Summer Y.A. Contemporary Reading recommendations: ‘Where You’ll Find Me’ by Natasha Friend.

 

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Don’t you just love summer?

I love the long days and lazy evenings; kicking back in the backyard at the weekend with the grill fired up, retro songs on the turntable outside and a cool refreshing drink in my hand and a plate full of doughnuts beside me. This is what I call perfection! Of course it’s even better if there’s a book in my other hand too, but I try to be sociable.

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I always find that I turn to contemporary books in the summer. I like to be able to dip in and out of a read during these lazy days when quite often friends will drop by and linger, with us on the patio, or we will load up the car and head to the beach. My favorite reads for these days are YA contemporaries. They fill the gap in the days quite nicely and as a bonus, usually their dust jackets are a feast for the eyes too.

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So this week I wanted to pull up a few of the books I’ve read and enjoyed so far this summer. I’ve discovered some fabulous authors that are new to me and of course, some super characters to root for as they navigate their way through life. I hope you enjoy them too. Let me know if you’ve read them, and why not add a recommendation of your own too?

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Okay, so first up, today we have ‘Where You’ll Find Me’ by Natasha Friend  Published by Farrar Straus Giroux.

Here’s the official synopsis:

‘The first month of school, thirteen-year-old Anna Collette finds herself…
DUMPED by her best friend Dani, who suddenly wants to spend eighth grade “hanging out with different people.”
DESERTED by her mom, who’s in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt.
TRAPPED in a house with her dad, a new baby sister, and a stepmother young enough to wear her Delta Delta Delta sweatshirt with pride.
STUCK at a lunch table with Shawna the Eyebrow Plucker and Sarabeth the Irish Stepper because she has no one else to sit with.

But what if all isn’t lost? What if Anna’s mom didn’t exactly mean to leave her? What if Anna’s stepmother is cooler than she thought? What if the misfit lunch table isn’t such a bad fit after all? With help from some unlikely sources, including a crazy girl-band talent show act, Anna just may find herself on the road to okay.’

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 My take:

Don’t dismiss this book as the lighthearted synopsis suggests, it tackles some deep issues, but handles them delicately and empathically. While I would say that this book is aimed at a middle school audience, it is also a super good read for all ages above this.

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Our protagonist, Anna is thirteen, and has hung out with her best friend Dani since Kindergarten. Her life is safe and predictable, but then it isn’t. Out of the blue Dani no longer wants to hang out with Anna. She feels that they’ve grown apart. Dani wants to be more popular, and Anna is no longer cool enough. Okay, so Anna is confused and upset, but she thinks Dani may change her mind and come running back, if she gives her time. As we read this, we assume that the story is going to be cute and sweet, but it does get much darker as we read on.

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Anna’s parents have recently divorced, but within months, her father has remarried and his just -out-of-college new wife has given birth to a baby girl. Anna is struggling to cope with her new place in his world, and having to divide her time between his new house and her home with her mother. Unfortunately things go from bad to worse when Anna’s mother attempts suicide, and leaves her reeling, and with no other choice than to move in with her father and his new family, while her mother recovers. donut girl book 1

This book touches on many different issues throughout: Divorce, remarriage, the birth of a new sibling, depression, loss of friendship, and grief. It offered much more than I anticipated, and I thought that the author handled these issues well. Anyone over age thirteen will certainly have experienced at least one of these issues, and I’m sure they will relate.

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I empathized with Anna as she was pushed from pillar to post, but I enjoyed seeing her character grow through these pages.

I’d give this a solid four stars for a sweet, Ya read.

I hope this review has been helpful to you. I’ll be back later with another summer Y.A book recommendation.

 

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with love, Sally xxx

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

 

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Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar. buy it HERE

I discovered this book whilst doing a search for contemporary YA reads on Amazon. Marketed for grades 4-8 I was nevertheless drawn to this book after reading the synopsis, which reads:

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What does it mean to be fully alive? Magic blends with reality in a stunning coming-of-age novel about a girl, a grandfather, wanderlust, and reclaiming your roots.

 

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them . . . .

 

‘While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.’

 

 So Carol’s summer is going to be a tough one: Meeting a Grandfather she barely remembers, being in the middle of nowhere for the full summer, and doing everything she can to keep Grandpa calm at all costs.bee1

 

So in the midst of it all, as the desert homestead land is dying in one of the worst droughts in decades. Grandpa says that when the Bees come back they will bring water. Carol thinks this is grandpa’s dementia talking; surely water will bring the Bees, not the other way around? So when Carol begins seeing Bees hanging around her, she daren’t mention it to Grandpa, so as not to upset him. But she can see Bees in a desert!

 

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Obviously the book was an easy read, being aimed at twelve year olds, so I flew through it in one sitting. However, what I wasn’t counting on was that after reading this book it would linger with me afterwards.

 

Eagar’s writing style is beautiful and lyrical and flows effortlessly. Dementia is a subject that requires addressing delicately, and Eagar manages to achieve this by giving Grandpa a quiet dignity and intelligence despite his mind-crippling illness.

 

One of the reasons I think this book resonated with me so strongly was that at a similar age I met my step-grandmother for the first time and under similar circumstances.

 

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She moved into our home after being unable to cope any longer due to her age (eighty-three) and later, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. I only knew her for little under two years; yet, in such a short space of time she became my closest friend.

 

Now I was a chatty kid and had plenty of friends my own age, but something about ‘Aunt Jane’ (as I was instructed to call her) just ‘clicked’ with me and I found myself wanting to spend more and more time with her.

 

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Reading ‘Hour of the Bees’ brought back so many childhood memories for me. I felt myself tearing up over some little description or other, and feeling that this author must have experienced this situation for herself. The special relationship between Carol and her Grandpa touched me deeply. It is so unexpected and unlikely, yet their love transcended across the decades and they bonded deeply. The depth surprised Carol, and she began to question her priorities in life and reassessed the importance of the things she had previously held dear.

 

Grandpa has never left his homestead, yet has lived a life that many of us could only dream of. He has known true love, great health and the friendships of many. He now has to leave the only home that he has every known, and of course the prospect terrifies him.

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Added to this his son, Carol’s father has little patience with him due to old wounds that we learn about later in the story, and he just wants the homestead cleaned up and put on the market so he can continue on with his own life.

 

With an interesting mix of characters, and the confined space of a small farmhouse there is, of course, no shortage of conflict. And here Eagar is masterful in her ability to show everybody’s point of view fairly.

 

I read a couple of books each week and this one is one that shines. It has now been added to my short list of ‘favorite books’ and easily gets a five star rating from me.

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Please, whatever your age, pick up this book from this amazing debut author. I’m certain we will be hearing much more from her in the future. If I had a crystal ball, I would predict that this book would win many awards- it certainly merits it.

 

lots of love,

Sally xxx

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