From the Shelf
Idyllic Summer Reading
When I was a child, I loved nothing more than taking a quilt out on the grass and plopping down with a stack of bookmobile books. I remember it as idyllic--and isn't that what we want with summer reading?
Perfectly idyllic is Get a Life, Chloe Brown (Avon, $15.99), Talia Hibbert's U.S. debut (followed by Take a Hint, Dani Brown, out today). After narrowly avoiding death by car, Chloe, a British woman of color with fibromyalgia, decides she wants more out of life. She definitely gets it, with an artist struggling with his own deep wounds. It's a sweet, witty (and sexy) story.
Lisa Alther's seventh novel, Swan Song: An Odyssey (Knopf, $26.95), features a late-in-life physician who boards a cruise ship as its doctor, hoping to assuage the pain of her partner's death. Our reviewer wrote that it's a wistful but resolutely unsentimental novel, "accommodating not only romantic entanglements but various characters' agonized introspection, a shipboard mystery, and sightseeing along the Mediterranean."
Cool off with Scandinavian Noir: In Pursuit of a Mystery (FSG, $27). As a critic, Wendy Lesser, a longtime fan of mysteries set in the Far North, here delves into the Scandinavian noir genre. As a tourist, after creating a world in her mind, she experiences the countries first-hand, comparing what she sees with the fictional realm of her imaginings.
Eerily prescient, The Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton (Grand Central, $27), follows S.T., an opinionated, profane crow, as a mysterious contagion turns the people of Seattle, and possibly the world, into zombie-like creatures. S.T. sets out with Dennis, a slightly dopey bloodhound, on a quest to free pets trapped in their homes, and to find some not-zombie humans. Buxton's novel is both a serious environmental parable and a very funny book--close to the bone can still provoke laughs. --Marilyn Dahl
In this Issue...
by Yu Miri
In this ethereal novel, a man whose life was filled with heartbreak finds no comfort in death as a ghost.
by Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti's sinister YA thriller, Girl Unframed, is an incisive vindication of women's constant battle with the male gaze.
by Wes Moore , Erica L. Green
Wes Moore provides a powerful chronicle of Baltimore's explosive reaction to Freddie Gray's death in April 2015.
Review by Subjects:
Films as Vintage Book Covers
Illustrator Matt Stevens "envisions some of my favorite films as vintage book covers."
"The Boston Public Library needs help transcribing anti-slavery letters," Mental Floss reported.
"For sale: miniature replica of a mid-century NYC rare bookseller's gallery." (via Fine Books & Collections)
Isaac Newton's scribbled notes about the Bubonic Plague sold for $81,000, Atlas Obscura reported.
The National Library of Israel is digitizing more than 2,500 rare manuscripts and books from the Islamic world covering a period of more than 1,000 years, the Guardian reported.
Julie Clark: Writing What She Teaches
|(Eric A. Reid Photography)|
Julie Clark teaches school and lives in Santa Monica, Calif., with her two young sons and a goldendoodle. Her debut novel, The Ones We Choose, was optioned for television by Lionsgate. Clark's second novel, The Last Flight (available now from Sourcebooks), is about two strangers who impulsively swap identities at an airport when they realize they both need to disappear from their lives for different reasons.
When explaining why she needs to vanish instead of publicly accusing her seemingly charming philanthropic husband of abuse, Claire asks whether anyone would've believed Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy if she'd claimed John F. Kennedy Jr. was violent. Do you think people would believe her now, in the #MeToo era?
The #MeToo movement has allowed more women to come forward with their stories, which is great, but there are still too many people who question a woman's motives when calling out a powerful man's abuse. I think women have to work harder, be louder and have more evidence than might be expected of a man. And even when they do, justice isn't always served.
Claire is reluctant to come forward not just because she isn't sure people would want to believe the worst of her husband, but also because she knows speaking out would take a very personal and traumatic experience and push it into the public realm. It would be talked about on news shows, social media, and appropriated in a way that can often re-traumatize a victim over and over again.
The book isn't only a thriller; it's also an exploration of identity, love and loneliness. Claire and Eva are strangers, but they also know something about the other that no one else does, which makes them confidantes, in a way.
One of the most satisfying parts of writing this book was playing around with the many ways Eva and Claire share a space in the world. They're in only one scene together, yet they are irrevocably connected. That Claire can have such an unvarnished and intimate understanding of who Eva is makes the two intertwined in a way that feels intensely personal. I love writing the shift characters make from judgment to understanding, because it forces us to challenge the assumptions we make about the people in our lives.
