book reviews, books, children's lit, LGBT, Uncategorized, ya

Books You Should Read, A to Z: A Response to Rookie’s May 9 “Dear Diary.”

This week, for the “Dear Diary” series on Rookie Mag, Ananda listed her “Books You Should Read, A to Z.” It seemed so fun I wanted to do it too! I didn’t think much about these, so, they aren’t all-time faves or anything. It was mostly the first book that came to mind or, if it was a tough letter, scrolling through some titles on Goodreads. Hope you enjoy!


A is for the Alice… series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, with more than two dozen books following our protagonist Alice from fourth grade through college.


B is for So B. It by Sarah Weeks, a beautiful story taking on tough topics in an elementary-level chapter book.


C is for Coraline by Neil Gaiman, and also for creepy, which is what this book is.


D is for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, about two Latino boys discovering their sexualities.


E is for Everything on a Waffle, a really cute book by Polly Horvath that is literally about many objects on a waffle.


F is for Firefox by Joyce Carol Oates, about girl gangs but not in a trendy way like in a terrifying way, and is not appropriate for reading in conjunction with Everything on a Waffle.


G is for American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a straight-up mythological mystery-epic.


H is for How My Personal Private Journal Became a Bestseller by Julia DeVillers, which was later made into the 2006 Disney Channel Original Movie Read it and Weep starring Kay and Danielle Panabaker.


I is for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and its companion books, written by Laura Numeroff with illustrations by Felicia Bond, spouting some serious life lessons.


J is for Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles, which provides a uniquely empathetic view toward teen pregnancy.


K is for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, which is filled with so many wise quotes, including this one: “Finding out the truth is only half of it. It’s what you do with it that matters.”

L is for Lord of the Flies by William Goldman, which I like a lot solely because of the context in which I experienced reading it. I don’t think I would have liked it at all otherwise.


M is for Matilda by Roald Dahl. If you haven’t read Matilda, go do that right now. It probably will not take you long.


N is for A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, which is mad confusing but also my fave, probably because I have performed in three versions of it as four different characters.


O is for Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher, where a psychologist working with teen girls realized a lot of consistent ways they were fucked up, and also for Ophelia Speaks by Sara Shandler, editing an anthology by teen girls struggling with the things Pipher wrote about who wanted to articulate in their own voice instead of being talked about by someone else.


P is for Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney E. Martin, which I first read years ago, have included in three papers I’ve written in college, and probably remains my favorite piece of narrative journalism. (Following everything by Joan Didion — Didion comes first.)


Q is for A Circle of Quiet, a sorta-true memoir by Madeleine L’Engle which is super-introspective and wise the whole way through. There’s a lot to underline.


R is for Ratgirl by Kristin Hersh, a really rad memoir about music and mental illness and growth.


S is for Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a truly hallmark young adult book. Also, based on her internet presence and the one time my friend Maddy L. and I very briefly met her, Anderson seems to be like the nicest person ever.


T is for Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, a book that was so spooky in how it set its scenes in the forest that I was afraid to play outside alone for almost a month after finishing it as a kid.


U is for Unbearable Lightness, the memoir by Portia DeRossi (Lindsay on Arrested Development and Ellen DeGeneres’s wife) and not the Milan Kundera novel. It’s about her struggle with anorexia and she meets Ellen near the end and there’s some really lovely resolution.


V is for everything by Virginia Woolf but I’ll highlight Between the Acts, which was published posthumously and takes place around the framing of this huge community production and has some weird animal symbolism. (Like,  a lot of snakes!)


W is for A Wind in the Door also by Madeleine L’Engle, my personal favorite book in the Time Quintet which beautifully and unusually reveals the spirituality and magic of our insides.


X is for The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, which honestly I haven’t read but my mom did, and I love a lot of other books by Alice Hoffman, so I bet it is great! (X is tough.)


Y is for I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, which Amanda gave me for my birthday (thanks girl!) and explores art, death, and twin-ness in a really beautiful way.

Z is for A to Z by Sandra Boynton! Is that cheating? Probably.


book reviews, books, children's lit, LGBT, Uncategorized, ya

“I’d Like To Sing, I’d Like to Shout: It’s Spring! It’s Spring! It’s Spring!”

Why stop now?

This bunny and I appear to feel exactly the same way about spring.

Also, I’ve got to read more this spring! Since this semester started, I’ve only read books for either work or class, which I guess is to be expected… but I know I can do better.

1.BOYS DON’T KNIT (IN PUBLIC) by T.S. Easton (2015)

PROMINENT ASPECTS: knitting, toxic masculinity, having juvenile delinquent friends, anxiety, being in love with your teacher, when your mom’s a professional magician

ALSO READ: The narrator of this book is so beyond endearing. He reminded me a little bit of Stewart from We Are All Made of Molecules (see: winter reading.) If you want more books about knitting, I haven’t read it in years but I really enjoyed Chicks with Sticks by Elizabeth Lenhard when I was in middle school. (Also, while looking for the title of this book, I came across The Broken Circle: Yarns of the Knitting Witches—probably my favorite subheading of all time—and in that book, the author lists the knitting patterns of what the characters are wearing, which is low-key amazing.)

2. SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN by Jeff Garvin (2016)

PROMINENT ASPECTS: genderfluid identity, Congress, mental health, nice therapists, new friends, suicide, blogging, bullying, courage

ALSO READ: This book is so important and unique in the fact that there is a nonbinary character (aka, not a clear cisgender girl or guy) whose birth sex is NEVER mentioned: we get to see this character as they see themselves, in all their complexity. It’s different, but Simon (#3 on the list) is equally sweet and also equally exposes the struggles of anonymous Tumblrs in today’s high school landscape.

3. SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli (2015)

PROMINENT ASPECTS: emailing, school plays, sisters, close families, secrets, when your best friends have unreciprocated feelings for each other, coming out as gay, when that one cool English classroom at your school has a couch

ALSO READ: This book is adorable AND important. Read the above book too.


PROMINENT ASPECTS: injuries, Texas, new friends, poetry, Mexican-American identity, prison, family secrets, violence against LGBT youth, when a dog is a boy’s literal best friend, fathers

ALSO READ: Other books that tenderly interweave family, culture, and sexuality. Most of these LGBT YA books don’t mention race at all, and if so, in passing; the characters are white by default. That’s not the case in this novel, featuring two Latino teen boys. For more YA books that include characters of color, check this great list by Malinda Lo.


PROMINENT ASPECTS: the panopticon, boyfriends, secret societies, alpha males, pranks, old boys clubs, private boarding school, being Jewish, cool roomies who love horses, emails, the Jersey Shore

ALSO READ: This book is the shit. Read about the panopticon, read We Were Liars by Lockhart for an even MORE supenseful storyline, and listen to this Jenny Lewis tune; I think that Frankie would have felt a strong connection to it.

6. BRAIN ON FIRE ~ almost done ~

7. EVERYTHING EVERYTHING ~ almost done ~

     *        *      *      *     *     *

Summer reading list here, autumn list here, winter reading list here! 

*= I’ve read this book before

PS: Whenever I think about spring, a poem that I learned in, I believe, first grade echoes through my head. I just found it online, in one specific preschool spring lesson planning PDF! It’s on page 7. It comes along with activities, if you’re interested.

Image via Samantha Berger/Scholastic