The Book Jam Blog
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Hello everyone, we have returned from our annual "gone reading" break with new books to recommend. For today, we limit ourselves to three: one YA, one for kids, and one with adults in mind. And, we close with a wish for a very happy and safe Halloween.
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (2022). Ruta Sepetys never fails to introduce us to pieces of history we had not encountered before. Her latest novel continues this trend. This time, she tackles Romania in 1989. While communist regimes are crumbling in Europe, Nicolae Ceaușescu maintains a strong hold on life in Romania. Seventeen-year-old Cristian dreams of becoming a writer, and instead is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer in order to protect his family. Eventually, he risks everything - with encouragement from his grandfather - to unmask the truth and show the world what is happening in his country.
Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt (2021). Mr. Schmidt returns to some of his tried and true characters and settings in this outing. As the story begins, Meryl Lee is sent to a girls' boarding school in fall 1968 to help her process her grief from her best friend's death. Matt is on the run from a criminal gang and lands in the same town as the boarding school. Of course their paths cross, and of course they help each other; however that does not take away from the power of this story of friendship, loss, and hope. BookPage gave it a starred review and stated, "Set in 1968, Just Like That is part of an outstanding series that began with Newbery Honor recipient The Wednesday Wars, and continued in Okay for Now, a finalist for the National Book Award." Enjoy!
Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (2022). We recommend this new novel for people looking for a way to process the pandemic, and/or book clubs. We all experienced great trauma the past few years, and most of the books we've read so far might mention the pandemic, but do not make it a plot point. This book is the first we've read in which the pandemic and the characters' various reactions to the pandemic are the main point, basically driving the plot. In this novel, Lucy Barton from Elizabeth Strout's other books, moves from Manhattan to the coast of Maine with her scientist ex-husband who sees that the pandemic is something to be fled long before most people have even registered something life changing is coming for the world. The novel deals with the pain of isolation, being apart from loved ones, reckoning with past mistakes, the amazing possibilities forgiveness and love offer, and being newcomers in small towns - offering an opportunity to explore how differing social classes experienced covid-19. While this is probably not the greatest of Strout's works (the Kirkus review was not very kind), by the end, as the New York Times review stated, "Lucy’s done the hard work of transformation. May we do the same." The novel is short and reads very quickly. You will be reminded of aspects of the pandemic that you forgot; and, if you wish, offered an opportunity to process what happened to you as the world locked down.