“You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know- A True Story of Family, Face Blindness, and Forgiveness” by Heather Sellers
We left for the airport before dawn.
I am a big fan of Sellers and this memoir only increased my admiration. Growing up she always had trouble recognizing people. She had to rely on visual cues other than faces such as hair and gait. She felt separate for much of her life. Intensifying that feeling were a mother who nailed windows shut and covered them with blankets and a father who drank and took in drifters, among other odd behaviors. In this memoir she explores her childhood, adolescence and adulthood through this skewed prism that she only learns as an adult has a name: prosopagnosia or face blindness. Not only does she shed light on this rare neurological disorder but she also illuminates the beauty of compassion and forgiveness for our families and ourselves.
What I learned: To try to not only write from that place of compassion but to navigate my days from there as well.
“Blueprints for Building Better Girls” by Elissa Schappell
“I love you,” Ross says.
I laugh, “You don’t even know me,” and he looks startled, like I’ve just exploded something in his face.
I know it’s only January and I have a whole year of reading ahead of me but I can guarantee that this will be one of my favorite books. It’s everything I love to read and everything I aspire to write: linked stories of girls and women forging their identities, stories that are brave, funny, dark. Most of all they are stories that resonated with me, bringing to the surface memories of the girl and young woman I used to be, leaving me feeling a bit flayed open emotionally.
What I learned: That you can start with a particular stereotype of a girl such as the high school slut and if you observe her closely, with humor and a generous spirit the character veers wildly from a mere cliché into a complicated, rich character that turns the stereotype inside out, leaving it an empty husk on the side of the road.
“The Future of Us” a YA novel by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
I can’t break up with Graham today, even though I told my friends I’d do it the next time I saw him.
The minute I heard about the premise of this story, I was on board: two teens in 1996 insert their first AOL CD and find themselves on Facebook which hasn’t been invented yet. So they get glimpses of their future selves through photos and obscure status updates and they try to parse together the people they will eventually become, liking some aspects, disappointed by others.
What I learned: That seemingly mundane decisions can produce ripple effects in a life, something that has always fascinated me which is why I love the movie, “Sliding Doors.”
“Triangles” a novel by Ellen Hopkins
Scientists say every action
initiates an equal and opposite
reaction. I say that’s just the start.
Structured in prose poems, alternating points of view between three friends, “Triangles” delves deep into the inner lives of and friendships between Holly, Andrea and Marissa, each of them standing on a precipice forcing them into new territories, both physical and emotional.
What I learned: The structure illuminates the importance of each and every word choice.
“The Eleventh Plague” a YA novel by Jeff Hirsch
I was sitting at the edge of the clearing, trying not to stare at the body on the ground in front of me.
Devastated after a brutal war and a flu called “The Eleventh Plague” America is a mere shadow of its former self. Quinn and his family is part of the one third of the population that survived and they roam the country looking for materials to trade. When his grandfather dies and his father is severely injured, Quinn must make decisions no 15-year-old should have to make. He is taken in by a community that has taken root, trying to replicate the old days with houses, schools, etc…. When he meets Jenny and a prank goes horribly wrong events are set in motion that feel inevitable and Quinn is once again forced into making choices that will determine not only his destiny but that of the community.
What I learned: That a setting whether in the present or a dystopian future must be grounded in consistent details.
“We the Animals” a novel by Justin Torres
We wanted more.
This slim novel contains a rich, wild, dark world where three brothers fight their way through days with parents who are barely adults themselves. Every page glitters with their harsh reality, the prose delivering quick deft blows at every turn, leaving the reader breathless at the savage beauty Torres manages to weave in 125 powerful pages.
What I learned: Too much to even define at this point. I will read this book many more times, attempting to discern the magic he wove with his words.