From the Shelf
Poets, Power and Pop Culture
Poetry can be a finger-beckoning-in invitation. It can be a fist, rising in solidarity. It can supersede the page, subverting genre, form and even power itself. Claudia Rankine--MacArthur Fellow, finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf, $20)--has long been celebrated for her powerful and subversive verse. Fans would do well to pick up her early Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (Graywolf, $16), a potent, unforgettable exploration of violence, death, entertainment and living in her own body, and her own skin, in her own time.
Rankine crops up often in critical analyses of Beyoncé's body of work--which summons to the table Morgan Parker's There's More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House, $14.95). Shot through with pain, sex, pop culture, frustration and fragility, Parker's poems deploy searing satire, as in "Heaven Be a Xanax" and "Slouching Towards Beyoncé." In "Beyoncé Celebrates/ Black History Month," she writes, "I have almost/ forgotten my roots/ are not long/ blonde. I have almost forgotten/ what it means to be at sea."
Evie Shockley's brilliant The New Black (Wesleyan University Press, $15.95) likewise offers equal parts precision, nuance and blunt force. In "post-white," her wordplay belies sobering images: "my country tears of thee sparkling on a stiff gray bow tied against cognitive dissonance." In "ode to my blackness," Shockley employs a similar marine metaphor: "you are my shelter from the storm/ and the storm."
See slam poet, activist and radical self-love advocate Sonya Renee Taylor's The Body Is Not an Apology (Berrett-Koehler, $17.95) for an empowering, grounded introduction to becoming liberated in this world. Taylor's brand of liberation? "The opportunity for every human, no matter their body, to have unobstructed access to their highest self; for every human to live in radical self love."
In this Issue...
by Timothee De Fombelle
In this illustrated novel for middle-graders, a five-year old girl who lives in a small village during World War I begins a secret mission.
by Alexi Zentner
A teenager struggles with his family's involvement in a white supremacist church--and encounters racial conflict himself.
by Isha Sesay
A former CNN Africa reporter's gripping account of the Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram.
Review by Subjects:
07/15/2019 - 07/16/2019 - 12:01AM
07/18/2019 - 6:00PM
Mourning Mischievous Mad
With a regretful nod to the classic publication's impending demise, Open Culture recalled "when MAD magazine ruffled the feathers of the FBI, not once but three times."
A Harry Potter Book, "bought for $1 at a yard sale, could sell for more than $37,000 at auction," Mental Floss reported
CrimeReads featured "the most terrifying buildings in literature."
"New Green Gables interpretive center puts focus on L.M. Montgomery," CBC reported.
"Sweden's bokbåten is a floating library that brings books to residents of remote islands," Mother Nature Network reported.
Rediscover: Marie Ponsot
American poet and translator Marie Ponsot died last week at age 98. She began writing poetry as a child in Jamaica, Queens, some of which was published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Ponsot graduated from Columbia University with a masters in 17th-century literature before traveling to post-World War II Paris. She married painter Claude Ponsot and had a daughter prior to returning to the United States. There the couple had another six sons and a divorce, leaving Marie Ponsot a single mother of seven children in New York City. True Minds, a poetry collection released in 1957 by City Lights Pocket Bookshop, was Ponsot's debut and her last published work of poetry for the next 24 years. In the interim, Ponsot wrote for radio and television, translated French children's books and continued producing poetry.
In 1981, Ponsot's unpublished poetry landed on the desk of Knopf poetry editor Alice Quinn. Admit Impediment was the first of several collections released by Knopf, including The Green Dark (1988), The Bird Catcher (1998) and Springing: New and Selected Poems (2002). She also co-authored two books about writing with Rosemary Deen: Beat Not the Poor Desk (1982) and The Common Sense (1985). In 2013, Ponsot received the Poetry Foundation's Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2010 to 2014. Her most recent book, Collected Poems (2016), covers the entire 60-year span of Ponsot's career. It is available from Knopf ($28.95, 9781101947692). --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Carolina Setterwall: Love and Loss
|photo: Sarah Mac Key|
Carolina Setterwall was born in 1978 in Sala, Sweden. She has worked in music and publishing as an editor and writer. Setterwall lives in Stockholm with her son, and makes her literary debut with Let's Hope for the Best (Little, Brown, $27; reviewed below), autofiction written in response to the death of her partner, Aksel, when their son was just eight months old.
