Diverse Literature

Book Review | Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

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♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡  s t a r s

Norah is seventeen years old, and she hasn’t really stepped outside of her house since she was thirteen except for the occasional visit to her therapist. She has agoraphobia, anxiety and OCD, and there are too many things in the outside world that can cause harm – so she stays inside the four walls of her home, her safe haven, where she reads, watches movies, and builds forts and miniature structures from edibles. When the new boy next door starts making an effort to talk to her, Norah feels the pull to step out of her comfort zone. He’s charming, he’s cute, and has a smile that sends tingles down her spine, but Norah, despite wanting to, is terrified of letting him in.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is as beautiful as the title sounds and the cover looks. Written with fluidity and grace, Gornall weaves words like a mastermind, conveying emotion by employing just the right vocabulary, just the right tone. It’s poetic and lyrical, without ever feeling purple. There’s something incredibly challenging about writing a book set almost entirely within the four walls of one girl’s house, but Gornall’s writing never lets you notice this until you pause, think, and admire the feat. When we think of masterful world-building, we think about fantasy universes with their own continents, governments, schools, magic systems – but the world-building in this book is confined to a house… and it’s just as good as the world-building in the best of fantasy novels. That may seem like a hyperbolic statement to you, but I don’t think it is. The author focuses on micro-details and makes it work- from the texture of Norah’s bedsheets to the contents of her refrigerator, the feel of her hallway and the aura around her windows, everything is precise, polished, and wonderfully done.

But the writing style and the world-building are just two facets of this beautiful tale. Its empathetic portrayal of the relationship between a mother and her daughter, between a young girl and her mentor, her therapist, between a girl and a boy, and this girl and herself – each and every relationship is given the perfect weight, resulting in a wholesome, balanced story that never gets boring, never does too much. Make no mistake – this is not a book about romance, it’s not one about Norah’s therapy, and it’s not a book about her relationships. It’s not a book that uses mental illness as a plot point in any plot mentioned above; it’s a book about a girl with disabilities who’s living her day-to-day life, maneuvering through family, romance and therapy as best as she can. This is what we need in contemporaries. Books that place the person at the forefront, while never ignoring, glamorizing or romanticizing their mental illness.

What makes the story lift and soar are the characters, but most specifically Norah. She’s everything I love in a character – in a human being, in fact. She’s shy and introspective, she doesn’t say much but when she does, she’s smart and funny. Her incredibly empathetic nature, her genuine regard for other people before herself, and her strength and vulnerability make her such a beautiful character. Her voice in moments when she’s vulnerable beyond anything she’s ever known, as well as when she’s navigating daily life, to her desires and hopes and dreams – everything feels so authentic. I felt like I was reading about a friend, and I teared up multiple times, just because I felt so deeply for her. Not pity. NEVER pity, but empathy. This is an empathetic book, not a sympathetic one, and I think it’s meant to be that way.

Luke, also, was such a beautifully constructed character. When he was introduced, I was apprehensive because too often have I seen the trope where falling in love cures mental illnesses, but that apprehension need not have been there. I loved the slow-burn of Luke’s relationship with Norah, because it gave time for Norah to ease into an unfamiliar situation, and acquaint herself with feeling how she felt, and what it would mean for her. I loved Luke’s attitude; instead of giving her unwanted advice, instead of trying to change any part of her life, he sought to learn and understand. He’s not perfect; he makes mistakes, and sometimes I wanted to smack him, but he’s such an incredibly kind, soft person who tries his best to understand, falters along the way, but is determined to learn and straighten himself up. He was given complexities and dilemmas of his own outside of this relationship, and sure, I would have liked to learn more about his family, but I don’t say that as a flaw in the book – it’s actually a compliment, believe it or not.

Because, for the life of me, I did not want it to end. It read like a movie, something playing in front of my eyes, with characters that I loved, adored and wanted to stay with for much, much longer. I wanted it to go on, and I would have happily read on for a couple hundred more pages. Not because it was too short; no, it was the perfect length. I’ve just become so invested in these characters’ lives that I’m craving more, and I don’t think I’ve ever said this for a contemporary stand-alone before. Any stand-alone, in fact.

