196: Read More Variety with Versatile Authors
In this Unabridged episode, Jen, Ashley, and Sara share some of our favorite authors who write for multiple age groups OR for different genres (or both!). This episode is perfect for those completing the Unabridged Reading Challenge for 2021; this will give you lots of great ideas for who to read for the versatile authors category. We talk about favorite authors such as John Green, Jacqueline Woodson, Rainbow Rowell, Sherry Thomas, and others. Listen in to hear our thoughts, and find us on social media @unabridgedpod to share your favorites with us!
Our Author Picks
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Ashley said, "So one of the things I'm reading is one that I know we all really anticipated this year. I am listening to this one thanks to Libro.fm, and this is Taylor Jenkins Reid's Malibu Rising (Amazon | Bookshop.org). So this was a highly anticipated book of the year for a lot of people, I know. For me personally, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Amazon | Bookshop.org) is my personal TJR favorite and made me a really avid fan of her work. I am not very far in this one yet, but what I know is that it is set in the 80s, and it focuses on four siblings. Their dad is a famous musician. They're all in their 20s, the youngest, Kit, is still in school; the oldest Nina is, I think, in her late 20s. Jay and Hud are in between, and they are very close in age. So their dad is really famous, and because of that they have a lot of kind of celebrity status, and they're really well known. The story mostly focuses on one day, and it's all leading up to this big annual party that they have at their house on the beach at Malibu. It's a party where lots of celebrities come, and it is a really famous event. Nina, who actually lives in the house, is getting prepared for that event. As the story unfolds, and this is something I love about Reid's work, you get this one focal event that's happening, and then you have the backstory of all of the parts that led up to that event. I really love that. So, early on, you're getting the backstory of Mick and June, the mom and dad of the four siblings, and what their relationship was like as they first got to know each other. I love that. So I really think that right away, I am connected to the story because I'm seeing not only the four siblings, each of whom have a lot going on, a lot of kind of secrets on their inside that they're not connecting to each other with, and so you see that happening. But then also I am loving getting to know the parents as young people and how they first got to know each other and what their backstory is for Mick and June. So I am intrigued so far. For me, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a very, very high standard, so I'll be curious to see if this one holds up to that for me, but I definitely am really enjoying it, and I am loving some of the things I've come to see as trademarks in her books of being able to unpack a tremendous amount of history leading up to a single focal point, and I see that happening here. So again, that's Taylor Jenkins Reid's Malibu Rising."
Jen said, "So I actually am cheating a little bit. I have finished this one I read this for a buddy read and had a deadline. But this is Kerry Winfrey's Very Sincerely Yours (Amazon | Bookshop.org), and I read this with @thechicklitbookclub. So it is a romance. So these are closed-door romances: she's had three, and Waiting for Tom Hanks (Amazon | Bookshop.org) was her first, and she has a really great sense of character. In this book, she's focusing on Teddy Phillips, and Teddy has been in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend. She is convinced that he is getting ready to ask her to marry him, so she sets up this romantic dinner with candlelight and romantic music in the background. She has misinterpreted the signs, and he is actually breaking up with her. She decided in college when they met that she would make his life as easy as possible, which basically means that she has become a doormat for this boyfriend. She has closed herself off from her friends. She has let all of her interests go, and she doesn't really know who she is anymore. So when he breaks up with her, he also kicks her out of their home because he says she couldn't afford to live there by herself, which is true, but . . . . So she goes to live with two of her friends, who even though she has told them no to hanging out for years, they have continued to extend invitations. So she gets to their house, and they basically let her live in their closet where they have thrown a bed. And she's just trying to figure out who she is. She works in a toy store, and she really loves her boss, and she likes her co worker. She has a sister who she used to be really close to, but that relationship has also faltered. The one thing that she has is this secret affection for a children's show featuring a guy named Everett. She watches it in secret on her laptop because in every episode he answers quite letters from children, and she just really appreciates how affirming he is. Then he treats them with dignity, and she realizes that this is how she yearns to be treated and hasn't been treated. So she sort of has this secondary feeling of being affirmed. The other protagonist is Everett St. James, who is a puppeteer. He is the guy who's making these children feel so wonderful. He has known since he was four that he wanted to be a puppeteer, and he thought he wanted to do more adult shows—he loves The Muppet Show and the way it bridges between children and adults. But when he was 18, his parents announced that they were having a baby, and they had a little girl named Gretel. He loved her so much and became so interested in seeing her as a person instead of just this little kid that he changed his vision and decided to be a puppeteer for kids. So that's how this all came about.
