Friday Reads: "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and "Eren" by Simon P. Clark

Happy August! I don't know about you, but it seems like July simply flew by. I can't believe we're on the home stretch of summer—and of the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge! Here's what I read this week: UnknownCheryl Strayed's memoir WILD has been on my list for a while, and I'm glad I finally checked it off! Once I got into it, I had a hard time putting this one down. WILD follows Strayed's 1995 hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, from southern California to the Oregon-Washington border. She was 26. Her mother had recently passed away, and Strayed was in a downward spiral. She cheated on and then divorced her husband. She tried drugs. At the point when the memoir begins, she's a broken shell. She thinks that maybe going into the wilderness alone for a few months and doing this impossible hike will be what heals her. And it does, to an extent—though it also breaks her down a lot along the way. Strayed is a woefully unprepared backpacker, which gives some levity to what is otherwise a fairly somber book. I also read reviews stating that Strayed was a frustrating narrator, too self-centered and self-flagellating to spend time with. What kept me pushing forward at the start of the book was how unflinchingly Strayed writes about her past. She made a lot of mistakes, and she admits them. And, moving forward, she works to overcome them. I definitely recommend this book.

imagesI also got yet another Fearless Fifteener advance copy: Simon P. Clark's EREN, which releases this September. (Yes, we have a few Fearless Fifteeners who are actually 2014 debuts; it's too complicated to go into here!) This book doesn't fit into the Summer Reading Challenge categories I have left, but I was too fascinated by it not to tell you a little about it here. This book is middle grade fantasy marketed to fans of Neil Gaiman. It's about a boy, Oli, who discovers a creature in his attic—Eren—who seems to feed on stories. Oli has a lot going on in his real life, and talking to Eren feels like an escape. But there's more to the sinister Eren than Oli realizes. This book is about the stories we tell, and it's written in a format that tells stories within stories within the main story. It's a slim volume, but not a fast read; the pace is deliberate, forcing you to savor each story as it unfolds. And where it ends up is unexpected—at least, it was for me. This is a thoughtful, slightly creepy meditation on the power of storytelling, and if you're a Gaiman fan, you will probably enjoy this book as well.

Here's where my Summer Reading Challenge bingo board stands as of today, August 1:

Summer Reading 8-1

Until next week… Happy Reading!