Reviews of the Week with Mike Holmes, Paula Hawkins, John Green, and More!

The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of May 17 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Light Perpetual, by Francis Spufford. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, May 17

My Own World, by Mike Holmes

Nine-year-old Nathan’s free-wheeling summer fun is hemmed in by a lack of friends, the danger of older boys, and the illness of his idolized older brother, Ben. Visited by uncanny red dreams, Nathan soon finds them reflected in a hidden red world. Here, everything is under his control—friends, safety, even time itself—until it suddenly isn’t, and Nathan must face the pain at the heart of both the real world he inhabits and the fantastic one he escapes to: “Being alone hurts.”  Holmes paints an exquisitely realistic portrait of a troubled boy’s real life, grounding the fantastic in the urgency of Nathan’s heartache and anxiety. Indeed, if his exploration of the paranormal realm feels like it stretches beyond the necessary, it’s perhaps a tribute to the narrative pull of Nathan’s actual life. 

Tuesday, May 18

A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins

Here is the long-awaited third riveting thriller from the best-selling author of Into the Water (2017) and the global phenomenon that was The Girl on the Train (2015). A young man is found murdered in a London houseboat. Three damaged women have connections with him—some tenuous, some intense. Laura, who identifies as a “vulnerable adult,” has multiple social-behavior issues. A hit-and-run accident in her childhood left her broken physically and mentally and, eventually, psychically as well. Carla, the victim’s aunt, is still coming to terms with the son she lost years ago and with the recent death of her sister, Angela, whom she held responsible for her son’s catastrophic end. The victim is her nephew, Angela’s son. The third woman, Miriam, not only snoops, she also keeps a notebook! Laura describes her as a hobbit. She moves with “legs heavy as her heart.” Miriam survived an abduction at age 15 that claimed the life of her best friend. A fourth character, the poignant Irene, is a marvel of creation. 

Wednesday, May 19

Bird Boy, by Matthew Burgess and illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani

Every now and then a book comes along that catches you unawares with its tenderness and grace. This is one such book. On his first day at a new school, Nico is keenly aware of being an outsider, but he quickly realizes that not being part of the already formed groups of kids means that he is free to sit quietly in the sun and watch ants and befriend birds. This earns him the nickname Bird Boy, and while the teasing hurts Nico’s feelings, he is surprised to find that he rather likes the name. He embraces it, letting his imagination soar with the promise of adventures only a bird boy can have. Sweet, kind, smiling Nico is hard to resist, and he eventually makes friends.

Thursday, May 20

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet, by John Green

When is a Booklist Review of the Day not exactly a review? When the Booklist editor writing it worked with Green during his time on staff. So this is reportorial, not evaluative. I can state, therefore, that Green combines stories from his life, including a distressing number involving his suffering through such wretched ailments as labyrinthitis, viral meningitis, and depression, as well as tales of being enthralled, as a boy bullied at school, by scratch ‘n sniff stickers, then a bit later, the CompuServe Teen Forum. Green delves into the impact of the months he spent at age 22 as a student chaplain at a children’s hospital. That experience turned him away from his intended path to a life as a minister, but there is something of the sermon in his essays as he mixes curiosity and erudition with confession, compassion, and wit, searching for illuminating life lessons amid life’s dark chaos. His particular mix of irony and sincerity enables him to embrace both the sublime and the ridiculous. 

Friday, May 21

It All Begins with Jelly Beans, by Nova Weetman

Meg is navigating the end of sixth grade with as much grace as she can, but there’s a lot on her plate. It’s hard enough coping with awkward former friendships and an unwelcome graduation-speech assignment, but she also has to contend with a grieving, dysfunctional mother and her own despair after her father unexpectedly passes away. She spends her school days ducking questions and seeking refuge in the nurse’s office, rereading Anne of Green Gables and wishing for a kindred spirit of her own. Then Riley crashes Meg’s hideaway, dealing with an issue of her own: type 1 diabetes. Riley does her best to fit in, but it’s hard with an insulin pump attached to her stomach and limits placed—by a caring but overbearing mother—on her food and activities. The two girls strike up a tentative friendship, though the unlikely pair will have to overcome a number of obstacles if their relationship is to flourish.  

mruzicka@ala.org'

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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