"So eventually, Teddy is just having a really rough time one day, and she decides on a whim to write to Everett about her situation and about not knowing who she is anymore because she broke up with or this guy broke up with her. He writes back. So they start this correspondence. It's not purely an epistolary novel, but there are letters back and forth, or their emails back and forth in most of the chapters that are just the sweetest thing. They're both really clever, and they're really funny, and they change their signature every time to match what they're talking about. It's just really sweet. I think Winfrey does a great job balancing the romance element of it with also a very sincerely being about both of these characters' identities and the way that Teddy is very unsure of who she is and ever thinks he's very sure of what he wants to be in a way that has closed him off. He is so obsessed with work and with his show that he has also closed himself off from friends. So it's it's interesting to see the way they complement each other. And yeah, it was just a really, really sweet romance. I think you both would actually love it. Some of the people in the buddy read have said that the audio is also really good. So I can't speak to that, but they really liked it. That is Kerry Winfrey's Very Sincerely Yours."
Sara said, "I am reading Emiko Jean's Tokyo Ever After (Amazon | Bookshop.org). This is a YA novel, and when I was reading the description of it, it's described as Crazy Rich Asians (Amazon | Bookshop.org) meets The Princess Diaries (Amazon | Bookshop.org). So, so it is about Izumi Tanaka. She is Japanese American, she lives with her mom, her single mom in California, and she doesn't know her father. After some sleuthing by her best friend, she realizes that her father is likely the grand Crown Prince of Japan. So she confronts her mom, and she writes a letter to her dad, and so they they kind of connect, and she goes to Japan to experience her role as part of the imperial family. I just love it. It's pretty frothy in my opinion. It does talk about some cultural issues. Also, the fact that Izumi is Japanese American but doesn't have any real connection to her Japanese heritage until she goes to Japan and how she's always felt kind of out of place in California, but she also feels out place in Japan. She doesn't really feel like she belongs anywhere. But it's funny: I mean, it has a little bit of romance, and it just has this really great story about kind of finding your way, and Izumi is a really funny narrator: she's witty, and I just think it's really good. I think it's perfect for YA readers and for people who like YA. I really enjoyed the discussion of the Japanese elite and being part of the crown, the imperial family, and what that means and what you actually have to sacrifice to do that. So I thought, I just think it's all really interesting. I I just really like it. I'm listening to it on audio, and I just want to have my earbuds in at all times. So it's great. So that is Emiko Jean's Tokyo Ever After."
Main Discussion.- Versatile Authors
Here's a small selection of the recommendations we offer in the episode.
