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A not-so-quick look at three books

January 13, 2010

God, I suck at coming up with titles.

Anyway, in an attempt to blog more often about books, I’ve decided to start posting some shorter reviews/reactions to books I’ve enjoyed. Well, they’ll probably be more on the side of reactions than reviews, but I’m going to stick them in the Reviews category just for the convenience of having them all together. I won’t be surprised if the short reviews still end up being kind of long, because I know I tend to ramble in my reviews, but I’m hoping this will get me blogging more often, and the longer reviews I’ve typically done in the past will be saved for the stuff I fall in LOVE with (yes, caps required!). I’m planning to put two or three shorter reviews together in one post, not organized by theme or anything, just as I read them, which is why this first attempt combines three completely different kinds of books.

cover of I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh LiebI Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb
I’ll say this about Josh Lieb’s I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President: it kept me entertained for 300 pages. It’s no literary masterpiece, but then I’m not sure how many people would pick up a book called I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President expecting a literary masterpiece. With a book like this, what matters is whether or not it delivers on the potential of the title, and Lieb certainly does.

Oliver Watson is the most cynical, misanthropic adolescent genius I’ve read about. He pretends to be the dumbest kid in school when he’s actually schemed his way into becoming the third-richest person in the world. Whereas Artemis Fowl delights in his intelligence (perhaps because he was born into a wealthy family that made its money on the wrong side of the law, and many of Artemis’ schemes were merely an extension of this?) and Cadel from Evil Genius (at least as far as I can recall) seemed like a pawn, Oliver is ruthless. He has more than a streak of cruelty in him, enjoys ordering his subordinates around, and the class president thing is a result of his daddy issues. Actually, now that I think about it, all three of them have daddy issues of one sort or another. I’m getting a bit off track with my fictional adolescent evil genius analysis here, so I do want to emphasize that although I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President is perhaps a darker book than it might seem based on the title and cover, it is funny. And I enjoyed it enough that I am looking forward to the sequel, whenever it comes out, but that’s probably also because this one had a very abrupt ending. (See Betsy’s review at A Fuse #8 Production for more on the ending.)

Previously: Waiting on Wednesday #1

cover of Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie HalpernInto the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
Lately, Jessie’s two best friends seem less interested in her and more interested in the guys in her older brother’s band. They give themselves a makeover, turning into punk wannabes, and Bizza actually has the gall to make a move on the guy Jessie’s been crushing on for years. Needless to say, the friendship is over, but when you’re starting your sophomore year at the same high school you attended last year, how do you find new friends you’ll fit in with?

I really like the way Halpern, in both Get Well Soon and Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, takes situations that could be written in a maudlin or pretentious way, or be painful to read about, and turns them into books that are a pleasure to read. While Jessie’s voice is perhaps not as arresting as Anna’s in Get Well Soon, she is quite a lovely narrator. I liked her quirks and her determination, and she was very easy to relate to.

Before I forget, Barrett is at the top of the awesomest brother of the year list right now. (Everybody else had all these fun categories for their favorite books of 2009 and mine was so bare bones. *pities self* But maybe if I write it down now, I’ll remember at the end of the year… Though if I read Scarlett Fever, Spencer will probably provide some competition, because he was awesome in Suite Scarlett, but I’m thinking I’ll wait for book three to come out before reading this one.) Oh, one more thing: if I wrote fanfiction, I’d totally be writing stuff from Barrett and/or Chloe’s POV.

Previously: Jolene’s interview with Julie Halpern, in which Julie says, “YA books can be very depressing, and I love the ones that can cover serious topics and infuse them with a little humor.”

cover of We Were Here by Matt de la PenaWe Were Here by Matt de la Peña
We Were Here was the most difficult of these books. It hurt to read sometimes, because of what these guys went through, but this is what made it the most satisfying read of the bunch.

Miguel has been sentenced to live in a group home for a year and to keep a journal during that time. He doesn’t want to fit in with the other guys there, believing he deserves to be punished for what he did. But he somehow lets Mong, the silent and maybe psychotic Asian kid, persuade him, and therefore also Miguel’s roommate Rondell, into running away away from the home and heading to Mexico.

I’m not sure what I can say in praise of We Were Here that Liz hasn’t already said, except that I guessed very early on what Miguel was trying to suppress, and although he doesn’t admit it until the very end, I didn’t think the long wait detracted from the story. Also, Doret‘s disappointment with Rondell’s character development (though she does like the book) is worth a read.

Previously: speaking of overly long reviews, my review of Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña.

I do not earn any money from the links in the post and I borrowed all three books from the public library.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2010 2:14 am

    Tisha, I really enjoyed your shorter reviews/reactions (all of them). Certainly, makes me want to read all three books, and if the shorter reviews makes you write more I say yeah!

  2. January 13, 2010 9:33 am

    “I Am a Genius…” has been sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read for a couple weeks now. You’ve inspired me to crack it open tonight!

  3. January 13, 2010 10:19 am

    I love your reviews, Trisha. And I have been patiently waiting for Julie Halpern’s next book after GET WELL SOON for what seems forever. I need to get a hold of this one, particularly since you liked it.

  4. January 13, 2010 12:33 pm

    I love the short reviews and personal reactions. Plus I love reading others thoughts on books. I recently read “I’m a Genius…” and found myself reacting in a similar way. And I can’t wait to read “Into the Wild Nerd Yonder”.

  5. January 13, 2010 1:08 pm

    We Were Here is probably my favorite YA book of 2009. I adored that book. I hadn’t read any of de la Peña’s earlier books (although they were on my tbr pile), but after reading We Were Here, I did immediately go on to Mexican White Boy, which I also adored.

    I recently read Julie Halpern’s Get Well Soon and have Wild Nerd Yonder. I too, have Evil Genius and it needs to be pushed nearer the top of the pile.

  6. January 16, 2010 6:00 am

    Thanks for blogging this. I worked with Matt de la Pena as my instructor in a writing workshop in New York City and I’m ashamed to say I never had a chance to read any of his books. This reminded me that I have to pick some up right away and check them out.

  7. January 16, 2010 5:02 pm

    I’m glad people enjoyed this first attempt!

    Thanks, everyone.

  8. January 29, 2010 12:10 am

    This was short? Phew. In that case I’m the witch queen of extremely brief blogging. And I thought I’m about right for length. Not wanting to tax my readers too much and all that.

    This, btw, is only the second blog post I’m reading on here, and ‘I’ll have to stop’ because I can’t fit in so many wonderful sounding suggestions for more reading. I’m booked up for years as it is. I’m here on Pattis’ suggestion after I had a little scream about the lack of good blogs. That should teach me.

    • January 31, 2010 2:22 pm

      Uh, yeah, I seem to be unable to write short reviews, even when I try.

      I need an editor.

      But thanks for visiting, anyway! I’m glad you enjoyed what you’ve read so far. I also don’t review as many books as others (I think I counted 20 books for all of 2009), so you can *cough* keep visiting without fear of adding excessively to your TBR list.🙂

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