Reviews of the Week with Lindsey Hilsum, Andrew Simonet, Sharon M. Draper, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from November 5–November 9 below.

Monday, November 5

In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin, by Lindsey Hilsum

Foreign correspondent Marie Colvin, born in New York City in 1956, a Yale graduate, and a longtime Middle East expert for the British newspaper, the Sunday Times, was a singular talent, one of the most significant war reporters of the twentieth century, and her death under fire in Syria in 2012 was a devastating loss. An icon for her bold field style and the eye patch she sported after an attack in Sri Lanka, Colvin lived a big life and left behind a body of work that covers every major conflict in the world, dating back several decades. Hers was a career ripe for biography, and journalist Hilsum, a colleague and friend, has done a masterful job of telling Colvin’s story. This is riveting personal and professional history, told with skill and sincerity.


Tuesday, November 6 

There There, by Tommy Orange, Read by Alma Cuervo and others

Orange’s debut novel introduces listeners to what appears at first glance to be an unrelated cast of characters residing in contemporary Oakland and sharing only their Native American ancestry. Their paths converge at the first Big Oakland Powwow as the thrum of shared experiences threads together the complicated plot. The ensemble cast of narrators does an impressive job of creating distinctive, emotionally resonant characterizations of all 12 protagonists, aided by chapter headings that signal changes in perspective. Of particular note are the voices of Cuervo as Jacquie Redfeather and Kyla Garcia as Jacquie’s sister, Opal. A beautiful performance of a stunning new voice in fiction.


Wednesday, November 7

Wilder, by Andrew Simonet

Jason Wilder is an unreliable narrator. He says stories get retold and exaggerated. But he’s not talking about his own, right then. He’s explaining how Melissa Young, aka Meili Weh, wound up with him in permanent detention. She’s there because she broke a girl’s finger. He’s there for his own protection. The other kids don’t like him because he set a building on fire and a boy was injured. And because he gets in fights, though Jason explains he’s the one being harassed. Meili is an enigma and definitely out of place in a rural, mostly white town. A girl with a British accent from Hong Kong watched over by a “manny” named Manny, who protects her from nefarious forces that come in and out of focus, making them all the more intriguing.


Thursday, November 8

To Keep the Sun Alive, by Rabeah Ghaffari

Ghaffari’s exciting debut is a family epic centered on several months in 1979. Each section begins in 2012 Paris, where an old man named Shazdehpoor sells calligraphy to tourists and cherishes what he has left of his native Iran. The following chapters move back in time to the lives of Shazdehpoor’s family in 1979, at the beginning of the Iranian Revolution. The country is alive with the promise of change, which inspires Nasreen, who wants to escape the confining role she watched her mother occupy, and her love, Madjid, a university student who imagines the future Iran could have. Shazdehpoor’s uncle, who is a retired judge, and his wife host the family for lunches in their orchard, while another uncle, a cleric, encourages the rise of religious fundamentalism.


Friday, November 9

Blended, by Sharon M. Draper

Every week, Isabella has to change gears. She alternates between her white mom and her black dad, who have completely dissimilar lifestyles. Isabella loves both her families, but going back and forth often makes her feel like she has two lives. Her struggle to figure out who she is becomes even harder as the reality of racism hits close to home. An attack on her best friend, who is black, rocks Isabella’s school and further confuses her search for identity. Though Isabella’s mixed race and struggle to find identity in a world where racism exists are strong components of this book, it is primarily about a child of divorce finding her place in two different families. This is not a criticism; in fact, it makes this an honest and relatable story for a wide range of children.



About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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