Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Farrar Straus and Giroux

Book Review: A Shot At Normal

A Shot At Normal – Marisa Reichardt – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 16 February 2021

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Synopsis

Juniper Jade’s parents are hippies. They didn’t attend the first Woodstock, but they were there for the second one. The Jade family lives an all-organic homeschool lifestyle that means no plastics, no cell phones, and no vaccines. It isn’t exactly normal, but it’s the only thing Juniper has ever known. She doesn’t agree with her parents on everything, but she knows that to be in this family, you’ve got to stick to the rules. That is, until the unthinkable happens.

Juniper contracts the measles and unknowingly passes the disease along, with tragic consequences. She is shell-shocked. Juniper knows she is responsible and feels simultaneously helpless and furious at her parents, and herself.

Now, with the help of Nico, the boy who works at the library and loves movies and may just be more than a friend, Juniper comes to a decision: she is going to get vaccinated. Her parents refuse so Juniper arms herself with a lawyer and prepares for battle. But is waging war for her autonomy worth losing her family? How much is Juniper willing to risk for a shot at normal?

My thoughts

A Shot At Normal is a really intriguing novel and totally thought-provoking. It raises the issue of vaccinations, anti-vaccinations and the teenagers caught in the middle. Set against the backdrop of a loving family and a new and sweet romance, A Shot At Normal is a story about growing up, learning to make tough decisions and standing up for what you believe in.

Juniper wants to be normal. She’d give anything to attend high school like normal teens instead of being homeschooled with her younger siblings. She’d love to join a school team, make friends or get a job. None of that is possible, as she has never had the required vaccinations. Not that her alternative parents would every let her. When Juniper contracts the measles, she realises the consequences for not being vaccinated are far more serious than not being allowed to attend school and she must decide how far she wants to go to fight for her right to have the immunisation injections.

This novel is presented as clearly pro vaccinations. I thought maybe there would be more deliberating and weighing backwards and forwards, but once Juniper learns about the consequences of not being vaccinated, she very firmly becomes pro vaccinations. As a result of her contracting and spreading the measles, Juniper is faced with a whole lot of guilt and grief, as well as the negative response from the towns people.

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Book Review: The Midnight Lie

The Midnight Lie – Marie Rutkoski – The Midnight Lie #1 – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

My thoughts

As a fan of Marie Rutkoski’s Winner’s Curse series, I was really looking forward to The Midnight Lie, which is based in the same world as the Winner’s series. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. Intrigue and romance (LGBT) drive the plot and the world feels a little like being in a Hunger Games novel – the High Kith world is very reminiscent of the Capitol, while behind the Wall is a little like District 11. The Midnight Lie is a compelling book and will leave readers desperate to get their hands on the next book in the series.

Nirrim lives in a world controlled by what she can’t have or do. She can’t go beyond the wall. She can’t eat sweets or wear colours. She and her fellow Half-Kith only work to produce the goods and food that those above them, the Middlings and the High Kith, can eat, wear or sell. But when an accident leaves her in prison she encounters a traveller from far away who challenges Nirrim to see beyond the restrictions that control her life and seek the magic that is rumoured to originate in her land.

Dystopian, fantasy – The Midnight Lie feels like a little of both. There is magic and a unique world, but the themes of control, segregation, restriction of knowledge and history, and the separate class structures will appeal to fans of dystopian novels.

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Book Review: How We Roll

How We Roll – Natasha Friend – Farrar Straus Giroux – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

Quinn is a teen who loves her family, skateboarding, basketball, and her friends, but after she’s diagnosed with a condition called alopecia which causes her to lose all of her hair, her friends abandon her. Jake was once a star football player, but a freak accident—caused by his brother—he loses both of his legs. Quinn and Jake meet and find the confidence to believe in themselves again, and maybe even love.

My thoughts

I devoured How We Roll in a matter of hours. I enjoyed this sweet story, with its gentle message of resilience, bravery, acceptance and friendship.

Quinn is ready for a new start, and her family moving to a new town for her brother, who has autism, to attend a new school, provides Quinn with the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button. Leaving behind the nasty rumours and ex-best-friends, Quinn uses the new school and new wigs to hide her alopecia. But old habits die hard and Quinn finds it hard not to be weary of her new friends. When Quinn meets Nick, an angry teen who lost both his legs in an accident, she connects with him, even if she doesn’t reveal her full story.

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Book Review: The Row

The Row

The Row – J.R. Johansson – Farrar, Straus, and Giroux – Published 11 October 2016

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Synopsis

A death sentence. A family torn apart. One girl’s hunt for the truth.

Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent.

Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders. He takes it back almost immediately, but she cannot forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves.

My thoughts

Who suffers in the aftermath of a horrible crime? The victims? The victims’ families? The man who may have been wrongly charged and imprisioned? The perpetrator’s family? The Row gives an inside look at the cost of defending your family, even when the world says they are unworthy, when the world judges you along with the guilty.

Riley’s father is on death row for a series of murders he says he didn’t commit. Riley has never doubted his innocence. To her, he is her father. The smart and kind man who taught her chess during her weekly visits and wrote her a letter for everyday she couldn’t visit him. But with his execution date drawing near, Riley’s father unexpectedly confesses to Riley. He retracts his confession, tells Riley it was only to help her move on, but the only thing Riley knows now is that he has lied to her – she’s just not sure if the lie is about being guilty or innocent. When she meets Jordan, the son of the man responsible for putting her father in jail, Riley is surprised to find she enjoys spending time with him. Together they attempt to discover the truth about Riley’s father once and for all.

It is interesting to have a story told from the guilt party’s family’s perspective. If you are looking for a book that supports the victims’ families then look elsewhere, because this is Riley’s story. She is just as much of a victim in what appears to her to be a faulty justice system and a world in which people seek to punish her along with her father.

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