Moon Over Manifest
Newbery Award winner! 12 year old Abilene has been a drifter with her father her whole life, until he puts her on a train so he can work a railroad job. She arrives dirty and suspicious of the town of Manifest, where her father grew up. She sets out to find out about his childhood, but no one is saying much of anything about him. In the process, she makes two friends, discovers a box of letters dating back to WWI and uncovers all the secrets Manifest has to old. This story was told through Abilene's viewpoint but also through flashbacks. It was really well-written and would be great for upper elementary and middle school, but I enjoyed it, too.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Another Newbery medal winner. Flora Belle is watching her neighbor vacuum her front yard (yes, her front yard) when she sees a poor, unsuspecting squirrel tangle with the vacuum. She rescues outside to save him and in the process, ends up with a squirrel who has superhero powers (Ulysses). Ulysses doesn't quite know how to use his powers and know does Flora, but through the story, the two end up learning a great deal. I loved the illustrations in the book. It was a quick, funny read.
Young God: A Novel
I saw a comparison between this book and Winter's Bone. It's apt in some ways, but this book is far harsher and darker than Winter's Bone which at least left the reader with some hope. 13 year old Nikki loses her mom, steals a car and goes to her dad: once the biggest dealer in their area of the North Carolina hills. Nikki is thrown into a life of drugs and other ways to get money and falls quickly into the darkness. The prose of this novel was fascinating. Very short, choppy sentences, which almost made me think that it was written to emulate Nikki's life or the lives of those around her.
The Painter: A novel
I loved The Dog Stars, so I was super excited to see the author had a new book. Jim is a fairly successful artist with a storied past. He shot a man in a bar for making lewd remarks about his young daughter (the man was a known pedophile). His daughter was murdered. He's twice divorced. But now, that's behind him and he fishes and paints and mostly lives as a recluse, until one day when he comes across a man beating a horse and intervenes. This single act spirals him into a life of madness and violence that he isn't sure if he can escape.
This book was not The Dog Stars (but few books are--read it if you haven't), but I still loved Jim and Jim's choices and wondering what would happen to him and those around him.
Since You've Been Gone
Emily's best friend Sloane is her world. Emily believes that Sloane shines while she just gets to be in Sloane's light--and she's okay with that. Then at the start of summer, Sloane disappears and all Emily has from Sloane is a mailed list of the thirteen things she should do to spend her summer. Some are easy, like pick apples at night. Some are frightening for a rule follower like Emily, like steal something and go skinny dipping, but in the end, Emily grows and sees that maybe she can shine, too.
I loved this book. It's a YA novel, but it was so enjoyable and I think regardless of our age, we can all learn from Emily's summer.
What are you reading?