September Reading Wrap-Up

I read some excellent books this month!
{As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.}

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – Last month I read Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not and I had this to say about it: “…it is smart. I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a truly unique YA.” I echo that sentiment regarding Made You Up — it is shrewd and really special, and it left me in awe of its author and her creativity. I wish more people were talking about it! MC Alex is like none I’ve read before. She’s dealing with schizophrenia (she carries a camera and constantly takes picture of her surroundings so she can distinguish what’s real and what’s a delusion), which makes her an unreliable narrator by default, but still… I found myself trusting her, and I found myself wanting her to flourish. Made You Up‘s love interest, Miles, is also unconventional, at least as far as YA romance goes. He’s not likable in the traditional sense; he’s stand-offish (an explanation comes eventually) and his childhood has left him scarred. He’s kind of perfect for Alex, though, and while their relationship isn’t always the novel’s central focus, it’s so well done. Made You Up is a twisty, compelling read about family, friendship, and perception, and Francesca Zappia’s prose is beautifully literary. This book was impossible to put down — definitely a 2015 favorite!

Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher – So, I know this cover looks bondage-esque, but this book’s not about BDSM. It’s not erotica or even a romance, though love is definitely a strong theme. Mud Vein is a mystery, a drama, a psychological thriller, a story of survival. It’s one of the most intense books I’ve read. I loved it because it made me think, and it made me feel, and it wouldn’t leave me alone even after I finished reading. I’m not going to say anything about the plot because I honestly think your reading experience will be better if you go in blind like I did, but I will tell you that the story had me hooked within its first few pages. I’ll also tell you that it kept me hooked, even as it jumped timelines and perspectives, even as it left me scratching my head, even as it revealed its protagonist’s deep flaws. I’ll also tell you that Tarryn Fisher is gifted in the area of powerful, emotive writing; if you’re looking to be utterly shredded by fictional people, she’s your girl. And, finally, I’ll tell you that Mud Vein‘s ending, though not what I was hoping for, felt right and true and courageous.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – I have so many thoughts about this book. First of all, the writing is gorgeous. Nicola Yoon spins her prose in a way that reads as effortless. Her lovely words burrowed beneath my skin and made me feel. Also gorgeous: David Yoon’s illustrations, which are whimsical and fun, and give the story and its protagonist, Maddie, a whole new dimension. I love Maddie. She’s definitely got her faults and she definitely does some rash, selfish things, but I totally understand why she makes the choices she makes, and why she behaves the way she does. And Olly, the boy who moves in next door and throws Maddie’s life off its axis? Adorable. He and Maddie make the cutest couple. While their relationship develops quickly, the connection was there. It makes sense that Maddie, who’s been sheltered her entire life, would fall hard and fast for a charming boy who makes her feel alive for the first time, and I was totally onboard with the romantic aspect of this novel. The one element that left me conflicted was its conclusion, which I’m going to talk about in white, so as to avoid spoilers. Highlight the following section at your own risk… Everything, Everything has a BIG twist: Maddie’s not actually sick. Her mother (who is not okay, mentally) has made Maddie believe that she has this awful disease because she wants to keep her safe from the dangers of the outside world. So, there’s that which, for me, raised a few questions — namely, how did this woman get away with locking her child in the prison of their home for eighteen years? But. I was willing to suspend my disbelief because I wanted Maddie and Olly to find their happily ever after. Which they did. Which was a delightful moment, if I’m thinking about it from a hopeless romantic’s perspective–which I can totally do. But, when I think about it from a more critical perspective, I feel a little cheated. Like when Alice wakes up and discovers that Wonderland was all a dream. I wanted to learn about Maddie’s disease and how it impacted her life. I wanted to see her and Olly come to terms with the challenges their relationship and her illness presented, and I wanted to see them overcome those challenges. Because of the twist (which, admittedly, was well executed), I missed out on all of that, and I’m a little bummed. Still, there’s a lot to love about Everything, Everything, and I definitely recommend it. If you give it a read, let’s chat about that ending! 

