Sponsored by A Face for Picasso by Ariel Henley.
At only eight months old, identical twin sisters Ariel and Zan were diagnosed with Crouzon syndrome––a rare condition where the bones in the head fuse prematurely. Growing up, they underwent numerous procedures that changed their appearances and saved their lives. While the physical aspect of their condition was painful, it was nothing compared to the emotional toll of navigating life with a facial difference. In this poignant young adult memoir, Ariel speaks her truth on her own terms, exploring sisterhood and the strength it takes to put your life, and yourself, back together time and time again.
Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!
I don’t recommend children’s books very often, but I recently read one that was so great, I just have to shout about it. If you like family stories, historical fiction, and mysteries, this is the perfect read for you!
Content warning: Racism, racially motivated violence, loss of a grandparent, references to illness
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
Candice isn’t thrilled about spending her summer in Lambert, SC in the wake of her parents’ separation, but her mom says they need space and a change of scenery, and staying in her late grandma’s empty house is the perfect getaway. But Lambert is a town with some dark secrets, and people haven’t forgotten that Candice’s grandma left years earlier in shame. Then, Candice discovers a letter addressed to her grandma in the attic. It describes a secret about a family run out of town sixty years earlier, and a millionaire who wants to right a very old wrong…but he’s going to make the town work for it. If someone can unravel the clues he’s left behind, there will be a big reward. Candice is intrigued, and together with the bookish kid next door, Brandon, they begin to uncover the clues…and the past.
This is such a brilliantly written novel that truly evokes the excitement and mystery of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, but in a fresh and exciting way. I am in awe of how Johnson constructed a whole town, a history, and such great riddles and puzzles that kept Candice and Brandon (and readers!) guessing. At the same time, he manages to balance the excitement of the mystery with a much more sobering history of a small Southern town in the 1950’s, and how resistance to discrimination inspired a hateful response. There’s injustice in this book, and at times it’s very ugly, but Johnson always writes it so that it’s age-appropriate for his kid readers, who get to process it alongside Candice and Brandon, and some of the scenes moved me to tears. The dual timeline of Candice and Brandon’s story and what really happened in the past really works, and the unraveling of the decades-long mystery is very satisfying. I love reading books where kids and teens discover their personal connection to history, and this book exemplifies this beautifully. I highly recommend it to all the kids in your life, but also to adult readers as well!