Category Archives: Contemporary

Book Chat: Ten Things I Hate About Me

Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-FattahTen Things I Hate About Me

Summary

Jamilah is Lebanese-Australian and is struggling to understand what a hyphenated identity means in the microcosm of high school. At school, she is Jamie, the blonde quiet girl that lives on the periphery of the popular circle. At home and at madrassa, she is Jamilah, the  darabuka-playing daughter struggling to make a space for herself. When the Lebanese band she plays in is invited to perform at the high school formal, Jamilah’s two worlds collide and she must finally decide who she is to everyone.10 things i hate.png


Favorite Character

Shereen – Since she had more time with their mom and she’s a big sister, her groundedness provides a strong example of how to be proud of all parts of your identity for Jamilah. Plus, I love how she has created an active feminism that respects and fits into the rest of identity while still challenging the parts she finds difficult.

Favorite Line 

“I read headlines describing the crimes as ‘Middle Eastern rape.’ I’ve never heard of Anglo burglary or Caucasian murder. If an Anglo-Australian commits a crime, the only descriptions we get are the colour of his clothes and hair.”

The book may not be subtle in any of the “lessons,” but it is honest.

Fun Author Fact

Abdel-Fattah has worked as a lawyer, an interfaith activist, a consultant for media representation of Muslims and Middle-Easterns, and is not working toward her Ph.D. – I am always impressed by all the things writers do in addition to writing!

Is this worth a book hangover?

This is a more surface-level look at identity, racism, and the need to be/fear of acceptance. Jamie/Jamilah’s story is not very complex and sometimes it’s a little too sweet, but over all it’s an interesting look at the process and difficulties of self-acceptance.

Read These Next

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger for another look at a teenager reconciling different identities or My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman for a fun, middle grade look at what balancing Indian and Jewish identities might be like.

Post Author: Jess

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Book Discussion: Say What You Will

Say What You Will.jpg

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Summary

Amy has never let her cerebral palsy limit her.

From a young age, she’s been the star student at her school. She writes tear-jerking essays about her luck in school literary journals, and competes in (and wins) all academic challenges in front of her. She’s the perfect model for a student with CP…but she has no friends.

When a sudden unexpected conversation about her lack of friends happens between Amy and Matthew, Amy has an idea. She’ll have her parents replace her aids with students – seniors who, in return for some extra cash, will help her make friends around school. Despite her parents hesitations, Matthew is the first person on her peer team.

But what happens when Amy and the boy who’s been watching her since elementary school really start to spend time together? Will their single truthful conversation blossom into something larger?.

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heartRomance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort 

I really wanted to like this romance, and for a while, I did. Both Amy and Matthew are flawed, and have trouble connecting with other people. Their honesty towards each other helps foster a deep connection between the two. But as the story goes on, the romance breaks down.. and it’s hard for me to get behind it. I think Amy was selfish and cruel, and although I love that this story showed a three-dimensional person with a disability (not just a inspiration-porn), I had a hard time backing this romance.

Feminist Score:  Good Effort   Rosie

While much of her life is controlled by her parents, Amy wants her senior year to be different. She makes as many decisions as possible on her own, and gradually increases her control of her life circumstances. While I don’t agree with all of her decisions, I like that she had the opportunity to make them herself. AND I loved that she had so much agency in her decision to want to have sex!

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Good Effort 

It was really wonderful to see a story written from a perspective of a brilliant girl with cerebral palsy who wanted to find friendship and romance. And Matthew’s own struggles, though more hidden than Amy’s are equally important. Both of these are valuable voices in young adult literature.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort 

I really, really wanted to like this book, and I just… didn’t love it. I think that while the initial story was interesting, and I really got into their initial romance. Once the characters got past high school, though, it just dragged. Amy becomes less likable over time, and even Matthew seems like someone  who just wants to get hurt. And the surprises in the story came out of nowhere… and I don’t think they made sense to the plot.

Favorite Character

Amy’s Mom – Even though she can be a pain sometimes, she really wants what’s best for her daughter. I love a mom who will fight for her kid at every angle.

Favorite Line

My favorite line from this book is about Amy’s agency in situations. In this scene, two teachers are arguing about whether Amy having fun playing with some other kids on the playground… or if she thinks they’re making fun of them:

“‘I thought Amy liked it,’ one of them said. ‘It’s better than sitting by herself the whole recess, isn’t it?

