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For Those Who Love Serial (And If You Don’t What Are You Waiting For?)

Serial PodcastHappy December, Hubbers!  I am, unfortunately, sick, but that won’t stop me from bringing you a post on something that I’m pretty excited about, and I know a lot of you are, too.  So, show of hands – who likes the podcast, Serial?  I’m betting a lot of you have your hands raised and wildly waving in the air right now, as do I!  Serial is Apple’s #1 downloaded podcast of the moment and has provided many hours of discussion amongst coworkers, family and friends around the country (even though neither my husband nor any of my coworkers listen to it, so I just have to have these discussions in my head).

For those of you who don’t listen, and I’m serious when I say that you really should, the podcast is an episodic telling of a murder case from 15 years ago.  Adnan Syed was tried and convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, while they were both students at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County.  Sarah Koenig, the narrator and co-creator of Serial, leads listeners on a journey each week through ignored evidence, trial transcripts and interviews with Adnan and others involved to create an engaging, well-told story that has intrigued and captivated readers for 10 episodes so far (episodes are released every Thursday morning, which has made Thursday morning the easiest day for me to get out of bed on time).

Since Serial is so popular with teens and adults alike, I thought I’d make a list of books that might interest someone who is obsessed with Serial.  I’ve included not only murder mysteries, but true crime stories and books where you’re not exactly sure how to feel about the narrator.  I’ve heard that the first season of Serial will be done after 12 episodes, which we are getting mighty close to, so hopefully, this list of books will give those of us addicted to the show a way to get through those Serial-less Thursdays until the new season starts again.  Here we go – let’s start with one of my very favorite books from this year…

We Were Liars by E.Lockhart:  I never knew what to think about Cadence, the narrator and star of E. Lockhart’s unbelievably great and haunting book, We Were Liars.  The story of Cadence and her time with her cousins and great love Gat on her family’s private island off of Cape Cod is a story of love, friendship and the joy of being young.  Then, a terrible accident occurs, and neither readers nor Cadence understand just what happened to make her cousins and Gat desert her in her time of greatest need.  With her memory spotty, her pain tremendous, and her need to know what happened two years ago that made everything change, Cadence tells her story through a series of flashbacks to her magical fifteenth summer to the current day, where she is alone and confused.  E. Lockhart tells an engaging story that will keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats until the end when all is revealed.  Cadence is a character that readers will feel sorry for, but also never exactly trust as she is the epitome of an unreliable narrator.  You just don’t ever know what’s going to happen in the story, and that’s what’s makes you want to keep reading until the bitter end.

The Year We DisappearedThe Year We Disappeared:  A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby & John Busby:  This is an interesting and heart-stopping story true crime story told by Cylin and her dad John.  When Cylin was 9 years old, her dad was scheduled to testify in an upcoming trial where it was rumored that mob connections might be involved.  But, someone tried to stop that from happening in a horrible way; as John was driving to work, someone put a shotgun up to his window and blew apart the window and John’s jaw.  John was pretty sure he knew who did this to him, but nothing happened and the family was soon sent into witness protection.  Cylin and John take turns telling the story in their own words in alternating chapters which shows the story from two different perspectives – the actual victim and Cylin, who is narrating from a more emotional point of view.  The descriptions of John’s injuries can be off-putting to those who are sensitive to depictions of pain and suffering, but they are an integral part of the story as this is the pain that John is literally dealing with.  This book is a well-told story that showcases the literal physical pain of a horrific crime, but also the emotional toll it takes on families and communities.

Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday:  Okay, so this one isn’t a serious mystery where you’ll be searching for hidden clues and implied meanings.  This is a fun Veronica Mars-esque romp that I thought would be a nice addition to this list of otherwise somber tomes.  The day that Hartley breaks up with her boyfriend, Josh, is the day that she also finds the president of the Chastity Club, Courtney, deceased at Josh’s house.  She broke up with Josh because he was fooling around with Courtney, and as much as Hartley really, truly hates Josh right now – she does not believe that he is a killer.  So, Josh is on the run, and Hartley is on a quest to clear her ex-boyfriend’s name – and, no, she doesn’t want to get back together with him!  With help from the school’s resident bad boy and editor of the school newspaper, Chase, Hartley soon realizes that by putting her nose in the wrong place, she might be putting herself in danger.  This book is a fun and fast read that is also a pretty good murder mystery.  For those times when you want a mystery to try and puzzle out, but you want a few laughs to go along with it.

Columbine by Dave Cullen:  I’ve been reading a few true crime nonfiction books lately, but this is the one that stands out the most – it is extremely well-written, well researched and accessible to readers who are both familiar with the events as well as those who know nothing about the events of that day.  Dave Cullen does an unbelievable job of not only telling the story of that horrible day at Columbine High School, but also the story of the two teens that orchestrated and carried out the attack.  Like Serial, the storytelling is impeccable and provides information from a multitude of people who were affected, including those who were responsible for the day’s events.  There was also a bit of misinformation that has been repeated throughout the years that Dave meticulous researched and provided the truth on.  For in-depth reporting and a story that is as intriguing as it is heartbreaking, Dave Cullen’s Columbine is  a masterpiece in the true crime genre.

AfterAfter by Amy Efaw (2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Quick Picks for ):  Devon is all about not messing up – she is on top of her game in soccer, she is an excellent student, she is just a perfect teenager, and there’s nothing that she wants more than to keep that true forever.  But, then, Devon finds out she’s pregnant and she does the unthinkable; she hides the pregnancy, delivers the baby, and then leaves it in a dumpster.  When the baby is found, so is Devon, and she is taken through the legal system to make her pay for her crime.  However, this book is more than just a cautionary tale; author Amy Efaw takes readers on an emotional roller coaster with readers experiencing everything from anger to pity to understanding.  Devon is such a well-written and developed character that readers will feel a range of emotions for her – we know that she committed the crime she is charged with, however disconnected she has made herself to the situation; however, I know I felt remorse for her as well as anger; just as you’d feel for a real person, there are always nuances in the range of emotions we can feel for other humans, regardless of situations.  Readers will experience Devon’s journey through the legal system as well as beyond, and she will stay with readers long past the final page – I should know – I read this book when it was released in 2010, and I am still thinking about it.

Well, I hope I gave you Serial fanatics some good books to keep you tided over during the upcoming absence of Serial from our ears.  And, for those of you who aren’t listening – I truly hope you decide to, it is a story that will pull at your heartstrings, make you question what you do and don’t know, and give you plenty to think about, that’s for sure!  Do you love Serial and have more awesome suggestions for those of us who are dreading not having it to listen to?  Leave them in the comments!!  Until next time, Hubbers- Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

-Traci Glass, currently reading I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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Traci Glass

Traci Glass is the Teen Librarian for the Eugene Public Library system in Eugene, Oregon. She loves realistic fiction, comics and horror movies. and comics. and Batman. Find her on Twitter: @grablit

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2 Comments

  1. Liz Liz

    My recommendation is an older title — The Dead Girl by Melanie Thernstrom (1990; 2014 edition has a new introduction, and I haven’t read that one.) Thernstrom’s best friend from high school disappeared; the friend’s boyfriend confessed to murder, was convicted, then recanted. Like Serial, it is as much about Thernstrom looking into what happened to her friend and processing it as it is about the crime and aftermath.

  2. Lalitha Lalitha

    Great list, Traci! I wanted to add that Tess Sharpe’s FAR FROM YOU would also be a great Serial read-alike. :)

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