(A book-post in the same month the books were read in? What is the world coming to?)
Donna Freitas – This Gorgeous Game
Freitas’s first YA novel The Possibilities of Sainthood focused on a teenage girl who wanted to become the first living saint – and the Patron Saint of Kisses. In her second novel, Catholicism is again one of the major focuses in the main character’s life. Olivia is seventeen and wins a writing competition – and the attention of Father Mark Brendan, a famous writer and priest. It’s a dream come true, until he starts getting creepy. (More stalkery than physical or sexual abuse, and it does a good job at dealing with Olivia’s shaky faith without turning it into a everyone-in-the-church-is-evil tale. It also has a nice moment where her super-religious sister, Greenie, and her fiancé, get angry about the abuse accusations – along the lines of ‘it’s bad for the church!’ – and Olivia feels sick. As well you should, Olivia, because your sister is a nutjob who wanted to wait ’til she was engaged before her first – no, not that – kiss.) It’s well-written, if most definitely darker than Freitas’s first book.
Elizabeth Berg – Home Safe
Helen Ames is a writer, in her very late fifties. Recently widowed, and unable to write anymore, the financial necessity of having to teach a writing class, and the discovery of her late husband’s secret (it’s not what springs to mind, fear not), nudge her towards recovery, hope, the future. I love the way Elizabeth Berg writes and a book about a writer (and in part a writing class) worked for me here.
Jandy Nelson – The Sky Is Everywhere
Beautiful and heartbreaking and beautiful some more. Lennie, seventeen, and newly sisterless, falls in love for the first time, but also finds herself inexplicably drawn to her dead sister’s boyfriend. It’s a complicated and real love triangle set against a backdrop of grief and sky, and the supporting characters are skilfully fleshed out. Lennie’s character arc goes beyond ‘handling grief’ or ‘learning to live again’, and it almost certainly will have you sobbing quietly over the pages at some stage. I have no idea what the US edition is like apart from the cover, but the UK edition is stunning inside and out.