No,‘ the other woman said. ‘They’re making fun of her and she knows it.

Matthew noticed that neither of them asked Amy…”

This line reminded me of a line from Gloria Stemen’s new book, My Life on The Road,  where she talks about how she saved a turtle crossing the road, only to have her science teacher tell her that the turtle had spent a month getting to the road to lay its eggs. Her life lesson? Always ask the turtle.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I think Say What You WIll offers an interesting perspective , but I don’t think it’s quite hangover worthy. 

Fun Author(s) Fact

Cammie McGovern’s last name may sound familiar… and it should. Cammie’s sister is Elizabeth McGovern, who plays American heiress and mother of three Cora Crawley on Downton Abbey. How COOL is that?

Read This Next

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstorm (our podcast and review here)! Seventeen year old Parker has created a set of guidelines – known as The Rules –  to keep her life as a blind person in order. But what happens when an old romance (and a new fling) come into her life?

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Discussion: Pointe

Pointe

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Summary

Ever since her best friend went missing four years ago, Theo has been trying to have a normal life. She spends nearly all of her free time in the dance studio, competing with the other elite dancers  for lead roles and  spots in summer intensive programs. She knows if she trains just hard enough (and eats just little enough), she can obtain her dream of joining a professional ballet company.

But suddenly Donovon reappears from his captivity.. and he’s not talking. But as details of his case start to unfold, Theo realizes that she may have a connection to his abduction. And as she starts to relive the months around his disappearance, her life story starts to unravel.

 

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heartRomance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort 

While I didn’t find the romance itself particularly swoon-worthy,  Theo’s (current) love story seems very true to high school: unstable, uncertain, and lacking communication. I appreciated how realistic it seemed, even if it wasn’t exactly what she wanted!

Feminist Score:  A+  Rosie

Theo kicks ass. Without spoiling anything, I loved the way this book ended. Theo spends a lot of time working through her own history, but ultimately makes important decisions to help herself (and her friend) in a very tough situation.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score:  Good Effort 

One of the things I loved about Pointe was that it seamlessly integrated thoughts on race and diversity without seeming formulaic or preachy. Theo’s a black dancer in a nearly all-white dance school (and, it seems, public school). Like Misty Copeland and other athletes and artists of color, she faces immense barriers in her professional goals. She acknowledges the challenges, but continues to work hard to overcome them. I particularly like the scene in her middle school, where a teacher asks for her opinion on segregation because of her race.

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Awesome Factor: Good Effort  

This book really surprised me. I picked up Pointe expecting a narrative of a ballet dancer trying to accomplish her dreams. The story was all of this, and so much more. Pointe is beautiful, tragic, funny, and dark…you won’t be able to put it down.

Favorite Character

Theo – Everything about her devotion to dance, her confusing past, and her friendship with Donovan is beautiful, and sad.

Favorite Line

I’m a sucker for well-written passages about dance, and Pointe is full of them:

“I spin around on one foot, the room swirling by me in blurs of color and light. My leg extends from my hip in a straight line before it whips around to meet my body, over and over again. Spotting saves me from a serious case of dizziness; I train my eyes on a specific point around the room and never look away, not until the last possible second when I have to turn my head to keep up with my body. Air speeds by me so fast that it clicks in my ears, strong and steady like a metronome.”

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. Pointe surprised me, and exceeded my expectations in so many ways. It’s completely worth the read. 

Fun Author(s) Fact

Brandy Colbert has a Tumblr (link here) with smart, on-point, and beautiful posts. Check it out!

Read This Next

Oh, man. This is hard – I still have a Pointe hangover!  If you’re looking for another dance-related book, try Pretty Tiny Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. This book is hyper-focused on competitive dance and filled with a diverse cast of cut-throat ballerinas.

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Chat: Under the Lights

Under the Lights!

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Summary

Vanessa Park knows that she’s a role model.

As one of the only Asian-American actresses on a teenage drama, her image has to be perfect to pave the way for other minority actors. And while she loves acting, there are also a lot of pressures – the drinking, the drama, and her disapproving parents. And when her best friend leaves for college on the East Coast, Vanessa is suddenly alone.