Why did you choose the format of autofiction, rather than a more traditional memoir, to tell your story?
Actually, it wasn't really a conscious choice, at least not in the beginning. To be honest, I didn't exactly know what made a story autofictional (rather than biographical) when I started writing this book. It was more a case of me writing the way I wanted to write, and the story I would have liked to have read myself, than having a plan for exactly what genre the story would fit into. So I'll try to answer this question from a different angle.
When I set out to write this book, I knew I wanted to tell a story about a grieving process, a loss and also a modern love relationship that I could not only relate to, but that also exposed (side by side with the "purer" aspects) the parts of a grief/loss/relationship, that weren't... so polished. I wanted this story to be the opposite of Instagram, if you know what I mean?
I wanted to share the days, and thoughts, and feelings that are entangled in both the grief and the love that I had felt shame about. They're normal, but we tend not to talk about them. And with the shame comes the hiding, and with the hiding comes the feeling of isolation, and with the isolation... well, the grief just intensifies.
In regards to the autofiction, while it is true that I lost my partner under the same circumstances as are told in the book, Let's Hope for the Best still is a fictionalized story, constructed as a novel rather than a biography. Most of the events that take place in the story took place in my real life, too, but not necessarily in the exact same way or in the exact same order.
Let's Hope for the Best's staggered storylines make it fascinating--chapters alternate from the early days of your romance to your reactions after the tragedy. Was it hard to decide how to break the story up, or did this feel natural?
Actually, this (too!) was also more a matter of coincidence than a strategy, or plan. At first I tried to tell the story without involving the person who was lost, but soon found out that I couldn't tell the story without involving what was lost: a past, a shared future, a relationship, a person, a love. To mix two timelines, one after and one before the event that changed everything, was a way to capture how death changes things irreversibly for the people being left behind.
You spend a lot of time analyzing the effect of Aksel's death on your young son, Ivan. One of the more poignant scenes occurs at Ivan's preschool when the class of two- and three-year-olds are talking about how things die. Do you find that it is generally easier for children to process grief?
Both yes and no. It's easier because death hasn't yet become taboo for young children. And they're not particularly good at metaphors. So, when talking about death with kids, you have to approach the subject in a really matter-of-fact kind of way. In my experience, they don't judge, and their never-ending curiosity makes it, in a way, easy to talk about. And difficult to avoid talking about!
On the other hand, it's really hard for kids to understand the infinity of death. My son had a long period of time when he was sure dad was coming back one day. It's absolutely excruciating having to explain that he's gone forever. That he's still around in terms of our memories, and that he would always be his biological father, but in a physical sense, he's still gone and he would remain gone.
Can you give us a glimpse into your writing process for Let's Hope for the Best? Did you squeeze writing in around your day job, or did you take a break from work?
When I wrote Let's Hope for the Best, I worked part time for six months and had two days every week completely dedicated to writing. I also wrote during the evenings, when my son was asleep. Some weeks I tended to hate myself for not having written "enough" (in terms of both quantity and quality) during the days that I had spent doing other things than writing (for example: laundry, taking care of an ill child, staring into the wall, scrolling through social media networks). Luckily, some weeks the words just flew.
I remember the days of writing this book with mixed emotions. It wasn't necessarily the writing that was hard--it was navigating through life at that time. I think, in many ways, writing this story gave me a purpose with my days--a purpose in addition to raising and taking care of my son.
--Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
by Alexi Zentner
Inspired by incidents from Alexi Zentner's (The Lobster Kings) childhood, Copperhead is set in the fictional town of Cortaca, a stand-in for real-life Ithaca, N.Y. The novel's protagonist, 17-year-old Jessup Collins, lives there in a double-wide trailer with his thrice-married mother and younger sister. His stepfather, David John Michaels, has just returned from serving a four-year prison sentence for attempting to cover up his son Ricky's killing of two African American university students that began as an act of self-defense.
Jessup struggles to reconcile his image of David John, a hardworking husband and father--but also a member of the Blessed Church of the White America, a white supremacist church that preaches the doctrine of "Rahowa," or "racial holy war," led by his brother Earl and used as a political platform by an ambitious, media-savvy college student, Brandon Rogers.
Over the course of a long, snowy weekend in November, Jessup, an honor roll student who's counting on a football scholarship to help lift him out of the marginal existence he shares with his loving family, is transformed from the hero of a playoff game to the focal point of a firestorm over a racially charged tragedy. Jessup's predicament is complicated by the fact that his girlfriend is Deanne Diggins, the daughter of his African American football coach.
Zentner skillfully sidesteps one of the principal risks in novels of this sort, that of turning his characters into mere ideological mouthpieces. Both Jessup and David John evolve as the novel hurtles along. It's easy to identify Copperhead's villains, but they're far less interesting than its flawed heroes. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
Discover: A teenager struggles with his family's involvement in a white supremacist church--and encounters racial conflict himself.
by Nora Roberts
The harrowing, far-reaching implications of domestic abuse are central to Nora Roberts's Under Currents. The novel begins in Lakeview, an upscale lakeside community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where Graham Bigelow, an upstanding surgeon, and Eliza, his stay-at-home wife, raise two children: 14-year-old Zane and 11-year-old Britt. The foursome may look like an idyllic family--they have everything money can buy. But at home, Dr. Bigelow is a cruel, abusive and tormenting figure who beats his complicit wife and their innocent children. With the help of a trustworthy family friend, Zane confronts his violent father, who--along with his mother--is ultimately sent to prison.
The action then moves ahead 18 years. Zane, now a successful lawyer, returns from Raleigh and resettles in his old hometown, while Darby McCray, a Baltimore landscaper recently divorced from her own abusive husband, takes up residence in Lakeview in order to make a fresh start. Zane and Darby start a romance, but the deep pain of their pasts complicates their relationship--along with the re-emergence of Zane's father, released from prison and seeking vengeance.
Readers can always count on Nora Roberts (Shelter in Place, Come Sundown) to deliver high-octane thrillers that focus on the bonds of small-town life, dark secrets and the prospect of new love complicated by evil lurking around sharp corners. She doesn't disappoint in Under Currents, a chilling, suspenseful story that proves how appearances can be utterly deceiving. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A chilling suspense novel about the far-reaching implications of rampant and hidden domestic abuse.
Let's Hope for the Best
by Carolina Setterwall
Swedish author Carolina Setterwall tells a moving and emotional story in her first novel, Let's Hope for the Best. The knowledge that Let's Hope for the Best is a fictionalized memoir makes it even more gripping: Setterwall wrote it to her former partner, Aksel, after his death when their son, Ivan, was just eight months old.
The story flashes back and forth between the morning in 2014 when Carolina woke up to find Aksel dead in their bed, and 2009, when they first met at a party. She recalls their slow courtship, with Carolina pushing a more hesitant Aksel a bit, encouraging him to move in together and then to have a child with her. The reader realizes that their relationship is doomed to be short, which invests every argument and loving moment with added meaning.
