Book Reviews

Review|Bad Feminist By Roxane Gay

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Published: August 5th 2014 by Harper Perennial

Source: Local Library

Format: Adult, Nonfiction, Essays, Feminism

Synopsis: Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

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Spoiler Free Review:

I feel like when most people look at the cover of this book, they might expect a misandrist piece of work about how men are trash and how women need to be put up on a pedestal and be recognized of their greatness and how they’ll soon takeover the planet, leaving men in the dust. How I wish that could be a reality. But I don’t think they actually took the time to really look at the title, Bad Feminist. What does Roxane Gay mean when she says bad? What Bad Feminist offers is a nuanced image of gender and what feminism means to her. Feminism means something different to each individual and it’s both a controversial and divided topic among people, feminist or otherwise. But what I think makes this piece of feminist lit different from the rest is in the title itself. It shows the many imperfections behind feminism and its true meaning.

Through a series of essays, Gay brings up a variety  of issues while bringing her personal story in to it as well. She talks about her as a college professor, at a weight loss camp, her own experience with sexual assault. There’s analyses on other works of feminist literature and literal book reviews. Some essays were sardonic, while others were painful to read. In particular, there was mentions of trigger warnings and how it represents people wanting to hide underneath a safety blanket and not face whatever fear they’re hiding from. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything Gay was discussing, it was interesting to get a perspective on trigger warnings I hadn’t realized before. Trigger warnings are meant to protect those who may have traumatic experience(s) attached to the topic until they feel ready to confront it if they want to. While I do understand the importance of trigger warnings and I do condone them, it was intriguing to get another point of view.

While reading these essays, some may seem completely unrelated to the main topic of feminism. However, feminism at it’s core is about equality and all of these deal with some form of inequality. In particular, I loved when Roxane Gay discussed how she was a bad feminist, her flaws and others flaws in feminism. How she doesn’t hate men and finds them quite interesting. How gender is much more gray than society realizes, just as gray as feminism itself. I think these are the kind of things I would love to see more of in feminism, the gray areas that no one seems to talk about.

To me, Bad Feminist is a staple in feminist literature because it represents what I love about feminist and what I’d love to see in feminism. Though I didn’t necessarily love every essay, it still definitely serves as learning material in exploring feminism, and even if you aren’t a feminist, I would still try reading it. Feminism isn’t the only thing explore in this book so I would recommend, feminist or otherwise. Trust me when I say Roxane Gay’s honest truth will not disappoint.

Rating: 4/5

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Book Reviews

Review|Exit West By Mohsin Hamid

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Published: March 7th 2017 by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group

Source: Overdrive Library

Format: Audiobook Narrated By Mohsin Hamid

Genre: Adult, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism

Synopsis: In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

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Spoiler Free Review:

The most accurate emotion I associate with this book is melancholy. It’s a story about two people ultimately trying to escape the brink of war and enter a safe refuge. There was something so beautifully sad about the arc of this story, the writing and characters as well as the narration of the audiobook.

The writing is strangely vibrant even with the ever-present gloomy tone of the story. Hamid’s narration isn’t overflowing withe emotion, but it fits the story. (of course, him being the author as well does make the narration that much better). The setting first takes place in an unnamed city which is inspired off of refugee cities in the Middle East. The story mainly revolves around Nadia and Saeed, the impending war in the city, the mysterious doors that transport to different places and their love story.

Throughout the story, there’s always this air of mystery about nearly every aspect of the plot. It seemed like the author was withholding a part of the plot from the reader and while it was fitting, it was a little too much mystery, in my opinion. There really isn’t any context behind this war, just that there’s a civil war and a military threat. The magical door was unexplained as well. How exactly did it come into view? It did remind me of the doorways in Every Heart A Doorway By Seanan McGuire. However, this is a character driven story so I can see why the plot wasn’t as prevalent in the story and some things are left unexplained.

I found Nadia and Saeed to both be very interesting characters. Nadia, in particular, represented the “modern, independent woman.” One thing I found interesting was how she wore a “black robe” which is clearly a jilbāb that Muslim women wear. When Saeed asked her why she wore it, she replied, “So men don’t fuck with me.” Although, it was amusing and I immediately liked her afterward, I’m pretty skeptical about it as well. Wearing a “black robe” doesn’t necessarily protect you from men which is proven in the amount of Muslim women who wear a jilbāb and are assaulted, sexually or otherwise. I did understand the sentiment behind it and the statement is later proven to be wrong. It also made me curious as to what religion was followed in the city they lived in. There were of course implications it was Islam, but then there were mentions of a priest as well. It was still intriguing to read about because it’s easy to tell the author drew inspirations from different practices.

