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61 / 165 books. 37% done!
Saturday, October 15, 2022

Sophomore Effort Not As Satisfying As Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although she knows war is raging in foreign lands, 15-year-old Olive Alexander never thought it would really reach her. She thought she was safe on the isolated ranch in New Mexico's Jornado del Muerto desert, where her family has lived for generations. Then, her beloved older brother enlisted. And now, the Army has claimed 75% of the Alexanders' land for a top-secret military project. Olive's seen the posters—everyone must do their part for the war effort—she just never thought her part would include leaving her home. Especially without her mother, who has to stay behind to work the portion of the ranch that still belongs to the Alexanders.

Olive's not happy about moving to Alamogordo to live with her grandmother. She's not happy that her mother isn't coming along. And she's really not happy about being forced to go to public school, when she's always been taught at home. Olive's Alamogordo classmates either ignore her or make fun of her, except for one—Jo Hawthorne, who's also new to the school. Sure, she's a pious Jesus freak, but at least she's nice. There's only one problem. Jo's father is the Army sergeant who's taken over Olive's ranch. The two can't possibly be friends. Except they do form an unlikely bond. Then, one day, the sky explodes, Jo disappears, and the girls never see each other again.

Seven years later, Jo is back in Alamogordo. Changed by her years away, she has returned to demand answers from her estranged father. What really happened on the day of the explosion? What was he actually doing out in the desert? And where is Olive? Jo won't stop digging until she has the answers.

I loved Jennifer L. Wright's debut novel, If It Rains, so I was thrilled when I discovered she had a new book coming out. Come Down Somewhere, her sophomore effort, revolves around a homefront World War II event that I'd never heard of before. Bonus. I dig historical novels that highlight interesting but forgotten incidents. The book is more about the characters than anything, though, and both Olive and Jo are likable and sympathetic, even if they're not particularly unique or memorable. Their relationship definitely needed more development; it didn't feel strong enough to send a grown-up Jo on such a determined quest to figure out what happened to a childhood friend. Even though I didn't feel super connected to either of the girls, I did become invested in their story. Plot-wise, the novel kind of crawls along, with most of the action happening at the end of the novel. Although it defintiely drags in places, I found the story compelling enough to keep reading. The Big Reveal wasn't a huge surprise; it wasn't super obvious either. All these things considered, I didn't enjoy Come Down Somewhere nearly as much as I did If It Rains, which is disappointing. Still, I liked it for the most part. I do think Wright is a talent to watch, so I'll be keeping en eye out for her next book.

Wright's books are Christian novels, which are always hit-or-miss for me. As a religious person, I appreciate stories that are uplifting and faith-promoting. If they get cheesy or heavy-handed? I'm out. Unfortunately, Come Down Somewhere tilts a little too much in the preachy direction, which gets annoying at times. I prefer subtle lessons. Nevertheless, I give Wright props for writing clean, hopeful, God-positive books.  

(Readalikes: Wright's books remind me of those by Amy Lynn Green and Jocelyn Green.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of Come Down Somewhere with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.


  1. Such a shame that this isn't a winner as the topic is one that hasn't really been done in YA historical fiction. If you're going to center a book on Alamogordo, you've got to include the history and well developed characters.

    1. It's actually an adult book, although the alternating sections are about the girls as teenagers. The book talks about the Trinity explosion, but it also kind of assumes that you already know what happens. The explosion is the backdrop to the story, if that makes sense. I would have liked more background on the whole thing because it is interesting.

  2. I agree with you. I don't mind religious books as long as they are not too preachy. Religion lite!

    1. Exactly! God, faith, and religion are all part of my daily life and I like to see that kind of lifestyle reflected in the books I read. I just want those themes to be weaved in in a way that is natural, not forced.

  3. I don't think I've read a book set in this time period and place. I'm sorry it wasn't as good as you hoped it would be.

    1. Me neither. I read THE ATOMIC CITY GIRLS that has a sort of similar vibe, but I didn't care for it much. I'm bummed this one wasn't better. It was okay, though. I liked it a lot better than THE ATOMIC CITY GIRLS, anyway.

  4. That's such a bummer when a sophomore release doesn't hit as well as the debut. I'm glad it was still good.

    1. Right? I always get excited when I find a debut author I really like because I can watch for their new releases. It's just a bummer when subsequent books don't live up to the first. I'm still going to keep an eye on Wright, though. I think she's got more great books up her sleeve, even if I didn't love this one.

  5. I heard two or three different writers at book festivals say that the second book is the hardest...especially if the first at any success at all. Than they kind of get over it, so there's hope yet.

    1. Oh, I'm sure! There must be tons of pressure on them. And, of course, there are few authors of whom I can say that I have loved every book they've ever written. Generally, some appeal to me more than others.

  6. A slow crawl and preachy undertones would be too much for me to enjoy. I'm with you, I can't do cheesy.

    1. Yeah, that combination is deadly to me! I need more balance in the books I read. I don't mind inspirational, faith-promoting, even a little sentimental, but if it goes over the top, I'm out.

  7. I'm not a big fan of anything too preachy. Even if it's about something I agree with the tone always puts my teeth on edge a bit. I don't think this one would work me which is too bad because the topic sounds fascinating.

    1. Exactly! Even if I completely agree with what you're saying, I don't want to be preached at. It's the same with issue novels—I want its lessons to be subtle and not feel like a PSA!


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