2012 in books, part four

You can find part one, two and three here.

40. Saints – Orson Scott Card
I had my students read part of this novel for ‘The Book of Mormon and American Culture’ class I taught last semester. I’ve read Orson Scott Card before (the Ender’s Game series, in particular) so I was familiar with his work. This is a long novel, drawing on a family of newly minted Saints that journey to their prophet Joseph Smith, then have to survive when he is killed. It’s notable for its depiction of polygamy–particularly how women dealt with polygamy. (Spoiler alert: it’s a fairly optimistic and male-centered take on it.) Safe to say that was one interesting class discussion, as I’m sure you can imagine.

41. Point of Origin – Patricia Cornwell*
42. Cruel and Unusual – Patricia Cornwell*
43. From Potter’s Field – Patricia Cornwell*
I then went in to a Patricia Cornwell medical examiner mystery phase. As with all scary books, I should not be reading these after dark. As an aside, it’s interesting to see how much more high-tech Kay Scarpetta’s morgue has gotten over the years.

44. Saving Francesca – Melina Marchetta
Melina Marchetta is one of my new favorite YA authors. In Saving Francesca, you’ve got all the typical adolescent angst about being the new girl, finding your place in the world, figuring out who you are and who you want to be. Then you’ve got a mom that won’t come out of bed, and life becomes heavy. But the book doesn’t become heavy handed, which is quite the feat. It’s funny, it’s strong, and you’ll be cheering the characters on after just a couple pages.

45. Crossed – Ally Condie
Some dystopian fiction manages to make quite the impression on me. Some does not–like Crossed. I think it was trying too hard. I’ll probably read the third installment when it comes out in November, but it’s not at the top of my list. (Seriously. I was trying to give a summary of it just now, and even the Goodreads page didn’t really ring a bell.)

46. Zen and the Art of Faking It – Jordan Sonnenblick
47. Notes From a Midnight Driver – Jordan Sonnenblick
Now that I have access to an American library, Jordan Sonnenblick is on the top of my list. I love his work. It’s quirky and believable at the same time. Zen and the Art of Faking It is about eight-grader San Lee who moves to a new town and accidentally reinvents himself as a Zen master. (Why not, right?) Complications ensue, of course. Notes from a Midnight Driver deals with Alex, a sixteen-year-old dumbass who decides to get revenge on his parents who are complicating his life, but ends up with community service in a nursing home instead after a stupid bout of drunk driving. He’s assigned to a “difficult” senior citizen, and it’s safe to say that neither of them will ever be the same again.

My descriptions don’t even do the originality of these books justice. I can’t say it enough: these are really fun books.

48. Sean Griswold’s Head – Lindsey Leavitt
Payton’s dad has MS. And nobody told her even though her brothers have known for a while now. Her guidance counselor tells her to do focus objects exercises to deal with her emotions–to write about anything stationary, every day, as a step to coping with her dad’s illness. As the title suggests, Sean Griswold’s head becomes the focus object, mostly because she realizes that she’s been sitting behind Sean for so many grades now but hardly knows anything about him. And of course, like turns to love pretty fast.

What I appreciated most about this book is that Leavitt didn’t allow Sean to become Payton’s rescuer. She ultimately has to deal with her dad’s illness by herself. And she does, finding strength she never knew she had. It’s a nice little romance, but it’s so much more than that.

49. The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
I wanted to love this book. And I did, but not as much as others have. Maybe it’s because I’m young enough to not be in a rut, or the fact that I’ve recently turned my life upside down enough to satisfy any restlessness, or maybe it’s because I spent years building myself from the ground up in therapy. I suspect it’s the latter–I made conscious choices to be who I am now and am pretty happy with the result. Whatever the reason, I am in less need of a Happiness Project. But I’ll reread the book in five or ten years time, see if it resonates more then.

50. Sundays in America Suzanne Shea
This too, was a book I liked but didn’t love. Suzanne Shea spends a year’s worth of Sundays travelling from church to church, in a kind of holy envy experiment. She goes everywhere from the Quakers to the Mars Hill to a snake handling church, and while there are many churches I’d love to visit (St John Coltrane African Orthodox Church comes to mind) it kind of got repetitious after a while.


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