Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Characters That Would Be Sitting At My Lunch Table

toptentuesdayIt’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. 

This week’s topic:  Top Ten Book Characters That Would Be Sitting At My Lunch Table. Perfect for the first day back to school here in Minnesota! Let’s see what kind of motley crew I can assemble here, okay?

1. Marcus Flutie (Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty): Let’s just get him on this list and out of the way first, shall we? Because teenage me would probably have been desperately in love with Marcus Flutie, were he not fictional. Sure, I would’ve been turned off by his drug use and the endless rotation of girls he’s sleeping with, but then he’d talk, and be challenging and smart and weird, and I’d love him. I’d crush on him because of his collection of tshirts, his weird phases, his status of mysterious loner. He’d be at my table, but I’d probably be sitting way down on the other end, trying to work up the courage to verbally spar with him. Sigh.

 

2. Hassan Harbish (An Abundance of Katherines by John Green): Because he’s smart and hilarious. And really, there’s nothing in life I like better than people who are good at witty banter and who can make me laugh.

 

3. Andrea Marr (Girl by Blake Nelson): 90s girl. Grunge. Thift stores. Boys in bands. What more do I need to say–she’s my kind of girl.

 

4. Gabe Williams (Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills): Gabe’s only in high school but has a radio show on the college station, called Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Given that in real life I listened to this show as a teenager, it’s only natural I’d want to be at Gabe’s table.

 

5. Frankie Landau-Banks (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart): A sharp-tongued feminist who’s also possibly a criminal mastermind? Color me obsessed.

 

6. Hava Aaronson (Never Mind the Goldbergs by Matthue Roth): One of my favorite characters from a book that hardly anyone I know has ever heard of, much less read. Hava is an Orthodox Jew and a punk. She’s sassy and outspoken, angst-ridden and flawed. She searches for her identity while listening to some fantastic bands. I think we’d be friends.

 

7. Allie (The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz): Allie works at a record store, writes a zine, and has a blog. Do you see a running theme here for the friends I’m picking? If you knew the purple haired, pierced, zine-writing, music obsessed teen me in the 90s, you’re not surprised by this table, are you?

 

8. Emily Black (I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone byStephanie Kuehnert): Guitar player in a punk band, so we’d probably be friends, but I’d also find her insufferable. I maybe wouldn’t even really like her very much, but she’d provide lots of drama, which would keep things interesting. Also, we’d probably fight about music. Like the book itself, I’d think she looked cooler than she was.

 

9. Marisol Guzman (Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger): If you know me, or have read this blog with any sort of regularity, you might know that I have a special connection to this book. Marisol and I could scribble things for our zines over in a corner and make sarcastic comments about everything. Marisol describes herself as a “Puerto-Rican Cuban Yankee Cambridge, Massachusetts, rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love.” I adore her (but I might be a little biased). 

 

10. Norah Silverberg (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan): Guess what? Another character who is really into music! I know! Norah is cynical and complicated. She likes swearing. She’s kind of aggressive and brilliant. I’m pretty sure she’s too cool to hang out with me–but maybe I’d find out that she tries really hard to be that cool.

 

 

sloppyfirstskatherinesGIRLBMFUC1disreputablegoldbergsvinyljoeyramonehardlovenicknorah

 

 

 

 

Weekly roundup of YA, children’s lit, and other book-related links

*Over at the Carolrhoda blog, Andrew Karre is talking about “The Sex.”  I’d like to paste the whole post here, but I’ll just give you this for now:

“I’m beginning to think of sex in YA this way: the processes of discovering

  • the facts of any given sex act,
  • the desire to have it,
  • and then of the opportunity to have it

are not necessarily erotic or symbolic or easily recalled by an adult, but they are none the less distinct, absolutely fascinating, and true to the experience of being a teenager. And isn’t that the whole point of the genre?”

 

*Carrie Mesrobian has a companion post to Karre’s, “What We’d Like to See in Young Adult Fiction by Actual Young Adults.”  From Carrie’s post:
“…[M]y experience with teaching teenagers has been that their candor and comfort with talking about complex topics is always high. They just need to be given the space and time to talk.

