Thursday, December 9, 2021

We Can Be Heroes, by Kyrie McCauley

Trigger warnings: school shootings, domestic violence

(Note: if you are a member of the NRA, you won't like this book)

We Can Be Heroes is a ghost story about anger, art and activism. There were a lot of things I liked about it, but I loved the friendship between the three girls. Beck and Vivian jumped off the page and Cassie slowly gained substance (you'll get what I did there when you read it!), and the dynamic, sometimes fraught bonds among them were lovely to watch. Also girls standing up for girls never gets old. Just saying.

[I can't help but notice a common thread of anger in a lot of this year's YA. It's an appalling truth that in 2021 there are still so many things to be angry about, and I can only applaud the authors giving us angry characters breaking rules to make things change.] [For more anger, art and activism, look for a One Billion Rising event in your area. Or start one.][We now return you to your regularly scheduled review.]

I loved Beck's use of women from Greek myths in her murals, reclaiming their stories to make sure Cassie's story gets told. Don't you love this great, incisive line: "If the hero dies, they call it a Greek tragedy, but when the heroine dies, it's a romance." Isn't that just the problem with western literature in a nutshell! (It's ever so slightly possible that I enjoyed this novel so much because I agreed so much with its very obvious message. Ahem.)

Okay, I know why this book struck such a chord with me: its theme that the story we tell ourselves—the stories we tell each other—about who we are, about what matters and who matters and how things ought to be—these stories change everything. And we each need the space, the permission, the power,  to tell our own stories. That's a message every girl should hear.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Darkness Outside Us, by Eliot Schrefer

So, this is one of those I-can't-tell-you-anything-about-the-plot-so-how-am-I-supposed-to-review-this-book books. There's so much I want to tell you about that I can't! I finished this book last week and I'm still thinking about it, going over all the ramifications of what happened in the story and the choices the characters made, and the choices the author made about how to tell the story. It's just so interesting and provocative!

Okay, here: have you ever heard of the philosophy book Gödel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter? Mind blowing stuff about consciousness and computers and stuff that I understood about 1/18th of, maybe, but it was a lot of fun (and made me feel smart every time I understood a sentence!). Reading The Darkness Outside Us makes me want to go back and read that book.

That is not going to convince you to read this novel. Try again.

Trapped in a spaceship with an enemy and an AI that sounds like your mother: how long would it take you to go insane? This book plays with some familiar sci-fi tropes, layers in a life-or-death mystery, adds a sweet, weird love story (can't tell you why it's weird: too spoilery), and sends you on a mind trip of epic twistiness. It's fun, it has feels, it punches you in the gut, it makes you say, "But, wait ... no, hang on a minute: what??!" not just once but probably four or five times, and then it makes you go, "Huh. That's ... huh. There's a metaphor in here; let me think about this for a while."

And so here I am, a week later, still thinking about it and trying to get you to read the book so we can think about it together!