Reviews of the Week, with Jason Reynolds, Tillie Walden, Daniel Handler, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online that highlights starred reviews, high-demand titles, and / or titles especially relevant to our current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from July 17 through 21 so that you can revisit the week’s best books.

 

July 10

 Spinning, by Tillie Walden

Award-winning Walden’s first book-length work traces her childhood spent in the competitive figure-skating world, and although most of her memoir happens in skating rinks or at competitions, that element ultimately becomes the backdrop for a deeper story about her coming out and coming-of-age. In delicate, evocative artwork, rendered exclusively in purple with yellow highlights, Walden relates the struggles of moving to a new city in middle school, dealing with a particularly cruel bully, feeling scared to be open about her homosexuality, and so on, all while gradually becoming disillusioned with skating.

 

July 11

 Belinda the Unbeatable, by Lee Nordling

A simple game of musical chairs is the setting for a wild adventure in this wordless graphic novel. Belinda and her classmates are off to the gym when she spots shy Barbara and befriends her. Together they join in the game, but when the music starts they’re amazed to see the notes and the circle around the chairs come to life! Nordling and Roberts tap into the pure, childlike imagination that makes stories such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland such classics, and they do it all in a simple comic perfect for the youngest of readers and prereaders.

 

July 12

All the Dirty Parts, by Daniel Handler

Teenage Cole is obsessed with sex. Not that he isn’t having any. On the contrary, he’s having a ton, but he still can’t stop thinking about it. Though best known as kids’ author Lemony Snicket, Handler continues his recent endeavor to boldly straddle the divide between teen and adult books, as he did in We Are Pirates (2015). Here, in brief, understated vignettes, Cole sounds like Holden Caulfield writing a sex blog. Amusing yet genuine, lustful yet sensitive, this odd novella approaches teenage horniness seriously and, in the process, touches on important subjects such as sexism, consent, and sexual identity.

 

July 13

 Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

Spanning a mere one minute and seven seconds, Reynolds’ new free-verse novel is an intense snapshot of the chain reaction caused by pulling a trigger. First, 15-year-old Will Holloman sets the scene by relating his brother Shawn’s murder two days prior—gunned down while buying soap for their mother. Next, he lays out The Rules: don’t cry, don’t snitch, always get revenge. Now that the reader is up to speed, Will tucks Shawn’s gun into his waistband and steps into an elevator, steeled to execute rule number three and shoot his brother’s killer. Yet, the simple seven-floor descent becomes a revelatory trip.

 

July 14

 Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder

What photographer Jacob Riis did for the tenement poor in How the Other Half Lives (1890) and what novelist Upton Sinclair did for stockyard workers in The Jungle (1906), journalist Bruder now does for a segment of today’s older Americans forced to eke out a living as migrant workers. There is “no rest for the aging,” says Bruder, underscoring her focus on people, primarily near or past retirement, whose lives and expectations were upended by the 2008 recession. This powerhouse of a book grew out of Bruder’s article, “The End of Retirement,” published in Harper’s in 2014. She examines the phenomenon of a new tribe of down-and-outers—“workampers,” or “houseless” people—who travel the country in vans as they follow short-term jobs.

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About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist. She worked in bookstores for twelve years, reviews books for The Boston Globe, and writes about books, culture, and politics for several other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Genie.

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