Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a contemporary that I enjoyed and another one that sadly disappointed me considerably.

Title: How The Penguins Saved Veronica
Author: Hazel Prior

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 5th 2020
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: August 30th 2021
Pages: 355

“Sometimes memories gather dust in the back crevices of your mind. Sometimes they hover over you like shadows. Sometimes they come after you with a club.”


There was just something about How The Penguins Saved Veronica that made it impossible to resist getting a copy… Probably the combination of an older main character and the penguins, as I always love a story with an animal angle. I’ve been looking forward to read it ever since I first heard about it and while it didn’t blow me away completely, I still ended up having a great time with it. My main issue with this story would probably be that the plot dragged in points, and I felt that especially the diary entries set during WWII lacked cohesion with the rest of the story. While interesting and in a way important because they explain things about Veronica’s past, I think that they don’t fit the rest of the plot very well and I would have preferred getting the information in some other way. It also took me a while to warm up to some of the characters (especially Patrick), but the penguins were a huge bonus and I loved the chapters set in Antarctica. All in all mostly a successful read and if you enjoy your contemporaries with an unique setting and lots of animal presence as well as an older main character, How The Penguins Saved Veronica is a solid choice.

Title: American Dirt
Author: Jeanine Cummins

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: January 21st 2020
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Finished reading: August 31st 2021
Pages: 387

“Trauma waits for stillness. Lydia feels like a cracked egg, and she doesn’t know if she’s the shell or the yolk or the white. She is scrambled.”


So… Here we are. There has been so much controversy around this title ever since it was published last year and I’ve been debating long and hard whether to pick it up, but somehow I was still curious enough to see what I would make of this story. Especially since I love stories with a cultural element, and I’m especially interested in a focus on Latin American culture… Sadly, I ended up siding with all those people who complained about American Dirt. I’m not going into details here as enough has been said about it already, and I’m by no means the person to correctly identify if this story is authentic in the first place. What I can say is that it without doubt doesn’t feel authentic to me. There were too many cliches involved, the generic Spanish lacked Mexican flavor, the plot felt off, the same can be said about the immigrant descriptions… And I wasn’t exactly a fan of the characters (they felt underdeveloped and too much like cliches) or the writing. Due to many issues, I started skimreading sooner than later, and I honestly wish I had left American Dirt alone instead… I feel that someone with proper knowledge of the Mexican culture and struggles would have given this story so much more power and actually done this story justice instead of it ending up being what it is.

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