This message should knock on the ears of editors and booksellers and librarians, too. What you might not be able to verbalize as a grown adult, teenagers have zero problem with talking about to ANYONE. The world is changing with respect to sexual mores and attitudes. Our books going forward should reflect this.”

 

*At Book Riot, “Making the Jump from Lit to Comics: Where to Start.” 

 

*At Teen Librarian Toolbox, “This is What Happened When I Asked Twitter to Recommend MG & YA Lit Titles for Those Asking about Ferguson.” 

 

*More on Ferguson: At Stacked, “Ferguson, Race, Civil Rights, Social Activism, and YA Fiction: A Round-up of Reading.” 

 

*At SLJ, Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 is talking “Books to Film–Coming Soon so be Prepared!”

 

*At Stacked, Kelly Jensen’s piece “Female Sexuality in YA Fiction: A Look at the Landscape” is EXCELLENT. She says:

The depictions of sexuality in YA matter because these are safe spaces for readers — teen readers, especially — can think about, explore, and consider what it means to be a sexual being. We don’t talk openly or honestly about sex as a culture, and we certainly don’t talk about it in positive, affirming, and empowering ways with teenagers.”

 

*Another great post at Stacked: “Suicide and Depression in YA: A Discussion and Book List.” 

 

*At The Huffington Post, “9 YA Couples Who Definitely Need to Break Up” by Christa Desir.

Laura Bradley Rede visits the St. Cloud library

darkrideWednesday I got to spend some quality time hanging out at the library and chatting with Laura Bradley Rede about reading and writing YA books. Laura’s visit marked the end of the series of talks by Minnesota young adult authors.

 

Laura showed up with a laundry basket full of books to give away to the teens. I always bring in all of my ARCs to hand out at book club meetings, too, and they’re always ravenous for new things to read. Everyone left with a pretty good pile! She also handed out a sheet called “How to make a monster,” listing tons of questions to help flesh out a character. The back of the handout had general advice for writers. Given how much our book club talks about writing and getting stuck while writing, I know the handout will see lots of use!

 

We covered a lot of ground in Laura’s visit. We learned that she wrote a lot of short stories as a teen and young adult, kept journals, and wrote many plays. She didn’t go to school for writing (and was a Women’s Studies major, as was I!). Laura doesn’t really write non-YA things at this point. She talked to us a little bit about the classes she’s taught at The Loft, the Writers of the Future contest, and about her self-publishing process.

 

Then Laura busted out a great writing prompt exercise with a stack of magazine pages with pictures of people and pictures of Kissing-Midnight-187x300scenarios and we were off and running! We’d probably all still be sitting there right now shouting out ideas had I not eventually made the fun wrap up. It was an excellent exercise and one I’m pretty sure we’ll recreate at a future book club meeting. It was great to hear everyone’s really amazingly odd ideas.

 

It was so great of Laura to come visit the library and inspire us! It was the perfect final event to wrap up a summer of fun volunteering at the library. Thanks, Laura!

 

 

Review: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

complicit

 

About the book: 
Title: Complicit

Author: Stephanie Kuehn

Age level: YA

Genre: Realistic/Psychological Thriller/Suspense

Subjects: Unreliable narrators, crimes, mysteries, families, death and dying, mental health

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication date: 6/24/2014

Format read in: Hardcover

Source of book: library

Pages: 256

Series: No

Cover: Perfect in its minimalism. The little touch of color and the matchstick are just whoa.

Why review this book?: Thought Charm & Strange was brilliant.

 

Summary (from bn.com):

Two years ago, fifteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.

Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of the gripping psychological thriller Complicit from Stephanie Kuehn, the William C. Morris Award—winning author of Charm & Strange.