If you’ve been following my reading and my reviewing for a while now, you’d know that I don’t give out five-star ratings easily. Very rarely do I come across books that I can’t find a flaw in, that I can start over right after finishing them gladly, but this is one of those rarities. It flung itself in my ‘favorites’ list, and I didn’t even realize it until after I’d turned the last page, but here I am: enamored, gushing, and wanting – no – needing more.

TRIGGER WARNING

Anxiety-inducing scenes, some suicidal ideations, and self-harm.

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Book Review | 10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac

10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE

FTC DISCLOSURE

Maeve has severe generalized anxiety disorder, which basically means that she worries excessively about everything. Her mother doesn’t believe in medication for her anxiety until Maeve hits eighteen, so Maeve can’t get the help that she knows she needs. She’s found a way to keep her panic attacks in check, but even then, her day-to-day life is affected by her anxiety. Things get worse when Maeve’s mom goes away to Haiti for six months, leaving Maeve to spend her summer with her father in Vancouver. Her dad’s a recovering alcoholic, and her relationship with him isn’t the best, but no way is her mom leaving Maeve alone at home for six months. While there, Maeve meets Salix, a carefree, laid-back girl who plays the violin and has big dreams- the two bond immediately, and maybe the summer won’t be as bad as Maeve had thought.

Contemporaries often bother me – not to generalize them or anything, but I tend to be more critical towards contemporaries, perhaps because it’s easier to see myself in them. If a contemporary is not well-rounded, meaning that if it focuses too much on one thing instead of several aspects of a person’s life, chances are that I won’t like it. The fact that I enjoyed 10 Things I Can See From Here is testament to the fact that it is extremely well-rounded and balanced, giving the right amount of weight to Maeve’s dynamic with her stepmother and her half-brothers, her mother and father, her budding romance with Salix, her relationship with her ex-bestfriend, and her dealing with her own anxiety. Each and every subplot was done justice, and that’s what makes this contemporary stand out.

Maeve’s relationship with her father is, in my opinion, the main focus of the story rather than the romance. She’s such a sensitive person, who feels everything twice as much as the people around her, something that often works against her – but she can’t help it. Her longing to connect with her father when she’s going through an exceptionally rough patch, her willingness to give him chance after chance because she loves him so much and just wants things to get better – the entire dynamic was realistic, and it was heartbreaking, and it was important because it sheds light on children of parents who abuse substances.

The second thing that struck me was the way Maeve’s anxiety was presented- almost like a character, in and of itself. Mac weaves the anxiety into the very narration, into her own writing style and technique. She spends careful time on getting the reader inside Maeve’s head, so much so that you begin to feel the worry pulsating inside your own body. Which is not to say that you can ever feel the experiences of people who have GAD, but you get some awareness. From negative reviews, I’ve seen that the colorful, often very graphic depictions of death and accidents, and the excessive worry became tiresome and dull for some people- I guess that’s a valid critique, but I can counter it by saying that repetition was the point. GAD is not comfortable. It’s not something you can switch off when you feel it getting repetitive and tiresome; it’s persistent, it’s debilitating, and I think the way it’s presented here is very important. Moreover, I saw some critique saying that Maeve was an unlikable protagonist. She does make some decisions that I doubt, some off-hand comments about her ex-bestfriend that made me flinch, but the critique I’ve seen relates to how she “annoys” other characters. Again, I think Mac did such a wonderful job of showing how anxiety doesn’t only affect the person who has it, but the people around said person too. It’s unfair to say that Maeve was unlikable just because she behaved in a way that anxiety made her behave.

The romance between Maeve and Salix was very cute; it was healthy, it developed well, and even though I had issues with how they kept bumping into each other (I dislike tropes that play on fate), I really enjoyed their dynamic. I loved that Salix understood Maeve’s anxiety and helped however she could, and the trope of “love-cured-my-illness” was banished out-of-sight.

I had a few issues too, mainly with the lack of closure surrounding some of the storylines. I wanted to see more of Maeve and her mother’s relationship, especially because she plays an incredibly important role in Maeve’s life. I wanted to see flashbacks, or some interaction outside of e-mails, texts and phone calls. I also felt that the story would have benefited had an epilogue been added to the end, something that showed us what Maeve’s life is like after she has to go back home. There could easily be a sequel to this, because I feel like I need to know more about Maeve and Salix, the resolution with the family issues, with the need to see Maeve get the help that she needs with her anxiety. A sequel would be great.

