I reviewed this book in May and loved it then, but I have since re-read it when I selected it as my choice for our Staff Book Club and I grew to appreciate it even more. Though it is certainly not an overwhelmingly happy book (I took some heat at book club for picking a "downer"), I thought it was incredibly well-written and full of interesting and realistic characters. Each of the three children in the family featured remind me of students I have known over the years, which made the story more meaningful for me. I originally picked it up because it won an Alex Award & I have been recommending it widely to both students and adults ever since.
This book made a million lists during award season and took home honors in the Printz & Stonewall categories. I started it in the crazy, end of the school year frenzy and finished it up over the summer break. The writing style simply captivated me. Every description in a range from joyous to heart-breaking was so beautifully depicted. I didn't want the book to end. I felt like the creativity of the writing and of the characters in the story was somehow making me more interesting by association. I loved the voices of both Jude and Noah equally and was delighted by the formatting that somehow allowed me to know how the story began and how it ended, yet still left me surprised and amazed as the two parts met in the middle.
I'm not the kind of person who would qualify something as special or unique "for a graphic novel". I think graphic novels can bring just as much meaning and voice as any other writing, and I find that they often affect me in different ways than other novels. That being said, this graphic novel packed an extra punch. It had a palpable sincerity to it, and something about the blue-on-blue coloring matched the bittersweet tone of the writing. I had already heard a ton of positive buzz about This One Summer when I picked it up, yet it exceeded all of my expectations.
This one won an Alex Award, and then later, the Pulitzer, so the odds were pretty good that it was going to be amazing, but somehow I was still surprised an how moving it was. I read a lot of great World War II stories this year (Lisette's List, At the Water's Edge, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Port Chicago 50), but this one was clearly in a league of its own. The writing had such precision to it. You get the impression that the writer toiled over each word in order to share the specific image that he had in his head with the reader. (This might actually be the case since he wrote it over the course of 10 years!) The details of the story and the nuances of the characters were all so rich and poignant. And you know right from the start that it's not going to be a happy story, yet it was somehow quite satisfying anyway. The accolades are well-deserved.
This was definitely the most fun book to read of these five. It managed to be hilarious while still carrying a meaningful message. The voices of the two main characters, Bernadette and Bea, were both so authentic and likeable. I wanted them to be real people that I could befriend. This was another book club selection and it was a universal favorite. It was a modified epistolary novel, telling the story through a collection of emails, memos, letters, etc. I love epistolary novels (though my book club balked at the format initially) because they can be read in small chunks, a captured moment here or there, which unfortunately, is how I squeeze in a lot of my reading these days. I recently blogged that this would be a perfect holiday break novel because of its humorous tone and easy pace, which may be the precise combination that led to me loving it so much.