Showing posts with label Realistic-Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Realistic-Fiction. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Read to Resist: Immigrant Voices

In the current political climate, I can't help but feel useless. After all, I don't have much in the way of political power and my following is small compared to a lot of others. But there is one way that I know to fight back--reading and supporting authors talking about these issues in their books. Supporting their stories that go against the master narrative could end up changing the master narrative.

My form of resistance, along these lines, will be to highlight these stories that are speaking out against the master narrative, whether directly or indirectly. I think this is a series I'll start, perhaps highlighting issues once or twice a month. In light of all the immigration policies coming out in recent weeks, this week I'm going to focus specifically on young adult books that feature immigration stories, from #OwnVoices authors (authors who have experienced what they are writing about). Find these books, read these books, share these books--a small form of resistance.

1. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon is an immigrant from Jamaica, currently living in Los Angeles. The Son is Also a Star features the story of Natasha--an immigrant from Jamaica about to be deported--and Daniel--the son of immigrants, desperate to pursue art instead of medicine. The two meet by chance in New York City and form a connection they never thought possible.

2. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi immigrated from Haiti to New York when she was four with her mother. Though her experience happened when she was younger, it inspired the story of Fabiola Toussaint, an immigrant from Haiti who gets separated from her mother at the border. She goes to live with her cousins in Detroit, vowing to find a way to bring her mother there too.

3. Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork

Born in Mexico, Francisco X. Stork came to the United States when he was nine with his mother and stepfather. Disappeared follows the story of Sara Zapata, who lives in Mexico, a town run by violent gangs. When her best friend gets kidnapped, Sara starts digging into her disappearance--but doing so puts her in immense danger. As those in power start to close in on Sara, she and her brother must make the impossible journey to the United States, with the hope to gain asylum.

4. Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

Melissa de la Cruz came to the United States from Manila when she was in high school. Something in Between follows the story of Jasmine de los Santos, the daughter of Filipino immigrants who is about to receive a national scholarship for school. But the scholarship committee reveals something about her parents: their visas have long been expired. Now, Jasmine has no idea where she fits in, and with the threat of deportation, her college dreams have forever been changed.

5. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi was born and raised in Iran, currently living in France as a graphic novelist. While her story isn't necessarily one of immigration to the US, her story, shown in this graphic memoir, is one of many immigrants that come to the US. Her story is eye opening, and the graphic narrative format supports her story even more.

Check these books out from your library, buy them from your local bookstore, or buy them online; read them and resist the narrative being spun by our current president. #ReadandResist

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Review: The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik

"I romanticize my past and I romanticize my future; right now is always the bleakest moment of my life." - David Arnold, The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik

Noah Oakman is fascinated by a lot of things: David Bowie, Mila Henry, the Fading Woman, and the OMG. He doesn't like the path he's been set on: swimmer extraordinaire, on track to swim in college. So, on a whim, he gets hypnotized at a party. And now, small things are changing. His friends are into different things, their pasts are rewritten, even his family is affected. But only one thing remains the same: Noah's fascinations.

Let me start by saying this is definitely my favorite book by David Arnold this far. There was something about Noah that felt so relatable; he's on a path that other people have chosen for him that he doesn't really think that he wants to do anymore. The pressure of their expectations has made him unable to make a decision one way or another--something we've all felt at one point in our lives. You have to make huge decisions about your future right out of high school? That's logical.

To support the fantastic characters in the novel (which includes Alan, Val, and Noah's sister Penny), we also get a quirky, original story. Noah gets hypnotized and ends up in this alternate reality where he starts to pull away from his friends and family, isolating himself because he can't figure out to get back to normal. It was a refreshing young adult contemporary, and one I would happily read again because I'm sure there's things I missed, like in any David Arnold novel.

With beautiful lines, quirky, lovable characters, and a fascinating (ha) premise, this is a book that I couldn't put down.

5/5 stars

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Review: Bang

"People can wonder and ponder and imagine all they want. But their curiosity does not entitle them to enter my world."
-Barry Lyga, Bang

When he was four years old, Sebastian accidentally shot and killed his baby sister with his father's gun. He's lived with the guilt since then, tip-toeing around the incident with his mother, hiding from everyone at school that knows his history. When he meets Aneesa, the new girl on the block, he thinks he's finally found a friendship not tainted by his past. But his relationship with Aneesa might not even be enough to save his own life.