Whose POV was easier to write?
They were both challenging in their own ways. For Eva, much of the book is written in the past, as we grow to understand how she got to this place in her life where she needs to disappear. I was able to explore backstory and really flesh it out, but you risk slowing the story down. So the trick with Eva was to weave all of that emotion into a story that pushes the reader forward, as they try to figure out who Eva is and how her story dovetails with Claire's.
Claire was easier to write because the stakes for her are automatically high. The tension of what she's stepping into without having a full understanding of Eva's world creates a forward momentum almost on its own.
What's the most impulsive favor you've ever done for a stranger?
Probably paying for their groceries, but that's pretty tame. Which is why the scene with Claire and Eva at the airport where they decide to trade tickets felt so compelling to me. It brought up all kinds of questions: If I were running for my life, what kind of risks would I take? And the bigger one: Who would I trust?
Originally I wrote it from Claire's POV, but I couldn't make it land the way I wanted it to, mostly because she was coming from a place of utter panic, and it was really hard to get her to calm down enough to come up with something so calculating. By writing the scene from Eva's perspective, we see Claire through her eyes, and how Claire believes the idea to switch tickets is hers but also knows it's really Eva who's driving that conversation.
How much research did you do for this book? Enough to drop off the grid if you wanted to?
The research I did was not only centered on how to disappear, but also how to successfully make and sell drugs. I have a childhood friend who used to work for the FBI, and my texts to him could be concerning if taken out of context.
They included how one might obtain a high-quality fake identity, including all necessary documents (his answer: the Russian mafia is the only game in town), how to accurately describe how someone might make methamphetamines (answer: they are highly explosive and smell bad), and how drug investigations work (answer: they are long, expensive and require a lot of manpower).
I didn't go so far as to actually try to meet with anyone affiliated with the Russian mafia or a drug dealer/maker, but if you have friends in the right places, you can get a lot of information without ever having to change out of your pajamas.
How did writing your second novel compare to writing your first?
Like with my debut, I knew almost from the beginning how The Last Flight was going to end. Revision was a process of figuring out Oh, hey, this is a thriller and learning how to write one. Then learning how to blend two separate narratives and balance dual timelines.
Once I understood how the plots worked--how they switched, where they each went--I began weaving in the themes I wanted to highlight: misogyny, the power differential between men and women, emotional and physical abuse and the toll it can take on a person, and the price it sometimes exacts when someone decides to come forward.
I also wanted to make sure my characters didn't fall into the familiar trope of the unreliable female narrator. I teach young girls, and middle grade and young adult fiction are filled with amazing female role models. But when we move up to the adult category, the women in many thrillers suddenly become crazy, love-starved, unbalanced or unreliable.
So one of my primary goals with The Last Flight was to make sure I wrote two characters who are strong, smart and courageous, because someday my students will grow up and might read my books. I want to make sure they see me putting on the page what I'm telling them every day: You are capable. You matter. You can do anything you set your mind to. And don't let anyone make you feel as if you need to take up less space.
What are you working on now?
It's very early days, but the book I'm working on is about a writer whose father was a famous literary icon who only wrote one book, and the secret about him she's been guarding since she was 14. It's both a domestic suspense and a family drama about the dark places that live inside some families, how far we're willing to go to protect the ones we love, and how, even after the main players are gone, their secrets can live on and bleed down into the generations that follow. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis
Tokyo Ueno Station
by Yu Miri , trans. by Morgan Giles
Tokyo Ueno Station, Yu Miri's second novel translated into English (after Gold Rush), possesses a strange beauty that is both lyrical and stark. In it, a misfortunate ghost revisits his life as he is confined in the afterlife to one of Tokyo's busiest train stations.
Born in rural Fukushima prefecture, Kazu shared two remarkable coincidences with Japan's Imperial family: he was born the same day as Emperor Akihito, and both their sons were born on the same day. Rather than being auspicious, it only highlights how different their lives are. Unable to find work near his family, Kazu takes jobs wherever he can, including grueling work preparing for the 1964 Olympics. Then tragedy strikes--Kazu's son dies at 21. Devastated by the loss of the son he barely knew and haunted by his mother's words--"You never did have any luck, did you?"--an adrift Kazu ends up homeless in Ueno Station, along with others who were casualties of a faltering economy during Japan's Lost Decade.
