7

Freakboy: This Verse Novel Makes Important Waves

Penguin2.3

Freakboy

Goodreads Rating: 3.96 Stars
431 Pages
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Publishing
Publication Date: October 22nd, 2013
Get a copy here!

From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy‘s razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: beautifully diverse; I have such a huge soft-spot for verse novels; quick read, but packed with so much to think about; this approaches diversity and gender identity in a sensitive, mature way; also covers things like bullying, abuse, and suicidal ideations; there’s also a huge focus on different types of family

This verse novel, in my opinion, gets SO many things right. Much like Ellen Hopkins, Kristin Elizabeth Clark approaches such a wide variety of themes, emotions, and moods in her writing–offering readers an intimate glimpse both into human nature and ourselves. I have always had a soft spot for verse novels, though I don’t get the chance to pick them up often. I really should work on that–they always leave me feeling broken, emotionally challenged… and so grateful for the experience.

 

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In this novel, we follow three main perspectives– Angel, Vanessa, and Brendan. Each approaches the same situation with unique and vastly different perspectives. Each made me reconsider, rethink, and readjust my perspective. Of course, there are more than just these three characters–and ALL of them are individualized, unique, and equally important. Even the bullies, even those whose opinions oppose what the narrative is striving to impart, brought this picture together…and helped to teach me, to shape me.

 

Kristin Elizabeth Clark took a challenging, difficult subject and attempted to push readers toward a different line of thinking. In my opinion, she achieved this with brilliance and poise. While the read isn’t always easy–there are some very mature subjects broached, including bullying, abuse, and suicidal ideation–there are so many important, powerful morals/messages happening throughout. This read is so, SO important, in my opinion–especially in light of recent tragic events.

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All this is to say… This book? Pick it up. Don’t let the fact that it’s written in verse hold you back–there is a heart-wrenching, powerful story to be found in these pages. No, let me rephrase that–there are at least three, but also so many more, powerful stories in these pages. Trigger warning for sensitive readers: topics include suicidal ideation; abuse (physical and emotional); assault; and bullying. If any of these are triggers for you, please be careful if you decide to pick this book up. This read will teach you something about human nature–and yourself–if you let it; even such short verse can go a long, long way and say so very much.

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5

Of Better Blood: This World is Terrifying

Penguin2.3

Of Better Blood

Goodreads Rating: 3.76 Stars
304 Pages
Aw Teen Publishing
Published: February 1st, 2016
Get a copy here!

Teenage polio survivor Rowan Collier is caught in the crossfire of a secret war against “the unfit.” It’s 1922, and eugenics the movement dedicated to racial purity and good breeding has taken hold in America. State laws allow institutions to sterilize minorities, the “feeble-minded,” and the poor, while local eugenics councils set up exhibits at county fairs with “fitter family” contests and propaganda. After years of being confined to hospitals, Rowan is recruited at sixteen to play a born cripple in a county fair eugenics exhibit. But gutsy, outspoken Dorchy befriends Rowan and helps her realize her own inner strength and bravery. The two escape the fair and end up at a summer camp on a desolate island run by the New England Eugenics Council. There they discover something is happening to the children. Rowan must find a way to stop the horrors on the island if she can escape them herself.”

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: life-ruiner!; the world in 1922 was absolutely terrifying, I am so glad I didn’t live there; this historical fiction is SUPER important, even today; lots of focus on human nature and ingrained paranoia; atmospheric, beautiful prose; the main character has a ton of personal growth; snarky, sassy characters made for some entertaining dialogue

HUGE thanks to Susan Moger, Media Masters Publicity, and Aw Teen Publishing for sending me a free copy of this title in exchange for an unbiased review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

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This book is terrifying. And not in a, “big vicious monsters and alternate worlds” sort of way. No, this book is terrifying in a completely realistic, human-nature and ingrained paranoia way. This book bleeds human nature, seeps each page in ingrained paranoia…and attempts to show readers how such judgments, how such actions, can be hugely damaging in the long-run. This story is packed with morals—and comes out a life-altering, breath-stopping read.

 

I thought, going into this, that the book was going to be nonlinear. The first few chapters are set up just as if it were—they jump times, they switch settings. They took me on a journey, and sucked me in. But once the backstory is established and Rowan’s journey begins, the time-hops stop. I didn’t notice much while reading; I was so focused on the story being woven around me, the trials and tribulations faced by our characters, that I didn’t even notice the world. I do wish the time skips had been kept throughout, even if only sporadically—they helped to show us the many different sides of the characters we grew to know so much about throughout the read. Regardless, I still love this book!

