March Reading Round-up

Even though I have a week off for Spring Break, March is usually a fairly light reading month for me. Maybe because a week off from school means a week off from my syllabus? But heck, who am I kidding, I am having trouble even attending to my obligatory 2-novels-a-week quota.

Ah, well. Some months are lean, some have books of plenty, their reading cups runneth over, et cetera. Take it easy, Jessica, it will all get read, in time.

1. Alice in Charge by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I read my first Alice book in 5th grade, when Alice was a year ahead of me. Now, 10 years later, Alice is finally a Senior in high school, and Lester – her epically older, working on his Masters since I was in middle school, brother – just turned 24.

I am now the most epically old person alive.

Anyway, this year, Alice is going on (underplanned, heavily misguided) college visits, helping a friend report unsavory teacher-student relations, and investigating an undercover hate group that has targeted her friend, a refugee from Sudan.

But, most importantly, she’s pining over Patrick, who has started college a year early (what an idiot). Ah, sigh, Alice and Patrick, Patrick and Alice. Some things just don’t change in 10 years.

2. Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart

I wrote about how much I enjoyed reading this book, but I didn’t go into much detail as to why.

Here’s the quick and dirty: E. Lockhart’s books, without fail, remind me of the sheer complexity of attempting to maintain a romantic relationship with another human being, the triumphs, the pain, the importance of keeping at it. They might be considered “romantic comedies,” but they never sell a single character or interaction short.

These books make me want to hug them. Like, actually hug.

3. Split by Swati Avasthi

Return of the Syllabus… but I really enjoyed this book. The novel begins with Jace knocking on the door of his older brother, who he hasn’t seen in a number of years and who isn’t expecting him for a visit, much less to move in and stay awhile. Christian is miffed, but he understands, since he ran away from the same home years before to escape the domestic abuse of their father… who is a District Judge. The story focuses on Jace adapting to a new life while trying to reach out to the mother he left behind, trying to relate to a similarly emotionally damaged brother, and dealing with a bit of a secret past that could come back to haunt him.

I found this to be one of those books that zips right along, the pages flying by for a few days and when you are done, you don’t feel floored (or prone to book-hugging) but just satisfied.

2010 Cybils Winner – Young Adult Fiction

4. The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

We read this book for class alongside Split, which turned this class period into a Domestic Abuse Extravaganza!! (These books are pretty much all super depressing this semester)

This time around, we have a crazy, occasionally violent mother. Nikki has three kids from two different fathers, and this novel is a letter written from the oldest (Matthew) to the youngest (Emmy). Matthew and his sister Callie have done a great job of keeping Emmy safe from Nikki’s crazy outbursts and drunken rages, but Matthew still secretly hopes that somebody – a Knight in Shining Armor – will show up and save them all, even though he’s not sure that Nikki is really “all that bad.” Matt and Callie see a strong, kindly stranger in their neighborhood and decide that he is the One, and they hunt him down and find his name and address. However, Nikki finds Murdoch first and seduces him, and when their romantic relationship fizzles, Nikki turns her rage towards him.

I’d read this book a few years ago and I definitely enjoyed the re-read, but unlike say, Split, the end of the book felt a little scrapped together, a little disconcerting. Well, the whole book was a bit disconcerting, but I didn’t close the novel feeling resolved – I left feeling a little lost, a little confused… and all the more glad that I have a pair of mentally balanced parents.

2006 National Book Award Finalist

5. Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I’ll say this first – this book has me all sorts of riled up, for a number of reasons.

I feel like I don’t want to spoil much, but I’m going to anyway. In chapter one, the narrator – Gemma – is drugged and abducted at the airport and flown against her will and her knowledge to the remote deserts of Australia where her captor has spent years building a little homestead for the two of them to live.

The novel has two storylines, then:

1) Gemma tries to escape

2) Gemma falls in love with her captor

The second story line bothered me, but it mostly bothered me because it was really obvious that the story line was SUPPOSED to bother me.

I don’t like feeling manipulated…

but I suppose it DID make me think, right? And also we talked about Colonialism in class – Stockholm Syndrome = the oppressors tricking the oppressed into wanting to be oppressed – which I thought was crazy-interesting.

So I’m torn.

2011 Printz Honor

6. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

It was a BPL miracle: this book was getting a lot of hype in the media/blogosphere, I went to put a hold on it, I WAS NUMBER FOUR IN LINE.

Anyway, last week when I was recovering from my terrible illness, I missed out on 12 hours of work on Thursday and thought I would go onto campus and do a little extra on Friday. But first, I had to walk to the library to drop off my overdues and pick up my holds.

The bags were really heavy, though, and I forgot my caffeine in my fridge, and walking a mile was a little exhausting. I did not make it to work on Friday – I made it back onto the couch and read through this book in the span of an afternoon.

I found the book to be not much at all like the media portrayed it – it wasn’t a parenting polemic, it was a memoir. It wasn’t a “This is How You Should Raise Your Kids,” this is “This is How I Raised My Kids and It Kind of Worked and Kind of Didn’t.”

The book revolves around her two daughter’s music lessons and skills – they are both highly advanced musicians because Ms. Chua lorded over their hours-a-day practicing and arranged for them the best lessons available – so I naturally handed this one off to my boyfriend.

However, I didn’t expect him to eat it up like he currently is…

more about THAT later…


8 Responses to “March Reading Round-up”

  1. Okay, I HAVE to read these Alice books.

    • Agreed. They are like a reading rite of passage, like Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret or something. Kind of campy and cheesy but whenever I open one it’s like my sentimental heartstrings just start begging to get pulled.

      I also love how the first book was written in like, 85, so 7th grade Alice listens to Michael Jackson but 12th grade Alice has a cell phone and an email address etc. Cracks me up.

  2. Okay. E. Lockhart. You’ve totally made me want to read her books now!

    • Ahhh you totally should! I’m reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (for probably the 10th time) and I just want to keep reading it forever. So good.

  3. I read the new Alice book each summer. I know the last one is coming super soon…and I’m not looking forward to that.


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