How Kazu became a ghost--is it punishment for his life or his death?--is the mystery at the heart of the novel. Kazu spends his days listening to dull conversations of passers-by and being captive to the choices he made in life. "It was nothing as sweet as nostalgia or a longing for bygone days," he says to himself, "just a constant absence from the present, an anger toward the future."
The novel succeeds as both the story of a life of an ordinary man and an indictment of a prosperous nation struggling with its past and present. Brief but affecting, Tokyo Ueno Station will linger with the reader like a ghost. --Frank Brasile, librarian
Discover: In this ethereal novel, a man whose life was filled with heartbreak finds no comfort in death as a ghost.
What's Left of Me Is Yours
by Stephanie Scott
Based on a 2010 trial in Tokyo, British and Singaporean author Stephanie Scott's quietly passionate debut crime novel, What's Left of Me Is Yours, examines a fatal affair between a married woman and the man hired by her husband to seduce her.
Twenty years after her mother's death, Japanese law school grad Sumiko Sarashima finds out her grandfather Yoshi "told me every story but my own." Yoshi maintained that her mother, Rina, died in a car crash when Sumiko was seven. A chance phone call from the Ministry of Justice leads Sumiko to the real story: that a professional break-up agent, Kaitarō Nakamura, approached Rina in order to obtain compromising photos so Sumiko's father could divorce her. Instead, Kaitarō and Rina fell in love. Then he killed her just as they began their new life together, a life Sumiko would have shared.
Excavating the past through recorded interviews and trial documents, Sumiko begins to unravel what roles her father, her grandfather and the Japanese legal system played in Rina's death. She also questions whether she should sign a contract with a corporate law firm, as Yoshi prefers, or find her own path.
Scott's sumptuous descriptions of locations and meals beguile, and her take on the tabloid-inspired story is subtle, tender and humane. What's Left of Me Is Yours is a delicate dissection of deception's impact on relationships, and it provides a window into the Japanese legal system's effect on women. Kaitarō and Rina share such a deep connection that violence between them seems impossible. Readers will find much to contemplate in this tragedy. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Discover: In this crime story based on true events, a man falls in love with a woman whose husband hired him to seduce her, with disastrous results.
by Roddy Doyle
Davy and Joe, former Dublin drinking buddies, meet after many years for a night of reminiscing. While overturning memories, Joe points out, "It becomes harder to separate wha' happened from wha' might've happened an' wha' didn't happen but kind o' seemed to." In Love, by Roddy Doyle, the vagaries of memory form an exhilarating story about "feelings here, not facts. Feelings. The feel of the thing."
Davy, who now lives in England, is in Dublin due to his father's failing health. He's dumbfounded when Joe tells him he's left his wife for a woman he was infatuated with 40 years earlier, and with whom he reconnected, unbelievably, at a parent-teacher meeting. "You kissed the love of your life while Trish was in the building?" Davy asks incredulously. "Big building... in fairness," says Joe. The remainder of the night is spent in increasingly drunken conversation between the two men, paired with their own internal monologues, exposing deeply personal feelings they never would admit to if sober. "There is a reason why men don't talk about their feelings. It's not just that it's difficult, or embarrassing. It's almost impossible. The words aren't really there," Davy thinks. As the night wears on, reality becomes indistinguishable from memories. "Things you make up bleed into things tha' definitely happened," Joe says. With a deep understanding of the hopes and regrets of working-class men, along with savage comic timing, Doyle (The Guts; The Commitments) once again evokes archetypal Dublin life to illuminate the human experience. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: In Roddy Doyle's tragicomic novel, two old drinking buddies meet in a Dublin pub and reminisce about their lives, hopes and regrets.
Mystery & Thriller
Nothing Can Hurt You
by Nicola Maye Goldberg
A haunting collection of voices touched by the murder of a young college student make up the mesmerizing kaleidoscope of Nicola Maye Goldberg's astounding Nothing Can Hurt You. Goldberg begins with the discovery of Sara Morgan's body in 1997 New York by a woman recently relocated upstate to escape increasingly disturbing mental episodes. Readers are drawn into her traumas, but Goldberg has numerous other perspectives to reveal.