Well.. not quite alone. She has Josh Chester, her co-star on Daylight Falls, a Hollywood bad boy who she loathes. She also has Brianna, the daughter of her publicist and current PR intern. And as Vanessa, Josh and Brianna start to spend more time together, Vanessa realizes that she may be developing feelings for someone she never expected to fall for.

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Favorite Character

Brianna – I love Bri’s confidence, and her honestly and directness is refreshing in a teen-drama novel.

 

Fun Author Fact

Dahlia Adler wrote a draft of Under the Lights for NaNoWriMo. In the original draft, the novel was written from three character’s points of view: Liam, Vanessa, and Josh. Needless to say, Liam’s POV was scrapped from the book before the final publication.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Under the Lights is a fun, refreshing read about Hollywood. This is definitely a book that can be finished during a day on the beach, a long car ride, or a rainy afternoon. It’s note quite hangover worthy to me, but definitely fun!

Read These Next

Behind the Scenes is on my list! This is the companion novel for Under the Lights – and tells a story about a teen superstar and an assistant falling in love under the drama of Hollywood.

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Discussion: The Royal We

the royal we

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Summary

Rebecca Porter did not dream of being a princess.

When Rebecca (Bex) leaves Cornell to study abroad at Oxford for a semester, she did not expect to be placed in the same dorm as Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king and the most eligible bachelor. Nor did she expect to be part of his social circle, have similar interests, and eventually, fall in love with him.

But life as a royal’s girlfriend is not all glamour. Bex finds herself in the middle of complex royal family relations, untrustworthy colleagues and friends, and the ruthless paparazzi, who will stop at nothing to get the scoop on her. Nick and Bex have to maneuver their relationship, and decide on their future (together or apart) in the public eye.

The Royal We tells the Will-and-Kate story from Kate’s point of view. If, of course, Kate was American.

Aubrey

heartRomance Score: Good Efforts 

Despite the somewhat silly premise, the romance between Nick and Bex is well-built. Bex first earns the trust of Nick and then falls in love in the best way possible: while binge-watching awesome television together. Their relationship is complicated – Nick has concerns about marrying young and of course, the press want to know everything about their relationship. I liked how real it seemed, despite all the craziness of princes and royalty.

Feminist Score:  Good Effort   Rosie

Bex works hard to remain her own person despite all the restrictions of being the girlfriend of the heir to the British throne. She’s a supportive partner to be sure – but she also works to make a life for herself outside Nick. She has a harder time standing up to her sister (her best friend), but their relationship perfectly explained the tension between your love of your closest sibling and your significant other.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score:  Not A Bit

I was pretty disappointed with the lack of diversity in this book. It pretty closely follows the Kate-Will story, but all the characters are rich and white. Even Bex, the “outsider,” is from a rich, well-educated family. This is a story about the British royals, who are … rich and white, but I wish we could have seen a peek into something else. There’s a bit of discussion about mental illness, but the topic isn’t discussed deeply enough to warrant a higher score.

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Awesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort  

I really enjoyed this book – it was a quick, fun read with a deeper message about relationships, sacrifice, and balance. But despite enjoying it, I couldn’t rate it any higher with the blatant lack of diversity.


Favorite Character

Nick. He’s a swoon-worthy prince in many respects. He wants what’s best for Bex, and works hard to make sure she fully understands what it means to be attached to him.

Favorite Line

“Long ago, I reminded Nick that he had the power to turn a life of being in-waiting into a life he wanted to live – that he could still be in charge of himself. So could I , and so could Freddie, and running away was not taking charge; it was just running. Besides, if I’d ever really wanted to leave, I wouldn’t have needed Freddie to open the door. I would have saved myself.”

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes, especially for those of us with an interest (cough obsession) with the royal family. If you also refreshed CNN nine times an hour when Princess Charlotte was born, or woke up at 5 a.m. and Skyped with your mom during the royal wedding, you will love this book. 

Fun Author(s) Fact

Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks are die-hard royalists, and run a blog called Go Fug Yourself , which covers celebrity gossip and, of course, the royals.

Read This Next

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield. American Wife is based on the life of Laura Bush, told from the point of view of Laura from childhood through her time in the White House. And while this book is purely fiction, it is a very interesting take on a First Lady.

