134 Big Little Lies

biglittleliesby Liane Moriarty, 2014

You know, as much as I complain about having read popular books because they tend to end up being not so great, every once in awhile I read an immensely popular book, simply for the fact that it’s popular, and I’m rewarded. Well, in this case it’s more that I wanted to watch the HBO adaptation with Alexander Skarsgard, but hey, the motive isn’t important. What’s important is that I expected to read a trashy, poorly written book with a predictable plot and instead found a captivating mystery with sharp commentary on parenthood and suburban life. I guess you can be popular and smart after all.

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132 The Vile Village

vilevillageby Lemony Snicket, 2001

Things are starting to heat up for the Baudelaires! We’re still using the same formula as ever: the siblings are placed in the care of some well-meaning but less than apt adult, Count Olaf shows up in a new disguise, and the orphans end up having to save themselves. In this case, however, an entire village fails the three, as the moniker “It takes a village to raise a child” is put to the test in their new home, the Village of Fowl Devotees. Or, if you will, VFD.

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131 The Sellout

selloutby Paul Beatty, 2015

Ah, the library. What’s so great about the library nowadays is that you can put any ebook on hold and eventually it’ll come to you without you having to lift a finger. What’s not so great about the library is that, for some reason, all of your ebooks tend to come in at once and you find yourself speed reading them before they’re yanked from your account. Such was the case with The Sellout which, despite having a long wait time, became available to me shortly after I received The Nix, meaning that after reading that 600+ page tome, I had little time to devote to this Booker Prize winner and even less time to spend appreciating it. For I think there is probably some level of genius in this novel, however unable I was to connect with it.

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130 The Nix

nixby Nathan Hill, 2016

I am not sure what I expected of The Nix, but wow, was this more than I ever thought it could be. This is a prime example of exactly the sort of multi-generational, multi-viewpoint story I love. What starts as the story of mediocre Samuel Andresen-Anderson and his unfulfilling life as a would-be-author-cum-teacher becomes the sweeping tale of Samuel’s mother, her college compatriots, his grandfather, the neighbors Samuel grew up with, and the friends he makes in an online role-playing game. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt utterly absorbed by a story, eager to get back to it at every possible chance, but that is exactly how I felt about The Nix.

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129 If I Was Your Girl

ifiwasyourgirlby Meredith Russo, 2016

I kind of hate fairy tales. Not the Brothers Grimm sort, which are actually quite gruesome and only vaguely resemble the stories we were told as kids, and not even really the Disney sort, because I can’t lie that, as much as it rankles my inner feminist, I still enjoyed Beauty and the Beast. No, I mean those stories where someone with a “problem” – they have a string of failed relationships, they are clumsy, they (gasp!) have curly hair and glasses – overcomes said “problem” to live happily ever after. I realize there is some comfort in knowing that we are all lovable despite our differences, but this sort of trite plot and predictable ending are far from new and far from interesting.

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127 The Wangs vs. the World

wangsby Jade Chang, 2016

It’s the start of the economic recession and Charles Wang – a Chinese immigrant who made his fortune in the cosmetics industry – is bankrupt. Having put all his collateral, including his house, toward a loan for a failed attempt at beauty stores that cater to non-white customers, Charles is determined to save face by reclaiming the land stolen from his family by the communist Chinese government. He picks up his daughter from boarding school, his son from college, and, along with his second wife, they head toward the eldest Wang daughter’s New York farmhouse in search of something like redemption.

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126 The Hate U Give

hateugiveby Angie Thomas, 2017

Starr Carter is sixteen years old when she witnesses the police shooting of her friend Khalil. Pulled over for a seemingly routine traffic violation, things quickly go south when Khalil demands to know why he was stopped, is frisked, and returns to the car to ask Starr if she’s okay. There appeared to be a gun in the car, they say of the hairbrush sticking out of a pocket in the door. He was dealing drugs, they say with no evidence of such in the car. One more gangbanger out of the way, they say, while knowing nothing about Khalil and the life he led. It’s a sad day when a book like this is necessary and, yet, here we are, and this book is so very necessary.

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