 

The details:

Characters: Siblings Jamie and Cate are very strong, unique characters. Jamie suffers anxiety so bad that his hands go numb. He seems to have some kind of amnesia about their mother’s death when he was young. He loses track of periods of time. In short, he’s kind of a wreck. Part of it’s the trauma he suffered as a child, part of it is the fact that Cate is out of juvie and he’s terrified. Cate seems like a loose cannon–a girl who seems like she has nothing to lose. Other girls talk about her manipulation, her control, the weird stuff she got into. Jamie doesn’t know what to think–just that she’s taunting him and withholding something.
Writing: TIGHT. Sparse. Every word seems carefully chosen.
Plot: Reading pace: Breakneck. The plot gives a little, obscures a little, almost shows up something, then backs off. I couldn’t read fast enough.
Ending: Pretty sure I said multiple swears during the last few pages. The perfect ending for a total “WTF?” kind of story.
Liked: Strong characters with lots of flaws and nuance. Extreme tension.
Disliked: Wondered how believable the parts about visiting the therapist were (as far as how he was treated, what she helped with, what she withheld) and any police investigation into the crime etc. Plot about the adoptive parents’ own tragedy seemed unnecessary. At times Jamie was frustrating to me. He felt stiff and his dialogue was sometimes flat and stilted–though in the context of the story, and his issues, those things feel like character traits and not flaws in writing.

BONUS!: Unreliable narrator! 

In summary: Extremely intense story that made me want to skim and read as fast as possible to see what the ending was, but the fantastic writing and storytelling slowed me down and made me enjoy the book rather than just bolt through it to get an answer.
Verdict: Didn’t pack the same emotional punch that Charm & Strange did, but was a compelling and satisfying (and disturbing) read. Will appeal to a wide readership.

 

Links:

Author’s website

Author’s Twitter

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don’t Own Yet

toptentuesday

It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. 

 

 

Today’s topic: top ten books I really want to read but don’t own yet. As a huge proponent of the library, I’m going to change “don’t own” to “haven’t gotten,” because I’ll be checking them out from my local branch.  Some of these titles are not published yet, FYI. That said, let’s do this!

 

1. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I’ve been dying for this one for ages. I’m near the top of the hold queue at the library–they just need to process books faster!

2. Landline by Rainbow Rowell. I’ll read anything by her, but I’m also a sucker for an eye-catching cover.

3. A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall. Published by Swoon, where readers got to pick what was published. Interesting idea, as is the fact that this novel is told from 14 different perspectives. I’m curious.

4. 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith. I LOVED Grasshopper Jungle. Plus, again, the cover means I’d pick this up if I were browsing and didn’t know anything else by this author.

5. Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts. Look, I want to read this even though all of the comparisons to John Green and Rainbow Rowell just turn me off–not because I have anything against those authors (hello, I just told you I’d read anything Rowell would write) but because of how reductive and meaningless that comparison is. Also, meh cover. But, want.

6. Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid. Road trip to Alaska? Count me in.

7. Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier. Did you know I have a *huge* love of books set in India? Well, I do. I’ve read lots of adult fiction set in India, but not a lot of YA.

8. We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story by Josh Sundquist. You know what else I don’t read a lot of? YA memoirs. Also, this title is fantastic.

9. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. Civil Rights-era story about breaking the color barrier (and all that comes with that) at a school.

10. A Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen. About a girl who has issued a “boy moratorium.” We all know what happens when you declare something like that! Also, at least partially set in Machu Picchu. Have I ever read a book set in Machu Picchu? I don’t think so. Cool!

Those are mine picks–what are yours? Tell me on Twitter!

isla

landlinelittlesomething100mileszACLETSGETbombayweshouldliesblindspot

My So-Called Life: 20 years later

MSCL

Go, now! Go! 

On August 25, 1994 My So-Called Life debuted on tv. I was 16 and heading into my junior year of high school.

I know it’s not even remotely unique to say this, but I finally felt like someone on tv was like me. Angela was angsty and uncertain. She had debilitating crushes on boys (well, *crush* on Jordan Catalano) and it was awkward and weird as they tried to get together. Her friends made shitty choices, there was a lot of drama (but it all felt so honest and real), she got hurt, and she hurt others. The music, her brightly dyed hair, and the cast of colorful and memorable characters immediately drew me in.

