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Beyond the Buzz: Guest Post by Mackenzi Lee

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Today I have more in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series, where I’m asking YA & kidlit librarians as well as book bloggers to share books they think deserve more attention. Read on to see which title blogger and children’s literature MFA student Mackenzi Lee wants to share… 


Guest post by Mackenzi Lee

MillionsI don’t know if you can count a book that has been made into a movie1 as being “Beyond the Buzz,” but Millions has been one of my standard recommendations for years, and I’ve never encountered anyone who has met my enthusiastic adoration with a similarly vigorous “I love that book!”

So here we go. One more step in my life-long quest to make the world appreciate the genius of this quiet little novel.

Millions is the story of two brothers—worldly, real-estate-savvy Anthony and pious Damian, the narrator, who, at ten years old, strives to emulate the lives of the saints. In the wake of their mother’s death, the two boys and their dad are trying to start over—new city, new school, new house. And one September morning, in the backyard of that new house, the two boys find a bag containing one million pounds2.

With only seventeen days before Europe switches to the Euro and the money becomes worthless, the brothers can’t agree on how to spend it. Anthony wants to buy what our narrator deems “worldly goods,” while Damian wants to give the money to the poor in order to become more saint-like himself. However, the boys quickly discover that there are dangerous men looking for the lost money, and they will stop at nothing to get it back—even if it means taking out Anthony and Damian in the process.

There is no way for me to make a concise list detailing what I love about this book. I love Britishness of it. I love Damian’s voice. I love that I now have a vast and almost useless3 knowledge of the lives of saints because of this book. I love that I laugh every time I read it4. I love that I cry every time I read it. But mostly, I love that what is on the surface a heist story about two kids irresponsibly spending a lot of money, is really about how people move on in the wake of a tragedy. I love that this is not a novel about grief, and yet the theme is subtly and deftly implanted on every page of the novel.

I have read this book dozens of times—growing up, it was my family’s go-to audio book for road trips5. I have since reread it on my own, and even done papers for school on it. I am amazed by how each time I read this book, I feel like I get another layer of it. What I at first thought was simply a feel-good novel has become a feel-everything novel. This is a book for anyone who has ever lost someone they loved. For anyone who has ever wanted to be better. For anyone who has ever been bullied because they were being themselves. For anyone who has been misunderstood. For anyone who has lived without excellence and known they could be better.

But mostly, Millions is for anyone who loves that magical, transportive power of magnificent books. It is a quirky and delightful novel that I will keep reading again and again. Before I die, I will probably read it a million times6.

  1. Albeit only a mildly successfully one.
  2. As in British money, because that is where this book takes place. Not as in “one million pounds of…” and then I forgot to include the last word, leaving you in suspense.
  3. Though I did once dominate the “saints” category of play-at-home Jeopardy. So not totally useless, I guess.
  4. In what other novel do you find a fourth-grade boy who receives visitations from chain-smoking saints?
  5. Side note—the audio book is extraordinary. Highly recommended.
  6. Ahhhh!! Bad pun, bad pun! Sorry guys, last lines are hard!

Have you read and loved this book? Chime in and tell us what you think in the comments! 


Mackenzi Lee author photoMackenzi Lee is currently earning an MFA in writing for children and young adults at Simmons College, meaning that someday she hopes to pay back her student loans on the lucrative salary of a young adult author. She loves sweater weather, diet coke, and Shakespeare. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She blogs at mackenzilee.wordpress.com, sometimes about books, sometimes about Boston, and sometimes about Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Want more in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series?

Here are the posts in the series so far:

  • YA/middle-school librarian Jennifer Hubert Swan recommends Better Than Running at Night and Every Time a Rainbow Dies
  • YA librarian Kelly Jensen recommends a whole host of books including Sorta Like a Rock StarFirst Day on EarthFrost, and more
  • Youth services librarian Liz Burns recommends The President’s Daughter, Flora Segunda, and All Unquiet Things
  • YA librarian Angie Manfredi recommends Rats Saw God
  • YA librarian Abby Johnson recommends the top five books she read this year: The Berlin Boxing Club; Blizzard of Glass; Dogtag Summer; Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have; and A Girl Named Faithful Plum 
  • Book blogger Kari Olson from A Good Addiction recommends books including Freefall, I Swear, Like Mandarin, and more
  • Book blogger Wendy Darling from The Midnight Garden recommends UltravioletA Certain Slant of Light, and The Reapers Are the Angels
  • Book blogger Nicole from WORD for Teens recommends The Lost Years of Merlin
  • Librarian and children’s literature professor Laura Lutz from Pinot and Prose recommends New York City novels Kiki Strike, Better Nate Than Ever, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The Night Tourist, Suite Scarlett, and Undertown
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  1. Pingback: in which I read books over the summer | mackenzi lee

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