mini reviews #9: YA, translated autofiction, magical realism, and nonfiction

You can see all my previous mini reviews here, and feel free to add me on Goodreads to see all of my reviews as soon as I post them.


WE ARE OKAY by Nina LaCour
date read: February 23, 2020
Dutton, 2017

I know this seems like a sort of hollow platitude, but We Are Okay is the kind of book that breaks your heart and then mends it again; a rather impressive feat given that I read it in under 2 hours. I imagine it won’t leave a huge long-term impression on my heart, but I found it very moving and engrossing and I’m glad I finally got around to picking it up. I’ll happily read more from Nina LaCour in the future.

You can pick up a copy of We Are Okay here on Book Depository.


OPTIC NERVE by María Gainza
translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead
date read: February 29, 2020
Catapult, 2019

This book should have done so much more for me than it actually did. I’m a bit of an art history geek, so autofiction about an art geek musing on various paintings sounded like it was going to be a dream, but I think the execution left a lot to be desired. I found the art history lessons engrossing, as expected, but María Gainza’s life (or the life of her fictional stand-in, I guess) never really dovetailed into her art lessons to form a cohesive narrative. This ultimately felt a bit disjointed and unsatisfying, though I did enjoy the strength of Gainza’s passion for art.

You can pick up a copy of Optic Nerve here on Book Depository.


SHARKS IN THE TIME OF SAVIORS by Kawai Strong Washburn
DNF @ page 66
date read: April 5, 2020
MCD, March 2020

I think the fact that this is the first book I’ve DNF’d in 8 years says it all. Between the painfully labored prose – it’s one of those books where it feels like the author is trying to imbue every single sentence with Meaning – and the fact that all four protagonists that I’ve encountered so far have the exact same narrative voice, I just can’t. This reads like an unfinished MFA project.

You can pick up a copy of Sharks in the Time of Saviors here on Book Depository.


date read: April 5, 2020
Scribner, 2018

If you’re interested at all in Irish lit, this is SUCH a brilliant hidden gem. In this sort of offbeat biography, Tóibín digs into the lives of the fathers of Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, and James Joyce, with an emphasis on their relationships with their respective sons. The book is divided pretty evenly into three sections and each has its strengths and weaknesses – I was most compelled by Joyce’s, somewhat to my surprise – but for a book that changes trajectory three times it’s reassuringly steady in its aims: humanizing these men, contextualizing the way they manifested into their sons’ writing, and creating a textured portrait of the history of literary Dublin. (Also, I can HIGHLY recommend the audio – Tóibín has a fantastic voice and his rendition of Joyce’s Ecce Puer was chilling.)

You can pick up a copy of Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know here on Book Depository.

Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think? Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

11 thoughts on “mini reviews #9: YA, translated autofiction, magical realism, and nonfiction

    • God I LOVE the cover for Sharks in the Time of Saviors – so much so that I was ready to love the book on principle but it wasn’t to be!!

      I think you’d really like Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know! It was an unexpectedly thrilling read once I got into it.

      Liked by 1 person

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