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Fall Break Book Reviews

I love our University, but it is far from where most of us actually live and where we travel to on our breaks. A bus to Chicago, plane to LA, or a long drive to New Jersey, most of us were the passenger stuck in a vehicle for at least a few hours. I spent over a full day in transit, and here is a list of some of the books I tackled last week!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Green’s latest novel is an instant hit (as proved by the NYT YA Bestseller List) and his best work so far.  He writes semi-autobiographically about his experiences with OCD, which creates a very grounded protagonist who shows the readers a bit of what this mental illness is like.  The book flips the genre trope of a detective with mental illness, because Aza’s illness makes her a worse detective, and doesn’t grant her better deductive powers. The conflict was intensely personal, and had me rooting for Aza to work through her mental illness, to fight it to have everything she wanted out of her romantic and platonic relationships, and led to me being in tears on an airplane. The last scene’s structure choice as a reflection on the timeline of the novel, proves that a future Aza is still existing decades later to tell her story, causing me to tear up again.

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Dunn and Raskin discuss the very personal issues of friendship fights and communication struggles when you go off to college through such biased narrators that I found irresistible. The reader never sees the action in real-time, and must approximate what happened based on the emotional recount of the characters and the amount of detail they grant each other through emails and texts.  A tough fight about making choices your friend might not understand also had me in tears on the plane.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Silvera crafted yet another heartbreaker with this book, but warned with the title at least.  Both characters, as is custom in this universe, got a call saying they would die within 24 hours and find each other with a Last Friend app. The conceit never felt pushed, and every adventure the two main characters had could have been their last.  Simple events like walking across the street became fraught with danger, but they tried for an adventure on their last day anyway.

The Angelfall Trilogy by Susan Ee

So, I read this fun, few years old dystopian fantasy trilogy over the course of a very long fall break commute, and it was pretty fascinating.  While it was very much of a time in publishing where dystopian fiction was prominent, the inclusion of fantastic elements in the form of angels really gave it something different. The romance was funny to me at most times, but the book brought the reader in on some of the jokes through the comments of secondary characters.   However, the trilogy was consistently feminist, and dealt with disability in a way I have seen few YA novels do.  It also tackled the rough topic of familial relationships informed by disability and mental illness, and the pressure that placed on Penryn to hold her family together and ignore the problems of others in light of that.  

Loyal Sons & Daughters: A Notre Dame Memoir by Sr. Jean Lenz

I am always up for stories about the first classes of women at the university, and Sr. Jean’s stories as the first rector of the first women’s hall, Farley, made this a must-read.  She tells stories of dealing with the pressure of all of the firsts in Farley, and all of the jobs that are rolled into the rector role. She speaks to everything from warding off streakers to dealing with loss and waiting in hospitals, to guiding those pioneering women in their role at ND.  Sr. Jean also speaks to her role in Student Affairs in a sensitive way that made me a bit more understanding of the tough calls they had to make.  I would call this book a must-read for all women at Notre Dame.

Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity by Fr. James Martin

This book is a genuine example of goodwill that should set the minimum for how the Church and LGBT community should be in conversation, but sadly seems radical to many religious people, lay and professed.  This book has been condemned by several cardinals for supposed heretical information, despite Fr. Martin gaining full approval from his superiors and other religious officials for its publication and of the information contained.  His book mentions stories of those he has met, and discusses what it mean to LGBT Catholics to be, at the bare minimum, welcomed by priests in their parishes as individuals with gifts and talents to bring to the community.  Like so many of my reads over break, it was hard to keep my eyes dry through some of his stories. Fr. James Martin will be Skyping with Notre Dame on Monday November 6th at 8 PM in DeBart 101, and you can buy his book in a ton of locations on campus (CoMo 114, GRC, CSC) for only $11.

 

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Julia Erdlen

Notre Dame

I'm a junior living in Ryan Hall. Majoring in English and minoring in Science, Technology, and Values, and Computing and Digital Technologies. I'm from just outside of Philadelphia, and people tend to call out my accent. In the free time I barely have, I'm consuming as much superhero media and as many YA novels as pssible.
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