Reviews of the Week with Kelly Yang, Ariel Lawhon, 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.

Still here and still celebrating togetherness, hope, and resilience in this week’s #ReviewsOfTheWeek. Booklist wishes you all well. Happy reading!

Monday, March 23

Parachutes, by Kelly Yang

Yang, whose middle-grade debut Front Desk (2018) won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature, makes a fierce entrance into YA, navigating a plethora of complex themes with great honesty. Claire is a “parachute,” a wealthy teen from Shanghai whose parents covet the prestige of a foreign education. Dani, a scholarship student, works after school cleaning the homes of her wealthy classmates to help her mom make ends meet. Although Dani and Claire share a home—as host and boarder—they exist in separate social orbits. Yang accentuates their differences through chapters that alternate between their perspectives, highlighting the narrators’ socioeconomic status, reputation, and misconceptions about each other.

Tuesday, March 24

Code Name Hélène, by Ariel Lawhon

Lawhon’s magnificent fourth novel dramatizes the valor of a gutsy, real-life woman molded by war, sacrifice, and love. In February 1944, sporting her trademark red lipstick, Nancy Wake parachutes into the French countryside on a Special Operations Executive mission to organize, fund, arm, and train the Maquis, bands of local resistance fighters, in preparation for D-Day. Back in 1936, with increasing dangers posed by Hitler, Nancy is a determined Australian expat journalist embarking on a tantalizing romance with handsome industrialist Henri Fiocca. As these separate time lines move forward, they play off one another masterfully, pivoting at just the right moment to augment tension.

Wednesday, March 25

My Favorite Memories, by Sepideh Sarihi, illustrated by Julie Völk, and translated by Elisabeth Lauffer

A little girl is told by her parents that they will be moving to a new country, and they give her a suitcase in which to pack her favorite things. She’s a lucky girl to have many beloved things—an aquarium, a chair made by her grandpa, a cheerful school-bus driver, a best friend—but packing them all in the small bag is a dilemma. Sarihi’s spare prose is perfectly complemented by Völk’s delicately detailed graphite and colored-pencil illustrations. While readers consider the girl’s options along with her, they can dwell and delight in the drawings, noting how, as her conundrum deepens, her favorite things accumulate on the pages and how her facial expressions convey emotion. Fortunately, the girl is as resourceful and imaginative as she is lucky.

Thursday, March 26

Falastin: A Cookbook, by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

Tamimi and Wigley have worked in restaurants and written cookbooks with star chef-author Yotam Ottolenghi (Jerusalem, 2012; Ottolenghi Simple, 2018), who provides this book’s foreword. Named for a historic Palestinian newspaper, this celebration of Palestinian cooking addresses the politics of the region while also highlighting local culinary experts, like the yogurt-making ladies of Bethlehem and Vivien Sansour of the Palestine Seed Library. Not shying away from conflict, this rather transcends much of it by focusing on 120 unique and familiar recipes, covering breakfast through dessert, that give a great sense of Arabic cuisine and what it shares with its neighbors.

Friday, March 27

Where the World Ends, by Geraldine McCaughrean

For a few weeks every summer, Quilliam is sent with other men and boys to go fowling on the sea stacs in the St. Kilda archipelago. These rock formations are more remote and desolate than their own island home of Hirta, off the coast of Scotland, but the birds they harvest—gannets, fulmars, storm petrels—will help their families through the winter. This year, 1727, the expedition begins as planned. But then the boat that’s supposed to take them back to Hirta doesn’t arrive. Suddenly, the group is staring down the likelihood of having to survive through the winter—and maybe longer. As they chafe against a lump of rock that seems both entirely daunting and too small, one unsettling question lingers: What happened back home to keep the boat from coming?



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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