Category Archives: podcast

Book Chat – To All the Boys I Loved Before

To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

Summary

Lara Jean has a fail-proof method of getting over her crushes. She15749186 writes them love letters, and then stuffs them in an old hat box her mother gave her. The boys never learn about her crush, and she gets over them.

But one day, she discovers that someone has mailed all her old love letters! Close to being socially ruined forever, Lara Jean comes up with an ingenious plan to save her dignity. But will it work?

A book of first loves, sister hood, and so much food, To All the Boys I Loved Before is a great YA teen romance.

 

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Favorite Character

This is so hard! I relate to all three of the Song sisters. As the bossy elder sister who thinks she knows everything in my own family, I relate to Margo well. I love Lara Jean’s bravery and spunk, and adore Kitty for her precocious nature. If I had to pick one, though, it would be Lara Jean. Her courage in the face of social destruction is admirable.

Favorite Line

“There is a specific kind of fight you can only have with your sister. It’s the kind where you say things you can’t take back. You say them because you can’t help but say them, because you’re so angry it’s coming up your throat and out our eyes; you’re so angry you can’t see straight. All you see is blood.”

This book is as much about sisterhood as it is about first loves. I love how this perfectly captures the sibling relationship.

Fun Author Fact

While I do have a Jenny Han fun fact (according to an interview with Ron Reads, she wrote never-to-be-sent love letters to her crushes too!), I actually love her take on diversity in literature.

When asked about the diverse casting in the  book, she said,  “I want my books to look like the real world, and the real world is populated by all kinds of people. I think diversity in young adult literature is very important because it reflects what the world really looks like, and that it’s a larger experience. It’s not just one narrow experience. I was thinking about that.”

YES

Is this worth a book hangover?

If  you’re into fun teenage romances (I am!), then it is. For those more inclined to science fiction or fantasy, they may enjoy this book, but it won’t be hangover materiel. But I read it in one go!

Read These Next

This is an older book , but check out Forever by Judy Bloom (our review here).  Forever is about Kath, a re regular high school girl with her first real boyfriend. As Kath and Michael start spending time together, Kath starts to think about taking their relationship to the next level. Will sex change their relationship forever? Written in the 70s, Forever was one of the first YA books to talk openly about teenage sex, and was criticized heavily in the media. Definitely worth the read!

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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Filed under High School, podcast, Romance

Book Chat: Summer of Chasing Mermaids

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Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Summary

Elyse d’Abreau knew what her life was supposed to look like. She was a talented singer living in Trinidad and Tobago with her tight-knit family. She and her twin, Natalie, were on the brink of stardom. They were only days away from going on a world-wide singing tour. Her dreams were about to come true.

But a tragic accident forces Elyse to reconsider her goals. Elyse can’t sing anymore and needs space from her former life. She moves to Oregon to live with her aunt and cousin, and learns to rebuild her life in a new place. When a cute boy comes for the summer, though, she’s intrigued. Their romance blooms over a love of boats, their families, and an unhealthy competition that threatens to destroy the Oregon home she’s come to love.

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Favorite Character

Elyse. Elyse stands up her herself and her friends, and has a clear morale compass for right and wrong. I also love how she owns her sexuality in so many ways (listen to the podcast for more steamy details!).

Favorite Line

Elyse writes poetry, and there are many incredible lines. One of our favorites is excerpted below:

If everyone followed rules

As they were written, as they were said

You wouldn’t be allowed to vote…

Rules are rules, yet still

trumped always by kindness and human decency.

Let. Him. March.”

The full poem is even more beautiful.

Is this worth a book hangover?

YES. This book is beautifully written romance story with unique, diverse characters. We highly recommend it.

Fun Author Fact

According to her website , Sarah Ockler does tarot readers for her characters and plot. Tarot cards appear a few times in Summer of Chasing Mermaids – now we know why!

Read This Next

For another (slightly sadder) romance, check out My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. Aysel and Roman are both regulars in online suicide forums, and make a pact to help each other die. But as their romance blooms, Aysel realizes that she’s not sure she’s ready to die. We reviewed this book last April on the blog!

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: 5 to 1


5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Summary

The book takes place in a walled-off state in future-India. Women were tired of watching their world favor men and boys, so they rebelled. They walled off their land and built a women-led government to protect their daughters and those to come after them. They instituted a set of trials to allow the now-revered girls to determine their spouses and all of society now benefits girls, young women, wives, and mothers (of girls). And yet, Sudasa wishes to escape this world of luxury and privilege. At the trials that will determine her future spouse, she meets Kiran, a young man also dreaming of a way to escape the system.

 


Favorite Character

Sudasa’s father – His backstory is heartbreaking, his gentle spirit is sweet, and his love for his daughter(s) is a gentle reminder that the pressures of society aren’t always reflected in individual people. Plus, I love that we realize he hasn’t let the system get him down quite as much as Nani thinks.

Favorite Line

There are so many! If nothing else, this book is beautifully written, alternating free verse and prose, Sudasa’s and Kiran’s voices. It’s really difficult to pick a single sample!

Fun Author Fact

Holly Bodger works on both sides of the book world – as a published author and in publishing.

Is this worth a book hangover?

5 to 1 is a quick read with its beautiful descriptions, quiet poetry, and quick-moving story. The characters are easy to like, if not always to understand and the world Bodger creates is a compelling one. There may be some difficulty understanding exactly what happens because of the imagery in the poetry, but I still think this is an important story that captures what the world could easily look like very soon.

Read These Next

It’s an emotional book, but Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed also features a young girl fighting to break out of family and cultural expectations. Or, try Bumped by Megan McCafferty about what life might look life if only teenagers are able to get pregnant.

Post Author

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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. She received her copy of 5 to 1 as a raffle prize (but doesn’t know if it was from a blog or the publisher!).

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Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, podcast, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Book Chat: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon Spier has a secret: he’s gay. While he is coming to terms with his sexuality, he’d prefer to keep it on the down-low from his high school classmates. Unfortunately, he is cruelty outed on the school anonymous Tumbler site, and all of a sudden, everyone knows his secret. Suddenly, Simon as face friends he’s known his whole life, mean strangers at school, and his close-knit family. To make matters more complicated, Simon has an crush on a stranger he’s been flirting with online. Follow Simon as he navigates high school in Georgia, Drama Club, and his own real life Drama.

Note: This is, by far, one of the best books we’ve read this year. You’ll read our review below, but I cannot recommend this book enough. Go read it ! Now!

Simon

Favorite Character

Simon. He’s such a well written character – sweet and kind and naive. The entire time I was reading the book, i just wanted to give him a big hug. He’s officially on my dinner table list… along with dog, Justin Bieber.

Favorite Line

“It is definitely annoying that straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and that the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit that mold. Straight people really should have to come out, and the more awkward it is, the better. Awkwardness should be a requirement.”

Fun Author Fact

According to her website, Becky Albertalli failed sex education in sixth grade. She is now a clinical psychologist. Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda is her first novel.

Read these next:

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio. We reviewed this book last month (check out our post and podcast here). This is another story about gender and sexual identity from the perspective of an intersex girl. A really interesting and educational read!

Is this worth a book hangover?

YES. Absolutely. We could not recommend this book enough – it is a wonderful, well-told story that will make you laugh and cry. Beware, though: When you cry on a plane, people get really nervous. 

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Chat: Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Summary

Naila is dealing with life in the US under the watchful eye of her Pakistani-immigrant parents. It’s not an easy life and, when Written in the StarsNaila  breaks their rules, her parents react to the extreme. Naila’s parents pack the family up and they return to Pakistan to reconnect the family with their roots and to visit relatives. But, the trip takes a serious turn when Naila finally realizes that her parents have an ulterior motive for the trip – they’re finding Naila a husband and they won’t take no for an answer. When she resists, Naila’s life is taken out of her own hands. She ends up a wife, cut off from friends and the life she knew, and her only escape is the slim chance that her secret Florida boyfriend can find her.

Trigger warning: family/domestic violence, sexual assault, forced marriage

*This book is about a girl in a very difficult, awful situation and thus the top two scores are lower than it would seem the Awesome Factor warrants. Naila does what she can to fight, but there’s only so much she can do to succeed.

Favorite Character

It’s hard to really LOVE any of these characters because of either limited time with them or, you know, they’re being awful. But, Naila’s cousin, Selma, is a sweet, supportive character, even if she keeps secrets she shouldn’t. Saif is also sweet, but a little flat since we don’t actually see much of him.

Favorite Line

Life is full of sadness. It’s part of being a woman. Our lives are lived for the sake of others. Our happiness is never factored in.” I don’t agree with this in actual life, but totally understand how Naila would come to this conclusion after everything she’s been through.

Fun Author Fact

Aisha has contracted for another book, due out in 2017! And, she’s the VP of Strategy for the We Need Diverse Books nonprofit, too!

Is this worth a book hangover?

This is a seriously tough book – I read it in one sitting, but it was hard and I had red, swollen eyes by the end. I think it’s an important book and I think the characters and story are compelling, but I think reading it in shorter pieces would have broken the intensity a bit.

Read These Next

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh captures a marriage entered into willingly but with an equally difficult story behind it or Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar for another Pakistan story about facing difficult decisions about life, family, and responsibility.

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 Chat: None of the Above

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

Kristin has everything. She is her school’s track star and homecoming queen. She has a full scholarship to college and a cute long-term boyfriend. But following some ill-fated sexual activity with her boyfriend, Sam, one night, Kristin realizes her body is different than she believed. Kristin is intersex: she is outwardly female, but has certain male body parts, including testicles.

Now, Kristin must learn to understand her body, as well as get a crash course in the differences between gender, sex, and sexuality. To make matters more complicated, the entire school quickly learns about her circumstance, and her friends’ reactions range from surprised to disgusted. How will Kirstin navigate the tricky path to finding her identity?

Favorite Character

Kristin’s Dad. He’s a supportive parent without being overbearing. He tries to help Kristin in the best way he knows how – research – and keeps her from wallowing in self-pity too much.

Favorite Line

Rather than pick a favorite line, I want to point to the incredible resource this book provides. Every time Kristin learns more about her body, readers learn with her. This book taught me a lot about the nuances of sexuality, gender, and sex.

Fun Author Fact

I.W. Gregorio is one of the founding members of the We Need Diverse Books campaign.

Note: If you don’t know about this campaign, stop everything you’re doing and click over. I’m not kidding.

She’s also a surgeon. Because writing ground-breaking YA novels isn’t enough for one person.

Read these next:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Simon is a sweet, funny story about a high school boy learning more about his own sexuality. We plan to review this book in July, but we’ve both read it and really enjoyed it!

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes, especially if you know someone who is intersex. This is a first great step in understanding the nuances of identity while also following a well-told story. We both recommend this book .

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Chat: Under a Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Summary Sammy and Andy are running away from their lives. Sammy has just suffered a terrible loss and Andy is chasing freedom. One is Chinese-American and the other is a black slave. 22501055They leave their frontier town to join the other pioneers going West, but traveling the Oregon Trail alone isn’t easy – especially as a girl and wanted criminal. So they dress up as boys and make their way, but just a few days into their escape, they meet up with three young men who might be willing to take the novice travelers under their wings – for a price. As the small group travels across the Plains, their friendship grows and their relationships with the boys deepen. But, as all Gen Xers (and some Millenials) know, the Oregon Trail is a road full of obstacles – fording the river can kill oxen, dysentery and cholera lurk in every stream and camp, and supplies can be hard to come by. This is an adventure story with two strong, dedicated friends at the center. Favorite Character Andy – she’s honest, caring, and has some of the best one-liners regarding young man behavior! I appreciated her dedication to her family and her determination to hold on to hope for as long as possible.

Favorite Line “She might be right, but it still fails to cheer me. I don’t understand the constant need to prove one’s manhood, as if it is always on the verge of slipping away. We never need to prove our womanhood.” Captures the essence of a lot of relationships in this book! There are a lot of other great quotes that capture Sammy’s background as a Chinese-American and it’s hard to pick just one, but the above captures the girls’ difficulties as they journey.

Fun Author Fact She wrote her first book (in childhood) on a typewriter!

Is this worth a book hangover? I feel like this book is a great summer read – especially for a road trip! It’s a quick, light adventure story with good, strong characters and the addition of Sammy and Andy’s personal backgrounds help make it more than just another Western. Also, take a look at that BEAUTIFUL cover!

Read These Next The Girl of Fire and Thorns is another journey book – with magic. Any of the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce would also be a great choice as they feature awesome ladies journeying and making connections with people they meet.

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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Filed under Adventure, Historical, podcast, Romance

Book Chat: Fangirl

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Summary

Cath and her twin identical sister, Wren, are about to start college together. While Wren is outgoing and excited about her new life, Cath is a little less sure. She likes her old life, most importantly, her online life as an extremely popular fanfiction writer. She doesn’t want to make new friends, and would prefer to live in her dorm room eating peanut butter and completing the final Simon Snow (Harry Potter) book before the real author. But between her outgoing roommate and the strange boy who hangs around her dorm, Cath may be forced out of her comfort zone after all.

Favorite Character

Cath. I empathize with her insecurity and angst about college, and her excitement about her online world.

Favorite Line

“The whole point of fanfiction is that you get to play inside somebody else’s universe. Rewrite the rules. Or bend them. The story doesn’t have to end. You can stay in this world, this world you love, as long as you want, as long as you keep thinking of new stories.”

I had a hard time picking just one quote, but this one is one of the best. Cath (and Rowell) captures the feeling/angst/excitement of reading and writing fanfiction perfectly.

Fun Author Fact

Rainbow Rowell is writing Carry On, the fanfiction that Cath wrote in Fangirl. The book will be published on October 6, 2015. As discussed in the podcast, both of us are very curious about the new publication. Will it be like Harry Potter? Will we see a lot of the story plot seen in Fangirl, or will it be completely new? I’m excited to see where this goes!

Read these next:

If you’re a fan of Rowell’s writing, check out Eleanor and Park. The plot is different – it’s an interracial love story set in the 1980s – but her writing style and character development are excellent.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Both of us liked the book. Anisha think’s it’s a hangover book, and Jess is a little less sure (though she’s glad she read it!).

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Chat: The Way We Bared Our Souls


The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn

Summary

Lo recently started dealing with severe pain and symptoms that are probably MS. She tries to ignore the symptoms until she https://i2.wp.com/d.gr-assets.com/books/1404960375l/22529157.jpgmeets a mysterious Native dude that offers to do a ritual with her and 4 other people to “remove her burdens.” Immediately, Lo latches on to this mysterious, magical solution and rounds up 4 acquaintances to participate with her. Thomas is a Liberian ex-child soldier, Ellen is a drug addict, Kaya has a medical condition that prevents her from feeling pain, and Kit is depressed and dealing with his girlfriend’s sudden death. The ritual happens and the teens find their pains/burdens switched. We then get to watch as they spend a week dealing with new burdens and “healing.” Except…not everyone finds relief.

NOTE:

This is probably the most difficult podcast we’ve done so far. We don’t normally go into each category for podcast reviews, but this book needs it. Also, I have a feeling we (I) made a couple of missteps in our discussions of the Native characters – we’re (I’m) learning and, in the review, you’ll find a couple of corrections. Also, with more distance from the book, my opinion has shifted more strongly to one end of the spectrum, so be sure to read the full review.


heartRomance Score:  Sort of Trying, but closer to Not a Bit

You sort of want to cheer for Lo and Thomas because she defies her friends to admit her feelings about him, except that it kind of feels like she’s into him only because he’s mysterious and has a story. It feels sort of like a fetish-crush.

