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Start off the New Year with a Great Book!

Dear Reader,

Reading is armchair travel -- learning about other people in other places, sometimes in other times and other worlds.  In this month's newsletter, we go to Montreal, Vermont, Iran, and Texas.  Enjoy the visits and the stories of lives lived in other places and stories that may parallel our own.  

Happy Reading!
John & all DIESELfolk

New Books We Love This Month

Darius Kellner is a unique person, to say the least. He is a Fractional Persian on his mom’s side, loves Star Trek, knows more about Hobbits than his Persian relatives, is one of the more unpopular kids in school, and has a bad relationship with his father. On top of that, he suffers from a bad case of depression. When his family gets some unfortunate news, the entire family takes a trip to Iran to visit his mom’s relatives. There, Darius meets Sohrab, his grandparent’s neighbor. Sohrab invites him to play soccer on their first meeting, and suddenly Darius’ world is turned upside down.

The story of a young man who finally finds his place in the world, Darius The Great Is Not Okay is easily one of the most heartwarming books I have ever read. Part family drama, part coming-of-age, part To Kill A Mockingbird, this story has some of the deepest emotional lessons about finding your place that I have ever read. The best part about this story, however, is that while it has a very deep meaning, it does not spend too much time picking it apart or analyzing the meaning like a textbook; it gets straight to the point. This does not dilute the moral of the story at all. On the contrary, this makes the book all the better; it teaches its lesson in a way that all but guarantees the people who read this book, both kids and adults, will not lose interest right up until the very end. 

To whoever reads this, go to your nearest bookstore and get this book at once. It will keep you occupied for weeks! I hope you enjoy it, and to all you readers out there, have a great day! -- Lawson Michael Lowe

Two Can Keep a Secret
by Karen E. McManus

Ellery Corcoran has never had a stable home life. Moving from town to town throughout her childhood, she has learned to rely entirely on her mother, Sadie, and her twin brother, Ezra. After Sadie is put in rehab, Ellery and Ezra leave their apartment just east of Los Angeles and move to Echo Ridge, Vermont. Though Echo Ridge is a classic small New England town, it has much darker secrets than its manicured lawns and covered bridges seem to hold. The town is notorious in the national news for one thing: murder. Specifically, the murder of two teenage girls… one of whom was Ellery’s aunt.

Ellery will have to get to know the deceptively idyllic town and its people– including three popular girls, her grandmother, the mother of a murder victim, and the mysterious Malcolm Kelly, the brother of one of the Echo Ridge killing suspects– and learn where she and her family fit into the complicated jigsaw of a town.

When history repeats itself and another teenage girl goes missing, Ellery and her friends must put the pieces together and solve all three crimes before it’s too late. 

I’ve been a fan of Karen M. McManus’ books since I initially read One of Us Is Lying. The elaborate structure of her novels are far more intricate than any other YA mystery books I’ve read, and they continue to surprise the reader even after the main puzzle is solved. However, McManus’ writing goes further than the average murder mystery– she creates complex characters with vivid backstories and unique personalities that will have you rooting some on, detesting others, and wishing the best for the rest. 

An ambitious second novel, Two Can Keep a Secret holds all the same intrigue and intellect as One of Us Is Lying. Character development is found by the gallon-full – Ellery and Ezra begin the story as wanderers who have haphazardly followed their mother’s acting dreams. Amidst the drama, death, and disaster, they become part of a community for the first time. Conversely, Malcolm’s uncertainty about his brother’s true identity is a tangible struggle between his younger self’s perceptions of the world and his current self’s knowledge of reality. The mystery itself is just as zealously written; the entire book will send chills down your spine down to the very last sentence. 

This teenage thriller is bound to pique the interest of anyone with a love of mystery, detective dramas, or even just classic YA. McManus’ books are, metaphorically speaking, killing it! -– Paisley Kandler

Sixteen-year-old Norris is confident in his identity: French, Canadian, Haitian, and incredibly snarky. Despite the fact that his parents are divorced, he loves growing up in Montréal. Between his hockey team and his best friend, Eric, how could life be better? Then, Norris’ mother accepts tenure at a university in the United States. He’s not upset by having to move… that is until she reveals that they’re going to Texas. 

Norris feels as though his life turns upside down. From the minute nobody recognizes his hockey jersey at the airport, he knows he’s doomed. School is no better; he’s feared the worst from a lifetime of American teen movies. Still, nothing prepares him for aggressive cheerleaders, apelike football players, and the sheer amount of ugly orange paint that Anderson High uses in every hallway. Even so, he starts to fall into a routine. After school, he works at a local barbecue restaurant; at school, he tries running into the artistic Aarti Puri, a girl who might just be a manic pixie dream girl. With the friendships of a kindly cheerleader and a mysteriously monastic boy, Norris starts to feel as though moving to Texas might have been worth it. 

While Norris’ behavior would likely be unbearable in real life, Field Guide is thoroughly entertaining to read through his eyes. Norris is the person who says all the sarcastic things everyone else is too afraid to say, but, it’s evident that his cynicism comes from insecurity. He’s still recovering from the pain of his father remarrying, as well as the dramatic juxtaposition of moving to Texas from Canada. However, by the end of the book, he is able to grow significantly as a person. Norris is an adolescent anti-hero to root for. Complex, clever, and with a unique personality, his quick wit is sure to make you smile. -– Paisley Kandler

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