As summer unofficially comes to a close, Library Journal and School Library Journal staff are parsing pop culture, reading about sex-ed teachers, finding reasons to live and to die, and sleuthing the mysteries within and without. Happy post–Labor Day reading, and here’s to nearly three more weeks of official summer!
Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, LJ
I’m currently reading Tom Perrotta’s The Abstinence Teacher (St. Martin’s), a work of realistic fiction that focuses on two seemingly disparate characters: a divorced sex-ed teacher receiving conservative backlash to her curriculum and a former alcoholic turned born-again Christian. Though I don’t love it as much as Perrotta’s Little Children, it’s a sensitive and often funny look at sexuality and religion in American culture.
Shelley Diaz, Associate Editor, SLJ
I’m enjoying Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia (Running Pr. Kids) by Jenny Torres Sanchez. I picked it up because of the amazing title and gorgeous cover. It’s about a teen in Orlando, FL, who has become obsessed with death and Emily Dickinson’s poetry (aka her imaginary friend, Em) after her crush commits suicide. A line that keeps reverberating in my brain: “If I were a poem, I’d probably be in slant.” Love that!
Liz French, Assistant Book Review Editor, LJ
I just finished Me Before You (Penguin), Jojo Moyes’s heartbreaker chick-lit love story. It’s a little bit like Bridget Jones meets Pretty Woman, with a lot of delightful Britishisms and some scenes that made me tear up a little. It’s about a former Master of the Universe who’s become a quadriplegic and the local village girl who’s hired by his wealthy family to watch over him. He’s determined to end his life and she’s determined to give him a reason to live. Moyes writes family situations well and she skillfully portrays class divisions and real-world concerns. While some characters are drawn a bit broadly, it’s a lovely book that would make a great movie—Hollywood, are you listening?
Meredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News and Features, LJ
I’m reading Reading the Vampire Slayer: An Unofficial Critical Companion to Buffy and Angel (Tauris Parke), ed. by Roz Kaveney. I’m occasionally brought up short by references to now-obsolete technology or character glosses rendered ironic by later seasons, but so far it is wearing very well. I’m impressed by how well it avoids two common pitfalls of pop culture criticism: obviousness on the one hand and stretching too far for symbolic interpretations on the other.
Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Reviews Editor, LJ
I just started How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Minotaur), by Louise Penny. In it, the author’s reliable sleuth Armand Gamache is back in the rural Québec town of Three Pines, solving a mystery for a friend and visiting some old haunts—both physical and mental. The reader confronts a second mystery: What’s behind Gamache’s melancholy and the quietly simmering rage of his former second-in-command? The action moves between the quiet, snowy village and the suffocating office politics of the Sureté de Québec in a way that makes both places more real.