Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

The year is 1968 and Sammy Santos is a complicated teenager. When his friends and family aren’t dying in front of him in their New Mexico barrio, they’re being drafted into the war in Vietnam. He struggles through his senior year of high school, torn between the places his book smarts can get him and the realities of poverty. He’s haunted by his ghosts but eventually learns to love the pigeon he feels inside him, beating its wings against his ribcage and making him do things he might later regret.

Saenz is an incredible writer. Sammy tackles some really tough topics, and other than a few comments on clothing and mustaches, it’s easy to forget this takes place 45 years ago because he talks about the universal issues that teens face (identity, the future, etc). I highly recommend not only adding this book to your collection, but checking out Saenz’s other works, like Aristotle And Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Now I’ll Tell You Everything; or, I Am Alice McKinley

by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

There is a generation of women who grew up with Alice McKinley. Her struggles were our struggles, her questions and embarrassments were our own. The first 28 books took us up to her high school graduation and now the final, 500-page installment delivers its title’s promise: it takes us to college with Alice, and through relationships and kids and aging parents, all the way until she’s 60 years old. I imagine Phyllis Reynolds Naylor putting down her pen (or, probably more likely, typing THE END) and thinking, “There. That ought to fend them off until they’re that age, and by that time they’ll be on their own. If they haven’t figured out how to manage without Alice by then, too bad.”

I inhaled this one, reading 400 pages last Sunday and finishing up the last hundred the next evening (it’s unfortunate when work gets in the way of your reading time, even when you work in a library!). I won’t spoil anything, but her life is relatively charmed, though her friends and family have their struggles. The things Alice goes through spoke so clearly to my own life that I feel more than ever that we are the same person, even moreso than when I was a preteen. I can tell you right now that I will be rereading this book, and probably several times.