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Chat: All American Boys


25657130All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kiely

Summary

Rashad stops into the corner store to buy some potato chips and another shopper trips over him, sparking the store cop’s attention and leading to a brutal beating on the sidewalk outside the store. Quinn was heading to the store to ask someone to buy alcohol for him and his friends and, instead, ends up witnessing the horrible violence commited by the policeman. The story unfolds over the week that follows the beating – both boys trying to come to terms with what it means and trying to understand what they must do in the aftermath. The community and school reacts and Rashad and Quinn must decide what part they will play. all american boys.png


Favorite Character

Spoony – He’s the best kind of big brother. He watches out for Rashad – he gives him a couple extra dollars for snacks when he needs it and makes sure the media have a “respectable” picture of his little brother when the situation calls for it.

Favorite Line

This book has so much we need to hear.

“Look, if there are people who are scared of the police every day of their lives,” Jill said, determined, “I’m going to live in fear of them for at least one day to say that I don’t think that’s right.”

“Nobody says the words anymore, but somehow the violence still remains. If I didn’t want the violence to remain, I had to do a hell of a lot more than just say the right things and not say the wrong things.”

Fun Author Fact

Reynolds and Kiely were put on a tour together and didn’t know each other. It was right after the Martin-Zimmerman court decision and Reynolds was concerned he wouldn’t be able to keep his cool if Kiely said something insensitive on tour…but an ongoing conversation and friendship happened instead and this book is the result.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Absolutely. All the time. Please read it. Then share it. Then make that person share it. It’s a well written story but it’s much more than that.

Read These Next

This Side of Home by Renee Watson deals with gentrification of a neighborhood and dealing with the collision of communities or anything by Jason Reynolds, like When I Was the Greatest or Boy in the Black Suit.

Post Author: Jess

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Book Discussion: Shadowshaper

22295304Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Summary

Sierra is excited to spend the summer with her friends and to finish up the mural she started on an abandoned building on her block. That is…until the murals around her start to move and fade and the people around her start to keep secrets. As she digs into just what is going on, she learns that her family’s heritage involves shadowshaping – using specific talents to harness the powers of the spirits around them. But someone is attacking shadowshapers and instead of enjoying the summer she has to figure out how to stop the killer and save her family.

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heart

Romance Score: A+ Success

The tingles between Robbie and Sierra are a slow burn that doesn’t take over the narrative. Sierra depends on Robbie for information about shadowshaping and respects him for his drawing skills long before she starts to feel anything extra for him. It’s only as the mystery – and danger – build that she starts to accept that he could be anything more. Her feelings for him are only a small part of the story unfolding and I liked that it was more about Sierra rocking her new skills and accepting her family’s heritage with a small side of heart business.

Rosie

Feminist Score: A+ Success

There are several different kinds of ladies in this book, but they all rock it. Sierra fights for what she wants, protecting her friends, family, and her desire to understand her family history. Sierra’s grandmother proves that there’s no way to stop a matriarch when she’s made a decision – even if she has to sacrifice herself. And, even though we may disagree with her decisions, we understand why Sierra’s mother made the decisions she did when faced with difficult choices (and we get to see her change her mind). Plus, there’s no single way to be a woman – we have Sierra that likes to dress in old tee shirts and jeans, Bennie that wants to be a scientist or or biologist or…something intellectualee, T and Izzy, Sierra’s two lesbian friends, and Nydia, a Puerto Rican working at the Colombia library. All of them are doing their best to be their best in a world set against them.

Sierra calls out a lot of things throughout the book. She talks about her natural hair and loving it even if it’s not considered “good hair.” She talks about colorism in the community and rants at her aunt for acting like lighter is better. She gets whistled at, yelled at, and propositioned while walking down the street and points out how messed up it is. If it’s something women (especially women of color) deal with, Sierra hits on it.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: A+ Success

This book blows it away. We have Sierra – Puerto Rican-American, Robbie – Haitian (American?), and Sierra’s friends from several backgrounds. Tee and Izzy are lesbians. Her grandfather has recently suffered a stroke and is incapacitated in many ways. The story takes play in Brooklyn, New York, and you get strong sense of place. Conversations about gentrification occur a couple of times without feeling like they were stuck in to “make a point.” And the book revolves around non-European folklore and ancestral memory which we also don’t see often.