Barry Lyga's book takes a different look at gun violence and the way it can destroy a family--and it is very successful. Most young adult books that deal with this topic look at the way that a teen might become a school shooter; the outcast, the kid who is bullied, finds a way to get a gun and violence ensues (a storyline we're becoming much too familiar with). But Lyga's take feels refreshing; Sebastian wasn't old enough to know how dangerous the gun was when he shot his sister, but he lives with this incredible guilt for the rest of his life. You can feel his guilt through the novel, and you desperately want to tell him that it wasn't his fault.

The other topic that this novel deals with gracefully is "the friend zone." Sebastian, inevitably, develops feelings for Aneesa who doesn't develop feelings back. He gets angry at her because he believes that she lead him on, and while her denial drives him to suicide, he's eventually talked down by his father. In the end, he realizes that he was the one who was wrong, and he writes Aneesa a letter about it. This subject is rarely dealt with in young adult fiction, but I think it was appropriate. Especially since Sebastian doesn't take out his anger on other people.

All in all, I picked this book up as a light read and wasn't able to put it down until I was finished. With strong characters and relevant topics, this is a book that more people should be talking about.

4.5/5 stars

Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: The Universe is Expanding and So Am I

Title: The Universe is Expanding and So Am I

Author: Carolyn Mackler

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Pub Date: May 29

This book was sent to me by Net Galley for my honest review. Virginia Shreeves is still trying to figure out how to deal with her brother's date rape charge and suspension from Columbia. Meeting Sebastian, a New York tourist/artist, helps a bit--and the two make a pact not to share their personal dramas. But hiding their personal lives starts to take a toll--one that might end their relationship forever.

Virginia's voice feels very realistic throughout the text, from her insecurities to her nerdy love of popular culture. She constantly feels like she doesn't fit in, with her classmates and her own family. Her story is one of triumph, finally finding her voice and that she fits into her family in ways that she never though possible. Virginia's, and her family's, growth within this book is what makes the story most appealing.

Though the romance at the core of the story feels a bit fairy tale-esque, readers will get swept up in the New York adventures that Virginia and Sebastian have. They are scenes almost taken right out of a romantic comedy, which definitely will make this book a fun summer beach read.

4.5/5 stars

Review: Dear Martin

"You can't change how other people think and act, but you're in full control of you."
-Nic Stone, Dear Martin

Despite being at the top of his class and on track to go to Yale in the fall, Justyce McAllister still finds himself in handcuffs when he was just trying to help a drunk girl home safely. He can't escape the implications that come with the neighborhood that he grew up in. So he seeks wisdom from Martin Luther King Jr., but does the wisdom still stand up in present day? And will it help when he's caught in the fury of an off-duty white cop?

In line with authors like Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas, Nic Stone doesn't shy away from the truths that exist within our own society when it comes to race. Justyce's narrative feels real--and gives voice to a population that is still lacking in young adult literature (though not as much as in previous years). Not only will they be able to see themselves within a fictional narrative, but it can also be eye opening to those that don't experience this kind of discrimination.

Parts of the narrative feature letters that Justyce writes to Martin Luther King Jr., trying to figure out exactly what he's supposed to do in reaction to those that treat him as lesser. Ultimately, Dear Martin is about Justyce finding his voice against the injustices he sees and experiences in the world. Lyrical and powerful, this is a book that everyone should read.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: Leah on the Offbeat

"That has to be the best part of being in love--the feeling of having a home in someone else's brain."
-Becky Albertalli, Leah on the Offbeat

Picking up where Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda took off, this time we get to live inside Leah's brain. Generally less privileged than those in her friend group, Leah has yet to gather the courage to come out as bisexual. Which makes her crush on Abby Suso increasingly difficult. As they get closer to graduation, their friend group begins to falter. As relationships start to break, Leah doesn't know whether or not to act on her own feelings.

Let me begin with this: Becky Albertalli is one of the best at accurately capturing the voices of teenagers. Leah is snarky and honest and and her voice absolutely carries you through to the very end. The appearance of other characters from Simon help to make the world even stronger and easier to fall into. Those who loved Simon will absolutely love Leah.

