I’m Glad My Mom Died
I’m Glad My Mom Died is a celebrity memoir, but even if you (like me) have never heard of actor Jennette McCurdy or seen a single second of “iCarly” on Nickelodeon, getting sucked into this frankly told and deeply nuanced story of a troubled mother-daughter relationship is almost inevitable. McCurdy’s story kicks off when her mother, Debra, pins her own dashed dreams of Hollywood stardom onto her shy 6-year-old daughter. The pressure’s on, and things get worse from there. McCurdy writes from the perspective she had in the moment, creating tension for the reader, who can see the unhealthy dynamic between McCurdy and Debra long before McCurdy can name or understand it herself. After reading I’m Glad My Mom Died, it’s impossible to see Debra as a good mother, but McCurdy’s commitment to portraying her mother as she truly was still somehow feels like a tribute.
Tuesdays With Morrie
I first read Tuesdays With Morrie in my high school English class. Much like Mitch Albom’s teacher Morrie Schwartz, my teacher Mr. Baker longed for his students to understand what makes life worth living. As the book begins, Albom, a successful young columnist in Detroit, walks through life dead-alive, driven by the pursuit of fame and personal gain. He paints the plague of the modern world so poignantly—the slow and silent indoctrination of society, its swift corrosion of the soul. During his Tuesday visits with his old professor, Albom begins to realize that the dying man is more alive than he is. Tuesdays With Morrie is a book full of convincing triteness and truth. We all need Morrie’s reminders to dance with our eyes closed and reach down into the darkness for the sake of pulling up another. I still find myself in need of Morrie’s teachings—that love is all that stands at the end of time. For readers who share my appreciation of this book, be aware that Rob Schwartz, Morrie’s son, will publish his father’s writing posthumously in The Wisdom of Morrie later this month.
—Emma, Editorial Intern
Lessons in Chemistry
Humor must be just about the toughest thing to get right in fiction. It’s so subjective, first of all, and it’s tricky to balance lightheartedness with the serious bits. And then to be funny without being mean? Practically impossible. Bonnie Garmus’ delight of a debut novel made me laugh—often and loudly—while still honoring the hard road of its heroine. Elizabeth Zott is a female chemist and single mom in the 1960s, so obviously the world has it in for her, and this includes an assault early in the novel. But in the face of such cruelties, she is pragmatic and determined and wry, like a grown-up version of Roald Dahl’s indomitable Matilda. She ends up starring on her own cooking show and finds herself surrounded by a supporting cast that’s as endearing as can be. She also has a dog (named Six-Thirty) who’s enough of a lead character to tip the story into the fantastical. Like so many other readers, I absolutely loved it.
—Cat, Deputy Editor
Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is the type of fantasy novel that seems tailor-made for the exact type of crossover success it has achieved. It’s a seemingly simple story of a young peasant girl trying to save her friend from dark magic, and with its fairy tale-inspired setting, engaging characters and just the right amount of romance, it appeals to fantasy readers and nonfantasy readers alike. I am as intrigued by these types of books as I am leery of them. It’s easy for a story to rest on folklore references and well-known character types within an aesthetically pleasing world and and still never quite step out of the shadows of other works. But Novik didn’t set out to just retell a fairy tale: She wrote her own, and it’s so enthralling that it gave me the type of stay-up-all-night, can’t-put-it-down reading experience I had when I was a 13-year-old first discovering fantasy. I read it within days, its impossibly perfect ending made me cry, and I still think about it more than a year later.
—Savanna, Associate Editor
One of the perks of working at BookPage is getting to read books before they are published, but occasionally a high-profile title gets embargoed, meaning advance copies aren’t sent to the press. If members of the media do receive a copy, they’re forbidden to share the review before the publication date. I’ll always remember the day I was opening mail at the office and unwrapped a finished copy of The Testaments, the long-awaited and heavily embargoed sequel to Margaret Atwood’s groundbreaking 1985 bestseller, The Handmaid’s Tale. Set 15 years after the events of the dystopian classic, the suspenseful plot is driven by the narratives of three women whose fates converge just when their world’s authoritarian regime, Gilead, begins to crumble. The Testaments is the work of a writer at the top of her game; Atwood sticks the landing in a thrilling conclusion to an all too culturally significant tale.