Ultimately, 10 Things I Can See From Here is a beautifully written summer-contemporary that is perfect for fans of Morgan Matson, Stephanie Perkins and Rainbow Rowell. If you’re looking for something well-rounded that’s not too heavy, but also focuses on important themes, pick this one up.

TRIGGER WARNING

material that can induce anxiety or panic attacks (such as chronic worrying about events out of someone’s control), graphic depictions of accidents and death, substance abuse, sexual assault.

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The Education of Margot Sanchez: fast-paced, important and nuanced

education of margot sanchez

FTC DISCLOSURE
Margot Sanchez had her summer in the Hamptons planned out and ready to go- that is before she was busted for ‘borrowing’ her father’s credit card to buy a $600 outfit. Now she needs to pay off everything she owes to her parents, and to do that, she’s working at her father’s deli in the Bronx. Her earnings don’t go into her pocket, but rather directly to her father- she’s basically an indentured servant, and she couldn’t be more distraught. As the ultimate beach party Margot is invited to draws ever closer, Margot’s determined to go, or she might lose her hard-earned social status at her privileged high school. And no way will Margot let that happen. Things are further complicated when a cute local, socially aware boy named Moises comes into her life.

The Education of Margot Sanchez has a lot going for it – a deeply flawed and realistic main character, who is both unlikable yet relatable, a complicated family dynamic that builds up slowly to come to an exploding climax, and fun, fast-paced high school drama that gives the book its larger voice. But while all the elements were there, much of the aspects felt lackluster and incomplete- at least during the first half of the book. Before the book hits the 50% mark, I felt cold towards Margot – not indifferent, but cold. Despite relating to her deep-set need for a place to belong, and her complicated feelings regarding identity (with her community, her family, her socioeconomic status, her culture versus her privileged school and her white, upper-class friends), I disliked how Margot handled the cards dealt to her. Because I’d been in such a similar position for a lot of my life, I found myself a little frustrated with her decisions, which launched my indifference towards her to coolness.

More than that, perhaps, I had very little interest in Margot’s love life. While I appreciated the fleshiness of Moises’s character – he was rather well developed, and immediately likable – I felt there were more important things at hand than a summer crush. There was clear, serious tension between Margot’s family. Her relationship with her father was outwardly amicable but Margot has suspicions from the very start about there being something off. Her relationship with her brother was one-dimensional in the first half, and her mother was mostly a prop. These were all my issues with the first half.

However. The story picked up incredibly quickly as soon as it hit the 50% mark. It seemed like Rivera thought back after she’d written half and realized all the flaws, and decided to kick it up several notches because I could not put the book down after those initial hurdles were passed. Margot, despite remaining someone with flaws, despite being someone who you question, developed into a complicated young woman who’s doing her best to learn and be better. She becomes aware of herself and her vices, and works towards bettering herself, which was something I had hoped would be apparent from the beginning.

The romance was pushed to the side – rightly so, I would say, to make way for the larger themes at hand, such as Margot’s struggle with her identity. It was explored more in the second half, as well as her fraught relationship with her local Bronx friends, and the dynamic between her and her community. Her relationship with her parents and her brother was explored deeply; we got to see her home life, her past relationship with her brother and how he changed. We see them interact more, we see exactly what went wrong and how. This, I felt, was infinitely more important than some of the stuff being explored in the first half, and the new turn the book took definitely did wonders for it.

I had issues with the writing as well; I often felt like I was being fed messages and lessons, rather than being shown them. For example, often a dialogue would take place between Margot and someone else, and it would largely be obvious from the dialogue what is implied, but the next paragraph would explain it to the reader anyway. It felt as if the author doubted the reader’s intelligence to critically and analytically read deeply enough to gather implications without them being outwardly stated- but perhaps that’s just me and my strange personal preferences.

Ultimately, despite all my issues, I did enjoy this book- and it’s an important book at that with a diverse cast of characters, set in an area of New York City often disregarded and overlooked for God knows what reason. It explores the meaning of identity and the struggles of minority youth who are thrust into environments where they are not fully represented or made to feel like they are different or Other. It’s a book I would recommend to contemporary fans, because it’s interesting, it’s nuanced, and it’s very important.

