Tag Archives: violence

November Round Up

Again, I’m still super behind, so I’m going to do a round up because I REALLY want to share these books with you and if I wait for a full post it might never happen.

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

Being a teenager during the Summer of Sam is difficult – fun is always limited by how safe 25982606you feel and Nora is struggling to enjoy her last year of high school. She doesn’t know what will come next, her brother Hector is growing ever more unstable, and the family is struggling to pay their bills.

This is my second Medina book and I love how she draws out the small details to gives us a really full world and characters. I felt for Nora and celebrated when she made decisions that lead her toward more happiness. Diversity: Nora and her family are Latinx, Hector is dealing with some mental health issues, and Medina is Cuban American.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826Miel fell out of a water tower and Sam was the only one that could make her feel safe. She lives with Aracely now and must face the beautiful Bonner sisters as they try to steal the roses that grow from her wrist and keep their ability to enchant the town’s boys. Sam paints moons that light the town and helps its children sleep while keeping his own secrets.

This is modern magical realism at its most lyrical. Pumpkins in a field turn to glass, roses grow from skin, the river can transform someone into their true self – and at the same time, a pregnancy and the ensuing gossip can destroy a girl, birth certificates are necessary for high school enrollment, and hate and misunderstanding can still tear people down. I’m still letting this book sit with me because I’m not totally sure how I feel about it yet. It made me feel and I think it’s important, but I’m not sure I ultimately liked it. HOWEVER – I will shove it at people looking for magic in the everyday and who love beautiful writing. Diversity: Sam’s mother is Pakistani, his father is Catalan (I think?), Miel is Latina, and there are two transgender characters.

Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana

Tara’s best (and only) friend is spending their junior year of high school studying abroad 25802922so Tara hates the idea of schools starting. She doesn’t want to be totally alone. But even as she dreads it, she must also face startling news – an alternate Earth with just a few changes has been discovered. As everyone comes to terms with what that means, Tara finds herself navigating a new group of friends, her mother’s obsession with the new Earth, and just what kind of person she wants to be.

I really wanted to love this book – it’s a great premise and it brought up a lot of interesting ideas, but I never felt fully invested in the story. I think part of it was the writing and part of it was Tara as a character. However, I appreciated the honest look at microaggressions that Tara has to put up with – though that appreciation is slightly decreased by the rather poor way the book deals with anorexia and weight in general. In some ways this felt like an older person’s interpretation of how “mean girls” interact without respecting them as full people. I’m not sure exactly what, but something was off. Diversity: Tara is biracial (Indian and white American) and less well off in a very, very wealthy area. Also, #ownvoices.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Amanda is the new girl and, even though she has a secret to keep, she’s making a bunch of26156987 new friends. She even has a boyfriend – and she can’t hold herself back from becoming invested in the relationship even if it’s dangerous. And when the secret is out – who will stay by her side?

This is generally not my kind of book – contemporary, high school drama, and romance – but Amanda is an engaging character and the time switch across chapters adds an interesting depth to the story. And, even with the discrimination and violence that Amanda suffers, this is still a fairly light book. Russo addresses that in her afterword and I’m saddened that the story has to be made so, so palatable for cis/hetero readers (but I’m also glad that trans readers have something light and happy to read). Diversity: This is one of the (or the?) first YA books about a transgender character by a transgender author with a transgender model on its cover.

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine (Book #1 of a series)

23495112Elli has been raised to become Queen of her people and when, on the night that she must accept the magical power that comes with the crown, things go wrong, she must find a way to stay true to her loyalties while saving herself.

This was so good! The world building is amazing and I loved the characters. I am disappointed that this is a series starter because I really thought things were going to be nicely wrapped up, but also – yay! more books! Diversity: Bisexual main character, lots of racial diversity among characters.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (book #1 of a series)

Cas is a trainer of Reckoners, dedicated to protecting ships as they cross ever-growing seas24790901 and the pirates that call them home. But, when her first solo mission goes wrong, she must navigate the difficult obstacles that a pirate captain and a baby Reckoner put in her path.

I thought the concept behind this was really interesting, though I would have liked more explanation about exactly why the person that made a rogue Reckoner possible made that decision (although, the “who” of this mystery was easy to see from the very beginning). Diversity: Cas is of Asian descent (I think Chinese?), there’s a main f/f relationship, and there’s a lot of diversity among the pirate crew.

