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First: We can't blame this merely on tradition. The books on this short list are all (relatively) new, not hoary old classics.

Here's the list:

     Acceleration by Graham Mcnamee: This one seems the most promising of the group, and is the one Chris selected. Quick summary: Duncan (main character) failed to save a drowning girl when he was sixteen (one year ago). Working his summer job, he comes across the diary of a person who's showing all the signs of becoming a serial killer; the police pay no attention and so he and his friends try to track and trap the writer of the diary.
   This isn't so bad in overview, and has potential to be a decent read; I am however suspicious of it on general principles, given experience with the prior years' reading list. There are So Many Ways a plot like this could go terribly bad in the end.

     Crackback by John Coy: Easily described -- High-school football star finds out other people on the team, including friends, are using steroids. Has to decide what to do about it.
     Really, do we need to fill their summer reading with "choose to do drugs or lose your friends?"

     Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata: Cheerful happy younger sister makes everything seem kira-kira (sparkling). Then they move from an accepting Japanese community to the deep South, Georgia, and then younger sister gets terribly ill.
     Maybe the younger sister lives? I suppose she MIGHT. But this is a Newbery book, and I would find it very surprising if they allow sister to survive.

     My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult: Oooh, this one looks great. Main character was conceived as a bone-marrow match for her sister, and has spent her life being used as a source of marrow for her older sister. Then she rebels as a teenager and naturally we know what she does to prove her rebellion. Again, MAYBE things end well, but I'm not seeing the likelihood here. If older sis hasn't gone into remission in (minimum) thirteen years, what's the likelihood she'll do so NOW? Either way things suck -- either older sister dies, freeing main character from the need to be a living marrow culture, but socking her with eternal guilt, or main character has to make terribly sucky choice.

     Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult: Little town suddenly shattered by an act of violence (I'm guessing something like a school shooting, given the timeframe of nineteen minutes and the age of the main witness). Main character could be the best witness but doesn't really remember what she saw. The trial then begins to fracture all the lines of unity in the community, separating friends, families, and the young and old.
     Ms. Picoult gets a double-header in this list, and given there's only six books I think that's rather unfair. Surely there's some other author writing nice ambiguous or even depressing fiction who deserved a shot here.
 

     The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom: Wounded war veteran has job fixing rides at an amusement park; gets himself killed as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart, and arrives in the afterlife, to find that heaven is where you have your life explained to you by five people.
     I bet this one's supposed to be "uplifting" by showing that even an apparently meaningless life is meaningful and full of special things, but I'm not sure you need to demonstrate this by first killing your protagonist (and given the phrasing, possibly killing him trying to do something and failing).


I'll say that this is a somewhat less completely DOOOMy list than the one from last year, and at least one appears to be maybe possibly halfway decent, depending. Still, I'd rather be seeing lists of books that would make me LOOK FORWARD to my summer reading.

July 2017

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