It’s August now (mid-August, even!), and my summer break has come and gone. When I’m in school mode, the possibilities of summer days seem endless. It never ends up quite like that, though; I keep waiting for all the free time I expected, but somehow that time always fills up without my realizing it.
At this point in my year of reading challenges, I’m starting to regret those undertakings. For the Read Harder Challenge, I’ve already breezed through most of the appealing categories, and I’m left with the ones that will be harder to fill. I know once the year is done and I’ve checked all the boxes, I’ll feel accomplished and glad to have read so diversely; but right now I’m wishing I could just pick up whatever catches my eye – especially because I have such little time to read to begin with!
Here’s what I read in July:
Out Stealing Horses by Per Patterson ★★★☆☆
Selected as my June Scandinavian pick for #ReadtheWorld21. It begins with 67-year-old Trond living out a quiet life in a rustic cabin; he’s not a recluse, exactly, but he’s more comfortable by himself. When his only neighbor turns out to be a long-forgotten supporting character from the summer Trond was fifteen, the memories of that pivotal summer come flooding back. This is a literary novel, for certain—it’s less about the events themselves, past and present, but more about how they are internalized and understood. It’s a reminder that our experiences will stick around, but their meaning may evolve over time; the lens through we we view our life is constantly changing.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson ★★★★☆
Read for the Read Harder Challenge’s “own voices YA book with a Black main character that isn’t about Black pain.” (That’s a doozy of a category.) Liz Lighty does not fit the typical mold of her rich, white, Midwestern town, but she has a plan to get out: orchestra scholarship from the elite Pennington College. When her financial aid falls through, her only option is to run for prom Queen, a title that comes with a hefty scholarship. She’s pushed way outside of her comfort zone and has to decide when it’s time to break from the mold. Totally a feel-good dramedy that portrays high school as we all want to it be (but probably not as it actually is).
We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez ★★★★★
July’s assignment for #ReadtheWorld21 was Central America; this YA novel follows three Guatemalan teens desperate to escape an almost-certain tragic future as they fight their way north to a better life in the United States. It’s a journey without promise of a happy ending, but it’s their only option. I was hesitant to commit at first, because it was just so heavy from the very beginning; but once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Harrowing, eye-opening, and heart-breaking. A perfect example of the kind of story that thrusts you into an unfamiliar experience.
Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston ★★★★☆
My Read Harder Challenge’s “romance by a trans or nonbinary author” pick. The First Son of the United States and the Prince of England are archenemies, or so the FSOTUS has always thought. A forced friendship becomes, to his surprise, actually pleasant, and a relationship grows in a way that neither totally expected. The dialogue was quick and smart, as was its political and social awareness. It’s definitely a romance—quite graphic for a true YA audience; I think the age of appeal would skew a little higher. Fun read!