Setterwall writes brilliantly, with no hesitation about showing her own flaws and the ways that her helicopter parenting affected their relationship, and about the impact of Aksel's death on her and Ivan. American readers will also be intrigued by the mundane details of their life in Stockholm, as Setterwall shares her experiences with everything from breastfeeding to doctors visits and Ivan's preschool cubbies. The deep impact of the book is in its immediacy, the sense that Carolina's shell-shock and grief are so real, and that detailing her life with Aksel allows her create some semblance of normalcy in the wake of his death. Setterwall has created a shockingly real, moving story in Let's Hope for the Best. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: In this intense work of autofiction, Carolina Setterwall shares her grief after the death of her partner when their son was an infant.
A Girl Returned
by Donatella Di Pietrantonio , trans. by Ann Goldstein
The unnamed narrator is 13, raised by two affectionate parents in a comfortable city home where she has her own room. School, swim and dance lessons, a nearby best friend, the sea a short walk away are the life she's known. And then, one August afternoon in 1975, she's driven to an apartment in a small village with all her possessions, where she's "greeted by the smell of recent frying and a wait." When the door finally opens, she finds a sister she's never met before. Once she passes through, she becomes the "arminuta, the one who was returned."
The mother she's always known is sick, perhaps dying. Her father won't raise her alone. She's told she's grown up "and my real parents wanted me back." She's now one of five children in a family that has no room for her, reduced to neglect, hunger, occasional abuse. Bewilderment and misery define the year she spends with her birth family, mitigated only by the growing bonds with her younger sister Adriana (with whom she shares a urine-soaked bed) and older, often missing, brother Vicenzo. As she navigates her new life, she will need to learn acceptance and practice rejection in order to survive.
Italian author Donatella Di Pietrantonio (who is also a pediatric dentist) makes her English-language debut, thanks to Elena Ferrante translator Ann Goldstein. With unflinching perception, in A Girl Returned Di Pietrantonio presents a heartrending tale of a child discarded, never quite reclaimed. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Donatella Di Pietrantonio makes her English-language debut with a slim novel about a teen caught between parents who raised her and the family into which she was born.
Mystery & Thriller
Under the Cold Bright Lights
by Garry Disher
Garry Disher (Kickback, Signal Loss) writes several popular Australian crime series. Under the Cold Bright Lights, however, is a standalone featuring cold case detective Alan Auhl that is sure to appeal to fans of Jane Harper or Ian Rankin.
Auhl shares a large house with his daughter, his ex-wife and several boarders--including a few grad students and a timid woman, Neve, who is fleeing an abusive husband. He doesn't care that his fellow cops make jokes about his age and decrepitude. He just wants to find justice for all the victims.
The cold case department is already looking into a murder from six years earlier--a man found beaten to death near his farm--when a young family in a new subdivision finds a skeleton under the concrete slab in their back yard. They begin investigating "Slab Man," but before they get far, a doctor Auhl is convinced killed his first two wives comes in claiming that wife number three is trying to kill him.
Disher has created a wonderful, believable character in Alan Auhl. His innate kindness and investigative instincts interact in intriguing ways. As the three disparate cases and Neve's custody battle unfold, Disher flawlessly combines the many storylines into a twisty final product that will surprise even the savviest of readers. And underlining it all, the Melbourne setting and the oddball cast of house residents make for an entertaining backdrop to the curious crimes. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: When a skeleton is found under a concrete slab, an older detective finds his investigative skills and his ethics tested to the limit in this entertaining Australian mystery.
Stone Cold Heart
by Caz Frear
Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear is told from the point of view of Detective Constable Cat Kinsella, a cop with her own shady past. It's the follow-up to Sweet Little Lies, but references to that novel are minor distractions to Heart's whodunit plot.
Kinsella and her partner, Sergeant Luigi Parnell, are given a murder case. Naomi Lockhart was a 22-year-old who suffered blunt force trauma to the back of the head after attending an after-hours party at her boss's house. Prime suspect Joseph Madden seems like he should be locked up simply as a public service to London's citizens. Kinsella had a personal run-in with Madden before she was even assigned Naomi's case and has justifiable reasons to dislike the guy.
