Marshmallow reviews Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

A couple years ago Marshmallow read and reviewed When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Today she reviews another book from the same author published in 2015: Goodbye Stranger.

Marshmallow reviews Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow reviews Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.

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

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Bridge is an accident survivor. She has missed all of third grade, and had to learn how to live normally again. When she returned to school, her friend Tabitha (Tab) introduced her to Emily (Em), and the three of them became best friends, the set of fourth graders who drew animals in the corner of their homework. (Bridge draws a Martian, Tab draws a funny bird, and Em draws a spotted snake.)

They are now starting seventh grade and are in middle school. They are still best friends, but some things have changed. Em turned out to be really good at sports, and her body has started to change, which has attracted some attention. Tab is now a “know-it-all” and has become very interested in social action/change and feminism.

The three girls are best friends and they all follow one rule: no fighting. But they have encountered some difficulty with this rule since they started middle school. Bridge has become very good friends with a boy named Sherm. She has joined the Tech Crew with him. But she finds herself confused about how she feels about him. But the worst problem of all is Em’s. She has made a critical mistake, regarding a boy, and the repercussions threaten to tear the trio apart. 

Different chapters of the book are told in different voices. In some chapters we read the letters Sherm writes to his grandfather. He never sends them though. Sherm’s grandfather left his family and ran off with some woman that is not Sherm’s grandmother. Sherm doesn’t think that he can forgive his grandfather for leaving them, ever. Sherm also has trouble identifying his feelings toward Bridge. Sherm writes down the events of the book in these letters, from his point of view, ending each letter with the amount of time left before his grandfather’s birthday, something they used to do before he left. 

The third set of chapters is written in the voice of an unknown highschooler (who knows the previous characters mentioned). This particular person is having big problems with her friends, specifically Vinny. Vinny is pretty, smart, and popular, and the unknown highschooler used to be best friends with her, until she (the anonymous highschooler) finally realized how cruel she was. Vinny likes to play a “tasting game” where she blindfolds a person and feeds them something. If she likes you, she gives you a banana or something. If she doesn’t like you, she gives you a spoon of black pepper. The unknown student brings another girl, named Gina, to meet Vinny, and Vinny feeds her pepper during the game. The unknown teenager struggles to understand whether the Vinny she knew when she was younger is still there, under the cruelty. 

Marshmallow is reading Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow is reading Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Review: Goodbye Stranger is a good book. I found it interesting that the name of the anonymous highschooler is unknown until the end, and that it turns out to be someone who has been there since the beginning. I didn’t guess who it was at all. As I said before, the book is told from multiple perspectives: Bridge, Sherm, and the unknown girl. I think that this made it more interesting. And the three voices are quite different from one another. All of Sherm’s chapters are in the form of letters written to a grandfather, while Bridge’s chapters are narrated in the third person. The unknown highschooler chapters, on the other hand, keep using “you”, which leaves a totally different flavor in the end.

I think that Goodbye Stranger is probably better for middle schoolers and up. There are some things that might be confusing for younger children. For example, I think Caramel might not understand all of the plot.

One minor thing I felt was not perhaps ideal was the way the most idealistic of the three girls, Tab, was treated, both by others in the book and by the author, too, in the end. I think Tab was perhaps a bit too naive and perhaps a bit too strong with her passion for an equitable and just world, but I think those are valuable things to hope and work for, and I did not appreciate that she was too often dismissed and not taken seriously.

Overall though, I think that the author, Rebecca Stead, did a great job with this book. The characters are unique and realistic, and also very understandable. Rebecca Stead also wrote When You Reach Me, which I reviewed before. I did like that book a lot, too, but I think that Goodbye Stranger is even better.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead 100%.
Marshmallow rates Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead 100%.

Marshmallow reviews The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

In her first review for 2022, Marshmallow writes about The Parker Inheritance, a 2018 novel written by Varian Johnson.

Marshmallow reviews The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson.
Marshmallow reviews The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about mysteries, and if you would like to read about racial injustices and their impact and the resilience of people of color to honor the Black History Month, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Candice Miller has just found a letter addressed to her grandmother, Abigail Caldwell, who was disgraced after she searched for a hidden treasure by digging a tennis court. Candice’s parents have just gotten a divorce and so she has moved from Atlanta (her real home, as she calls it) and is now temporarily living with her mother in Lambert, a small town in South Carolina.

