Twenty, Twenty, Twenty-Four Hours to Read…

It’s that time of year again, dear readers, 24in48 is just around the corner! And let me tell you, I have been waiting for this. I missed the January readathon because of work, so I made certain to request off for the July one, because it is so much fun!

I have been brainstorming and revising my TBR since mid-June when I signed up and have been stalking the hashtag on Litsy for even longer. I loved my 24in28 last year. I loved a community of readers cheering each other on, consoling each other when disaster struck (I’m contemplating a backup stopwatch this year because of last year’s hour 19 tragedy)

So how am I using this week to get ready, you ask?

  • Firstly, I’m not reading… well, not much anyway. I’m sticking to short stories and essay collections because I don’t want to get invested in something longer. Also, I don’t want to burn out before the big event UPDATE: I lied, I totally started reading The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, because I’m weak.
  • I’m watching the Harry Potter movies… because why not? I caught the tail-end of Chamber of Secrets this past weekend and decided to double back and watch a movie or two a night. Because it’s not reading but it’s totally book adjacent. I also got suckered into buying those beautiful new paperback reissues, and now I have to do a full-on reread to justify the $70.00 spent on books I already own.
  • I’m leading my library’s Forever Young Adult Book Club. We’re going to be discussing Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, and I’m announcing that next month’s book will be The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
  • And finally, I am laboring over my TBR… which is currently:

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Image result for speakeasy book cover, genevieve valentine Image result for undead girl gang Image result for broken things lauren oliver

Image result for book of essie Image result for marriage vacation Image result for pulp robin talley

There is a 100% chance I won’t get to all of these books (I only read six books last year) and a 100% chance that this list will change (I did not stick to my list last year). But this is where I am at on the Tuesday before 24in48!

Are you doing 24in48? What are you planning on reading and where can I follow you?

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IT’S. SO. FLUFFY!!!

So FIY the world is terrible. Seriously, every time I log on to Facebook, tune in to a daily podcast, turn on my TV or even casually browse on over to Buzzfeed to figure out what kind of Hipster Pastry I am, I am deluged with news. Terrible news, horrifying news, the kind of news that movies about near future dystopias use in their opening credits to explain why there is no more electricity or why there ARE vampire zombies roving our most populous cities.

I mean we are living in some pre-Gilead end times here… see look at me, bringing it back to books.

So when times get tough, the Katy gets reading… basically, I do what everyone who is privileged enough to do does: I’m indulging in escapism.

I’m falling about on a long and often dormant love of the fluffiest, lightest, most low stakes YA Romance I can I find. I’m talking Morgan Matson, Becky Albertalli, Lily Anderson (just like no long-form Stephanie Perkins please… Anna can keep her girl-hate to herself thank you very much) etc. I want to be a fly on the wall of teens falling in PG-13 love with one another and having really solvable problems. It’s my therapy, my self-care… ugh that sounds douchey.

But seriously, I love a good YA rom-com. I love teens who are a little too clever to be real teens. They talk like over-educated twentysomethings, and have weird quirky interests that make them more relatable to people my age and more aspirational to teen readers. As a teen, I wanted to be as cool as the teens in YA books, and as an adult, I know that I will never pull that off.

I’m also a sucker for the standard rom-com formatting most of these books adhere to… especially when we can never guess what horrifying new bit of information will come shattering through our newsfeeds. I like that I can pinpoint a will they/won’t they (they totally will) vibe, I can spot the fly in ointment problem that will break our lovebirds apart at the climax, but still know there is a real good chance that somehow they’ll get over it in time for prom, or whatever arbitrary deadline looms large in their adolescent lives. I love that it’s just that easy in the books.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good slice of life YA, I dig a good thriller, and I will swallow ANYTHING Libba Bray puts in front of me. I love a well-crafted YA novel that could slip onto an Adult Fiction shelf undetected… I do. I get very excited for those books. But when the world turns to shit in your hands, there is nothing like escaping into a little fluff.