In spite of Madden's bragging about extramarital exploits, his general propensity to lie about even the smallest of things and a mound of evidence against him, Kinsella has her doubts about his guilt, much to the annoyance of the investigative team. Kinsella has a gut feeling something isn't right, and Frear interrupts most of Kinsella's verbal interactions with the detective constable's inner monologue. In a lesser writer's hands, this device could become annoying, but Frear sidesteps the trap by providing readers the opportunity to ride shotgun and solve the crime through Kinsella's eyes. Most everyone surrounding Madden appears to be holding back some truth, but so is Kinsella, which is why she's attuned to other people's lies. How Frear brings all the complex plot points together makes the big reveal worth the journey. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer
Discover: In this savvy novel, Detective Constable Cat Kinsella works a murder case while trying to keep her team in the dark about her own criminal past.
by AJ Dungo
In this heartbreaking graphic novel debut, AJ Dungo memorializes his girlfriend Kristen, who died of bone cancer while in her 20s. Kristen loved surfing, and In Waves parallels the story of her life and death with a history of surfing as a pastime, beginning in Hawaii before the Western invasion. Though distant from each other in time and space, these two narratives--one deeply personal, the other spanning centuries and continents--support each other beautifully, both characterized by the rhythmic ebbs and flows of ecstasy, disappointment, triumph and loss.
From the book's sparse captions and bold, coursing lines emerges a subtle exploration of personal (and cultural) tragedy and rebirth. Beginning in high school, AJ and Kristen's relationship builds slowly, driven by a gentle series of meetings and partings. As Kristen gradually warms to AJ and their relationship evolves, In Waves meditates in turn on the slow commodification of Hawaiian culture--a development that would propel surfing into the international spotlight, but forever corrupt its meaning.
An ancient cultural tradition, a competitive sport for some and a path to transcendence for others, surfing is shown to be as much about holding on to the past as it is about learning to exist purely in the moment. For Dungo, this paradox crystalizes into a framework for understanding grief. "It is unpredictable; brewed by a storm in the distance, deep in the ocean, far from view... it grows until it cannot sustain its shape... and then the water retreats, only to begin again." --Devon Ashby, sales & marketing assistant, Shelf Awareness
Discover: This intimate graphic novel beautifully combines a tragic love story with a thoughtful history of surfing.
Biography & Memoir
Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram
by Isha Sesay
In Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram, British journalist Isha Sesay transports readers to the remote Sambisa Forest in northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram is suspected of holding abducted schoolgirls. Through the stories of four girls and their parents, Sesay brings attention to the 276 mostly Christian students who were violently taken from their boarding school in the village of Chibok in 2014. She highlights not only their continuing plight--many of the girls are still in captivity--but also the vast and brutal impact of the militant Islamist group's terrorism on Africa's psyche.
Nigeria is one of Africa's most powerful nations and has the continent's largest economy. It is also the birthplace of Boko Haram. Sesay helpfully examines the confluence of social factors that gave rise to the extremist group, including the struggles between Muslims in the north and Christians in southern Nigeria that are a legacy of British colonial rule. Her tenacious reporting since the Chibok abductions has helped keep up pressure on the government of Nigeria to find the missing girls.
Sesay was born in Sierra Leone and educated in both the U.K. and West Africa. Readers will be moved and inspired by her passionate advocacy for the education of girls in Africa as well as her friendship with and continued support of the 21 freed schoolgirls who were fortunate enough to come home. Sesay accompanied the girls back to Chibok in 2016 with a promise to keep their stories, and the stories of their friends still held captive, alive. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer
Discover: A former CNN Africa reporter's gripping account of the Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram.
The Trouble with Gravity: Solving the Mystery Beneath Our Feet
by Richard Panek
Gravity, to the layperson, is easy to explain: it's a force that keeps us on the ground while Earth rotates, and it's what keeps each planet in our solar system on its rotational path around the sun. That explains what gravity does; what gravity is, however, is a question that philosophers, mathematicians and scientists have been considering for two millennia. Are they any closer to an answer?
