Too Intense for Middle School?

I just spoke to a young lady who said she wanted to read more books like A. S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. She a middle school student, a TA at her school’s library, she explained, and a parent had complained that Glory O’Brien was too intense for middle school, so the school librarian had asked her to read it (an excellent librarian gambit that was used on me as a youth). She agreed that it was too intense for middle school (to give you an idea, Rick Yancey’s review in the New York Times says “That’s one of the novel’s major themes, the meaning of existence. So are suicide, male chauvinism, consumerism, parasitism, identity, war, betrayal, friendship, depression, codependency, and probably a few others that flew beneath this reader’s radar in his mad dash to reach the end.”), but she loved it and wanted more. I gave her King’s I Crawl Through It, plus Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle (I explained: “It’s a guy book, but great.”) and Smith’s The Alex Crow. “They’re mind blowers, for sure,” I assured her, “and if you don’t like ’em, put them aside for a few years and try again.”

This is why you need all sorts of books at the public library: because there are definitely kids who are too intense for middle school, and they need a place to find books, too.

Drinking Like Cats and Dogs

Ohio Is for Sale by Jon Allen
Alternative Comics, 2016
9781934460825

Quick pitch: Slackers in a suburban wasteland hang out and have weird adventures.

ohio-is-for-saleThree guys (drawn as cats and dogs) live together in a house, its yard filled with old tires and cinderblocks, and have short-story length adventures. After hanging out at 7-Eleven, one accidentally sets his ride’s car on fire. When he gets a job typing numbers while sitting in an electroshock chair to pay for the car, a horrible coworker gets him fired for stealing a candy bar. Another of the guys is accidentally killed while breaking windows at an abandoned building but finds his way out of hell (after the devil puts the moves on him) along with a crowd of demons. I really liked these stories!

Pair with: Clerks, Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan, jPod by Douglas Coupland, the music of The Dead Milkmen, and beer.

The best kind of creep

The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman
Scribner, 2011
9781439184462

visiblemanAustin therapist Victoria Vick gets a strange new client, Y_____, who initially is only willing to speak to her over the phone, though he eventually comes to her office. He can make himself invisible thanks to military technology stolen from a former workplace. His odd demands increase and his stories become more and more disturbing.  He uses this ability to spy on strangers in their homes. And he thinks he can find out some vitally important information about humanity by seeing how people act when they think they are alone.  But he often intervenes, unseen, in destructive ways.

Y____’s voice perfectly captures the sort of creepy narcissistic mansplainer that you suspect could quickly escalate to dangerous behavior. (Ladies, I’m betting you know what I’m talking about.) Klosterman includes pop culture and music in his descriptions in a way that’s really satisfying rather than annoying and dated: Y_____ misremembers singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston’s name at a critical part of one of his stories and is corrected in his therapist’s notes, though she doesn’t dare correct him in person.

It feels strange to write, “Read this book! It’s unsettling in a very well-crafted and realistic way!” but here I am, telling you just that. And I want to add that I loved the mashup of literary fiction and superpowers in the same way I like really well done character exploration in superhero books. (For more literary superpowers check out Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff, Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales)

Book Threat is coming

Hey library people and book nerds!

Gene Ambaum and Sarah Hunt will start posting book reviews and other fun stuff in mid November, 2016.

Reviews will focus on graphic novels, YA fiction and nonfiction, science books for readers of all ages, and quirky books that will make great booktalks.

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