This Semester In Books: Featuring Mini-Reviews

College = Required Reading + Essays + Midterms  + More Essays + Seriously Why Is There So Much Required Reading??

This semester, luckily, I have managed to find the time to squeeze in some pretty amazing reads! Here's me playing catch up of what I've been reading in the form of mini-reviews. Some are 2015 releases, others are a bit older. There's contemporary, middle grade, even a graphic novel. One thing that all of these books have in common is that they are definitely worth the read!

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick 
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 
My Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

I came to read WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE immediately upon finishing Fitzpatrick's debut novel, MY LIFE NEXT DOOR (which I absolutely loved). In comparison, this novel was loaded with the angst. What I love about Fitzpatrick is that her stories are always family-centric, with active parents that are consistent throughout. She also has a tendency to tackle classist issues as well, as in not everyone is Ivy League Bound middle class, that's just not reality. In WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE, I loved the complexity of the relationships, Gwen's relationship with her little brother Emory, and the island setting was gorgeous and so well done. Don't go into this read expecting it to be like Fitzpatrick's debut. It's more angst, raw emotion, and it was more difficult for me to get through (but not in a bad way.) If you're a fan of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Sarah Ockler, definitely check out Huntley Fitzpatrick!

GEORGE by Alex Gino 
My Rating: 5 / 5 Stars 

George looks like a boy, but she knows she's a girl. Her fourth grade class is putting on the play Charlotte's Web, and George wants to play Charlotte. Except boys can't play Charlotte. What I loved the most about GEORGE is that the plot itself is so simple, a child being told that they can't do something because of their appearance. The profound nature of this story comes also in the method of storytelling, third person limited with she pronouns from beginning to end. Because George knows that she's a girl. I cannot sing enough praise about this book. It made me want to smile and cry all at once, and I'm so excited that this book is out in the world for children to read. 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 
My Rating: 6 / 5 Stars (yes, seriously, it's THAT good)

Dante teaches Ari how to swim. Ari doesn't have any friends, yet somehow Dante becomes his best friend. And that's the story, an evolving friendship between two Mexican-American boys trying to discover the secrets of the universe. This book is INCREDIBLE and I'm totally embarrassed that it took me so long to find it. Sáenz's poetic prose is lyrical and just all around gorgeous, I felt like I had been time warped back to the 1980s. As if the writing alone isn't reason enough to grab this book, Aristotle's coming of age story is spot on. The book deals with family, friendship, and intersectional diversity beautifully, and maybe I'm just a sucker for co-dependent male friendships. Ari & Dante left an impact on my heart, and I know we still have a couple months left of 2015 but I can definitely say that this is one of the best books I've read this year.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel  
My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars 

 As someone who doesn't branch into graphic novels too often, FUN HOME was just so fun (sorry) to read. I enjoyed the graphic novel format, there's just so much detail in the images, and it adds an entirely new dimension to story telling. I mostly read this book because I am dying to see the musical (if you haven't listened to the music, you should. It's fantastic.) At it's core, FUN HOME is a story about family & identity and the parallels Bechdel drew between herself and her father. Definitely recommend!

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 
My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

DUMPLIN' is the story about Willowdean Dixon entering a beauty pageant. Willowdean is fat, and she wants people to stop treating fat like it's a bad word. As confident as she is on the outside, inside the insecurities seep in, especially when it comes to Bo. She likes Bo, she just can't imagine why Bo would like her. Overall, DUMPLIN' is great, and deserves all the hype that it's getting. For me, I was expecting more of an emotional punch, but it's still an excellent body-positive read filled with characters I adored. And lots of Dolly Parton references, which is always fabulous. 

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler 
My Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Oh my God. This book. It's another one of those books that everyone must read right now. In fact, if I could climb up onto my roof and scream EVERYONE READ SARAH OCKLER RIGHT NOW  I would. I forgot how much I missed her until she was back in my life. And this story was so complex and wonderful to read. I felt how badly Elyse missed Trinidad and Tobago and how the islands were just as present even though she was in Oregon. I felt the weight of the tragedy that changed Elyse's life. It was also amazing reading from the perspective of a character that can't speak, and all the extra effort it took to make people hear her. The romance was done perfectly. The Little Mermaid references were the best.  Seriously, this book is a must read, and another favorite of 2015 for me. 

Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler 
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 
My Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

WOW, I was not expecting to love this book so much. It had the perfect fluff-to-depth ratio. Adler's characterization is incredibly intricate and well done, her ability to show the reality of Hollywood without overdramatizing it was excellent. Not to say that there wasn't plenty of drama, but it was good drama, not roll-your-eyes-oh-my-God-WHY drama. There's the family drama, boy drama, Hollywood drama -- I couldn't stop turning the page. Ally was a great narrator and I enjoyed watching the ups and downs of her relationships. I loved Ally and Van's friendship and how it wasn't perfect. And Liam, oh my GOD Liam was fantastic. Nate I could've done without. Josh was also surprisingly complex for being a hot mess, and I found his character intriguing. Guess I'm just going to have to read UNDER THE LIGHTS next! I knew of Dahlia from her awesome twitter feed, and now I can say that I totally recommend her books too!

And that is what I've been able to get my hands on so far this semester! I can't complain, they've been a bunch of pretty great reads. Now that I'm all caught up, I'm planning switch back to full reviews, starting with ILLUMINAE (which I am halfway through but oh my GOD). I'm also hoping to get through, UNDER THE LIGHTS, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY, and THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, and TELL ME AGAIN HOW A CRUSH SHOULD FEEL before the end of the semester.

It's been an exciting semester in books. What are some of your favorites from this fall?

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. 
He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel. 
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives. 
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

How is a book about cancer so funny? Because this book is hilarious, and more often than not I caught myself laughing out loud. The humor is sometimes smart and witty, and other times just straight up silly. The juxtaposition between the tone of the book and the content was surprising, yet effective.  

This is not just a book about cancer. It’s about friendship and self-discovery and facing your fears (which for Greg, is sharing his homemade films with others). It’s not about miracles or falling in love or there necessarily needing to be a happy ending. That made this read so refreshing. And the Greg / Earl friendship/partnership was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. 

It sucks that this book came out the same year as The Fault in Our Stars, because in terms of subject matter, there is no doubt that there are similarities. And while I love John Green’s lyrical writing style (he certainly crafts some the greatest quotable moments), the teenagers he depicts always feel less like teenagers and more like pretentious adults. In this book, it felt like I was reading about real teenagers. I loved the honesty that the narrator Greg has in describing the situations that he’s in, that no, this is not meant to be “a touching romantic novel." 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl felt like I was reading an experience. He talks about his family a lot, particularly interactions with his mother, and how even thinking about the word college stresses him out, and these family / live moments were all particularly real and relatable. Sometimes in YA authors tend to forget that teenagers are highly influenced by their parents, so it was cool to see family as a constant presence. Especially since he only starts hanging out with Rachel because his mom tells him to.

I enjoyed the breaks in standard prose, the shifts to bullet points and scenes from a script. Just yeah, I really enjoyed this read. 

It’s the first cancer book that didn’t make me cry. 

Also, in case you were wondering, the movie is just as fantastic.