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Read Nouvelle: We Were Liars and many more!
I recently signed up to receive Advance Reader Copies through NetGalley. If you haven’t tried this before, you should! Basically, as educators, we have the power to influence what books our schools teach and what books our students read. Given that, we can ask publishers for ARCs and read books before they hit the shelves.
Here’s a run-down of what I’ve been reading, and why I would or wouldn’t recommend these books to students. You can also check out my GoodReads page for longer reviews or follow me on Instagram (link in sidebar) to see what’s next.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (paper copy)
Every year, they go to their family’s private island for the summer. Every year, they draw closer to each other and to a revolution. And then, one summer, everything changes.
I’m late to the game on this one, but it was recommended to me by a teacher friend. I had read the Ruby Oliver books, and so I guess I was expecting something with a lighter tone. I would still recommend it to select readers, probably 8th+.
Why I would recommend it: It’s haunting and beautiful, and I think a lot of students can appreciate the frankness of Lockhart’s tone here. The experiences and trauma are very real, making the characters relatable. I also think readers love being surprised.
Why I might hold back: There are a few scenes that parents might object to, so I definitely wouldn’t hand it to just any kid. Also, hello, major trauma, so make sure your readers are mature.
Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (paper copy)
Amy, born with cerebral palsy and using a voice box to communicate, and Matthew, battling obsessive-compulsive disorder and crippling fear of everything, find each other in the halls of their high school. Matthew tells Amy exactly what he thinks of her – a moment of sheer honesty that no one’s even given her. She convinces her mother to let Matthew be one of her new peer aides, trying to shape her senior year into one of friends and new experiences. How can they help each other learn to reach out to the world?
I loved the unique voices in this book and the relationships between the characters. I thought that the parents in the book were particularly well-developed. I also had several laugh-out-loud moments.
Why I would recommend it: This book provides two rare perspectives and shows how people can overcome their faults and differences to form real relationships. I would recommend this to older students (again, 8th+) who enjoy dramadies like A Fault in Their Stars.
Why I might hold back: I wasn’t a fan of the last third of this book. Amy’s plotline veers off and has an unnecessary “twist” that turns the whole thing into a soap opera. I definitely think there are some students who would like this, but others who would roll their eyes (like I did).
From a Distant Star by Karen McQuestion (NetGalley)
Lucas has cancer and his girlfriend Emma can’t imagine a world without him. Luckily, she doesn’t have to, because an alien consciousness crash-lands in Lucas’ backyard and needs a body for a while… Lucas’ will do just fine.
So, I liked the premise of this book, and even the execution was fair. I started it thinking it would be similar to Alienated (Melissa Landers), Across the Universe (Beth Revis), or Star-Crossed (CW show), but it ended up having very little romance. I thought the plot moved along at a good pace. It wasn’t surprising, it wasn’t suspenseful, but it was structured and all of the loose ends got tied up. I also *really* appreciate a stand-alone book, so yay.
Why I would recommend it: I love that this book focuses on friendship, and I would recommend it for middle schoolers and younger high schoolers. It is very easy to see the structure of the story, so I’d also recommend it for an enrichment selection to work on basic elements.
Why I might hold back: Well, simply put, I thought this book was pretty boring. The plot was fine, I guess, but I was looking for more intrigue. I also hated the protagonist. She gets carried along by her boyfriend, her brother, and the alien, and I feel this isn’t a great model of an independent, capable female protagonist.
The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle (NetGalley)
Every October, seventeen-year-old Cara and her family become suddenly and inexplicably accident-prone. This dreaded “accident season” has haunted her family for years, with days of cuts, broken bones, falls, and “near-misses”. And her friend’s Tarot cards say that this year will be one of the worst. Cara’s mom is in a daily panic, her sister is slowly drifting away from them, and a childhood friend has suddenly disappeared. Can they discover how to break the spell of the Accident Season, before it tears them apart?
The Accident Season is hauntingly beautiful – the prose a perfect match for a book set in October in Ireland. Sometimes, I found myself rereading sentences just for the poetry:
Across the water the trees are whispering leady secrets to each other, or maybe to us, but we don’t have the right language to understand.
Can you break your heart by accident, I wonder, like you can break a wrist?
I loved everything about this book, but mostly the prose and the development of the relationships. I think this would be an amazing book to sample from as you teach mood, point-of-view, or style.
Why I would recommend it: I would hands-down recommend this to any high school student who likes mysterious writing. The book has been compared to We Were Liars, but I think it’s even better. The “twist” makes much more sense, and actually isn’t a “twist” as much as an unfolding.
Why I might hold back: I would be concerned about potentially upsetting middle school parents because there is smoking and drinking in this book and quite a bit of it at that. Also, trigger warning for abuse.
That being said, I’ll reiterate the thing about sampling from this book as you teach mood – it is quite an amazing work.
Also read recently:
The Secret Letters by Leah Scheier (a Victorian-era detective story featuring a fun female protagonist — 4 stars)
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard (a zombie novel set during the 1876 World’s Fair in Philly … the premise is better than the execution — 2 stars)
What are you reading this summer?
Danielle @ Nouvelle