Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two young adult books that carefully tackle serious issues including racism and gun violence. Although Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert* and This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp are not flawless, they are books that offer a powerful reminder that young adult doesn’t mean juvenile in tone or content.
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In Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert, Braden is a high school baseball player struggling to hold onto the little family he has. His dad has just been arrested for murder, and his estranged brother Trey has finally come home to look after Braden in the meantime.
Even though there’s a bit of a mystery in terms of if his father is guilty and what Braden knows, I still found Conviction to be a slow read. I feel like Gilbert’s style of writing is just a bit slow-moving, but she does tackle a lot of important issues very thoughtfully. Conviction just didn’t have quite the intensity I expected, possibly because of how many plot lines there were.
Racism and abuse are such important, complicated issues and I really thought Gilbert tackled them both in an authentic, heart-breaking way. It was also quite painful to read Braden’s perspective, because he loves his dad and his brother so much, but neither of them seem to deserve his adoration, at least at first. I honestly wish I enjoyed Conviction a bit more than I did, but even if Gilbert’s debut wasn’t the perfect book for me, I am still grateful stories like this one exist.
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This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp was passed onto me by a friend who thought I’d find the story interesting–and she was right, it is definitely one that has had my attention. The entire book is told over 54 minutes and 4 different points of view as a school shooting happens in Opportunity, Alabama. Unfortunately, even the story is very intense and has some elements I appreciated, there were a few issues that distracted me.
First off, there are too many points-of-view in this story. I often have a hard time when there are more than two narrators, because I feel like you don’t get the full depth from any of them, and that’s exactly what happened here. There is also a very slow police response and some very unnecessary tweets and blog posts mixed in.
I did think that This Is Where It Ends had excellent writing and pacing, and it dealt with a lot of important, sensitive issues very thoughtfully. While the issues I had with the book distracted from it being as emotionally successful as I would have expected, I am still interested to see what Nijkamp writes next.
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What have you been reading lately?