Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
First line: He wondered if he would see her today.
Last lines: Sometimes there were no words, only sunshine on your heart. Alhamdulilah.
Keywords: contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice, complex families, religion, love, marriage, truth, secrets
This is one of the five books on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Minimalist Reading Guide for this summer! From the description, I had the feeling it would be less of a strict retelling and more of a zigzag retelling, and I was right. The original storyline is there, but it’s as if Uzma Jalaluddin became a DJ-plotter and mixed Jane Austen’s story in a really cool way.
I prefer this kind of retelling more than the kind that takes the story and simply transports it into a different time and place. Two examples of this that I’m thinking of for P&P are the books Pride by Ibi Zoboi and Unmarriageable by Sonia Kamal. The first one is set in a gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn, and the second one is set in modern-day Pakistan.
Both are interesting twists, but I ended up skimming most of the two books. I know that a lot of people liked Pride, and Unmarriageable has a lot of excited reviews on Goodreads, but after Jane Austen, the characters and the tension and the writing just didn’t arrest me in the same way.
I guess for me, zigzag P&P retellings are where it’s at.
Except for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries! Wow, I almost forgot about those. Those are an amazing strict P&P retelling. Well, pretty strict.
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
this book smells like me
hone and strawberries
failures and sweat
green nights in the mountains
cold dawns by the sea
Last line: thanks for listening.
Keywords: memoir, free verse, brave, pain, sexual assault, truth
A few years ago I read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, so when I saw her memoir Shout at the library, it was impossible not to take it home. I don’t have much to say except that I think you should read both books.
Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum
First line: Tuesday, the least descriptive day of the week. Neither beginning nor end, not even the sad, saggy middle.
Last lines: And I tell myself that this, all of this, the terrible and the good, could be what happily ever after looks like: A Monday. A beginning.
Keywords: YA contemporary, summer camp, jokes, a boy, 9/11, iconic photo
Hope and Other Punch Lines is the first YA book that I’ve seen (maybe first fiction book period?) that is set in the present but has 9/11 as a crucial part of the plot and in the lives of the characters. I know it’s not actually the first one because Google brought up several lists of fiction books about 9/11. The New York Times actually did a post in 2016 about four middlegrade/YA books that took place during and around 9/11.
I wonder when the first 9/11 book was published? Was there a period of years that it took for people to grieve and live before they were able to write books centered around that day? Was the same true for World War I and World War II and every other tragedy? I have no idea.
Okay, this book is about a girl named Hope who is famous because she’s in an iconic photo taken on 9/11. I thought the photo was real at first because the story of it felt so real, but it’s actually not. But in different places, the author does also tie in real photographs from 9/11.
Also, at one point the book includes a tiny cross-reference with Tell Me Three Things, which is another book Julie Buxbaum wrote. That was exciting. Wait, there might have been a What to Say Next reference too! I haven’t read that one yet, so if there was, it completely went over my head.
Wait! Goodreads says that Julie Buxbaum has a book due to release next year called The Side Door, and it’s about the college admission scandal. Dang, no way. If you read the description, it really feels like it’s based on one student and family in particular. Okay, I guess that’s one of the books I will be reading next year.
What are good books you’ve read recently?
Do you like strict or zigzag retellings?
What are retellings that you loved or didn’t love?
Have you read any books about 9/11 before?
P.P.S. Image from lovelybookspines tumblr.