If bad luck knows who you are, become someone else.


Jude Sweetwine is the superstitious one, carrying a bible of anecdotal instructions to get of rid of bad luck; her fraternal twin, Noah, sketches in his mind. Both are artists, Noah paints and Jude sculpts and sews. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson begins with Noah, who at 13 is a shy oddball obsessed with drawing. Jude, at the same age, is a popular daredevil. Despite their differing social statuses, they are very close; they know each other’s thoughts and keep each other safe. They even lightheartedly divide the world between them, trading trees, flowers, and the sun back and forth for favors as if they are the only two people on the planet. Then something unthinkable happens. Moreover, in an instant, according to Jude, “our twin-telepathy is long gone….he hung up on me.”
The story unfolds from the point of view of each twin. Noah’s chapters take place in the past and Jude’s perspective is the present, age 16. In the present, the twins have stopped talking to each other and have inadvertently exchanged personalities. Jude has intentionally cut herself off from the world, is on a "boycott" from boys, and converses with the ghost of her dead grandmother. Noah used to love drawing, but now he is busy jumping off cliffs. The prose is lyrical, beautifully describing the bliss of creating art and the frustrations of lost relations. The self-discovery of each twin happens poignantly throughout the story. Secrets are unraveled in the alternating voices; telling a story of betrayal, grief, art and love.

 

A Tale of Two Women

Did you get any new books for Christmas? I did, and one of them challenged me to read a genre that I haven't tried much lately. The book is Her: a novel by Harriet Lane and the genre is psychological thrillers.

Set in London, the novel alternates chapters from the points of view of two women who would seem to have little in common.  Nina, a successful, well-dressed and "put together" artist, and Emma, a former television producer who is drowning in the everyday details of life with two small children.

From the first chapter, it is evident that Nina recognizes Emma from the past, but Emma does not remember her. From the second chapter, we know that, instead of approaching Emma directly, Nina has schemed to insinuate herself back into Emma's life by "finding" and returning her wallet, which Nina has herself snatched. She seems determined that Emma not recognize her.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but I can report that the reader experiences a growing sense of dread.  What did Emma do to Nina in the past? How far will Nina go to seek revenge, all the while posing as a new and dear friend? The alternating chapters often repeat the same dialog and actions from the other point of view. We know that Nina is bitter and can't believe Emma is so naive and trusting, though we can sympathize with Emma's desire to be appreciated as more than Christopher and Cecily's mother. Lane advances the story with carefully nuanced language about everyday scenes and events.

So am I a convert to psychological thrillers? Not wholeheartedly.  Maybe other readers will say about this book that they "couldn't put it down." I must say that I did put it down for a few days because I could guess where the plot was going (I turned out to be right) and found it disturbing. Yet I recommend it for the clearheaded look at the lives of women and for some of the best descriptive language you will find.

If this book catches your interest, you also might want to read Harriet Lane's debut novel, Alys, Always. 



 

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2015! What books will you be reading this year?

If you need some recommendations take a look at our Best Books of 2014 lists. All the books on these lists were nominated by library staff and all the books are available at OC Public Libraries branches. There is a Best Children's Picture Book List, a Best Non-Fiction List, a Best Teen Fiction List and a Best Fiction List.

Take a look at these lists and discover some of 2014's best books that just might become your favorite books to read in 2015.

The number one pick for best fiction of 2014 was the book Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This author will be our keynote speaker at Literary Orange this year so if you enjoy her book be sure and register for Literary Orange so you can see her speak and get your book signed on April 11th, 2015.  

Leave us a comment and let us know what books you will be reading this year.

 

Double Dose of Grief

The narrator of Meg Wolitzer’s novel Belzhar is a fifteen-year-old who has had a major emotional breakdown. Although Jam Gallahue and Reeve Maxfield knew each other for only 41 days, Jam is devastated after losing her first love. Jam sinks into a deep depression. Her parents decide to send her to The Wooden Barn, a private boarding school in rural Vermont known for treating depression and other mental issues. Mrs. Quennell, an English teacher at the school, chooses Jam and four other students to participate in her Special Topics English class. In addition to reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, the students are required to write in an antique journal twice a week. Through the journaling, the students encounter something unexpected that creates a strong bond amongst the group and activates the healing process for each individual. Wolitzer’s message is ‘words matter’; literature can be emotionally therapeutic. Unfortunately, the message is not cleverly weaved into the story so it sounds contrived and preachy. The characters are not very well developed and the ending is a little too neatly wrapped. Despite all that, the plight of each character draws the readers in this fast-paced story.

Cadence Sinclair, a teen from an affluent family, is the narrator of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Cady and her disturbingly dysfunctional family meet at a private island each summer where she and her cousins have grown up together. Their vacations on the island are carefree; except Cady cannot remember anything from the summer she was fifteen. One mystery changes all and nothing can ever be the same. The story is such that disclosing more spoils the fun of reading this book. The prose is rife with imagery, the plot is clever and some of the characters, often nasty, are painfully believable. There are allusions to King Lear and fairy tale segments retold and imagined by Cady; her attempt to face truths she is not supposed to notice or mention. This incisive story has many layers and as each layer unravels, there, in the center, is a mesmerizing tale of privilege, love and lies.

 

Best of 2014 - Our Top Five Teen Fiction

Here are the top five teen fiction titles chosen by OC Public Libraries' staff as the Best of 2014.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (audio)

Cress by Marissa Meyer (audio)

Panic by Lauren Oliver (audio)


I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
 
Join the fun and leave us a comment with your pick for the top teen title of 2014.