Sara's boyfriend, Blake Campbell, immediately confessed to the crime. He contended he loved Sara and didn't want to kill her, but had a psychotic episode while on acid. His acquittal by reason of temporary insanity ripples through the community and the families changed by the tragedy. Goldberg (Other Women; The Doll Factory) furnishes a stage to many of them, intertwining their stories in an intricate and captivating fashion. Katherine, in a recovery center with Blake, falls in love with him, perhaps even more so when she discovers he's a murderer; Tracy is Blake's prosecutor, whose life is overwhelmed by her sister's rape trauma; a teen girl Sara babysat begins corresponding with Blake in jail; and Sara's half-sister poses as a babysitter to insert herself into Blake's new life.
Based on a true story, Nothing Can Hurt You examines the way people hurt and are hurt by those they love, how trauma and violence change and sometimes attract us, even to those who are statistically most likely to murder us. Each voice is distinct and alluring, punching through the boundaries of good and bad in an unjust world. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: The thoughts and actions of those connected to a murdered college student and the boyfriend who killed her are mined to extraordinary effect.
The Falling Woman
by Richard Farrell
A cross-country flight crashes and appears to kill everyone on board, but rumors of a sole survivor hit the news in Richard Farrell's mind-rattling debut mystery, The Falling Woman.
Erin Geraghty, a mother and high-powered lawyer, has received test results giving her only six months to live. Fed up with chemo treatments and pitiful looks from her family, she boards Pointer Airlines Flight 795 to attend a healing retreat. The plane explodes in midair.
On his first day as a lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, Charlie Radford is assigned to unravel what happened to Flight 795 and identify the gruesome remains of 123 passengers scattered over a five-mile radius. His team scoffs at rumors of a lone survivor, but journalists pounce on the idea of a possible miracle. Television and newspaper headlines claim a woman walked away uninjured and that the NTSB isn't telling families the whole truth. Passengers' loved ones force politicians to demand answers. Charlie's higher-ups give him an ultimatum: find the woman who fell from the sky or become the fall guy.
Page after page, Farrell builds confusion and frustration into an incendiary debate between belief in the miraculous and the basic laws of physics. Young, hapless Charlie flails, searching for a survivor science says cannot possibly exist. He knows how to find missing pieces of a person but not a whole missing person, especially one who doesn't want to be found. When he finally discovers the truth, what Charlie does with it will make for an explosive discussion long after the final chapter. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer
Discover: In this frantic thriller, a young NTSB crash site investigator must choose between losing his job or telling the truth of what happened to the only survivor of a plane crash.
by Ragnar Jónasson
Icelandic crime fiction writer Ragnar Jónasson is both a vocal fan and a translator of Agatha Christie. With The Mist, the final book in his Hulda trilogy, he earns a comparison to a radically different but equally masterly thriller writer: Stephen King at his chilling best.
It's February 1988, and Detective Hulda Hermannsdóttir of the Reykjavík CID has recently returned from a leave precipitated by a personal tragedy; what happened is one of three mysteries that unravel throughout the novel. At work, Hulda is spinning her wheels on a case--it concerns a young woman's unaccountable disappearance the previous autumn--when her boss sends her to the eastern part of the country to investigate a suspected murder at a farmhouse. Much of The Mist is told from the perspective of Erla, who lives at the farmhouse with her husband and whose account of a stranger's visit begins two months before Hulda arrives at the crime scene.
The Mist's slow-boil suspense and isolated snow-blighted setting can't help but conjure King's The Shining, but Jónasson's meticulous plotting bears the mark of a Christie scholar. Although readers will likely take issue with Hulda's passivity with one aspect of her personal life, they'll stay in her corner. In The Mist and its predecessors, The Darkness and The Island, Hulda understands that she's working at a boys' club and that criminals aren't her only adversaries: "She felt it so keenly, so repeatedly, the sense that some of her colleagues longed for her to make a mistake." --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer
Discover: In the final book in the adroitly crafted Hulda trilogy, the Reykjavík detective is given the assignment of solving two mysteries while recovering from a personal tragedy.
Party of Two
by Jasmine Guillory
Jasmine Guillory (The Proposal, The Wedding Party) captures that perfect romantic comedy vibe in Party of Two, the fifth in a series that began with The Wedding Date. Olivia Monroe, a successful lawyer who has recently relocated from New York City to Los Angeles, assumes that the cute, vaguely familiar man she meets in a hotel bar must be a minor actor of some sort. They have a nice, flirty evening, then Olivia goes her own way--only to realize later that the attractive man was Max Powell, California's newest U.S. senator.
