"A Heart in the Body of the World", by Deb Caletti

Finding it marketed as Young Adult, I picked this book up with little expectation. Boy, was I in for a surprise. It grabbed me from the start and never let go until the very end which I read with tears dripping onto the pages.

In the opening scene, Annabelle, the main character, has a mild encounter with some overly flirtatious boys that sets her off on a ten-mile sprint - in her school clothes and flats while still holding her fast food drink cup. At this point, we understand that there is clearly something going on with her.

After spending the night in a hotel just a couple of miles from home, she decides she’s going to run across the country. On her own. She doesn’t know how or really why, but she can’t stay in her current circumstance. Her loud Italian mom, Gina, is having none of it, but younger brother Malcolm, her biggest cheerleader, understands and helps her get going. And, on her second day of running, her true guardian angel, Grandpa Ed, shows up in his RV to follow her during the day and house her during the night.

Annabelle’s tragedy comes out piece by piece. We learn she is going to have to face Sean Greggory but we don’t know who he is. We learn of The Taker, a boy whom she never names, but we know she had a relationship with him that went very wrong. We learn of her old boyfriend, Will, and her best friend, Kat, and how she has mental conversations with them.

As Annabelle goes through staggering physical challenges on her cross country run, so, too, does she emotionally. At first, she is consumed by guilt and shame. Then grief. Then rage. Which carries her through all those times when she just wants to quit. “When you are a human being, you must decide and decide again to go forward. You must, or you won’t move from the worst that life offers to here……”

Caletti writes a breathtakingly beautiful story about so much pain. And, without giving away the story, I will just say that she touches on a number of today’s very hot topics with searing clarity. She writes from the perspective of a teenage girl in a fashion that makes it hard to believe she isn’t one. She shows how ALL love has its weaknesses, that no love is perfect, but what IS perfect is that we keep on trying. She speaks of activism and how all it takes is one person to start a chain reaction. “People plus people plus anger is how things can change.”

This is not a young adult book. This is an EVERYONE book. I think it should be required reading for all of those going through life. Caletti captures the frailty of the human existence while simultaneously extolling the absolute strength that can come from the human spirit – even one that seems crushed beyond recovery.

A compelling story with outstanding writing, A Heart in a Body in the World is ALL HEART.

Published: 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Elizabeth’s rating: 5 stars

"Love and Other Perishable Items", by Laura Buzo - Book Review

“So, Amelia, what do you hate?” he says, leaning back in his side of the booth.
“Hate?”
“Yes, hate. You know, despise, loathe, abhor. What erodes you from the inside?”
“What, about myself, or the world in general?”
“Let’s start with you, then move on to the world in general.”
“I hate that I am fat and ugly and stupid.”
Chris takes a swig of his beer. “You are none of those things, but I can dig irrational self-loathing. What else?”

Australian author, Laura Buzo’s novel, Love and Other Perishable Itemstakes a realistic and charming look at what a young girl endures when she has a crush that she knows deep down will not amount to anything except a broken heart. 15-year-old Amelia Hayes falls for her grocery store co-worker, Chris. At 21-years-old, Amelia knows that Chris is too old for her, but this does not stop her from falling for him and obsessing non-stop about every interaction.

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The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken - Book Review

Many young adult novels these days are heavy on plot and light on character development. This is not the case in The Darkest Minds, the first in a series by Alexandra Bracken. This series takes place in a futuristic Virginia where, out of nowhere, kids between the ages of eight and fourteen begin to die suddenly from a mysterious illness. The kids who miraculously survive this illness are not loved, but feared. This is because their survival identifies them as having dangerous mental abilities ranging from photographic memories, to telekinesis, to being able to read and control the minds of others.

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