The book ends somewhat tragically, though not the way you might be expecting. For an alternate universe, it felt quite realistic which I felt added a lot more to the scope of the story. Highlight for spoiler: In many books, there’s always the happy ending with a couple, they end up being together until the end of time which may be the case for some but not all. It was interesting to see two people fall in love and eventually fall out love which is far more realistic. Overall, a much more thought provoking story than what I was expecting. You might come out of it feeling quite pensive, but I would say the high praise for this book is well deserved.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Reviews

Review |The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue By Mackenzi Lee

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Published: June 27th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books

Source: Overdrive Library

Format: Audiobook Narrated By (young Voldemort himself) Chris Coulson

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+, Romance

Synopsis: An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

It’s rare to find historical fiction novels as charmingly hilarious as The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. While the plot may be quite conventional and the main character Monty is painfully privileged and ridiculous, the audiobook was incredibly done and it also brought up issues that I don’t normally see in historical fiction. It’s rare to find historical fiction that discusses LGBTQ+ and sexuality and the struggle of not being straight and white so ultimately this book was a success.

Young Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA Voldemort AKA Chris Coulsen perfectly captured all of the voices in the audiobook. The whiny, dramatic tone of Monty, soft, brave Percy and intelligent, demanding Felicity. The audio performance is definitely the best way to read this story, it makes it a 100 times better. As for the story, it mainly revolves around these three traveling Europe, initially for a grand tour which eventually turns into a chase. The plot is predictable and pretty convenient and the it isn’t the winning point of the story. However, what I loved was how Lee weaved discussions about mental health, sexuality and race in a YA historical fiction. There were several points where Monty’s privilege was brought up in the best ways possible. There’s a character who has epilepsy and the stigma around it was handled very well.

Monty kind of reminded me of the “whiter and younger version” of Magnus Bane from The Shadowhunter Chronicles By Cassandra Clare. He’s flamboyant and flirtatious, and like younger Magnus did, he always ends up in big trouble. Felicity was the equivalent of myself, we’re both the same age, a raging feminist with an older brother (though mine is a different type of annoying) and if I’m correct, we’re both asexual. I don’t know if I can say she’s my favorite because we’re so similar and it may seem narcissistic but I still love her.

Overall, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue was really fun and enjoyable and definitely worth the hype for me. The companion sounds even better, it follows Felicity and her nerdy, science girl group which I am all here for.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Reviews

Review|Ramona Blue By Julie Murphy

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Published: May 9th 2017 by Balzer + Bray

Source: Overdrive Library

Format: Audiobook Narrated By Thérèse Plummer

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

If you’re active in the book community, you might have heard of the controversy surrounding Ramona Blue before its release date. It seemed homophobic to many that a book about a girl who believed she was lesbian and was “made straight” by a boy. This is clearly not the case in this story and is actually based off of the author’s ownvoices experience. This story focuses on friendship, specifically the fluidity of sexuality and it ended up surprising me in the best possible way.

I ended up finishing the audiobook in a a day which never happens, especially for a 9 hour audiobook. The narrator fit the story perfectly, the soft Southern accent just fulfilled the atmosphere. Speaking of, the story does take place in a small town in Mississippi and most people would expect the story to be white and straight people. But I was happy to see that there were POC and non-straight characters who lived in the small town. Not ever small town is white and straight which is evident.

To me Ramona was reminiscent of Adam Parrish from The Raven Cycle By Maggie Stiefvater. Both “white trailer trash,” juggling work and school, though minus the abuse and horrible life Parrish led. Though Ramona had the support of family and friends and I think I like Parrish (I’m a sucker for clever, ambitions magician Parrish) better which isn’t a surprise. Ramona was actually similar to Grace in How to Make a Wish By Ashley Herring Blake so if you like Grace’s character, you might like Ramona as well.

A few people did say that they found Freddie, (the supposed love interest) to be bland and boring. I can definitely see why but I thought he was pretty charming. One of my favorite parts of the novel was when they talked about each other’s privilege. Freddie as a straight dude and Ramona as a white girl. Their relationship was one of the best apart of the story, the friendship was genuine and believable. However, there were still elements of age typical angst and drama that I thought could have been kept to the bare minimum.

