This has been a hugely successful month of reading for me. I have four new favorites!
Starting with a YA title…
No Parking at the End Times, Bryan Bliss: In the face of hard times, Abigail’s parents found themselves as members of a doomsday cult. Now they’ve sold everything and move the family from North Carolina to San Francisco to wait out the end of days with Brother John, the leader of the cult. What will Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, do when the end does not come and her parents can’t face the truth?
I loved this one. It’s a fascinating premise and it’s wonderfully written. Abigail is so torn between her parents and wanting to believe, and her brother and wanting to return home to a stable life. Bliss’s handle of religion is masterful. It could have been very heavy-handed, but it is so nuanced and just ambiguous enough to let the reader draw their own conclusions. Careful though- that ambiguity may make some conservative readers uncomfortable.
My next title could comfortably fit upper elementary and middle school readers…
Popular, Maya Van Wagenen: Maya has never been very popular, but she’s always been happy. When her dad finds a popularity guide in a thrift store, Maya decides to give its advice a whirl. Just one catch- It was written in the 1950s! This one is a true story and its 16-year-old author would be a great writing role model for aspiring authors.
I enjoyed this book! It’s a fun premise and the fact that it’s true makes it that much more interesting. There’s not a wealth of teen memoirs about every day sort of kids, which makes it unique. This isn’t a well-informed dissection on popularity, but it is a light, breezy read with a positive outlook on life.
And finally for the elementary readers…
Moonpenny Island, Tricia Springstubb: This realistic fiction novel takes place on the island of Moonpenny, a small island popular for vacationers, but with a very small population. When both Flor’s best friend and mother leave the island for the mainland, her life seems to be falling apart at the seams.
Moonpenny Island has gotten a lot of positive buzz from reviewers recently and for good reason. It’s the ideal middle-grade novel, with content that is heavy, but neatly resolved, and Springstubb’s writing is just lush. The imagery of the island is vivid and the setting so unique for this genre.
The Imaginary, A.F. Harrold: Amanda’s best friend, Rudger, is imaginary. This isn’t great news since there’s a new addition to the neighborhood: a treacherous man who hunts and consumes imaginary friends. With Amanda suddenly gone, Rudger is on his own. What happens to an imaginary friend with no one around to imagine him?
Oh, gosh. I love The Imaginary, but I feel slightly mislead about how creepy it was going to be! It has a number of spots that made my skin crawl, but I’m also a wimpy reader. This would be fantastic for kids looking to level up from RL Stine or looking for Coraline read-alikes. Harrold is a gentler writer than Gaiman, but the humor and gloomy atmosphere is right on. Don’t let the comparisons fool you- The Imaginary is still a wonderful book in its own right.