It looks like my last Friday Reads post was in early April, so it's definitely time to play catch-up! I'll keep the intro short and sweet and get right to sharing a few of my recent favorites:
Panic — Lauren Oliver
I tend to like just about everything Lauren Oliver writes (and I can't wait for her first adult book, Rooms, which comes out this fall!), and this book was no exception. The story follows two small-town teens as they play Panic, a dangerous thrill-ride of a game that consumes the town's graduating seniors each year. The game: face your fears in a series of ever-crazier stunts and challenges. The last person standing takes home a pot of cash collected from students over the course of the previous year. Heather is playing Panic for the money, to try to make a better life for herself and her sister. Dodge is in the game for darker reasons—including revenge. They both find their strength and their resolve put to the test, as it seems like the game is getting out of control fast. This book is a page-turner—I had a hard time putting it down!
Midwinterblood — Marcus Sedgwick
I only read Midwinterblood a little over a month ago, and I'm already tempted to give it a reread. This book surprised me in so many ways. It's made up of a series of interconnected stories, all set on the same mysterious Scandinavian island, with each story going back further in time. The stories are told in wildly different voices and styles, and yet they still feel like part of the whole. The second story (the only one set in the present) is about an archaeologist, and the book truly feels like an excavation, with each story revealing more clues until you finally discover the whole truth. And that truth…well, without spoiling too much, it involves Vikings, and ghosts, and magical orchids, and blood sacrifices, and a love story that transcends time. I highly recommend this one.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe — Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Two Mexican-American boys—loner Aristotle (Ari) Mendoza and sensitive know-it-all Dante Quintana—meet one summer and forge an intense friendship…and then something more. That's the book in a nutshell, but it's so much more than that. Ari's voice is so authentic and unique. He's sad, angry, confused, frustrated, sullen—and funny. His brother is in prison, and his parents won't talk about it. His dad is still haunted by the Vietnam War (the book is set in 1987)—another thing no one will talk about. Ari has few friends and no outlet for everything he's feeling—until he meets Dante. Where Ari is closed off, Dante is open. Where Ari has no idea who he is or who he wants to be, Dante is self-assured and comfortable in his skin. This is a beautifully written, heartfelt coming-of-age story about two boys who save each other.
We Were Liars — E. Lockhart
This book has been heavily hyped on Twitter over the last few months, so I was excited to pick up a copy when it came out. And it didn't disappoint! I bought it in the Nashville airport, after my visit to my family in May, and I'd finished it by the time I landed at BWI for the next round of family visits. I definitely don't want to give too much away about this one, because true to the title, not much is as it seems. The story centers around a wealthy, privileged New England family, the Sinclairs, who summer on a private island. The (unreliable) narrator is Cadence, who is suffering from amnesia and severe headaches after something happened two summers ago. Now, she's back on the island, and starting to remember the truth. If you like plots that twist and turn, pick this one up.
I'll Give You the Sun — Jandy Nelson
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of this book, which goes on sale in September. Jandy Nelson's debut, The Sky is Everywhere, was captivating and heartbreaking—and gorgeously written. So obviously I couldn't wait for her follow-up to come out! I'll Give You the Sun is narrated by twins in alternating chapters: Noah tells the story from when they're thirteen, while Jude's half is set three years later. The difference in the twins in those three years is striking, and Nelson takes her time explaining what happened in between. The twins have distinctive voices, and both characters jump off the page. Whether she's writing about grief, art, or physical/emotional attraction (and there's plenty of all three in this book), Nelson's prose is vivid and explosive and exuberant. She really is a spectacular writer.
Whew! That's all you get for now—five great books. But stay tuned, because I have more great reads to share coming up!