Hi again, friends! Welcome to day 2 of my summer reading wrap up! You can read about the books I finished in June here; in the meantime, let’s get to my best reading month this summer! I read 9 books in July and loved the majority of them!
The SHINee MV mood for this month is “View”. It’s so incredibly July — laughter and freedom and the warped sun from the bottom of the pool. It’s also the only summer song I’ll ever acknowledge, thanks
The first book I read in July is the beautiful graphic novel Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemart Valero-O’Connell. This follows Freddy, who keeps getting dumped by her sometimes-girlfriend, the incredibly popular Laura Dean. She wants so badly for Laura Dean to pay attention to only her, but no matter how many times she’s left behind, she can’t seem to stop going back.
Wow. This book was stunning. The entire graphic novel is drawn in pinks and blacks, and some spreads knocked the breath out of me. Even more than that, though, was the story of a girl learning to find her self worth over time. Maybe I’m getting a little personal here, but my first relationship… was eerily similar to this. My ex would constantly flirt with other girls, then IM me (remember AIM??? oh my god) asking why I was so upset or sulky and that it wasn’t a big deal. For years, even after we broke up, it was a push and pull with her, a guessing game of what I did wrong or right. I wish so badly that I had this book when I was 14. I often see depictions of these hurtful and manipulative relationships with m/f relationships, but so rarely with f/f. It would have been nice to see a character that was going through something I was and understanding that it just wasn’t okay. I deserved better. Freddy does, too.
The second book I read was Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. This book is sort of a current darling on booktube. The story follows a girl trying to get through university admissions while listening to her favorite podcast, Universe City, and… that’s all I can really say. I guess it’s better to go in just knowing that, but there’s not a whole lot more to add after that. Really, the book is about relationships with other people and how we see ourselves and grow because of these relationships. It also tackles the pressure we put on ourselves at school as a result of a system currently in place that forced us to view ourselves according to numbers. I especially loved how there is no romance in this book, at least for the main character. It was nice to see her navigate this time in her life with friends and learning how to communicate better. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book was the depiction of internet fandom culture. It’s so spot on. The way fans feel like they need to dig into somebody’s life just because they’ve been shown a sliver of it, the fact that nobody takes privacy into consideration anymore because of how open we’re used to being online, and how important Frances considers anonymity were things that really spoke to me, because I’ve been thinking a lot about how things are changing and how we need to change to adapt to them better.
I adore Alice Oseman’s series Heartstopper, so I was really expecting to love this one too and be blown away like the rest of the bookish internet… but I didn’t. The writing is what really took me out of this, but especially the dialogue. It was very casual, which I usually adore, but this was a sort of casual that just didn’t click with me. Every time there was a pause or even a filler word, it was included. I know that filler words can help you understand that a character was nervous or not feeling confident, but having to read it every time really started to get to me. I wished that there was more description of body language or anything else that could clue you in on how a character is feeling rather than reading “erm… right then… okay…” so many times. Maybe the character shuffled their feet? Maybe they couldn’t like someone in the eye? The point is, there was so much that I didn’t feel needed to be included and it really took me out of the story often. In the end, I liked the book, but it just didn’t live up to the mind-blowing expectation I’d set up for myself.
THIS BOOK. The third book I read was Wicked Fox by Kat Cho and I don’t think I’m going to write about it here. This post would be thirty-thousand pages long if I did! But also, I already wrote a full review on this book here, which includes my fancast for it and a link to my reading vlog that was Korean drama-themed!
After Wicked Fox, I started to go into a really good reading streak! The fourth book I read was Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I’m still not over this book!!! I have to admit, I was skeptical about this book because of the hype surrounding it. I went to the launch party and heard Casey speak about the book and her writing process, and it made me want to give it a shot! I’d already heard tons of great things about it from, oh, everyone — but the thing that had intrigued me the most was hearing that it nailed millennial humor. And you know what? It was so true!!!
40 pages into the book and I’d already laughed out loud more times than I’d ever laughed out loud reading a book. I was hooked before I even knew it. I was sending my favorite lines to my friends. I was recommending it to people before I’d even made it halfway through. I will admit, the talks about politics sometimes made me feel a little bored, just because it’s not really my thing. But it was never enough to make me put the book down or even want to. I fell in love with the characters so quickly, especially Henry. He’s so soft and sweet and good! And I have a definite soft spot for Alex because he reminds me of my best friend tremendously.
But most of all, this book left me with hope. It was so refreshing to live in a world where the 2016 election didn’t unfold… like that. The world can be so cruel and ugly and overwhelming, and reading this was a wonderful and much-needed break from that. I cried for like, 20 minutes after I finished reading because everything just felt SO GOOD!!!
At this point in the month, The Reading Rush kicked off! I started it with my fifth book of the month, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Why did I go so long without reading this book!? I’m sure most of you, if not all, are familiar with the Studio Ghibli adaptation (because Howl is just 😍). I knew that it would be different from that version, but I wasn’t prepared for exactly how much!
