March was a huge and complete bummer for my reading challenge, as I only managed a spare four books this month. I shouldn’t whine too much, because I did manage to stay ahead of the curve on my 52 in 52 (ending the week at book 20, week 14), but it didn’t feel great to have two weeks where I read zero books (yes! A big fat goose egg zero).
I have to ascribe two reasons for this lull as I can see it: one, entertaining my dearest ones for their spring break, and two, an involuntary trip into Depression City. I think, in all honesty and without judgement, that one might have caused the other, as I spent a week completely maxed out on joy and fun and excitement, so a fall from grace, as it were, was bound to follow. I think I just expended all I had to give by way of emotional expression and physical activity and social duty, that I just bombed out the next week. Where there are great highs…
Let me be perfectly clear: I do not in any shape or form regret having my friends with me that week, nor do I blame them for the drop the next week when they were gone. I see it like running a big race and being too tired and sore the next day to get out of bed. My little Bad Week was a natural response to a Really Good Week, not because every good thing must be followed by something not so good, but because I haven’t exerted myself much the past few months so my body and mind weren’t able to keep up. A shock to the system, if you will; but I’m back on top the first week of April, and it’s beautiful out and spring is here and let’s leave off all this gloom and talk about the four books I read this month!
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: I have heard this book cried from the tops of the mountains. It was absolutely everywhere, and with all the news circulating about the movie (regarding the sacking of one actor and hiring of another very late in the movie-making game) I couldn’t go long without at least trying it. The waiting list for this book was a mile long in my library system but I finally got my hands on a copy. The first, maybe, quarter or so of the book I struggled to get into because I’m not accustomed to reading contemporary urban YA, but once I got into it, I was so hooked. This novel is an exquisite portrait of a modern American family, the kind we don’t get to see much because of attitudes towards poverty and people of color in our society. We have Blackish, but even that demonstrates a privileged sort of family — the kind that white America can enjoy without having their biases and prejudices tested. The Hate U Give, for all it’s relevant “political” message about police brutality against black communities, and children especially, for me, drew its strength on its portrayal of a black family striving to be better and to make better, all the while confronting the sort of ideas and conflicts that both white and black communities press upon them in the process. Thomas not only confronted readers with stark images of the brutality and racism and danger that black children must face as they struggle to grow up and make something of their lives, but she also reminded us that they are in fact children, and that Starr can deal with the slaying of her friend and the dramas of prom in the same world, and with the same urgency, without either being made foolish or a mockery. I think it’s a burden that a lot of white communities put on black children, especially now as we see teenagers stepping up in civic life — that they can’t have both the blissful innocence of a childhood and the trauma of a life plagued by racism and injustice at once. Time and time again we see only white children allowed the carelessness of youth, while we force black children, and other children of color for that matter, to shoulder great grief and trauma without respite. Thomas I think was expert at keeping this in mind, and displaying Starr’s life outside of this tragedy, with boyfriend drama and complaints about work and trouble at school, by allowing her the trivialities of youth that fill novels of the same genre about white teens. Starr’s conflict with this was a perfect example. Overall, this novel was great and poignant without being heavy handed and without being silly either. I’m excited for more of Thomas’s work.
- The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater: This book had been sitting half-read beside my bed for literally weeks, and during my down week, I resolved to finish it. It felt like less of a challenge for me then, because it was already started and I’d already read it. It proved to be perfectly cathartic and helped me begin the next week feeling a little better. Read my full Raven Cycle review here.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: I love this book. I love it fully and wholly and entirely. It is everything wonderful in the world. It was exactly what I needed after a rough week, and helped me climb out of a Bad Time. Full review available at the link above!
- Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: A return to the fantastical and monstrous — I couldn’t have picked a better one. I had been excited for this book for a while, and snapped up right of the New Books bin before it even made it to the shelf. I can’t wait to recommend it to everyone.
So that’s our month in review! Four great reads, but only one may take the coveted title of Book of the Month….
Book of the Month
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
If you read my review, perhaps this was obvious. It’s everything. I bought my own copy when I finished the library copy, I made my mom read it, I’m counting down the days until the film is released on Netflix. It could have inspired a serious reading slump, because it was so good, but luckily I had Strange the Dreamer queued up and it did not disappoint, so honorable mention for Strange and Sarai.
Happy April and happy reading!