We Are Okay — Review

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Christmas break has begun, and the students have all gone home, but Marin has chosen to spend the holiday all alone in her college dorm. Orphaned when her grandfather died last summer, Marin not only has no place to go, but isn’t sure she wants to return to the home they shared in San Francisco. Staying in New York keeps the ghosts at bay, and helps Marin keep from slipping back into the emotional abyss she fell into when she discovered her grandfather was gone.

But New York is so much colder than California, and while snow is pretty, it’s a bit much for a girl raised near beaches and sun. And now that her best friend, Mabel, has come to visit, Marin finds herself facing some tough questions. Will she stay in New York or come back to California? And, if she does return, who exactly will she be?

Told in chapters that alternate between the present and the summer prior to Marin’s coming to college, this novel explores the events leading up to her grandfather’s tragic death and the subsequent grief she chooses to navigate on her own. While Marin and her grandfather had lived together since her mother died when she was three, the two navigated in separate circles that overlapped in the shared center space of their home. Marin does not question the fact that she has never entered her grandfather’s bedroom or study, nor has he ever ventured into her rooms at the front of the house. She simply believes it is because they both like their privacy, and doesn’t think the arrangement odd until her friends question why she doesn’t even know how many bedrooms her home contains.

This separation and the revelation of several secrets Marin discovers after her grandfather dies leaves her not only grieving his death, but questioning their relationship and whether she ever even knew who her grandfather was. In addition, Marin must face the fact that she had been deeply lonely her entire life, and that she is worthy of the love and support Mabel and her family continue to offer her.

This novel, which was selected as the 2018 Printz award winner by the Young Adult Library Services Association, is a very strong novel that I would recommend to any teen reader.

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The Darkest Part of the Forest (Book Review)

In a clearing, in the forest lays a glass coffin with a beautiful creature inside. On and on this person sleeps, never waking no matter what anyone does.

Think you know this story, huh? Think again.

The coffin contains a boy with horns and pointed ears. The things that haven’t awakened him include kisses from local teenagers, hard blows to the coffin with a sledgehammer, and loud, raucous parties with girls dancing on top to tunes blaring out of their iPods.

Welcome to Fairfold, a town where the lines between what we’d call fantasy and reality are blurred. A town where the Folk, as fairies are called, fill the forest and occasionally play nasty tricks on the human residents and visitors. Where sometimes the fairies will fulfill a wish or a blessing, but always with dire consequences.

Enter Hazel and Ben, brother and sister who have spent their whole lives in Fairfold. They know how to run the forest paths, know every inch of the stream and hills, know all the stories and secrets of their hometown.

These two have a few secrets of their own. Years ago, after Ben had been blessed by a fairy woman and could play music that enchanted humans and Folk alike, the pair decided to become monster hunters to protect tourists and townsfolk from the creatures that crawled the woods. Hazel longed to become a knight and would become one, in a way, when she pledged seven years of her life to the fairy king in exchange for a music scholarship for her brother.

Now the coffin has broken, and the boy is gone. Hazel is losing track of time, and when she wakes in the mornings, she her body is bruised and battered, her clothes and feet covered with mud. Acorns with secret messages fill her pockets, and her beloved sword is missing.

What is going on? Who freed the fairy boy, and what will this mean for the town of Fairfold?

For the answers to those questions and more, read The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.