Eleanor & Park. I really liked Attachments, but I loved Eleanor & Park. It has been on my list since it was published; I skimmed all the positive reviews at the time because I didn't want to know too much about it, but...somehow I never got around to reading it. Now, I have, and it was a pleasure.
Although billed as YA, E&P is a book for anyone who remembers what it was like to be a young adult, at that awkward stage and the need to be accepted; Rainbow Rowell clearly remembers. The pov alternates between Eleanor and Park, two misfits who somehow, eventually fit together.
One of Rowell's greatest strength is her ability to create characters who are interesting and likable, not goody-goody or too bad-ass. Characters who are ordinary, but individual, not heroic and not totally downtrodden. Sometimes small things d0 require courage and abuse can fail to make an individual surrender. No magic, no deadly battles, no assassins, no zombies. Two young people who learn to depend on each other and who face life's predicaments and hazards with pluck and determination. And that is not always easy, especially for adolescents.
YA/Contemporary. 2013. Print length: 335 pages.
The Girl Before is timely in the sense that human trafficking is something right here in our own world, not in some distant country. In fact, our local paper has been running a series of articles about human trafficking that brings the topic that many novels lately have used as a premise--too close to home.
The Girl Before was an intense and frustrating read, but often novels make the distant and the impersonal...very personal. Was the premise of this novel believable? Maybe not so much, because the expense of kidnapping, raising, and educating a child for the purpose of selling her (or him) ten or twelve years later would be difficult to justify economically(Dear God, what a thing to say!). Quite a few elements of the novel didn't ring true...yet the brainwashing and Stockholm Syndrome are quite believable, sad, and disheartening.
An interesting and well-written novel about a degrading, repellent practice that is much more common than those of us in our middle-class neighborhoods want to believe. If it happens most often to runaways, immigrants, or the very poor (there are instances of parents selling their children or pimping the children themselves) than to the people we know, it does not change the horror. A compelling read that manages to avoid graphic descriptions, avoids manipulating the reader while still making the point, and does not leave you without hope.
Psychological Thriller. Penguin Group. Print length: 320 pages.
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is a recent retelling of Jane Eyre, and the similarities are all over the place--except turned on their heads. Jane Eyre in a fun-house mirror. :)
It was amusing to see how closely and how absurdly Faye followed and inverted characters, events, and elements from the original novel. There are murders and romance and intriguing situations.
There are flaws (pacing could have been better, some parts that drag and the whole treasure motif didn't feel convincing), but I have to admit to enjoying it thoroughly. What I enjoyed most (besides noting all of the clever sneaky subversions) was the Thornfield household with the butler, who was not a butler, and Jane using her charge's love of horses to teach...well, almost everything. Well done, Governess Jane. :)
Pastiche/Serial Killer Parody. 2016. 427 pages.