Here’s what’s on my fluffy TBR

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  1. The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the best burger in Los Angeles)
  2. Save the Date
  3. Fireworks
  4. The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You
  5. I Believe in a Thing Called Love

I’m sure I will burn out and reach for something dark and heavy by mid-month. But for now, I am perfectly happy to soak in the warm fuzzy goodness of my fluffiest YA dreams.

FREAK OUT!


Every June this tag starts appearing on book blogs and BookTube. It’s basically a way to backdoor brag about our reading habits so far this year. So here I am, backdoor bragging, and laying it out before June ends…

Some General Reading Stats:

Total Books Read So Far: 44

Total Left to Go in GoodReads Challenge: 8

Number of 12 Books 12 Months Challenge Completed: 2

1. Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2018?

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was such a good book. It’s well crafted, engaging and has some really solid representation. But mostly I just loved reading it and wanted more of it. But… I’m not sure if it’s my favorite… because Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson was so fucking fun to read! I could not put it down, and when I got to that impossibly frustrating ending, I was screaming for the sequel. And obviously, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is amazing…

2. Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2018? 

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire. I love the Wayward Children series! I love that the books aren’t exactly in order and that the timelines are strange… and I love that this one played with that idea more than the others. Such a great series, cannot wait for more.

3. New Release You Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To?
Neverwhere Wake, Save the Date, Fatal Throne and Price Guide to the Occult are all burning holes in my TBR, but I want to be able to really give them my time and attention.

4. Most Anticipated Release For Second Half of 2018?
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, My Plain Jane, Pulp by Robin Talley, Jessica Spotswood’s newest anthology Toil & Trouble, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik and I am sure I’m missing at least three more…

5. Biggest Disappointment?
I’m really torn between three… The Hazel Wood was such a disappointment because I fell for the relentless PR campaign… and because it started off so promisingly. The Cruel Prince was not my cup of tea at all, because even though it was touted as being SO AMAZING it ultimately felt very much like a generic fae folk novel… ooo they’re pretty! Oooo they’re mean… I don’t care. And finally, When Katie Met Cassidy because I wanted it to be frothier, funnier, and sexier than it was. I now understand why people complained that it was too shallow. They were actually saying that it was too shallow even for a rom-com.

6. Biggest Surprise?

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Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. I don’t like Maureen Johnson’s books. She has never been my cup of tea… that is until I read Truly Devious which is an awesome YA lite thriller. I effing loved it.

7. Favorite New Author?
While I have liked a fair few of the books I’ve read so far this year… I don’t have an author that has cracked the pantheon. I also haven’t read more than one book by the same author yet this year.

8. Newest Fictional Crush?

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I mean… I don’t really know, I guess I could say Evelyn Hugo because she’s sexy and confident and full of snark and honesty. But I’m not really sure I’m crushing on her. I could go with Harrison Lowery from Summer of Salt, but I really don’t feel like I got to know him well enough. He was charming and cute though. I haven’t really been falling in love with too many characters these days.

9. Newest Favourite Character?

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Um… Evelyn Hugo, Arthur Seuss from What if It’s Us, Vira from Summer of Salt

10. Book That Made You Cry?


What if It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera and Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

11. Book That Made You Happy?
Summer of Salt… or maybe The Wedding Date. Yeah, The Wedding Date gave me all the happy feels.

12. Favorite Book To Movie Adaptation You Saw This Year?
Love, Simon was excellent, I actually really enjoyed Crooked House as well. And well Kissing Booth was absolutely ridiculous and I laughed through the whole thing… OH! How could I forget Masterpiece Theatre’s Little Women adaptation! I liked it a lot… maybe didn’t love it as much as the 1994 adaptation but it was solid.

13. Favorite Review You’ve Written This Year?
I am lazy monster who has only written one review… buuuuuuuuuuut I will say that I am partial to my mini review of People Like Us because I got to use my favorite character stand-in name: Beige

14. Most Beautiful Book You Bought So Far This Year?
I don’t know how to answer this question… I have bought a few pretty looking books, but I haven’t been gaga over any particular cover… maybe Summer of Salt… maybe Fatal Throne… I really don’t know.

