June Reading Wrap-Up

Apparently in June I only read books with primary-colored covers…
{As always, cover images link to Goodreads pages.}

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes – I really enjoyed this story of Louisa, a cheerful caregiver, and Will, a man who has recently become quadriplegic and is (understandably?) bitter as a result. Me Before You is heartbreaking and intense, but it’s full of humor, too, and I found its message is inspiring. I’ve seen a lot of backlash about the #LiveBoldly tagline; it seems some people assume it means that those with physical challenges can’t live boldly, but as far as I can tell, Me Before You is Lou’s story, and she learns to live boldly through Will, even while he’s made the polarizing decision to end his life six months after the book’s opening (a decision he’s entitled to because he’s an adult with autonomy; I’m pro Death with Dignity, for what it’s worth). If you’re curious about this novel and have yet to give it a read, know that its portrayal of disability isn’t without flaws, but the overall story is an engaging and affecting read.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater – This is a tricky book to talk about, seeing as how pretty much anything I say will spoil the earlier three books in the series. So, here are my super vague thoughts… Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is, as always, beautiful and enchanting. Her world building is exceptional. I’m a fan of how Blue’s and the Raven Boys’ arcs panned out, particularly Ronan’s and Adam’s, but I’m slightly underwhelmed by the conclusions given to to some of the lesser characters. Also, I wish the whole Glendower thing had played out differently. To me, it felt rather anticlimactic. Despite my minor gripes with this final installment, I love The Raven Cycle as a whole. It’s one of the most unique series I’ve read, YA or otherwise.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti (January, 2017) – This forthcoming debut is wonderfully fresh and achingly bittersweet. Main character Hawthorn’s voice is so great. She’s a lonely teenager with a quirky sense of humor and an enormous imagination. When Lizzie Lovett — a girl who graduated from Hawthorn’s high school a few years prior — vanishes, Hawthorn becomes fixated on discovering what might’ve happened to her, mostly because the assumed tragedy is more interesting (and more manageable) than her actual life. Hawthorn’s a girl with a devil-may-care attitude; she’s got wild theories about what happened to Lizzie, and she does things that many might momentarily consider, then brush off as far too reckless. The most fascinating aspect of this novel, for me, is Hawthorn’s relationship with Lizzie Lovett’s boyfriend, Enzo. It’s complicated and ill-advised (he’s significantly older, plus he’s grieving), and man did it make my heart hurt. I love, too, Hawthorn’s interactions with the hippie caravan that’s moved into her family’s backyard, and her brother’s best friend, Connor. I’m endlessly impressed with this Swanky book — definitely check it out when it debuts in January!

Wonder by RJ Palacio – I feel like this novel should be required reading in all elementary/middle schools. It was recommended to me by my daughter (how fun that we can now share books!) and I adored it as much as she did. Wonder is the story of August Pullman, a fifth grade boy with severe facial disfigurement who’s making the jump from homeschool to public school. He’s worried because he hasn’t had an easy go of it as far as friendships and fitting in, and despite his unique situation, he’s easy to empathize with. Auggie is such an honest, earnest protagonist. While Wonder is told mostly through his his first-person lens, there are plenty of chapters told by his family and friends, too, which were fascinating perspectives through which to view his situation, as well as an important reminder that we all face challenges and make mistakes and are capable of becoming heroes. It’s common knowledge that I’m not a book crier, but this one definitely made me tear up — it’s just so heartfelt and, well, wonderful. Read it, then pass it on to the kiddos in your life.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – It’s easy to see why this debut won the William C. Morris Award last year — it’s smart and funny and awesomely voice-y. Protagonist Simon is a drama kid who’s being blackmailed because of his sexuality, and he’s also dealing with changing friendships, his slightly offbeat (but cool) family, and his own identity as it contrasts with the assumed white/straight norm. Simon is immediately likable, and so is his cast of supporting characters. I particularly love enigmatic Blue, as well as Simon’s buddies Nick, Leah, and Abby who, while relatively minor, feel like fully realized people. I love, too, the element of mystery — trying to guess Blue’s identity right along with Simon. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is an important book and a profound story, but it never feels bogged down with agenda (see what I did there?). Instead, it’s a thoughtful, nuanced read that prompts contemplation while at the same time being delightfully entertaining.

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June (May, 2017) – Another Swanky book! I had so much fun reading It Started with Goodbye. It’s a modern spin on Cinderella, a story with weighty themes that’s told in this spirited, heartfelt way that made diving into its world an absolute joy. Main character Tatum is awesome; she’s constantly railing against her too-strict stepmother, but she never reads as bratty. Her voice is spot-on, full of humor and insight, and I’m pretty sure Teen Katy would’ve wanted her as a BFF. It Started With Goodbye has some steep arcs, but author Christina June handles them with finesse, letting her characters grow in meaningful ways while preserving the heart of their well-developed personalities. And, as a romance lover, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention “SK”, the mysterious and witty boy Tatum trades emails with after he contacts her regarding her graphic design work. So cute and so sweet, and the payoff is perfection. It Started with Goodbye debuts May, 2017, but mark it To-Read now, because you’ll want to snatch it up as soon as it hits shelves.

Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca – This soap-y 2015 debut was exactly what I was looking for in a poolside novel — in fact, I read it in its entirety during one sunny afternoon. Last Year’s Mistake is told in alternating before-and-after chapters, chronicling the rise, fall, and rekindling of protagonist Kelsey’s relationship with baseball stud David. I was impressed with the complexity author Gina Ciocca gave Kelsey and David’s relationship — it starts out as a platonic friendship, morphs into an unrealized then unspoken crush, and turns into an angsty will-they-won’t-they love affair. Alongside Kelsey and David’s relationship, there’s a lot going on: a health scare, a cancer diagnosis, moves, new romances, faltering friendships, school dances, and I found myself caught up in all of it. These characters live full lives and are far from perfect (love how authentic Kelsey and her supporting cast feel!), yet they’re easy to root for. Recommended for fans of Simone Elkeles and Katie McGarry.

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian – When I’m really into a story, I do one of two things: race to the finish to see how it concludes, or drag my feet so as to prolong the reading experience. In the case of The Last Boy and Girl in the World, I did some major feet dragging. Main character Keeley’s lack of self-awareness made me cringe about a thousand times, but she’s absolutely charming and lovable, even while she’s misreading situations and acting foolish to get a laugh. She’s so silly and real and flawed, I found myself cheering for her from the story’s earliest pages. The Last Boy and Girl in the World is set in Aberdeen, a town that will soon be sunk by a dammed river. There’s all sorts of scandal surrounding the dam and the pending demise of Aberdeen, but more than that, there are a lot of conflicted feelings swirling around Keeley, her friends, and her family as they  prepare for the drowning of their town. Keeley defaults to making the best of the situation, even when that means alienating those who’re suffering, and she’s got a partner in merrymaking in swoony soccer boy Jesse. So as not to spoil the story’s ending, I’ll just say that The Last Boy and Girl in the World surprised me in a lot of really great ways, and Siobhan Vivivan is now among my favorite contemporary YA writers.

What’s the best book you read in June? 


12 thoughts on “June Reading Wrap-Up

  1. Miss Cole says:

    Completely agree with you re: The Raven King. It was all just a bit meh. I feel the series never quite recaptured what made the first book so compelling. That said, it’s still worth reading.

    • Katy Upperman says:

      My thoughts exactly. Maggie Stiefvater writes so beautifully and imaginatively — definitely worth reading. That said, I’d recommend THE SCORPIO RACES over any of the Raven Cycle books. I love that book!

  2. Jennifer Pickrell says:

    THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD is definitely on my radar, I love the concept.

    I read THE RAVEN KING this month, too, and agree the ending was a bit strange. I’m happy with the way everything ultimately played out and I’m guessing the anti-climactic part was because the author wanted us to feel what Gansey felt upon realizing… ??? Maybe? That’s what I convinced myself of, anyway 🙂

    I just finished OUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Perez last night – so good, so heartbreaking.

    • Katy Upperman says:

      Ooh, adding OUT OF DARKNESS to my list. And yeah, that makes sense about Gansey. I definitely experienced that same “wtf?!” feeling that was portrayed in the scene. Hope you love TLB&GITW!

  3. Stephanie Scott (@StephScottYA) says:

    I loved Me Before You! I read it before I saw the movie, and I can see why the movie stirred disability groups; you lose the perspective of the book and the complexity of Lou’s thoughts over time. I do completely get the idea that not enough of our culture features characters with disabilities in a positive light. I just read After You by JoJo Moyes too and now I want to read every single book she’s written 🙂

    • Katy Upperman says:

      I haven’t seen the ME BEFORE YOU movie adaptation yet, but I imagine a lot of the book’s nuance is lost. I’m looking forward to reading more from JoJo Moyes!

  4. Lindsey says:

    I super heart Jojo Moyes. After You is on order for me right now! Hoping to see the movie for sure. I absolutely devoured this book. It made me think about my stance on this hot topic and ripped my heart apart. I agree that this was her story really, but man I was hoping he would change his mind. I hope to one day write down exactly how this book affected me. I just had to step back and take some deep breaths. I have also read her book The Last Letter from Your Lover. Completely different than this one, and good, but not even close to this as far as I’m concerened. And WOW 8 books! Woohoo! Wonder is on my list! Olivia begged me to read when she finished it!

    • Katy Upperman says:

      Aah, Lindsey! I wish we were still neighbors so we could sit down and chat about ME BEFORE YOU. It broke my heart too. I think you’ll love WONDER… Claire and I recommended it to my mom, so now she’s reading it and it’s been really fun to discuss it with her, and listen to Claire chat about it. So cool to be able to share books with our girls, right? 🙂

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  6. April says:

    I loved Me Before You the book when I read it (and reread it) and I saw the movie today and I’d say it was just as lovely as the book. Which is a difficult feat, always.

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