Hey! Hi! Happy belated spring, and happy almost-April. I spend every day from basically November through March counting down the days to summer, so I’m pretty excited that it’s feeling more imminent (even though I’m not sure where this winter went…) March has been a crazy month for me because I got a new job. I’ve spent much of this month wrapping things up at the old job and competing paperwork/onboarding stuff for the new one. It has sadly cut into my reading time, but I did finish a couple books in March. Those reviews are below, I hope you enjoy!
book #5: the fireman by joe hill
This was my first official Joe Hill novel, and I’m pretty obsessed with his fast-paced, page-turner writing style. I read Strange Weather a couple years ago and I also really liked that, but that was a collection of novellas so it obviously read a bit differently from this one, structurally. When The Fireman begins, a debilitating spore called Dragonscale is just beginning to spread like wildfire (if you’ll excuse my pun). “The ‘Scale” causes the infected to break out in visually beautiful black and gold tattoos all over their body, and to spontaneously combust, which obviously kills the infected and often those around them when they burst into flames. And it moves quickly; within only a few months, Dragonscale has led to several instances of mass destruction, and a staggering number of deaths worldwide. Harper Willowes is a school nurse who volunteers to help the infected at a hospital before the spore has led the world into a complete apocalypse. When she becomes infected, her husband Jakob shows his true colors (basically that he’s a huge asshole). Harper has to vacate their home in fear of her (and her unborn child’s) life. She’s rescued by this mysterious British character named John, who is more widely known as “The Fireman.” He is infected with the ‘Scale, but it soon becomes clear that he can control and manipulate his infection without fear of spontaneous combustion. John leads Harper to a community at a nearby abandoned summer camp, where she discovers a whole community of infected people who are able to live with their infection. But she’s living in constant fear of her infection, her husband, and a band of reckless, bloodthirsty men who are eager to wipe out every infected human in America. I don’t want to give too much away from there, because the twists and turns and endless cliffhangers are part of what makes this novel so great and suspenseful. One thing I will say: I felt like the characters got a bit caricature-y at times. Jakob is the most stereotypical, misogynistic privileged white man of all time; Harper loves Disney and is compared to/compares herself to Mary Poppins more times than I can count on both hands; the radio DJ leading this anti-infected charge is a one-dimensional Trump supporter. It’s not the biggest deal, and some characters are properly complex, but I did find these character details sometimes taking me out of the story. But if you’re looking for a fun, page-turner of a novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously (and that you’ll likely tear through, despite its 700+ pages), I would highly recommend this one. I will definitely be reading more Joe Hill in the future.
There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have the chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone always dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your children. Or your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.”
book #6: on the come up by angie thomas
No surprises here, but I loved this book. I read my first Angie Thomas (her debut novel) a couple of years ago and fell hard in love with this author. For whatever reason, I think there’s a prevailing idea that certain issues, especially social justice issues, are being dealt with best in the Young Adult genre. I would say that’s true of The Hate U Give, and of this new novel, On The Come Up. The story centers on Bri Jackson, a 16-year-old growing up in the fictional neighborhood of Garden Heights with dreams of becoming a rapper. Bri lost her father at a young age to gang violence, but she knows all about his legend as a rising star in the underground hip hop world, and how he was this close to making it before he was killed. She spends a lot of her time trying to escape the large shadow of her father, and making a name for herself. Everything changes when she’s unfairly targeted by her school security guards one morning. Bri is suspended, and she channels her anger at the situation into her first recorded single. But that single, meant to draw attention to the expectations that people unfairly place on her because of how she looks and where she comes from, gets widely misinterpreted. I’m not going to give too much away beyond that, but THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD. If you’ve already read The Hate U Give, then you’ll understand it’s a bit difficult not to compare Starr (THUG’s main character) to Bri; they’re both 16-year-old girls from the same neighborhood. But where Starr is a bit more readily community-oriented following the murder of her friend at the hands of a local police officer, Bri tends to focus more on her own dream of making it. This is especially tied to her family, when Bri’s mom unexpectedly loses her job and the family has to worry about keeping the lights on and keeping food in the fridge. Bri’s dream, which may seem selfish to her friends, is heavily tied to making sure her mom doesn’t have to worry about a thing for the rest of her life. Along the way, Bri’s goals seem like they might be overruling her principles. The novel is just as much about reaching your dreams through seemingly impossible circumstances while also staying true to yourself. It was so, so, so good, please read it. Some of my favorite scenes involved Bri freestyling at The Ring; her (and Angie Thomas) are true masters of the poetry of hip hop. Can’t wait to continue reading every single thing Angie Thomas ever writes.
I mean, it’s one thing to wanna do something. It’s another to think it’s possible. Rapping has been my dream forever, but dreams aren’t real. You wake up from them or reality makes them seem stupid. Trust, every time my fridge is almost empty, all of my dreams seem stupid.”
Aaaand that’s it for March! I’m working my way through my next “intimidating read” at the moment so I hope to be back reviewing that one very soon. I really like what I’ve read so far, but I haven’t had the motivation to sit down and devour large chunks at a time quite yet. Hoping that changes soon. Anyway, have a lovely rest of your March, and THANK YOU for reading! ◊