1. The Inexplicable Logic of my Life
I received a copy of this book in exchange for consideration of an honest review.
The first day of senior year:
Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.
Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
It’s no secret that I love Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, so I was nervous about picking up The Inexplicable Logic of my Life. I will say I did find this book rather slow at the beginning and it took me awhile to get hooked, but there’s just something that’s always so honest and compassionately raw in Saenz’s work. The characters in The Inexplicable Logic of my Life are deeply flawed, but man do they try so hard with each other. There’s so much platonic love in this book, both in family and friendships, and while there are a few missteps and one or two parts that I was not fond on, on the whole those family and friendships were so well-written with so much depth I found myself incredibly invested.
Like Saenz’s other books, The Inexplicable Logic of my Life is much more of a character study than a plot-driven book. The novel follows Sal, a high school senior getting ready to apply to college, and his life, which includes his best friend Sam, another friend Fito, and Sal’s single, gay dad. Sal and his dad’s relationship is absolutely wonderful, and I want to see more child/parent relationships like it in YA. Sam and Fito have family issues of their own, but they all become drawn together as the novel goes on and life happens. And I always love Saenz’s writing. I don’t think it’s as fluid in the narrative here, but there’s still these really simple sentences that sometimes just punch me in the gut. 4/5 stars.
2. Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson
The story follows the unlikely friendship of two young women forged via fan fiction and message boards, and is told entirely in texts, chats, and blog posts.
Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.
So Gena/Finn was not at all what I expected, but I think I ended up liking this more than most readers. However, in order to recommend this book, I feel like I have to recommend that it goes very dark and very serious, and is much less light-hearted than the synopsis suggests. I won’t give spoilers, but it’s not by any means cute or fluffy. That being said, the format of this book really worked for me. Gena and Finn had very distinct voices through their blogs, emails, and IMs. I also thought the fandom angle was very well done. Up Below is clearly a Supernatural-esque show, with the large fandom and potential drama that can bring. I’ve had intense friendships like this before, because there’s something about a shared interest and the perceived anonymity of a computer screens that makes it a lot easier to be open with others.
I also thought most of the serious topics handled in this book were well-done as well. I understood both why Gena and Finn felt a bit lost at their current place in life. And judging by reviews a lot of people did not like the way romances played out(or didn’t), because everything is left super ambiguous, including the character’s feelings. And while I do think the title isn’t the best for this book(I mean, in fandom this should pretty clearly indicate a romantic relationship), I thought the messy dynamics were well-written. I understand why some readers didn’t like the (lack of) representation, but I get it, particularly because of all the external events. So in short, this book is definitely not for everyone, but it was for me. 4/5 stars.
3. Audition by Ryū Murakami
Documentary-maker Aoyama hasn’t dated anyone in the seven years since the death of his beloved wife, Ryoko. Now even his teenage son Shige has suggested he think about remarrying. So when his best friend Yoshikawa comes up with a plan to hold fake film auditions so that Aoyama can choose a new bride, he decides to go along with the idea.
I picked this book up on a whim because I’ve wanted to read more novels in translation and I know the movie based on this book is a horror cult classic, as the cover said. It’s also a very short book, less than 200 pages, which makes it a shame that I was so painfully bored during most of it. I love books about men who do creepy things to attract women who are not as they seem and then turn the trope on its head, so I thought I would enjoy this book even if horror isn’t my normal genre. However, the bulk of this book is mainly the two main characters having a meal and talking. Then having another meal and talking. There is a general sense of dread and foreshadowing that creeps in; there are shadows in the corner and you know everything isn’t as it seems, but it wasn’t enough to keep me interested. I found the “horror” parts of this book less horrifying and more just gruesome, and had trouble stomaching the super graphic dog death. 2/5 stars.