Shelved: Nostalgic Dead Girls

It's always fun to notice unintentional trends in my reading.

We've already established that I tend to read books by female authors, but now I'm finding myself reading books with even more in common. For example, the last two books I read featured female characters who went to high school around the same time I did. That's probably not a huge thing to most people, but they came out last month and thus have a nostalgia for that time. A nostalgia for the early to mid 2000s? That's a bit different.

The first book is Marlena by Julie Buntin, which I got in my March Book of the Month box. It took me a little while to get in to the story, but once I got reading I was hooked. It's a coming of age story, which is rather done to death, but it is framed through the narrator, Cat's memory. When the story starts we know that Cat's friend Marlena died while they were teenagers, but we don't know the events leading up to it. We then spend a few days with Cat while she tells us about the year she lived next door to Marlena, becoming friends and falling in with the "bad crowd." 

I'm struggling to describe this book to you because I think what did it for me was the atmosphere. There are a ton of books in the coming of age genre, but the fact that Cat is discussing it as an adult and is recognizing the impact the events have had on her life gives it a different flavor. It almost reads like a confession or a therapy session. At one point she comes out and tells the reader she is glossing over events and goes back to change some aspects of the narration. I don't want to spoil it for you, but it's not a mystery or a thriller, just a really good gut punch of a book. And like I said, the atmosphere is spectacular. 

Immediately after finishing Marlena I read Dead Letters, which initially turned me off due to the cover art, but the description was interesting and my hold number came up fast at the library. Like Marlena, the narrator of Dead Letters is also a woman in my general age range. This time our protagonist is Ava, who has returned home to rural New York after her twin sister Zelda is believed to have died in a fire. From there she finds herself following clues left by her sister in a game that is very reminiscent of early Pretty Little Liars if A was (spoiler) actually Allyson.

This one seems to be defying categorization with some arguing for mystery or thriller and others for literary fiction. Regardless of category I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I found all of the characters insufferable, but all in very believable ways. And while I myself did not drink while reading this book I find myself feeling a little tipsy thanks to all of the wine that flows through the story. I'm on the record as someone who often figures out the answer before the end of the book, but not with this one. I was guessing the entire time and even found myself batting around some loosely conceived theory of astral projection based on a Lois Duncan novel I read as a kid. But there is nothing more mysterious than technology at play as you fall down this rabbit hole.

So that's a bit about what I've been reading lately. What have you read recently that you enjoyed? Tell me about it in the comments!