Olivia has no interest in dating a privileged white man, especially one in politics, where she, a curvy black woman, could be a liability. But Max is charming, funny and remarkably down-to-earth. Also, after they reconnect, he sweetly sends a chocolate cake to her law office, which is a gesture Olivia can't resist. As their connection develops, Olivia is forced to admit she has feelings for Max. But whether she can handle the publicity that follows after making those feelings public is a completely different matter.
With her trademark wit, Guillory has created another strong, smart woman whose struggle to balance her personal life with her potential public image is immensely sympathetic. Max and Olivia's relationship is sweet and real, but so are the problems they face. Guillory's nuanced exploration of their biracial relationship is excellent, as are her lyrical descriptions of the various desserts eaten. Fans of Julie James or Alyssa Cole are sure to enjoy Party of Two. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: In this charming romantic comedy, a black woman faces public drama when she starts dating a white U.S. senator.
Biography & Memoir
Empty: A Memoir
by Susan Burton
"If you wait until you understand everything, you never say anything at all," Susan Burton reminds herself near the end of Empty, capturing the idea that makes her probing and forthright memoir about her adolescent struggle with eating disorders so remarkable.
An editor at This American Life, Burton traces how her need to control her body by not eating, and later by eating, consumed her adolescence. At nine, she went on her first diet, experiencing "the power of renunciation." At 15, her "preoccupation with thinness became a pathology" as she sought both physical and emotional results--to feel "light, relieved, unburdened." While she recognized this as anorexia, her subsequent struggle with binge eating, which began in high school and continued into college, lacked medical recognition--a name or pathology--at the time (the '80s and '90s).
Aside from ordinary disruptions such as her parents' divorce and an ensuing move, Burton contrasts an outwardly normal, even enviable, life with private torment. Always popular, athletic and successful in school, she recalls in striking detail the self-deprivation, binging and emotional turmoil that affected everything--her thinking, actions and relationships.
Burton states near the end, "This isn't a message book," and that feels true in that she doesn't extrapolate an all-encompassing truth about eating disorders or recovery from her experience. However, Empty is not without more organic lessons, a resounding one being that it's not necessary to be on the other side of adversity, fully recovered, to talk about it in a meaningful and absolutely worthwhile way. --Sylvia Al-Mateen, freelance reviewer and editor
Discover: An editor at This American Life frankly recounts her teenage and young adult struggle with eating disorders.
Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation
by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
Jesus and John Wayne, Kristin Kobes Du Mez's urgent, sharp-elbowed survey of the last half-century of white American evangelicalism, offers a persuasive answer to this familiar question: How could evangelical leaders who thundered against the personal immorality of Bill Clinton in the 1990s ("Character DOES matter," insisted Focus on the Family's James Dobson) embrace the candidacy of Donald Trump two decades later? (Dobson on Trump: "Cut him some slack.")
Drawing on marital guides, purity texts and the popular, non-doctrinal literature for sale in thousands of Christian bookstores in the U.S., Du Mez (A New Gospel for Women), a historian of gender and faith, demonstrates how the evangelical movement has, since the Vietnam era, valorized an image of pugnacious masculinity at odds with traditional depictions of a cheek-turning Christ. Du Mez illuminates, through the words of leaders like Dobson, Tim LaHaye, Mark Driscoll and Jerry Falwell, the movement's aggrieved search for models of manliness in an America that Driscoll would call "pussified." Besides examining how the evangelical ideal of masculinity shifted from John Wayne to Mel Gibson to Duck Dynasty to Trump, Jesus and John Wayne charts the rise of what one could call a Christian Culture Industrial Complex, an empire of publishers, preachers and mailing-list polemicists furious at feminists and threats to "family values." Those same outrages would later power the nominally secular broadcasts of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. The book's subtitle, How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, suggests an excoriating approach, but Du Mez sticks close to the texts and the history, pinning down the evolution of attitudes rather than arguing with them. --Alan Scherstuhl, freelance writer and editor
Discover: A religious historian methodically examines how evangelical Christianity came to embrace an image of pugnacious masculinity.
Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City
by Wes Moore , Erica L. Green
Police violence against black men is a longstanding reality in the U.S. Most recently, the murder of George Floyd sparked protests around the country, echoing the anger in Baltimore after Freddie Gray's death at the hands of officers in April 2015. During the week after Gray's murder, citizens agitated for change while civic and political leaders debated how to respond, and Gray's family and friends mourned his loss. In Five Days, his fifth nonfiction book, Baltimore native Wes Moore tells the stories of seven people who each played a key role in the week's events.