Most weeks, I’d watch it with my best friends Christina and Jenny. Below are pictures of us in 1994 on one of the nights watching MSCL at Jenny’s house.

j and a mscl

a and c mscl

I loved that things never felt tidy on that show, that things weren’t always happy, that parents fucked up too. The dialogue wasn’t self-consciously clever or steeped in sarcasm. It was real, honest. They talked like my friends talked.

And they talked about everything. Here, finally, were teen girls on tv talking about sex, often, in a way that felt relatable.

 

 

 

Witness Angela and Rayanne:

Rayanne: You wanna have sex with him.

Angela: Who?

Rayanne: Who. Jordan. Catalano. Come on, I’m not gonna tell anyone, just admit it.

Angela: I just like how he’s always leaning. Against stuff. He leans great. Well, either sex or a conversation. Ideally both.
And Angela and Brian:

Angela: I mean, I think about [sex]… all the time, but…

Brian: Wait, you *think* about it all the time?

Angela: Brian! Yes! Shut up… guys don’t have a monopoly on thinking about it.

Brian: They don’t?

Angela: *No!*

 

 

Twenty years later, I still remember that Jordan was “a rudimentary reader with low literacy skills.” I still can quote most of the letter that Brian ghostwrites to Angela for Jordan (Dear Angela, I know in the past I’ve caused you pain, and I’m sorry. And I’ll always be sorry ’till the day I die. And I hate this pen I’m holding because I should be holding you. I hate this paper under my hand because it isn’t you. I even hate this letter because it’s not the whole truth. Because the whole truth is so much more than a letter can say. If you want to hate me, go ahead. If you want to burn this letter, do it. You can burn the whole world down. You could tell me to go to hell, and I’d go. If you wanted me to. And I’d send you a letter from there.). I think of Angela believing “Red” was a song  Jordan wrote about her… but he really wrote it about his car. I listen to Juliana Hatfield and think about Angela giving her her boots. I put on Buffalo Tom and think of Angela watching Jordan as Brian watches Angela. The episodes are seared into my brain in a way that not many other shows are.

 

 

The show, which only lasted one season, was special to me at the time. When I look back now, when I rewatch episodes, I can’t really tell if objectively the show is great, or if it just felt so important to teen me and is tied to so much from that time in my life that it’s reached mythic proportions now in my brain. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters was it spoke to me–and so many others–at a time when all I wanted was to see myself reflected somewhere.

 

Favorite quotes:

*Angela: Sometimes someone says something really small and it just fits into this empty place in your heart.

 

*Angela: People are always saying you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster. Like you know what it is even. But every so often I’ll have, like, a moment, where just being myself in my life right where I am is, like, enough.

 

*Angela: School is a battlefield for your heart. So when Rayanne Graff told me my hair was holding me back, I had to listen. ‘Cause she wasn’t just talking about my hair. She was talking about my life.

 

*Rayanne: [After Angela has been talking loudly as Jordan walked by] Angela, he’s gone. You can talk like a normal person.

Angela: Oh, God.

Rayanne: You have got to progress to the next phase of this. I mean, think of Rickie and me. How much more can we take?

Angela: I just don’t want to look like I’m throwing myself at him.

Rayanne: Excuse me. People throwing themselves at people? Is, like, the basis of civilization.

 

*Angela: It’s such a lie that you should do what’s in your heart. If we all did what was in our hearts, the world would grind to a halt.

 

*Patty: It’s always tempting to lose yourself with someone who’s maybe lost themselves. But eventually, you want reality.

 

 

Carrie Mesrobian visits the St. Cloud public library

sexand violenceWednesday I spent an hour at the St. Cloud library listening to Carrie Mesrobian talk about YA books and writing. Carrie brought lots of great handouts, including one about Paranormal Stories We’d Like To See generated by a class at The Loft, and one on help for when you get stuck writing. Carrie suggests lists of thing you can come up with to help jumpstart your writing (foods you hate, jobs that sound horrible, ten things I do at night, etc), as well as some ideas for opening lines. I’ll be keeping that sheet handy when I send C. back to school in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS (yes, I’m yelling–I yell when I’m excited) and dig back into my own WIP.