15. What Books Do You Need To Read By The End of The Year?

So many… I made a list of 12 books I have to read by the end of the year, and well… I think I have read 2. I might put one or two of them on my 24in48 TBR… but I’m not really sure.

A Happy Pride Month!

Happy LGBTQ+ Pride Month Everyone!

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Last year I dedicated my YApril to reading exclusively queer* books, putting a priority on Own Voices authors. It was a month of highs and lows because well, a lot of the  LGBT books I chose dealt with some of the more unpleasant realities of being queer in a world where for some reason straight is the default. I read a lot about sadness and anxiety and prejudice. The books were good (The Miseducation of Cameron Post should be required reading for everyone), but other than Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda there was a distinct lack of joy in the titles I read. Now, many of these books were older and fit certain dated narratives (fraught coming out stories, stories of being shunned, stories of unsupportive families, stories of self-hate) and the books that are coming out (pun only sort of intended) now are decidedly more diverse in their portrayal of the queer experience. And that’s why I’m trying this project again… also because I celebrate Pride the same way I celebrate everything:

By Making a Wildly Ambitious Reading List!™

This month I am going to try to exclusively read happy books about queer characters. Seriously, I just want fun, happy books that don’t punish or bury their gays because of who they are. I want to see them thriving in careers, and dealing with relationships without their queerness being the most important thing in their narrative… I want to see queer characters given the luxury of being in books that aren’t serious/important/groundbreaking… I want a fucking Hallmark Channel Style Rom-Com featuring two quirky girls falling in love in quaint small town at Christmas! I want a trans-man solving cozy mysteries. I want a bisexual character whose entire narrative isn’t bogged down by identity anxiety and can end up with a love interest of any gender without spending a minute worrying about how it affects said identity… I want stories about queer characters that aren’t necessarily centered around their queerness.

Some of these wishes are longshots–especially the Hallmark rom-com and the cozy mystery–but this is what I am seeking out this month.

All Out:  The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages

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Now, I’m not sure how happy and fluffy these stories are… but many reviewers and particularly queer reviewers have been very happy with this book overall. So I’m soooo down to read it.

When Katie Met Cassidy

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I’ve never read The Assistants or anything else by Perri… but this was an option for Book of the Month Club and I simply could not be expected to not choose the book that is being described as a “lesbian rom-com” right? I mean, read the description, I get total EARLY 2000s Kate Hudson movie vibes from this… I will be reading it as soon as it comes in the mail.

What If It’s Us

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Somehow, miraculously, I was approved for an ARC of this through Edelweiss… So, Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera co-authored a book about boys falling in love? Obviously, this had to go on my list. I mean the cover is adorable, it’s going to be hella gay, and it’s Adam and Becky! Now, there is a chance, a strong chance that this book will be emotionally devastating, it all depends on which one of them wrote the ending. Silvera could crush my heart into a hundred million pieces and I pay him to do it again.

Dear Rachel Maddow

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I know very little about this book, aside from the fact that it features a queer teen writing emails to all-star queer-o (you know, a hero but also queer? I don’t get paid for the wordplay, I do it for love.) goddess, Rachel Maddow that she never sends. I love the concept, I love kids digging politics and being engaged in their world. I’m psyched.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy

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Gettin’ a little Ace up in the reading list. I’ve had this book FOREVER, and I am finally going to carve out some time to read it. Because I really, really want to… Also, I’m obsessed with the cover for some reason.

If I Have Time Books:

Image result for the little library book cover Image result for the seven husbands of evelyn hugo Image result for america chavez Image result for i hate everyone but you

Do you have any happy, fluffy LGBT+ book recommendations for me to try out?

*I use “queer” as a bit of a catch-all, because not only is it the identifier I use for myself, but it’s the most inclusive word. It contains multitudes… also, it’s a word that has been reclaimed by the community that it was originally used to denigrate…rad.

