Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
I enjoyed this last Binti story just as much as the previous two. Okorafor has created a fascinating world with an interesting clash of cultures and species. Binti herself, as in the previous two stories, is the point where all those groups seem to collide. She starts out as a school-girl in southwestern Africa, taking the adventurous step of leaving her home and family for the first time. Then she goes through a horrific experience and becomes something more, a sort of bridge between humans and an alien species. In the second novella she goes through another transformation and learns more about her family. In this third story, Binti is clearly tired of having her self-identity yanked out from under her – yet she is also growing into her powers and taking on a leadership role far above her years. As with the second Binti novella, the only flaw really is in the structure itself. I wish this was one novel rather than three novellas, because Okorafor doesn’t do a great job of bridging the three books. I tend to let time go by between books in a series, and even though I read all the Binti novellas within a year, I still had trouble getting back into the story. There are a lot of details to remember in this story (different cultures, abilities, places) but unlike most series, Okorafor doesn’t help the reader much to re-engage. She just throws you in where the last one left off, without much explanation or transition. I recommend reading all three in a row.
Paper Girls Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughn
I don’t have a lot to say about Paper Girls. It’s only the third graphic novel I’ve read. It’s not as beautiful as Monstress but I liked the illustrations and the diversity of the characters. I was told it’s a bit like Stranger Things, and that’s definitely true. It’s about four early-teen girls who are up really early delivering papers the morning after Halloween. Three friends meet a fourth and together, the four girls begin to encounter some really strange happenings in their town. People are disappearing and there’s a strange machine humming in an empty building.
Paper Girls was a fun read and clearly there’s a lot more coming. I liked the camaraderie of the girls and the way they interact. I’m not the age group these books are aimed at, but I definitely recommend it for my middle grade nieces.
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
This was one of my favorite books when I was young, and happily it was just as good reading as an adult – maybe even better. Meg Murry is one of my all time favorite characters. Like Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, I love that her faults – stubbornness, impatience – are also her strengths. As a girl it was Meg’s insecurity that stood out most to me. Girls are rarely portrayed in fiction with a complex combination of traits, in the way that male characters are. So often girls and women are there to be kind, to be loved, or to give advice. So when Meg describes feeling like she’s a monster, my heart breaks for her a little. And then she begins to understand her own strengths, and learns that her parents and beloved brother have faults of their own.
The story holds up really well, and I found it a surprisingly emotional read, but I think a lot of that comes from nostalgia (you see I’ve used the old cover for this post). When she encounters Aunt Beast, well… let’s just say some tears were shed over my own childhood longing for this character.
As classic science fiction, this book has it all. Written in 1962, you may feel like you’ve seen and heard a lot of it before. That’s because the concepts in this story have been copied a million times in science fiction.
If I haven’t sold you yet, A Wrinkle in Time is on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 at number 23, according to Wikipedia. Reasons given include the book’s references to witches and crystal balls, the claim that it “challenges religious beliefs”, and the listing of Jesus “with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders”
If you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend picking it up before seeing the movie (which I hope will be really good). Obviously adults will experience this book differently from children, and I’m sure men experience it differently than women. But it’s an amazing book all the same. And if you have daughters, I hope you’ll share it with them.
Challenges: These three books apply to the following challenges:
- Binti: Science Fiction and Fantasy Bingo (African) and Swords and Stars (SFF novella)
- Paper Girls Vol. 1: Science Fiction and Fantasy Bingo (Alien Invasion) and Swords and Stars (SFF graphic novel)
- A Wrinkle in Time: Read Harder 2018 (classic of genre fiction; children’s classic) and Swords and Stars (SF classic)