It’s the time of the year when I feel like everything goes a bit manic. As well as negotiating Christmas lights, tinsel and December 25th catering, we also have three family birthdays in the mix. So before I completely lose my shit (in a very festive way, of course), I thought I’d get one element of life under control. Hence three quick reviews.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
If I were a young adult (because We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is a YA novel), this would be one of my favourite books. I probably would have finished it, and then started over. I might have also started some kind of Kennedy-family/ Hyannisport/ Cape Cod style-board (actually, it was pre-Pinterest, so a scrapbook) – the story isn’t about the Kennedys but it is the Kennedys meets King Lear, in the form of the fictional Sinclair family and their compound on a private island off Cape Cod.
Every good review I’ve read of this book raves about the twist. I liked the twist well enough but the outstanding feature of We Were Liars is undoubtedly Lockhart’s fine writing – ignore the #firstworldproblems factor and focus on the beautifully developed relationships between the ‘liars’ (four teens), their parents, siblings and grandparents. In addition, the sense of place (on a fictional island) is exquisite.
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
Is this book classed as young-adult, emerging adult or simply adult-adult? Regardless, I highlighted about eleventy-million paragraphs that were tops. Moran’s dry wit, her spot-on portrayal of teen, Johanna, with nostalgic historical music details and the right amount of family drama (not melodrama) thrown in, is a winner. It’s awkward, truthful, funny, painful and pretty much perfect. I say pretty much perfect because it’s hard not to compare How to Build a Girl to other excellent books about young girls living on council estates in Britain* that I’ve read – it’s a bloody strong field.
The Heart Broke In by James Meek
The Heart Broke In by James Meek really deserves a full and thorough review because it’s a novel of epic proportions (literally at 560 pages and figuratively). The themes are big, the characters are big, the plot is complex but tightly woven and the attention to detail is meticulous. I wonder how books like this don’t get more devotees (the Franzen-effect?)?
Anyway, one reviewer called this book a “moral-thriller” – I have to mention it because I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything as apt. Aside from being a moral thriller, there’s stuff in there about aging rock stars, siblings, cells, London, malaria, religion, genetics, parenting, loyalty, forgiveness and blackmail. Block out some reading time, this one’s a ripper.