Weekend Pick for December 1, 2023
Check out our weekly suggestions!
Are your students looking for book recommendations?
Send them to browse through the picks for this or past years.
For the picks from 2022 click here
For the picks from 2021 click here
For the picks from 2020 click here.
For older picks click from 2019 click here.
For the even older picks click here.
As we start off the month of December, we have a guest curator for this week, Dr. Susan Densmore- James better known as The Book Dealer. A big thank you to Susan for sharing her novel choice to start our December Weekend Picks!
As a university professor, I spend a lot of time on zoom with my students, and I also have a 19-year-old daughter whose friends spend a lot of time at our home: I am literally surrounded by young people daily. Since COVID, there has been a drastic change in the conversations I have with our youth. Dialogue consists of their extensive laundry lists of concerns: concerns that mirror what the CDC is reporting about our youth related to stress, anxiety, and depression (CDC, 2023). Although I cannot speak for all adults, I think the vast majority of us have had the same concerns over the past three years. With issues with the economy, loss of our usual lifestyle and even loss of life due to COVID, obvious signs of global warming and environmental issues due to our lifestyle choices, and the surge of divisive political rhetoric on social media (probably exacerbated by media of all kinds), there is a lot on our minds.
Books are more important than ever, as they are powerful tools to help process, understand, and navigate the big feelings that have seemed to overwhelm the best of us since 2020. Nora Shalaway Carpenter has created a book that examines and offers guidance on so much of what is on the minds of our youth.
The story starts with a female protagonist named Vivian Spry (Viv). Carpenter’s strong creation of setting places readers in the beautiful forest near Viv’s West Virginian home-–a place she spends a lot of time hunting for food and convening with nature. The tree stand in this forest is the one spot Viv feels is her safe place–a mystical place that has helped her in dealing with the grief of the death of her mother and, most recently, experiencing the loss of her dear Aunt Elle. Viv and her father are left to endure the loss together, but even her father has become emotionally distant and her one remaining friend, Maeve, is spending more and more time with the theater clique at school. The forest also provides a hideout for Viv from the rumors being told by her ex-boyfriend—rumors which have her schoolmates falsely judging her. When her hiding place is suddenly being threatened by fracking and gas pipelines, Viv will do anything she can to protect the land she loves. The one thing she did not count on was for a new young man at her local high school to get in her way.
Senior Dex Mathews has just moved to Viv’s little town due to his mother’s job with the gas pipeline that may finally provide them a stable life. After graduation, Dex is determined to join the Army in order to be able to later attend college and become a lawyer. He knows this is the only way to ensure he and his mother will escape poverty.
As Twisted Pines is a small rural town, inevitably, the paths of Viv and Dex cross, and they are on the way to becoming friends. Viv’s pain from her ex-boyfriend’s lies have made her gun-shy in the love department, but something is different about Dex. As they get to know one another, they realize they are on opposite sides of the pipeline debate, and each of them will fight with all of their strength as they struggle to stay true to themselves and protect their families.
In addition to painting a vivid picture of setting, Carpenter’s expertise at character development has the reader falling in love with both Dex and Viv and rooting for their love story to begin and thrive! I was especially impressed with this author’s knowledge of fracking and environment issues, while at the same time realistically portraying the two sides to a very complex issue. Carpenter truly makes the reader consider both sides by writing a riveting and powerful story. I loved Viv as a strong, female character who is not afraid to do what is right, and Dex is a young man who possesses the admirable traits of loyalty, kindness, and maturity. In addition to authentic characters, Carpenter' choice in painting a rural community gives readers like myself who have never experienced life in living in a rural setting a window into a different way of life. I also found her writing enlightening regarding the debate over fracking and the health of the forests in West Virginia. The reader is left with considering the important topics of socio- economic status, the ethics of nurturing our earth, and the power of one person to make change.
Recommended by: Dr. Susan Densmore- James
The Book Dealer