Jodi Picoult: Standalone and Controversy Queen

Jodi Picoult’s first novel — Songs of a Humpback Whale — was published in 1992, after she graduated from Princeton University with a degree in creative writing in 1987. She has been steadily releasing new fiction ever since, taking on more controversial and current events topics with each new release. Her newest novel, A Spark of Light, takes on the hot button issues of gun control and women’s reproductive rights. In total, Picoult has authored 25 novels so far that have been translated into thirty-four languages in thirty-five countries, as well as five Wonder Woman comic book issues for DC Comics, short stories, and a Broadway musical. Five of her novels have even been made into movies.

I have read about half of her novels so far and am always eager to see what she will come out with next. Currently, I’m reading her newest, A Spark of Light, which drew me in from the very first scene.

The majority of Picoult’s books deal with heavy topics, like school shootings, racism, suicide, and the Holocaust. The characters in her stories are never strictly black or white, but are filled with gray areas and ambiguities that make you question what you thought you believed in as well. She also never comes down one way or the other on issues, either, and leaves many endings open-ended, allowing the reader to decide for himself or herself what he or she wants to believe. Sometimes after reading one of her novels, one doesn’t know what to believe anymore, or what side of an issue one should be on. Novels that make me think are my favorite kinds of novels.

Picoult is also known for her dramatic courtroom scenes, where lawyers will believably attempt to argue for or against characters and issues, but who come with their own baggage as well. It is also guaranteed that there will be a twist right at the end of every novel that the reader will not see coming, no matter how closely they are following along. I always hate when I can figure out the ending before the author gives it to me, so I usually read the last few pages of the book once I get into it to see if I’m right. With Picoult, I am always confused by the last few pages and never see the twist coming even though I know it’s going to happen.

But one of the best things about Picoult’s books as that they are all — with the exception of her young adult duology she co-wrote with her daughter — standalones. Her books are perfect for when you need to take a break between series, or are waiting for the next installment to come out, or even if you’re just looking for quick reads. There are some recurring characters spread across some of her standalones, but you don’t have to have read any of her other novels that these characters are featured in. But be careful; most of the time the characters’ actions and what they’re not saying speak louder than what they are saying, so sometimes you have to do some reading between the lines.

Try these out:

Handle With Care

The Pact

Nineteen Minutes

The Storyteller

Plain Truth

Leaving Time

Second Glance

My Sister’s Keeper

Salem Falls

Or any of her other novels! Then come find me and we’ll discuss at length.

Happy Reading!

The Secret Life of Bees

Recently I read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd for the Library’s teen book discussion group, Stuck Between the Pages. It was one of those books that are sort-of/kind-of on your To Be Read list but never quite make it to the top of the pile. But after reading it, I wondered why I had waited so long to do so; it was amazing.

The Secret Life of Bees is set in tumultuous North Carolina in 1964, where fourteen-year-old Lily Owens lives on her cruel father’s peach orchard, eaten alive by the hazy memory she has of the afternoon her mother was killed when Lily was four. When Rosaleen, her father’s black housemaid and Lily’s stand-in mother, decides to register to vote, she takes Lily along with her. Before they get there, Rosaleen is confronted by three of the most racist men in town, insulting them and getting herself (and Lily) arrested. Lily decides to spring them both free and the two of them are on the run, guided only by an old photograph of Lily’s mother with the words, “Tiburon, South Carolina” on the back and an old label featuring the Black Madonna. Lily and Rosaleen do wind up in Tiburon and take refuge with a trio of beekeeping sisters who might just have the key to Lily’s mother’s past.

This was by far one of the most powerful books I have ever read, one that will most likely stay with me. For anyone interested in historical fiction or the classic bildungsroman tale, this is definitely one I would recommend. And even if it’s not a book you would typically pick up to read, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy it as well.

Happy Reading!

Modern-Day Retellings of Classics

One popular writing trend that never seems to go out of style is the rehashing of familiar stories by making them relevant to today. It is always interesting to see how various authors interpret old classics, because each spin-off or retelling is different. Here is a short list of modern-day retellings of favorite stories that you can check out today:

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Spring Sisters by Anna Todd

Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Page

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Graham-Smith

Splintered series by A.G. Howard

The Fall by Bethany Griffin

Wicked series by Gregory Maguire

Cinder series by Marissa Meyer

A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Circe by Madeline Miller

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Beastly by Alex Finn

March by Geraldine Brooks

Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

The Mists of Avalon series by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Can you tell what each title is a retelling of? What’s your favorite modern-day retelling of an old classic? Mine would probably have to be Wicked by Gregory Maguire! Let us know in the comments!

Happy Reading!