We learn that Candice’s grandmother was the first African American city manager of Lambert. During her time as manager, she received a letter from a mysterious person. The letter writes that there is an inheritance of 40 million dollars, which will go to the city (one tenth goes to the person who solved the puzzle), that can be obtained if one solves the puzzles set up by the writer of the letter.

The letter explains that, a long time ago, a family named the Washingtons was driven out of town by another family, the Allens. (The Washingtons were black and the Allens were white and this was the reason why the Washingtons were driven out.) The writer of the letter was in love with one of the Washingtons, Siobhan (pronounced Shi-vaun). The writer, it seems, was a wealthy business person and destroyed the Allen family economically. He then started to economically destroy the city of Lambert, because the officials did nothing to help the Washingtons, but Siobhan begged him not to.

It turns out that Candice’s grandmother tried to solve this puzzle using the clues in the letter, but she made a mistake. She dug up one of the city’s tennis courts by forging city paperwork to pay a crew and rent a backhoe. Unfortunately, she didn’t find anything. She ended up, basically, getting fired and becoming the laughingstock of the city. (She wasn’t fired, necessarily, but she was suspended by the mayor and soon, forced to resign from her job.)

Now Candice finds this letter in her deceased grandmother’s boxes of stuff. There is a note from her grandmother that says, “Find the path. Solve the puzzle.” Candice believes that her grandmother intended for her to solve the puzzle, and get the inheritance. Candice has lots of practice with puzzles; she loves doing puzzles and puzzle books. And with the assistance of Brandon, a boy who lives across the street, she starts to solve the mystery. As she learns more, she uncovers unpleasant truths about Lambert’s past.

Marshmallow is reading The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson.
Marshmallow is reading The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that this is a very good book. I found it really interesting as it was written from multiple perspectives. I’ve read books that have multiple perspectives, but what made this interesting for me was the fact that the characters were all in different times, like one chapter is Candice, who is living today, and the other is Siobhan, who lived many years ago. This change of perspective and time helped make some of the mystery clearer and also gave more detail; that way the reader can also understand and solve the puzzle by themselves.

I think that this book is good for all ages, but it might be easier for children ages 8 and up to solve the puzzle.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor

Today Marshmallow reviews a 2020 novel by Nnedi Okorafor: Ikenga. Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Marshmallow reviews Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor.
Marshmallow reviews Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, what do you want to tell us about this book?

Marshmallow: Ikenga is about a twelve-year-old boy named Nnamdi, whose father used to be the police chief in their village in Nigeria. But the father is killed and his murderer has not been caught. Nnamdi feels weak, because he knows who the murderer is but he is too young to do anything about it. But one day, his father’s spirit visits him, and gives him an Ikenga, a small statue of a horned creature who gives Nnamdi great powers, making him transform into a powerful, seven-foot-tall man.

S: That is very interesting. So he transforms like the Incredible Hulk, or like Superman or Batman, into a hero with super powers.

M: Yes. The village he is from is very corrupt, and Nnamdi takes on the criminals who do whatever they want and go unpunished. But along the way he also needs to figure out how to control his powers.

S: So is there a lot of violence in the book then?

M: There are some fight scenes, so I think one could call it violent, but we mainly see everything through Nnamdi’s perspective, and we see him go through his daily life with his mom, and it does not feel like violence is the central theme.

S: What would you say the central theme is?

M: I think it is about controlling your own emotions, your own powers. Nnamdi needs to figure out how to control his new powers, or he might start hurting people he cares about.

S: So would you say it is about self-control or about knowing yourself?

M: I’d say both.

Marshmallow is reading Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor.
Marshmallow is reading Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor.

S: I understand that the author uses a lot of ingredients from Nigerian and Igbo mythology and spirituality. Did you find it difficult to enter into that world?

M: The author really creates a vivid world, a totally convincing one, and so as the reader I found it really easy to get into the story and its story world.