The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis – My very part of this debut is its voice — it is brimming humor and heart, and reading it feels like hanging out with friends. I’m not sure how to categorize The One Thing, but “contemporary with a twist” seems to fit best. It’s about a girl named Maggie, who’s recently lost her sight to meningitis. Despite her bitterness (or maybe thanks to her bitterness), Maggie’s kind of hilarious. She’s having an understandably difficult time accepting the turn her life’s taken, until she meets Ben, an adorable ten-year-old who has physical challenges of his own. Maggie can see Ben, but only Ben, and she can’t figure out how or why. Not only does Ben help Maggie see physically, but he also helps her to take a careful look at herself, and to realize that an amazing future isn’t out of reach just because she’s lost her sight. Ben’s not Maggie’s only new friend; he’s got a big brother, Mason, who (to borrow a phrase from Forever YA) is a bit of a mysterious loner dude. He’s part of an up-and-coming band, one Maggie’s obsessed with, and he’s all kinds of intriguing. I love the slow build of his relationship with Maggie; there’s no insta-love here (the scene on the beach… *happy sigh*). The One Thing is one of those hard-to-find books that’s inspirational without trying to be. It’s sad, and funny, and really beautiful. An impressive debut.

From Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan – This book surprised me. I was expecting a sweet story about a baker girl (love baker girls!) who’s getting some unsettling (though probably harmless) anonymous notes. While there were a few sweet moments between MC Kara and a very endearing boy, From Where I Watch You is a dark book that addresses serious issues with frank, compelling prose. Kara is struggling with her sister’s death, her father’s abandonment, and her mother’s sudden and extreme turn to religion. She’s got a stalker, she’s scarred by a past incident that’s keeping her from developing meaningful relationships, and she’s trying to figure out how to get to a baking competition in San Francisco, one that will hopefully help her escape life in Seattle. On top of all this, Charlie, the boy she’s loved for ages, has returned after a long absence. I know that sounds like a lot of story for one book, but it works. Shannon Grogan has crafted a gripping plot, and created a strong but sympathetic protagonist. Also, I’ve got to mention Noelle, who serves as something of an anti-BFF, something I don’t see a lot of in YA. She’s definitely flawed, but I think she’s so well drawn and so different. If you’re a fan of Courtney Summers and Trish Doller, I think you’ll love From Where I Watch You. Recommend!

So… What’s the best book you read in September? 

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9 responses to “September Reading Wrap-Up

  1. Oh wow, those do sound amazing!! I have Mud Vein on my Kindle but I think I need to get The One Thing and From Where I Watch you very soon! Thanks for the recs, Katy!

  2. Your reviews make me wish life would slow down so I could squeeze in more reading lately! Every one of these sounds fantastic, and the covers on MADE YOU UP and EVERYTHING EVERYTHING are so pretty. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these, Katy! My TBR list just got longer. Again. 🙂

    • I love those covers, too, Erin! I kind of want the art for MADE YOU UP as a print for my wall. 🙂 I hope you find more time for reading soon. I’m having a hard time fitting it in these days, too!

  3. I LOVE the cover of MADE YOU UP. The first time I saw it I added it to my TBR-list, just because it looked awesome. Glad to hear it’s good!

  4. I felt the same way about EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING. The ending was really frustrating for me (and I had some issues with the way Yoon dealt with alcoholism, almost trivially) but overall I really really really enjoyed the book and I LOVED Maddy’s voice. It’s the type of debut I liked but didn’t love but I would 110% read another book by the author. 🙂 I am SO glad you enjoyed THE ONE THING. I laughed so hard reading a draft and I am looking forward to picking this one up and rereading it as a finished copy. 🙂 Great picks, Katy!!
    My favorite read I devoured this September was IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo. It’s not out yet. Heck, it’s not out until May 2016 but the editor sent me a copy and I fell in love. It’s about a trans teen girl adjusting to having transitioned and also living in small town South. I loved it so much they asked me to blurb the ARCs (…..I am BASICALLY DEAD RIGHT NOW. So yeah). Look for it in May! It just felt very honest and raw and true – and turns out the author is trans herself. Love that it’s #OwnVoices!

    • I loved Maddy’s voice, too, Rachel! And I thought the artwork throughout was so special. I’m really curious to see what Nicola Yoon comes up with next. IF I WAS YOUR GIRL sounds really interesting. I’ll have to mark it To-Read now so I don’t forget about it. Thanks for the rec, lady!

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