RosieFeminism Score: You’re Trying

This score is solely because of Lo’s aunt living her life however she wanted. But, she’s a side character and Lo is the one that uses her friends, lies to them, and steps on old acquaintances to get what she wants.

diversity people circle icon Diversity Score: Not a Bit

For a book with a Liberian and a Native American in the core group of characters, you would think this should get a winning score. NO. A thousand times no. It doesn’t feel like the author did much research or, if she did, it was cursory and probably did not actually involve materials from ex-child soldiers or current day Natives. In the podcast, I talk positively about the fact that the genocidal history of settler-Native relations forms a core part of Kaya’s story. I appreciated this only because this part of history is so often swept under the rug. With more thought (and conversation with a very helpful, bright lady), I realized this isn’t the kind of narrative we should be applauding. And, the book doesn’t even handle it well. It could easily have been mentioned as a true part of the story, but focusing solely on this does a disservice and actual harm to any Native readers of this book. Instead of giving us a well-rounded, fresh representation of a contemporary Native teenager, we’re given another rehash of violence against Natives. Is there no other narrative (besides colonial-era befriending) for Natives in books? I do appreciate the acknowledgement of this part of history, but I think it could have informed Kaya’s character and experience in the book without being explicit – just like books about contemporary Jewish teens implicitly acknowledge the Holocaust without ever having to mention it (or, we hope they do!).
wow iconAwesome Factor: Not a Bit

This was difficult for us. We don’t want to poop on anyone’s hard work, but when you don’t actually do the work and give readers damaging representations then we feel okay pointing it out.

Favorite Character

None. Lo is too selfish and we don’t get enough information about the other characters to actually like them.

Favorite Line

“In bed that night I touched my body. I wondered if I could still feel true pleasure. Or true happiness, because without knowing the opposite sensation, I was no longer sure. The positive and negative felt like two sides of a coin, and lacking one or the other, I was broke, penniless, with nothing left to wish on.”

Because we needed a reminder about poorly done representation to appreciate the fantastic ones we’ve been reading.

Fact

We recommend you check out this review from American Indian’s in Children’s Literature. The reviewer, Debbie Reese, is way more qualified than we are to talk about the severe issues with this book.

Is this worth a book hangover?

No, we cannot in good conscience recommend this. I have a terrible habit of reacting to negativity with defense even if I agree with the criticisms, and you can hear that in the podcast. I mention that I would suggest this as a book only within a critical discussion of the problems, but I take it back. Anisha was right – don’t read this.

Read These Instead

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac or The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

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 Chat: My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga My Heart

Summary

Aysel is certain about one thing: she is ready to die. She just needs to decide how. While looking through online forums, she finds FrozenRobot, another teen looking for a suicide partner. FrozenRobot is perfect – he’s local, her age, and ready to kill himself. But as Aysel and FrozenRobot start to spend time together, she starts to see another side of him. Suddenly, she’s not sure she’s making the right decision.

Black Holes 2

Note: While the romance score is not quite swoon worthy, the characters are fantastic companions for each other. Their friendship is an important part of the story, and one of our favorite parts.


Favorite Character

Aysel. Her dark humor and passion for physics is very … energetic (insert groan).

Favorite Line

“Depression is like a heaviness that you can’t ever escape. It crushes down on you, making even the smallest things like tying your shoes or chewing on toast seem like a twenty-mile hike uphill. Depression is a part of you; it’s in your bones and your blood.”

Aysel’s many descriptions of depression are beautiful and sad.

Fun Author Fact

Jasmine Warga recently spoke at the Nova Teen Book Festival in Arlington, VA. Jess was lucky enough to hear her inspiring talk!

Read these next:

This Side of Home by Renee Watson. This is not a book about depression, but is another beautifully written piece about something  you may be less familiar with: gentrification.

Is this worth a book hangover?

100% Don’t walk – RUN to your nearest bookstore and buy this beautiful piece of literature. 

Post Author: Anisha AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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