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December Favorite: Signal to Noise December 21, 2015

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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signalThis book had been on my radar for quite awhile. I’m sure someone talked about it on Twitter, or mentioned it in a blog post, and it definitely came up on the comprehensive list of titles from 2015 that my fellow bloggers at Latin@s in Kid Lit compiled. It took awhile for me to get ahold of a copy, as DC Public Library did not have one. But Arlington Public Library did, so this month started with me falling completely in love with Danielle, Sebastian and especially Meche, the heroes of this magical tale.

Signal to Noise has a little bit of everything. There’s friendship. There’s (lots) of music. There’s magic. There’s romance. Everything is mixed together with just enough drama and poignancy and I love it all so much. The setting in working-class Mexico City is vibrant and compelling and the magic worked by the three teenagers isn’t overwritten. In some ways, it almost feels like the author is intentionally subverting the characters of Harry Potter–in this version it’s the lone boy who is the brainy intellectual and the girl is the powerful, impulsive magician who only cares about achieving her goals. The structure of the novel, jumping back and forth between the 80’s, when the characters are teens and 2009, when they are adults in their 30’s, helps build tension and suspense as you wait to find out what went wrong between the friends so long ago. And the ending is completely earned and satisfying, so you come away with a smile on your face. In short, this was one of my favorite reads of the year, a book that I know I’ll return to again and again.

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November Favorite: The Memory of Light December 15, 2015

Posted by ccbooks in Uncategorized.
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lightThis was the first book I read in November and it remains my favorite. I was in Munich, taking a six hour train to Prague and I was trying very hard to ration the three books I had brought with me for the two week trip. I told myself I would read a few chapters, then work on some drawing and note-taking and save the rest for later.

As you may imagine, that didn’t happen. As soon as I began reading about Vicky, her friends and allies, her family and challenges, there was no way I was putting this book down. There are other YA books about suicide attempts, but I don’t think I’ve read one that is so thoroughly clear-eyed, but ultimately hopeful about the process of healing and facing the struggles of living with depression.

Francisco Stork creates a cast of unforgettable teens in this book, all of whom defy stereotypes. Vicky herself is a painfully authentic teen and all readers will feel for her as she works to take control of her life and health. This book will provide a lifeline to teens struggling with similar  issues and it gives a window to the rest on the challenges of dealing with a mental illness.

I love that Stork can tackle tough subjects while still including moments of humor. I also like how even more than in Marcelo in the Real World, he touches on the prejudice that often exists between Latinos of different generations and classes. The relationship between Vicky and her sister is so important to this story and so wonderful to see evolve. Whether or not you or someone you know has experience with mental illness, this is a captivating read. I highly recommend it for everyone.