Monthly Wrap-Up, October 2018

Hey, friends! While planning some upcoming queer YA books to review on this blog, I thought about how there are a ton of non-queer (or even non-YA) books I read that are still notable and worth sharing. I don’t want to shift the focus of my reviews, but I do want to spotlight some of those books each month and give a paragraph review about the notable parts for others who might want to read it. So without further ado, here’s a few books I read and enjoyed last month:

YA:

  • Looking for Alaska by John Green: Several of my friends have called this their favorite John Green book, and I think it’s my favorite now, too, even though it made me tear up at parts. It’s just one of those books that proves YA fiction can be just as literary and meaningful as adult fiction. And even though it has heartbreaking moments, it’s got some seriously funny scenes, too. Also, it had one of the most powerful YA fiction lines I’ve ever read: “Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there.’ I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”
  • Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone: This one’s about Sam, a junior who has purely-obsessional OCD, as she discovers the Poetry Corner and her high school and makes friends who understand what it’s like to feel alone. As someone with pure-O OCD, I was really excited to find this book. Mental illness has received a lot more understanding over the past few decades, but I think there are still some misconceptions about OCD. Every Last Word felt like an authentic story about one person’s struggle with OCD without letting that define her. It has a lot of sad, vulnerable moments but is overall a hopeful book.
  • Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne: Even if you’ve never thought about the potential a sci-fi Jane Eyre would have, Brightly Burning doesn’t disappoint. It’s just as emotionally intense and enticing as the original novel, except with a slightly more sympathetic Mr. Rochester. And it ends a little more hopefully than the original, too. Which is kind of a bonus. If you’re more of a classic literature fan but are trying to venture into the YA genre, this could be a fun choice since it actually translates the original plot and characters into a futuristic setting pretty well. Also, I don’t think the author plans on making a Wuthering Heights in space next, but man do I want it a lot now.
  • A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck: A Short History follows freshman Matt Wainwright as he copes with his first unrequited crush and brings his emotional turmoil into his high school basketball court. This book was, above all, two things: sad and sweet. It’s full of unrequited love, loss, and uncertainty in the future that I think everyone feels at some point. It actually kind of reminded me of a younger teen version of Looking for Alaska in that it struggles to answer similar questions about why life can be so hard sometimes and whether there’s meaning in the pain.
  • Crank by Ellen Hopkins: Reading Crank was a meaningful experience because, growing up, I wasn’t allowed to read books by Ellen Hopkins. Considering that Hopkins’ books are some of the most banned and challenged YA books in print, I’m probably not the only one. Following Kristina from her beginning as a shy, emotionally-neglected teenager into a meth addict was harrowing. It was emotionally powerful experience to read how drug addiction can take away a person’s innocence, self-control, and ability to feel happy at all, even when high. After reading it, I felt sick to my stomach, but I didn’t regret reading it. This seems like a book that could either help teens have compassion for someone with struggles different from their own or help those with drug addictions feel heard and find hope.

Miscellaneous:

  • Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard: Maybe it’s all of that The Good Place I’ve been watching lately, but I’ve felt motivated lately to study philosophy more in hopes that it will help me become a kinder person and find stronger meaning in life. This book presented some interesting thoughts, especially the idea that faith begins when you step away from reason and trust in something, even though you’re afraid. It also discusses the difference between resignation and faith, the first being sorrow when confronted with seeming hopelessness and the second being trust in the infinite despite your fears.
  • That We May Be One by Tom Christofferson: In case you’re not as familiar with Mormon culture, this one is a memoir written by a brother of one of the church’s apostles who identifies as both gay and Mormon. It was powerful to follow his journey in life as he followed his heart and drew closer to God in a way that felt right to him. Being gay and spiritual can be hard, and this felt like a book that could help queer Mormons struggling to accept their sexual orientation feel like they are loved just as they are and belong in their religion.
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: One of my professors recommended that we read this one at least once in our life. It was pretty enjoyable, considering the pretty dark subject matter! I especially liked the stream-of-consciousness narrative and felt like it worked well for what he was trying to achieve. It places you firmly into each character’s mind and makes their thoughts and emotions feel distinct. For some reason, though, I think I like his short stories a lot more than I liked this novel. Probably just a personal thing.

And, just to keep up with what’s going on in my life, here are some notable things that happened this month:

  • Finally found a job! I’m starting a technical writer position at The Waterford Institute next week and am super grateful to be working for a company that promotes a love of learning.
  • Played Kingdom Hearts I and II for the middle school nostalgia factor. Currently trying to figure out if there’s a phone app that would let me play 358/2.
  • Tons and tons of thunderstorms. As I’m writing this, it’s super cloudy and stormy outside. It looks like a perfect day to curl up by a window with a cup of apple cider and a book.
  • Got to see my boyfriend perform at the opening night for Evermore, an interactive fantasy park in Northern Utah. Super proud of him for working hard to pursue what he loves and for being a very spooky zombie.
  • Spent a lot of time in Park City. The leaves are starting to change color up there and it’s really beautiful, like the personification of a pumpkin spice candle.
  • Took some time to catch up on all of my favorite podcasts while cleaning, especially Beautiful/Anonymous, Modern Love, and Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. If you guys have any podcast recommendations, by the way, I’d love to check out some new ones!

Any book recommendations for November’s book haul?