Overall, Ramona Blue was a pleasant surprise for me. The audiobook really was it for me and one of the highlights of the story, I also found it to be relatable, specifically Ramona’s confusion about her sexuality and learning about the fluidity of sexuality. As someone who struggled with what label I “needed” to put on myself, this was refreshing, to say the least. Would definitely recommend especially if you enjoyed How to Make a Wish By Ashley Herring Blake.

Rating: 4/5

Book Reviews

Review|They Both Die At The End By Adam Silvera

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Published: September 5th 2017 by HarperTeen

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

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Spoiler Free Review:  

Adam Silvera never ceases to crush my heart. He loves to fill your soul with hope only to drop it all in one single sweep. But for some reason, I can’t stop reading his books. They Both Die At The End has the recurring morbid theme that you’ve seen before in Adam Silvera’s novels, though this one focuses more on living for once. It was heartbreakingly predictable but also unpredictable as well. There was this clear impending doom throughout the story, but the way it happened wasn’t actually what I was expecting.

The way They Both Die At The End is told is simalar to The Sun is Also a Star By Nicola Yoon where we get dual perspectives from Rufus and Mateo along with random strangers that they directly or indirectly encounter throughout the day. Though I did find the chapters from the strangers’ perspectives to be far more cohesive than TSIAAS. The whole concept of Death Cast was definitely interesting but I wish there was more of an exploration on it. I assumed it would be more of a “trick the system” story which it didn’t turn out to be. I would have loved to learn more about Death Cast and sci-fi behind it. It was however, interesting to see how it affected a person, not just the person who was supposed to die but the person who works for Death Cast and has the burden of delivering the message.

The story primarily focuses on the relationship between Mateo and Rufus and them living their lives to the fullest (as cheesy as it sounds) on their last day. They end up exploring New York City and I think at one point they end up going to Queens (my hometown! :D) which was nostalgic. All of Adam’s books have taken place in NYC and as as a fellow New Yorker who used to live there, the atmosphere alwaus makes me feel nostalgic. The relationship between Mateo and Rufus was done similarly to The Sun is Also a Star. Despite taking place over the course of one day, it felt authentic. There was a legitimate friendship and bond between the two of them.

Like I mentioned, there is a clear impending doom in this story so don’t expect a unexpected happy ending. But I think if you look past the title and what the synopsis is supposed to bring, you’ll see the actual message of the novel. Overall, another beautiful story delivered by Adam Silvera. Hopefully his next novel won’t be as heartbreaking as he promised so maybe I’ll be able to review some happiness.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

 

Book Reviews

Review|Swimming Lessons By Claire Fuller

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Published: February 7th 2017 by Tin House Books

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Family Drama

Synopsis: Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

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Spoiler Free Review:

I like to think of this book as similar to Everything I Never Told You By Celeste Ng, but the whiter version of it. Personally, I really didn’t end up enjoying this story, it felt like a cop out of a mystery complete with ridiculous characters and an overdone story-line.

The story is told in dual perspective, one chapter told form Flora and the other told in letter format from Ingrid. I assumed their would be some discovery of the letters from Flora but there wasn’t any of that. Instead, Flora wallowed in her problems and tried to search for her mother in the most of clever of ways. I really don’t think there was much of a point in Flora’s perspective, it didn’t offer anything more than how Ingrid’s children are doing in the future. The letters were a better part of the story, depressing and vivid, if a bit dramatic.

The story primarily focuses on the doomed marriage between Ingrid and Gil which I wasn’t expecting. It was toxic and horrid and all around unhealthy. It’s not necessarily a spoiler, since it’s proven from the start. Gil is an utter asshole (fair warning) and Ingrid is young, to say the least. Also, there is a teacher-student relationship present in this story (a trope I absolutely despise), so if you don’t like them, be aware of it before you go in.  In my opinion, I would appreciated more of a focus on the mother-daughter relationship which didn’t have much of a presence.

The other characters are either one dimensional or very unlikable. Normally, it would be interesting to read about unlikable characters, but the problem there was nothing interesting about most of them. I was interested in Nan’s story, as a nurse and how she literally held the entire family together. I feel like stories of the apparent boring and responsible sibling are never written. The ending of this book doesn’t necessarily resolve much and I think calling this story a mystery would be a stretch, it’s more of a contemporary family saga.

Overall, this book didn’t do much for me, it was definitely forgettable. If you did read this book, I would recommend Everything I Never Told You By Celeste Ng since I found it to be more profound than this novel. If you did read EVINTY, then I would recommend giving this a try if you like the genre of contemporary family stories. This book personally wasn’t for me but it still holds some redeemable qualities.