 

I had a list of questions prepared, and Carrie was great about answering them. We talked about if she wrote as a teen/young adult (yes—lots of poetry), teaching writing at The Loft, her path to publication, upcoming projects (like a piece in the anthology Love and Profanity), and more.

 

Carrie handed out information about upcoming events at The Loft, including the Loft Teen Writers’ Conference. We talked about mesrobianYA books that we are into (or not-so-into)and movies of YA books, among other topics.

 

It was great of Carrie to come to East Jesus, Nowhere (Juno reference!) and hang out. After the library, we went for coffee and I think we both forgot that anyone could hear us—I’m fairly certain the old guy working behind the counter was scandalized by our colorful topics. What can we say—YA is full of interesting things to talk about!

 

Thanks, Carrie, for the great conversations!

 

If you haven’t checked out Sex & Violence, get on that. Her new book, Perfectly Good White Boy, comes out in October!

Review: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

 

i'llgiveyou

 

About the book: 
Title: I’ll Give You the Sun 

Author: Jandy Nelson

Age level: YA

Genre: Realism meets magical realism

Subjects: Twins, homosexuality, death and dying, art, families, lies, identity

Publisher: Dial

Publication date: 9/16/2014

Format read in: Paperback ARC

Source of book: borrowed

Pages: 384

Series: No

Cover: Meh. It doesn’t really tell me anything about the book–not sure I’d gravitate toward it in the wild.

Why review this book?: Endless word-of-mouth buzz

 

Summary (via bn.c0m):

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell

Jude and her brother, Noah, are incredibly close twins. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude surfs and cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and divisive ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as an unpredictable new mentor. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world. 
 
This radiant, fully alive, sometimes very funny novel from the critically acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once. 

 

The details:

Characters: Twins Noah and Jude carry most of the story. Noah is gay, but still trying to figure out what that means, and Jude spends a fair amount of time interacting with the dead.
Writing: Lyrical
Plot: Lots going on here: toggles between the present and three years prior, giving us snapshots of what is and was going on in their lives. There’s lots to do with identity, relationships, coming out, sex, consent, death, ghosts, lies, revenge, and so much more. It’s PACKED. If you can handle things piling up, you’re golden.
Ending: A little too neat.
Liked: The magical realism element. Nearly everything to do with Noah. The art aspect of the plot.
Disliked: The nonlinear narrative didn’t work well for me–too much jumping around and making me wait for answers.

 

In summary: I don’t really know why, but it took me a long time to get into this book. I kept setting it down and even read a few other books before I went back to this one. It wasn’t that it wasn’t good–it was. I think it took me a long time to feel drawn in by the characters, particularly Jude.
Verdict: An interesting read if you can stick through the really slow parts.

 

Links:

Author’s website

Author’s Twitter

Review: Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian

 (Carrie will be visiting the St. Cloud Public Library on Wednesday, August 20 from 2-3 pm. Open to everyone!) 

PGWB

 

About the book: 
Title: Perfectly Good White Boy

Author: Carrie Mesrobian

Age level: YA

Genre: Realistic

Subjects: Teen boys, relationships, dating, sex, virginity, deafness, thrift stores, military, graduation

Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group

Publication date: 10/28/2014

Format read in: ebook galley

Source of book: Edelweiss 

Pages: 304

Series: None

Cover: Simple and eye-catching. What’s that note? Why’s it crumpled up on the floor? Why does it say that? (In other words, made me want to know more about the story.)

Why review this book?: Loved Sex & Violence. A lot.

 

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sean Norwhalt can read between the lines.

“You never know where we’ll end up. There’s so much possibility in life, you know?” Hallie said.

He knows she just dumped him. He was a perfectly good summer boyfriend, but now she’s off to college, and he’s still got another year to go. Her pep talk about futures and “possibilities” isn’t exactly comforting. Sean’s pretty sure he’s seen his future and its “possibilities” and they all look disposable.