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Book Review | A List of Cages by Robin Roe

A LIST OF CAGES

FTC DISCLOSURE
In his senior year of high school, Adam Blake becomes an aide to the school psychologist to fulfill an elective. When she gives him the task of bringing to her the elusive freshman who keeps dodging their sessions every chance he gets, Adam comes face-to-face with Julian- his foster brother he hasn’t seen in over four years. Adam’s excited to be reunited with his once-brother, but Julian’s changed since the time they lived together; he’s quieter, he’s secretive and he scuttles off to God knows where every lunch period. Little does Adam know that Julian’s life at home with his uncle is tumultuous to say the least, and when Adam and Julian’s world collides, danger looms.

A List of Cages is one of those books that you won’t be able to get out of your head, no matter how hard you try. It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly what makes it tick; is it the beautifully fleshed out, lovable main characters, or the poetic simplicity with which Roe writes? Is it the undoubtable ability of the story to grip you and never let go, or the stunningly woven themes of friendship and kindness in a sea of books where both concepts are overlooked? There is so much that Roe does right, and the small things add up to bigger things which add up to the binding of ink and paper with a story this heart-achingly beautiful within.

For me, the characters are what made the story soar, especially because Julian served as a mirror; he reminded me a lot of myself, so much so that I wondered whether Roe had written the story about me. He’s socially awkward and extremely shy, choosing to spend his lunch periods in a secret hole he discovered at school. He’d rather sit in the dark, eat his food and read a childhood favorite than sit in a cafeteria where people would have the chance to make fun of him. He’s painfully polite; even when situations make him uncomfortable, he’ll sit through them because he doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings. He’s one of those characters that feels like such a real person that you can’t help but feel everything he feels. You can’t help but grow so fond, so attached to him that every horrible thing he goes through impacts you so emotionally.

Adam, too, feels incredibly real. His carnal desire to protect Julian from harm often leaves him paralyzed to do anything useful, which is something so realistic yet left unexplored in literature. He’s easygoing and amicable- popular, attractive, fun, but deeply flawed in his own ways. He didn’t resonate with me quite in the same way that Julian did, but he was a well-developed, lovable character that I’m sure will resonate with many others.

This novel explores so many important issues- it’s not just a sad, emotional story, but an important one at that. It explores the pitfalls of child protective services, the lack of useful resources to abused children, how trauma in childhood can deeply impact kids well into their lives. Adam has ADHD, and Julian is dyslexic, and neuro-diversity in literature is extremely important- the way it’s explored in the book, as aspects of each character but not letting it define either of them as people, is extremely well-done.

But despite my gushing, it had its flaws too. For one, there were so many secondary and peripheral characters, and while the secondary ones were sufficiently developed, the peripheral ones were largely flat and background noise. I also felt that Adam’s romantic storyline was unnecessary, and the time spent on his love story could have been employed to more development in the other characters- it would’ve been a stronger book had that happened. But it’s a cohesive story, beautifully written, extremely profound, and something that will stay with you long after you’ve closed it. Pick it up. Really. Do it.

TRIGGER WARNING

Chronic child abuse (physical and emotional).

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Book Review | Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST

Parker lost her sight in a car accident that killed her mother when she was young. Since then, her father was her everything. They had a close-knit relationship, and he was her best friend. But three months before the novel takes place, Parker’s dad died of an overdose on anti-depressants. She had no idea he was even on them. Now living in her dad’s house with her aunt and her aunt’s family, Parker hasn’t cried ever since the day he died. Not even once. And Parker shrouds herself in a thick armor. She doesn’t need vision to see through your bullshit; she has a list of rules that you cannot break. Fool her once, and you won’t get a second chance. She’s created a balance for herself, but that balance is thrown off kilter when Scott Kilpatrick – her bestfriend turned boyfriend when she was thirteen – shows up at her high school.

Not If I See You First is shelved under romance on Goodreads, but that’s a straight-up lie. This is not a romance book. It is a book about one girl’s struggle with her unwillingness to feel grief, her life after the demise of her parents, her struggles with letting people in without treating them like crap. This is a story about Parker’s growth, her development from a closed-off, bitter young woman to who she is at the end of the novel. Romance plays a role, but this is not a book with a romance between Parker and Scott, or Parker and some other love interest. It’s a ‘romance’ between Parker and her girl friendships, between Parker and her new family, between Parker and herself. Don’t go into this expecting a romance, because you won’t get it.

And in many ways, that’s the strongest feat of the novel. Lindstrom seems to have a set plan in mind from the get-go. Parker is the main character, and the rest is background noise. Anything not revolving around our protagonist is given little to no thought, and usually that’s a bother for someone like me who prefers ‘wholesome’ contemporaries, but not this one (not that this book isn’t wholesome because it really is). Because Parker’s strength as a character is such a powerful force that you begin to see everything through her eyes. You feel her anger, her frustration, the private moments of grief that she allows herself to feel. She feels like an actual person, and when you turn the last page, you feel a sense of loss because you got to know her. You got to be with her, and despite her severe flaws, despite her vices, you grow to love Parker. Like a sister, like a friend, like someone you can look up to.

I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t wary in the beginning of the book. Parker’s such a sarcastic, sharp-tongued, quippy, bitter person that you ask yourself, “Do I want to read a book where the main character, who is blind, is so bitter?” I was under the misconception that Parker was so closed-off because she’d lost her sight, but as the novel progresses, as things begin to unfold and fall into place, it becomes apparent that this was never a book about Parker being blind or her struggles. She does struggle, but she also doesn’t let her disability dictate what she can do. She’s a runner, she’s a good student, she’s completely independent. And this is something a lot of authors can learn from – Lindstrom doesn’t share Parker’s disability, so a story about her disability and her struggles is not a story for him to write. (Here’s a review written by a person who is blind.) But he can write about grief. Parker’s short-temper and frustration is a by-product of her forbidding herself to feel, because she believes that to feel is to be weak. This story is about grief and loss, and most of all, friendship.

It’s unfortunate that so few YA books that I’ve read emphasize the importance of friendship. They usually go something like – boy meets girl, one of them is going through crap, they fall in love and learn to cope. Which is fine, but how about friendship? This novel puts friendship to the forefront. Parker would never learn from her mistakes if she didn’t let her friends in. She would completely break down in her home environment if she didn’t start communicating with her aunt and cousin. Even with regards to Scott, most of the book looks at him through the lens of best friend rather than ex-boyfriend. He understood Parker, he helped her without ever making her realize that she was being helped, and she misses him because he was her best friend, not because they share some great kisses. Friendship. Parker and friendship – that’s what this book is about.

But despite all my praise, this isn’t a perfect book by any means. Because romance felt like such an insignificant part of the story, I wasn’t fully invested in the other love interest introduced. I would have loved more closure with regards to Parker’s home life, because despite being the most interesting aspect of the narrative for me, it was largely skimmed over – some parts left abandoned – at the end. But despite these minor issues, Not If I See You First is an incredible, beautifully written story that I won’t forget for a long, long time.

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Book Review | Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is closed off from the outside world- no solicitations, no guests, no visitors. The children inside aren’t ordinary; their experiences wouldn’t be called normal. All over the world, children disappear through cracks of the world. They walk into mirrors, disappear in bodies of water, crawl into the shadows, transporting from our world to somewhere else. The world they go to is a world that seems to be made specifically for them; these kids feel like they belong. But magical worlds don’t give outsider children permanent residence. When they’re kicked out, back in their old lives, Eleanor West takes them in, determined to get them back on their feet so they can cope with their carnal desire to return. Very few, if any, return. Nancy is one of these kids. When Nancy encounters a tragedy at the Home, people begin to suspect her – things were going fine before she arrived. To clear her name and figure out what’s happening, Nancy sets out to uncover the truth.

Every Heart a Doorway turns from a whimsical, strange read to an incredibly dark one- abruptly, but deliciously. The first half of the novel is beautifully written, but it was largely world-building and dialogue more than plot. Consequently, I found myself getting lost a lot, bogged down by the intricacies of the world of the book, trying to keep up with everything that was said and left unsaid. The plot only kicks in at the half-mark, and after that, I was hooked. Plot-wise, this novella is fantastic. It’s paced well, it’s unpredictable  (for the most part) with twists and turns scattered throughout the narrative. But by far, the strength of the book lies in its world-building.