Rating: 2/5

 

Book Reviews

Review|Saints and Misfits By S.K. Ali

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Published: June 13th 2017 by Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Muslim MC

Synopsis: Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Like the monster at my mosque.

People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.

Except me.

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Trigger warning for descriptions of attempted rape. 

Spoiler Free Review:

When it comes to reading about a book with a Muslim, hijabi main character, I’m both excited to read a book about someone like me and very skeptical because correct representation is always important to me. Saints and Misfits is definitely the most accurate representation I’ve found in a fictional story. The author is easily able to capture the life of a Muslim teen, someone who attends mosque events, wears a hijab and experiences the typical teenage dilemmas. Though I did have a few issues with the book they’re more my personal issues rather than the story as a whole.

One of the most important things that this book captured is that Muslims do live ordinary lives.  Janna had hobbies, she liked photography and the author Flannery O’Connor. It felt like your quintessential, YA coming-of-age story which in this case isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The book was definitely targeted towards Non-Muslims and Muslims alike, but the incorporation of Islam never felt forced. Janna being Muslim fit in effortlessly just like how it is in most Muslim’s lives.

Janna is half Egyptian and half Indian, which was nice to see since in most Muslim rep. the character is always Middle Eastern (South Asian Muslims exist). Her experiences as a hijabi and growing up in a Muslim family were relatable and the experiences felt very realistic. However, I couldn’t seem to connect with the main character (Janna and I are actually the same age) which unfortunately did affect my enjoyment of the story. Again, this is more of a personal issue, but, I felt like their was a bit of generalization with the portrayal of teenagers in this book. I am aware that all teenagers are petty, make stupid decisions and are melodramatic. But in particular, I didn’t really  like how both of Janna’s friends were both boy crazy. It rubbed me the wrong way since so many girls who aren’t even interested in boys or in anyone. In my opinion, it would be nice to not see a conventional depictions of a teenager. Her friends felt recycled caricatures and people I’ve read about before. I also wish there was someone to there who told Janna she didn’t need a boyfriend.

Granted, I’ve never truly experienced a romantic crush before and I don’t necessarily understand the teenager emotions of “falling for someone.”  In fact, I have Muslim friends (girls) and they’ve had crushes on boys. But it was more or less admiration from a distance, they never actively sought out a relationship since it is haram. I felt like Janna’s crush was a little too childish and petty for me. I don’t know if it’s just me, but this consistently bothered me throughout the story. (Also, did it have to be a conventionally attractive, generic white boy?) In all honesty, I wish that the whole crush wasn’t included in the story, I think there’s enough books where a Muslim girl has a crush on a Non-Muslim white boy or really any boy.

On a more positive note, I loved the family dynamic, specifically the relationship Janna had with her brother. It was genuine and honest and felt like it was told from the author’s first hand experience. The Muslim dating experience was perfect. The awkwardness and third wheeling was spot on. I always like to compare Muslim dating to Pacific Rim, you meet someone and see if you’re drift compatible which is basically how it went.

Janna’s mom was really supportive and encouraging which is refreshing to me since there have always depictions of close minded, traditional Muslim parents. Additionally, Janna’s involvement in her masjid, her uncle being a supportive uncle and imam were showed a positive atmosphere at a masjid which is important. There’s so much more to it than people are aware of and I was really glad to see it.

Another thing I really appreciated was the “monster” who attempted to rape Janna was considered a saint at the masjid. I know from experience, a young hafiz is always put up on a pedestal and seen as the perfect Muslim, a person who can’t do any wrong and who is completely devoted to Islam. I’m not saying that they’re all terrible and deceiving, just that not all of them are perfect or the saints that appear to be. It’s a topic that’s pretty taboo in the Muslim community, that a potential rapist may exist inside the community itself. I really appreciated that S.K. Ali was able to bring the topic up in the book. However, I would have liked to see more of an insight into it instead of a rushed ending.

Overall, Saints and Misfits was definitely an important novel for me, I never see myself represented in media and reading this book was an experience. Although I couldn’t fully connect with the main character and some aspects this story, I still have an appreciation to this story and the author for finally writing about a Muslim character. The novel wasn’t perfect in my eyes, but it’s definitely a story I will remember.

Rating: 3.75/5

Book Reviews

Review|How to Make a Wish By Ashley Herring Blake

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Published: May 2nd 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance, Addiction

Synopsis: All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

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TRIGGER WARNINGS for alcohol abuse, emotional abuse, addiction and toxic parent/child relationships. If you are sensitive to either one of these, please be aware going into this novel. 

Spoiler Free Review:

How to Make a Wish was pitched to me as a summery contemporary, something I would probably never read if it didn’t include a f/f relationship and a bisexual main character. But this book went beyond and brought up issues of addiction and alcohol abuse, toxic parent/child relationships. It sunk into the deeper corners of reality and was so much more raw than I was expecting.

The story takes place around one summer in Grace’s life where her mother obtains a new boyfriend and another home. She meets Eva who is grief stricken from the recent loss of her mother. How to Make a Wish still includes the quintessential aspects to a YA contemporary, the petty drama and jealousy and awkwardness. But I also really appreciated her inclusions of realistic friendships.

The relationship with her mother was definitely the most intriguing. A few reviewers have mentioned that How to Make a Wish does have a realistic portrayal of addiction and the relationship with a parent who is struggling with addiction. Grace simultaneously played the role of the elder, cleaning up her mother’s messes but also the role of obedient child which is where the emotional abuse comes into play. It started as very subtle and innocent but gradually grew into something uncontrollable. Despite how much I enjoyed the realness of their toxic relationship, I didn’t like how it ended. I would have preferred more closure with their relationship. Highlight for spoiler: Grace just left her mother in a hotel room, helpless with no money in a terrible state. I completely understand that her mother is not healthy for her well-being, but, I still would thought she should have called someone to help her mom. Additionally, at the end of the novel, Maggie has enrolled in a behavioral health center and I wish there was more on it. How did she get herself to reach out for help when she was so completely against it? 

Obviously, there is a f/f relationship in this book and Grace herself is bisexual. F/f relationships tend to be rare in the YA literature which is really saddening. As important books with m/m relationships are, I feel like they are so much more popular than the ones with f/f/ relationships. If you look at popular bookish fandoms, the LGBTQ+ relationships always end up being m/m relationships. I think it would be important to boost the popularity of healthy f/f relationships. Eva and Grace were adorable and it was refreshing to see that it wasn’t a doomed relationship. (I mean, I would love to have deep conversations with my best friend on top of a lighthouse). Their relationship promotes girls supporting each other and communicating which is something that is so important. There was also own voices bisexual representation which I thought was done very well and so did many bisexual readers who reviewed this book.

Overall, How to Make a Wish did surprise me in a number of ways. It wasn’t a perfect novel, the ending wasn’t particularly my favorite. But it’s definitely important for children of abuse survivors to be able to have a story to relate to as well as have a positive f/f relationship and bisexual representation.

Rating: 3.75/5

 

 

Book Reviews

Review|Not Otherwise Specified By Hannah Moskowitz

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Published: March 3rd 2015 by Simon Pulse

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.

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Spoiler Free Review:

In general, I haven’t read many books focusing on eating disorders, but this book on its own is a unique mental health story. It’s always important to have stories with people seeking out therapy and to shine a positive light on therapy, but also ones where they are in recovery but it doesn’t erase the existence of their mental illness. Not Otherwise Specified was able to cover this theme along with many more.

The story mostly revolves around Etta and her newly found friends, specifically Bianca an anorexic girl at her group therapy. If you read the synopsis, you would know Bianca is 14 and Etta is 17 and it did seem like their was going to be a romance between the two. From the start, it was blatantly obvious the maturity level between the two and the idea of the two being together made me really uncomfortable. If you’re worried, just know they don’t have any romantic or sexual feelings for each other. The dynamic between them was very interesting though. It felt sisterly but at times something a lot more intense. I’m not going to spoil anything but just know Bianca and Etta definitely had the sweetest and most intriguing dynamic.

I cant speak on the bisexual representation but it is own voices so the author is clearly speaking from experience. The biphobia was spot on though. The ones being biphobic weren’t all straight, but the bullying and prejudice was just as worse. Bisexuality in general is always stigmatized and misunderstood and there was quite a bit of slut shaming, a harmful bisexual stereotype. The story isn’t romance heavy and focuses more on the friendships Etta has. I really appreciate the inclusion of the toxic friendship and friend group Etta was in. I feel like unhealthy relationships always pertain to romantic or sexual relationships when it is possible in a friendship.

