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Quick, help!  I’m not usually a big Halloween costume person, but I’m working at the library on the 31st and have been asked to wear one (they’d better put me on the desk if I do!)  Any ideas for something simple and recognizable – and easy to work in?

On to the books.  So many books!  First, let’s talk about eery similarities between two books I finished recently: Steve Kluger’s My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park and Marc Acito’s How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater. Yeah.  You don’t need to look any further than the titles, really.  Both stories have a lot of musical theater.  Humor.  High school friends.  Hijinks.  Characters realizing they’re gay.  Appearances by musical celebrities.  And both are written as assignments for English class.  But here’s where they part ways.  My Most Excellent Year is a novel of love – romantic, yes, but also familial.  These are characters who genuinely love and (for the most part) get along with their families.  They take in people, and treat their friends like brothers.  Parents talk to – and understand – their children, and vice versa.  Book-long romances culminate in simple kisses.  The relationships, however improbably, survive high school.  How I Paid for College is a novel of sex.  And almost-sex, and sex faked for blackmail purposes.  There’s some romance, sure, but that’s not the focus.  The characters are going off to college and don’t really get emotionally entangled.  It’s not trying to be sweet and romantic, and the off-to-college thing is more realistic, but in the end the book really doesn’t have a heart.  Just a lot of laughs. My Most Excellent Year has both – give it a try.

(My Most Excellent Year is also one of the titles for this year’s Mock Printz – and given how much I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read so far, this will be a tough year for voting.  I’ll be curious to hear how other people react, and how that sways my vote.  Between this, Little Brother, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks…it’ll be tough.  Side note – why on earth isn’t Octavian Nothing on the list?  Don’t worry – I have a whole Octavian post to write sooner or later.)

Both books, though – I blame both of them for all the show tunes stuck in my head.  A sad after-effect of my own years of musical theater.  I remember a frightening number of lyrics from Kiss Me Kate, as it turns out.  I also have this picture from the high school yearbook, recently sent to me by a former classmate. Go ahead and laugh.  I am.  I’m just to the left of Michael – I mean Bill.

October 2021

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