RTW: June’s Book of the Month

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in June?

In celebration of Contemporary YA Month (the brainchild of the talented authors over at The Contemps), I tried hard to read only contemporary YA stories in June. There were some winners… and some I just didn’t care for. Either way, it was great to immerse myself in realistic YA fiction for several weeks–there are so many choices and I learned a lot. Here’s what I read:

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby – I spoke about this one in great detail in a Debut Love post, which you can find HERE. In short, I thought Moonglass was lovely.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – Incredibly well-written, funny and a totally unique idea, but lacking an intense romantic thread–what usually keeps me coming back for more. If you don’t care either way about boys and kissing and love, and you like your fiction smart and witty, then you’ll probably enjoy Beauty Queens.

Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez – While I think it’s important to portray diverse relationships in YA (these characters are exploring whether it’s possible to be bisexual and what that means in the world of high school dating), this book didn’t do it for me. I found the message to be too heavy-handed and the dialogue unrealistic.

After by Amy Efaw – This one read like a Jodi Piccoult novel, but with a compelling teen voice. It covers the aftermath of a girl who’s had a baby in secret, then ditched the newborn in a dumpster. I bought After wondering how Efaw could possibly make her protagonist sympathetic. She does, and still manages to write a very entertaining novel.

Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal – Okay, this isn’t technically YA, but to me the twins will always be young adults. And let’s be honest, they act like the lowliest of overly-hormonal teenagers in this story. I had problems buying into the behavior of pretty much every character populating Confidential. Winston, Bruce, Todd, Steven, even Jessica and Elizabeth… they all turned out to be terribly out of character and really unlikable. Bummer.

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti – I liked this one a lot, but I would have loved it had it focused more on Ruby’s out-of-control destructive relationship with Travis Becker, and less on the Casserole Queens subplot. Still, Ruby has some of the best life observations I’ve read in YA. She was a truly likable character despite her sometimes questionable decision making.

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson – This is the first Maureen Johnson novel I’ve read, and I see now why she’s so popular. The characters were distinct with clear flaws and motivations, and the writing was clean and often funny, but Bermudez lacked the darkness and angst of books I truly love. That said, I’m looking forward to reading Maureen’s upcoming The Name of the Star.

And June’s Book of the Month, hands down, is Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta…

From Goodreads: Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys’ school that pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about. Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.

Melina Marchetta is so incredibly talented. Her stories are real and layered and nuanced and clever, so freaking enviable. I’d venture to say that Jellicoe Road (March’s Book of the Month) is my very favorite YA novel*, and Saving Francesca does not fall far behind.

Protagonist Francesca Spinelli manages to walk the very fine line between endearingly vulnerable and sassy smart ass. She spends the course of the book discovering not only who she is, but who her parents and teachers and friends are, and most importantly, who she wants to be. Thanks to Francesca’s wit and spot-on remarks about life and human interactions, her journey (which isn’t exactly high concept) proves to be fascinating.

I absolutely love how Melina Marchetta is able to take a ragtag group of characters and weave interesting and genuine relationships among them. I adored Francesca’s friends and family. Supporting characters Thomas, Jimmy, Justine, Siobhan and Tara are fantastic, and love interest Will Trombal… sigh. LOVE him.

I recommend Saving Francesca to anyone who enjoys contemporary stories, and especially to anyone who writes contemporary YA. You will love the setting (an Australian all boys’ Catholic school that’s recently [and begrudgingly] opened its doors to girls), the dialogue (smart, funny, perfect), and the characters (engaging, delightful, memorable). Someday very soon I’m going to reread Saving Francesca AND Jellicoe Road–they’re that good.

*Incidentally, I recently told my husband that if we ever have a little boy, I want to name him Jonah after Jellicoe Road‘s Jonah Griggs. My husband immediately snorted and told me to “bury that name deep.” Boo.

So, what’s the best book YOU read in June?


20 thoughts on “RTW: June’s Book of the Month

  1. Sophia Richardson says:

    That is a pretty voicey bit of dialogue from your husband there! Interesting reading your recommendations, and I was already warned to stay away from the Sweet Valley book, if I’d known you were reading it I would have passed on the memo.

  2. Marilyn Almodovar says:

    I used to read Sweet Valley High books when I was in Middle Grade, that along with the classics were the only things that I was allowed to read, until I turned 13. I think they changed quite a bit since the Prom books… Anyway… Great lists of books.

  3. katharine owens says:

    You’ve got to keep working on your husband for that name! Jonah is such a dreamy character.

    As you describe the characters in this story, I realize there’s some overlap with the friends in Piper’s Son (Tom and Tara are more the focus there). I highly recommend that one, too.

    Melina Marchetta is all you say– she’s just incredible, and Jellicoe Rd was my pick this month. I will definitely be checking this out– has she done more?

    • katyupperman says:

      Yes, The Piper’s Son is a sort of follow up to Francesca and I’m dying to read it. Melina Marchetta is quickly becoming my author hero. 🙂 I know she has a couple other books out. Finnikin of the Rock is a recent fantasy that I’ve heard great things about but haven’t read yet.

  4. brandimziegler says:

    I read SAVING FRANCESCA last year and fell in love. I’ve been reading any Melina Marchetta books I can get my hands on since then, haha. If you like fantasy I recommend her FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK. Thanks for sharing so many YA contemporary reviews!

  5. sarah says:

    Ooh, this post is fantastic! A ton of recommendations in one! I really need to read everything Marchetta has written. Ever.

    And c’mon, husband! Jonah is an awesome name!!

    • katyupperman says:

      Yeah, husband, come on! And I feel the same way about Melina Marchetta–I want to read everything she’s written and everything she WILL write.

  6. danaalisonlevy says:

    Just heard about Moonglass, so was glad to see your review. And of course, I can fangirl like no one’s business on Jellicoe Road (see blog for evidence)! But I haven’t read Saving Francesca yet, and now it clearly needs to move to the front of the line.

  7. Angelica R. Jackson says:

    I’m reading Finniken of the Rock, Melina’s fantasy novel. I like it so far, but I think it may be a departure from the style of her other books, based on some comments I’ve seen on Jellicoe Road and now this one.

    • katyupperman says:

      Yeah, I’m not a huge fantasy reader, but I’ve grown to trust Melina Marchetta’s awesomeness. I’m looking forward to checking out Finnikin.

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