Etta as a character did differ from most YA protagonists in a few ways. I saw her as more of an ambivert which is pretty rare to find in literature. As an extreme introvert, I love relating to introverts in books but it was nice to see someone who wasn’t overtly extroverted but didn’t have a hard time approaching people (one of my biggest struggles). Etta easily befriended Bianca and her friends and she fit so easily with them. I feel that especially in mental health novels, the main character is always shy and introverted which can definitely be the case but it was nice to see a more sociable protagonist.

As far as I’ve seen and read, most protagonists with eating disorders are confined to skinny white girls with anorexia. I’m not trying to undermine a persons’ experience with mental illness, but I loved that Etta wasn’t skinny and had to quit ballet because of her weight. There was discussion on the dance institutions being discriminatory towards different body types which is always important. Etta is already in recovery from her eating disorder. Her eating disorder never seems to overtake her character but was still a constant. It was nice to perspective to see there’s always the days where you relapse, where your mental illness hits you right back in the face which is what is shown in this book.

Overall, Not Otherwise Specified was able to give broader perspective on mental health, eating disorder recovery but also on bisexuality and friendship. I did feel that the ending was little rushed and abrupt but it still remained a unique story. Stories with characters like Etta are just as important and necessary in mental health novels and hopefully there will be more like Not Otherwise Specified. 

Rating: 4/5

Book Reviews

Review: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) By Victoria Schwab

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Published: June 13th 2017 by Greenwillow Books

Series: Monsters of Verity #1

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Dystopia

Synopsis: THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

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Read review for This Savage Song here. 

Spoiler Free Review:

Our Dark Duet took a turn from the first book as the story became even more darker. Schwab dove into the morale of the characters and yet again focused on the fine line between good and evil. This wasn’t my favorite Victoria Schwab book, but it was definitely one of her best written novels yet. If you look back on all of Schwab’s previous works, you can see a massive improvement in her writing. Our Dark Duet really embodied the tone of the story through the addition of poems. The poems were weaved into the story and surprisingly, they weren’t cryptic. As much as I love poetry, when they’re added into a book written in prose, it’s usually obscure. Not only did the poems make sense, but it added to the story.

I didn’t actually remember much from This Savage Song since I read it exactly a year ago. I actually had to read a recap which goes to show how little I remembered. As for the story line, it revolves around a new monster that is neither a Malchai, Corsai or Sunai. It was especially interesting because the monster didn’t take a specific form. I’ll leave it at that and have you figure it out for yourself. 😉

Schwab definitely delves deeper into the psyche of each of the characters. What makes this story so intriguing that it appears that the monsters are the villains. In reality, the monsters are a reflection of human actions, a concept I rarely ever see in YA. August and Kate are both morally grey characters and I really don’t find any of them to be lovable. In dystopia/paranormal, there’s always the  comical relief or a romantic subplot -_-, there to keep the story more engaging and make light of a conflict. What liked about Our Dark Duet was that it was a realistic portrayal, things are bleak until the very end. Did August and Kate feel very bland to me? Absolutely. But when you’re in the midst of a broken city and monsters parading around killing everyone, there isn’t much room for light and funny moments.

There is a new character introduced, Soro who is a Sunai and gender-less, they go by they/them pronouns. They were a really interesting character and I wished there was more about them. Soro was actually pretty similar to Leo, their views on sinners and thier belief  in how all of them deserved to die. The only difference to Soro was that their was more of a open mindedness to their character that wasn’t present in Leo. I would love to read a spinoff or short story from Soro’s perspective, since they were such an intriguing Sunai.

The pacing definitely varied and I did find myself bored with a lot of what was happening. The book was a little too long and a lot of parts dragged which is why it took me so long to finish. Additionally, the nature of Kate and August’s relationship was strange, to say the least. It didn’t exactly stay a solid friendship is all I’ll say. Highlight for spoiler: The scene where they kissed was really weird. Did they have any romantic feelings towards each other or was it just an intense feeling of friendship? I really don’t know but it wasn’t really addressed and I wanted some closure. I would have preferred for them to stay friends. Obviously, Kate died which I actually thought was very fitting. Reminded me of the ending of Allegiant, but Schwab executed it far better than V. Roth. 

Overall, Our Dark Duet had a very fitting conclusion to the series. Out of all of the dystopian I’ve read, the Monsters of Verity duology definitely stands out from the rest. Victoria Schwab is an exceptional and progressive author so if you haven’t read her books yet, I would highly recommend you do. 🙂

Rating: 3.75/5