Disclaimer: aside from Heartstopper, all these books were sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
We Are the Baby-Sitters Club — anthology edited by Marisa Crawford and Megan Milks, July 6, 2021
It is very unusual that I got into The Baby-Sitters Club in elementary school, given that the books stopped coming out before I was born and were not made into graphic novels until I was in middle school. I vaguely remember my mom buying me the first few books at a thrift store, and I was quickly hooked, leading her to order me much of the rest on eBay.
For the uninitiated, The Baby-Sitters Club is a chapter book series with multiple spin-offs about a group of middle schoolers who create a babysitting business. They are delightfully repetitive and, for the time they came out, very diverse. When the opportunity struck for me to read this book of essays about the series, I had to request it immediately.
Reading We Are the Baby-Sitters Club was positively delightful. Even now, I have a lot of built-up knowledge about the books that I hadn’t realized I still held in the back of my mind. As different authors talked about the ways these books influenced their childhood — Asian Americans who saw themselves represented in Claudia Kishi’s character, queer authors and the way tomboy Kristy Thomas encapsulated themselves — I was transported back in time to when my age was in single digits and I could digest multiple of these novels in a single afternoon.
Unfortunately, my reading experience was tainted by a horribly formatted e-book advanced copy, but overall, I had a light and easy time reading these essays. I would highly recommend it to anyone who had a big Baby-Sitters Club phase as a kid, and even if you didn’t, check out the Netflix adaptation that puts it in a modern setting.
One Last Stop — Casey McQuiston, June 1, 2021
There’s a moment after you finish a Casey McQuiston book, where you put down your book, or you pause the audiobook credits, and you stare at your surroundings, and it’s like you wake up from a dream and realize that everything that just happened was all in your head, and you might never recover from everything you just absorbed.
I’m still feeling those symptoms as I type up this review after listening to the audiobook of One Last Stop.
The concept is unlike any romance novel I have ever heard of. A cynical 23-year-old moves to New York and meets a stranger on the subway who turns out to be displaced in time from the late 1970s, and then they fall in love. The cynic: August. The stranger: Jane. The two of them try to figure out why Jane can’t leave the subway, can’t remember her past life, can barely even remember her own name, while at the same time solving a mystery about August’s family, helping to save a local diner and getting to know August’s eclectic new roommates.
I cannot begin to describe how deeply this story affected me, how invested I was, how many times I screamed into a pillow or hugged my favorite stuffed animals for dear life during the most intense parts. The characters feel so real, so alive, so human; the story weaves together in ways you would not even begin to expect. The supporting cast, a ragtag bunch of roommates, neighbors and coworkers, leap off the page with personality. The love that Jane and August feel for each other seems more tangible than real life.
I do not think most people can hope for as grand of a love story as the kind that Casey McQuiston writes, but I certainly choose to believe the feelings are real and that they happen all the time, every second of every day, to people all over the world. For them to be encapsulated so well, simply in words, that I can feel them myself is a testament to McQuiston’s writing prowess. I cannot wait for this book to come out so everyone I know can experience it for themselves.
Heartstopper: Volume 4 — Alice Oseman, May 6, 2021 (UK) and Jan. 4, 2022 (US)
Spoiler warning for Heartstopper: Volumes 1-3.
Alice Oseman is quite literally my favorite author, so it should come as no surprise that I have nothing but good things to say about the latest volume of Heartstopper. While it is released online as a webcomic, the graphic novel contains the most adorable bonus material and is genuinely a fantastic way to read it all the way through instead of in ten-page chunks.
Volume 4 covers two very important chapters in Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring’s lives as they navigate Charlie’s worsening mental health issues and Nick’s struggle to come out to his largely absent father. As they come to realize it is not always possible to rely on your significant other for all your emotional support, they also grow closer together and learn more about each other.
Anyway, that’s all the cutesy summary stuff. Nick and Charlie are adorable. I love their silly high school drama; I love their friends; I love their family (and especially Nick’s dogs). This is, as always, a fantastic continuation of their story.
And I cannot finish this review without talking about the Netflix adaptation. The cast of the Heartstopper TV show was recently revealed, and all the actors are perfect. I love them. They look exactly how you would imagine the Heartstopper kids to look. Most of them are actually teenagers instead of 20- or 30-year-olds in teens’ clothes (no shade to Derry Girls; this is a dig at Riverdale and Love, Simon). I’m extremely excited for the show, and I’m very excited for Volume 5, the conclusion to Charlie and Nick’s story.
Trouble Girls: A Novel — Julia Lynn Rubin, June 1, 2021
Content warning: review discusses homicide and sexual assault.
I am rarely able to finish books like Trouble Girls, and to be quite honest, I do not know what compelled me to request it on Netgalley knowing full well the content of the book, but here I am, having finished pretty much the entire book in one sitting. It is hard to balance such heavy topics as sexual assault and homicide with the sometimes less mature tone of young adult fiction, but Julia Lynn Rubin has done it well.
When Trixie accidentally stabs a boy who tried to rape her best friend Lux, the two girls make a run for it in Trixie’s beat-up old car, driving across the country to escape being caught. But when sexual assault allegations begin surfacing against the now-dead boy, who turns out to be the son of a college administrator, Trixie and Lux are suddenly the centers of a #MeToo movement.
As I was reading this book, I kept on getting extremely frustrated by Trixie and Lux’s horrible decision-making skills. I think that was kind of the point; they are, after all, teenagers who make spur-of-the-moment choices. Nonetheless, I was nearly screaming at my phone during some parts, especially when they trusted people they should not have trusted. Really, I was surprised the police didn’t find them earlier.
But amidst the teenage impulsivity and sapphic love story was a story of a deep amount of hurt and pain, one that certainly shook me. I think this is an incredibly important book for people to pick up if the content won’t be triggering, and I’m glad I was able to read it before publication.