“MFA Fiction” Book Review: What We Lose

Besides YA literature, which is the target genre for my WIP manuscript, I read from others as well. I’ve read a few other books by MFA degree holders, aiming to absorb elements of their writing styles, which I expect to be more artistic and land with a sort of “oomph.” What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons was a challenging read because of the untraditional narrative structure, as you’ll see in my review, but I learned about a race different from my own, as well as experienced an emotional impact. That is extremely valuable.


whatwelosecover
Image from Amazon. I do not claim any rights.

I’m not going to lie, I was definitely intrigued by the beautiful cover of this book (as well as its title). The premise then reeled in the rest of me. As someone who’s also lost a parent, I wanted to see how Clemmons describes and weaves a story tinged with grief. The elements in the narrative itself, about how the semi-autobiographical protagonist observes her mother dying and then spirals after her death, aren’t entirely outlandish, but the style this book was written in has off-put some readers. It’s split into three parts, interspersed with long quotes, single-sentence pages, and even graphs (nothing too crazy, don’t worry). At times it does feel disjointed, so that I had to ask myself, “where is this taking me?” Altogether though, it makes this book a truly artistic work, a statement. I can’t say I’ll want to read too many books in this style, but it worked for me here. Besides grief, this book delves into topics of race (very piercing observations), relationships, and sexuality, just at a breakneck pace sometimes.

However, as Clemmons is an MFA grad, you can expect top-notch, piercing writing throughout. I’ll end my review with a non-spoiler-y quote from near the end of the story that hit me in the gut: “Some things have to go away, I tell myself. That is just the way it is.”

YA Book Review: Words in Deep Blue

Hi all, as you know by now, I’m writing a YA contemporary novel, and part of the process (or procrastinating) includes reading other books for reference points! I picked up Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley after much browsing late last year, and here are my quick thoughts on it. Verdict? Give this a read for sure! You’ll also find this review on my Goodreads profile. 🙂


widb cover
Book cover image from Amazon. I do not claim any rights.

*No spoilers here!*

I’ve been reading a lot of YA contemporary titles to get inspired for working on my own. I don’t know how many others do this, but I browsed for a long time on Amazon (I’m talking almost twenty tabs open, people) before coming across WiDB, my next read. I was immediately drawn to the bookshop setting and the romance, especially since I loved both of these elements in Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (beautiful tearjerker by the way!).

Overall I’m so very glad I took a chance on WiDB. The voices are very clear in the switching POVs between Rachel and Henry. The narrative and plot points themselves are very believable, but without being too predictable. I especially praise how Crowley wrote the interactions within Rachel and Henry’s families; multiple character scenes are so challenging to write, as I’ve learned! Finally, the ending is satisfying in the right ways, not just for the main characters but the well-developed side characters. Again, another feat!

I do have some of the same issues as other reviewers, most notably with the Amy character. I can understand that Crowley didn’t make her out to be appealing, but at some points I got so incredibly frustrated with Henry for continuing to be so infatuated with her! So much that I almost stopped rooting for him and Rachel to make up. Then I reminded myself that he’s a teenage boy, and I’ve also been susceptible to the same weaknesses before. Second, I also found it a little bit of a stretch for Rachel to hold her brother’s death the way she did in the book. I won’t spoil this but has been discussed in other reviews. It’s not a huge, huge issue, just required me to suspend disbelief for something besides a fantasy.

Give this a read if you love bookshops, a romance to root for, and a story on the quiet side but without any less emotional impact!