YApril Wrap-Up

So I did it, I managed to mostly read six YA novels in the month of April. It’s not a personal best, and I didn’t hit all the books I set out to read but, even though I hit a bad slump in those last two weeks, and fell into an MCU hole over the last weekend. I did, however, managed to make it all the way through.

I will say, this was one of the least enjoyable YAprils I have ever participated in. There is a reason that I didn’t read these books, regardless of how hyped they were. This experiment just proved to me that I know what I like and what I don’t like and that I REALLY shouldn’t attempt to force myself to like a book, just because everyone else does. Side lesson, some books are underhyped for a reason and should stay that way.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the books I read. I’ve separated them into books I set out to read, and books I added when I realized that this theme was going to kill me.

The Original TBR

A Court of Thorns and Roses

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I hated it. Every awful, stupid, aggressively cliched second of it…but I finished it. This book felt like Katniss & the Beast in fairyland with sexy times. Also, the mask thing was so dumb that I can’t even wrap my mind around it, I laughed out loud.

I think I know what Maas was going for… I understand that her thing is bad ass lady characters, and violence, and those damn fae (I hate Fae and I will get into that on another post) and sex/eroticism. I have heard this many times from our Teen librarian, who goes back and forth over whether to move all of Maas’ work over one row to the Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy section. I can see why her stuff appeals to people… but it doesn’t appeal to me, not one bit.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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I DNFed it. It was boring and confusing. The photos weren’t used to do anything the interesting. Had Riggs stuck to his original idea it might have been more enjoyable.

This is another book where I clearly understand why people like it. It’s got a mysterious vibe, the images are aesthetically spooky and pleasing in an eerie way. I totally get that. But I just couldn’t get into this story. It took too long to get anywhere interesting and when it did get there… it was a case of too little too late for me. Also, I didn’t feel the character dynamics… but that could be because I checked out super early in this book.

We Were Liars

This book was my surprise of the year. I actually really enjoyed reading it up until the Image result for we were liarsend. It is well written, not as bad as I assumed it would be based on its dumb marketing campaign. But then ending is dumb, and I saw it coming from a  mile away. I like the use of fairy tales and Shakespeare and other literary themes. I’m also a sucker for rich New Englanders…

Late in the Game Additions

Autoboyography

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I enjoyed it, and it was a FAST read. I’d recommend it to people who loved Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. At first, I was psyched for positive, explicit bisexual rep, but ultimately it fell into a weird thing… there is a twist that doesn’t make much emotional or narrative sense. It skates dangerously close to the treacherous bisexual stereotype. The ending was sweet but felt slightly unearned. I want queer stories with happy endings that make sense. Also not for nothing, why are so many of these queer male stories being written by women? It feels weird.

People Like Us

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This was a bad book that wanted very much to be Pretty Little Liars. It had the bones of the kinds of books I like, boarding school, rich kids, queer characters, mean girl drama, class conflict… but it was just so incredibly boring. And a book that features blackmail and murder shouldn’t be this boring, it just shouldn’t. Also, the protagonist, whose name I don’t remember and shall henceforth refer to as Beige, was unbearable. She had zero defining traits beyond liking to run and being bisexual. Now those are fine traits to have… brilliant traits,  but that’s all Beige was… oh and I think she’s poor, compared to her classmates. So, yeah, I get why this one wasn’t hyped… it deserves to die its quiet death in relative obscurity.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 No Normal

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I have had this on my reading list for a long time… seeing as Kamala Khan took up the mantle of Ms. Marvel in 2014. This book was hyped but I missed it because comics aren’t my go-to reading material, and I added it at the end of April because I’m currently on a ridiculous Marvel high. No Normal is made up of Issues 1-6 of Kamala’s first outing as Ms. Marvel. And guys, this comic is so much! I am extremely excited to read more of her books.

