Tag Archives: brendan halpin

blitzkrieg book reviews, part 2

during my blogging hiatus i still read books! here are the second set of 10 mini-reviews, in no particular order…

Nurtureshock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
a stunning summary of new research about children and teenagers. some of it is truly counter-intuitive and surprising stuff (that still makes total sense as the authors unpack it). a must read for parents and youth workers.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
had heard praise for this book for years, and am glad i finally got around to reading it. a wild crime novel set in a “could have been” current day reality that doesn’t exist, with lots of insights into stuckness, addiction, self-loathing, relationships, power, and tribes.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
massively creative and worthwhile teen fiction, about teenage suicide (on the surface). but really about the horrible way teens can treat each other, and how it feels to be the recipient of that. worthwhile reading for teens and adults who care about them.

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
the fascinating true story of henry ford’s attempt to create a culturally-influencing utopia in the amazon rainforest, with all kinds of implications for what a friend called “poisonwood business” (really, any exporting of culture, or cultural superiority). a bit long and repetitive at times, though — it would have been a better book at 100 less pages.

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose
i found this book thanks to a.j. jacobs’ (the author of the year of living biblically and the know-it-all) recommendation. for those of us who grew up in conservative evangelicalism (and still associate with it), it’s a empathic, human look at our freaky little subculture.

The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark
not an easy read, but worth it. dark leads us through a pithy ride of pop culture and high-brow literary references, along with some great biblical framing, on a journey of beautiful, spiritual skepticism.

I Can See Clearly Now by Brendan Halpin
after my 5th halpin book, i think i can say he’s one of my top 10 american fiction writers. this only-slightly-veiled, fictionalized story of the 20-somethings who came together to write the “schoolhouse rock” saturday morning educational bits in the 70s is all i love about halpin: great story, fantastic character building, great pop culture grounding.

Dear Catastrophe Waitress by Brendan Halpin
i love halpin’s writing and the way he builds characters. this unlikely romance spends most its real estate developing two separate stories, which, in an ending that is just slightly too expected (by the time you get to it), weave into each other. still, great writing and worth reading.

Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age by Ariel Schrag
nice collection of short comics about my favorite group of people: middle schoolers. most of them show the painful side of early adolescence.

Learning My Name by Pete Gall
an excellent, shockingly honest exploration of identity (particularly, identity as a follower of jesus). seriously, no one writes with the level of vulnerability and honesty that pete gall writes with.


Donorboy: A Novel, by Brendan Halpin

i stumbled onto a more recent book of halpin’s, called a long way back, and was blown away by his writing. that book said, “by the author of donorboy” on the cover. so, i recently downloaded this book to my kindle, and read it on a couple plane flights.

dude is a great writer! (i’ve since downloaded the rest of his books.)

donorboy tells the story of a 14 year-old girl, beginning shortly after the deaths of her two lesbian mothers in a car accident. “donorboy” is, well, the sperm donor who is, technically, her father, but has never even met her (he was an old friend of one of her moms’). but donorboy – who is in his young thirties and never married – decides to pursue custody of her, and wins.

when the story begins, the two aren’t even talking at all (only because she will not talk to him). halpin uses a creative collection of journal entries, emails, text messages, and meeting transcripts to piece the unfolding story for us (it’s a brilliant literary device that would have felt forced in the hands of a lesser author).

we get an insider’s glimpse into the pain and tiny steps of healing in the mind and heart of a young teen girl. we see a father who is flailing and failing and trying and patient and second-guessing his own every move. it’s an aching story of healing and restoration.

in a long way back, halpin wrote extensively about grief through a middle aged female narrator (the sister of the man in grief). in this story, he tells a story of grief through the voices of a 14 year-old girl and a 30-something guy. fascinating. the guy certainly has an inside track on what grief really looks and feels like. and healing too.

a great read for older teenagers, parents, and youth workers. but just a great read for anyone, really.