The book follows Sophie, the oldest of her sisters, who works in a hat shop and is one day turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. She seeks out the help of Wizard Howl, who is feared throughout the lands for eating the hearts of beautiful young girls.
Setting the movie aside for a moment, these two are so funny! They fall into a comfortable banter after a while, with Howl grumbling that Sophie meddles too much during her cleaning, and Sophie complaining about Howl’s selfish ways. You know just what to expect from the both of them, and it never disappoints! I think a lot of the drama that you hear Howl has in the movie is present much more clearly in the book. You can see more of his childish tendencies and inability to face the bad things. Still, I was charmed — not exactly by Howl himself, but the whole novel. Every character was so much fun and this felt like a more light-hearted tale, something I don’t often see in fantasy (of course, I don’t really read a lot of fantasy!) It’s definitely going to become one of my comfort reads, I think.
One of my most anticipated of the year, my sixth and next read was Squad by Mariah McCarthy. I really love books about friendship-breakups. I think they’re important to talk about in YA, because friendships at that age can be super intense. This book follows two cheerleaders as they fall out and how the main character navigates without her best friend, especially now that she’s turned on her.
The book is really short, something I was able to read in 2 or 3 hours. We were off to a good start, with the book really hitting close to home. It really gets the small attacks that build up so much pain when you’re losing a friendship. It really understands how things just chip away at you sometimes until you feel like there’s nothing left. I felt like I was 16 again reading this novel, trying to understand why my best friend (who was also the most popular girl in school) was making the decisions she was making regarding us.
But somewhere around the middle of the book, the tone changed and I lost that feeling of being on the same page with it. While I could understand the character’s horrible decisions towards the beginning of the novel and in the context of her relationship with her best friend, it became a bit harder to watch in the second half. I know she’s still learning and having the space to be messy, but I guess I thought it would be more about her best friend than everything it turned into later on. I also felt like it wasn’t resolved in the way I would have liked in the end, but that’s neither here nor there. Life is like that, after all!
The next book was my only audiobook for the month, and that was The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James. I… didn’t really know what I was getting into reading this book, and maybe I’d advise the same for anybody who hasn’t read it yet? The story follows a girl who’s alone on a spaceship headed to a new planet to establish a community there. Her parents and all of the accompanying astronauts have died, and she’s very very very lonely. But one day she receives news of another ship launched from Earth to join her with one passenger on board — a boy.
Romy is the cutest protagonist I’ve read in a while. She likes to write fanfics about her favorite show in her free time (which she admittedly has a lot of) and she rambles a lot. Her anxiety is portrayed well, I feel (I mean, I’ve never been alone on a spaceship), and it really made my heart break for her.
But this book is also a quiet kind of terrifying, notably in the first half. She’s utterly alone, with nobody around and a great gap between the time she sends messages to Earth and the time they’re received. Could you really survive with yourself — your thoughts? It gave me a lot to think about and I found myself uncomfortable at times just imagining myself in her situation.
The second half of the book, though… wow. That’s just something I think you’ll have to read and find out yourself! 😁
My eighth book, The Final Eclipse by Lynne Ewing, is the conclusion to a series I mentioned in my June Wrapup post. The series follows girls who each have a unique power and are tasked with fighting an ancient evil known as the Atrox.
Since it’s the final book, I don’t have much I can really say! I’m not sure I was really satisfied by the ending, but I do know that I wouldn’t mind reading this series over again. It was so much fun and gave me Sailor Moon vibes and was just the right amount of silly (though I think the silliness was unintentional and really pioneered by the effect of looking back on certain times).
Last but not least, the ninth book I read in July was The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen. Actually, I started reading this book in June! I was on vacation and read it when I woke up earlier than my boyfriend and was waiting for him to wake up, or on the plane when I tried to calm my anxiety. It took me a while to finish because I supposed I was in the mood for quicker-paced contemporaries, but in the end, Sarah Dessen did not disappoint me!!
If you didn’t already know, Sarah Dessen is my favorite author. I started reading her books in high school and fell in love with all of her characters. She’s possibly my only auto-buy author (that I can think of at the moment!) I know that I love everything she writes, but I don’t think I ever truly remember until I’m actively reading one of her books.
I saw a few people on my timeline giving this book three stars. I know that’s not a bad rating, but I was still a little sad. I think their core complaint was that the plot felt lacking or that they felt like things were moving slowly. They wouldn’t be wrong — the book feels like it passes by quite slowly, but I really enjoyed that. I think one of Sarah Dessen’s best qualities in her writing is the way she makes you feel attached to the characters and their journey. Even compared to other contemporaries where you’re expecting one “big” thing to happen, her books move slower because it’s more about the journey going on inside the characters. I also love that her stories always put such a heavy focus on family, and this one was especially so!
Overall, I was completely enamored by this book and the setting of long summer days and figuring out how your family stretches out around you. It was exactly what I needed to read.
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That’s it for my favorite reading month of this summer! Looking back, I remember how excited I was to read so many of these books and just picking them up gave me a rush of joy. It was a nice reminder as to why I love reading so much in the first place. Have you read any of these books, or plan to?
See you soon with my final summer wrap-up post!