Mini-Reviews: Genre-Defying Contemporary

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I've been reading a lot of contemporary -- some of it adult, some of it mixed with some historical fiction, some of it young adult, some of it middle grade. Basically, if you like contemporary, you'll probably find at least one book in this post that appeals to your genre of choice.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (Middle Grade)

Does this title sound weird to you? Well, move past it, because this book is heart-wrenchingly brilliant. Told in the deceptively simple, honest voice of ten-year-old Jamie, it lays bare the struggles of a family whose daughter was killed in a terrorist attack and the myriad ways in which they all continue to be messed up years afterward. It all hits the fan, so to speak, when Jamie befriends a Muslim girl (a Muslim instigated the bombing where his sister was killed). Jamie's observations are so blunt and innocent but explore the complexity of family relationships and grief with beauty and simplicity.

Warnings: Language, thematic material

4.5 stars

The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes (young adult)

I read this book for the FYA book club, and went to my first meeting in Los Angeles with the awesome ladies of the FYA LA West book club. It was truly amazing. Unfortunately, my experience with this book was truly not. While the story was interesting due to the mass amounts of drama involved, it was drawn out and the characters had too many of the keystone teenage issues. There was every token problem -- the eating disorder, the LGBT hate, the drinking, the absentee parents. Tackling one or a couple of these problems would probably have been believable, but addressing all of them made the book seem unlikely. The one aspect I did truly love was the protagonist's new friendships with the handsome, somewhat brooding Ethan and his snarky best friend Shanti. Every scene with those characters left me with a smile. So in short, the book was too long and too issues-driven, but it had some enjoyable moments and was hard to put down due to the sheer amount of DRAMA.

Warnings: Language (quite a bit), drinking, sexual assault, some fist-fighting type violence

3 stars

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison (young adult)

I was definitely of the Georgia Nicolson generation in high school -- I remember guiltily consuming book after book, although I don't think I got through all ten of them before losing interest. I'm going to need to do a massive re-read/series finisher at some point. Anyway, this book is about Georgia's little cousin, Tallulah, who goes to a performing arts camp, has crushes on boys, and engages in other various shenanigans. It had the Georgia quality of multiple love interests at any given time and teenage girls acting like total crazies. In short, it wasn't hard-hitting literature, but it was plenty of fun for some mindless entertainment.

Warnings: References to anatomy, possibly some language that I cannot remember

4 stars, for sheer laughability factor

Looking for Alaska by John Green (young adult)

Oh, John Green. He has this awful knack for creating these charming, overly clever characters that steal my heart and then he lets them destroy it. And whether or not those characters are realistic, they move me (and I do think that they are believable, even if not all teenagers are that intelligent), which is the beauty of literature. I could not put this book down, even though at times I was disgusted by the actions of the characters. Looking for Alaska is an interesting look at friendship, first love, death, and how far we can blame ourselves. And of course, the writing is word candy.

Warnings: LOTS of swearing, lots of drinking, non-graphic sex

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio (adult with some historical fiction thrown in)

I think I initially decided to read Blackberry Winter because a) I'd heard it was about motherhood and b) because it was cheap on Kindle (so many of my book choices seem to stem from Kindle Daily Deals...). It features two narratives -- that of Claire, a reporter asked to write a feature on the "blackberry winter" that hits Seattle (who naturally is dealing with a mysterious tragedy), and that of Vera, a woman whose son disappears during the  last blackberry winter that struck Seattle. The story was interesting and had plenty of drama and plot twists, but it was a little superficial for me -- I would have liked to see a bit more character development and meaning beneath the involved plot. Still, it was an enjoyable read and tweaked my heartstrings a few times.

3.5 stars

Warnings: Some language, sensuality (not graphic)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (adult)

Before I say anything else -- this book is freaking awesome. Honestly, just go and get it, and don't worry about what else I have to say. But if you must know something about it -- the story is set in 1999 and is about a man whose job it is to go through the emails of his coworkers to make sure they aren't being used for personal purposes. Of course, many people violate this rule, and two of them are Beth and Jennifer. However, instead of sending them a warning, Lincoln finds himself completely enthralled by their conversations -- and completely in love with Beth. However, he isn't sure how to meet her now that he has creepily stalked her email. The writing was engaging, the characters and story were absolutely adorable -- Attachments was a delightfully fun read.

4.5 stars

Warnings: Language (when Lincoln's friend Justin is talking, basically), some very non-graphic sensuality


  1. I truly love book blogging and this is why. I hadn't heard of Attachments. It looks so stinking cute. Must read it!

  2. I started Attachments awhile ago, I think while I was on the elliptical at the gym, but I didn't ever finish it. I'm not sure why -- I was enjoying it and everything. Clearly I need to revisit it!


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