Historical fiction is kind of my catchall phrase for this post -- the only book that is traditional historical fiction is A Thunderous Whisper. However, all the books take place in different decades than this one, so it's working for me.
A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
A Thunderous Whisper is the story of a friendless young girl who becomes wrapped up in the violence of the Spanish Civil War. As she participates in covert operations, she makes friends and realizes that she is not as alone as she had believed.
This book was interesting for me to read because I knew nothing about the Spanish Civil War. It's always nice to read a book in a new setting and a new era. I also loved the message of this book -- it is a message about the power of the individual and the fact that you can find love if you are willing to search for it. My quibble with A Thunderous Whisper is with the writing -- it seemed a little juvenile to me. Granted, this is a middle grade book, but it still left me with somewhat disappointed expectations. I do feel that the writing improves as the book progresses, and the final pages tie the entire story together very nicely.
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
I had high expectations for The Silver Star. The Glass Castle was a phenomenal work and I was very excited to see what Jeannette Walls produced. However, The Silver Star, despite perfectly acceptable writing, was lackluster for me. It read like a machine rather than a story -- I could see the gears working in the author's head to fit everything together. In the end, it did fit together, but the finished project was somewhat bland and beige. Also, it seemed like a watered-down version of Walls' own life story. Her fact so far seems to be more compelling than her fiction.
Warnings: Non-explicit sensuality, violence, language
The Secret Sense of Wildflower by Susan Gabriel
The Secret Sense of Wildflower is about Louisa May, also known as Wildflower, a girl struggling to cope with her father's tragic death, her mother's absent affection, and the unwanted attention of the town wild hooligan. Oddly enough, this story shares several similarities with The Silver Star (the Southern setting, the pervy creeper situations, the girls with refrigerator mothers), but I found it somewhat more compelling. Gabriel's writing is affecting and tight, and I found Wildflower's voice to be powerful and distinct. The story itself did not completely engage me, but the book was well written.
Warnings: Violence, sexual assault, some language
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
It's official. I'm a Rainbow Rowell fangirl. And if you are, too, you can see my clever pun on her next title (Fangirl. Pleeeease, NetGalley?). I just looked on her website to see if her Rainbow is her real name, and couldn't find that information, but I did find this fantastic quote: "She has two sons, and if God hears her prayers, they will grow up just as nerdy and true-hearted as the protagonists of her books." Amen, Rainbow. Amen.
Anyway, Eleanor & Park is about a girl and a boy who sit next to each other on the bus. They are both sort of misfits -- the girl because she is overweight, has flaming red hair, and is extremely poor and the boy because he is one of the only Asian people in his school (but he actually is really well-accepted). At first they coexist because they are forced to, but gradually, through sharing of comic books and mix tapes and hand-holding, they fall in love. And the biggest barrier winds up not being the their outcast status, but Eleanor's horrifically hellish home life.
I don't know how I can convey to you the adorable-ness of Eleanor & Park's relationship. Rainbow Rowell can, which is why I'm one of her Fangirls. (Ha, ha, ha). But seriously -- this book is able to induce pillow-screaming in equal measures of disgust and swoon. I won't lie -- I wasn't expecting how dark the book can be at times, especially as Rowell's first novel, Attachments, was pretty light-hearted, but it is beautifully balanced by the sweetness of the love story. I realize at this point this "mini-review" is not so "mini," so I'll wrap it up and just tell you to read it.
Warnings: Really a LOT of language. More than I usually tolerate before I put a book down. So be warned about that. Also innuendos.