This installment: sinister doings in Lagos (f); what’s behind this private club touting high ideals? (f); a teen romance on and off the rocks (f); the hazards of upward mobility in India (f); a graphic bio of Josephine Baker (f); and the emotional lives of teenagers torqued by a drama teacher (f).
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Big sister Korede is a nurse with a crush on Tade, a physician at the hospital where they both work. Korede gets panicked calls from her toothsome younger sister, Ayoola, to help her clean up yet another bloody mess. Ayoola has faulty impulse control (to put it mildly) and her suitors bite the dust at her hand but these deaths seem to go under police radar. Korede is thorough and clever. But when Tade is smitten with Ayoola, watch out! One fascinating aspect: Korede, her conscience weighing on her, unburdens herself to a comatose patient but then he wakes up. I had to suspend disbelief but was fascinated. Lagos setting, and a few Nigerian phrases and pidgin English add color.
The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
Here’s another one that called for suspended disbelief, but again I was grabbed and went for the ride. A sweet young couple somehow find themselves signed up for this—well what is it? Not exactly a cult, and made up of attractive, sincere, well-heeled couples. And it seems so logical: rules to Make Marriage Work. But it turns out that their version of justice is truly draconian and there are severe penalties for not following the statutes to the letter. Including a private prison in the desert. Will Alice and Jake live to tell the tale? Read it and find out. Northern California setting.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki
A YA graphic novel that I resisted at first. Black, white and gray with pink accents; teen-speak, often pretty terse. But when I got used to the visual “rhythms,” it started to resonate with my inner teen (which never goes away). Laura is cool and manipulative. We feel for Freddy (Fredericka) over and over who has to face a serious conflict (her best friend gets pregnant and needs support) and Laura’s hot and cold actions keep getting in the way. Emotionally spot on.
The Windfall by Diksha Basu
The Jhas were relatively content in their neighborhood until the Mr. sold his tech innovation and all of the sudden they’re rich. Giddy, they move to an exclusive enclave and try to surround themselves with the accoutrements of the wealthy. Actually the Mrs. isn’t as charmed; she finds the new milieu sterile and lonely. Meanwhile their son in America is failing his business courses as he tries to keep up with his new culture. Very witty and ultimately touching. One of my favorite bits: the sofa specially ordered from Japan; the embedded Swarovski crystals may dazzle but mostly poke posteriors.
Josephine Baker by Catel & Bocquet
A fat graphic novel that tells of the dizzying life of this African-American dancer. Born in ’06 in St. Louis, Missouri, she became the toast of Paris in the ‘20s, hobnobbing with famous artists and musicians. But there’s so much more: her series of lovers and husbands, her huge family of adopted orphans, her work in the Resistance in WWII, and her indomitable spirit. The French author and illustrator are white (so no “own voices” here) but provide a very thorough, evocative plunge into an extraordinary life.
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
That’s what they do in charismatic Mr. Kingsley’s theatre class in this arts high school, but when you come down to it, there’s lots of underlying distrust, with good reason. Oh the intensities of teenagers’ emotional lives, primarily David and Sarah who have a complex hot and cold relationship. But then with a lurch (from this reader’s point of view) I realized I’d been reading a novelistic version of events and we get updated versions of the characters and (kind of) find out what transpired. I was absorbed, sometimes baffled, and still am not sure what the “truth” was, but found it fascinating anyway.
Back next week.