This installment: the fascinating world of jellyfish (nf); mothers and daughters and grief (f); and a powerful teen book (f).
Spineless by Julie Berwald
Subtitled The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone. I’d been entranced by the book about octopi and though it’s impossible to locate the “soul” of a jellyfish, there’s lots to learn about these mysterious, graceful creatures which can be good or bad for the environment depending on circumstances. Berwald’s based in landlocked Texas but does lots of field work all over the map and shares the beauties and the paradoxes that jellyfish present. She also offers personal testimony which always grabs my interest and helps balance the stretches of scientific exposition (not my strong suit). Lively, impassioned writing.
Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian
Just when Agnes heads off to college, her mother disappears. What sent her around the bend was her son’s OD. So Agnes writes these unsent letters to Mom and that’s how we learn how unmoored she’s become. An unwise affair, a pregnancy (of course) and she comes home to deeply depressed but loving Dad to have the baby. When Mom comes back we witness the unhealthy dynamic between mother and daughter and luckily Agnes has strong instincts for self-preservation. Touching and engrossing.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
A teen book about life in the hood, stripped way down with what looks like short poems, one to a page. Shawn was shot and his younger brother Will feels he must abide by the “rules” and take revenge. He finds his brother’s gun and in the elevator on the way to do the deed, each floor brings a ghost to give him some perspective. It’s visceral, vernacular, and powerful.
Back next week.