Wintertown by Stephen Emond

Described as “Garden State meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”, Wintertown is a book I have been looking forward to reading. I am probably the world’s biggest “Garden State” fan, so it sounded perfect. Fortunately, I was not disappointed!

First, the structure of the book is unexpected. There are illustrations throughout the book, so upon first glance one might think it is a graphic novel. However, the prose is narrative. There are not a lot of illustrated YA novels out there and I think Wintertown will hit the sweet spot for many readers.  I am not a big fan of comics, but I found myself drawn to the comics at the beginning of each chapter.  In fact, I think I would read a graphic novel based on the comic strip!

Evan is preppy.  He is Ivy-League bound, works hard at school, and wants to make his parents happy.  His best friend Lucy moved away a few years ago, after her parents’ divorce, but Evan looks forward to her annual visit each winter.  But this year, something is different. New Lucy arrives in town  with short choppy dyed-solid-black hair. New Lucy suddenly has a nose piercing. Evan is shocked that she smokes and drinks now.  Even worse?  This New Lucy is always angry, quiet and moody. She no longer opens up to Evan and it’s like they aren’t even friends.

Evan is a good guy.  He knows that the real Lucy, Old Lucy, is buried somewhere beneath this new facade.  But after a few days he isn’t so sure.  He doesn’t know how to be her friend even though he is pretty sure she needs a friend more than ever right now.

The POV changes from Evan to Lucy halfway through the book and you get to see Lucy’s point-of-view.  While I did not particularly like Lucy, I appreciated the change.  Seeing the events of the book through her eyes softened my feelings toward her a bit.  She has had a hard life, one much harder than those around her realize.  Being “tough” is her coping strategy.  But she also wants to help Evan.  She needs to convince him that he has to take control of his future instead of letting his father dictate his life’s path.  But can she do that when she can’t even hold a real conversation with Evan?

This is a great coming of age story that will resonate with boys and girls.  The comic strips and illustrations add another dimension to the story that is very much appreciated.  The issues the characters experience are relatable and I think they will ring true for contemporary fans.  I look forward to sharing this with my readers.  Recommended for high school classroom libraries.

 

*ARC provided by the publisher

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

In her small Texas town, Lacey Ann Byer has a reputation.  She’s a good girl.  Her father is the local preacher and she is expected to live up to the ideal of “preacher’s daughter”.  But that’s never been a problem for her.  In line with being the good girl in town, she has never wished to be the most popular or the prettiest girl.  But this year, she wants to shine.  For the first time, she is old enough to try out for the most difficult and highly lauded character in the church’s annual Hell House- abortion girl.  The annual Hell House is her church’s way of teaching young people about the dangers of sin and it draws visitors from the surrounding towns.  Then things change when Ty moves to town.  He and Lacey grow close, but his questions cause Lacey to start thinking deeply about her own beliefs and faith.

I loved Small Town Sinners. It is unlike anything I have ever read before. It’s a book about religion without being heavy-handed or preachy. Religion plays a major role in the plot, but it doesn’t read like a “religious” book. Lacey is easy to relate to and all of the characters are real.  They aren’t caricatures of people with faith (which is something I see in some YA books).  They  are who they are and they ring true.  And despite being the preacher’s daughter, Lacey is a normal teenage girl.  She is trying to figure out who she is and where her place in the world is, all while trying to live up to the ideals set by her parents.

A fantastic read for anyone interested in contemporary YA.  I would recommend this to fans of Sarah Dessen.  Fans of Melissa Walker’s Violet on the Runway series will also enjoy her newest book.  Highly recommended.

And how awesome is this cover?  A++++!

*copy courtesy of publisher

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