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Ever wonder what it's really like to be one of the nineteen Duggar children on the reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting? When Essie, the youngest daughter of a famous evangelical family, discovers that she's pregnant, she decides to put a plan in action that will dramatically alter the course of her life and the lives of everyone around her. Weir has crafted an engaging page-turner which explores the way faith, family, and social expectation can affect people in all walks of life, but especially young people. Her narrative weaves together the stories of Essie, a closeted boy who goes to school with her, and a reporter who as a child was a member of an extremist religious group. By the time you reach the heartwarming end of this book, you'll discover that each of these characters has found a way to live a life that is more true to themselves while still acknowledging the lessons of their pasts.
I'll be honest-- its' going to take a long time for you to get through this. Unless you're a speed reader or a robot, you'll spend a not-insignificant amount of your life holding this brick of a book. So is it worth it? In a word, yes. I can't overstate the sheer power that comes with being with characters-- hearing their thoughts, seeing their joys and sorrows, worrying about the outcomes of their decisions-- for over 1,000 pages. Hugo creates a world that is filled with people whose motivations, beliefs, and goals sometimes support each other, sometimes drastically conflict, and are always beautifully rendered through his prose. Although set in a particular historical moment, the novel's real focus is on human experiences. This is a brick that is guaranteed to move you.
In The World According to Fannie Davis, Brigitte M. Davis finally reveals a secret she has been keeping her whole life: in order to support their family in 1970s Detroit, her mother ran the numbers, an illegal underground lottery that was especially popular in African American communities. In doing so, her mother was able to provide for her family in ways that would have been impossible for many other Black families of the time period, but she was also constantly at risk of discovery by the authorities or the bankruptcy that would come with a big payout. Davis has a true talent for using the anecdotes of her family history to paint a vivid picture of her family members and herself. The vibrant personal narrative, combined with the fascinating details of underground number running and the elucidating connections to the social history of Detroit, produce a book that is at once personal, historical, and un-put-downable.
When I first picked up this book I was worried it was going to be a Harry Potter knock-off, but boy was I wrong! Nevermoor follows Morrigan Crow, a ten-year-old girl who is born on Eventide, the unluckiest day of the year. This sets her life on a path that leads her to the magical world of Nevermoor, where she is mentored by a exuberant hotel owner and competes to be accepted into a prestigious magical academy. What I love most about this book is that it gives glimpses of the larger world of the series that's to come, but doesn't give away everything all at once. I can't wait for the next book to come out to explore more of the world and learn more about the characters in it!
Kate Walbert's latest novel brilliantly depicts the vulnerabilities of young women as she tells the story of a teenage girl who, haunted by tragedy and guilt, falls prey to a predatory teacher at her exclusive Massachusetts boarding school. The book is dark, but never hopeless; although Walbert doesn't shy away from the gritty details of the story, she also makes sure to convey the inherent strength and power of girls even as they live through trauma. On top of that, her beautiful and haunting prose helps make this novel unforgettable.
After a dark family secret forces her family to move from their comfortable lives in Boston to a rural estate in New Oldbury, Lydia must confront a series of dark and supernatural events which cause her to question both her family and herself. This novel is a suspenseful and atmospheric read; yet despite all of the sinister and paranormal elements, I was most drawn in by the electric chemistry between Lydia and John, one of the town's most eligible bachelors, who himself is haunted by tragedy. The Witch of Willow Hall provides a highly satisfying balance of the supernatural, the romantic, and the ties-- both positive and negative-- that bind a family together.