Tuesday, May 26, 2009

29. "The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind" - Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Young adult fiction has found a new, kick-ass voice.

Morgan lives in "Central Nowhere," Nebraska, writing fortune cookie slogans in her head while stocking shelves at the local grocery store. She is furious with her family, annoyed with her boyfriend, and indifferent to "the Girls I Sit By At Lunch." Morgan wants out of there, wants it so desperately that sometimes she has to drive to the hills bordering the edge of a valley and scream, "[...]ALIENS TAKE ME NOW, 15 times, shouted into the air. Then I AM INSANE and DIE ASSHOLE DIE and BITE ME, but only five times each."

Morgan is also frustrated because Tessa, her neighbor, kissed her in a hammock, and Morgan liked it. But Central Nowhere is the last place where alternate sexualities are tolerated, so Morgan stays with Derek, the dumb jock, lusts after Rob, the assistant manager at work, and worries about her connections to Tessa, as well as her own sexuality.

I haven't been this excited about a book for teens since Judy Blume's "Forever," and I still have a copy of that with red ink circling my favorite parts. Morgan is quite different from Katherine, though; one time, she screams, "I am a secret sex fiend!" and her fortunes advise against having sex in the front seat of a car. Morgan's voice is the driving force of this novel in a genre where teenage girls are praised for their timidness or silence (yes, Bella, I am talking to you).

Cronn-Mills creates characters of substance, from Tessa and her Kool-Aid tinted hair to Morgan's grandmother and her closet filled with special organ-playing shoes. But it is the dialogue that hit me, especially when I was at the grocery store recently and heard a teen girl say, "He's not into you? No, all he wants is to get into you." I thought I found Morgan in the pickle aisle. Her voice resonates long after you turn the last page.

4.75 out of 5.0 Skittles.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

28. "The Weight of Heaven" - Thrity Umrigar

After the death of their son, Frank and Ellie move to India to escape. Frank works as the head of a company, HerbalSolutions, which uses local trees for a diabetes medication. The trees were used by the natives, as well, but the new restrictions cause havoc between boss and workers.

Meanwhile, Frank yearns for his lost son and tries to fill the gap with Ramesh, the bright, ambitious son of their housekeepers. This hurts his father, who wants only the best for his son, as long as it is true to India.

This is a wrenching read. I thought of heaven as light, airless, but the grief - which Umrigar expresses with metaphors and beautiful imagery - the grief, the grief, oh, how it hurts the chest and heart to imagine.

4.25 out of 5.0 Gin and Tonics.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

To be continued...


Meanwhile, I think I have the "whine" flu. The one where you use a high-pitched screechy voice when saying things like, "Mommy took care of you when you were sick" or "Has anyone seen the rest of the orange juice because I need to triple mix it with Ciroq." Also used when spouses make small talk, but are misunderstood: "Are you saying I'm not working? I got my work done. I can't help it if my temperature is 102.4. So what if all I'm doing is watching the first two seasons of 'Weeds'."

This is the same flu that causes irritability, loss of memory (or perhaps that's the Ciroq), addiction to old TV rather than books, and stanky clothes (which could also be a result of mixing up the anti-cellulite lotion with the self-tanner).

Pandemic, y'all. Watch yourselves.