Author: Karen Russell
Title: St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
Narrators: Ariel Sitrick, Zach McLarty, Patrick Mackie, Nick Chamian , Jesse Bernstein, J. B. Adkins, Kathe Mazur, Arthur Morey, Kirby Heyborne, Deirdre Lovejoy
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2010
Previously read by same author: Vampires in the Lemon Grove
This collections of short stories deal with themes of the transition from adolescence to adulthood, loss and grief, and animal nature of humanity. They are deeply in the magical realism genre as these coming of age stories include fantastical elements. My favorite stories include “Haunting Olivia” about two brothers looking for their lost sister who sailed away on a crab’s exoskeleton, “Z.Z.’s Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers” where a boy with prophetic dreams goes a camp for children with sleep disorders, “The City of Shells,” told from the perspective of an outsider girl who gets trapped in a giant conch shell, and “From Children’s Reminisces of the Westward Migration” which is an ordinary boy’s perspective on a pioneer journey when his father is a Minotaur pulling the wagon.
Recommended books: The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill and Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
Author: Matthew Quick
Title: Every Exquisite Thing
Narrator: Vanessa Johansson
Publication Info: New York : Hachette Audio, p2016.
Not sure what to make of this book. Nanette O’Hare is a good student and star soccer player at her high school, but an outsider who spends her lunch time with her English teacher. When her teacher introduces her to an out-of-print book about a disaffected teen railing against conformity, Nanette’s life is changed and she finds and befriends the book’s author. While Nigel Booker refuses to discuss his novel, he does encourage Nanette to rethink her life, leading her to quit the soccer team and reconsider going to college. He also introduces her to a boy her age who is also a fan of the book and a tortured poet, Alex. Alex is kind of the manic pixie dream boy of the novel which is kind of a tragedy since neither Nanette nor the author seem to want to realize that he is a colossal douche. I won’t go into any spoilers but a lot of things happen that push Nanette to the edge of her sanity and increase her resentment against everyone she knows. I think the problem with this book is that so many characters are so one-dimensional and villainous, that it undermines the generally well-rounded and contradictory characterization of Nanette herself. Maybe I’ve just finally outgrown teenage rebellion?
Recommended books: The Pigman by Paul Zindel, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Author: Louise Erdrich
Title: The Round House
Narrator: Gary Farmer
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2013
Set on a fictional Indian reservation in North Dakota, this is the story of the teenager Joe who at the beginning of the novel learns that his mother has been brutally raped. What follows is a story of legal complications surrounding the crime, Joe and his friends rather naive attempts to play detective in finding his mother’s attacker, and a coming of age story in which Joe learns some uncomfortable truths. It’s a well-written but emotionally-challenging story about family, guilt, and place.
Recommended books: Waylaid by Ed Lin, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie