Posts Categorized: Diversity 1

Review: Now is Everything by Amy Giles

October 23, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ½

Review: Now is Everything by Amy GilesNow is Everything by Amy Giles
Published by HarperTeen on November 7, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Goodreads
half-star
Now Is Everything is a stirring debut novel told in alternating THEN and NOW chapters, perfect for Sarah Dessen and Jennifer Niven fans, about what one girl is willing to do to protect her past, present, and future.

The McCauleys look perfect on the outside. But nothing is ever as it seems, and this family is hiding a dark secret.

Hadley McCauley will do anything to keep her sister safe from their father. But when Hadley’s forbidden relationship with Charlie Simmons deepens, the violence at home escalates, culminating in an explosive accident that will leave everyone changed.

When Hadley attempts to take her own life at the hospital post-accident, her friends, doctors, family, and the investigator on the case want to know why. Only Hadley knows what really happened that day, and she’s not talking.

Trigger warning: Now is Everything is about child abuse and also features a brief but graphic moment of self-harm via a suicide attempt.

Whoo, what a disappointment! Now is Everything had me excited to begin with, seeing as it opens with Hadley being pulled from the scene of a plane crash followed by pieces of interviews with her friends as investigators try to figure out what caused the crash. It doesn’t stay good for long. Instead, it devolves into a book flatter than the paper it’s written on.

The characters are flat enough to be described by their roles rather than who they actually are. Hadley is the Main Character, Charlie the Boyfriend, Meaghan and Noah the Best Friends (Noah is the Gay Best Friend specifically), Claudia is the Slutty Mean Girl, and so on.

Claudia’s characterization is especially appalling. I’ve gotten used to YA books that break down the boundaries of the trope and make sure the antagonistic role is filled by a more nuanced character readers can’t dismiss so easily as the Mean Girl. Meanwhile, we have Claudia, who very openly offers Hadley’s boyfriend a blow job while she’s drunk.

Our most noteworthy example of bad characterization actually comes from Lila, Hadley’s angelic, precocious ten-year-old sister. Lila exists not as a character but as a plot device, something precious for Hadley to protect from their abusive, controlling father. There’s nothing wrong with her, but there’s nothing right either. I was dealing with bullies and getting my first school referral at ten, but Lila doesn’t seem to have anything of her own going on! She’s just kinda there and cute.

There is some merit to the book as an exploration of parent-child physical and emotional abuse, but when other books can approach the same issue and actually draw you in with the skilled writing and deft characterization, why bother with this one?

After half the book, I started skipping the more plentiful “Then” chapters to read the “Now” and it didn’t feel like I was missing much. I gathered what was going on: increasing tension between Hadley and her abusive father, her mom not helping, her little sister Lila being a sweet angel she wanted to protect, her friends and boyfriend being around, etc. But then Hadley realizes that her father is planning to make Lila “shape up” into a proper daughter now that she’s ten years old–the same age at which he literally beat Hadley into the perfect lacrosse-playing, plane-flying child he wanted, breaking her bones until what came back together was to his liking.

She’s not going to let precocious little Lila go through the same hell she did.

Set-ups like this are literally what Battered Woman Syndrome is made of! It promises a glimpse at how far an abused person will go to save either themselves or their most precious person–in Hadley’s case, Lila–from their abuser. In fact, we do see Hadley make preparations to do what she has to in order to keep Lila safe from years of beatings and conditioning and the loss of the little girl sweetness Hadley loves her so much for.

But at this pivotal moment that offers the one point of moral complexity in the entire book, we lose it all. View Spoiler »

There are better books out there that cover similar topics to Now is Everything, like Thicker Than Water by Kelly Fiore. Though it covers abuse by a sibling and drug addiction rather than abuse by a parent and the ending is similarly disappointing, its characters are more complex and the book remains memorable even a year and a half later! Even “tragedy porn” books like A List of Cages by Robin Roe does it better thanks to vivid characterization and an ending unafraid of letting characters suffer long-lasting consequences! Reader, you can easily find books more worth your time than this one.

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Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

September 28, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea SedotiThe Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on January 3, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
four-stars
Hawthorn wasn't trying to insert herself into a missing person's investigation. Or maybe she was. But that's only because Lizzie Lovett's disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don't happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she'll turn up at any moment-which means the time for speculation is now.

So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie's disappearance. A theory way too absurd to take seriously...at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie's life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie's boyfriend. After all, it's not as if he killed her-or did he?

Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn's quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Lizzie had depression)
Intersectionality: 0

This book has a bright, frilly cover, right? All sunny yellow and flower petals. THAT COVER IS A LIE, READER. THIS IS A BLEAK, SAD BOOK. Readjust your expectations accordingly and then come back for it. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett isn’t a book you should skip just because it isn’t what you thought it would be! It managed to squeeze a few tears out of my desert-dry eyes and cold heart. Read more »

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Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

September 4, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon ThomasLong May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas
Published by HarperTeen on February 21, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Goodreads
four-stars
The Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power.

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 4 (Freya has panic attacks and Madeleine has depression)
Intersectionality: 3 (Freya has to confront the massive economic class gap created by her greedy predecessors)

Really, I think I’ve made it clear that Thomas’s Wicked Thing duology, a Sleeping Beauty retelling that doesn’t skimp on the dragons, was my thing thanks to its character-driven first book and defiance of typical fantasy tropes. Of course I was going to read Long May She Reign! And ooooooh, it was just as good as I was expecting. You know that Beyonce gif from one of her songs that has her singing “Who run the world? GIRLS!” with an explosion happening behind her? Pretty much Long May She Reign in a nutshell.

