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Book Discussion: The Witch Hunter

 

 

The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Summary

Elizabeth and best friend (and secret crush) Caleb are the best witch hunters in the kingdom. They regularly capture witches and wizards for Lord Blackwell, the king’s uncle and head of the witch-hunter guards. With the rise of magic (and witch-burnings) in the kingdom, their services are highly valued.

But when Elizabeth is accused of witchcraft, she has a new challenge: How can she stay alive in a world where an accusation of witchcraft leads to almost immediate death? She has to rely on the very people she tried to capture to keep her alive.

Witch Hunter

 

heartRomance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort  

The romance between Elizabeth and a certain young wizard is (naturally) complicated. They each bring their own baggage and prejudice, and are forced to live life-and-death situations every day. I thought the romance was nicely developing, but not particularly swoon-worthy. I’m excited to see where the next book in the sequel takes us.

Feminist Score: A+ SuccessRosie

Elizabeth kicks ass. She saves herself over and over again, puts her friends first, and doesn’t allow crushes to get in the way of what’s really important. She’s the kind of friend and protector you want on your side. Her personality reminded me of Kel from The Protector of the Small series, though of course in a different context.
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Diversity Score: You’re Trying

This was my one big gripe with this book. I didn’t think it was particularly diverse. The characters were, to my knowledge, white and straight. The author created her own world (based loosely on Tudor England), so she had a lot of flexibility with creating more diverse characters.

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Awesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

The Witch Hunter was an interesting take on medieval times with (real) witchcraft. I enjoyed Elizabeth, her friendships, and the plot development throughout the book. I do wish there had been some more diversity, but overall, I liked the story.

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Favorite Character

Elizabeth – She is fierce, brave, and smart.  She’s a witch hunter. What a bad-ass.

Favorite Line

I’m weak. I’m tired. I’m injured. I’m confused. I’m ashamed of what I’ve done, afraid of what I’ve got to do. I am what I always feared I’d be: alone. I’m going into that tomb alone; I’m going to die alone. This is what Nicholas knew, what he didn’t want to tell me. He didn’t have to. Because deep down I knew it, too.

In this line, Elizabeth learns that she has to (once again) face her biggest fear to save her friends. And in this moment, she has to decide what kind of person she wants to be – the witch hunter she always was, or the friend of the witches she’s starting to become.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I enjoyed the book, especially the plot an d the development of the main character, Elizabeth. It’s not quite on my “hangover” list, but it’s a good read.

Fun Author Fact

Virginia is a huge English history buff. Many of the settings for The Witch Hunter are based on real places in castles and  manors in England.

Read This Next

Try The Selection series by Kiera Cass. While the plot seems a little silly (think The Bachelorette for the next princess), the series is set in a dystopian kingdom with lots of political changes. Check it out!

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 Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Book Discussion: The Wrath and the Dawn

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Summary18798983

The king keeps getting married. And every morning his bride is murdered. After Shahrzad’s best friend falls victim to the nuptial death, she decides it’s time for someone to do something about it. She volunteers to be the next bride and is determined to survive while ensuring that the king does not. But, as she steals each new morning by telling a story and ending it just as the action climaxes, she gets to know the young man responsible for so many deaths…and things are not what they seem.

heart Romance Score: Good Effort

I liked the slow burn of emotions and the secrets and discoveries that allow the characters to open up with each other. There’s a love triangle here, but it’s not awful since the characters are rarely in the same place at the same time. We’ll see if that stands up in the second book. The romance is sweet, but Shahrzad’s first night with one of the men takes things down a notch. It’s not exactly the most romantic, healthy, or happy way to be introduced to sexy times and, while Shahrzad willingly accepts that it’s a necessity to achieve her goals, it does make me a little sad…even if it gets redeemed later in the story. EDIT a long time later: I don’t know if I would give this score now. The relationship is couched in swoony language and makes it out to be romantic, but Shahrzad is essentially a prisoner and it feels a little creepy that the relationship goes the way it does considering the situation. (See note below in Feminism Score from original post.)

RosieFeminism Score: Good Effort

I really like Shahrzad – she’s feisty, smart, dedicated, and kind. She knows what she wants (to kill!) and she knows how she’s going to do it (survive!), but she doesn’t let that get in the way of caring about the people around her. She speaks up when she has an opinion and she knows how to use words to gain power (the dinner scene with the king’s uncle is great). I think she does a decent job navigating the difficult place between first love, confusion about love, and being a good person true to herself, but there are still issues. The guys in her life are jealous, their honor is all wrapped up in her behavior, and they want to police everything she does. It’s frustrating but a. something readers still have to deal with while reading today and b. a fair representation of some of the men from the culture the source-story is pulled from. Since Shahrzad is the one (mostly) calling the shots in the story, I’m still giving it a high score.

BUT – I have to point out the power dynamic here and that, even if things change, the king is a king and Shahrzad is in no place to contradict him so sexy-times are not based in an equal and fair relationship. This part of the story was a  big NO GO for me.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Good Effort

This is another book where it depends on who is reading. To many readers, it introduces a world that will be unfamiliar and which includes richer, deeper cultural references than they get elsewhere (cough Aladdin cough). For readers that know Shahrzad’s story from their own bedtime tales, it will feel much more familiar. It is an exciting addition to the list of books that include magic, swords, and royalty outside the European (or European-esque) tales usually available. We don’t get many other representations, however – the characters are mostly wealthy, educated, and of the same background. Ability levels, appearance, and education levels are fairly standard with a few exceptions.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Good Effort

I’m very excited by Shahrzad’s story! I like seeing this kind of adventure playing out in an uncommon (for published US books) setting. I think the characters are interesting, the mystery plays out well, and I’m intrigued to learn what will happen in the second book. I think a few pieces could have been more developed – the magic seems a little random and unclear. There’s an interesting parallel between Shahrzad’s father and the father that started everything else; right now, it seems underdeveloped, so I hope that is teased out a little more in the next book. I’m also waiting to see what triggers Shahrzad’s growth in strength/power as well.


Favorite Character

Despina – Yes, she’s that stereotypical straight talking servant girl that tells Shahrzad what’s what, but she’s also great! And, I love her backstory; it’s sad, but not too sad and also illustrates the traveling and mixing of cultures that happens naturally in life. I also appreciate the side plot involving her, love, and big decisions because it rounds her out. I hope it plays an important role in the next book.

Favorite Line

“I am young, and, therefore, I know my words only carry a certain weight with the world, but I do know enough to realize you cannot control the actions of others. You can only control what you do with yourself afterward.”

Shahrzad is a smart girl, but it’s more about the total scene surrounding these words; she’s trying to comfort the king’s old tutor and it’s very sweet and gentle and wonderful.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Absolutely! I loved the world Ahdieh has built around the source story (A Thousand and One Nights) with great, strong characters and a truly compelling story. Plus, there are SO MANY details! It absolutely felt like palace life.

Fun Author Fact

Renee Ahdieh is a huge fan of Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series, too!

Read This Next

Court of Fives by Kate Elliot for a strong lady lead doing what she can to fight the system or Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen for a story about a girl with powers, stories, and a society to change.

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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: Bumped

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Summary

In a dystopian future where a majority of adults are infertile, pregnancy is a prized act left to the teens. The most genetically attractive teenagers are wooed by fertility agencies and infertile couples, often earning hundreds of thousands of dollars as payment for a genetically superior child. The country is birth-obsessed; suddenly, pregnant teenage girls are America’s best chance of survival.

Enter identical twins Melody and Harmony. Separated at birth, their lives could not be more different. Melody was adopted by professors who spent thousands of dollars and countless hours perfecting her – she is now one of the hottest sought-after birth mothers. Harmony was adopted by a family in a small religious community, who reject the wordly idea of “pregging for profit.” When Harmony learns that she has a sister involved in the pregnancy business, she is determined to save her from her choices.

This fascinating novel highlights an interesting dichotomy in how we see birth, pregnancy, and religion.

heartRomance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

Bumped is primarily a story about friendship and sisterhood, but the romance is pretty fun too. Both Melody and Harmony have romantic interests, one of which was kind of obvious and the other refreshingly surprising. I’m excited to read the next installation of the Bumped series to see how the romance develops.

FRosieeminist Score: Good Effort  

In Bumped, we find ourselves in a future where some teenagers are giving birth for profit, and some rejecting the notion completely. While you can’t quite compare this to the so-called “Mommy Wars”, there is definitely some interesting implications of this in the new world. It really makes you consider how feminism, religion, and pregnancy could manifest itself in the not-so-distant future.

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Diversity Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

On one hand, this book isn’t particularly diverse. That being said, this future world is creepy in part because of the lack of diversity and the premium paid for European-princess looks.

wow icon Awesome Factor: Good Effort 

This book really surprised me. The premise is really interesting, and while it was definitely written for teenagers, it was very thought-provoking. I’m looking forward to reading Thumped next.


Favorite Character

Harmony. You have to love a girl with her attitude, determination.

Favorite Line

“A condom” I shriek, my voice echoing around the room.

Zen clamps his hand over my mouth, “Are you trying to get me arrested”.

.. Because there’s nothing worse than preventing teen pregnancy, right?

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. This is a fantastic, quick read that leaves you thinking about the future of our society. I highly recommend it.  

Fun Author Fact

According to her website, Megan McCafferty lives in Princeton, New Jersey, where Bumped takes place. As a fellow Jerseyan, I’d only ask that she include Wawa in her next book.

Read This Next
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodBumped reminded me of a teenage version of the classic The Handmaid’s Tale.

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: Gilt

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Summary

Kitty has always always been overshadowed by her best friend, Cat. Cat is fierce, brave, fun, and also, at times, cruel. She’s also very determined to have the best of everything, including the best man in Tudor England: King Henry VII. But as Kitty finds her way to the British court, she realizes that Cat is in way over her head, and her childish flirtations will lead to danger very quickly. Can Kitty manage to get herself out alive, or will she get caught in Cat’s plans as usual?

Set in 1530s Tudor England, Gilt is the story of fictional character Kitty Tylney and her best friend, Catherine Howard (the 5th wife of Henry VIII).

heartRomance Score: You’re Trying 

This book is set in Tudor England, so the ideas of romance are different than our modern standards. There are occasional scenes of flirtation between characters, but this is really a story of intense female friendships.

FRosieeminist Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort  

I thought that Kitty was fairly advanced for her time without overstepping the bounds of historical context. At the beginning of the novel, Kitty is a shadow of her best friend, Cat. I like her growth throughout the story into a woman with her own opinions, taking charge of her own life.

diversity people circle icon

Diversity Score: Not A Bit

Okay, it’ s a little unfair to complain that a book about Tudor England has no diversity, given the time period. But the characters are all white heterosexuals with similar viewpoints. There are no non-white or gay characters, even though Tudor history alludes to some alternate possibilities during that time period.

wow icon Awesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort 

I’m a huge fan of any Tudor time period book, and this was an interesting story. I will say that all of the characters except Kitty were a bit flat, and I wished to see a bit more depth in them. However, I like the author’s concept of adapting typically adult stories (e.g. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory) to a younger audience.


Favorite Character

Kitty. I like her growth throughout the book, especially in her relationship to Cat.

Favorite Line

“And I was the perfect mirror. I helped her refine every performance – etching and casting back at her all the things I couldn’t be myself. She took me with her everywhere. We complemented each other. Completed each other.”

Is this worth a book hangover?

If you’re one of those people who inhales everything related to Tudor history, especially fictional accounts (e.g. Alison Weir or Philippa Gregory), you will enjoy this story. It’s quick, descriptive, and provides a new, younger perspective on Catherine Howard.  If you’re not a Tudor nerd, (or, in contrast, are a SUPER Tudor nerd, and care a lot about accuracy in Tudor history) this probably won’t be your book. I squarely fall into the first category, and look forward to reading Katherine Longshore’s other books. Tarnish, about Anne Boleyn, is currently on my library waiting list. 

Fun Author Fact

On her website, Katherine Longshore refers to Tudor historical fiction as The Real Housewives of the Tudor Court. I love this description, and it basically explains my love of all things Tudor history.

Read This Next

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. This is the fictionalized story of Mary Boleyn, sister of King Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. A warning to anyone who actually studies history: This is fiction. Philippa takes a lot of liberties with her characters. That being said, if you want to read about The Real Housewives of the Tutor Court, she’s your author.

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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Filed under Historical

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. 

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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.

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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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Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School

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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Filed under Contemporary, podcast, Romance

Book Discussion: Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Summary

Leila feels like an outsider. She is the only Iranian-American at her ultra-rich, preppy private high school. She is also attracted to women, but is worried that her conservative immigrant family and her high school friends would not accept her. One day, a beautiful, wild new girl named Saskia joins the class. Saskia is full of adventure and fun – and Leila quickly falls head over heels for her.

heartRomance Score: Good Effort

I loved this novel for how high school it is. Leila has a normal school-girl crush on the popular, wild new kid, who just happens to be a girl. I related very well to her feelings, and loved reliving the ups and downs of high school. I wish I had seen a little more of the romance towards the end of the book. Perhaps a sequel?

FRosieeminist Score: You’re Trying and Good Effort  

Leila is still in high school, and not battling big cultural change or fighting rebellions. I liked this book a lot, but I don’t see it being a game-changer on the feminist front. That being said, check out the diversity score.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: A+ Success  

This story matters. We need more stories that tell new perspectives from a fresh point of view. They help us process our world and find comfort in other characters/people like us. Leila is a gay, American-Iranian high school student with her first real schoolgirl crush. I know there are gay high school students out there who need a story like this. And while there are many great resources for coming out to your parents, the challenges of immigrant parents may be slightly different. This book is inspiring, and I hope it finds its way into the hands of those who need Leila. [Note from Jess- I’ve seen on the interwebs that the following may come up in the book: an unwanted outing of a character, assault, and biphobia]

wow icon Awesome Factor: Good Effort 

Leila’s story, especially the parts with her family, are sweet and well-written. The book is a fast read, but a good one.


Favorite Character

Leila. She’s sweet and confused and so concerned with her family. I just want to give her a hug.

Favorite Line

“Act cool. Just act cool and don’t let on that you think she is gorgeous”

I love how hard Leila tries to hide her crush and how bad she is at it. As someone who has the same problem, I can relate.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. The story is a fun, quick read with a new perspective. It tackles first crushes in a high-school appropriate way and is definitely worth the read.  

Fun Author Fact

This story may be semi-autobiographical. According to her website, Sara too was a closeted Iranian-American at a rich prep school. I wonder if her Saskia ever found out about her crush.

Read This Next

Forever by Judy Blume. It’s the story of first love. And while it was written in the 1970s, it’s still very easy to relate to 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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Filed under Contemporary, High School, Romance

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

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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Book Discussion: Girls Like Us

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Summary18404410

Biddy and Quincy have just graduated from high school – out of their Special Education program and into the real world. Through their transition program, they receive an apartment and job placements. As they settle into their new life, they rub each other’s hard edges down and provide support as each learns to overcome their past hurts and traumas to find a full life. Both girls deal with some heavy stuff, but they end their story with hope.


heart

Romance Score: Absolutely NOT

This book is not about the warm tingleys of young love. In no way. In fact, trigger warning for abuse and sexual violence.

RosieFeminist Score: A+ Success

This book gets its feminist credits for a couple of reasons. Biddy and Quincy are out in the world, making it on their own with the resources supporting them and they fight back against the (lack of) expectations their families set for them. Not only that, but after some seriously awful things happen, both girls realize that being a “speddie” shouldn’t preclude them from respect and dignity.

diversity people circle icon  Diversity Score: A+ Success

This book features two narrators, both recent graduates of a high school special education program. That alone makes it a stand out in YA. Then, there’s the fact that Quincy has been through the foster care system and is mixed-race, also not super common. Then, in addition, we have them talking about life as young adults with learning disabilities/special needs – a perspective that is rarely (ever?!) seen. Social class issues are also brought into the story, though not directly highlighted. There is a great moment between the girls and Elizabeth, the older woman that Biddy helps care for, that highlights the difficult line between friend and ‘the help,’ as well as the patronizing attitude of people that try to “help” when they think they know what is best for someone.

Awesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effortwow icon

While I found a lot to value in the story and the narrators, I found a couple of things really difficult. The book was written in vernacular – super southern, Texas drawl. I think vernacular is really hard to pull off at ALL times, but since this book is about two girls just leaving special education, it felt like a disservice to their story. It was extremely difficult to tell in the beginning if the vernacular was regional or an extremely offensive attempt to show their “speddie” status. In the authors note, Giles says she wanted to give a voice to the students she had worked with for many years – but the voice she gave doesn’t sound like most of the other characters found in YA books and serves to separate the girls from their YA peers. It was also difficult to determine which girl was narrating at times, as their voices were not easy to distinguish (maybe because of the vernacular?). Even so, I’m glad to have read Quincy and Biddy’s stories and to have more representation in books.


Favorite Character

I’m not sure I really have one. The book is so quick and the girls melding at times into one another, it’s hard to choose.

Favorite Line

I didn’t find the writing style especially arresting. There are a few passages from Biddy that cut through to the simple beauty of life, but nothing spectacular stuck out.

Is this book worth a hangover?

I don’t think you’ll get one, but you may end up with puffy eyes from crying at the serious injustice that Biddy and Quincy – and by extension, real girls like them –  suffer through.

Read This Next

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco K Stork.

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

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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Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School, podcast