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Filed under Adventure, Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School, Science Fiction & Fantasy

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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Filed under Heavy Topics, High School, Historical, Romance

Book Discussion: Six of Crows

Six of Crows (#1) by Leigh Bardugo

Summary

In a world where some people have the power to create, destroy, and control, there are those that despise them and those that 23437156use them. In a city with a dark underbelly, anything can be bought or sold for the right price. Someone is leaking a substance that will take it all to the extreme. And so, Kaz Brekker, criminal mastermind, is offered the biggest heist in history –  but he’ll need the perfect team.

And so, six outcasts join together to attempt the impossible.

heartRomance Score: You’re Trying

The relationships in this book were good starts but just didn’t go all the way for me. One couple met each other in considerably unkind circumstances and, while I do enjoy a good enemies-to-lovers transition, the depth of hate/prejudice felt like it was a little too easily overcome. I really enjoyed the second couple and loved the respect that one of the people demanded for themself, it’s just too early to give much weight to that relationship. The third couple was more of a flirtation, so I’m not sure I can really count it at all, but it was super fun. Plus, that third couple added some diversity to the bunch, so I doubly liked it.

RosieFeminism Score: A+ success

First, I’ll point out that I debated this for a bit because prostitution and sexual exploitation is a big part of the story for one character, but I finally decided that the way she deals with it and uses her experiences to find strength trumps the abuse. Additionally, the ladies in the book know what they want and they go for it, they’re respected for their skills, and are treated as equal contributors. I appreciated that there was a sisterhood and supportive relationship between the two girls; they know they have scars and give each other the love and comfort needed to acknowledge painful pasts and move forward.

The other tough point for me was with one of the relationships. As mentioned above, I definitely feel the appeal of a hate-to-love relationship development, but the enmity between two characters in this book is based more on ingrained aspects of their identities than on personality clashes. When I think about a racist falling for someone with the skin color they’re prejudiced against but justifying it because “they’re different than the rest,” I get a little uncomfortable. While I think the relationship can eventually grow so that both characters move away from their deep prejudices, I still wonder about it.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: A+ Success

There are six main characters and we get a good range of people. I’m going to try very hard not to spoil things that come out slowly in the story, so…Kaz has a poorly healed leg that gives him a limp and lots of chronic pain. He also is suffering from what looks like PTSD thanks to an awful experience when he first arrived in the city. Inej is brown skinned, from a nomadic people, and has the agility and silence of a ghost cat. Nina is beautiful and curvy and takes pleasure in all of life’s tiniest joys. She also owns her sexuality and is determined to protect the life she wants. Underneath Jesper’s penchant for gambling is an interest in someone that was fairly well hidden until half way through the book. There are two other main characters that make up the six, one has some deeply hidden secrets that come out very near the end and the other would, I suppose, be the “normal” character, if you discount where he spends half the book.

As a fantasy world, there’s no excuse for not reflecting the diversity of the real world and I think Bardugo does a good job with this. She also has a note in the back that I found sweet considering the focus of this blog.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Between Good Effort and A+ Success

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I had been feeling like I had abandoned my fantasy roots for a bit (untrue, but I had an itch) and Six of Crows brought me back around. I really liked the characters, the story, and the world – the hints of our own world that came through added extra dimension. I also thought the intrigue and underworld were engaging; I wanted to know what happened and if the crew would be successful. I’m not giving it a full score because it slowed down slightly in the middle and I’m still feeling a little confused about the true feelings or alliances of some of the characters. It’s clear they’re in it together, but I feel like it’s uncertain if that is forever or just until we escape.

All around, it was fun and intriguing, and I’m waiting eagerly for the next book.


Favorite Character

All six are well-rounded and I felt like we got to know all of them equally, but I really love Inej. She’s suffered, she’s deeply embedded in the underworld, but she doesn’t let the brutal gangs beat hope and faith out of her. Plus, I’m concerned if I don’t choose her, she’ll let out all my secrets!

Favorite Line

“Many boys will bring you flowers. But someday you’ll meet a boy who will learn your favorite flower, your favorite song, your favorite sweet. And even if he is too poor to give you any of them, it won’t matter because he will have taken the time to know you as no one else does. Only that boy earns you heart.”

Fun Author Fact

Bardugo wrote a song for her book series, the Grisha Triology.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Definitely! If you like ensemble books full of adventure and big personalities, you’ll like this. The characters are amazing and the different points of view made the story richer and more exciting. It also kept the mystery longer as pieces dripped out slowly.

Read These Next

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir for another trilogy-starting, intense read with strong characters and lots of adventure or Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith for a spy, fantasy, intrigue 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: 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.

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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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

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School

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

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics