Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

I love love love this book.

Nate Foster has big dreams. 

He and his best friend come up with, and rehearse a plan so that he can sneak off to New York and audition for a Broadway musical production of ET.

Jankburg PA, his home town, is not a safe place for boys like Nate Foster.  He may or may not be gay. At age 13 he hasn't decided or figured it out yet. What he knows for certain, is that he is the antithesis of his older brother, Andrew, the jock. Nate has almost gotten used to being harassed and bullied by kids at his school because of his small size and perceived sexual orientation.

It's hard for me to articulate what I loved so much about this book.  It feels so refreshing, honest, funny, and sweet. It is  pure joy to read.
Tim Federle enables us to become Nate, experiencing New York and the freedom to be who you are for the first time. Exhilaration doesn't begin to describe it.

On the surface is the adventure into the big city and the audition. At a deeper level, the adventure of growing up and coming of age is quietly underscored. You can't help but be drawn into the characters and the relationships between them. There are secrets that beg to be revealed and when they are, your surprised response can only be, of course that's it.

I am most certainly getting this book for our elementary school library, even if we are nearly on the other side of the world away from The Big Apple.  

One For the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

This book should come with a small box of Kleenex. It is sure to make you cry. 

It starts as Carley Connors is released from the hospital into foster care. Carley does not want to go. At first she is angry, suspicious and terrified. She can't believe that happy families like this even exist. Eventually Mrs Murphy, Michael Eric, Adam, Daniel and Mr Murphy niggle their way into her heart.

I couldn't help but love all the characters: Carley, each individual in the Murphy family, Toni, and even Carley's mother.

This is a story about accepting who you really are and learning to be the best person you can be. This book is about the power of love and forgiveness. It's also about so much more than this. It is a testimony to the superpower each one of us has to make the world a better place. 

This is one I will recommend to everyone, especially my grown up friend Karen who loves these kinds of stories. 


Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

I read the first chapter of this book when it arrived in the library but didn’t have time to read more. That ending refused to leave me alone. 

'Before' was a time of peace between the leaders of Faerie and the leaders of Human. Then came a deadly war that left both groups devastated.

Lisa was born after the war into a town that lives by the rules. “Don’t touch any stone that glows with faerie light, or that light will burn you fiercer than any fire. Don’t venture out alone into the dark, or the darkness will swallow you whole. And cast out the magic born among you, before it can turn on its parents.”

When her baby sister was born with “faerie-pale hair clear as glass from Before,” her father, a sensible man, took the newborn to a nearby hill, left her for the faeries and “never looked back.” But Lisa “crept out before dawn to see whether the faeries had really come. They hadn’t, but some wild creature had.”

Shortly afterwards, her mother left.  
Lisa slowly realized that she too had magic. After an altercation with her father she fled the village hoping to escape him and save her community from herself. Her friend, Matthew, a young man with his own secrets, followed her. They discovered that while the world outside their compound is indeed terrifying, there is also a world very different from their own. In a short time they were on a journey in search of Lisa's mother that took them into the very heart of the land of faerie. 

There is some beautiful writing in this book. The plot has some interesting twists and turns. The apocalyptic world Simner has created is dark and terrifyingly realistic with trees that reach out branches and roots in search of blood, spirits of the dead that extend their arms out of the earth hoping to be brought back to life, and plants that fight being harvested. There are some very scary moments. I came to care about and want these characters to survive. The ending is satisfying even without a sequel or two to come. 

I wish I had enjoyed it more. Still, there will be many readers in our school who I know will devour this series. I on the other hand will stop at this one. 

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Did I like it? Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes!

I read it while camping miles from nowhere, high in the mountains at a place called Nevertouch Lake. For one week we were the only people there. Each morning I woke to an orchestra of bird song. Late into the evening we watched stars so bright they hung like Christmas lights in the sky. Loons serenaded us throughout the day. A lone eagle provided a daily aerobatic display. Small rodents and deer paraded through our campground. Thankfully we saw no bears, not even a trace of them.  We fished and ate trout right out of the lake. A fire had ravaged the land about eight years previously, but the earth rejoiced in the birth of so many new plants, especially high mountain wild flowers. The land exuded enchantment. 