The book will be a strong mirror for many readers – there’s Spanish (not italicized), food, dancing, music, and other cultural markers that will mean everything to readers that don’t usually get to see themselves in books. It will also serve as a good window book – though that is a side bonus, not the focus – because Older writes with such a deft hand and Sierra is an engaging character.

wow iconAwesome Factor: A+ Success

The characters and story are engaging. The location and sense of place are on point and the pace does not let go once it gets started. I really enjoyed the story and almost missed my metro stop a couple of times because I couldn’t stop reading. There’s a lot going on in the book peripheral to the story – police brutality, gentrification, misogyny, sexism, racism – they all get attention but it never feels like it’s been shoved in to make an issue. Instead, it always feels like a natural part of Sierra’s (and her friends’) experience.

I really liked Sierra’s voice and the fun cast of characters that she brings with her. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that enjoys paranormal, supernatural, urban, fantasy, or action-packed stories.

Also – THAT COVER.


Favorite Character

Sierra – because she’s spunky, and bright, and doesn’t let other people’s expectations or restrictions hold her back. (But, I want to give a shout out to Bennie for being an awesome friend that reps the nerdy side of things.)

Favorite Line

This is long, but I laughed out loud. Plus, since I studied anthropology in university, I feel a little extra love for this excerpt. I also loved the way this book discussed the ethical (and privilege) issues around anthropology.

“Imma write a book,” Tee announced. “It’s gonna be about white people.”

Izzy scowled. “Seriously, Tee: Shut up. Everyone can hear you.”

“I’m being serious,” Tee said. “If this Wick cat do all this research about Sierra’s grandpa and all his Puerto Rican spirits, I don’t see why I can’t write a book about his people. Imma call it Hipster vs. Yuppie: a Culturalpological Study.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Absolutely. It was fast, fun, and exciting. I enjoyed getting to know Sierra and her family  – and her family’s heritage. I definitely recommend this is you’re looking for something action filled.

Fun Author Fact

Older has one of the most interesting twitter accounts – if you care about young adult books, diversity, representation, inequality, and justice in the US.

Read These Next

This Side of Home by Renée Watson for a story about twins dealing with a neighborhood in change or Black Beauty by Constance Burris for another paranormal story deeply rooted in place and community.

 

 

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Book Chat: Not If I See You First

Not If I

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

Summary

Parker Grant has established The Rules.

The Rules – a set of guidelines created by Parker- keep her life in order. The Rules include not treating her differently because she’s blind, letting her know when you enter a room, and, most importantly, no second chances. This one has kept Parker the safest of all.

But after Parker’s father passes away suddenly, she finds her world torn apart. Her aunt, uncle, and cousins move into her house, and two local high school combine – and suddenly, Parker has to deal with hundreds of people who don’t know “The Rules.” How will Parker navigate these changes – and the return of an old love interest?


Favorite Character

Parker – I love her attitude about life. She makes every effort to make sure she controls as much of her life as possible. I also love how fiercely she loves her friends, despite her sarcastic and somewhat abrasive personality.

Favorite Line

One of my favorite parts of this book is the deep, complex friendship between Sarah and Parker:

“For a year I’ve been telling you what love isn’t but maybe I should’ve been telling you what it is. I have the perfect example right here; I love Sarah. I don’t want-to-have-sex-with-her love her, but I love her like crazy. I wish more than anything I knew how to make her happy again.” 

Fun Author Fact

Eric Lindstrom worked in the interactive game industry.  He was Editor and Co-Writer for Tomb Raider: Legend… which officially means my husband and I have *almost* read a book/video game by the same author/designer. This doesn’t happen very often.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes! This book is fun, fast-paced, and teaches you about blind culture without being a “lesson book.” 

Read These Next

Try Push Girl by Chelsie Hill & Jessica Love (our podcast review here), a story about a smart,  brave girl learning to navigate the world after an accident leaves her wheel-chair bound. 

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

 

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Chat: The Weight of Feathers

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The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Summary

Cluck is a Corbeau, a feather-growing, tightrope-walking family. Lace is a Paloma, a family of mermaids that dance in the water. Their families have been enemies for as long as they can remember. Each knows that contact with anyone from the other family would mean infection from black magic. But, when an industrial accident nearly kills Lace and Cluck is the one to save her everything they’ve ever known turns upside down. They have to decide if they can stay true to themselves and let their hearts guide them.

weight of feathers


Favorite Character

Tia Lora – She hasn’t let her past bring her bitterness like some of the other women in the feud and she does her best to give Lace the strength and love she needs to survive within the Paloma family.

