My book discussion group met last night. I really enjoy this group of women, and I especially like that they’re all interested in reading/discussing middle grade and YA novels! Our book this month was Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts, which I’ve actually read before. Preteen and I read it a year and a half ago, and we both liked it so much that we planned our family spring break vacation last year around a trip to San Francisco just so we could visit Alcatraz!
Nancy brought up the point that all the characters in Al Capone Does My Shirts were “imprisoned” in some way — Moose’s parents by their lack of money, Moose by having to take care of his sister, Natalie by her autism… This is why book discussion groups are so valuable! I’ve read the book twice, and I didn’t get that until Nancy pointed it out to me. This is the kind of connection I need to work at building into my own writing.
What else have I been reading? A Higher Geometry, written by my friend, Sharelle Moranville, which was about a girl struggling with her decision to take her relationship with her boyfriend to the next level and struggling with her desire to continue her study of mathematics. The story is set in the 1950s, and like everything Sharelle writes, is beautifully written.
Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos is a story about a family of illegal aliens from Bangledesh who flee New York for the Canadian border after 9/11.
Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters. This one really haunted me — the main character will stick with me for a long time. It’s about the break-up of a lesbian couple, and how that break-up affects their teenage son. I personally know two lesbian couples who are raising daughters; I don’t know any who are raising sons. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a boy growing up in a lesbian household…but this book gave me an idea. I think there’s a real need for a book like this. Divorce is always hard…but when it’s a homosexual couple, there are issues that come up in those families that don’t come up in other families.
Totally Joe by James Howe. This is the sequel to The Misfits, which is one of my favorite books. In this story, readers learn more about Joe through his “alphabiography,” which I thought was an interesting way to tell a story. I enjoyed this book almost as much as I enjoyed The Misfits.
The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson. I’m a huge fan of hers! I have been ever since I read Show Me the Evidence, which is a great novel to study if you’re interested in writing YA suspense. Alane was supposed to have been at that Warrensburg Children’s Literature Festival I attended in March, so I thought I was actually going to get to meet her in person, but she was sick and wasn’t able to come. She’s got this new book out, though, and it’s just as good as all her others. It looks like this might be the first of a series. It’s about a girl who takes a job working as an assistant to her coroner father, and uses her knowledge of forensic medicine to solve a mystery and catch a killer. Anyone who’s interested in forensic science will LOVE this book!
Hit the Road by Caroline Cooney is about a girl who just got her driver’s license, but ends up driving her grandmother and several other 86-year-old women to their college reunion. In the process they kidnap one of the women from her nursing home and get into a huge confrontation with the woman’s son, who may or may not have his mother’s best interests at heart.
And then we listened to Kate Klise’s Deliver Us From Normal as a family when we drove to Minnesota last week. When we go on trips, I’m usually the one who drives…everyone else in the van has a computer and/or TV/Xbox. And I’m left to sing along to my CDs. So this time I decided to get a couple books on CD to listen to (this is the only one we actually listened to). And I was pleased that it caught the attention of everyone in the vehicle. My husband lived in Bloomington, IL for a year when he was a kid, so the idea that this story was set in Normal, IL grabbed him. Plus it was just a funny story about this quirky family. Life in Normal is FAR from “normal” for Charlie because his family isn’t “normal.” But eventually they leave Normal and have this adventure when they purchase a houseboat sight unseen. It’s a great book to read and/or listen to as a family!