Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Under the Radar YAs

I’ve been reading some pretty obscure books lately. Well, listening to some pretty obscure books.

Because my commute to work has totally changed, I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks, and I’ve been restricted to the audiobooks my library has on its Overdrive. It’s not exactly the best selection. Neither of the two books, both of which are relatively unknown YAs, really needs a post of its own.

So I want to try a new concept: Buy, Borrow, Bypass, based on the BookRiot feature of the same name. Basically you take several books around the same theme and determine which of them is worth your ever-limited reading time. So I guess the theme this week would be under the radar YAs, and I only have two. I’m easing into it, okay?

 

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What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

★★★

Murder and intrigue surround a girl in this mystery set in American in the aftermath of WWII

When Evie’s father returned home from World War II, the family fell back into its normal life pretty quickly. But Joe Spooner brought more back with him than just good war stories. When movie-star handsome Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served in Joe’s company in postwar Austria, shows up, Evie is suddenly caught in a complicated web of lies that she only slowly recognizes. She finds herself falling for Peter, ignoring the secrets that surround him . . . until a tragedy occurs that shatters her family and breaks her life in two.

“Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up, baby. It’s not all polka dots and moonbeams, you know.”
Bypassing the ridiculous name, this is a pretty solid historical fiction coming-of-age set the years immediately after WWII. This time period doesn’t get a lot of love in historical fiction; it certainly lacks the high intensity of WWII, and doesn’t have the chill vibes of the 60s, man. But it was also a time of rapid change in America, and What I Saw does not shy away from asking questions about antisemitism, sexism and substance abuse. At its core, its about a girl finding out that her parents are not the heroes she’s made them about to be, and then learning to love them anyway.
The romance never really worked for me. Evie’s head-over-heels crush was totally appropriate for her age, but Peter was so nonreciprocating and so sleazy that I found myself actively rooting against them.
The structure of the book is also kind of weird. The “tragedy” alluded to in the summary should be the natural climax of the book, but it isn’t. It happens off-stage. It’s supposed to be this earth-shattering event that tears everything apart, but the reader doesn’t even get to see it. Then there’s the whole tacked-on fallout that just didn’t hold my interest, and I was honestly just waiting to get to the finish line.
VERDICT: Bypass.

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 Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

★★★★

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

“Isn’t it funny how we live inside the lies we believe?”

I had no idea this book existed until I found the audio edition on my library’s Overdrive. I knew of A.S. King from her more well-known book, Ask the Passengers, but Vera Dietz was knew to me.

There’s so much going on in this book: the central storyline is the slow unraveling of Charlie and Vera’s friendship, and the events leading up to the horrible crime and Charlie’s death. But the best part of the story for me was the relationship between Vera and her single dad, Ken. Her dad is a recovering addict whose strict parenting is heavily influenced by his own past mistakes. Seeing Vera and Ken work through their issues and begin to rebuild a relationship is the most touching part of the book.

This is also the kind of book that makes me want to yell “THIS PEOPLE! THIS IS HOW YOU DO ALTERNATING POVs!” Because A.S. King does them RIGHT. She lets our main character tell the bulk of the story but intersperses other point-of-views to provide a richer and fuller narrative, as well as for doses of humor and irony. All YA writers please take note.

The reason it wasn’t five stars for me was the villain. I’m all for making a bullying teenager the villain in your YA contemporary, but the villain has to have a reason for being villainous. I didn’t buy the motivation for her truly heinous behavior.

Vera is wonderfully sarcastic and real. Both she are Charlie are flawed, empathetic and well-rounded characters that make this book well-worth the read.

I don’t usually go for blurbs on covers, especially when they’re from other authors, but Ellen Hopkins is absolutely correct when she says that this book is really special. It’s unique, it’s fascinating and it’s original. Highly, highly recommended.

VERDICT: Buy!


What I loved about both of these books was that it lets the parents be people. So often in YA, parents are caricatures or absent all together. What I liked about both What I Saw and Vera Dietz was that the parents get to be fully human: they are flawed but trying to be the best people they can be – just like everyone else.

Have you read either of these books? I would love to hear someone else’s thoughts!

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4 thoughts on “Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Under the Radar YAs

  1. Very Dietz sounds like a very interesting read! And What I Saw And How I Lied has such an intriguing cover. I can’t pick!!!! I love looking for under the radar books because most of the time they are amazing reads. Thanks for bringing these to my notice.

    Like

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