Marshmallow reviews The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Marshmallow has already reviewed When You Reach Me (2009) and Goodbye Stranger (2015) by Rebecca Stead. Today she reviews Stead’s newest novel, published in 2020: The List of Things That Will Not Change.

Marshmallow reviews The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow reviews The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family and you want to read about how different characters tackle change, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): When Bea’s parents tell her that they are getting divorced, they give her a green notebook. In it is a list of things that won’t change, even though almost everything else might:

  1. Mom loves you more than anything, always.
  2. Dad loves you more than anything, always.
  3. Mom and Dad love each other but in a different way.
  4. You will always have a home with each of us.
  5. Your homes will never be far apart.
  6. We are still a family but in a different way.

Her parents’ divorce is amicable; the reason for the divorce is that Bea’s father is gay.

After the divorce, Bea’s life splits in two different parts, sometimes living with her mother and sometimes with her father. Later, her father gets engaged with another man, Jesse. Bea really likes Jesse and looks forward to him becoming a part of the family. Not to mention that Jesse has a daughter Bea’s age named Sonia, and Bea has always wanted a sister.

But Bea has other issues to face. She has eczema which is annoying to her, and she goes to therapy to deal with her stress. Everything is now different, but Bea keeps herself up by talking with her friends and family, who are always there to support her. Bea and her family will struggle to reach their happy ending. 

Marshmallow is reading The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow is reading The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Review: I found this a touching book. Bea is very thoughtful, and this book really highlights and goes into her thoughts and feelings. It was sad to see how some of the folks in the book mistreated Bea’s father and his new partner because of their sexual orientation.

The List of Things That Will Not Change was extremely realistic and felt very down to earth when I was reading it. Every character was unique and well thought-out, and the narrative and tone of the book felt very genuine. That said, I don’t quite think the end was one hundred percent fulfilling, but it was definitely satisfactory. However, I did like how all the loose parts were tied up in the end. I also found it interesting how not everything was perfect in the end but it was realistic. (I’m not going to say much more!)

The List of Things That Will Not Change would be appropriate for all ages, presuming that the person would understand the plot, which I felt was easy enough to understand, though it had some extra nuances for an older reader who would see all the threads from beginning to end.

Bea’s relationship with Sonia might remind some readers of a book I reviewed a while ago: To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. There are indeed some similarities but also a lot of differences. Bea’s health issues reminded me a bit of Guts by Raina Telgemeier, another book I reviewed for the blog. And compared with the other books I have read of Rebecca Stead, the tone and voice of this book was very similar. The setting and tone were more reminiscent of When You Reach Me, but the realism was quite like that of Goodbye Stranger. But The List of Things That Will Not Change has definitely a unique and original story, and I really enjoyed reading it; I think most bunnies would, too. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead 95%.
Marshmallow rates The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Today Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child, a novel by Kacen Callender published in 2018.

Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.
Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Caroline Murphy was born during a hurricane in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This means that she is a hurricane child. But hurricane children are supposed to be unlucky and Caroline has many reasons to feel unlucky. Her mother has disappeared, the children in her school all dislike her, and a woman in black whom no one else is able to see has been following her, ever since she almost drowned on her father’s boat. This woman is everywhere, watching her in school and at home.

Caroline’s life takes an unexpected turn when a new student starts attending her Catholic school. The new student, Kalinda, immediately becomes someone who everyone wants to be friends with. Another popular girl in the school, named Anise who bullies Caroline, asks Kalinda to sit with her group at lunch. Eventually, it seems that Kalinda is now Anise’s friend. However, when Caroline asks Kalinda to sit with her at lunch, Kalinda agrees and they become good friends. In fact, Caroline starts to develop deeper feelings for Kalinda. Unfortunately, Kalinda believes that two women cannot be in love and Caroline hides her feelings. 

Eventually Caroline figures out that Kalinda can see the woman in black, too. Caroline believes that the woman in black is related to her mother’s disappearance. When Caroline confides her suspicions with her friend, Kalinda explains that the woman is black is likely a spirit from the spirit world. Caroline begins to worry that the woman in black has stolen her mother and taken her to the spirit world forever. 

Marshmallow is reading Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.
Marshmallow is reading Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Hurricane Child is a beautiful book that was written very well. The author’s writing style is detailed and poetic. The author presented Caroline’s feelings, her hate, her love, and her sadness, very well. The characters are well written, are realistic, and are relatable. 

On the other hand, the plot had so many elements that I found it slightly hard to keep up. I had trouble occasionally following all the plotlines and I did not understand everything during my first reading. However, all loose threads of the plot were eventually tied up with satisfying endings. 

Trying to think about genre while writing my review, I came upon the description of magical realism from Wikipedia:

As a literary fiction style, magic realism paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements, often dealing with the blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality. Magical realism, perhaps the most common term, often refers to literature in particular, with magical or supernatural phenomena presented in an otherwise real-world or mundane setting, commonly found in novels and dramatic performances. Despite including certain magic elements, it is generally considered to be a different genre from fantasy because magical realism uses a substantial amount of realistic detail and employs magical elements to make a point about reality, while fantasy stories are often separated from reality. Magical realism is often seen as an amalgamation of real and magical elements that produces a more inclusive writing form than either literary realism or fantasy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_realism

Reading this, I think Hurricane Child is definitely magic realism, as the woman in black somehow blends into the realist plotlines of the story. (Ikenga, the book I reviewed last week, is probably also in this genre.) Maybe this aspect of the book was a reason why I had some difficulty first understanding what was real and what was actually going on.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 90%

Marshmallow rates Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender 90%.