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The prose is gorgeous—poetic, atmospheric, and steeped with historical accuracy. While not every bit of this world is “real,” the ideas, the human-nature shown, all of it is realistic enough to leave me with goosebumps even now, almost a half hour after closing the covers.

 

And the characters! Rowan and Dorchy go through so much, and learn so much from each other—and the world around them. Rowan, especially, is marked by a wide-arcing and inspiring journey of self-discovery and self-love. While some of the other characters fall a bit flat and come off as 1-dimensional, I feel this is not so much a fault of the writing but instead a testament to how little Rowan, our main character, spent with those characters while such traumatizing and horrifying events were occurring. She was, after all, a bit preoccupied with other things. She was more concerned with making it through the events in one piece, and getting as many others out as possible—where Dorchy, her foil, was much more impulsive. Such vast differences helped to shape and mold our characters—and show readers that things are only impossible if YOU think they are.

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In my opinion, this book is SO important. It’s also absolutely terrifying—and wholly realistic. The lengths that people in Rowan’s world went to for the eugenics movement… There are no words to explain how impacted I was by this read, and the characters who so valiantly faced whatever obstacles were thrown at them. This is a life-ruiner, guys—if you’re a lover of historical fiction, stories focused on human nature/ingrained paranoia, or atmospheric prose, this is definitely the book for you! I recommend picking it up, for sure.

2

The Masterpiecers: A Tapestry of Action, Diversity, and Beautiful Prose

Penguin2.3

The Masterpiecers

Goodreads Rating: 4.17 Stars
352 Pages
Get a copy here!

Nineteen-year-old Ivy Redd’s talent with a needle and thread has earned her a spot on a coveted reality TV art competition set in New York’s Metropolitan Museum. The prize: a significant amount of money and instant acceptance into the Masterpiecers, the school that ensures new artists fame and fortune. Her talent has also thrust her and her twin sister, Aster, into the spotlight.

Not that Aster needed help with becoming a media favorite. She managed that on her own by running over a wanted mobster. She told the police it was self-defense, because she couldn’t tell them the truth—the truth would make her sister look bad.

Locked in an Indiana jail to await her trial, Aster watches Ivy on the small TV hanging in the dayroom. It’s the highlight of her day, until she finds out what her sister truly thinks of her. Then, observing her sister becomes a punishment far crueler than imprisonment.

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: sensitively written diversity (and lots of it!); awesome, complex, wholly individualized characters; lots of tension, mystery, and secrets to be uncovered; beautiful, melodic prose; fast-paced, action-packed plot

Huge thanks to Olivia Wildenstein and YA Bound Book Tours for sending me an egalley of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I want to start with the most obvious thing first: PENGUINS, that cover is gorgeous! I admit, when I first looked this book up on goodreads, I was only about 80% sure I wanted to read it. I will admit further….the cover? Absolutely swayed me. Something about the red against the dark background is just so subtly beautiful and creepy at the same time. I just ADORE how the cover artist designed this one, too—it’s so perfect and fitting for the story within.

 

Secondly, this book? SO. MUCH. DIVERSITY. There are POC characters; characters with mental illness (schizophrenia and PTSD); LGBTQ+ characters… Diversity SEEPS from the pages, and it’s done so, so beautifully. None of it feels contrived. The mental illnesses are maturely and sensitively written. It all comes together in a beautifully captivating tapestry of humanity—my hats off to Olivia Wildenstein, she wrote this SO gorgeously I can’t even.

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The main characters, while twins, are written in such distinctive, unique voices, I never had trouble telling which was narrating at any given moment (though chapter headings DO specify which twin that section follows, which was helpful at the beginning) The rest of the characters also captured my attention and proved themselves to be individualized, separate cohabitants of this story.

 

There are, of course, secrets—this is a mystery/thriller, after all. Secrets are sort of the main point. So while at the end, I wasn’t entirely sure how much I’d learned and how much I only THOUGHT I knew…there’s a second book set to release in the near future that will, hopefully, help to clear up the few confusing things floating around in my head having closed this book. The plot is fast-paced. The ending, especially for one of our sisters, is a tiny bit confusing on certain details…but given her health decline at this point, that’s to be expected.

