Book Title and Author: Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger
General Thoughts: I read this book as preparation for watching the world premiere of the musical of the same name. I, unfortunately, didn’t get to watch the musical this book serves as the basis for, but I’m still glad I read it, because it was well worth it.
Last Days of Summer is told using an epistolary method. Similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the story is told through letters; however, letters are just one aspect of the storytelling. In addition to letters, there are newspaper clippings, interviews with a psychiatrist, postcards, and educational progress/report cards.
The story starts in pre-World War II Brooklyn and centers around a young Jewish boy, Joey Margolis, preparing for his bar mitzvah. He greatly admires New York Giants’ star third baseman Charlie Banks, and the two actually develop a friendship, helping each other with personal issues. Once the U.S. enters the war, even more problems emerge for Charlie, Joey, and their family and friends.
Despite a few moments of predictability, the story and its epistolary structure are refreshing and engaging. The characters are interesting, developed well, and work together nicely. The story itself is relatively simple but is still full of heartfelt emotions that make for a good story.
Book Title and Author: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
General Thoughts: TW: Rape/sexual assault
While this book dives right into the assault of Eden, the main character, the entire book takes place over the span of her entire high school career. It’s told in four parts ― one for each year of high school ― and details how her rape and keeping it a secret affects her personality and who she is as a person. Because of the heavy topic and how she deals with being assaulted, it can be difficult to read, especially with what’s been going on in the news this year. But at the same time, the reader is compelled to keep the pages turning to see if Eden will ever tell anyone what happened to her and if she can/will return to her true self. The writing really puts the reader in a survivor’s shoes, demonstrating what a tragic violation can do to someone, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Book Title and Author: Save the Date by Morgan Matson
General Thoughts: After reading two other books by Morgan Matson, I always find it interesting and intriguing that these are all set in the same town and the characters briefly interact. Matson’s latest book is about Charlie and the chaotic weekend of her sister’s wedding. Basically, everything goes wrong at this wedding, and Charlie volunteers to help fix whatever she can, which involves spending a lot of time with a young and not terribly unattractive wedding planner assistant. In the midst of this all is a story about a naive girl who comes from a big family who doesn’t realize she lives in a fantasy world where everything is Brady Bunch perfect. The wedding weekend where nothing goes as planned opens her eyes up to reality. I really liked the idea of the story and the overall message that not everything goes as planned but can still be good, but it was honestly rather ridiculous just how many things went wrong with the wedding.
Book Title and Author: Wildly Into the Dark by Tyler Knott Gregson
General Thoughts: I actually started reading this poetry book sometime last year but stopped after a bit to read some novels and didn’t get back to it until now. This collection of poetry has a nice variety of poems, from his short to medium length ones that could be seen on his Instagram to longer, more story-like ones, which I’d liked. The overall theme of this book was that not all poems and not everything in life is happy and what he calls “the light.” There are difficulties and dark times in life, and that’s totally okay. It’s okay to be sad. Sometimes we need to embrace “the dark” and just go for it, to not be scared of it.
Book Title and Author: The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
General Thoughts: So, I’ve spent the better part of this month re-reading an old favorite. The Twilight saga was a huge part of my teenage years, and it really shaped a lot of my interest in literature for the years to come. I cringe when I think back on the years I spent obsessed with the series, and I am now familiar with all of the critiques about why it isn’t a great piece of literature: it’s anti-feminist, poorly written, predictable, vain, etc. However, there is still something so comforting and familiar about the story, and I wanted to see if re-reading the series through an older, more critical lens (and after four years of analyzing literature in college) would change how I felt. In the end, I can say that I am still immensely fond of the books and the characters themselves, despite some of the glaringly disturbing moments. All that to say, I still find it to be engaging, unique (especially for its time), and empowering in a lot of ways. The plot itself, while widely known and re-imagined, is thought-provoking and compelling. Despite it being a classic love tale, the plot is female-driven and centers on a woman’s ability to choose ― choose who she falls in love with, choose the path her life will take, and put her own sexuality on the forefront. Whether or not it’s Pulitzer worthy, the series certainly did not fail to draw in millions of readers ― myself included ― to become one of the biggest pop culture books of our time. That reason alone makes it worthy of a read.