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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Backlist Books: 2020

Jemisin, N. K.- The City We Became

Russell, Kate Elizabeth- My Dark Vanessa


Sometimes it's exciting to read the hot new book, and you might need to get to it quickly to avoid spoilers. But I usually wait until the shine is off the book a bit. Wait a year or so, and unless there's a movie being made, you might be able to get that hot not-so-new book without going on a library waitlist.

This year, I got two popular books from 2020. I'd been meaning to read them all this time, and I picked them both up on a whim this spring. They were thick books that I thought might take a long time to read (I was wrong about that), and I liked knowing that I was unlikely to come up against a library hold and not be able to renew the books before I was done.

Another benefit to the backlist is not having to wait on sequels. I haven't gotten the sequel to The City We Became yet, but I'll probably get it one of these days, whenever I want with no waiting :)


The City We Became

I tried to read a sci-fi from this author a few years ago and had to give it up, so a) I thought this was a sci-fi, and b) I was intimidated. The book being set in modern-day New York City instead of a medieval-style England-like place also made me think "sci-fi," but it's fantasy.

I got a bit confused a few times early in the novel, but it didn't take long to get the hang of the book's system of magic or whatever you'd want to call it. The basic premise is that sometimes cities grow so big that they sort of become living things, and someone who lives there will become the avatar of the city? It's complicated, but that will do to go on with.

I have read something else like this, in which someone was the embodiment of a place and could feel what was going on all over his country, but I can't remember it, and it has been driving me crazy. Something about being able to feel the roads? I can't remember.

This has multiple point-of-view characters because with NYC's boroughs, it has something like sub-avatars. In the 80's there was a cartoon like that. Robots that teamed up for form a giant robot. That doesn't have anything to do with this exactly, I just always thought that cartoon looked cool. ***SPOILERS UPCOMING*** These people have to find each other and learn to work together while being attacked by entities that are playing up all the ways that we as a society are being divided. /END SPOILERS

Anyway, this was very interesting and I'll probably read the sequel.


My Dark Vanessa

This book was hard to read in some ways, but so good. I know that some people found it offensive, but I don't think that there's an easy way to write about an affair between a teacher and a high school student, at least not one that seems pretty realistic.

The book jumps back and forth between Vanessa's time at a boarding school, where she meets the teacher who will seduce her, and to seventeen years later. Going back and forth shows what was happening when she was young and what she thought about it at the time, and then later, it showed the ongoing damage from the abuse. I put off reading it for awhile because I knew it wasn't going to be a happy story.

In a way, the story was suspenseful- even though we were seeing the character as an adult, whenever the story cut back to her teenaged experiences, I found myself stressing out. As if there was some way to save her from what was happening. The character is just beginning to heal and has a long road ahead of her when the story ends.


Both of these books were quick reads to me. I couldn't put either of them down and read them faster than some books half their size.

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