Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Best friends and ex best friends

Four things I want to share today:

1) For writers: I'm always slow to hear about things on Twitter, but #diversitywl is worth mentioning: agents have started using it to express what they are looking for in relation to diversity. Way cool! (also #WeNeedDiverseBooks)

2) For readers: I think the #bookaday tag - sharing 30 books in June - is really neat. I'm going try to remember to tweet daily on this one and write a couple posts on it too.

3) I am seriously excited for June 17th when Ruin and Rising releases, book three in Leigh Bardugo's fantasy with Russian roots. Also July 24th when Like No Other, by Una LaMarche, releases. Two kids with very different cultural and racial backgrounds who lived across the street from each other their whole lives but never met - until a hurricane hits and they're stuck in an elevator together.

4) Today is the release for My Best Friend, Maybe, by Caela Carter.  Four really cool things about this book (it's a day of fours!)

1) it's set in Santorini, Greece. Love love love love....

2) Amazing writing

3) A complicated friendship between two girls

4) Thoughtful handling of religious issues

I recently wrote about some of my favorite YA books centered on friendships instead of romantic relationships, or where the friendship is more than just a prop or plot device.  This is a great addition to that list; and one of the more complicated friendships I’ve come across in fiction.  Colette and Sadie used to be best friends, until Sadie started putting other friends in front of Colette.  That’s the gist of it, but there’s so much more to their story.

Friendship dynamics are fascinating and with so much potential for hurt and misunderstanding, and this book does a great job handling both the good: wonderful flashbacks of the strong moments in the friendship –

– and the bad: the weirdness and awkwardness of life when BFF turns to XBF.

“Do you really need for me to get milkshakes?” she asked. I did. I clearly did. But that word “need” sounded so pathetic. I needed her to want to get milkshakes. I needed her to rank all her friends for me so that I could hear my name at the top of the list. I was afraid I was sinking lower and lower on it, and if I sunk too low on Sadie’s friend list, I might sink out of real life. 
I loved Sadie’s nickname for Colette: Coley. Some names just make me smile, and this one hit the spot.

I liked that Coley’s confusion over Sadie and her yearning to understand what happened also affected her relationship with her boyfriend – because real relationships are messy, like that. So often friends get neglected when a girl gets involved with a boy, so it was kind of nice to see the reverse here since Coley’s plans are to spend the summer in Costa Rica on a mission trip with Mark, but she chooses to change her plans at the last minute when Sadie invites her to join her family in Greece.

This wasn’t an easy choice. There’s something really drawing about a character with conflicting wants, torn between two “loves” and uncertain about the best path to take.  I liked how Coley would swing from one side to the other, and then back; that indecision and uncertainty just rang true to me.

Poor Mark! I really liked the guy, because he treats Coley like a gentleman, and then there’s his freckles: “His smile makes his cheeks puff out and rearranges his freckles. I love how I never know quite where to look for them.“  Another scene: “he looks so sad, hazel eyes pasted to the driveway, freckles practically drooping.”

Coley’s life is also complicated by her mother, who is a control freak (“She can give me a guilt trip even internationally.”) And a religious control freak, to boot. More about that in a moment.

The story really takes off though once Coley’s left her boyfriend and her family behind and arrives in Santorini. Oh my goodness, Santorini! I’d read just about any book set on a Greek island, but the descriptions were so well done in this story, and fit so well with the complicated friendship.
It’s impossible to sleep long enough on an island this beautiful. All of this beauty makes me wonder why God decided we ever have to sleep in the first place.

Coley’s hotel room was in a cave! So that actually makes sense on a very steep island, where just about everything is built in the hillsides. And it sounded like a really lovely, cozy cave.

But now we’re here, across the world in a cave in Santorini where the sun is so strong it almost has a smell and the stairs carved into the sides of the cliffs allow you to see everything at once and yet have a million surprises a day.

More complications ensue between Sadie and Coley while on the island, and a surprising secret is revealed that complicates things even more. It’s spoilery, so I won’t go into that, but Coley didn’t process it very well at first. But I loved her eventual conclusion, because I could really relate to it in one of my own complicated friendships.

I have to mention Sam – Sadie’s adopted Haitian brother who Coley starts crushing on. I wanted more of Sam! – though I know the focus of the book had to be on Coley and Sadie, I sure wish I could have gotten a few more details about Sam. He only mentions once how it felt being adopted into a white family. I could eat up a whole book about such a character. More, more! Also, he and Coley had such chemistry:
“Yes?” Sam says.

“I thought I screwed everything up,” I say.  
He smiles. “You’re only one person. In the whole universe. You can’t screw everything up.”

Sam actually had me googling Haitian models, and this is what I came up with.
Karl Daniel, from Haiti

Kendrick Kemp, from the Bahamas
I'd love to share more pictures, but... ahem. Back to the story.

So I mentioned that Coley’s mom was a religious control freak. As a Christian mom, it was good for me to read about Coley’s mom so I could learn what kind of mom I don’t want to be. Until the end, that is, when she says this really cool thing:
 “Look, I don’t know what’s happening with your father. After all these years I’m finally going to apologize and I hope he’ll hear me. But no matter what happens, you’re my kid, my daughter, okay? And when you get home, the first thing I’m going to do is listen to you.”
I struggled with the parts of the story that involved Christian activities (e.g. youth group, mission trip) and Coley’s perception of these: they were just a rote part of her life. She had no passion for them, which actually makes sense, since she didn’t ever mention a passion for the Lord. That’s not what I’m complaining about; and I realize if she WAS passionate about the Lord, this book would have been published by a different publisher. But I can’t help wishing the book also included a contrast to Coley’s perception. Just so readers could get a little taste of what a mission trip means to a passionate believer. I love it when stories show contrasts like this.

But as far as other contrasts and complications, especially with friendships, this book was spot on! And did I mention Santorini?

What dreamy setting are you craving for your summer reading?


  1. I've not heard of Santorini but now I'd like to go there! I totally love how this book's spoken to your heart!! Yay! At the moment I am still knee deep in the mega Games of Thrones book that I'd opt for the fictional Winterfell before the Starks were dispersed! Take care

  2. So can't wait to read Ruin & Rising. Just reserved it at the library. Yay!

  3. You always have such thoughtful comentary on what you've read. I'm looking for light reading right now. Not because it's summer, just because I've read a lot of heavy MG lately and need some humor.

  4. This book sounds amazing and I love the way you describe female friendships!!!

  5. I just put this book on hold! I loved what you said about their friendship being complicated, the Greek setting, and also the issues around her faith.(I'm a Christian mom too.) From your description, it reminds me a little of Sara Zarr's Once Was Lost, which I thought dealt with youth group (and doubt) in a very real and authentic way.

  6. I love your thoughtful take on this, especially on the religious aspects of the story. Someday it won't be taboo to have nuanced mixes of love/hate for church published by someone other than Indies. Zarr's Once Was Lost is a rare animal, having not only doubt but also some positive portrayals of faith in a mainstream book.

  7. Oh you're right, Santorini would be a great setting for a summer read. I went to Santorini on my honeymoon and our hotel room was built into a cave. It was cool but also kind of claustrophobic. But then we had this gorgeous view out the front of the room. I'll have to look for this book. Thanks for the rec!

  8. Oh, I've been looking for more books centered around friendship and its complications! As you know, my ms is all about that and I wanted to see how skillful authors write these. Thanks for the recommendation!

  9. Thanks for the thoughtful review and reaction to this one. The friendship story definitely sounds intriguing.



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