Writing: 5; Plot: 4; Characters: 5
Tags: YA; Uplifting
Beautiful, heartbreaking in places, but mostly uplifting – this is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year. Henry loves poetry, Rachel loves science, and they have been best friends for years (as per a contract made in year 3 (<- Australian school system)). They have been incommunicado for three years due to some life changes and miscommunications but now are back in the same city. Things are different though: Henry stands to lose Howling Books, the bookstore his family has owned for years, and Rachel is in shock over her brother’s recent drowning.
In addition to Rachel and Henry, the book abounds in interesting characters – Henry’s sister George, with long blue-streaked hair and a suspicious nature; Martin, the database nerd who likes George; Lola, the devoted bandleader of the Hollow; and a cat named Ray Bradbury. Howling Books is the used bookstore of dreams. It contains a “Letters Library” where people are encouraged to annotate, speculate on, or invite comments from others in their favorite books. Often people leaves notes for each other in these books and we are treated to wonderful conversational vignettes encapsulated in these epistolary streams. There are lots of fun book references, lists, summaries and discussions. My favorite is Henry’s two-line summary of Borges “Library of Babel” – “I decided it was about people needing the answers to the world, to the universe, and going mad trying to find them”.
Great writing, full of interesting and well-developed discussions about life, love, death, and what is really important. Funny and insightful.