1. This is Really Happening by Erin Chack
BuzzFeed senior writer Erin Chack provides a collection of personal essays for the Snapchat generation.
Erin recounts everything from meeting her soulmate at age 14 to her first chemotherapy session at age 19 to what really goes on behind the scenes at a major Internet media company. She authentically captures the agony and the ecstasy of the millennial experience, whether it’s her first kiss (“Sean’s tongue! In my mouth! Slippery and wet like a slug in the rain.”) or her struggles with anxiety (“When people throw caution to the wind, I am stuck imagining the poor soul who has to break his back sweeping caution into a dustpan”).
Yet Erin also offers a fresh perspective on universal themes of resilience and love as she writes about surviving cancer, including learning of her mother’s own cancer diagnosis within the same year, and her attempts to hide the diagnosis from friends to avoid “un-normaling” everything.
Like most millennials, I’ve spent more time on Buzzfeed than I would care to admit. Look, sometimes you just have to figure out which Hogwarts House your cat is in, okay? I don’t often read collections of essays, but I was intrigued by this one by Buzzfeed senior writer Erin Chack. Over the course of this very thin book, Chack describes a handful of different experiences — what is was like getting diagnosed with cancer at 19, taking a cross-country road-trip, making friends while studying abroad, trying a menstrual cup for the first time, and what her job as a writer is really like. On the whole, I found This is Really Happening to be pretty engaging, and there were definitely some quality essays in here. However, like most collections of essays I’ve read, there were a handful of essays that felt like a letdown or like they didn’t have a point. I would say after reading this book that Chack and I have very different senses of humor — I much preferred the series essays to the silly ones. Still, a book I’d recommend picking up to most readers looking for essay collections. 3/5 stars.
2. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
This is a love story.
It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.
Words in Deep Blue is a book for book lovers, so I was immediately enthralled. The story centers around Henry and Rachel, who were once best friends before Rachel’s family moved away. Rachel suffered a tragedy by losing her brother, so she ends up back in her hometown living with her aunt as she grieves and figures out her next steps. She ends up working at the used book store Henry’s family owns, which is a charming place with it’s own special feature: the letter library. The letter library is a shelf full of books where people write letters and notes to each other, and it’s such a wonderful concept I want it to be real. That’s the backdrop for Words in Deep Blue, which is ultimately a love story between Rachel and Henry, and how they find their way back to each other.
For the most part, I loved almost everything about Words in Deep Blue. This is my first Cath Crowley book, but it won’t be my last. I loved Crowley’s writing style, which is fairly straightforward but beautiful all the same. I wouldn’t call it flowery or overly descriptive, but there’s something about it that really set it apart for me. It felt very romantic without being cheesy or sentimental, and it dealt with the deeper themes about grief and figuring out what you want your life to be well.
The only thing I didn’t like about Words in Deep Blue was the sort-of love triangle going on. When Rachel comes back into town, Henry’s just broken up with his long-term girlfriend, but he’s determined to win her back. The narrative sets it up as a bit of a choice between the ex and Rachel, and Rachel holds some animosity toward Henry’s ex, which is very understandable. What I disliked however, was that Henry is often portrayed as a “good guy”, even as he sometimes strings Rachel along. These are young characters and I don’t expect them to be perfect, but I do wish this behavior had been called out in the book. If it had been, this book would have probably gotten 5 stars from me. Still, I loved the majority of the story and give it a solid 4/5 stars and a hearty recommendation.
3. Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler
Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she’s acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she’ll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn’t exactly Lizzie’s biggest fan.
But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you’re ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks… and that she’d like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he’s not the kind of guy who’d ever reciprocate.
Until he does.
Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.
Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.
I have read and enjoyed all of Dahlia Adler’s YA, so I don’t know why I was so hesitant about her NA, but I was. I haven’t had much luck with this category in the past, but I was in the mood for a romance so I picked this book up, and I’m glad I did, because this is the kind of NA romance I’ve wanted to read. All the NA hallmarks are there: there’s plenty of drama and steamy scenes, but what sets Last Will and Testament apart is that it also goes deeper. Lizzie is adjusting to being the guardian for her two little brothers and grieving the loss of her parents, and the book doesn’t just brush that aside. And while I never thought I could get behind a student/TA romance, Last Will and Testament manages to pull off that trope without being skeevy. What really won me over though, was Lizzie herself. Lizzie is a complete wreck throughout most of the book and makes some of the worst choices, but I still couldn’t help but to root for her because she was such a compelling, enjoyable character. 4/5 stars.