A loose sequel to the transcendent The First Part Last, with Bobby and Feather as supporting characters in a story about 14-year-old Marley, whose life in idyllic Heaven, Ohio falls apart when she finds out that she was adopted. I am happy to report that, in a story in which all the characters are African-American, the cover depicts a black girl.

I enjoyed reading this, but it was a like-not-love. The prose was gorgeous and evocative, laced with humor and moments of poetic beauty, and the emotions and characters were believable. But while one of the themes was that there’s more to life than meets the eye and that Heaven isn’t as perfect as it seems, a lot of the story still seemed overly idealized. So did Bobby and Feather, which was not the case in The First Part Last. (If Feather had ever had a huge tantrum and driven everyone crazy, it would have gone a long way toward making the whole book work for me.) I also never really understood why Marley’s parents didn’t tell her the truth from the beginning.

Heaven
A loose sequel to the transcendent The First Part Last, with Bobby and Feather as supporting characters in a story about 14-year-old Marley, whose life in idyllic Heaven, Ohio falls apart when she finds out that she was adopted. I am happy to report that, in a story in which all the characters are African-American, the cover depicts a black girl.

I enjoyed reading this, but it was a like-not-love. The prose was gorgeous and evocative, laced with humor and moments of poetic beauty, and the emotions and characters were believable. But while one of the themes was that there’s more to life than meets the eye and that Heaven isn’t as perfect as it seems, a lot of the story still seemed overly idealized. So did Bobby and Feather, which was not the case in The First Part Last. (If Feather had ever had a huge tantrum and driven everyone crazy, it would have gone a long way toward making the whole book work for me.) I also never really understood why Marley’s parents didn’t tell her the truth from the beginning.

Heaven
A touching YA novel about Sophy, a fourteen-year-old dancer, and her older sister Nicole, who is schizophrenic. Nicole's illness emerged when she was fourteen, and Sophy is terrified that she too will have her life swept away by mental illness.

Johnson's delicate touch with serious subjects is evident, but this novel doesn't reach the transcendant heights of The First Part Last (which I highly recommend); it's more of a well-characterized, well-written problem novel. Unusually for the genre, I didn't find it depressing, though now I'm not sure why since not only does Nicole not get cured or even have her illness better-managed, but someone else randomly suffers a stroke! I guess Johnson's genuine hope for better things and sense of ordinary joys shines through.

Click here to buy it from Amazon: Humming Whispers (Black Apples)
A touching YA novel about Sophy, a fourteen-year-old dancer, and her older sister Nicole, who is schizophrenic. Nicole's illness emerged when she was fourteen, and Sophy is terrified that she too will have her life swept away by mental illness.

Johnson's delicate touch with serious subjects is evident, but this novel doesn't reach the transcendant heights of The First Part Last (which I highly recommend); it's more of a well-characterized, well-written problem novel. Unusually for the genre, I didn't find it depressing, though now I'm not sure why since not only does Nicole not get cured or even have her illness better-managed, but someone else randomly suffers a stroke! I guess Johnson's genuine hope for better things and sense of ordinary joys shines through.

Click here to buy it from Amazon: Humming Whispers (Black Apples)
Help me prioritize my to-read stacks! Please comment to tell me which I should read first and why, and if there's anything I should avoid and why.

Note: This is just the first poll.

Other note: I have already read and enjoyed other books by Butler, Myers, Johnson, and Liu.

[Poll #1342964]
Help me prioritize my to-read stacks! Please comment to tell me which I should read first and why, and if there's anything I should avoid and why.

Note: This is just the first poll.

Other note: I have already read and enjoyed other books by Butler, Myers, Johnson, and Liu.

[Poll #1342964]
[livejournal.com profile] oyceter recommended this book, so I BookMooched it. Unfortunately, by the time it arrived, I had forgotten why I requested it. The back cover made it sound like an Afterschool Special on teen pregnancy, so I put it aside and only picked it up again due to beginning the [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc challenge. (The author and all the characters are African-American.)

This demonstrates another reason why the challenge is a good idea: the book is fantastic, and I would have never read it otherwise. Now I want to read all of Johnson's other books.

The storyline is simple but elegant. Alternating chapters tell a tale of past and present. In the present, sixteen-year-old Bobby is a single father caring for his baby Feather. In the past, his girlfriend Nia tells him she's pregnant. The stories move forward until they meet.

It's not the events that make this book special, but the beautiful simplicity of the prose, the precise and delicate evocation of emotions, the sweetness of Bobby's relationship with his baby daughter, and the power of Johnson's reconception of parenting as the work that separates boys from men. Not a word is wasted, every character seems real, and there's no preaching at all.

I loved it. It made me cry.

[livejournal.com profile] kintail, this might suit your needs: short, simple prose, excellent.

Click here to order it from Amazon: The First Part Last

I posted the first page under the cut, and I highly recommend that you read it. )
[livejournal.com profile] oyceter recommended this book, so I BookMooched it. Unfortunately, by the time it arrived, I had forgotten why I requested it. The back cover made it sound like an Afterschool Special on teen pregnancy, so I put it aside and only picked it up again due to beginning the [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc challenge. (The author and all the characters are African-American.)

This demonstrates another reason why the challenge is a good idea: the book is fantastic, and I would have never read it otherwise. Now I want to read all of Johnson's other books.

The storyline is simple but elegant. Alternating chapters tell a tale of past and present. In the present, sixteen-year-old Bobby is a single father caring for his baby Feather. In the past, his girlfriend Nia tells him she's pregnant. The stories move forward until they meet.

It's not the events that make this book special, but the beautiful simplicity of the prose, the precise and delicate evocation of emotions, the sweetness of Bobby's relationship with his baby daughter, and the power of Johnson's reconception of parenting as the work that separates boys from men. Not a word is wasted, every character seems real, and there's no preaching at all.

I loved it. It made me cry.

[livejournal.com profile] kintail, this might suit your needs: short, simple prose, excellent.

Click here to order it from Amazon: The First Part Last

I posted the first page under the cut, and I highly recommend that you read it. )
.

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