Alex, Approximately

He could be any one of these people.

En als je dan even iets lichters nodig hebt, zonder gelijk je haar uit het hoofd te trekken omdat het allemaal zo vreselijk dom is, ga je voor een tienerromance die vanaf het tweede hoofdstuk duidelijk voor je neerzet hoe het af gaat lopen. Niks mis mee.

Hoofdpersoon Bailey is een groot fan van klassieke films, chat daarover met een leuke, slimme, vriendelijke jongeman online (Alex), en verhuist naar zijn dorp zonder het hem te vertellen, zodat ze kan ontdekken of hij in het echt net zo leuk, slim en vriendelijk is. Maar dan ontmoet ze een vervelende maar leuke jongeman op haar nieuwe werk, en wordt de vraag om Alex steeds kleiner. Oh nee, hoe zal dit nu aflopen.

Alex, Approximately voorkomt dertien in een dozijn te worden door een paar scherpe randjes die de motivatie van Bailey goed onderbouwen. Verder is het zalig zwijmelen in een surfersparadijs.

Alex, Approximately, Jenn Bennett, Simon & Schuster 2017

The Hate U Give

I shouldn’t have come to this party.

This one is probably going to be relevant for a long time coming, and that’s why I’m unsure how to go about this. As one of the blurbs on the back of the book says, everyone should read it, maybe especially if it makes you uncomfortable, but how do I put into words why you should read it?

Maybe because it gives a face to Ferguson, to Black Lives Matter, to Flint and all the other cases in which it’s easy to think of an entity, instead of a collection of individuals. Starr is one of the few black people on a very fancy school, which makes her feel like she’s living two versions of herself. When she witnesses a shooting, it’s harder to keep those two apart.

But it’s not just Starr’s story. It’s her family, her community and the endless attempts of being heard and seen as people, instead of thugs, low-lives, useless. Angie Thomas balances that impressively, and even though there are rough patches to get through, you’ll be so attached to the people you’re reading about, that you just take it.

And again, definitely a book I would have rather seen in my YA Literature class than another white boy story.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas, HarperCollins 2017

The Painted Boy

The boy had finally fallen asleep.

I’m pretty sure the last time I read a Charles de Lint novel was before I started this blog, but Widdershins impressed me so much that from time to time I’d still check if I could find more of his in my libraries. The Painted Boy is clearly for younger audiences, providing a more accessible but less eerie, dream like and wonderful story (if those aren’t nostalgia goggles).

The Painted Boy from the title is Jay Li, a teenager that has a large dragon on his back (not tattooed) and is sent off to unfamiliar territory to finish his studies. Jay is part dragon, and will have to do something he won’t know until he’ll experience/see/know it.

Good thing (“”) he ends up in a town held hostage by different kinds of gangs. Of course he has to learn to become one with the dragon and his surroundings, but hey, all this was part of the learning curve, after all.

The magical elements add the necessary spice, else it would have been an oatmeal kind of story: okay for everyone, but nobody’s first pick.

The Painted Boy, Charles De Lint, Viking 2010

Other People

97 min.

Vaagjes kon ik me herinneren dat meerdere mensen op verschillende mensen deze film had aangeraden, alleen niet precies meer waarom. Maar er was een Siberische beer buiten, dit leek op een familie saga (het soort verhaal waar ik altijd een zwak voor heb) en ik had tijd te vullen dus ja hoor – geef maar.

Other People posterBeste mensen, blijkt de moeder van de familie dus dodelijk ziek te zijn. Hoofdpersoon doet zijn best om succesvol te zijn als schrijver, maar komt als lichte faalhaas terug naar huis om voor zijn familie te zorgen. Waar zijn vader nog steeds zijn homoseksualiteit niet heeft geaccepteerd en zijn zusjes niet echt weten hoe contact met hem te leggen. En moeder maar haar best doen om te doen alsof.

Alsnog is het niet alleen maar tranendal, waardoor de kleine pijntjes misschien juist vaker in de roos landen. Want wat doe je als je samen met je moeder begraven versus cremeren moet bespreken terwijl je net chocolade milkshakes hebt besteld bij de man die je op Tinder hebt gespot?

Bitterzoet noemen ze dat, geloof ik, maar ik nam er vooral van mee dat je blij moet zijn met de mensen die je hebt, voor je ze verliest. En verdorie, wat speelt Molly Shannon een vrouw die je niet wilt verliezen.

Other People, Park Pictures 2016

The Wedding Date

Alexa Monroe walked into the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco that Thursday night wearing her favorite red heels, feeling jittery from coffee, and carrying a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne in her purse.

Best romance I’ve read this year. And maybe from the previous year as well, but I’d have to look that up.

And why’s that? Because there’s humans involved, from the main characters to the extras. Because reality gets room in what’s becoming a multi-racial relationship with both participants in busy jobs that don’t just disappear when not needed anymore for creating background. But mostly because the chemistry is just enormous and everything in this story is delicious, even the badder/sadder situations.

If you enjoy romances, you’ll like this one. If you want to give the genre a chance; aim high with this one.

The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory, Penguin Random House 2018

Trouble is a Friend of Mine

Of course I didn’t like Digby when I first met him.

I never read a Nancy Drew novel (I think), but I’m pretty sure this could be the more reluctant, twenty-first century version of one. Protagonist Zoe mentions it as well, so I’m definitely onto something.

After the divorce of her parents, Zoe moves to a small town where’s she pretty quickly adopted by the town’s outcast, Digby. He wants/needs her for his research regarding missing girls. His lack of metaphorical bed manner doesn’t enthuse Zoe a lot at first, but plenty of shenanigans happen for her to slowly come round to his hypotheses.

He’s a weird but appealing fellow, and it’s not like Zoe is surrounded by new friends and an understanding mother. So instead of a high school story, the reader gets a small town detective with character descriptions that Celeste Ng would appreciate.

It’s a quick, smart read. The only thing I’m still unsure about is the ending; this novel is one of the very few cases in which there could have been a few more chapters to round things up a bit more completely.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Stephanie Tromly, Penguin Random House Company 2015