Leah on the Offbeat is also packed with a lot of humor and typical high school drama. Leah is desperate to find a relationship like Simon's. Leah is having difficulty learning how to say goodbye to the friends she's surrounded herself with since middle school. Her feelings of being an outsider are extremely relatable as well, and Albertalli also gets props for her portrayal of bisexual characters.

Overall, I blew threw this because I absolutely love Albertalli's writing style and her characters are always well rounded, even the ones included in the background.

4.5/5 stars

Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: Violent Ends

"To realize it's not really about Kirby now, it's about what's left. And if you don't deal with it, it will deal with you."
-Violent Ends

Violent Ends follows the story of a school shooting, covering it from 17 different points of view. Instead of following the shooting itself, the different stories focus on the aftermath and the way that the shooting affects the victims. It only took Kirby Matheson 22 minutes to kill 6 students and injure 5 others before taking his own life. Featuring a variety of well-known young adult authors, all the characters are related through one thing: Kirby Matheson.

I thought the premise of this book was fascinating; having so many points of view gives you a lot of perspectives on one particular situation. It lets you get to know the setting, the high school culture, the other students involved, and the community surrounding the school. Each of the different authors gives all the characters a unique voice following their unique writing style. My favorite aspect of the story was these different voices, reflecting an actual high school community.

Though I liked the anthology aspect of this book, I'm not sure this particular kind of story lends itself to this style of writing. I enjoyed the different voices included, but I didn't feel like I could get invested in any of the characters specifically. Since I'm someone who reads for character, the small snippets didn't allow me to get invested in their story.

The subject matter also felt a bit out of touch to me, especially given how much attention school shootings have gotten in the media lately. It felt as though it lacked diversity, and any characters who were from diverse backgrounds and such are the ones that were killed. 

Overall, I liked some of the chapters, but all together the book didn't quite work for me.

3/5 stars

Friday, May 4, 2018

Review: What I Leave Behind

Title: What I Leave Behind

Author: Alison McGhee

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's

Publication Date: May 15, 2018

This book was sent to me through NetGalley from Simon and Schuster in return for an honest review. At first, the format of the book threw me off, but by the end, I was impressed that the author was able to stick to these short bursts of story--and how well they worked together.

Will spends most of his days at his job at Dollar Only with Major Tom, stocking the isles with all sorts of new goodies. At night, he desperately tries to replicate his dad's cornbread recipe, working through his grief after his father's suicide. When he finds out that Playa was raped at a party where he was at, he begins looking for ways for to help her through her trauma as well. Through small acts of kindness to those around him, Will begins to learn how to cope with his own grief.

Told in series of one hundred words, Will's story is presented in a unique way that keeps you reading throughout the entire book. The writing itself almost feels like a graphic novel, without the images supporting the text. However, it didn't feel like the book was missing anything--in fact, the format felt refreshing to me.

The only critique I have of the text is that I could have used a bit more context at the beginning. Though the format makes it difficult to portray any background information, adding a section or two would help the reader to be better oriented right at the beginning of Will's story.

Despite the disorientation, I enjoyed Will's story, especially his desire to reach out to those that seem lost like him. Will's story shows the affects of little acts of kindness--and how much they mean to those that are hurting.

4/5 stars

Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: And She Was

As Dara begins making preparations to pursue her dream of becoming a career tennis player, she goes digging around in her mom's room in order to find her birth certificate to get her passport. But what she finds is something she was never expecting. Her mother, Mellie, is transgender. Feeling betrayed, Dara heads out on a road trip with her best friend in order to find her lost family--a trip where Dara discovers more about herself than she could have ever imagined.

I'm torn about this book. As someone who doesn't identify as transgender, I was curious about what others said about this book online. The reactions to this book are mixed, mostly because there is a lot of transphobia portrayed in this book, especially through Dara's grandparents. I do think this was done in order to illustrate how many people talk about and to transgender people. At times, though, it felt like it was a bit much and definitely could be triggering to people who read it.

The other thing that bothered me about this story was the main character. As soon as Dara finds out about her mom, she becomes incredibly selfish. Literally everything is about her--probably up until the last 20 or so pages of the book. And while I get that this experience was a growing/coming-of-age moment for her, it took her a little too long to get there. Especially if she was as close to her mother as she proclaimed. To me, it felt like it should have been much harder for her to just suddenly up and leave her mother.

What I did like about this book were the secondary characters and the sources provided at the end. It is clear that Verdi did her research about the transgender community, which I appreciated. I also though Mellie's story, told in emails to her daughter, was really compelling. I wanted more from this story--and almost wish the story was focused there.

Overall, a mixed reaction and a mixed review. I do caution those looking to pick up this book if you might be triggered by excessive transphobic language--there is a lot within this story.

3/5 stars

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: The Dangerous Art of Blending In

"I've squeezed as many bookcases in this tiny space as possible. Being surrounded by books and magazines makes me feel calm. It makes the room seemed wrapped in a layer of protection. As if nothing or no one can get to me."
-Angelo Surmelis, The Dangerous Art of Blending In

Evan Panos is constantly seen as a disappointment by his Greek-American mother. His non-confrontational father never steps in and defends him, so Evan spends most of his days trying to be invisible and do the right thing. But hiding is becoming exhausting, especially since Evan kissed a boy over the summer. And his best friend Henry is becoming more and more attractive to him. As the end of high school nears, Evan has to figure out how to live with his own voice.

So I saw this book at work, as well as Jeff Zentner's mention of it on Twitter, and I knew that I had to pick it up. I mean, just look at the cover. It's gorgeous. This is Angelo Surmelis's debut novel, and I'm hoping that this means we'll get more from him. His writing is so emotionally driven, crafting an impressive amount of empathy in the reader. You want good things to happen to Evan, someone who is constantly beaten down by his mother. His story is absolutely heartbreaking; but it is also ultimately a story of hope.

One of the only things that threw me off about this story was the jump in time in the middle. I think it was like three months or something, but the jump in time felt a bit out of place. I wanted to know what bridged this jump into the future. There were also scenes with Evan's mom that were difficult to read, but that was the point, I think. There are many teens that find themselves in these abusive situations because of their sexuality, and it's important that these stories are getting published.

Surmelis's debut is heartbreaking, brutal, and hopeful. It's this thread of hope that is the most important part. Evan has hope, and is eventually able to craft his own family.

4.5/5 stars

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: Speak the Graphic Novel

"When people don't express themselves, they die one piece at a time."
-Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

Melinda starts out high school as an outcast; she was the one who called the police at the summer's biggest party, and no one is going to forget that. But she's afraid to speak up about the reason why. Her art is the only way she's able to express herself and finally get her story told.

Speak was first published in 1999 and has long been considered a classic of young adult literature. Laurie Halse Anderson wrote about rape before the time of the #MeToo movement, and she did so effectively and accurately. Reading this story, you feel immense empathy for Melinda--you just want her to be able to get the help she so desperately needs. You want her to find friends; you want her to fit in. Anderson creates such emotion with this story, and it's important that everyone reads it.

The graphic novel version just came out this year, and the images compliment the text beautifully. Emily Carroll does an excellent job with her artwork and does justice to the love Melinda has for art in the book. One of the things I liked the most about the art is the way that Carroll plays with shadow throughout. Melinda is haunted by what happened to her at that party, and this is portrayed through the shadow of her attacker. Everything works together really well in order to bring this story to another level.

After reading the graphic novel, I definitely want to revisit the book. I'm interested how close the text is between the both of them. Overall, I absolutely loved this and believe it's a great adaptation of a great book.

5/5 stars

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Review: This Darkness Mine

"All imperfections glare in the spotlight."
-Mindy McGinnis, This Darkness Mine

For all appearances, Sasha Stone's life is perfect: she's first chair clarinet, at the top of her class, and has a loyal boyfriend. Her path to Oberlin is still in place, at least until Isaac Harver comes into her life. When she's around him, she's trouble; when she learns that she absorbed her twin in her mother's womb, she's convinced it's her sister's heart that's in love with him. Sasha quickly begins to lose control on the perfect life that she had--will she be able to get it back?

I'm reviewing this a bit out of order because ever since I read this book, I needed to write something about it. It's....weird. Mindy McGinnis also wrote Female of the Species, which I absolutely loved, but this book was very different from that, for me. While the writing is strong and well-done, the overall effect of this book is odd, which you can definitely see by looking at the other reviews.

