Genre: Emotions & Feelings

Middle Grade Monday: Nest (2014) by Esther Ehrlich

Middle Grade Monday: Nest (2014) by Esther EhrlichNest by Esther Ehrlich
Published by Random House Children's Books on September 9th 2014
Genres: Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Social Issues
Pages: 288
Goodreads

Happy Christmas Week! Things have been a bit slow on the blog due to travel by yours truly, but I’m settled in for the holidays now, so glad to be back! You may have noticed: my blog announcement hasn’t been made yet. That will change soon, so stay tuned.

Welcome to another Middle Grade Monday!

Suggested age range: 12 and up

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley from Wendy Lamb Books. This in no way influenced my review! Thank you, Wendy Lamb Books!

The Book: Set in 1972, on Cape Cod, this middle grade realistic story charts the ups and downs in the life of a young girl whose mother becomes ill with multiple sclerosis. Along with her sister and father, eleven year-old Chirp wants to see her mother get better, and attempts to cheer her up in the midst of a very difficult season of life. Even though Chirp’s friend, Joey, has his own challenges at home, the antics of the two friends keep the story filled with humor. At times heart-wrenching, the story reflects the work of an author who doesn’t shy away from engaging with serious topics in this heartfelt and beautifully written story.

Spirituality in Nest: How does the heart heal after tragedy? Is the love between family members strong enough in the face of losing a loved one? Both of these questions are raised in the story, suggesting a deep and moving aspect of the book. This one definitely raises some thought-provoking moments, though it took me awhile to get into the story.  Chirp’s aesthetic appreciation for the natural world and her awareness and observation of that world is yet another aspect of spirit in the narrative. Her keen observation of birds and wildlife reminded me a little of the way Anne Shirley is in tune with the natural world.

Who Should Read This Book: Though booksellers might consider this book for readers younger than twelve, because of the subject matter and the way it’s represented, I’m going to suggest the book for readers twelve and up. Of course, parents may decide for themselves whether this book would work for a young reader or not. That’s just my two cents. There are some very serious and intense topics and moments in the story, but realistically, some young people have to face situations such as the ones the story brings up. In that case, the book would be extremely relevant.

The Final Word: It took me awhile to get into this story as I felt the pace was a bit slow, but once I reached a certain point—about halfway through—it seemed to pick up. I enjoyed the patterns and echoes Ehrlich employed in the story, and the motifs she used, such as the nest and the birds. I especially appreciated learning more about Cape Cod and the different types of birds living in that environment. The story reflects multiple moments of beauty and celebrates an aesthetic appreciation of the nature world. The story, though tragic at times, ends on a note of hope.

Have you read this new Middle Grade release? What did you think?

What Katie Read

The Half Life of Molly Pierce (2014) by Katrina Leo

The Half Life of Molly Pierce (2014) by Katrina LeoThe Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno
Published by HarperCollins on July 8th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, Siblings, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

Suggested age range: 15 and up

The Book: It’s mystery, it’s contemporary, it’s young adult. It’s The Half Life of Molly Pierce. Seventeen year-old Molly feels like she’s missing part of her life. There’s the boy who claims he knows her, but she doesn’t recognize him or know where (or when) she met him. Then there’s his brother who also knows her name, and with whom she senses a significant connection. Was (is?) there something between them? Love? Friendship? Slowly, memories start to come back, and Molly begins to put the pieces together. What is her secret life everyone else seems to know about but her? Will she ever have a whole life instead of just half of one?

Spirituality in The Half Life of Molly Pierce: So, you’ve probably heard me talk about the idea that the relationship to the self is one area of spirituality we can think about out of the four major connections (self, others, natural world, Divine [God]). Looking at this novel through a spiritual lens highlights that idea of our connectedness to the self, and it definitely made me think about how this idea of being “whole” is tied to our spirituality. Mental illness is something a lot of people deal with in today’s world, and it shouldn’t be ignored. The more we can understand it and support people who deal with it, the better. When we see brokenness, we want to fix it. I want to see un-whole people become whole, and Molly’s story reminded me of that even more.

Hope and expectation for the good to come were two other dimensions of the story that engaged my own spirituality.

I wasn’t expecting this because I honestly wasn’t sure what the book was going to be about! So I’m immensely glad I picked it up.

Who Should Read This Book: If you enjoy psychological reads that have a bit of mystery, like We Were Liars, you’ll probably enjoy this. Readers interested in issues surrounding mental illness, or writers interested in ways they can represent mental illness in a story would definitely find this book relevant. It will make you think, and is ideal for reading and discussing with others. I found myself telling my friends about it, even though they weren’t reading it at the time. Oh, and it’s pretty addictive. You might even drop friends off to shop and wait in the car so you can finish the book. (Note: There is some strong language and mature content in the book.)

The Final Word: I wasn’t sure what to think of Molly Pierce at first. I hadn’t read many of the reviews of the book before I plunged in, which I found out afterwards, was a good thing. There is a bit of a twist, and I’m certainly not going to give any hints what that twist entails, but readers who like puzzles and uncertainty—this might be a good choice for you.

I was wondering how Leo was going to wrap the story ends up and resolve the plot, and I was surprised at how satisfying the ending was to me.

The beginning of the book was very jarring (and I think it’s supposed to be) but its conclusion left you with a far different feeling.

Have you read The Half Life of Molly Pierce? What did you think? What other books did it remind you of?

four-stars
What Katie Read

Exploring The Mystery of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)

Exploring The Mystery of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Random House Children's Books on May 13th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

Suggested age range: 13 and up

The Book: Cadence is part of a privileged family: the Sinclairs. But like many families, this family harbors secrets. Summers find Cadence with her family on their private island off the coast of Massachusetts. There, she becomes part of the “liars,” a group including herself, her two cousins, and a grafted in “cousin,” Gat. They sneak out together, they get in trouble together, but when the summer ends, they each go their separate ways. Except for one summer. What secret is the family holding back from Cadence of that fateful summer, and what happened that she is desperately trying to remember?

Spirituality in We Were Liars: Topics like greed, racism, and dysfunctional family relationships in a story can certainly make room for spirituality. Without giving anything away, I will point out that the issue of materialism surfaces in the story—and one character’s response to this excessive greed is an interesting aspect of the narrative. Feel free to let me know in the comments your thoughts on these aspects of the story!

Who Should Read This Book: If you can read and you like a beautifully written story with a mystery at its heart, you need to sit down with The Liars. You owe it to yourself to visit this island off the coast of Massachusetts, and learn about the Sinclairs with all their flaws. Whether you like a good contemporary realistic novel or a thought-provoking mystery, I’m certain you’ll find something in this story to enjoy. This is the kind of book that kept me close to the page, tracing it for hints as to what really happened during “Summer 15” for the Liars.

The Final Word: Lockhart’s prose is clever, crisp, and beautiful. I hadn’t read anything by her before, but now I plan to change that. I appreciate her style, and I was glued to this story for several days. My only regret is that it had been longer. Now, I’m planning a re-read, especially since I want to return and scour the pages for clues. An unreliable narrator can really make a narrative more fascinating, and Lockhart expertly weaves a story that you will be thinking about long after you have closed the book.

 

 

 

four-stars
What Katie Read
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