Marshmallow reviews Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Both Marshmallow and Caramel are keen readers of graphic novels and they have both reviewed a handful of them for this blog. In particular Marshmallow has reviewed two books by Raina Telgemeier in 2020; you can check out her reviews of Ghost (2016) and the graphic novel version of Ann N. Martin’s Kristy’s Great Idea (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #1) (2006). Today she decided to talk about another book by Telgemeier, the 2012 book Drama.

Marshmallow reviews Drama by Raina Telgemeier.
Marshmallow reviews Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about school, or you like to think about theatre and plays and performances in school, or if you like graphic novels and have especially enjoyed books by Raina Telgemeier, like Ghosts, for example, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Seventh grader Callie is on the stage crew as set designer for this year’s production of Moon over Mississippi, with her best friend, Liz, who is in charge of the costumes. However, she is having issues with her friendships. Also, the school has a limited budget for the performance, so she is restricted in terms of the set pieces she can make. She wants to have a cannon for example, but their budget will allow for only two sets. 

Callie loves theater and she would try out, but she is unable to sing. However, she makes friends with a pair of twins, Jesse and Justin, one of whom, Justin, is trying out for the leading man. The other twin, Jesse, can sing but wants to give his brother a chance to shine. Unfortunately, when the results come out, Justin does not get the leading role. He gets one of the other roles, Colonel Scrimshaw; Justin is very disappointed. Also, Bonnie, a girl Callie does not like, gets the leading woman role. This creates some issues in terms of the cast and the stage crew. 

Also the cannon Callie wanted so much is not working out, as the confetti poppers they are using fails the first time. Callie has to deal with complicated sets, and complications in her social life. Can Callie get Moon over Mississippi up and running?

Marshmallow is reading Drama by Raina Telgemeier.
Marshmallow is reading Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

Marshmallow’s Review: This book is written in a different way than is usual. The characters are actually in a play, themselves. The book is written as if we are seeing the scenes of the play; only in between them, we see the author and the audience. I thought it was interesting that the characters were creating a play, as they performed in one themselves, and it worked really well for me.

According to the Wikipedia article for it, Drama was the seventh most banned book of the 2010-2019 decade in the United States. This seems to be due to the fact that two of Callie’s good friends are gay and they are portrayed in a positive way, which some parents believe children should not be exposed to. However I thought the gay characters were portrayed just as all the others were, and things flowed naturally and realistically. Just like To Night Owl From Dogfish, which also had some gay characters without making the whole story about gender identity or sexual orientation (which might make things more contentious for some), Drama tells a good, compelling story about a bunch of middle schoolers, who are diverse in many ways, and is worth the read.

As the story is about middle school, Drama might be more appropriate for bunnies older than 9. Also there is some falling in love and having crushes stuff going on, and younger bunnies will most likely not find that too exciting.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Drama by Raina Telgemeier 95%.
Marshmallow rates Drama by Raina Telgemeier 95%.

Marshmallow reviews George by Alex Gino

This week Marshmallow reviews a book by Alex Gino, George. about a transgender child and her struggle to be accepted as who she is. The novel has won several awards and was both highly praised and significantly criticized for various reasons.

Marshmallow reviews George by Alex Gino.
Marshmallow reviews George by Alex Gino.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about finding one’s identity, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): George is seen by everyone around her as a boy but she feels like she is a girl. She wants to be called a she and she wants to wear skirts and make-up. She keeps magazines for teenage girls hidden in her room, and imagines that she is there with other girls in the pictures. When she looks in the mirror, she calls herself Melissa.

George’s class is reading Charlotte’s Web. She cries at the end when Charlotte dies. The boys in the class laugh and say that she is not a “real” boy. But she doesn’t want to be a boy. When her class decides to put on play for Charlotte’s Web, George really, really wants to be Charlotte, the brave, kind heroine of the story. But when she auditions for the part, her teacher thinks that she is joking. George is devastated. The teacher says that she can be Wilbur or some other character because she was very good, but she couldn’t be Charlotte because there are too many girls that want to be Charlotte.

One day when George gets home, she sees that her mother has found her magazines. Her mother does not understand it when George tells her she is a girl. George feels that her mother does not see who she is.

When George’s best friend Kelly gets the Charlotte role, she tries to be supportive, but she is actually very jealous. Seeing that her friend is sad, Kelly hatches a plan. There are two showings of Charlotte’s Web. Kelly will perform in one and George will perform in the other. George knows that she can perform Charlotte’s part very well but she is worried about what her mother and other people will think of her.

(In this summary I used the name George for the main character as the author does themselves all the way until page 181, but also please remember that deadnaming is not ok.)

Marshmallow is reading George by Alex Gino.
Marshmallow is reading George by Alex Gino.

Marshmallow’s Review: This is a very moving book in which the main character looks like a boy but she feels like a girl. It is very sad when she is not able to be Charlotte in the play because she had her heart set on it. It is very interesting how she calls the magazines her “friends”.

George is a very good book that moves the reader and it is very sad how the main character really wants to be a girl and everyone keeps on telling her that “he” acts like a girl. It is also very sad how her mother tells her that she shouldn’t be dressing up like a girl and that “it’s not cute anymore.”

George is very well-written and it has a lot of interesting and different characters. It is really good for those who themselves don’t feel like the gender that they look like to other people. But all bunnies can appreciate the story because everyone feels different in some ways.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates George by Alex Gino 95%.
Marshmallow rates George by Alex Gino 95%.