Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 2.0

What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan
This is one of those books that I want to shove a copy into everyone's hands that I know...parents, students, athletes, anyone who works with teens, anyone who watches sports, anyone and everyone, period. Yes, it is that powerful, that life-changing, that important. Kate Fagan, journalist and ESPN contributor as well as former college athlete, has given us the most meaningful 'sports' story, that is not just about sports, for this generation of young athletes. Fagan investigates the suicide, and the life that led to it, of Madison Holleran who was bright, beautiful, and a super-stud athlete attending an Ivy League college. She had it all, right? The question remains then, why?  As Fagan explores the impact of social media on today's permanently-connected youth, she also looks at the expectations and pressures placed on student athletes, the support or lack thereof at college for issues of mental illness, and the hidden lives of so many young people who feel like their only exit off the road they are on is suicide. This is a gripping, heart-wrenching story that I constantly wanted not to be true, to have a different ending. Yes, you will cry; yes, you will be frustrated, and yes, you will wish you could reach inside Maddy and convince her that the next day will be better. But you will also be glad that you read this book as it will force you to stop and question the messages our society sends kids of today, to spend just one more minute checking in with people you love and even those you don't, and to support programs that will help young people battle their demons in a healthy way.

Dreamland:  The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones
This book should be required reading for every citizen...seriously. Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for people under the age of fifty, it has ravaged many small cities, towns, and rural areas, and has stymied economic recovery and destroyed millions of families. In other words, we've got a problem, America. This book does an outstanding job of investigating the beginnings of the epidemic, moving seamlessly between the area in Mexico where the black tar networks grew into thriving business here in the states, and the prescription drugs that aided the heroin addiction. Sam Quinones is a brilliant investigative reporter who keeps an objective voice throughout the book, while also showing his readers the devastation of these drugs. Few people in America today do not know of someone who has been touched by this epidemic; this is a powerful read that will give you much needed information because without knowledge, we cannot stop millions more from dying. Trust me, read this book.

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
You know how I'm always on the look-out for that next 'great' thriller, yet I seem to be persistently disappointed?  Well...BINGO, found it! The second book by Irish author Liz Nugent is a winner. The story begins with the beating of Alice, with her husband Oliver as the culprit, and then works backwards to yep, 'unravel' Oliver. Solid plot construction is typical for a thriller, but the grand surprise is the incredibly deep character development. The story unwinds through the eyes of many of the main, as well as peripheral, characters as these witnesses lay out the story of Oliver, slowing building the puzzle pieces together to form a composite picture of how this fifty-something year old man could have beaten his wife into a coma. Each voice is distinct and quite complex, bringing out their own flaws as well as the traits and behaviors that make up Oliver.  It is a twisty tale, dark and shocking in spots, that will keep you up reading late into the night. Highly recommend this one if a psychological thriller is your thing.

Wonder Woman War Bringer by Leigh Bardugo
Do NOT turn up your nose at the title, and think "Really...Wonder Woman?!" I am betting many of you religiously watched Lynda Carter as the title character back in the 70's, admiring that special plane and magic lasso! And quite honestly, if you like fantasy/mythology, and you are as big a fan of Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows, Shadow and Bone, etc.) as I am, hold on to your seat because this is another raucous ride.  The story begins on the island of the Amazons (of course), with teenaged Diana trying to prove herself to her mother, Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons and star of her own Greek myth.  Enter Alia, a girl from the real world who has some seriously bad in the blood of Helen of Troy, the war bringer. Anyone who inherits this blood line brings bickering, fights, chaos, and war to the world around them. As we watch Diana and Alia try to get to the springs in Greece that will wash away this doomed inheritance, the bad guys constantly surprise them with plot to murder Alia. I loved the bad-ass-ery of these women, the mental and physical toughness that bests the 'heroic' men of the day, the humor that Bardugo always is able to bring to her exciting tales, and the feeling of being on that roller coaster that you never want to end.  And if your teenager enjoyed the latest Wonder Woman movie, this is a great way to get a book under their nose:)

The Salt House by Lisa Duffy
Let me preface this review with the fact that this is not my preferred genre - family drama tinged with romance, but I have many friends who enjoy this genre and will definitely enjoy this book. The premise surrounds a married couple left with two daughters, age eight and sixteen, after suffering the tragic death of their baby the previous summer. The story uses different narrators that do a decent job of showing the experience of the loss through different perspectives: the husband, who focuses on his job as a Maine fisherman, working himself to death to ignore the pain; the mother, previously a writer who can no longer write a word and is paralyzed by the death of her daughter, unable to move on; the teenage daughter who is finding her first teenage love amidst the worry over her family; and the youngest daughter, who brings an immature voice yet sees through honest eyes.  At times, I wanted the author to grapple more deeply with real issues, such as the financial devastation, the pain of the two daughters and survivor guilt, the impact on the marriage. While Duffy touches on all of these things, I wanted her to go deeper and grittier, yet I think perhaps that's not the genre? At times it felt a bit saccharine for me, yet I was also intrigued by the story as I kept turning pages. The characters are well-developed, just a bit stereotypical for me at times. As this is Lisa Duffy's debut, I look forward to what she does the second time around, perhaps pushing the envelope a bit more.

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