Today I am back with a batch of mini reviews of books I read in March 🙂
*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, & Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
» Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
When my friend Jackie @Death by Tsunduko suggesting Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe book as our next buddy read, I quickly agreed. Of course I had HEARD of this book & the film adaptation, but had never read it, or seen the film. This ended up being a wonderful buddy read that sparked lots of discussion. If you are looking for a book for a book club, I’d highly recommend it.
Set in a small Southern town in Alabama, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is an endearing story of friendship, family, love, community, and good food. This book is guaranteed to give you all the warm & fuzzy feels.
It’s no secret that I love eccentric characters, and Fried Green Tomatoes was full of them! There is just something about a small town community story that makes my heart so happy. I was very invested in the characters & find myself wishing I lived in Whistle Stop. Of course Idgie was my favorite character. She’s one of those characters that puts up a tough front, but is actually a big softy deep down inside. Idgie is very flawed, but does not apologize for it. I always appreciate those characters that are unapologetically themselves.
I know there is some debate over Idgie & Ruth’s relationship in this book…*Highlight between arrows to see spoiler ⇒but Idgie & Ruth were totally in a romantic relationship. People are in denial if they think anything otherwise. From what I understand, they are portrayed as best friends in the film? So I assume this has something to do with this misconception. Their relationship was one of my favorite aspects of this book. A lesbian couple in a book published in 1987? How progressive! ⇐
It is very seldom that I enjoy the story line occurring in the present time as I do with the story line occurring in the past. In this instance, I felt the story line in the present complimented the past story line well. I adored Ninny & Evelyn’s relationship. It was not only entertaining, but sweet. I also enjoyed watching Evelyn’s progression & self discovery throughout the book.
The format of this book was a bit hard to follow. In the present story line, we follow Evelyn as she hears the story line that occurred in the past through Ninny’s reminiscence of her life in Whistle Stop. The way the author presented this story reminded me a bit of the movie Forest Gump. What made it a bit jarring was the fact that this book not only jumps from present to past, but will often back track & does not exactly follow a linear timeline in the past… I was often disoriented with the time jumps, and would need to regroup to figure out where we were in time. Obviously this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book, but it did prove to be a challenge at times. While I am sure the audiobook is well narrated, I would assume it would be extremely hard to follow the timeline via audiobook. If you are going into this book for the first time, I’d recommend reading it in print form first, then giving the audiobook a go for a re-read.
***Content/trigger warning: racism, suicide, domestic violence, & rape***
» Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The fact that Speak was first published 20 years ago blows my mind. What a relevant & important book. Actually, the fact that this book is still relevant after 20 years just goes to show you that not enough has changed.
Despite the fact that it is 20 years old, it did not feel that way. Looking back, I can now see that there was an absence of technology – cell phones, social media, etc. – but I did not notice this while reading. It truly feels timeless.
I’ll admit it, I was not a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing style at first. As the book went on, I got into my reading groove, and realized that the style suited the story. The writing is subtle & understated, but if you really pay attention, it speaks volumes.
I think what Speak does so well is portray the trauma that a victim of sexual assault can experience. Since sexual assault is still such a taboo topic, oftentimes victim experiences are not being shared or heard when they are shared. Thankfully we have started seeing a shift in this way of thinking with the discussions of rape culture & the #MeToo movement. Books that explore sexual assault victimization are so important, especially in the YA target age range, because they can inform, increases empathy, and challenge problematic rape culture. Speak needs to be required reading for all high school aged kids.
***Content/Trigger warning: rape, rape culture, & PTSD***
» Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
After reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, I immediately picked up another one of her books I owned, Wintergirls.
Wintergirls tackles heavy themes like eating disorders, blended family dynamics, complicated parent relationships, mental illness, guilt, death, etc.
I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.
I would consider Wintergirls to be a very triggering book, especially for those that are triggered by eating disorders. What I feel that Laurie does so well is she is really able to place us inside the head of someone struggling with an eating disorder. She does this so well in fact, that it was messing with my mind while I was reading it.
On a personal note, I could relate to Lia’s obsessive & unhealthy relationship with food. I was never diagnosed, but I have a pretty strong feeling that I was suffering from Binge Eating Disorder at one point in my life. Because of this, I had gained a substantial amount of weight. I have since then taken the weight off, but I still struggle with an unhealthy relationship with food. I saw a lot of myself in Lia’s obsessive calorie counting & low self esteem.
Since Wintergirls was published in 2009, I was not surprised to see the use of strikethrough text. While I think the use of strikethrough text can work, it has to be used sparingly to make the most impact. I do think Laurie overdid it a bit in this book.
I would say that Wintergirls has a paranormal-ish feel to it, so if you are not a fan of paranormal or magic realism, you might not enjoy parts of this book. It is hard to explain this without spoilers.
***Content/trigger warning: eating disorders, self harm, mental illness, & suicide***
» Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Salt to the Sea is a heartbreaking WWII historical fiction book about the Wilhelm Gustloff catastrophe. If you had never heard about this tragedy, like myself, I encourage you NOT to research it prior to reading this book. It is much better to go into this one blind for best reading experience. I have read lots of WWII historical fiction over the years, so I always appreciate learning about lesser known events. I am appalled that I didn’t know anything about this horrific event in WWII history. How did I not know about this?
I was unsure about the format of Salt to the Sea in the beginning. With very short chapters, 1-2 pages each, and 4 different alternating perspectives, it felt very jarring at first. Once I got into my reading groove, the format made for a very quick paced read.
Speaking of the characters, the characters were so well done here. Sepetys brings each of these characters to life, and made us care deeply for each one. I admired Joana and her determination to help others. My heart broke for Emilia as her story unfolded and we learn of everything she has faced in her short life. I enjoyed watching Florian’s development from a rather unlikable character in the beginning, to one of my favorites at the end. The Shoemaker & the lost boy will melt your heart. I even liked Eva, the tactless woman that you were not really supposed to like! This is one of those casts of characters that you think about long after you finish the book.
Since Salt to the Sea, is a WWII historical fiction, you can probably already infer that it is not a happy book, to which you’d be absolutely right. This book will take your heart and break it. If you are looking for a uplifting or beachy type read, this is not it. If you are looking for a book that makes you feel deep emotions, this is THAT book.
I LOVE that Ruta targeted this book to the YA age group. YA historical fiction is definitely lacking in my opinion. It just seems that YA these days is dominated by two genres: fantasy and contemporary. Not only can historical fiction be entertaining, but can also be informative and ignite curiosity in historical events. Nothing against YA fantasy or contemporary, but I am happy to see the emergence of more authors writing historical fiction targeted to a younger audience.
I deducted a half star because Alfred’s perspective felt off to me. While I understand Alfred’s purpose in the narrative, I think there was something missing in his character arc.
***Trigger/content warning: rape, graphic scenes, etc***
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
Comment below & let me know 🙂