Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel

What Should I Read Next? Staff Picks from the Ground Floor

Need a book for the road trip, the beach, or the pool? Try our Staff Picks for Teens. Better yet—come see us in person in The Ground Floor at the Downtown Library, the Ellettsville Branch, or on the Bookmobile. We love talking about books, and can help you find one that makes you laugh, cry, or get transported to a far-off world (or all three!).

Becky: "I loved The Hate U Give—the story pulled me in quickly and had an emotional punch. My cry count ended up at twelve. The characters felt real, the dialogue was fast-paced, and the plot was very intense. SO GOOD! Have you read it yet? Try the audiobook!"
Kevin: "The Murderer's Ape is an epic adventure that reads better than Raiders of the Lost Ark! The story mainly takes place in Portugal, but travels around to Egypt and India. The narrator, a gorilla named Sally Ann, fixes boats, accordions, and airplanes. She's thrust into an adventure, solving a mystery to free her best friend from prison."
Mickey: "I suggest Graceling by Kristin Cashore, a young adult fantasy with non-stereotypical characters. I also recommend Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a dystopian novel that isn’t all grimness and darkness—although it has its share."
Amber:"Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple revolves around an agoraphobic architect who goes missing—and her daughter's quest to find her. It's a humorous story about a young girl and a neurotic mother that I think many of us might relate to. Plus, there's a trip to Antarctica! How could you go wrong?"
Israel: "Taiyo Matsumoto's Sunny is a series that captures beautiful, ephemeral memories of adolescence, with a mindful use of art and dialogue. Matsumoto understands that in life, experiences are usually not so simple as "happy" or "sad"—emotions run in mixed swirls, and sometimes we simply don't know how to feel. Some of the deepest truths of life are felt in the small moments: flying a kite, walking a dog, or sitting alone on the stairs.”
Sam: "I would suggest Giant Days, a graphic novel by John Allison about a girl starting college and the challenges and opportunities during her life transition. In another graphic novel, Another Castle by Andrew Wheeler, a kidnapped princess won't give up, and neither will the hodgepodge group trying to rescue her. And When the Moon Was Ours is a story of transformation, acceptance, family, and belonging about a girl, with roses growing from her wrist, her four sisters who may or or may not be witches, and a boy who hangs paper moons all over town."
Lizzy: As you can see, Lizzy has too many favorites to choose just one...or two... or ten. Catch her in The Ground Floor, and she'll send you home with your own stack of books to devour!
Jen: I loved When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. It's a humorous romance featuring two Indian-American teens and their overbearing parents who are not-so-subtly trying to set them up in an arranged marriage. The story is told in alternating perspectives, and is full of rich cultural details and snappy dialogue.
And remember: there’s still time to log reading points for the Build a Better World Teen Summer Reading Game, which concludes on Monday, July 31. Sign up today, start reading, win a free paperback book, and enter a drawing for an awesome grand prize!

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

TED talks, "pay yourself in chard", shoeless Microsoft techies, Molly Moon ice cream--you don't have to be a current or ex-Seattleite to enjoy this funny book by Hollywood scriptwriter (Arrested Development) Maria Semple. If you've ever lived in a politically correct zone (Bloomington anyone?), you'll recognize many of the interpersonal dynamics pictured here. Where'd You Go, Bernadette tells the story of a family - Bernadette, Bee, and Elgin Branch-- and their relationship to their child's school community.

Bernadette, a former architect and MacArthur genius award winner, has given up working on any creative projects to devote herself to her family. Her daughter Bee was born with a serious heart condition and for years Bernadette felt that she could not commit herself to any new designs due to her daughter's condition. But Bernadette, a woman full of prodigious talent and energy, has been driving herself and everyone around her nuts while her husband worked his way up the Microsoft hierarchy.

Minor Seattle annoyances set her off, say five-way traffic interchanges where one waits an eon for a turn at the green light. Too friendly Canadians provoke Bernadette's ire also. And turning her almost ballistic are messages from her daughter's private school that ask for volunteers. She ignores these but the fellow parents, whom she calls "gnats", mock her for her lack of community involvement--a major Seattle lapse. And then there are all those obnoxious Microsoft slogans that she must turn away from whenever she and Bee visit her husband's office.

Once long ago, Bernadette designed two wildly inventive buildings in LA using only local materials. Her name is still enshrined in architecture lore, but now she's battling her husband's employee and a neighbor, Audrey Griffin, who's on a crazybound track of her own.

The novel is made up of hundreds of e-mails, handwritten notes, transcripts, conversations, etc. many from Bernadette, some from her daughter, many from Audrey. Of course, a shrink becomes involved. Good thing she doubles as a post-traumatic stress counselor because Audrey's fundraiser with twenty singing kindergarteners is overrun by a cascading sea of mud from Bernadette's house. Audrey insisted that B. pull out all her blackberry bushes.

Meanwhile, Bee has chosen her prize for finishing elementary school with flying colors - a trip to Antarctica, but Bernadette has social anxiety issues. In fact, she's hired an Indian errand-runner, who manages myriad details from thousands of miles away.  Except he's not really from India and he has all of her important bank numbers and passport info.

It's a fun rollicking ride full of lots of Seattle color and rainy weather humor, some at the great Emerald City's expense. But if you're in the mood for a book to brighten these dark winter days, this family's escapades will cheer you up.

Another quirky novel that both celebrates and pokes fun at an American city is John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces.