Sunday, August 26, 2012

Books that Make Me Grin

Okay, after an uneventful week (phew) I am returning to the plan. The plan to make you happy! Here's how: read these books. So easy, right? Plus, two of them are series starters, so there are books and books of smiles on the horizon. You're welcome.

I am turning into what might modestly be termed a rabid super-fan of E. Lockhart's novels. It all started with Frankie, but once I knew how ably she grabbed onto the everyman-ness of her teen characters and explored their gorgeous depths, I was hooked. The Boyfriend List is the first in a series about Ruby Oliver, a 15 year old exploring the genesis of her panic attacks with her newly-acquired shrink. It's about boys, and crushes, and friendships, and betrayals, and Popsicles. But it's anything but mundane, because Ruby is stellar. She doesn't know she's stellar, and her shrink doesn't set out to prove she's stellar, and her friends certainly don't end up thinking she's stellar, but we the readers get to know it, and that's the magic and the joy of Lockhart. Plus, footnotes!

Another fun series starts with The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz. The Spellmans are a family of private detectives living in San Francisco, and their bad sheep is our slightly defensive, very snarky, but loving narrator, Izzy. She grew up second-place to her always-perfect brother David, and then her parents had adorable late-in-life baby Rae, putting her in third. Her spate of teenage crimes and romantic disasters are, mostly behind her, but that doesn't stop her parents from putting Rae on the tail of Izzy's new boyfriend. (The Spellmans spend as much time spying on each other as they do on their clients. Surveillance tasks are both a punishment and on-the-job-training.) Izzy wants out from under the phone tap, but when Rae goes missing, nothing will stop her until her sister is found. Izzy's voice has a quick energy that feels effortless, and Lutz puts her through her paces with a great deal of charm and good old-fashioned moxie that is a delight to read.

And now on to side-splitting guffaws. Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess, wrote (and narrated) her "Mostly True Memoir" Let's Pretend This Never Happened, which engendered more laughs per minute than anything I'd read/listened to since the next-to-last David Sedaris. (I didn't really go for his bestiary.) It was problematic, actually, since I listened while commuting. Fortunately I have a hybrid now, so sitting in the car after reaching my destination just to listen to more words from the sound system doesn't destroy so much of the environment. Unfortunately I listened to this mostly with my kids in the car (which will make you question my suitability as a parent. But I skipped the most adult stuff with the 12 year old!), and they got really mad at me if I listened to any of it without them. Basically, Lawson grew up in small-town Texas, with an eccentric-to-say-the-least father and all kinds of odd small-town Texas school situations. But even the not so odd stuff is comedy gold when viewed through Lawson's somewhat skewed perspective. She's a fan of the hyperbole, and extremely good at combining self-deprecation with emotional resonance. I hope there's a next book, and a next, and a next in her.

1 comment:

  1. I laughed out loud til I cried. I think she's my new best friend. I totally get her! I too hope the "next" book!