Thursday, August 11, 2016

I'll Give You The Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson
Pages: 371
Rating: PG-13 (probably 10-12 F-words in this book, but very little other swearing.)

At first, Jude and her twin brother are NoahandJude; inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them.

Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor.

The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant, award-winning novel from the acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

My Thoughts: I really love this author. She is just so so amazing with words! I don't even know how she thinks up the things she says, but they make complete sense, even if it's something I never in a million years would have thought to say. For example, towards the beginning, Noah talks about how walking around in the art museum makes him feel like his skin fits, how "it didn't once bunch up at my ankles or squeeze my head into a pin." What great imagery! What an artistic way to explain how he felt free to be himself! I just love the way she writes.

All that aside, I also loved the story. I have never actually read a book where one of the main characters was gay. It just isn't something that interested me/it kind of made me uncomfortable. But Nelson does an amazing job of writing Noah. Noah is gay, but he's kind of afraid of it, as I'm sure most kids in his position feel. He wishes he wasn't like this, he's afraid of what his family will think if they ever find out, but he can't stop what he feels. Seriously, just such a great novel to create understanding towards kids who are struggling with their sexual identity. 

Another thing I love is in the end, Noah and Jude both realize that they never really knew their parents as well as they thought they did. They made assumptions, made too much out of innocent comments. Noah believes for years that his dad dislikes him and that they have nothing in common. He has completely forgotten the things they used to enjoy doing together, the amazing things they DO share. It's eye opening, for sure.

This book was not predictable. I wasn't sure where it was all going to end up or what was going to happen, and there was a twist towards the end that totally surprised me. This book was definitely worth reading. I hope Nelson writes more books because she is really incredible!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Kitchen House

Author: Kathleen Grissom
Pages: 365
Rating: PG-13 - there are no graphic descriptions, but a girl is raped, and a boy is sexually abused (this is just implied but it's pretty clear what is going on). There's also some violence.

In this gripping novel, a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate at a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War.

Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food, while guided by the quiet strength and love of her new family.

In time, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, caring for the master’s opium-addicted wife and befriending his dangerous yet protective son. She attempts to straddle the worlds of the kitchen and big house, but her skin color will forever set her apart from Belle and the other slaves.

Through the unique eyes of Lavinia and Belle, Grissom’s debut novel unfolds in a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of class, race, dignity, deep-buried secrets, and familial bonds.

My Thoughts: I had kind of a hard time with this book. Sometimes I got so frustrated with the plot I had to put the book down for a while. It's one of those books where it just seems like bad things keep happening and nothing ever really gets better! And it definitely doesn't have a neat and tidy ending where everything is suddenly happily ever after. One slave that Lavinia is very close to ends up being sold, and you never find out what happens to her. She's just gone.

I thought it was definitely an interesting book - to be written mainly from the perspective of a white girl, who as an indentured servant doesn't really fit into either the world of the slaves or the world of the white family she serves, is an interesting perspective. But I felt frustrated because so many things would have worked out better if the characters had just communicated! If the captain had told his family Belle's true identity as his daughter, if someone had explained to Lavinia the status quo of black vs white. Lavinia is kind of naive and of course, since she is thrown in with the negro slaves of the household, she comes to love them as her family. But she never really understands the way things work, and what the slaves can and can't legally do. She just doesn't get it, and that causes some problems. No one ever properly explains it to her. I also felt like there wasn't enough of a wrap-up at the end. There's this big climactic crazy scene where the poop totally hits the fan, and then like 3 pages later the book is over. I would have liked more of an explanation of what happened next. And there is a sequel, but it's not about the same main characters. It's the next generation.

But I do have to say that the book was humbling to read, because I think the author very realistically described the reality that black slaves had to deal with during this time period. They could be sold at any time, for any reason. For that matter, they could also be killed at any time, for any reason, with no repercussions. Families were not guaranteed to stay together. They had no real say in anything. It was a terrible way to live. But what impressed me the most was the intense faith in God that the slaves had. They are always talking about how things are the will of the Lord, how the Lord is taking care of us, etc. How many reasons they had to believe God didn't love them, had abandoned them, or maybe even didn't even exist! But they held on, maybe because they had to believe there was something better out there. It was the only thing that kept them going each day. Just amazing, really.

In all, I probably would recommend this book, but just be warned, it doesn't leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.