Tag Archives: magical realism

But Then I Came Back

But Then I Came Back Book Cover But Then I Came Back
Estelle Laure
Hmh Books for Young Readers
April 4, 2017
320

From the author of This Raging Light comes the story of Eden Jones, a seventeen-year-old girl who feels lost after surviving a near fatal accident. Unable to connect with her family and friends, Eden forms an unlikely relationship with Joe, a boy who comes to the hospital to visit Jasmine, a friend who may soon be gone forever. Eden is the only person who can get through to Jasmine, but is she brave enough to face a world that's bigger and more magical than she ever would have allowed? Lyrical, unexpected, and romantic, Estelle Laure's new novel is about interwoven lives, long goodbyes, and the imperfect beauty of young love.

 

Review:

While I was back and forth on my feelings toward the magical realism contained in “But Then I Came Back,” I had to give it four stars for the beautiful portrayal of what it’s like to come back after a serious head injury.  The struggles physically and mentally were portrayed well, but it also covered the existential questions that often come up after a life-changing event.  That is something I have rarely seen in a novel.  There is also a nice romance on the side.  Recommended!

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Underage Drinking

The Suffering Tree

The Suffering Tree Book Cover The Suffering Tree
Elle Cosimano
Young Adult Fiction
Disney-Hyperion
June 13, 2017
368

"It's dark magic brings him back." Tori Burns and her family left D.C. for claustrophobic Chaptico, Maryland, after suddenly inheriting a house under mysterious circumstances. That inheritance puts her at odds with the entire town, especially Jesse Slaughter and his family-it's their generations-old land the Burns have "stolen." As the suspicious looks and muttered accusations of her neighbors build, so does the pressure inside her, and Tori returns to the pattern of self-harm that landed her in a hospital back in D.C. It all comes to a head one night when, to Tori's shock, she witnesses a young man claw his way out of a grave under the gnarled oak in her new backyard. Nathaniel Bishop may not understand what brought him back, but it's clear to Tori that he hates the Slaughters for what they did to him centuries ago. Wary yet drawn to him by a shared sense of loss, she gives him shelter. But in the wake of his arrival comes a string of troubling events-including the disappearance of Jesse Slaughter's cousin-that seem to point back to Nathaniel. As Tori digs for the truth-and slowly begins to fall for Nathaniel-she uncovers something much darker in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree. In order to break the curse that binds Nathaniel there and discover the true nature of her inheritance, Tori must unravel the Slaughter family's oldest and most guarded secrets. But the Slaughters want to keep them buried at any cost.

 

Review:

I am giving “The Suffering Tree” three stars for the sole reason that it had some promise.  2 1/2 would be my preference and 2 seems too low, so I rounded up.

As I said above, there was some promise in the plot and characters.  They were actually developed fairly well and the concept was unique.  The problem is, none of it was capitalized on.  It felt plodding with brief moments of hope, only to have them almost immediately dashed.  And I would be remiss if I neglected to mention this:  There is self-harm (cutting) and it is very graphic.  If this is a trigger for you then avoid this book at all costs.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend “The Suffering Tree.”

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Graphic Self-Harm

The Summer That Melted Everything

The Summer That Melted Everything Book Cover The Summer That Melted Everything
Tiffany McDaniel
Fiction
St. Martin's Press
July 26, 2016
320

Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil. Sal seems to appear out of nowhere - a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he's welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he's a runaway from a nearby farm town. When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

 

Review:

“The Summer That Melted Everything” is a book unlike any other I have ever read.  If you aren’t a fan of literary fiction, turn back now.  This book isn’t for you.  If you are a fan of literary fiction, you are in for a masterfully written book that a review can’t do justice.

As with most literary fiction, the plot is meandering.  Characters drive the narrative and everything from their names to their actions carry a level of symbolism that makes it almost impossible to take everything in on one reading. Set in 1984, many of the events of the period are covered, including the emergence of the AIDS crisis, homophobia, and racism.  The parallels drawn to today’s society are subtle and disturbing.  Given the current political climate, I honestly can’t think of a better time to release “The Summer That Melted Everything.”  There is a lot of food for thought, and the most uncomfortable parts will come when you realize that we are all guilty of some of the actions, purposefully or not.  The Devil didn’t just come to Breathed; he lives inside all of us.

The writing style is descriptive enough to make you feel as if you are there experiencing the oppressive heat of the town for yourself.  Even the most depressing of settings were painted in a way that made me feel at home there, and none of it slows down the pacing of the characters.  Fielding Bliss, the narrator, has a unique voice that both remains consistent and changed in the transitions between the past and his present.

The tone ranges from one of hope to an extreme darkness.  This is where I will note for the readers that request I do so that there is a disturbing animal death, as well as quite a bit of racism and homophobia.  I can promise that absolutely none of it is gratuitous, though.

“The Summer That Melted Everything” is one of those rare books that will always stick with me.  I feel like it made me a better person for having read it and hope my fellow literary fiction fans will try it and enjoy the experience as much as I did.

This unbiased and honest review is based upon a complimentary copy.

The Square Root of Summer

The Square Root of Summer Book Cover The Square Root of Summer
Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Roaring Brook Press
May 3, 2016
Hardcover
304

This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It's a little bit like a black hole. It's a little bit like infinity.

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she's hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie's past, present, and future are about to collide―and someone's heart is about to be broken.

With time travel, quantum physics, and sweeping romance, The Square Root of Summer is an exponentially enthralling story about love, loss, and trying to figure it all out, from stunning debut YA voice, Harriet Reuter Hapgood.

 

Review:

Actual Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

“The Square Root of Summer” is the perfect example of why there needs to be a half star option for rating books.  It is definitely better than a three, but the one major flaw keeps it from being a four.

Gottie and her family are wonderful and quirky characters, especially her grandfather Grey.  I would love a book just focusing on him in all of his glory.  They provide the perfect cast of characters for the theme of heartbreak coming in all kinds of forms, and the only way to deal is to tackle them head-on.  Gottie is not the only one having problems with this, and it’s interesting to see how everyone handles their losses.  I do have to say I think her friends and brother were more than a little hard on her, but that isn’t unrealistic for teenagers experiencing all kinds of losses and changes.  This part of the story is five stars.

The problem is the physics aspect of the time travel thread.  I loved the time travel itself, but physics was never my strong suit, and even though the author did her best to make it make sense it ended up leaving my brain in a puddle.  Some parts were easy, and I did learn quite a few new things, but I believe the science was over-explained.  Being so lost made that part turn into an indecipherable mess by the end.

I still would recommend “The Square Root of Summer” to older young adults and adults.  It is worth it for the story of loss and the wonderful Grey.  I do think if you’re inclined to math and science you will get more out of it than I did.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations