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Book Discussion: Symptoms of Being Human

22692740Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Summary

Riley is struggling to adjust to a new school. Riley left the old school because some of the students decided assault in the locker room was a good idea. Riley is trying not to make waves, but it’s really, really hard when walking down the hallway gathers everyone’s attention and terrible words are spit at you halfway to class. But, once Riley stops putting up walls and lets some people in things change. Bec and Solo are the friends we all wish we had when life gets even rougher.

Trigger warning: assault/violence to a quiltbag character

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heartRomance Score: Good Effort

Bec and Riley have a possible flirtation going on from the beginning. I liked Bec’s ambiguity – it felt like she wasn’t sure if Riley was interested, wasn’t sure if she herself was ready, and as though she was interested but getting in her own way. Riley’s confused and unpracticed concern about how to flirt was also adorable – something every reader can relate to when faced with someone we might actually like. I thought the build up was strong and the end made sense in the context of the rest of the story.

Rosie

Feminist Gender Score: A+ Success

I renamed this category for this book because, given the plot and characters, using a gendered term didn’t feel right (and, yes, I know that anyone can be a feminist, but that’s not what I’m going for here). Riley’s story does a great job highlighting a lot of things: the pressure to conform to gender expectations, the difficult boundaries that the gender binary places on everyone, the way that not fitting into gendered expectations leaves a wake of troubles, and the fact that gender expectations and the dire pressure to conform inspires violence much too often. I think the story does a great job of talking about all of these things through Riley’s voice – it never feels like we’re getting a lesson or that Riley is reciting a definition (even when a definition does come up, it’s done within context so well that it doesn’t feel awkward). There are, of course, things that happen in this book for which I’ve deducted points in other reviews (example: gendered violence), but here it fits into the whole for a purpose. However, it would be nice to see a story with characters like this without the violence.

diversity people circle icon

Diversity Score: Between Good Effort and A+ Success

This book covers a wide range of characters from the full spectrum of life. There are quiltbag characters, characters on both ends of the economic spectrum, at least one character struggling with mental health issues, and one clearly defined character of color. Obviously, as the focus on the book, the quiltbag characters are the most clearly written. I think this is an important book for anyone to read, but a genderfluid character is critical for readers looking for themselves in stories.

Edit: One thing that has been pointed out by others is that Riley automatically assigns a gender to Bec even though Riley is fighting against that very same expectation from everyone else. Fighting the gender binary is difficult, so I’m not really surprised by this, but I am surprised that Riley never addresses this bias in their own thinking.

I also fully appreciate that Riley was seeing someone for mental health help – the more this is shown, the less stigmatized getting help will be and I’m all for that.

I couldn’t give a full score because I was a little thrown by the lack even a hint of Hispanic/Latino culture in the community. Won’t you find some infusion of this in every part of California? (Or am I stereotyping California right now?)

wow iconAwesome Factor: A+ Success

I really, really enjoyed Riley’s story. I hadn’t planned to pick up the book the night that I did, but once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I cried several times – in the beginning because I was happy to see Riley finding a community and then, once the horrible thing was done, because I felt so much sympathy and love for the character. I thought the story did a fantastic job of bringing in all the elements of good YA – high school angst, high school cliques, friendship, a blossoming romance, anxiety about finding out who you are, and social media – while adding elements essential to this story – explanations, explorations, and violence. I will also just add that, while I have written somewhat stilted words to avoid pronouns for Riley, Garvin does an amazing job. Having just read What We Left Behind, I think this book does an even better job of maneuvering around (not)gendering the main character.


Favorite Character

Solo – He managed to get his nicknamed changed – in high school! – and was kind enough to offer up his beloved Chewie backpack…how can you not love him?

Favorite Line

All of Riley’s blog posts – I’m not in the YA/high school population anymore and I’m inspired all the time by the brains, kindness, and empathy being displayed by those that are. (Yes, I know Riley’s blogs are written by Garvin, but I know actual teens that are just as skilled with words.)

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes, but be ready for tears. This ends on a high note, but getting there is a tough journey. But, Riley, Bec, and Solo – and Riley’s parents – make it worth it.

Fun Author Fact

Garvin has had several different “lives” – as an actor, a band frontman, and now an author.

Read These Next

I haven’t read any of these, but they’re all on my list for exploring what gender means and how we work to understand our own identities: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (#ownvoices), Every Day by David Levithan, and Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz.

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 – Out of Darkness

Out of Darkness by Ashely Hope Pérez

Summary

It’s 1937 and Naomi has recently moved with her half-brother and sister 25256386to a new town where her siblings father will care for them all. There she must try to navigate the racial divides of the oil town while navigating the difficult relationship between her and her stepfather. Then she meets Wash and things begin to improve. Set against the worst school tragedy in US history, the explosion is a larger framework for the individual crises and turmoil that Naomi and her family suffer.

Trigger warning: racially motivated violence, sexual violence, child abuse

out of darkness


Favorite Character

Beto – His old soul seems out of place in the real world and it feels like he’s connected to something deeper; he reminds everyone around him to cherish small details and his connection to something more will serve him as he deals with the aftermath of the book’s story.

Favorite Line

Guys, there are a ton of beautiful lines and the book is amazingly written, but don’t you know by now that I’m the worst at keeping track of them?

Fun Author Fact

Pérez is a teacher, though she also loves libraries, and has taught all school levels. She’s currently a professor of world literature and credits her students for encouraging her to write.

Is this worth a book hangover?

It’s beautifully written and the characters are amazing, but it’s not a happy story. I think this book is valuable, especially if you’ve lead a life privileged enough to not experience racial or sexual violence. If you have personal experience with racial, ethnic, or sexual  violence, I would hesitate to recommend this and would give a full disclaimer that this will only underline what you already know.

Read These Next

This Side of Home by Renee Watson for a contemporary look at similar issues with a more positive ending or Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley for another look at the end of segregation with another boundary-crossing love story.

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: Conviction

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Summary

Braden believes in God and the promises God makes – especially the one to keep his family together, even though that’s not 18398627what happened. Now, after his father is accused of murder, Braden is questioning everything. And, he needs to get answers fast because he’s the key witness for his father’s trial.

All the while, he has to figure out how to keep up his baseball game to ensure he keeps the scouts interested until his senior year of high school. It shouldn’t be a problem – he’s been playing for years, but the biggest game of the year is also the one where Braden will face Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing.

Braden will have to make difficult choices, ones that will affect him forever.

heartRomance Factor: You’re Trying

Braden has a couple of cute moments with Maddie, a fellow church youth group attendee, but ultimately, he’s not in a place to be fair to her – as a friend or in a relationship. I thought Maddie was well developed, but I deduct a ton of points for the way Braden’s church and father have taught him to interact with girls. But, bonus points because I appreciate that Braden has understood that he is responsible for his own thoughts and behaviors and never blames any of his “impure thoughts” on Maddie’s behavior .

RosieFeminism Score: Not a Bit

The women in this book are foils for the men in the story. They are either cute, mistreated high school girls, old girlfriends rejected because they are painful reminders, cuckolded wives, or mothers that abandoned their children. There’s not much to say about them.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Not a Bit

I originally picked this book because I knew it featured a devout, religious boy – a character we don’t often find in mainstream YA. Religious characters are a minority, but the mainstream Christianity that Braden’s father espouses on his radio show and which Braden believes in is not, so I already knew this was a stretch for “diversity.” But, Braden’s father is the (in my opinion) worst kind of Christian, shouting hate against the people in his community that are most vulnerable. Braden has tacitly accepted his father’s opinions for his own, though we get tiny hints of doubt as the book moves – especially related to one character and his identity. Even so, we never hear a clear rejection of the racist, bigoted views and for readers that identify with any of those communities this book is probably a collection of micoaggressions.

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

I really liked Braden. He’s a compelling character, his innocence is sweet, and I really wanted to find out what he finally decided with regards to his father’s trial. I also found the exploration of family, love, and forgiveness well done; Braden’s faith and love serve as a strong contrast to the selfish, demanding behaviors of his father. My issues come from the lack of diversity, the lack of women, and the ending. I was disappointed by Braden’s decision, considering the aspects of his character that were built up throughout the story.