Though the plot itself is odd (and at times violently graphic), there's a message underneath the text, showing how terrible people can be to others. In fact, I would argue, the main character has almost no redeeming qualities. As you learn more about Sasha, the more you dislike her. She might be one of the least likable narrators that I have ever read, which most likely contributed to the fact that I feel so mediocre about this book.

The plot of this book is twisty and shocking, and the less you know about it, the better. There were parts, however, where I went back a few pages to re-read, because I thought: "did that really happen?" Every time, it did. It made the plot confusing at times, because some of the twists were jarring, but this didn't take away from the quality of the writing. The writing is extremely well done, I just didn't connect with the characters or the plot, taking away much of my connection to the narrative.

Overall, if you're looking for something weird, dark, and shocking, this book would probably be for you. For me, it's probably not something I'll ever revisit.

3/5 stars

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: All American Boys

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
-Jason Reynolds, All American Boys

Wrongly accused of shoplifting and assaulting a woman at a conveince story, Rashad is badly beaten by a police officer, all because of the color of his skin. Quinn observed the beating, from someone he thought was a friend, and knows that he can't stay silent about the injustice of it. As the situation takes their school by storm, everyone takes a side--Rashad and Quinn might have to risk everything in order to change the world.

This book has been on my to-read list for ages, because I've only heard good things about it. And it certainly didn't disappoint. Both of the narrators here were extremely well developed, and each of them had their own unique voices. The inclusion of two narrators also creates the opportunity for more teens to find themselves within the narrative, and see how they can create change (especially important in our current moment in history). 

As we're beginning to see a rise in diversity in young adult literature (check out my article about it here!), books talking about social justice and social change are becoming more commonplace. Young people are often the ones that bring about social change (something that the series I'm currently reading is definitely showing me), and reading these narratives are inspirational and eye opening. These things happen in real life. Reading these narratives and speaking up about injustice are the only ways that we can instill change the way we want it.

My only wish for this book is that we could have seen some of the effects of the protest at the end of the novel. Was it effective? Including a bit at the end would show readers that they can affect the world around them, just like the characters within the novel.

5/5 stars

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: Girl in Pieces

"That's how hearts get broken, you know. When you believe in promises."
-Kathleen Glasgow, Girl in Pieces

Charlie uses pain in order to forget all of the people that she's lost over time. Her father, to the river. Her best friend. Your mother. Each loss pushes Charlie further to the edge, so she learns how to forget. But as she starts to heal from her trauma, forgetting might push her back to where she began.

This is another book that I listened to on audio, and I think the story worked beautifully in that format. The narrator of the audiobook, Julia Whelan, gives a unique voice to Charlie, while still giving unique voices to the other characters. The subject matter didn't make this the easier book to listen to, but it was still beautiful.

Cutting is a topic that is often covered in young adult literature, but this book felt the most realistic to me (of the ones that I've read). Glasgow has crafted realistic, flawed characters struggling through the act of recovery, struggling through their triggers. This is an important book for many teens to read because of how carefully Glasgow tackles the issue of mental illness, and how realistic it truly is for a lot of the teen population.

The author's note at the end of the book makes the book all the more personal, offering support to girls that may be in the same position. Though this book isn't plot heavy, the characters aptly make up for it. Each character has their own challenges to overcome, but they're not defined by their mental illnesses, which is so important for the book's readers. 

The combination of the characters and the delicacy with which the issues are tackled makes this one of the better young adult books on mental illness. I'd recommend also picking it up on audiobook, if you can. It's definitely worth a listen!

4.5/5 stars

Review: They Both Die at the End

"No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end."
-Adam Silvera, They Both Die at the End

Both Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio receive a call from Death-Cast that tells them they're going to die today. They both download the Last Friend app, desperate for a friend on their last day. Together, they're able to conquer their fears and pack a bunch of new adventures into their last day on Earth.

Death was a theme in the books I read this summer, apparently. Adam Silvera is currently the king of writing emotionally devastating books, because every single book he's written makes you feel. He has a way of writing this book that gives you hope that maybe Mateo and Rufus will find a way to defy the Death-Cast call even though you know that that's probably not the case. This is an Adam Silvera book, after all. You often end the book with a lot of different emotions.