Or rather… the potential in the world-building. There’s something incredibly comforting in the idea that anybody who feels like they don’t belong has a place that will take them. On the flip side, the idea that you’ll lose your sense of comfort and belonging so abruptly by some force unknown is equally terrifying. Coupled with McGuire’s winding, dense prose, you marvel at the expanse of her imagination. But that’s about it…

Because while the potential and the elements of the imagination were there in theory, they didn’t translate well onto the page. Since the book was so short – so much so that it’s called a novella, not a novel – there wasn’t nearly enough room to explore the potential of the world-building. Most of the explanations were done through dialogue and introspection rather than actual action. You don’t get to see any of these worlds. You don’t get to see the underworld-like universe that Nancy was expelled from. For the most part, I felt like this novel was a paraphrased, abridged version of a larger work- the latter would have detailed, vivid scenes where we got to step into these different universes and see how they operated. The novella feels like a tease, and I disliked finishing the story still feeling like I needed to see more. Imagine you’re given a teaser trailer of a really great film- and then the film just never comes out. This is how the book felt to me.

Moreover, as someone who’s reading taste is largely drawn to character-driven stories, I felt that none of the characters were fully fleshed out. Sure, I understood who Nancy was, but vaguely. Again, I think this has something to do with just how short the book was. You can’t fit in such dense conceptual world-building and a gripping plot into just over 200 pages, and then expect to have multilayered characters either. I’m absolutely certain that I would have enjoyed this book so much more had it been a hundred or a couple hundred pages longer.

Having said that, it’s not a bad book, and it’s not a book that I would ever refrain from recommending. First of all, the main character is asexual, and we barely have any ace rep in literature, so just that alone should be a reason to pick this up. Secondly, my issues were preference-based. I don’t like plot-driven stories. If you do, you’ll adore this. It’s worth picking up just because the world-building is so intricate and well-planned, and the writing is absolutely stunning- me, I wasn’t a massive fan.

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday | #16

DIVERSE SPOTLIGHT


Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by yours truly. Every week, you come up with one book in each of three different categories: a diverse book you have read and enjoyed, a diverse book on your TBR, and one that has not yet been released. You can check out the announcement post for more information.

Hello, everyone! So, I know I’ve been neglecting this weekly feature for the past few weeks, and I’m really sorry about that, but there were several reasons. 1) I was on vacation in Los Angeles, and was so stupidly busy with family, which meant that 2) I wasn’t keeping up with book news, or reading. Which means that 3) I wasn’t reading nearly as much as I would have liked, and so I was lacking on recommendations for this post in general.

Now that I’m back home and am slowly getting back into the swing of things, I’m reading more and have been keeping an eye out for new releases. Hopefully I’ll be more regular now. 🙂


READ

25526296Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This was a fairly recent read for me- I read it for one of the squares in the Diversity Bingo 2017 bingo sheet. I’ve only ever read one other book revolving around an asexual character, which was why this one immediately caught my eye. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting when I went into it, but it certainly wasn’t what I got. Which isn’t a bad thing. It’s a strange mix of fantasy and magical realism, where teenagers who don’t feel like they fit in their mundane lives find doors or portals to worlds where they feel like they belong. Our main character is one such person who was taken to an underworld of sorts- but she was removed from her world and thrown back into our world. She’s sent to a school where teens who have gone through a similar process are trying to recuperate and get over their worlds.

The book definitely took a twist for the better; from a whimsical, magical read, it turned into a grotesque, dark read that never really left its whimsical tone. I flew through it – I’m pretty sure I read it in one day because I couldn’t put it down. It was far from perfect, but it’s one that I’d recommend to anyone looking for an interesting, fast-paced read. Also, there’s a trans side character!


Goodreads | Amazon

tbr

28763485The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

If you’ve keeping up with my seldomly-updated blog (honestly, props to you), you might know that I recently read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. And I had very many problems; I don’t usually say I despise books, but Everything, Everything holds a special place in my “highly disliked books” list. It wasn’t because it was boring or badly written, or some problem or another with the characters; I just had many, many issues with the disability representation in the novel. If you’d like to read my review, you can find it here.

However, I’d still like to give Nicola Yoon a second chance- especially because I’ve heard that her new book is a massive improvement even from people that were hurt by the first one. The premise sounds interesting though it’s raised some red flags for insta-love. A girl, on the verge of being deported with her family to Jamaica, falls in love with Daniel- who’s a straight-cut teen who doesn’t believe in fate, whose plan didn’t include this. Insta-love is a hard sell for me, but from the reviews I’ve seen, this book apparently pulls it off. And I’m looking forward to digging in.


