Book Talk: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

In Conversations with Friends, Rooney introduces us to Frances, a stoic 21-year-old college student and poet in Dublin. Her only close friend is the ever-boisterous Bobbi; they used to date, but now don’t. Still, their lives are intertwined, particularly by the spoken word poetry that they perform together. It is through this poetry that they meet an older couple, Melissa and Nick, who begin to shift the balance of their friendship. As Bobbi is drawn in by Melissa, Frances gravitates towards Nick, who offers a sense of calm and fulfillment she craves. As the plot unfolds, the characters act in ways you might not expect.

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Book Talk: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Oh, Sarah Dessen, how you made me swoon when I was young.

I read a lot of her books when I was a teen and loved them. This was my first Dessen novel in a while and…I’m not sure if I’ve outgrown their splendor or if this one just wasn’t as good as her previous books.

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Book Talk: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, singer/songwriter of the Mountain Goats, got a lot of attention when it was released because, well, it’s a readable celebrity debut. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. I guess it was just OK.

Sean Phillips is a hermit. After surviving an accident that left his face disfigured, he runs his business, a role-playing game called Trace Italian, out of an apartment where he lives alone. The game is played via mail – players send Sean their moves in the game and he responds with the moves’ effects. He gets to know, however distantly, the Trace Italian participants through their writing, gathering tidbits about their personalities and lives. When a couple of players begin to take the fantasy world too seriously, Sean finds himself tangled in a debate of ethics and responsibility.

Book Talk - Wolf in White Van

The highlights of the novel take place when Sean interacts in the real world, rather than in the Trace Italian. When Sean meets two teens in a parking lot who blatantly stare at his scars, the reader witnesses how visually unsettling Sean’s disfigurement truly is. Flashbacks to Sean’s childhood are equally compelling. Darnielle’s descriptions of Sean’s unease as a teenager and his strained relationship with his parents, particularly his mother, leave an impression.

While the premise of the game and its effects is an interesting one, I just couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t get myself to care about the Trace Italian-related plotlines.

On the other hand, the jacket is absolutely beautiful. It’s bright and shiny and strangers stopped me in public to ask what the book was. (This photo doesn’t do it justice.)

Book: Wolf in White Van
Author: John Darnielle
Rating: ★★☆
Type: Overrated but okay debut novel by a celebrity

Not sure what a 3/5 star rating means? Check out the Book Talk Review Guide here!