Sometimes I just need to take a break from issues, and serious themes, and heavy literary style, and 500-page bricks of wonderful world-building fantasy and just read some fluff to cleanse my palate, so to speak. I’m in one of those places now. I looked at my stack of still-to-be-read Printz contenders, and Morris Finalists, and Nonfiction finalists, and I just couldn’t. I have been reading so many books this year, especially since we started this blog, with my “Printz eyes” that I felt I was only reading “important” books.
Also, I was looking at Kirkus’s top 100, and noticing books that were good but not great, and I suddenly realized I was being a bit harsh in my judgments (“Not Printz quality. Ergo not good.”) I’ve read a lot of the books on that list, and if I were still working in a library, I would definitely use it to help with collection development (although–no Bomb? On a 100 best books of the year list? Seriously?)
Most often if I want fluff, I’ll look for a good old romance. I find that I am drawn to contemporary realistic fiction, and in the mood I’m in now, the less heavy the themes, the better, although I can also enjoy a good cry, as you’ll see below.
So, looking back over the past year, here are some not-bad books I have read and enjoyed:
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith. Hadley sort of accidentally-on-purpose misses the flight that is supposed to take her to London, to her father’s wedding. She meets Oliver (who, for reasons that are completely unexplained) is waiting four hours early for the next flight to London. They end up seated next to one another on the flight, and, of course, share stories and fall for one another. They lose track of each other at the arrivals gate, but through a really fairly ridiculous coincidence, they manage to meet up again in London. Meanwhile, Hadley is dealing with her anger issues with her father, and her dislike (and then like) of the new stepmother she’s never met, and Oliver is coping with his philandering father’s death. The whole thing takes place in 24 hours, and really, when I try to describe it, it’s silly, but I have to admit that I read it in one gulp (it’s less than 250 pages) and enjoyed it thoroughly in the moment.
Second Chance Summer, by Morgan Matson. I had to read this one because I loved Matson’s debut, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour (which I will always remember fondly as the book that introduced me to the Australian band, the Lucksmiths). In this one, Taylor and her family (older brother, younger sister) spend the summer at their cabin in the Poconos because her father, who has pancreatic cancer and will probably not survive the summer, wants one last summer with them all together. Taylor is predictably whiny, and the book is a little too obvious at times (did Taylor REALLY have to keep telling us over and over again that she runs away when things get tough? Show, not tell.), but I have to admit that I cried my way through the last thirty pages or so (and I didn’t cry at all during this year’s supposedly sure-to-make-you-cry book, The Fault in Our Stars). So I guess that’s worth something.
Small Damages, by Beth Kephart. Kenzie is a high school senior who is pregnant. Her mother has shipped her off to Spain to live with a family she knows, and to have the baby adopted by a Spanish couple. Kenzie hasn’t told anyone but her boyfriend that she’s pregnant (really? in the 21st century? especially when she has a very close-knit group of friends that her boyfriend is part of? um, okay). But anyway, in Spain, she learns a bit about herself, she learns a bit about cooking, she meets some gypsies and an intriguing young man. Actually, not much happens in this book, but the writing is lovely, and it all somehow works. And it has a gorgeous cover!
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls, by Julie Schumacher. Four girls find themselves shanghaied into a mother-daughter book club to read their required summer reading books for AP English. For various reasons, all four were supposed to be somewhere else for the summer, but are stuck at home, so here they are. They aren’t friends, although three of their mothers know one another from yoga. So, yes, the premise is somewhat contrived. But as they read and discuss the books and get to know one another, it’s actually pretty interesting. The five books they read are The Yellow Wallpaper, Frankenstein, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Awakening, and The House on Mango Street. (They could choose from a list, and purposely chose books by female authors.) The girls and their mothers have different takes on these books, and the discussions are quite fascinating. The narrator, Adrienne, isn’t terribly self- (or other-) aware, but makes some great snarky comments throughout the book. There are some mysteries, and a tragedy (foreshadowed early on), but somehow the main part of the book is just the books and the relationships.
I mentioned The Princesses of Iowa and Flirting with Shakespeare when we were talking about debuts. Another book in the Flirting with Shakespeare vein is My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, by Rachel Harris. This one, however, I just can’t finish. It’s another time-travel book, with a teenage girl magically (via a gypsy, this time) transported to sixteenth-century Italy, where she learns about love and life, meets Michelangelo, and blah, blah, blah. Seriously, my biggest problem with this book is that the protagonist, Cat, who is supposedly (and inexplicably) talking in Italian, uses all these modern slang words and phrases. Is she translating them into Italian? Saying them in English? People keep looking at her funny, but . . . huh? I just didn’t get it.
So do you have guilty pleasures? Or some genre or type of book you read to “cleanse the palate”?