In The Trouble with Gravity, science writer Richard Panek (The 4% Universe) delivers an illuminating history of figuring out this elusive force. Early storytellers had no concept of gravity, but they sought to explain what kept humans down here on Earth while something different kept the gods up in the heavens. Seeking an explanation, philosophers Plato and Aristotle introduced logic, though they drew false conclusions. Advances in science and mathematics allowed Galileo, Copernicus and Newton to observe that the heavens aren't so different, and that the same unexplainable force exists throughout the universe. Natural philosophers insisted on replicable scientific experiments as evidence, such as those that successfully predicted the appearance of comets. Einstein's theory of relativity paved the way for gravitational waves; a decade later, thanks to quantum mechanics, mind-bending concepts like black holes emerged.
But do we really know what gravity is? Even as "our understanding of the working of the universe" has grown over time, gravity continues "to refuse to play well with others." It's both an amazingly weak force that we overcome simply by taking a step, and the unlikely force that keeps the entire universe in balance. Panek's thought-provoking look at gravity offers no easy answers but much to contemplate. --Frank Brasile, librarian
Discover: The Trouble with Gravity is a stimulating history of what we know, and don't know, about the mysterious force that rules the universe.
Selected Poems of Edith Wharton
by Edith Wharton , Irene Goldman-Price, editor
Selected Poems of Edith Wharton, edited by Irene Goldman-Price, brings together a collection of the famed writer's poetry, combining better-known pieces such as "A Torchbearer," an elegy for a young acquaintance, with more obscure pieces, such as "Faun's Song." Many of the poems are previously unpublished works found in Wharton's diaries and notebooks, while others have been out of print for many years. The book is divided into sections based on themes--nature, art, public opinion, the supernatural. Most poems are introduced by Goldman-Price's commentary, which provides background on Wharton and a general interpretation of the poem.
While Wharton is celebrated for the novels The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth, she is not often thought of as a poet. Goldman-Price's collection re-considers this foundational American female writer as not only a poet but an important public voice. Poems like "Only a Child" (Wharton's first published poem) and "Prophecies of Summer" (written when she was 14) offer insights into Wharton's biography and literary oeuvre. Meanwhile, those like "The Rose" and "The Bread of Angels" challenge established perceptions of Wharton as simply an aristocratic writer and provide fertile ground for new scholarship to explore the connections between her poetry and novels.
Still, Wharton's poems shine most when commenting on what Goldman-Price titles "Courtship, Love, and Heartbreak," or the fraught relationships between men and women. In these poems, Wharton's sentimentality becomes so interwoven with her satirical criticism that it's difficult to distinguish between the two, suggesting that perhaps there is less of a difference between these seemingly divergent rhetorical strategies than readers may think. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor
Discover: Selected Poems of Edith Wharton provides a beginner's introduction to poetry in general as well as a closer look at a beloved writer and the complexities of her form and subject matter.
Children's & Young Adult
by Timothee De Fombelle , trans. by Sam Gordon , illust. by Isabelle Arsenault
"I am Captain Rosalie. I'm disguised as a little girl, five and a half years old." Since her father is away fighting in the war, Rosalie's mother must work in the local factory while Rosalie stays at school. Every day, she huddles in the back of the classroom with her sketchpad, confident that no one realizes she is a "spy," sussing out information for her "secret mission." Rosalie is observant, noting the way her teacher, the war veteran, "smiles as though having just the one [arm] is quite something," or seeing how her mother takes longer with her father's letter than she needs, staring at a single page long after she's stopped reading to Rosalie. Rosalie knows it is of the utmost importance she learn to decipher those letters if she wants to bring her mission to an end.