Moore (The Other Wes Moore) taps into the long-simmering rage and frustration fueled by racial inequality in his city. He highlights a broad range of Baltimoreans, such as black police captain Marc Partee, called to respond to the uprisings; Tawanda Jones, who had been protesting the death of her brother for two years when Gray was killed; Jenny Egan, a young white public defender; and John Angelos, whose family owns the Baltimore Orioles. Through these disparate life stories and experiences, Moore unfolds the deep history of segregation in Baltimore and the choices made by people in power to maintain the status quo. He asks difficult and damning questions about why and how the city has failed to serve its underprivileged youth. Paced like a TV documentary, with the camera cutting to different characters at key moments in the action, Five Days is essential reading for anyone looking to understand the systemic racism being exposed in America's cities, and the change the country desperately needs. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
Discover: Wes Moore provides a powerful chronicle of Baltimore's explosive reaction to Freddie Gray's death in April 2015.
Children's & Young Adult
by Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti's Girl, Unframed is a revelatory condemnation of the objectification of women. Sydney Reilly's starlet mother, Lila Shore, rose to fame years ago because of her role as a Sharon Stone-style femme fatale. Fifteen-year-old Sydney leaves her blissfully normal life at boarding school to spend the summer in San Francisco with her mother and her mother's new tough-guy boyfriend, Jake. After only a few days with the toxic couple, Sydney begins to see the cracks in their glitzy life: her mother's bruises and black eyes, out-of-control finances, shady dealings and priceless art masterpieces suspiciously hidden in their home. The only thing that gives her comfort is Jake's lovable dog and her whirlwind romance with sweet, irresistible Nicco.
Caletti (A Heart in a Body in the World) captures the insidious and ever-present sexualization and exploitation of women with penetrating prose: "My body was a billboard to remark on. My body was someone else's entertainment, a story that had nothing to do with me at all." Raised by women who wielded their beauty for power, Sydney is by turns disgusted, scared and pleased by the effect her body has on the men she encounters. Many readers will recognize the shame and rage the protagonist feels when a flasher exposes himself or she's catcalled by a construction worker. Caletti deftly weaves the Madonna-Whore dichotomy trope through every scene. There is a constant feeling of danger that plagues Sydney as she narrates this tale to an unknown listener, like a confession or testimony. As the plot ratchets up, it becomes clear that a treacherous conclusion awaits. --Shelley Diaz, supervising librarian, BookOps: New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library
Discover: Deb Caletti's sinister YA thriller, Girl Unframed, is an incisive vindication of women's constant battle with the male gaze.
I'll Be the One
by Lyla Lee
Helmed by director Nahnatchka Khan (Netflix's Always Be My Maybe), an HBO Max adaptation of Lyla Lee's I'll Be the One was announced six months prior to the book's publication date. Before Hollywood hijacks your imagination, though, get to know Skye off-screen in this delectable YA debut.
Korean American Shin Haneul--aka Skye Shin ("haneul" means 'sky' in Korean)--is a 16-year-old powerhouse dancer and singer, primed to make her dreams come true on You're My Shining Star, LA's newest K-pop "competition survival show." Though her mother insists "fat girls can't dance," she does begrudgingly admit Skye could be the Korean Adele. For Skye, fat is "just an adjective to describe our bodies." After years of being shamed, Skye knows she's "going to make the entire world see that [she's] beautiful and powerful just the way [she is]."
Skye may be ready to be her "own hero," but the haters are relentless. After she makes the cut for both dancing and singing, one of Star's judges invents rules to derail Skye's successes. Other contestants repeatedly disrespect her. But international celebrity model Henry Cho, who hopes the competition might be an antidote for stage fright, could be Skye's most devoted fan.
Lee, creator of the Mindy Kim chapter book series (the tween gets a lively cameo here), effortlessly ages up, confronting standards of beauty, the challenges of relentless social media, homophobia, racism, culture clashes and multigenerational divides. Issues are plenty, but Lee never loses sight of the "entertainment" requirement of the entertainment industry, ensuring plenty of gleeful cheer for audiences throughout. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Lyla Lee's YA debut features Skye Shin, a Korean American performing powerhouse poised to claim the stage and be her own hero.