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Overall, this was an entertaining, perplexing, and gorgeous read. The prose is melodic and atmospheric. The plot is full of action and beautifully detailed. The characters are vibrant and wholly individualized. I am now DROOLING for book two, and whatever adventure awaits our sister duo. I recommend this read to lovers of mystery/thrillers, sensitively-written diversity, and rag-tag motley crews. I cannot wait to find out what happens next!

7

The Cilantro in Apple Pie: Quirky, Diverse, and Beautifully Romance-Free

Penguin2.3

The Cilantro In Apple Pie

Goodreads Rating: 4.60 Stars
310 Pages
Ravenswood Publishing
Get a copy here!

Fragnut. Confused? Well so is everyone else at Lumiere Hall Prep when sixteen-year-old Rubie Keane rolls in from Trinidad and Tobago talking her weird lingo. Not that she minds the culture confusion; she’s determined to leave the past behind her and be overlooked—but a certain stoic blue blood is equally as determined to foil her plans.

Gil Stromeyer’s offbeat personality initially makes Rubie second-guess his sanity, but she suspects his erratic outbursts of violence mask a deeper issue in his troubled, charmed life. Despite his disturbing behavior, a gradual bond forms between the two. However, on the night of the annual Stromeyer gala, events unfold that leave Rubie stripped of her dignity and kick Gil’s already fragile world off its axis.

Both their well-kept secrets are uncovered, but Gil’s revelation proves that sometimes the best remedy for a bad case of lost identity, is a dash of comradery from an ally packed with flavor.

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: there’s romance, but it’s SUCH a small part of the novel you won’t even realize it’s there until the very end when it’s brought up; awesome, diverse relationships; the friendship between Rubie and Gil? I need that in my own life; adorable characters, quirky language; quick, endearing read; these characters have kick—and I adored them

Huge thanks to Kimberley Nadine Knights and Ravenswood Publishing for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this title.

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I think what I liked most about this book was the romance-free plot. I mean, okay, there was mention—near the very very end!–of a crush, but overall, this book? Totally driven by friendship, not love. And I adored that; it’s not often you get a contemporary YA that doesn’t have some sort of romance, love-triangle, heart-related drama fest…you know what I’m saying here, I think. It was different, and I LOVE different. And the no love thing? Totally worked for these characters. This book was written so brilliantly, I wasn’t even hoping for a romance to liven things up—it wasn’t necessary to the plot, it wasn’t necessary to the characters, and I didn’t miss it even once.

 

These characters are quirky, diverse, and so very easy to relate to. There’s a ton of drama, mystery, and flair to the writing. It sucked me in from the first sentence, and kept me hooked throughout. The glossary at the beginning of the novel also definitely helped…and came into play in the story, which was an awesome way to round it out! It wasn’t just a glossary, but part of the budding (and, at first, mostly unwanted on one side) friendship between Gil and Rubie.

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I particularly loved the different types of relationships cultivated throughout this book—especially that between Rubie and the three Stromeyer brothers. All of the characters are well-rounded, beautifully written, and redeemable in the end. Every character exhibits a form of growth and self-discovery. Every character is given their own story, their own focus, and their own well-crafted journey; I really appreciated the amount of focus and dedication Kimberley Nadine Knights showed toward each of these complex, diverse personalities. It is obvious the author knows people ( i.e. her characters) intimately, and can realistically capture their essences on a page.

 

There’s an interesting perspective shift around the 60% mark that was both unexpected and, somehow, really awesome. It only lasted two, maybe three, chapters…but brought about a sense of completion to a character we might otherwise have felt a bit jilted on…and also helped to “tie up” any loose ends that might otherwise have cropped up.

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Overall, this was an endearing, adorable, quirky read…and you guys NEED to pick it up. I particularly recommend to lovers of contemporary; diverse characters; and very minimal (almost nonexistant!) amounts of romance in their YA. This book had JUST the right amount of snark and sass; I can’t wait to see what awaits us in Kimberley Nadine Knights’ writing future!

5

The Art of Being Normal: A Discovery of Self You shouldn’t Miss

 

Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

– – – – –

4.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: fantastic, realistic, well-written diversity; a sensitive and mature handling of an important subject; lovable, quirky characters; a great glimpse into various different familial relationships; not insta-love, but insta-friendship

Huge thanks to Lisa Williamson, David Fickling Books publishers, and Netgalley for access to this digital galley in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered how I read or perceived this book.

When I discovered this book while browsing Netgalley, I knew immediately I needed to read it. Needless to say, I was super excited when, just a day later, I was approved for access. I’ve just finished reading…and WOW. Wow. I was so not disappointed!

