Mini-reviews: The Year of the Beasts, A Greyhound of a Girl, and Her Mother’s Face

The Year of the Beasts

Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell

192 pages

Published in May 2012 by Roaring Brook Press

Source: Library

I decided to read The Year of the Beasts since I loved Castellucci’s earlier book, The Plain Janes. Unfortunately, this book fell short of the magic of that previous read. The Year of the Beasts is the story of Tessa, a teen girl, and her younger sister Lulu. It’s supposed to be a great summer with the carnival in town and the chance for Tessa to snag her longtime crush. But things don’t go awry (at least to Tessa) as her crush ends up with Lulu. Her sister’s happiness brings out the worst in Tessa even when things go her way. Will Tessa ever realize that sometimes it’s a blessing when you’re dreams don’t come true?

Like I said before, this turned out to be a disappointing read. It may have been the fact that as a twenty-something, I’m not the intended audience for this. After a few chapters of reading about Tessa’s jealousy and anger toward Lulu, I was ready to either abandon the book or slap Tessa a few times and tell her to get over it. I spent most of the book tired of Tessa. Or maybe my disappointment comes from the fact that The Plain Janes left me with expectations that were too high. Castellucci and Powell take the story back and forth between that summer of change and its affect on everyone around. I do like that with this back and forth, the format changed. One chapter consisted of mostly words while the next was in graphic novel format. I thought it was a nice change that left readers wondering why Tessa’s hair is suddenly made of snakes. Too bad my curiosity wasn’t enough to change my feelings for the book. Recommended to middle-grade and teen readers only. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

A Greyhound of a Girl

Roddy Doyle

208 pages

Published in 2012 by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams Books

Source: Publisher and public library

“She hated the hospital. She hated walking through it. She hated everything about it. Except for one thing. Her granny. She hated the hospital, but she loved her granny.”

Mary O’Hara wishes that her life would go back to what it once was. Her best friend has moved and her grandmother, Emer, is dying. One day on her way home, Mary meets a strange woman. The woman looks young but wears clothes from a different era. After a few more meetings, Mary finds out that this woman is the ghost of her great-grandmother, Tansey. Tansey is bidding her time until she’s able to take Emer to the afterlife. Until then, Tansey has a message for her dying daughter. . .

This story might sound a little creepy but it’s not. I found A Greyhound of a Girl to be a short and sweet read. Looking back at this book that I read just a week ago, I’m finding that I don’t have much to say about it. The strength of this book can be found in readers learning more about Tansey and the life she lived as a young woman who’s newly married and with young children before dying suddenly of the flu. As a mother, I could feel her dying worries for her children and their well-being. I also enjoyed reading about the midnight ride that Mary, her mother Scarlett, Emer, and Tansey take together from Dublin to the family’s old farm in the country. The problem with this story is that it’s not very memorable. I hate writing that but it’s true. Tansey’s life and the ride is what stand out in this tale of magic realism. One more thing that I want to note: while this book is for the middle grade crowd, Doyle has a book with a similar theme of family and love for younger kids.

Doyle’s picture book, Her Mother’s Face, was published four years before A Greyhound of a Girl and is much more memorable. Siobhᾲn is a young girl who misses her mother and it doesn’t help that her father refuses to talk about her. All of Siobhᾲn’s friends have moms but none understand the sadness that she feels. One day, a mysterious woman tells Siobhᾲn that if she wants to see her mom to look in the mirror. As she ages, she’ll see what her mother looked like at that age. Siobhᾲn’s heart gets a little lighter as she realizes that every time she looks in the mirror, her mother is right there. I first read this book years ago and found myself tearing up by the last page.

My rating for A Greyhound of a Girl: 3 out of 5 stars.

My rating for Her Mother’s Face: 5 out of 5 stars.

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14 thoughts on “Mini-reviews: The Year of the Beasts, A Greyhound of a Girl, and Her Mother’s Face

  1. You know, every time I read a book that makes me want to slap the protagonist, I wonder: is it good writing or not? That is, is the author so talented that he or she writes a character so real you want to shake the character, or does the author actually think the way the character does, or is it just inept characterization? I can’t decide!

  2. These 3 books all sound very different, and I think the one that I am most attracted to is A Greyhound of a Girl. It sounds like a great story and one that although not very memorable, would entertain and enrapture me for the moment. Great reviews here today. I am not sure if that first book would have interested me either. I am not much a fan of teen angst.

      1. They are! Really caught my attention, too. I like the Roddy Doyle one. The first one looks very graphic novel-esque.

  3. That first cover is stunning so sorry to hear that the story fell short. I’ve had one of Roddy Doyle’s books on my shelf for several years now. I think it is something like “The Woman Who Ran into Walls” and still haven’t read it. I’ve got to check him out as his works get consistently good reviews.

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