Author: Amy Gettinger
Title: Roll with the Punches
Publication Info: Raucous Eucalyptus Press (2015)
I read this book as an attempt to read something I wouldn’t usually read after seeing it in a Kindle deals email and thinking “I’ve never read a romance novel based around roller derby.” Turns out that this novel is actually about an aspiring author, Rhonda, who has discovered that her novel was stolen and published by a popular novelist and she is now being accused of plagiarism. Also, her mother is in the hospital and she has to take care of her father who is suffering from dementia. And there are two men in her life with whom she has romantic feelings: James, a handsome young tech geek from her writers’ group, and Dal, a former student of her fathers. Also, Dal is Native American so there are a lot of uncomfortable Indian joke. And there is a roller derby plot squished in there although it doesn’t seem to fit in with everything going especially since the roller derby team also doubles as another writer’s support group. Whew! I was curious about the mystery of who stole the manuscript so I read to the end, but ultimately was disappointed by the increasingly ludicrous situations, the two-dimensional nature of most of the supporting characters, and the unlikely way all these different things overlapped in Rhonda’s life.
Recommended books: Further Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Author: Becky Albertalli
Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Narrator: Michael Crouch
Publication Info: Harper Audio, 2015
Simon is a closeted gay teenager living in the Atlanta suburbs and finding himself falling in love for the first time. The problem is that the boy he loves he only knows through anonymous email exchanges. Over the course of this novel, both Simon and “Blue” end up coming out and eventually meeting in real life. But what’s great about this novel is that it explores the changes and complications of life in Simon’s circle of friends and family. The book has a lot of heart, romance, and humor.
Every Day by David Levithan and George by Alex Gino
Author: Rainbow Rowel
Title: Eleanor & Park
Publication Info: New York : Listening Library, 2013.
This novel set in Omaha in 1986 tells of the young love of the 16 year old protagonists Eleanor and Park. Eleanor lives in poverty with her mother’s abusive boyfriend making an ordinary teenage life impossible. Park is half-Korean and likes New Wave bands, and chooses to fly low amid the jock culture of his school. A lot about Eleanor and Park and their romance rings true. I especially like the depiction of the hierarchy aboard the school bus, and even late in the book when they must rely on the bullies for help at a time of distress. Unfortunately, a lot the other characters in the book are very two-dimensional. Eleanor’s mother’s boyfriend is a bad TV movie abusive villain. Park’s mother struggles to emerge from the Asian mother stereotype. Still, this story is a unique and honest look at the passions and ideas of young love.
Recommended books: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Every Day by David Levithan.