Captain Rosalie by Timothée de Fombelle, translated by Sam Gordon, is a tender journey of learning and discovery. War is all Rosalie has ever known, and it shapes every aspect of her life: "One day," she thinks of her secret mission, "I'll be awarded a medal for this. It's already gleaming deep within me." Isabelle Arsenault's watercolor, pencil and ink illustrations are stark, primarily black and white with small bursts of color, capturing the bleakness of Rosalie's village and the pain at the heart of the story. De Fombelle's brief tale is wildly successful in demonstrating that, when war is a reality of our lives, children can't be shielded from it; Captain Rosalie shows the heart-wrenching experience of a child growing up during war and the true cost of knowledge. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer
Discover: In this illustrated novel for middle-graders, a five-year old girl who lives in a small village during World War I begins a secret mission.
Tell Me How You Really Feel
by Aminah Mae Safi
Rachel Consuela Recht has hated Sana Khan ever since the "perfect, delicate, tiny girly" girl asked for her number freshman year. Rachel, "a film student so extraordinary that she was granted a scholarship" at the elite Royce School, "had seen Carrie, for Christ's sake," and knew never to "trust beautiful people bearing invitations." Sana had to have been messing with Rachel. Unfortunately, Sana wasn't.
It's senior year and Rachel still hates Sana. As perfect as ever, Sana is cheer captain and headed to Princeton in the fall. But she has a secret: she wants to defer college a year and take a hospital fellowship in India. Rachel, who has been accepted to New York University's film program, is also in a bind: if she doesn't finish her senior film in the next month, her adviser is going to tell NYU that she's slacking. When Sana sees Rachel struggling with camera gear after a shoot, she tries to help, causing both girls to go tumbling and a camera to break. As punishment for the destruction of school property, Rachel's adviser demands Sana become the new lead in Rachel's film, forcing the two girls to work together. As one can expect, Rachel and Sana don't stay enemies for long.
In her sophomore novel, Aminah Mae Safi (Not the Girls You're Looking For) uses the enemies-to-lovers trope to splendid effect, producing a love story that feels natural and a romance that grows organically. Sana and Rachel have big feelings, the melodrama is pitched perfectly, and the two happily subvert stereotypes over and over again. Tell Me How You Really Feel is the best kind of rom-com: genuine and absorbing, with wonderfully over-the-top declarations of love. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: In Aminah Mae Safi's Tell Me How You Really Feel, two young women with a conflicted relationship grow close when forced to work on a student film together.
Dogs and Their People
by Anne Lambelet
Dogs and Their People, a picture book in the illustrative spirit of Madeline and Babar the Elephant, follows a girl as she makes her way home through what looks like a 1920s-era cityscape. As she walks, the girl takes note of dog and human pairs: "Some dogs and their people look alike,/ and others could not be more different./ But no matter what, everyone somehow seems to have found their perfect match."
Anne Lambelet's (Maria the Matador) watercolor, pencil and digital media illustrations in muted tones have the wry, sophisticated feel of New Yorker cartoons. The stylized figures in glamorous suits and gowns stroll the streets, leashed to their four-legged companions. Illustrations and text are gently humorous, with charmingly old-fashioned language. The narrator refers to the "matching mustachios... on Lord Banberry and his schnauzer, O'Grady." And when she sees a startled-looking man in top hat, cane and scarf being tugged by a pug, she says, "Augustus Pennyfarthing is very little, and/ his owner, Sir Archibald Pennyfarthing, is very big,/ but everyone knows which one of them/ is really in charge."
The pace of Dogs and Their People is pleasantly sedate, though Lambelet does take readers by surprise with a fun twist of an ending. No wild romps or diabolical plots here: simply a perambulation through the agreeable activity of noticing dogs and their people. Like P.D. Eastman's Go, Dog. Go!, which could be thought of as a younger sibling to Dogs and Their People, the message is plain: whether you're a dog or a human, it takes all types. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: With art deco-style illustrations of all kinds of dogs with all kinds of people, the delightful Dogs and Their People features a girl lightheartedly commenting on dog/human pairings.