The characters in this book are so relatable and well-developed, with characteristics that I think many teens will be drawn to. What's interesting about this book, and connected it to More Happy Than Not, was that we get no explanation as to how we get this technology that predicts death, it's just there. And while that might be frustrating and confusing to some people, I think Silvera's writing allows us to just accept that there's this new technology, and new vocabulary, which allows us to focus on the characters and the story.

Adam Silvera's books are so emotionally driven, and I'll definitely keep reading everything that he puts out. None of his books have disappointed me so far, and I hope that continues to be the case in the future. A beautifully written story about living life to the fullest.

5/5 stars

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: Things I Should Have Known

"It's like people have a place in their brain for normal, and they have a place in their brain for something obviously wrong, but they can't deal with something just a little bit different. And that makes them uncomfortable. And when people are uncomfortable, they act like jerks."
-Claire LaZebnik, Things I Should Have Known

Chloe knew that her sister was lonely, and the only way to cure her loneliness was to help her make some friends--maybe even set her up on a date. So, she tries to play matchmaker, setting up Ivy (who is on the autism spectrum) with another boy from her special needs class, Ethan. However, Ivy and Ethan refuse to go out on their own, forcing Chloe to interact with Ethan's brother, David. The four quickly form a bond, making Chloe rethink her own romantic choices and realize it's okay not to follow everyone else's expectations.

Portrayals of autistic characters in YA literature is pretty non-existent--in fact, besides this book, I can't think of a book that has an autistic character off the top of my head. The fact that this book exists does inspire hope for the future, though, and YA fiction is slowly starting to become more inclusive. But that doesn't mean that it still doesn't have a long way to go. 

LaZebnik's creates really realistic characters in her novel, and while it would be even more progressive to have the book narrated by the autistic character, she shows the lengths siblings will go to in order to make their own sisters or brothers feel safe. The character that most intrigued me was David, who had two totally different sides depending on the people he was dealing with. He felt incredibly real to me, and once we learn his backstory, 

There's also a twist in the story that adds even more diversity (one of the characters ends up being gay), and is done in a realistic way. Though stories that deal with this many challenges might become bogged down by the negative aspects of the situation, this story still remains funny, endearing, and hopeful, making it even more true to life. This book definitely deserves more hype than it originally got--and I hope more people are able to discover it.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: We Are Still Tornadoes

We Are Still Tornadoes Cover

"If you can't forgive someone you're close to for making a mistake, then why do apologies even exist?" -Michael Kun and Susan Mullen, We Are Still Tornadoes

As Cath gets ready to leave for college, she promises to stay in touch with her best friend, Scott, as she starts her new adventure. Meanwhile, Scott is trying to get his band off the ground while he stays home and works at his dad's store. Neither of them realize how difficult their first year outside of high school is going to be.

Through their letters, the two are able to support each other through annoying roommates, dumb family drama, and broken hearts; not to mention they have to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. As something more slowly grows between the two friends, are they sure that it's something they want to pursue?

I read this book a few months ago, finishing most of it on the train ride back to Chicago from Michigan. The letter format really helps to bring the characters to life, through their writing quirks, letter lengths, and gaps in writing. Some of the references they use throughout, especially music, help to place the reader more squarely in the time period (the 1980s).

The romance aspect of the book is slightly predictable, but that doesn't take away from the entertainment quality of the book itself. Readers who are fans of romance, especially young adult romance, will find this book endearing. Fans of writers like Sarah Dessen will definitely enjoy Kun and Mullen's writing.

3.5/5 stars

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: True Letters from a Fictional Life

"I've always wanted to wake up one day in a world where I liked the right people, and they liked me in return. I worry it'll never happen." --Kenneth Logan, True Letters from a Fictional Life

James Liddell's written and actual live are two very different things. To anyone who knows him, James is a well-rounded, well liked athlete, dating the equally well liked Theresa. But when he's alone, he tells a different story--he fills his drawers with letters to people that he never intends to send, about things that he could never say aloud. When these letters mysteriously start getting sent, he grows worried that everyone will find out his darkest secret: that he likes boys. Will James ever get to escape his life of fiction?