Favorite Character

Trey – he values self-preservation and recognizes the value of his own happiness over the bonds of family, but he still loves his brother enough to return to help him through the trial.

Favorite Line

“I have that feeling I get sometimes around (someone), that there’s a huge gap between how much you matter to a person and how much they matter to you.”

This speaks SO MUCH to me – it’s like that feeling when you want to be friends with someone, but you don’t know how to even introduce yourself to the person.

Fun Author Fact

It is November, so I have to point out that Loy Gilbert is part of the NANOWRIMO Associate Board.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I loved Braden as a character and I am grateful for the new respect for baseball that he gave me. There are some issues with the book, but it is a decent mystery that dissects love, family, and the bonds that connect us.

Read These Next

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham for a more diverse detective story or Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu for an examination of religion, family, and finding one’s self.

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: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Summary

Minnow’s parents decide to follow the Prophet into the wilderness. As part of the select group lead by his prophecies, they’re17185496 community learns how to live truly and serve the Prophet’s rules. But, Minnow is able to remember life before the Prophet. And when she makes a friend with someone she shouldn’t, the questions that had been slowly growing finally bloom into full doubt. But – that’s not when we meet Minnow. No, we meet her after. After she’s lost her home. Her family. Her community. Her arms. And maybe herself.

heartRomance Score: You’re Trying

Part of Minnow’s relationship with Mr. Woodsman are cute, but ultimately, it’s two damaged teens trying to find solace from situations that are pretty messed up. And, while I’m glad she was able to think through and get over her community’s racism, I still feel like it happened pretty quickly. And, while Mr. Woodsyboy is sweet and there for Minnow when she needs someone, he tries to do the exact same, possessive stuff that she experienced at the community.

RosieFeminism Score: Good Effort

This book is SO MESSED up in several ways – the community’s treatment of women, the perpetuation of rape culture (women are the holders of men’s honor, women need to dress modestly because it’s all their fault), and the ultimate punishment doled out to Minnow – so many wrongs. But, there are a couple of stand outs – Minnow herself doesn’t allow the Prophet to erase her humanity, Minnow’s roommate doing what she can to protect the newbie, and Minnow’s mother finally breaking out of her abuse-induced daze (maybe). I’m going to focus on the positives of Minnow’s resiliency and strength – and willingness to accept her broken spirit to heal – instead of the awful, brainwashed women in the community, especially Minnow’s sister.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Good Effort

I’m giving this book points for including a minority religious group – although there is something to be said for who gets to decide what is a “legitimate” religion or not. I definitely think the Prophet’s group is an unhealthy, unsafe, cruel place/cult, but I think we should consider not discounting small congregations just because their different from the mainstream. Points also for Minnow arm loss – living without limbs means moving through the world differently, having to adapt everyday tasks, and I think the book did a good job of showing that – especially while Minnow is in detention. I also give points for showing up life in the detention center without making it exotic. The girls in there have done things, but listening to most of their stories we learn – through Minnow – that the world unfairly punishes them for protecting themselves.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Good Effort

All the pieces come together to make an intense read. The community, the escape to a tree house, finding a sweet, innocent love outside the confines of the Prophet’s rules, and Minnow’s desire to keep her own secrets all create a pretty great whole. It was a little too much at times, but I still have recommended it to several people. I think the ultimate lesson that girls need to take their fate into their own is the takeaway.


Favorite Character

Angel – she does what she can to survive, keeping her hard exterior as protection, but she never really totally eliminated her heart.

Favorite Line

“…and I think that’s what love does, makes you strong. Makes you think nothing can bring you down. It’s the only kind of lie that I’d be happy to live with.”

Even in a dark place, Minnow can hope…even if it’s sexy times that gets her there.

Is it worth a book hangover?

Honestly, it’s a disturbing read, but I couldn’t put it down. I really liked Minnow’s voice and the cast of characters that joined her.

Fun Author Fact

Oakes based this off the fairy tale, “The Handless Maiden.”

Read These Next

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu for another girl finding her way through (or out of) a religious community or Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert for a boy lead by faith trying to decide how much he should say during an investigation into his father’s actions.

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: More Happy Than Not

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Summary:

Note: Try to read as little as possible about the book. Take my word for it, you want to read this with as little knowledge as possible about the actual plot so this post is as spoiler free as More Happy Than Notpossible.

Aaron is struggling to deal with his father’s suicide. His girlfriend does the best she can to bring him back toward happiness, but then she leaves for art camp and the distance between them pushes Aaron to spend more and more time with his new friend, Thomas. As their friendship grows, Aaron feels his old self returning, but his old group of friends does not approve of the new closeness between their buddy and the “new guy.” As things reach a tipping point, Aaron discovers that some things are inescapable no matter how many times you try to elude them.

heartRomance Score: Good Effort

There was SO MUCH good here. Aaron and Genevieve are adorable with their “remember when” game and their sweet, thoughtful dates and their joy and panic about their first time. The slow tension of growing close with Thomas and trying to understand what that means is also sweet in its own way. I’m taking points away because of things that happen in the last half of the book (including a rather emotionless repeated action in an alley).

RosieFeminist Score: You’re Trying

Aaron’s mom tried to put herself in between her husband and her kids, and that’s something no mother should ever need to worry about. But, I appreciated her strength, her dedication to her sons’ happiness, and her efforts to do her best. Again, a mother trying to do her best with very few good options.

At first, I was really excited by Genevieve and Aaron’s relationship – they are so sweet, he obviously cherishes her, and the physical moments involve a lot of consent. But once Genevieve heads to art camp, things kind of fall apart and it hurt my heart to see her making choices so that she ends up with less than she deserves. Yet, by the end, it seems like things are turning around for her.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Good Effort

There’s a lot covered in this book – I got the sense reading that Aaron’s family was Hispanic (and double checked for the review – they’re Puerto Rican). In Aaron’s neighborhood there’s quite a bit of racial diversity – his boss has an “Arab accent” and his friends are varying skin tones. Everyone is lower income and I appreciated that this story incorporated details about that as part of the scenery and Aaron’s life without making it an “issue.” The biggest factor of the story, though, is with sexual orientation – Aaron slowly realizes what he thinks he likes may not be the true or only answer. The unfolding, unpuzzling of his feelings was sweet and painful and sad and joyful and made the story doubly poignant. With this it would seem that an A+ is in order, but events near the end made me dock a point. Yes, I know what happens reflects reality, but this book has just enough of a hint of the future that I had hope that maybe the end-of-book events could be excluded from Aaron’s experience.

wow iconAwesome Factor: A+ Success

I LOVED this book. All the characters came together perfectly. Before reading, I had only heard that the book was amazing and a must-read, I was totally shocked when things started to come together and, as much of a gut-punch as it was, I LOVED it. Aaron was a sweet character – as a boyfriend and as a confused, sad teen. I wanted to date him or comfort him – or both. His story is going to stick with me for a while as I think about my own life and the things I wish I could escape.


Favorite Character

Thomas – He has amazing date ideas that he’s not too miserly to share with a friend (rooftop planetarium? AMAZING) and highschool-me would totally want to date him. He also is an amazing friend to Aaron, being caring, honest, and gentle when Aaron opens his soul. I loved that he was comfortable enough to react the way he did and I’m so excited that teen readers will have him as an example of how to be a friend or ally.

Favorite Line

“Sometimes pain is so unmanageable that the idea of spending another day with it seems impossible. Other times pain acts as a compass to help you get through the messier tunnels of growing up. But the pain can only help you find happiness if…” (270)

Is this worth a book hangover?

ABSOLUTELY. I feel silly because I’ve been so enthusiastic about the books I’ve reviewed, but this is really an amazing book with great characters and an intense story. To prove it: it was a cool weekend in the middle of July and I stayed inside and read this book.

Fun Author Fact

Adam Silvera is really, really tall. Unfun fact: he struggles with depression. I mention this because I’m so thankful that authors are speaking up about these kinds of things and providing an opening for their (teen) readers to talk about them.

Read These Next

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli for a cute, secret boy crush story or Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley for a story about overcoming confusion and prejudice.