Books I Meant to Read But Totally Didn’t

Six of Crows

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You beat me again Bardugo… I may never read your million page novel, about what? Bad people doing a heist? I really have no clue, I bought this book on blind faith in the YA Hype-Machine…

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

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I will probably read this book at some point this year, but I didn’t–couldn’t get into it this month. I just lost all the steam I had going. Life is too short for ugly YA covers…

#YA Week 3 Check-In

So here we are, 3 weeks down, 1 week to go…

I’m going to be honest, I’m a little burnt out on YA. It always hits me at some point during the month, but my selections this year aren’t doing me any favors.

So, since I last checked in I’ve “finished” 4 books:

  • Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • People Like Us by Dana Mele
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I’m suuuuuuuuuuper tired.

I have two books to go from my original list, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Six of Crows. And let’s be real, Six of Crows is a solid million pages long, it’s probably going to get pushed back on the shelf.

I have started DOSAB… but I’m not loving it.

We’ll see how it goes.

A Brief #YApril Update

Why did I do this to myself?

There is clearly a reason I have not read these books.

I finished A Court of Thorns and Roses last week and started Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children yesterday… and I am actively looking for excuses to not read.

It’s so disheartening. I mean it’s not that I think that these books are necessarily poorly written, it’s just that they are so not my taste.

So I am changing my #YApril reading theme. For every mega hyped book that I missed, I’m going to read an under-hyped book that I was really excited about but haven’t gotten around to yet.

Hopefully this will keep me from losing my mind.

#YApril 2018 TBR

For the last four years I have dedicated the month of April to exclusively reading Young Adult literature. I usually choose a theme,( past themes have included: YA Feminism, YA lgbtq+, YA Horror… and I can’t remember the first year) and them read books that fit the theme and blog about them and YA in general for the entire month of April.

This year is no different… except for the theme. It’s a little looser, and DEFINITELY more challenging.

#YApril 2018’s Theme: Mega Hyped YA Novels That Somehow Passed Me By

That’s right, this April I will be reading YA novels that EVERYONE seems to love yet somehow ended up not sparking my interest at all. Now, this could be because these books are in a genre I don’t tend to read (ugh fantasy… faerie books…), books that seemed TOO hyped for me to take interest in them, or books I just never got around to reading when people were talking about how AH-MAH-ZING they were.

Here is my highly ambitious #YApril TBR

A Court of Thorns & Roses

Why I Haven’t Read It Yet: To be honest, faerie/fae do not interest me in the slightest. ALSO I’ve heard that this book is mega problematic and a ‘Beauty & the Beast’ type story, again things that I have zero interest in. On top of having no interest in it, I also hate the cover… it’s a big ol’ yuck for me.

Why I am Reading It Now: Because these damn books have such a huge following and I feel left out. I feel like every other Owlcrate bow has something from this series (or Six of Crows which I am also reading this month). Also, I work in a library and should at least have a general sense of what this mega popular series is about.

Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children

Why I Haven’t Read it Yet: Probably because this book gives me an overwhelming case of the “meh”s… I look at it and I’m like, “oh cool spooky, old timey photos, cool idea for a writing prompt, Ransom” and then I start wondering is the photos are real or staged for the book, and then I go all Wikipedia rabbit hole girl and then by the time I come up for air, I don’t have any interest in the book anymore. It just doesn’t thrill me.

Why I am Reading it Now: Because, well, I do have–or have had genuine interest in this book before. I bought this book when it came out in paperback. I have also heard people who I respect and trust say that it is their favorite book. So I’m giving it a go.

Six of Crows

Why I Haven’t Read it Yet: I actually have started reading this one and lost momentum because it wasn’t my cup of tea at the time. I thought I would like it because again, people fucking LOVE this duology… I have yet to figure out why though. I don’t like the setting or the characters or the world building. But there HAS to be something special in this book that I am missing because everyone seems to love it.