Goodreads | Amazon

coming soon

32075671The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has been making all the rounds recently, and with good reason. I was lucky enough to score an ARC of this late in November, and I started reading it almost immediately. It honestly blew me away. I’m always wary of books that have hype surrounding them, and this was #1 on the hype train for me, but Angie Thomas proved to be such a wonderful, poignant, empathetic writer. Her characters felt like real people; I grew so fond of the main character and her struggles, her relationships with her family, boyfriend and friends. I was hooked from start to finish, and it was a near-perfect book.

I’ve often said, with regards to this particular novel, that it’s going to be a game-changer. My feelings about that haven’t changed even two months after I turned the last page; this book is going to change the YA game, I can feel it. It covers so many important issues, like race relations in the United States, microaggressions in day-to-day life, socioeconomic status, racial profiling, police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, cultural appropriation, the role of media and social media networks in crime. The scope of issues this novel covers is far and wide, and each of these issues is done justice. It’s truly a beautiful read and if you haven’t pre-ordered it or added it to your TBR, what are you doing?

 This novel releases on February 28th, 2017

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If I Was Your Girl: well-rounded, nuanced, full of hope

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo


Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Disclaimer: this book’s main character is a trans girl, and I am a cisgender person. I will refrain from speaking about trans representation in the book because I do not think I am qualified to talk about it.

If I Was Your GirlIf I Was Your Girl follows the story of Amanda, a trans girl who recently moved to Lambertsville, Tennessee to live with her father. Her life back home was difficult; despite having a loving mother, she was bullied relentlessly and was even assaulted- so much so that she attempted suicide. Now, she’s far away and she’s hoping to start over new with a father who’s been absent for most of her life, where nobody knows who she is and where she can keep anything she wants hidden to herself.

Meredith Russo’s debut is strong- one that kept me hooked from start to finish, which had me caring for most of the characters deeply, one that felt real without seeming heavy-handed. Russo does an incredible job of balancing the elements in her narrative; we get to see Amanda’s traumatic past through flashbacks that give just enough away without being overly graphic. We get to see her relationship with her mother in these flashbacks, and see her relationship with her father develop from one that is reserved, wary to one that is warm and protective. We see her school life, her relationship with her friends, and the romance, of course.

But that’s easily achievable- what really makes this book stick out is how deeply nuanced and complex each of these facets is. Her relationship with her parents is never perfect; both of them clearly love her, and she clearly loves them too. But they make mistakes that truly hurt Amanda, and the way Russo made her protagonist maneuver around their complicated relationship was such a delight to read. In the same vein, the conflict between Amanda’s father and Amanda was palpable. He hasn’t been around almost her entire life, and now she’s coming to depend on him as her sole caretaker. The push-and-pull between them was deeply nuanced, and I really enjoyed seeing both of them grow.

I also thought Amanda’s relationship with her new female friends was beautifully handled. She clearly has issues with religion; she struggles with accepting a faith that has hurt her in the past, that people have used to alienate her. Yet in this new town, most of her friends, including her boyfriend’s family, are super religious. Concerned that they’ll shun her if they find out that she’s trans, she keeps part of her identity hidden. To see her try to figure out who she can and cannot trust is difficult; you empathize and feel for Amanda so much throughout the book, but ultimately, this is a book of hope. It’s a book of silver linings where yes, bad things happen, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel and life is worth holding onto that light.

Having said all that, I did have issues, which were all technical issues. Firstly, considering everything this novel dealt with – homophobia, transphobia, parental issues, friendship issues, romantic subplots, religious subplots – I thought it was too short. While I’m so glad that this was a well-rounded contemporary, there was room for more. Each aspect of Amanda’s life could be pushed more, particularly her relationship with Grant. I felt that it was a little insta-lovey; they meet, she likes him, he likes her, they fall in love. I wanted to see more casual interactions with them, where there relationship builds and we see the chemistry between them. Right now, I didn’t feel invested in their romance because it was sort of just handed to us.

Secondly, I felt that Amanda’s trouble with religion was left dangling at the end of the book, which was a bummer because that was the part of the book I related the most to. I wanted to see her reach a conclusion – if not that, some sort of compromise, considering how much it was brought up throughout the narrative. In the end, the theme just flickered out and didn’t reach a full resolution. Which was a problem I had with the end, in general. I loved the plot aspects of the ending; Russo did a brilliant job of balancing the happy with the bittersweet, but it was rushed. I guess I’m saying that I just wanted more meat to the bones of the novel; if it were a hundred and fifty more pages, it could’ve been great. I also felt that despite the complexities of the themes and relationships in the novel, that complexity lacked within the actual characters. I cared about them, sure, but their personalities weren’t fully developed, I thought.