I can't imagine reading this book in a more suitable setting. I was enthralled by the magic of Valente's world in the same way that I was enthralled by the magic of the land around me.  

So many quotable quotes.....

"It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else."

“I'm not lost, because I haven't any idea where to go that I might get lost on the way to. I'd like to get lost, because then I'd know where I was going, you see.”

"Autumn has a hungry heart - September is the beginning of death"

"Just remember that Autumn is called fall, and some falling places are so deep there's no climbing out. Autumn is the very soul of metamorphosis, a time when the world is poised at the door of winter which is the door of death - but has not yet fallen." 

I admit to being distracted by my environment, but one cloudy morning I "stumbled" into the arms of the book and couldn't stop til it was done.

It is the story of September, a young girl, who leaves Omaha, Nebraska, by climbing onto a leopard's back with Green Wind to a journey into Fairyland. Therein she befriends A-Through-L, affectionately known as El, a wyverary,  (a wyvern and library hybrid) and Saturday, a marid, and has many adventures.

The Marquess, the evil ruler of Fairlyland, is a finely drawn villein. You can't help but feel sympathy for her by the end.

The illustrations by Ana Juan perfectly compliment the text. (watch the book trailer below to see what I mean)

This book has been reviewed in other places as being part Alice in Wonderland and part Wizard of Oz. It is true that it brings these other books to mind, but for me, I made more connections to Terry Pratchett's work than these two. (I was pleased to read in the end notes that he has been an influence in her work)

It is exquisitely wordy and delightfully pretentious.

It wants a precocious child reader. I'll feed it to readers who are fans of Terry Pratchett, Philip Reeves, Rachel Hartman, Tamora Pierce and anyone else I can think of before September (the month) rolls around again.

It is definitely a fairytale adults will relish. It will make a marvelous read aloud.

These words from Valente resonated deeply with me.  "Everyone to greater or lesser extents, is faking adulthood, bumbling through as best they can, imitating the adults they grew up with and the also-faking-it adults around them, going through huge shifts in life and perception every few years."

 This faking-it-adult is now going in search of the rest of Valente's work. 

every day by david levithan

What if every morning you woke up in a new body? There would be some parameters. First the body would be about the same age as the one you woke in yesterday. Second, it would be within a 500 mile radius of the last body you were in. 

This is the experience of our main character, A.
The body itself could be any gender, or as ambivalent about gender as possible. It could be gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, or trans. It could be any skin color or size. It could be physically and emotionally healthy, or diseased, drug addicted, or mentally ill. It could wake into a healthy family, a dysfunctional one, or wake to no family at all.

This premise alone boggles the mind. 

Add to this falling in love with a body's partner.  Complicate it by having another body realize you were there, and start stalking you through your email address. 

Then someone tells you that you are not the only one. That person also says there is a way to stay longer than a day.

There are so many quotable quotes. 

“If there's one thing I've learned, it's this: We all want everything to be okay. We don't even wish so much for fantastic or marvelous or outstanding. We will happily settle for okay, because most of the time, okay is enough.” 

“If you stare at the center of the universe, there is coldness there. A blankness. Ultimately, the universe doesn't care about us. Time doesn't care about us. That's why we have to care about each other.”

My only complaint about this book is that I didn't think much of the main romantic component. It felt unrealistic to me. There were other romantic relationships in the book that felt more real, even if we only experienced them for one day.   

I'm not sure what appealed to me most about this book. I loved the descriptions of experiencing the different physical bodies. I liked that A could experience love in so many facets. I was fascinated by the awareness of living inside a different body, of what depression might feel like. I enjoyed the musing on moral dilemma. I liked that this book is more about questions than it is about answers.

I loved most of all, that there is no pronoun to describe A.