Like the crappy rental his family moved into when his dad left.

Like all the unwanted filthy old clothes he stuffs into the rag baler at his thrift store job.

Like everything good he’s ever known.

The only hopeful possibilities in Sean’s life are the Marine Corps, where no one expected he’d go, and Neecie Albertson, whom he never expected to care about.

“We’re something else. Some other thing. I don’t know what you’d call it. Maybe there’s a word, though. Maybe I’ll think of it tomorrow, when it won’t matter,” Neecie said.

The details:

Characters: The characters are what make this story, which works out well for me, as I’m a character-driven reader. I really wouldn’t care if the characters in any book just sat in a room and talked. As long as they’re interesting and well-rendered, I’m in. Sean is an extremely realistically drawn portrait of a teenage boy who doesn’t have a whole lot of support and isn’t sure how to deal with his feelings or his various relationships. I loved when Neecie became a bigger part of the story.
Writing: Compulsively readable, great ear for teen dialogue, in turns funny and seriously insightful.
Plot: There’s no huge plot, just as a warning for people who need Big Things happen to keep them reading. Though, really, what are bigger things than losing your virginity, having/screwing up/figuring out relationships, graduating high school, deciding what to do after high school, and so on.
Ending: I don’t want to say more than this: it ended in a way that I always want books to, but they rarely do. Brave move, Carrie.
Liked: The realistically complicated view of relationships (the notion that sometimes they drag on far longer than logic should allow them to, that people drop out of your life and reappear for whatever reason, that people make choices that seem stupid, and maybe are stupid, but they’re part of life).
Disliked: Um… nothing?

BONUS!: Minnesota YA author alert! Deaf character! Working class family! Kid on a non-college/military track after high school!

In summary
Verdict: Honest, bold, at times crass (I mean that word a factual, non-judgmental sense–I like crass), moving, and a fantastic look into one boy’s life. Go back and read Sex & Violence if you haven’t picked it up yet. A must-read.

 

Links:

Author’s website

Author’s Twitter

Encore review: Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

(Review originally published November 25, 2013. Carrie will be visiting the St. Cloud Public Library on Wednesday, August 20 from 2-3 pm. Open to everyone!) 

sexand violenceSex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Evan Carter is 17 and used to perpetually being the new guy at school. At each new place, he manages to find and hook up with “Girls Who Would Say Yes.” After he hooks up, he deletes the girl’s number and moves on.

At his new boarding school, he hooks up with Collette, repeatedly. He knows it’s risky—she used to date his roommate—but isn’t concerned. When Evan is brutally beaten and Collette viciously raped, they both leave school. Collette goes back to Boston, and Evan’s father moves them to a cabin at a small lake in Minnesota. Evan just wants to hibernate here and recover, but his life is invaded by the many other teenagers who live around him. They just take it for granted that he’ll want to be friends and rope him into their group. Evan begins seeing a shrink, who has him write letters as a way to process everything that has happened. Between his therapy and his new friends, he begins to heal and change, no longer comfortable being the dirtbag he used to be.

But don’t think Evan’s recovery is an easy or wholesome, boring one. He’s truly tortured by what happened to Collette and for a long time can’t even think about hooking up with any girl again—but that doesn’t stop him from eventually doing so and making yet another crappy choice in girls. His new friends, particularly the neighbor girl, Baker, accept him immediately, despite his reticence to share anything, his many evasive moves to keep them at bay, and the mess of healing wounds all over him that he lies about. Evan’s journey from peripatetic loner to mildly well-adjusted human being is not an easy one. His new self-awareness comes at a huge price, one he isn’t likely to ever move beyond. Told with first-person narration, Evan’s voice is honest and sardonic, and his observations and remarks are darkly humorous. With a deft hand, Mesrobian creates a main character that is compelling and sympathetic and a plot that transcends simply being a story of just one event.

Carrie Mesrobian’s website

Carrie Mesrobian’s Twitter