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Books I Read This Summer (That You Should Too!)

In no particular order, I’m going to be presenting a few of the books I’ve read over this summer, and a little blurb about them! Getting back into the habit of reading more and reading often is something I’ve struggled with for most of my high school career, and this summer I aimed to fix that by trying to set aside time to read more, so without further ado, here are some of the books I’ve read this summer!

  1. The War Outside

The War Outside is a novel about two girls-one German-American and one Japanese-American- who find each other in am American internment camp during world war two. For anyone who’s read Monica Hesse before, you already know this is gonna be a tearjerker. And oh dear God did this fulfill and surpass expectations. Just like her acclaimed novel Girl In The Blue Coat, Hesse focuses in on the deeply emotional relationships that can and do form in environments of hardship. Two girls who have every reason to hate each other on principle come together and grow closer than either of them could have imagined. The coming-of-age experience of forming complex relationships with family as one grows up interwoven with the trauma of trying to find life in an internment camp makes this one of the most emotional and well-written books I have ever read, I think I read it two or three days. And not to spoil anything, but for anyone looking for good books with queer themes, this is definitely for you. 

  1. Anger Is A Gift

So this one is going to be a bit longer because my reading relationship with this book has changed a bit while I’ve re-read it and looked at more than just it’s surface value. This book was written by Mark Oshiro and is about Moss Jefferies, whose father was murdered at the hands of a cop when he was young and now finds himself in the middle of a scandal at his newly over-policed school. I will praise this book over and over again for its diversity with almost all characters being trans and/or queer POC. We have named nonbinary characters, a self-identifying lesbian (who actually uses the word “lesbian”!), a disabled character, mixed characters, the list goes on and on. You will find yourself and see yourself in this book, which immediately made it more heartfelt. However not to give away too much but a lot of this diversity seems superficial, and the only way to put it is that just because these people of intersectional identities are here, does not mean they are necessarily written with perfect respect. 

Another problem is that this book was originally written to be dystopia/sci-fi and as a writer who gets nit-picky about this thing, it really really shows in even basic plot points. Some of the character’s voices also sound the same starting out, and the dozens of names without background or voice made it really hard to figure out what was going on, not to mention it seemed all the characters there existed to serve and prop up the main character’s experience. 

For example, minor spoiler here, one character is a queer person of color adopted into a white family, and that character is viewed as the definition of privilege and their experiences invalidated because of their parent’s identities. It takes this character coming into physical harm for the main character, Moss, to think that they may finally “understand” what his experiences are like.

So there are large flaws, I didn’t want to include everything because this review would be way too long and chock full of spoilers, but I still encourage you to read this book, because it does include some important messages. I think Mark Oshiro’s writing and style could be absolutely amazing if only the book had a little more editing and was passed through a few more sensitivity screenings. 

  1. Every Exquisite Thing

For fans of John Green’s trope of “quirky white cishet suburban girl is sad because she reads books so no one understands her” I present Every Exquisite Thing. Don’t get me wrong I adored this book and ran through it in one day, almost crying at one point. This book is about Nanette, who is given a book titled The Bubblegum Reaper, another John Green comparison; a book within a book that the protagonist is obsessed with, although this time the author is a lot nicer. Nanette actually befriends the author, Nigel Booker, and through him meets Alex, a dangerous yet expressive poet, and Oliver, a bullied fourteen-year-old. Nanette begins to question the path she is on and the very fabric of social reality because of The Bubblegum Reaper, and this book follows her two-year journey during her last years of high school.

I really enjoyed the writing in this book, I haven’t read anything else by Matthew Quick but I actually read this by recommendation of a friend because they praised his writing in his other novels as well. Although cliche-y like I mentioned in the beginning, you really do relate to the emotion Nanette feels, and as someone who has had their life heavily affected by a piece of literature, the themes hit home. If you’ve read both The Fault In Our Stars and Stargirl/Love, Stargirl, this book feels like a cross between those two. Neighborly suburbia where teenagers with way too much freedom fall into “thinking deeply” about life and literature and poetry, and it was overall very enjoyable if at times a pretentious read.

  1. Circe

Circe is author Madeline Miller’s second novel. It is an absolutely wonderful retelling of the story of the witch Circe from Greek mythology, best known for turning Odysseus and his men into pigs when they had landed on her island. If you haven’t read Miller’s debut novel, Song of Achilles I’d recommend that as well because I just can’t get enough of her writing style. You can clearly see how much passion she has for these beings and places of ancient times in the way her writing projects you into the time and place. You begin to believe, in some moments as the world falls open around you, that you are living in this time of gods and monsters and that this state of being will continue on just as perpetually and eternally as it’s immortal characters. The actual flow of the writing just makes it feel even more like you’re reading something that came out of this time period. 

Everything about this book is vivid and embracing, including the characters. From young Circe’s childhood encounter with Prometheus, the Titan who brought mankind fire, to her raising her younger brother Aeetus, you become deeply emotionally attached to her and her journey. Despite being the son of Helios and an immortal, Circe’s struggles and triumphs as she finds herself as a powerful woman in a man’s world rings true when applied to anyone’s situation even today, over a thousand years after it is set. 

Those are just a few of the books I read this summer, these were mainly the ones that stuck out to me and whose stories I most connected with! I suggest checking out all of these authors, and if you’ve read one of these books and enjoyed it, check out any of the other stuff I’ve recommended! Reading can be and is really fun if you just put a little bit of effort into finding something that vibes with you. I wish you all the best in your future reading adventures this coming school year! 

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