Favorite Line

“He was beautiful in ways that made him ugly to his family.”

Fun Author Fact

McLemore has her own mermaid tail! It’s red.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes! It is beautifully written with some amazing lines and great characters. The families and their stories are just as interesting as the main characters and the interwoven storylines make it richer and deeper than “just” a story about Lace and Cluck.

Read These Next

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt for another Romeo and Juliet-esque story set in present day Georgia or Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez for another couple divided by family and social expectations with a hint of magical realism.

Post Author: Jess

1202112022

 

Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

 

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Filed under Contemporary, podcast, Romance

Book Discussion: The Secret Sky

18350034The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi

Summary

Fatima and Samiullah have been friends since childhood – even though his family is Pashtun and own the land that Fatima’s Hazara family and friends farm. When Sami returns from the madrassa a young man, Fatima realizes they’ve both grown. But neither realizes just how much trouble trying to keep their friendship alive will cause. Sami’s cousin discovers their secret meetings and triggers a swirl of events that brings in the local Taliban, violence, dishonor, and death.

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Romance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

The relationship between Fatima and Samiullah is pretty cute and I appreciate that it builds on their childhood friendship rather than on a fleeting glance or an instant connection. They have a bit of a Romeo and Juliet thing going which bumps up the sparks. But there are things that happen that make it difficult to give a higher score. The relationship springs from real respect and love, but they’re forced into a decision that is rooted in a very unromantic cultural situation.

Rosie

Feminist Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

Again, it is really difficult to give a score for this. Fatima herself is awesome and I love her determination to live the life she wants. But, there are so many things stacked against her socially and within her family that I can’t give it anything higher. Fatima studies and cherishes her reading lessons from her best friend’s grandmother. The small part that the grandmother plays is important because she shows what life could be like and encourages Fatima to dream of a life more than the farming, wife-ing, and mothering that is her likely future.

But, when her family finds out that Fatima and Samiullah have been meeting and he’s interested in marrying her, things rapidly go downhill. Horrible things happen, and one of the worst parts is her mother’s behavior.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

This book is set in Afghanistan with Muslim characters, one family is very poor and the other is wealthy. In many ways it’s winning in the representation field. But, the Taliban comes into the story and things just go downhill. I’m really excited to see more international characters with stories giving us a fuller picture of the world. But, I’m a little concerned that we’re falling into the “one story problem” with young girls from South Asia. I know these are important stories, but they’re also the only stories we see in the news and mainstream media. I’d love to see something counter to the mainstream stories. That being said, I know that the authors do struggle with their decision to write these stories – Aisha Saeed has talked at length about her fear of writing her forced marriage book, Written in the Stars, because she didn’t want to be providing another negative story. It just illustrates our need for greater breadth of representation for all groups.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

The writing in this book in beautiful and I think Abawi captures the people and landscape beautifully. I really liked Fatima and her determination to carve her own path. I liked the alternating point of view and that, while the story is centered on Fatima and Samiullah, Rashid gets a lot more depth as the story proceeds. It’s also great to see characters redeemed, though it’s a rather sad redemption. I would still recommend this book, but I’d emphasize that it continues the narrative of Afghanistan that is most prevalent in the media.


Favorite Character

Fatima – because she’s determined and hopeful and optimistic even when the situation is terrible.

Favorite Line

“This is when I realize that my mother doesn’t love me anymore. Her children aren’t people to her. We are her accessories, like a new payron or bangle. She wanted me to marry the boy in the other village because it would have made her look good, not because she was looking out for my welfare.”

I know this is kind of a depressing line, but it struck me because it is so true for some mothers everywhere. Sometimes they forget that they are bringing people into the world and not beings to maneuver.

Fun Author Fact

Atia Abawi has worked as a foreign correspondent for CNN in Afghanistan, Israel, and many other countries. Her work experiences inspired this story.

Read These Next

Like No Other by Una LaMarche for another couple fighting cultural and social expectations to be together or Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar for another South-Asian girl fighting cultural norms to fulfill her dreams.

Post Author: Jess

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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