S: That is really great to hear. I’m really getting eager to read Ikenga. Some of what you are telling me reminds me of Children of Blood and Bone, also by a Nigerian-American author, Tomi Adeyemi, who was able to create a completely captivating world in Africa, of magic, spirits, and myths. But of course you have not read that book yet. So let me ask you another question. If you were able to ask one question to the author, what would it be?

M: Let me think. I think the story wraps up really well, and the author doesn’t keep us hanging but I found Nnamdi and his world fascinating, and am kind of curious if the author would be writing more about Nnamdi in the future.

S: Hmm, I think that is an interesting question. This is a recent book, so we do not know if there will be a sequel, and if as you say, the story is already wrapped up well, there may not be. But maybe we will explore other books the author wrote. She does have several others; she apparently was a national-level athlete in high school before getting paralyzed and turning to writing.

M: I did not know that.

S: Yes, her story is very moving. But she is a very interesting writer, and maybe we will read more books from her.

M: I’d like that!

S: Okay, this is probably a good time to wrap up this review. How would you rate this book?

M: I’d rate it 95%.

S: Thanks. And what do you want to tell our readers?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow enjoyed reading Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor and rates is 95%.
Marshmallow enjoyed reading Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor and rates is 95%.

Marshmallow reviews The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Today Marshmallow reviews The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Marshmallow reviews The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Marshmallow reviews The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like young adult novels with mystery, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): High-schooler Avery Kylie Grambs has recently discovered that she has been included in the will of Tobias Hawthorne, a rich philanthropist who recently died. However, Avery has no idea why she is in the will. She is not related to him, as far as she knows, and has, in fact, never seen him in her life.  She didn’t even know who he was until recently.

Eventually, she attends the reading of the will, which has been delayed until she can attend. Hawthorne’s two daughters and four grandsons are dismayed to learn that out of his forty-six point two billion dollars, they only receive a couple hundred thousand dollars each. Avery, on the other hand, receives the rest of his money, along with all of his possessions, including his house. The only term for this is that she must live in his house for a year. This clearly does not sit well with Hawthorne’s relatives, especially one of his daughters. Skye Hawthorne had hoped that her four sons would receive a majority of the money.

Now that everything is owned by Avery, the Hawthornes have different reactions. Nash Hawthorne, the eldest grandson of Tobias, doesn’t really show up too much. Grayson Hawthorne, the grandson that everyone thought would receive most of the inheritance, believes that Avery somehow conned Tobias into writing her into his will. Jameson, the second youngest, is intrigued by Avery. Xander, the youngest, doesn’t really have any grudges against Avery, as he never thought he was going to receive a large chunk of the money anyways. Skye, Tobias Hawthorne’s daughter and the mother of Nash, Grayson, Jameson, and Xander, is furious, and together with her sister Zara, she starts to try and figure out a way to “reclaim” the inheritance. 

With all this money at stake, the Hawthornes may resort to violence to sort out “the Avery issue”. But Jameson and Avery believe that she was selected for a reason. Tobias Hawthorne was very into puzzles, and Avery and Jameson believe that she is part of the last puzzle of Tobias Hawthorne. But even so, who are the players, and who will win?

Marshmallow is reading the beginning of Chapter 57 in The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Marshmallow is reading the beginning of Chapter 57 in The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that The Inheritance Games is a good book, but it is part of a series, which I did not know when I started reading. It was a surprise when I realized that the story would continue into a second book, which I have not read yet. So the mystery is not yet fully solved (even though we do figure out eventually why Avery was in the will).

The plot is very well thought out and thought-provoking. Also, the author and Tobias Hawthorne are very fond of word games, especially with names. (Cough, Avery, cough.)

The Inheritance Games has 370 pages, spilt into 91 short chapters. Avery is the narrator, and we meet each character through her eyes. Events unfold through her perspective as well, meaning that puzzles are only resolved when she figures things out. I was able to figure out some things ahead of time, but mostly the mystery kept me guessing.

In short, I found The Inheritance Games intriguing and very interesting. However, I believe that it is intended for older children, certainly a young adult novel. The plot is pretty complicated. And as the first book in a series, The Inheritance Games sets the scene really well for the second one to come. I’m looking forward to reading that,ys too.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%. 

Marshmallow rates The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 95%.