Why I am Reading it Now: Because I will not be defeated by this damn book. I will read it. I will finish it and I WILL figure out why people like it. I may not agree, but I will understand.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Why I Haven’t Read it Yet: Two reasons: 1. Fae folk stories don’t interest me that much. 2. The hideous cover. There are very few YA books that have tremendously bad covers (YA cover art is usually super on point) but this one has the most horrible cover. That mask? That high contrast? That weird splash of red on the spine? Those ridiculous fonts? That high-gloss finish? It’s like it was designed in a lab to be the ugliest book cover ever and succeeded with flying colors. I have judged this book by its terrible cover for YEARS…but seriously they doubled down on the mask, it’s on the spine too!

Why I am Reading it Now: I recently read Strange the Dreamer (which also has a hideous cover… what did Lani Taylor do to deserve this?) and loved it. I thought it was so cool and dreamy. So I figured, I will swallow my bile and give this one a shot. It also helps that my coworker said that it is actually better that Strange the Dreamer so… yeah.

We Were Liars

Why I Haven’t Read it Yet: Because I hated the marketing campaign and I though I have been able to avoid spoilers, I’m 80% sure I know what the “shocking” twist ending is.

Why I am Reading it Now: For work. I’m launching a YA for Adults Book Club at the library I work at, and this is our inaugural book. So, yeah I have to read this one regardless of my disdain for its existence. But who knows, maybe I will love it… maybe.

So there you have it, my highly ambitious, mega hyped TBR. Which ones have you read? Which ones will I DNF? What are some mega hyped books that have somehow passed you by?

Revisiting My Teenage Bookshelf: An Ongoing Project.

A friend recently suggested I revisit my teenage self’s bookshelf . After doing so I was struck with an idea, what if I revisit a BUNCH of old favorites and see how I react to them now compared to how I reacted back when I first read them? So a project was born. Over the course of the next year, I’m going to occasionally revisit my teenage bookshelf and write a little about it… enjoy!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

When I was 13…

…I was not cool. I was shy, and awkward, and spent a lot of my time hiding. Yes, I was 13 and literally spent a lot of time in weird places so that no one could find me. I was also lonely, but at the time that was probably a side effect of the hiding. When I couldn’t actually hide, I attempted invisibility via burying my nose in a book. 13 was also the year I was bumped into honors English classes, and I found a place where I didn’t feel the need to hide so much.

Mrs. A* recognized my ravenous love of literature early and encouraged it throughout the year. On top of the two assigned novels we were asked to read that year (A Day No Pigs Would Die and The Giver), she would challenge me with weekly book recommendations, and once a week she would sign me out of lunch to talk about them. It made me feel special and helped me overcome some of my issues with shyness. She was a driving force in my desire to become a teacher myself.

At our last meeting she had a small rectangular package wrapped in blue paper.

She gave me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

I DEVOURED the coming of age story of Francie Nolan and her family. I read it, and as soon as I finished it I read it again. I wanted to be Francie. She was a lot like me; she was around my age, the daughter of first generation Americans, a reader and writer, and lonely. Francie was lonely like me and I felt like we bonded.

When I was 13 the story was all about Francie; she was the only thing I cared about when reading it—obviously… she was my friend—whenever the story focused on her parents or aunts, I just didn’t have the same feeling. I cared about what happened to the girls who was like me, like it was some sort of guide to being happier (the fact that the Nolans didn’t have a great life never really affected the way I read the story back then). I fell in love with the romance of the past; turn of the century Brooklyn was like a fairytale kingdom to me, and I (naively) just wanted to fall into that world. But mostly, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn became my friend when I didn’t have any, and it always reminds me of a time when someone saw me when I wanted to be invisible.

Today…

…I finished reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time in many years, and I am so happy that I did. It gave me all the same feelings—I enjoyed visiting my old friend—with the benefit of being much older and world weary. But, ya know what? I missed a lot of things when I was younger.

I completely missed the dirty side of the coin.