This book is much more lighthearted than most LGBTQ fiction that I've read, especially recently. I liked the concept of the story, as using fiction as an escape is a familiar notion for a fellow writer. James uses his letters to say things that he never thought he'd be able to say aloud--but, when they actually get out, they allow him to fully accept who he is.

Though he was the protagonist, James wasn't my favorite character in the book. At times, he felt a little flat to me, despite his vivid inner life shown through his writing. Some of the side characters, like James's love interest (the name is escaping me), I found to be more interesting, adding intrigue to the story.

Overall, I think this is a story that many teens will relate to, with heart-melting romantic moments that will please romance fans.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: The Female of the Species

"You see it in all animals - the female of the species is more deadly than the male." 
-Mindy McGinnis, The Female of the Species

When Alex's older sister, Anna, was murdered, Alex unleashed what she knows best: violence. She knows how to kill someone. And though she doesn't feel bad about it, as her crime goes unpunished, she quickly folds into the shadows, hiding from her fellow classmates.

At least, so she thinks. Jack and Peekay see her. Jack, the star athlete, the jock that everyone wants, in the running for valedictorian. But all Jack wants is to know Alex. Peekay is the preacher's daughter, which doesn't stop her from acting out once in a while. Peekay and Alex begin working together at the animal shelter, where Peekay sees Alex's protective nature.

Brought together through unlikely circumstances, Alex, Jack, and Peekay navigate the waters of their senior year. Until Alex's true nature breaks out at a party one night, sending the three on a path that's going to change their lives forever.

Though probably not for the squeamish or sensitive, this book is an absolutely important read. Mindy McGinnis exposes rape culture through the story of Alex and her desire to get revenge for her sister. Alex's character in particular points out the flaws of our society when it comes to dealing with rape, especially in the way that we help to perpetuate it with things like "boys will be boys," as Alex points out:

"But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll."

These kinds of statements punctuate the novel, forcing the reader to think about rape culture and gender and how they might contribute to that.

In addition to the morally grey center of the novel, McGinnis also creates realistically complex characters that aid in the exploration of important themes. Told in alternating perspectives from Alex, Jack, and Peekay, the reader gets a glimpse into each one of their characters, each one as complex as the next. The three main characters as supported by an almost equally complex supporting cast, expertly destroying the stereotype that teenagers can't be complex.

Overall, if you can get past some of the descriptions and violence against animals (which I'll admit was difficult for me), this is definitely a must-read. Add it to your TBR shelf immediately.

5/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: History Is All You Left Me

History Is All You Left Me Cover
"History is nothing. It can be recycled or thrown away completely. It isn't this sacred treasure chest I mistook it to be. We were something, but history isn't enough to keep something alive forever."
-Adam Silvera, History Is All You Left Me

Griffin doesn't know how to cope with his best friend and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dying in a tragic drowning accident. Though Griffin hasn't seen much of Theo since he moved to California for school and started dating Jackson, he believed that they would one day find their way back to each other. Now, that future has gone far off course and Griffin is quickly falling into a downward spiral. His obsessions are getting worse and he is lashing out at people that truly care. In order for Griffin to finally move passed Theo's death, he must confront their history and everything that's tearing him apart.

Adam Silvera has done it again. Though I didn't review it (apparently), More Happy Than Not was heartbreaking and beautiful and this book was no different. Silvera has a gift in writing raw teenage emotion, fully encompassing pain so well that it makes your heart hurt. The story feels effortless, and Silvera has created characters in Griffin, Theo, Jackson, and Wade that drive it forward, drawing you in deeper and deeper as you go. 

The complexity of the characters and the reality of their stories is what makes this novel, I think. Though none of the characters were particularly likable, with Wade as a possible exception, you still become invested in their stories and want them to turn out okay in the end. This is what makes them the most realistic, adding to the realism of the story as a whole.

All in all, this novel is absolutely heartbreaking, much like Silvera's other work as well. A bonus was the portrayal of OCD in the novel, which felt real to me and was something that Griffin always had to deal with. He couldn't just turn it on and off when he wanted, like is portrayed in some young adult literature. History Is All You Left Me feels real, which is essential for young adult literature.

P.S. What is with the theme of friends dying in young adult lit lately? I feel like I've read quite a few books like that recently, more so than usual. 

5/5 stars