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A sort of modern coming-of-age story, this focuses on a lot of mature, weighted subjects—the biggest and most important of which being self-acceptance, and self-love. Like many books I’ve read recently, this is written in dual points of view. But these journeys are so separate, so individualized for the character—Leo, with learning it’s okay to let others see who he is, and Kate, with figuring out how to accept herself and be honest with those she loves—that it isn’t difficult to keep the stories straight and find yourself rooting for the both of them. These characters are so strong, their voices so clear and heart-wrenching, you’ll find yourself flying (much like I did!) through the pages, pleading to know what happens next, begging the bookish powers that be for an ending that doesn’t shatter you.

Of course, I feel like there are some characters we don’t get to know as well as the main. Kate’s best friends, Essie and Felix, for instance fall a bit flat for me. At the end, I adored them and how awesome they were about setting up their alternative Ball…but for most of the book, we don’t see enough of them to really comprehend their validity/existence as characters (does that make sense? it’s almost like they’re not REALLY there, even though they are.) Leo’s siblings—especially his twin, Amber—also fall a bit flat for me. We are told that Leo is super close to Amber, but…we aren’t really shown that, as for most of the book she’s not at home or not around.

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There are some emotional, heavy moments of bullying detailed in certain parts of this, so if you’re triggered by that sort of thing, you might not want to pick this up unless you know you can handle those scenes. They aren’t triggering in the way of violence, necessarily, but are pretty tough to read regardless.

The multiple journeys toward self-discovery/self-acceptance and, more importantly, closure or support in familial relationships are realistic and so well-written. I found myself holding my breath for the characters, rooting them on and trying to pick them up when they fell. Because the book is written in first-person perspective, I felt as if these characters were speaking directly TO me, instead of at me, which only heightened the sense of protectiveness I felt toward them.

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This was an illuminating, emotional read, and I am so glad I picked it up! I’d definitely recommend to readers of contemporary, coming-of-age journeys, and diverse characters. If you let it, this book is bound to touch your heart—and stay there.

2

A Review of Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai

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Inside Out and Back Again is a New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award! Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.” An author’s note explains how and why Thanhha Lai translated her personal experiences into Hà’s story.

– – – – –

4.5 Stars
Quick Reasons: it’s written in verse!; unique, heart-wrenching, often humorous perspective; Hà’s voice is clear and engaging; the images strike a fine balance between whimsical and the five senses; each poem acts as a seam, both standing alone yet tying in with the rest; this is a great glimpse into the past and into a different culture

Apparently this year of reading is going to be all about skipping across genres—in the last week alone I’ve gone from steampunk to modern-day retelling to comics…and now, historical fiction! This isn’t your average historical prose, though—this is written entirely in verse! It’s been too long since I read a novel written strictly in poems; I’m so happy I got to fix that! (Though to be honest, I didn’t know going in to expect that! Surprising? Definitely. Disappointing? Heck no!)

How peaceful he looks,
smiling,
peacock tails
at the corners
of his eyes.

So, first off: the language used throughout is absolutely gorgeous. There are so many turns of phrase and unique ideosyncracies that brought a ton of fun and whimsy to the read. On top of this, the smooth and lilting rhythm had me wondering if perhaps this is meant to take on a sort of “oral narrative” feel—this book SCREAMS to be read aloud, to get the nuances and pauses synchronized perfectly with the story.

As the narrator (and “writer” of the poems), Hà’s voice is clear and unwavering. She sheds details about her life and surroundings like skin across every piece—even those focusing on other people say something about her personality, her struggles, her growth. There are some utterly profound, complex, and emotionally moving snippets littered throughout—all told with the same innocent, confused, and (at times) heartbreaking perspective. This collection of poems does what all good poetry should: it moves, it haunts, and it leaves you thinking.

Mother says

if the price of eggs
were not the price of rice,
and the price of rice
were not the price of gasoline,
and the price of gasoline
were not the price of gold,
then of course
Brother Khoi
could continue hatching eggs.

She’s sorry.

At its heart is the story of a girl’s flight from war into a new and unknown world—and the challenges faced in accepting change. But trust me, there is so much more going on. As individual poems, the pieces focus on the day to day: small snippets from a collage of remembrances. As a whole, this book tackles farther-reaching ideas, including: how do you say goodbye to someone you’re not sure is really gone?; how much change can you handle before you lose a piece of who you really are?; why do so many look down on or make fun of those who are different?

All of those ideas, plus many more besides, come together in a lyrical, relevant way. Readers will find themselves laughing, cheering, hurting and raging about the things described. Each scene is expertly crafted to play on not just the heart strings, but also the five senses. The imagination is brought to roaring, colorful life with a blend of whimsy, the abstract, and the tangible. This book is a journey—not just for the characters, but for readers as well.

Mother clicks her tongue:

Tears of an ugly fish.

I know that to mean
fake tears of a crocodile.

I had a ton of fun “seeing” the world through Hà’s eyes—and learning, in the process, a bit about Thanhha Lai’s childhood. This is an all-around beautiful read, with descriptions that leap off the page begging readers to pay attention. I definitely recommend to lovers of historical fiction, poetry, and coming-of-age stories. Also, the cover is gorgeous, so there’s that too!  The book may be quick, but it packs a hefty wallop—you should give it a shot!

6

A Review of This is Where it Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp

 

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10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

– – – – –

5 Stars
Quick Reasons: mahgosh, my heart hurts; I’m not sure I read the same book everyone else did, where is all the hate coming from?; emotionally-charged writing; 3 dimensional characters I couldn’t help but feel for; lots of tension, drama, and heartache; this book will not let you put it down until the end; life-ruiner

I read through some of the other ratings on Goodreads after finishing this book. Perhaps a dumb move, I know…but I needed to understand what others were seeing that I didn’t. I needed to know why the rating was so much lower than I expected it to be.

I have to admit…I don’t think I read the same book all the nay-sayers did. What they said in their reviews confused me—because I didn’t feel that way about this book or these characters at all. I get everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but…I don’t understand.

The masses part in front of Ty. With every step he takes, the students around him scatter from the aisle, down the rows of seats, pushing themselves toward the sides of the room—anything to increase the distance between them and Tyler. Together we could be so strong, but the gun has made us individuals.

This book starts off with a bang, though perhaps not the one you’d expect going in. The first three chapters are all about setting the stage, finding our main perspectives, and giving us a little glimpse into the different lives/thoughts going on the day tragedy strikes this sleepy little town. I immediately found it interesting that the chapters were all blocked into 2 or 3 minute intervals—they act as little snapshots into those distinguishing moments. I cannot speak for how time travels during tragedies such as this—I’m a Wyoming girl, and never experienced something so terrible in my time at school. But I imagine, given how slippery time is, such small moments can feel frozen into forever at times. A lot can happen in just a minute or two—the formatting of the chapters really helped to drive this home for me, that such tremendous tragedies often last mere moments.

The four main stories we get throughout both work to give backstory and tell the unfolding situation. I read that a lot of others found this to be stiff, the characters too flat or un-moving. Someone even mentioned that there’s really no growth in them as characters. I have to admit, this bugs me—in 54 minutes, in the scope of death and terror and despair…do you really expect someone to go through life-changing alterations? To grow so quickly? I think a lot of that happens in the quiet moments, after the chaos, after the sirens, after the world has moved on. To expect significant growth in times like this seems, to me, a bit silly—we’re just as trapped in the moment as the characters. What growth there is (and there is some, I promise!) is more subtle, quieter. It’s in the courage found by the students, in the quiet ways they strove to stay safe and to keep each other safe—in the ways the community, for those terrifying 54 minutes, came together. Character growth doesn’t always have to be life-altering; sometimes, it’s found in simply reaching out a hand, or standing up when you know it could cost you everything.

My mother doesn’t recognize me, and my sister doesn’t recognize me. If I don’t get out of here, what will be left of me? Who will remember me?

It’s easier to know who I’m not than to know who I am. When everyone expects mt to fail, it’s easier to give up than to try.

Marieke Nijkamp took us into the heart of tragedy and allowed us just a glimpse into a world fraught with terror, with despair, with quiet courage and loud loss. If you’re reading carefully, you’ll find what I did: a reason, albeit not easy to understand, to the chaos. It is not one many of us can understand, I’ll grant you that…but it’s there. And while it doesn’t part the waters of confusion, while it doesn’t step up onto a chair and screech its presence, if you’re reading closely you’ll find it. Tragedies, unfortunately, can’t always be drawn in black and white answers; sometimes there isn’t a reason. Sometimes, no reason is found—or given. Often, the reason we do get explains nothing.

This book changed me, and changed the way I will think about tragedies like this in the future. Not in any way I can explain with words, perhaps… It’s a subtle shifting, a different shadow lurking over my thoughts, a bubble of hope popped and colored in different strokes. The atmospheric writing, the “on the edge of my seat, clawing my nails down my face, heart thumping unsteadily” feeling I had from page one—it all came together into a crescendo of heartache and tears.