The writing, too, didn’t have any flavor to it. Which is not to say it was bad- it was just okay. There wasn’t anything distinct about Russo’s style, but I’m not going to complain too much about that because this is a debut, and writers keep maturing and developing their narrative style and voice as they write. I know that I’ll be on the lookout for her other books, because I think Russo has the ability to become one of the best contemporary writers of this time. Because despite my complaints, this is an incredibly important book. A book that I will recommend until my dying day because it’s a book that needs to be read by everyone. Everyone. If I could make it required reading for every parent, every teacher, every teenager, every person who interacts with other human beings, I would.


Trigger warnings: homophobia, transphobia, suicide attempt, depression, assault, forced coming out


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The Ultimate Guide to Diverse YA Books Releasing in 2017: January – June

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Hello, everyone! With the start of the new year, I thought I’d get back on track with blogging with a list of diverse books coming out this year. Although we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to diversity in literature, I’m so proud that we’ve come so far. When I went scouring for diverse YA books releasing this year, I came across so many great-sounding ones that I had to split my list into 2- Part 1 will focus on releases in January to June, and Part 2 will focus on July to December.

One of my resolutions this year is to read as diversely as possible; it’s sad that I didn’t really understand the importance of the movement until late last-year. I want to focus my reading time this year reading as many diverse books as possible. There are many great events hosted by bloggers from all over the world that might help you do the same. Naz @ Read Diverse Books has come up with a brilliant incentive for bloggers to read and review diverse literature; there will be quarterly giveaways and prizes, and it’s an interactive experience where you can blog-hop and discover other bloggers who read diversely.

I, along with other bloggers, am hosting Diversity Bingo 2017, which is a bingo sheet comprising of 36 squares- each pertaining to a different facet of diversity. The goal is to read one book for each square by the end of 2017.

As for this post, this is by no means a definitive list. The “ultimate” in the title is there because it makes for a catchy title, hehe. If there are any books that are diverse releases of 2017 that I missed, please, please let me know in the comments below and I will add them. Help me out here; there is no way I can do this alone. <3


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Again, I cannot do this alone. I’d love to spotlight as many diverse reads as possible- if there’s any I missed (that you haven’t heard anything problematic about) let me know and I’ll add it to the list. As I become aware of more diverse books, I’ll add those to the list too. If you have any suggestions, leave those in the comments as well.

Note: diverse literature extends beyond YA, of course. While much of my reading remains focused on YA, I try and make an effort to read diversely in the adult genre too, and I urge you to do the same. It’s virtually impossible for me to compile a list of diverse lit. if I encompass all genres, so this list was clearly YA exclusive. But again- there’s so much to read out there; keep your horizons open. And as always, thanks for stopping by and happy reading. 🙂

Diversity Bingo 2017 Announcement & TBR


Diversity Bingo 2017 Announcement


Hey, all. Today I’m coming to you with an announcement, as well as a TBR. A few friends and I came together after the success of Diversity December Bingo to bring to you a year-long readathon, of sorts. In an effort to read diversely year-long rather than just reading diversely in a given month, we made a bingo sheet of 36 boxes, each box giving you a theme for a diverse read. The goal is to read 36 diverse books by the end of the year; hopefully, that’ll help a lot of us diversify our reading, pick up books that we may not have otherwise and come together as a blogging and reading community for a cause that is near and dear to my heart.

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My TBR


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I’m so excited for this event; it’s introduced me to so many exciting books that I really want to get to. I haven’t been reading nearly as much as I would like to recently, so maybe this readathon will get my reading back on track as well.


Want to Participate?


If you like what you see and are interested in participating, you can add a link to your TBR in the comments section (if you can, please link back to this post so other people can see the announcement!) I’ll add your name to a masterlist in this post. 🙂

 This TBR can be on Instagram, Twitter, your blog, YouTube- wherever, as long as it’s a TBR. You can also use the #DiversityBingo2017 hashtag on social media to see what others are reading and to participate in discussions and such. I hope that you’ll give this a chance and will help us make this a success. Good luck <3

 

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