of introvert truths. If you are an introvert, you'll find yourself in many of these. If you're not an introvert, this is one that'll give you a window into the experience. This one is just full of humor, of honesty, and of love for that introvert life!

Read this book if - You want a unique (and illustrated!) look at the life of an introvert.

Mascot by Antony John was a middle grade novel that was a wonderful story of redemption. I read about the plot of this one, and I knew I wanted to read it. What I didn't know was that it was about the St. Louis Cardinals. I had to chuckle when I picked it up only because I'm married to a Cardinals fan, and I'm a Royals fan. Team allegiance aside, this one was a beautiful story. It centers on Noah. Noah is confined to a wheelchair after being injured in the car accident that killed his dad. With this, Noah is trying to adjust to his new normal. Certain friends have faded, his mom is navigating her own grief and aiding him, and he can no longer play baseball. When a new kid (known by the nickname Double Wide) comes to town, Noah finds a new ally to get through life. This one hit me in the feels throughout. First of all, it shows how Noah navigates so much unexpected change. Second of all, it shows the power of finding friends to support you. Third of all, it is about second chances for so many of its characters in varied ways. Oh, and there's also this really great subplot involving Fredbird that added some humor to the mix which I appreciated. The reason I find myself reading more and more middle grade fiction is books like this. They contain stories of kids navigating really tough stuff with such authentic emotion. I love the depth with which they tell a story, and I just can't get enough!

Read this book if - You want a middle grade book all about second chances. You are a St. Louis Cardinals fan and/or from St. Louis - You'll appreciate the connection.