These three books were a nice deviation from the typical YA. All are contemporaries – light on romance and none of the books are preachy or over the top, even though they are each tackling serious issues. We just get a simple story where we spend quality time getting to know the main characters as the story slowly unfolds.
So give these three books a shot if your looking for something a little different. All are fairly quick reads.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Seventeen-year-old Greg has managed to become part of every social group at his Pittsburgh high school without having any friends, but his life changes when his mother forces him to befriend Rachel, a girl he once knew in Hebrew school who has leukemia. ~ goodreads
Review: Sound depressing? You would be wrong. In fact Greg informs us right from the start that we will get "precisely zero Important Life Lessons, or Little-Known Facts About Love, or sappy tear-jerking Moments When We Knew We Had Left Our Childhood Behind for Good…." Sort of the anti-The Fault in Our Stars.
Greg speaks directly to the reader in a very honest way, letting us see him warts and all. He's not a perfect kid & is really rather selfish but it is fun to see this honest portrayal of a teenage boy in high school. Greg's descriptions of high school cliques is spot-on and had me cringing from my own memories.
The first half of this book is funny. Scratch that. It's HYSTERICAL. I was laughing so hard my animals started looking at me funny. Unfortunately the narrative starts to lean more towards annoying than funny and I felt like the story had no real direction around the halfway point. Greg even asks us a few times why we're still reading his stupid book. I don't think I would go that far but I did start to lose interest.
Overall a fun, quirky story using a combination of regular dialogue, bullet point lists, movie script format (Greg is an aspiring director) and catchy chapter titles like: Batman Versus Spider-Man & A Moron's Guide to Leukemia, to tell the story of Greg's journey with Earl and Rachel - the dying girl.
P.S. I beg to differ with Greg but I think there were a few important life lessons and maybe not big tear jerking moments but I may have sniffled a little.
Amazon: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky
Keek’s life was totally perfect.
Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.
With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right. ~ goodreads
This is a very quiet sort of book. Keek is going through all the typical teen angst of a 15 year old but in her case she's confined to a bed with chicken pox.
It's seems like such an odd concept - to tell a story where the MC is basically in a room, with little outside contact for two months, while grappling with the major issues of her life. Sex with her boyfriend, fighting with her best friend and family upheaval - while stuck in bed - without the internet *gasp*. We are so connected these days that we don't take the time to be alone with our thoughts anymore so it was an interesting perspective.
Keek is brutally honest with the reader as she works through her issues by reading Sylvia Plath and writing poetry. Her personality sometimes comes off as self absorbed and over dramatic but I think that's typical for the "it's the end of the world" mindset of a 15 year old. This book probably isn't going to be for every reader but I found it's simplicity a plus.
Amazon: And Then Things Fall Apart
Unforgettable by Loretta Ellsworth
Baxter Green isn’t like everyone else. While most people would forget about the little details of everyday life, Baxter never forgets—not pain, not hurt, not embarrassment. In fact, Baxter never forgets anything—not even a string of account numbers, flashed before his eyes by his mother’s criminal boyfriend, Dink, for use in a credit card scam. Years after his testimony has locked Dink away, Baxter and his mother are in a new town, trying to forget the danger Dink brought into their lives. Baxter wants to hide his unique ability, but it becomes increasingly more difficult when he reconnects with Hallie, a girl from his childhood who has lived on in his memory long after she has forgotten him. Can Baxter win Hallie’s heart? Loretta Ellsworth’s newest novel is one readers will never forget. ~ goodreads
Baxter remembers every single detail of his life. Every. Single. One. At first I thought this was some cool superpower, paranormal book but Baxter's problem is very real and not very cool at all.
Like And Things Fall Apart, Unforgettable is an understated novel although there is more action and drama involved.
I could not help but love Baxter. He's so sweet and so frustrated by his own life. He's this ordinary kid with this strange ability/(disability?) Known in school as Memory Boy, he has a tough time and is sometimes misunderstood because he can ace all tests as long as it involves memory but fail when it doesn't. It's sad that he can remember the bad times in as much excruciating detail as the good things in his life. He has also been exploited by his mothers boyfriend for criminal activity. An act that has Baxter & his mother on the run.
When he reconnects with Halle, the girl he's been in love with since kindergarten, who doesn't remember him at all, he starts pushing out of his comfort zone and tries to achieve a sense of normalcy to win her over.
Though slow at times, this is such a sweet story. I love how Baxter associates sounds with images. He sees daffodils when he hears Halle's voice for example. I also felt frustrated with Baxter as he struggled to fit into a world that just doesn't understand his way of thinking.