*** Note: this review contains spoilers, and the below discussion deals with psychologically abusive relationships and teen pregnancy. *** Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is a graphic novel about a young woman named Freddy and her relationship with Laura Dean, who keeps breaking up with her then acting as if they're back together again. The illustrations are beautiful, and I love the hint of pink on each page that serve as the only additional color aside from the black and white. Pink is a rather feminine color, yet I like to think the pink tint represents the borderline love that Freddy feels; it isn't full-tilt bright red love. It's dampened, faded, a little worn. It's a kind of love you've carried for a while, even as it fades.
I first fell in love with Holly Black when I was much younger and she was co-writing the Spiderwick Chronicles with Tony DiTerlizzi. The books were small, sleek hardbacks illustrated by DiTerlizzi, and I adored them. The books and the accompanying Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You was the seed of my obsession with all things faery and folk. One of the greatest things about Holly Black is that, for the most part, she stays in that category of fae writing, but we don't get the same world and characters recycled over and over again. The Darkest Part of the Forest, for example, is far different from the Spiderwick Chronicles, even though both deal with the fantastical realm of faeries.
Josie Pie was kind of a big deal in high school. The star of the school play, she is encouraged by her theater instructor to travel to New York to audition for a role on Broadway. Josie Pie is going places! But. Turns out, being a big deal in high school doesn't guarantee you a spot on Broadway. Scared of returning to school a failure, Josie stays in New York, racking up debt on a credit card and living in a hostel, then briefly on the street, before getting a job as a nanny for a rich woman.
Amy Falls Down is the sequel to The Writing Class; however, I read Amy Falls Down first (I haven't read The Writing Class yet), and it stands up on its own as a novel. There is what I assume to be several spoilers of the ending of the first book, but other than that, Amy Falls Down works as its own novel. Amy is a novelist who hasn't written for decades. She prefers the hermit life, but one day she takes a tumble in her garden, hitting her head on the bird bath and coming to some time later. Amy's fall triggers a string of events which somehow lead to her being rediscovered as a novelist.
Advertised as reminiscent of classic Agatha Christie novels and blurbed as being like the cast of The Breakfast Club meets murder mystery, this book set up expectations of unexpected twists and notable characters . . . and ultimately disappointed. All Your Twisted Secrets takes the cast (or core concept) of Breakfast Club and reduces everyone to a caricature. There's the bitchy Queen B, the jock, the classic stoner, et cetera; however, each of these characters is so tightly type cast that the end result is a lack of personality.
Tender is set in Ireland and written with a dialect. There are several words and phrases in the novel that may be hard to understand if you aren't familiar with Irish lingo, but the dialect isn't anywhere near as bad as the Scottish dialect in Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. Rather, in this novel, the dialect works to remind you of the Irish setting without overwhelming you with culture-specific lingo.
I considered reviewing each book in this trilogy individually, but since I sped through them all so quickly, I felt a comprehensive review of the entire series may be more beneficial for readers. I never like to start a series until I know all of the books are out so that I don't have to spend a year or more in the torturous realm of waiting for the next book to come out, if it ever does. It is, however, hard to discuss a series without letting a few mild spoilers slip, so proceed with caution. I will try to limit the number of spoilers to just the synopsis for each book.
I read the 25th anniversary edition of this book, which comes with an introduction by the author. Cisneros, in the introduction, describes the typical aspirations, doubts, and dreams of a young female author just starting out. She wants to write full-time, to be able to afford her own apartment with a writing space. She wants a place of her own in the world, and she wants the work she does to have meaning. She struggles with imposter syndrome, especially in the presence of entitled white male authors who ooze self-assured confidence.
How to Pronounce Knife is a collection of 14 short stories. The title story, which is also the first story, sets the tone for the rest of the collection. Collectively, these stories paint an image of sorrow, of displacement, of a longing to belong, to feel at home. "How to Pronounce Knife" describes a young girl in school learning how to read. The word "knife" appears in a book she has taken home to read for school, but there is not a picture next to the word to help her identify it, and so she asks her father.
The vibe of this book is reminiscent of stream of consciousness in that there isn’t a solid plot throughout the novel; rather, it’s more of an overarching theme of grief and stagnation and this oppressive feeling that there is a crisis at hand yet you have no idea how to handle the crisis, let alone identify and clearly articulate the crisis.