When I was young I saw things the way Francie does—like a dream. The book was a quaint look into a faraway time and place about good people working hard and eventually triumphing. But there is a completely different side to the story, a dark side. The Nolans’ lives are hard. They try their very best, but throughout the novel they are starving, mistreated, and wracked by the anxiety of trying to build their lives on shifting sands. Reading this book in my 20s, a graduate of college, a teacher, someone with a mountain of debt, and obviously a woman with my childhood firmly behind me, I was less compelled by Francie’s journey and more interested in the novel’s adults.

This time through I fell in love with the Rommely women. I mean, I’ve always admired Katie’s strength, Sissy’s fire and passion for life and Mary’s wisdom (Evy just kind of seems to be there… beyond her tribulations with her husband and the time a horse fell in love her, she wasn’t that interesting.), but this time I saw them in more dimensions.

I had never realized how intensely human Katie Nolan (nèe Rommely) is. She has always been an example of strength and sacrifice, bravely working herself to the bone to keep her family from falling into irrevocable poverty, but now I find myself drawn to her very human anxieties. The passages featuring her internal debates color her in a way that elevates her beyond the “long suffering mother” trope that show up in many coming of age stories (I’m lookin’ at you Marmee March). Katie wants her children to be educated and to become great things but also wants to keep them safe and fed, and sometimes these desires come into conflict. She is a woman who knowingly made one flawed choice—mortgaging her future for the temporary happiness of a handsome face—and spent much of her life paying for it. I never appreciated the richness her “failings” gave her character. I feed for her; I want her to have a happy ending more than anyone else.

She used to be an obstacle to get around so that I could learn more about Francie… I even actively disliked her because I thought she didn’t really love Francie at all, but now I love her. I love her because she is so flawed, fights against her flaws, and when she can’t, she bears up under them. She accepts the consequences of her flawed choices… even if they make her miserable. She’s one of the most human characters I’ve ever come across on paper… and I missed all that before.

Another character I blew past was Mary Rommely (Katie, Evy, and Sissy’s mother and Francie’s grandmother). She was even less interesting to me, because she was even older than Francie’s parents AND she wasn’t in the story that much so I didn’t care about her—I was pretty short sighted when I was 13. But this time (and if I’m honest a few times before this one) she, and her wise words really jumped off the page at me.

She is an uneducated immigrant who didn’t know enough to send her oldest child to school at all. Yet she still values education and sees it as the only way out of lives of poverty and drudgery (as a teacher I happen to believe there is a lot of truth in that idea however naïve it is). Not just education though, when Francie is born she counsels Katie to teach her to believe in things; in addition to reading her the Bible and Shakespeare, she must tell her fairy tales, myths, and ghost stories. And she must believe in Santa Claus until she is at least six years old, because “the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for” (Smith 84). Knowledge is one thing to Mary, something that helps you exist as a free person in the world, but imagination is the thing that makes it so you can survive in a world where the truth basically spares no chance to grind us into the ground. The realm of fantasy and imagination are the best balm against the pains of reality. It can’t stop the world from hurting you, but it can soothe the wounds it inflicts, and having the ability to retreat into it occasionally is a useful ability. It’s a great lesson to take away from a simple—deceptively simple—story.

Was it Worth a Re-Read?

Yes. A thousand times, yes. I mean it’s not my favorite book—not by a longshot, that honor goes to Moby-Dick—but it’s definitely a book that helped shape me into the reader and person I am today. It reminded me of a teacher who made me want to teach, and I got to discover some new and really beautiful things about it. And that only made me love it more.

If You Like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Try:

Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska (1925): It’s a similar story, young woman grows up in poverty in turn of the century New York. Bread Givers is, however, darker than ATGB; there is a more real and pressing sense of poverty, and oppression… it’s more real and definitely lacks the dream-like quality Smith conjures up. But it’s a great book. I read this in my junior year of college.

Ragtime by E.L. Doctrow (1975): But if you like turn of the century settings with probing and revealing looks at history and Americana, Ragtime is the book for you. I read this when I was 18.