Ashley said, "So one author I wanted to highlight is Isabel Quintero. She wrote Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (Amazon | Bookshop.org), which Jen and I have both read and talked to students about. I absolutely loved that—it is a young adult novel. . . . Basically, I just think she is a brilliant author, and what I loved about that one, what has really resonated with me about that story, is the way that Gabi comes to find herself and see herself fully and that she comes to embrace all parts of herself. I just think that's really well done in that book, and I love there's a lot of connection to writing in it. I think that's really beautiful too. More recently, she wrote a children's book called My Papi Has a Motorcycle (Amazon | Bookshop.org). I have that one for my kids, and I love it; it is one of my most favorite picture books. I think what I love in both of the stories is that Taro is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and grew up in Southern California. Although both of the stories are fiction, or at least in the children's book, it's not directly stated that that was her childhood, per se, it's still she speaks to her experience as the child of immigrants and what that is like, and she explores those cultural dynamics and how complicated that can be. She does that in both of those books at an age-appropriate level. So that's what I really love about it: I think that we just see the celebration of her heritage in her culture, the celebration of how each of us is a unique individual, but also part of a bigger whole. I also love about the children's book that it is a celebration of the daughter's love for her dad. I think there's just so few books out there that are not like a Father's Day book that show a great rapport between a dad and a daughter. That doesn't tell anything beyond that. There's just a story of, I mean, that one's really focused on how the daughter loves when he comes home in the evening. He's a hard worker, but when he comes home, he always gets her helmet and puts her on the back of the motorcycle and they ride around town together. This is really special thing that they do in their community and that she looks forward to as part of her daily routine as a child. I just think that's a really beautiful celebration of something that is routine, but it's also like really special to a child. I love the illustrations. I love the way that the story is told. So she's one I would highly recommend."
Sara said, "Well, I get the pleasure of talking about Jacqueline Woodson who we all adore. We have talked about extensively on the podcast, and this past summer we read Red at the Bone (Amazon | Bookshop.org), which was we all just loved. I think what Jacqueline Woodson does so well is she writes about her experiences that she's had growing up, but she can write it for all age groups, and she . . . I feel I feel like when you read Woodson, you feel like you've gotten a little piece of her when you read all of her books. I've read several of her middle-grade reads. The one most impactful for me was Brown Girl Dreaming (Amazon | Bookshop.org), which I've listened to, and it is a memoir in verse about her growing up and her trials and tribulations, but it's just so beautiful. She reads the audio book; it is such a phenomenal listening experience, but I've also read, of course, Red at the Bone. Then I've read some of her children's books, Each Kindness (Amazon | Bookshop.org) and The Day You Begin (Amazon | Bookshop.org), and she just does an amazing job of just pouring all of this heart into everything she writes. I think that she is one of the authors—and I think we've talked about it before—but that in the classroom, you could really look across her work and just really analyze all the things that she does to make it such each book such a unique reading experience. We all love her. I mean, I feel comfortable speaking for Ashley and Jen: every book I have read, I leave feeling like I have gained something, and I'm always just touched by her words. She is just a beautiful writer, and she writes prose and verse equally well. I don't know what else to I don't know what else I can say because I mean, all of her work is just fantastic."
Jen said, "This was a tough choice. But I decided to go with David Yoon. So he has three books, and with those, he crosses both genres and age groups. So he's another one who would work with both options. He has two romance books written for young adults, Frankly in Love (Amazon | Bookshop.org) and Super Fake Love Song (Amazon | Bookshop.org). Then just this past summer, he published Version Zero (Amazon | Bookshop.org), which is speculative fiction published for adults. I think what I really loved about him is both in why romance and in speculative fiction, there are a lot of genre notes that authors need to hit, and he does that. But he also writes characters who expand beyond those genres, so we see them as such real people who are flawed and who have things that they are working through outside of the romance, or in the speculative fiction book, outside of the action plot that is driving it. He also takes the time to expand the character so that we really understand them. We see, actually in all three, characters who are dealing with some of the difficulties of being second-generation immigrants, we see them dealing with love, obviously, in the romances that that happens and in Version Zero, his speculative fiction book, we see them trying to figure out how to navigate the world in a way that allows them to do the right thing and to be good people but also recognizing that that is not always easy. I was not sure what to expect when I read Version Zero because it is so far outside of the YA romance world, but oh my goodness, I just loved it all over again. He is just a good writer, no matter the genre, no matter the age group, and I think you can't help but be touched by the emotion of the book, even while it's focusing on this plot about social media companies and the internet. It's kind of a fascinating read: you should read a synopsis if you're at all interested. So I think David Yoon would be a great choice for this category."
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Give Me One - Library Tip
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