Sleeping in My Jeans by Connie King Leonard. Ooligan Press, $16.
Portland-based Ooligan Press is a sure thing when it comes to books that capture the Pacific Northwest, and Sleeping in My Jeans is no different — though it captures Eugene so specifically and perfectly I’m curious to see how readers from other areas respond to it.
The plight of 16-year-old Mattie is terribly familiar here in Eugene, and it shouldn’t be. She’s homeless. And to add to her struggles, her mom has disappeared with the car they’ve been living in, leaving Mattie together with her little sister, alone and scared.
Mattie, a biracial teen, is very real in Leonard’s writing, and that’s no surprise given her bio lists her as a former teacher whose book is inspired by her students’ true stories. The book will no doubt strongly appeal to young teens — who may not be as thrown by the dramatic plot twist as I was — and teens should read it to understand the struggles fellow unhoused students face and dangers out there in the community. And the fact there’s a cute love interest for Mattie involved doesn’t hurt either. — Camilla Mortensen
The Barrow Will Send What It May (Danielle Cain Volume 2) by Margaret Killjoy. Tor.com, $11.99.
When I asked Tor.com to send me a copy of Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo for review, I casually suggested the publisher toss in anything else Eugene Weekly readers might like. And thanks to Tor I now know there is a whole genre of fantasy fiction that features anarchist teens. Why was this not around when I was a teenager who badly needed to read about anarcho-punks kicking the asses of demons?
Well, I have it now. I normally hate jumping in on a series anywhere but book one, but The Barrow Will Send What It May is a slim volume, so I gave it a shot, despite it being Volume 2. No regrets. Did I mention these are anarchist demon-fighters? Killjoy breathes life into Danielle Crain and her band of anarchists on the lam who run into a small town featuring a couple residents who have come back from the dead. In Killjoy’s fantastic world, fellow anarchists have taken over the library in this small town in Montana to keep it open and free, and who need some help with the whole back from the dead thing and a necromancer who might be about to start the apocalypse. The book works not just on the level of its fantasy but also in the relationships and friendships among the anarchists and their strong sense of social justice. On an Oregon note, Killjoy tells me she was involved in the forest defense community in Oregon on and off for a number of years, supporting the Cascadia Forest Defenders on campaigns such as the one that appears to have been ultimately successful, saving the Elliott State Forest. That’s another reason to pick up her books. — Camilla Mortensen
Winter Reading 2018
This story has been updated to reflect the author’s correct name.