It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is weekly challenge begun by Sheila at Book Journey to blog about the books readers enjoy each week. For some wonderful reading suggestions, please visit Teacher Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, who took Sheila's It's Monday! What are You Reading? challenge and gave it a kid lit twist.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
As I mentioned in last week's post, I had just finished reading Midwinterblood right before publishing my It's Monday! What Are You Reading? blog post. I didn't want to hastily add this amazing book to last week's post; I'd rather give it the attention it deserves as this year's Printz Award winner.
This book pulled me into its world(s) from the very first page. For those of you who haven't already heard the buzz about Midwinterblood, it's a fascinating love story that lasts through seven lives. The story is told in reverse chronological order, with the book starting in the year 2073 and ending some time before the recording of time. Two lovers, Eric (or Erik) and Merle (or Melle) must spend seven lives trying to find one another, hoping that in one of these lives, fate will be in their favor. Unfortunately, Eric's nemesis, Tor, creeps up in every life and ... well, I'm not going to spoil it.
In any case, I love the suspense and intermingling of genres in this novel. It had mythology, vampires, ghost stories, and multiple lives. It also had a bit of art history, as Sedgwick's inspiration for the book comes from a painting titled Midvinterblod, by Swedish painter, Carl Larsson, who also appears in one of the Midwinterblood tales.
Although Midwinterblood is labeled as Young Adult Fiction, I think many, many adults would find this book a worthwhile read.
Sometimes I unintentionally pick a theme in the books I choose to read. If I had to name a theme for last week's young adults section of my post, it would be romance. This week's theme for my young adult selections would be mental health. In the following two books, young women cope with their parents' mental illness, often taking on the role of parent instead of child.
Katherine Tegen Books, 2008
The first mental health related book I read last week was Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor which I plucked out of my daughter's book stash. Twelve-year-old Addie and her mother ("Mommers") are moving into an old, ugly trailer located in a non-residential corner in Schenectady, NY. Addie leaves behind her stepfather, Dwight - who was really the only father she's ever known - and her two half-sisters.
As we learn more about Addie and Mommers, we discover that not only is life with Mommers difficult, but she also appears to suffer from bipolar disorder. Although Addie is only twelve, her mother often leaves her alone for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. Addie befriends two adults who work at a nearby corner store, trying to find some normalcy in her life, which is the only thing she has wanted for as long as she can remember.
It takes a while before a grown up reaches out to authorities and finds help for Addie.
Viking Children's, 2014
When I was working on my master's in library science, I read Speak and Prom, both amazing books by Laurie Halse Anderson. I enjoyed Anderson's style of writing and found her realistic fiction stories engaging. Then life came along, and I was busy with two children, working, and finishing up my studies. I'd sadly forgotten about Anderson until I saw The Impossible Knife of Memory mentioned on Twitter last week.
I'm very glad I read this book. It deals with another tough mental health issue which is relevant to our time - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although there are many causes of PTSD, this story in particular deals with the condition as a result of war.
Hayley is a high school senior who has spent the past several years on the road with her veteran father, Andy. Hayley's father decides to settle down and let her spend her senior year in one school. Hayley also apparently suffers from an anxiety-related illness due to a near drowning when she was seven years old. Hayley's own anxiety, coupled with her father's PTSD, means she has difficulty maintaining social relationships and her grades suffer.
It's very difficult to read this book and not feel Hayley's daily struggle to help her father. She wants to protect her father from his seedy friends, from his memories, from her former stepmother, from his drug addiction - mostly, from himself. This is a huge responsibility for a teenager, of course. As a citizen of a country at war for the past thirteen years, I can't imagine how many Hayleys there might be in the United States today. Or how many Andys there might be, suffering from PTSD and other war-related injuries without a family to support them.
Kudos to Anderson for taking on the controversial topic of how willingly politicians send our soldiers to war yet fail to provide for them appropriately after they return home from the war.
What I'm Reading Now
The Book of Maggie Bradstreet
Glenmere Press, 2012
I have a soft spot for colonial Americanism in general, since that was the focus of my undergraudate thesis at the University of Houston. However I am particularly interested in the Bradstreet family as Anne Bradstreet's writings were a large part of the historical documents in my thesis.
The author of The Book of Maggie Bradstreet, Gretchen Gibbs, is a descendant of the Bradstreets. In this book, she weaves a fictional account of her ancestors' lives during the year 1692, when supposed witches took over Salem, Massachusetts, later spreading to Andover.
I'll have more to say about this book in next week's post, along with some paired reading suggestions for young adult readers.