Reviews of the Week with Gerald Posner, Kati Gardner, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

This week’s #ReviewsOfTheWeek cover our February 15 issue’s Spotlight on Health & Wellness, featuring an exposé, a medical memoir, YA fiction, and a timely voter guide.

Tuesday, February 18

Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America, by Gerald Posner

A more apt subtitle might be “Everything anyone wanted to know about the drug industry but was afraid to ask.” Emphasis on the “afraid.” Fraud, incompetence, conspiracy, avarice: it’s all here, and to read best-selling, award-winning Posner’s (God’s Bankers, 2015) encyclopedic exposé of the pharmaceutical industry and the government’s role in its development and regulation is to peer into a Pandora’s box of malfeasance, perfidy, and corruption. Explosively, even addictively, readable, Posner’s meticulously documented investigation of the historical roots and contemporary state of Big Pharma examines everything from aspirin to Zantac, beginning with the naive use of heroin and cocaine in the 1800s and moving into the opioid epidemic of the 2000s, as government regulatory involvement waxed and waned while the pharmaceutical industry morphed into a monolith that emphasized investor wealth over patient health.

Wednesday, February 19

Finding Balance, by Kati Gardner

Like Jase Ellison, Mari Manos is a cancer survivor. Unlike Jase, however, Mari lost one leg to the disease. Both teens are close during summers at Camp Chemo, but when Mari transfers to Jase’s exclusive Atlanta West Prep, he freaks. No one there knows his medical history, so instead of welcoming Mari, he rudely pretends not to know her. Mari’s life at AWP grows more miserable as Jase’s girlfriend spews hurtful comments about Mari’s economic status and disability. As a result, Jase struggles between maintaining his reputation and supporting Mari. Nevertheless, a connection between the two remains due to their shared reality of being misrepresented and misunderstood. Separate events unfold that force Jase to rethink his survivorship and independent Mari to ask for help, and when Jase’s mother announces that her annual fundraiser gala will benefit Camp Chemo, both teens must take control of their truths.

Thursday, February 20

The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness, by Sarah Ramey

Ramey’s induction into becoming what she has dubbed a WOMI, a Woman with a Mysterious Illness, began when she was in college and a swim in Walden Pond led to a lingering urinary tract infection. It was treated with a horrific, botched procedure, which led to another infection, which led to Ramey being dosed with powerful antibiotics. Rather than that being the end of her ordeal, this kicked off a 17-year nightmare in which doctors and modern medicine failed Ramey again and again. Her quest to get to the root of undefined, oft-dismissed conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, which plague women more often than men, led her on a veritable journey to the underworld as doctors doubted her, or worse, exacerbated her condition to the point where she became a complete invalid. In her agony, Ramey deduced that the problem went far beyond women being disbelieved; it stemmed from humanity’s rejection of the feminine as valid.

Friday, February 21

Votes of Confidence, 2nd Edition: A Young Person’s Guide to American Elections, by Jeff Fleischer

The first edition of this book was published in the midst of the 2016 election. In the introduction of this second edition, Fleischer states that it was in the aftermath of that election, amid the current climate of fake news and other misinformation, that he felt it was vital to update the book so that young people are more informed about how the government works. The census bureau predicts that “the post-1980s generation will be 36.5 percent of eligible voters by 2020.” Fleischer clearly and understandably explains how the American government came to be and how it’s supposed to work. He describes the three branches, how a bill becomes a law, arguments for and against the Electoral College, primaries, and national, state, and local general elections. Political parties, campaigns, debates, financing, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and ballot initiatives are covered. The text emphasizes what young people need to know to vote, where to get accurate political information, and how to become more involved in politics.

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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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