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: I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amelie Sarn

Summary

The story switches between the present and the past, following older sister, Sohane, as she unravels her feelings around her younger sister, Djelila. As Sohane battles with guilt, grief, and anger, we learn that while she was growing more religiously observant, her sister was spending time partying with her non-observant, non-Muslim friends. And the neighborhood jerks took notice – they began harassing Djelilia for her “misbehaving” and Sohane sort of agreed with them…until they took their attacks too far.

Favorite Character

None of the characters really jumped off the page. Most of the time, they felt flat and, while I thought the tension between guilt and righteousness in Sohane’s narration was great, I really wish the book had alternating chapters between Djelila and Sohane because neither felt fully developed.

Favorite Line

This was written very, very sparsely. It was not the style that either of us generally read and no lines really stood out.

Fun Author Fact

Amelie Sarn is also a comic book writer.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I am not sure. It might be the translation, but if felt very stiff and lacked development. I wanted to know more about the characters and get more deeply embedded in their lives, but the lack of description created a kind of barrier. In some ways, this felt like a very long-form journalism piece rather than a book. I still found Sohane and Djelila’s story interesting, there just wasn’t enough to it.

Read These Next

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina for another perspective on bullying or This Side of Home by Renee Watson for another story about sisters struggling to understand the slow cracks in their relationship.

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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: 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 Discussion: Saint Anything

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Summary

Sydney Stanford has grown up in the shadow of her older brother. Peyton has been getting in trouble for years, his infractions growing larger and larger, and eventually, landing him in jail for crippling someone during a drunk-driving accident. With her brother in jail and her mother focused on his comfort and safety, Sydney finds herself alone in her guilt over what her brother did. To make matters worse, her brother’s older, strange friend is always around, and Sydney can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t right about him. Saint Anything is a high school story about family, friendship, consequences, and the importance of listening to your gut.

 

heartRomance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

I’ll admit that I’m partial to some of the couples in Sarah Dessen’s stories (Wes & Macy, Remy & Dexter). Mac and Sydney’s romance is sweet, but slow. It’s not as large a part of the story as usual Dessen novels, but I appreciated it.

FRosieeminist Score: Between Not a Bit and You’re Trying [Note: SPOILER BELOW]

I’m a huge Sarah Dessen fan, and looked forward to this book for months. I really enjoyed the story plot, and about 90% of the book went exactly as I expected. But… the ending. I just can’t understand the ending of this book. [SPOILER]: I just could not believe that after all of the months of stalking, and everything that happened, Sydney didn’t press charges against Ames.

Sarah Dessen is a YA author who writes about both sweet, fun, summer love stories and serious, hard topics. In many of her books, she tries to weave between both, and is relatively effective. The teens in her novels tend to be a little more passive than I’d like, but overall, they seem to get the justice they deserve (see: Annabelle in Just Listen). In that regard, this book really falls short. I was so disappointed by the lack of action at the end. Thousands of teens rely on Sarah Dessen to help them navigate through tough teenage years. One of the hardest things a person can face is knowing that someone is creepy, but not being able to do anything about it. I wish Sarah had followed through and proven that there is something you can do, but instead, I’ll give my own advice.

If he’s creepy, or lurking, or just seems off, tell an adult. If that adult does not listen, tell another adult. Call the police. File charges, and get him in jail. There is no need to be polite, or good, or sweet, or give him the benefit of the doubt, when your life or body is at stake. 

diversity people circle icon

Diversity Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort 

Sydney, like most of Dessen’s protagonists, is white and wealthy. I don’t believe any of the main characters of the story aren’t white. That being said, I appreciate a story that talks about violence in wealthy, white communities. It’s easy to believe that bad things don’t happen on the nicer side of town. This story highlights that fact well.

wow icon

Awesome Factor: You’re Trying 

I really, really wanted to like this book. I actually did like most of it. But I can’t get over my views about the ending (see: Feminist Score).


Favorite Character

Layla. I loved her obsession with french fries and finding the perfect combination of junk food. I think we could be friends.

Favorite Line

“You get used to people being a certain way; you depend on it. And when they surprise you, for better or worse, it can shake you to the core.”

Is this worth a book hangover?

I really, really wanted to like this book. I’m a huge Sarah Dessen fan, and I love the way she writes. I was absolutely in love with this book until the last 30 pages. I would say it’s worth the read (especially if you’re a Sarah Dessen fan), but be prepared to be a bit disappointed. 

Fun Author Fact

Lakeview, the setting for Saint Anything (and most of Sarah Dessen’s other books), is based in Sarah’s home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Read This Next

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen. This book captures all of the magic of Lakeview in typical Dessen fashion, but with a more satisfying ending.

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 Discussion: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina


Summary

Piddy (Piedad) lives with her mom and her aunt-by-love, Lila, in a building that is falling apart. She doesn’t know who her dad
is and daydreams about him often. The restrictions her mom puts around her are starting to chafe, but her Saturday shifts with Lila provide enough relief that she can survive…until Piddy and her mom move to a better apartment and Piddy must switch schools. Within a few weeks of the move, Piddy is informed that “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick [her] ass” and Piddy’s life starts to quickly spiral out of control. The bullying escalates to physical violence, but Piddy refuses to tell anyone close to her. At the same time, she reconnects with an old neighbor and sparks fly between them as they search for a little comfort from their respective lives. Piddy’s Cuban and Dominican background come clearly through the food, music, culture, and language that are integrated into the story.

yaqui delgado

heartRomance Score: You’re Trying

Piddy’s relationship with Joey both makes sense and is a little random. He was her neighbor in the old building and she feels a connection to him because he’s also suffering – his dad is an alcoholic that beats his wife – but they feel like a couple by convenience or need rather than from actual affection. I like that she stops before going too far out of her comfort zone and that they find a way to help each other without making giant mistakes.

Rosie Feminist Score: Between Good Effort and A+ Success

There are so many great representations of strong ladies being awesome together. Piddy’s mom is making it on her own and doing everything she can to support her daughter and give her the best. Lila reminds her best friend and Piddy that it’s important to take risks and let your heart live; she’s also the best kind of aunt – who will give you the real information you need about boys, have your back in every situation, and let you vent or share the bad stuff going on without turning on the “mom.” Plus, I love that Piddy’s final choice feels very true to her character while still being strong. I take points away because Piddy’s mom and another lady go at each other instead of realizing that the snake in the situation is the guy.

diversity people circle icon Diversity Score: A+ Success

As mentioned in the summary, Piddy is Cuban and Dominican and the book does a great job of showing that in her story. The music mentioned, the dance moves Lila teaches her, and their usual evening meals are all small details that reflect her Latina life. In addition, we get diversity of income, opportunity, and family units from the other students at Piddy’s new school. There are a lot of Spanish and Spanglish terms thrown into the story – and they’re always italicized and often translated for the reader with repetition. I know this is the way it’s (often) done, but it assumes that the reader is unfamiliar with these terms which seems odd in a book about a Latina character by a Latina writer.

wow icon Awesome Factor: Good Effort

I really liked Piedad’s story, her family, and the representation of both a poor and Latina family. I think Piddy’s story is important to share so we have more perspectives like hers. I did feel like some of the side characters were a little flat and, while it’s realistic that Piddy would know so little about Yaqui, I still wish we had a little more of her perspective to help the reader understand why Yaqui behaves the way she does. Though Lila’s explanation helps the reader, it’s also pretty unsympathetic to Yaqui – and she’s the kind of girl that could probably use a little more compassion than we think she deserves.


Favorite Character

Lila – she’s supportive, strong, and brave. She balances out Piddy’s mom and gives the advice you need not the advice you want. She’s fun, she’s beautiful, she’s confident, and she teaches Piddy how to revel in her womanhood while also being responsible.

Favorite Line

Sorry guys, I read this on the metro and forgot to write it down! I’d rather leave this blank than go through and just pick something random.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I read this quickly and enjoyed Piddy’s story – I’d recommend it, but not sure a hangover is necessary.

Read This Next

This Side of Home by Renee Watson offers a Black American perspective on high school. I’ll be reviewing When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds soon.

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.

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Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School