The Vanishing Stair is the second book in the Truly Devious series; they are not stand-alone books with three separate mysteries. The puzzle is spread across all three books in the series, and while there are smaller mysteries solved in the first two books, all the big answers are presumably going to be answered in the third and final book, due to be released in January 2020.
Stevie is a junior in high school attending Ellingham Academy, a prestigious private school in the Vermont Mountains. Ellingham was a prosperous industrialist whose wife and daughter were kidnapped in the 1930s. Stevie starts out working to solve that mystery: who did it, what happened to his daughter Alice who was never found. But that investigation triggers events in her own, current time period. The story is told both in the present time and as a string of events in the 1930s. The chapters are well marked so you know where you are in the two threads of the larger mystery.
Personally, Stevie’s anxiety speaks to me. It is part of her character, but that’s it: it’s just part of her character. It absolutely affects who she is and how she does things, but it’s not fetishized or presented as a problem to be solved. Writing anxious characters like that, who take their meds regularly and have therapists, normalizes them and makes it ok.
I’m still all in on this series and look forward to the next book coming out in January.
Truly Devious is the first book in a YA mystery series. Be forewarned that only two of the planned three books are out (the last one is scheduled for release in January 2020).
Stevie (short for Stephanie) Bell is a new student to the Ellingham Academy, a boarding school in Vermont that was founded in the 1930s. Shortly after the founding, Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and possibly killed. A culprit was found, but no one believes that he did it. Stevie wants to be the real Sherlock Holmes, and her mission at Ellingham Academy (in the present time) is to solve the mystery.
The past mystery is nicely mysterious, the setting of a secluded school without parents is handled in the best hothouse-for-bizarreness way, there’s a romance story that is very much not the point, and while there is also a current murder, it does get solved. So even though the past mystery is going to take three books to solve (probably), there is a sense of resolution and completeness to this book.
I enjoyed Truly Devious and have put the second book in the series on my hold list at the library.
Life Inside My Mind is a young adult book, with essays written by 31 authors who either have a mental illness of some sort or are related and have had to deal with someone else’s mental illness in a very close way (eg taking care of a family member with Alzheimers, adopting a grandchild with PTSD). The stories are, in some cases, incredibly personal, narrating a specific occasion where their illness has changed their life.
I found the book to be generally fine. You can tell that most of these authors have practiced their stories with their therapists and even the most personal have a distance to them, a reassurance that everything is going to be ok.
My teenaged daughter, however, ate this book up, reading it in maybe less than 24 hours. That suggests that my ambivalence may be because I am not the intended audience for Life Inside My Mind. So: if you need to buy a book for a teenager, this could be a good one. For an adult, maybe not so much.
Sarah Dessen books are often about the family we find for ourselves outside of our immediate family. The Rest of the Story is no different – Emma Saylor, known as Emma in town, ends up spending the summer with her disgraced mother’s family one summer. There, they know her as Saylor, and she hasn’t been there since she was four years old.
Emma, of course, grows as a person and also, of course, finds a boy. But the romance storyline isn’t as strong as it’s been in her previous books. This one really is more about Saylor’s development into a person whose life is defined by more than just her mother’s screw-ups. Ironic, then, that visiting her mother’s family is what finally allows her to develop beyond being defined by “try as hard as you can to not turn into your mother.”
The Rest of the Story isn’t as strong as some of Dessen’s previous books but it was still enjoyable and I’m glad I read it.
I have been looking forward to Somewhere Only We Know since I first learned about it last fall. Why? Because Maurene Goo writes delightful teen romances that I quite enjoy. But also because this is an updated take on Roman Holiday, one of my favorite movies.
In Roman Holiday, a princess whose life is too structured, escapes the palace after taking a sleeping pill, only to be found mostly asleep on the street by a journalist. He thinks he’s stumbled onto the story of the year, only as they spend the day together they start to fall in love. He decides that he can’t publish the story, and she returns to her life at the palace. They go their separate ways.
Somewhere Only We Know is basically the same story, but in Hong Kong instead of Rome, and with the top female K-Pop star instead of a royal princess. And instead of a journalist, it’s a paparazzo who would much rather be studying photography, but he hasn’t figured that out yet.
The Sun is Also a Star is easily one of my top books of the year. Like the other Nicola Yoon I recently read, it’s a YA romance. This is her second book and the writing style is slightly less linear and definitely choppier – the two main characters, along with others, share the storytelling responsibilities – and it works well.
Natasha is the child of illegal immigrants from Bermuda, and is probably going to be deported at the end of the day, unless a miracle occurs. Daniel, the son of Korean immigrants, is on his way to a college interview at Yale (second best university, after Harvard, according to his parents). They meet and their story is almost entirely contained in that day, with the exception of the epilogue.
It strongly reminds me of Before Sunrise, never a bad thing. Their romance is electric, delightful, and potentially doomed.
I am definitely recommending this book to almost everyone.
I actually picked up The Paper Magician in this series because I had an idea for my current writing project of… a magician whose medium is paper.* And I was curious about how she implemented it, what the paper could do, how the magician would work. When it turned out to be a decent adventure story, I borrowed the second and third ones from the library.
Alas, the second one (The Glass Magician) was not enough to keep me going to the third (The Master Magician). That said, if you’re looking for a quick read about magicians and intrigue in Victorian London, you could certainly do worse.
If you can’t tell if I’ve just recommended these books or not, don’t worry. Neither can I.
Everything Everything is a very sweet YA romance that I quite liked. There’s a girl, Maddie, who is allergic to everything and can’t leave the house. Ever. She is shockingly well adjusted and ok with this – she knows it keeps her safe and alive. But then a Boy moves in next door and everything changes. They communicate via text and email and then he comes over and she decides she needs more.
It’s a delightful, specific story about two people falling in love for the first time, and if you like romance novels, it’s a good one.
This is a universe where monsters are created when people commit horrific acts. August is one of those monsters, created from a school shooting. Kate is human, the daughter of a mobster who keeps people safe from the monsters by controlling them much like he controlled (controls? it’s not quite clear how in the past it is) his crime empire. Kate is on her way to becoming a different, very human kind of monster, while August just wants to be human.
These books are a very sweet story about two people who become friends and grow up under what can only be called very trying circumstances. Recommended if you’re at all into YA or that particular branch of science fiction.
The Wizard of Oz is a cultural touchstone – the movie, not the book. There’s a young girl, a quest, a triumph of good over evil. Who on earth, you might think, would ever read a version of that story turned into a dystopia where Dorothy and Glinda have both become evil and are ruling the land for their own particular gain?
In these books, there’s a new girl from Kansas, Amy Gumm (a direct reference on the fact that Judy Garland’s original surname was Gumm) who gets brought to Oz by another tornado. Dorothy, as previously mentioned, is both evil and in charge. Amy is rescued, introduced to the current evils in Oz, and then is taken under the wing of The Wicked, a magical resistance movement. Adventures ensue, teenagers fall in love, friends and enemies are both made.
I enjoyed the series and would recommend it to other people like me, who enjoyed the original Oz books way more than the movie.