After another group of students leaves and we’re left waiting, I sink into a chair. My heart is empty, and my head is full. The stories tumble over one another. We’re grief counselors simply because we’re there. I can understand why Deputy Lee did not want us here. I never realized that courage was so terrifying.

I definitely recommend this to readers of realistic fiction and emotionally-charged or life-altering scenes. If you let it, this book will seep into your veins and leave stains across your heart. If you let it, this book will change you. It certainly did me.

15

#DiverseReads Challenge 2016

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I’m throwing in my hat for this AWESOME 2016 reading challenge!

I discovered this (with huge thanks to Lila @ thebookkeeperssecrets) via THIS POST HERE!

Check out all the juicy details:

  •    Read books that are diverse.
  • The Main Character must bepart of a diverse group*

Defined by We Need Diverse Books:  We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIApeople of colorgender diversitypeople with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.                          

*We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization.

  • The book can be set in a diverse setting, but not necessarily.

( But, note that books set in a different country, but features a white MC won’t be considered as diverse here. Eg : Ink by Amanda Sun, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins )

  • #Ownvoices stories(stories about marginalized groups written by a member of that marginalized group) are widely encouraged as well! Promoting diverse books by diverse authors is important.
  • If the book is afantasy it can be based on/inspired by a diverse mythology or folklore

( E.g. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh)

  • If the book is sci fi or dystopia, it has to be based on a dystopian country that’s not USA.

( E.g. Cinder by Marissa Meyer)

  • Intersectionalityis encouraged.

( Eg :- A book featuring a person of colour with a disability )

  • The novels don’t have to be YA, but as we are YA bloggers, those are probably the novels we are more likely to read
The Logistics
  • This challenge will run from the 1st of January 2016 to the 31st of December 2016.
  • You can join in anytime you want.
  • This challenge is meant to be a personal goal challengeto help find more diverse novels and to read more diversely.
  • There are no levels/points!You can read as much or as little as you’d like, this is a personal goal and is mainly individualized
  • To join the challenge, add your sign up post to the link up at the bottom of the post.You can include your TBR for the challenge if you want, but it’s not a requirement. Your sign up post can be a separate post or a part of a giant list of all your 2016 reading challenges. Anything is fine.
  • If you don’t have a blog, you may use a twitter handle or instagram profileand share this post with the hashtag #DiverseReads2016 that you’re participating! But add that link to the sign up link below.
  • If you want to share why you joined the challenge or why you want to read more diverse books, you can tweet us using #Iwanttoreaddivesitybecause…and we can discuss there. This is optional, just adding your blog to the bottom of this post is enough for this requirement!
  • There are themesfor every couple of months, with different features and posts for each month:

o   January to March : Ethnic Diversity

o   April to June :  LGBTQIA +Diversity

o   July to September : Religious Diversity

o   October to December : Mental and physical health and disabilities.

  • But this doesn’t mean that you have to only read books with the particular theme of the season.Your selection of books can be your choice. This is more of a fun way to help you  categorize your reads, if you’d like.
  • We’ll have a link up on our blogsby the end of each season, where you can add your reviews of diverse books. We also welcome you to post non review posts on diversity and diverse books such as discussion posts, a list of recommendations etc., and you can add such posts on the link up as well.
  • We have a list of diverse novelshere on this google docs. It’s on Read Only mode so if you have recommendations, please tweet us!
  • Spread the word! Share this challenge on twitter, instagram, pinterest or any social media you want. Grab the banner and add it to your sidebar!

So…are you in, or what?!

4

The Art of Being Normal, by Lisa Williamson

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Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

—–

Rating: 4.75/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: fantastic, realistic, well-written diversity; a sensitive and mature handling of an important subject; lovable, quirky characters; a great glimpse into various different familial relationships; not insta-love, but insta-friendship

Huge thanks to Lisa Williamson, David Fickling Books and Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) publishers, and Netgalley for access to this digital galley in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered how I read or perceived this book.

When I discovered this book while browsing Netgalley, I knew immediately I needed to read it. Needless to say, I was super excited when, just a day later, I was approved for access. I’ve just finished reading…and WOW. Wow. I was so not disappointed!

***Sorry, guys–this book comes out in May 2016! Keep an eye out for my full review in the near future. For now, this is all you get, because….***