Read more »

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Double Review: When Dimple Met Vassa in the Night

August 24, 2017 Diversity 1, Diversity 4, Reviews 0

by Sandhya Menon, Sarah Porter
Published by Simon Pulse, Tor Teen Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Contemporary
Source: ALA Annual 2016, Bought, eARC via Edelweiss

 

 

When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Simon Pulse (May 30, 2017)
384 pages
Source: eARC via Edelweiss, later bought hardcover (which is what I read)
Rating: 3.5 stars

Diversity: 4 (Dimple and Rishi and their families are Indian, Dimple’s roommate Celia is bi and Latina, basically the entire cast is POC save the antagonistic Aberzombie kids)

Good God, everyone was right, this book is so cuuuuuuuuuute. Though I’ll outright admit When Dimple Met Rishi wasn’t to my taste, that doesn’t matter one little bit. What’s important is that Indian kids now have a hate-to-love YA book starring teens who look like them and come from their experience. An Indian teen’s opinion on this book matters much more than mine. Read more »

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Review: Keeping the Beat by Marie Powell and Jeff Norton

July 17, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Keeping the Beat by Marie Powell and Jeff NortonKeeping the Beat by Jeff Norton, Marie Powell
Published by KCP Loft on April 4, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 372
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
two-stars
Fame. Love. Friends. Pick any two.

It was supposed to be the best summer of her life. Instead, seventeen-year-old Lucy finds her best friend, Harper, shot dead in an LA swimming pool. How did things go so wrong? Their band, Crush, was once the top prospect to win an international talent contest. But things fell apart when Lucy discovered Harper’s real reasons for starting a band — which had nothing to do with music. Meanwhile, her other bandmates are throwing themselves into sex, drugs and rock and roll. Can Lucy get the rest of the girls to play to her beat?

One-part wish fulfillment, one-part cautionary tale, readers will be thrilled to go behind the scenes of “reality” TV.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (a single Mexican man who’s hired help in a Hollywood exec’s household)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Robyn gets addicted to drugs)
Intersectionality: 0

Once a sucker for books about average kids ascending to superstardom, always a sucker for books about average kids ascending to superstardom. They can be cliche, but they can be a lot of fun if they embrace their natures or at least put a twist or two on things. Keeping the Beat initially left a positive impression on me when I first finished reading it. Thinking on it now, however, I’m less impressed with its story. Read more »

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Review: Past Perfect by Leila Sales

June 15, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Past Perfect by Leila SalesPast Perfect by Leila Sales
Published by Simon Pulse on October 4, 2011
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Goodreads
three-half-stars
A sweet and clever novel about the woes of (boy) history repeating itself, from the author of Mostly Good Girls.

All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.


Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off-limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Chelsea is a Ukrainian Jewish girl; her camp’s teens are led in the “war” by a black girl named Tawny)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Good God, I’ve been waiting to read this for YEARS just for the historical reenactment stuff. History is kinda my thing? I was one of the handful of kids who enjoyed field trips to historical sites like the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Clinch. (I’ll always regret being a racist little shitnugget and buying a Confederate hat there when I was thirteen.) Still, Sales’s other novels failed me badly. Of course I’d be worried I wouldn’t like it! Read more »

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Double Review: Simon vs. the Last Boy and Girl in the World

June 5, 2017 Diversity 1, Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda/The Last Boy and Girl in the World four-half-stars

Two books, same high rating of 4.5 stars. I can’t gather enough words to justify writing individual posts for each, so let’s combine them.

Simon vsSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray (April 7, 2015)
320 pages

Diversity: 4 (well-written, plentiful QUILTBAG and racial-ethnic rep but no disability rep)

C’mon, the hype has been MASSIVE for this since it came out a few years ago. It was enough to make me break my rule of not reading m/m books (they get such disproportionate coverage among QUILTBAG books that I would rather focus on f/f books and others). AND IT WAS WORTH IT.

Simon’s voice flows so well that I’m sure there’s a very jealous river out there somewhere wishing it could move so  naturally. He’s hilarious, the people around him are as excellently characterized as he is, and the book is just really fucking good. Almost everyone else has read this book before me, so I don’t think there’s anything I can add to the conversation! Just know that all those positive reviews are correct.

It teases tropes out the wazoo and is more than happy to subvert them. From Simon’s initial dislike of popular girl Taylor, you’d think she wouldn’t turn out to be a good character, but you’d be wrong! After Simon gets outed, she goes mama-bear levels of fierce on two guys who decide to bully Simon. She’s also an excellent singer and may or may not be my favorite character. Well, she’d be tied with Abby for that title, at least.

My one sticking point was a quote early on in which Simon thinks lesbians and bi girls have an easier time being out compared to gay kids like him. Yeah, it’s him being a very wrong teenage boy and Albertalli has addressed it out of the book as being very wrong, but it’s still in the book and there are a lot of people who are still going to agree with that.

Also, mmmmm, Oreos. I’ve always been a fan of Oreos, but reading this made me need some more Oreos from the store. I love Birthday Cake Oreos because I’m a trash human being with defective taste buds. What else is new?

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan VivianThe Last Boy and Girl in the World
Simon & Schuster BFYR (April 26, 2016)
432 pages

Diversity: 1 (Disability rep in Keeley’s dad, who has been largely housebound after an injury on the job)

Something you should know if you’ve been around for a bit: I’ll read damn near any book that has to do with a man-made or natural disaster. My previous experience with Vivian’s books didn’t exactly go well, though. Did that stop me? NO SIR, IT DID NOT. Pretty good thing too because I would have missed out on a stellar book had I not given her another chance.

Vivian absolutely nails the melancholic atmosphere of the book even though the book’s narrator Keeley is the class clown. The nostalgic present-self-looking-back balances out Keeley’s personality and keeps her antics from getting on the reader’s nerves.

Really, everything about this book is so vividly written that you can almost feel the book breathing underneath your fingers. Keeley’s community, being driven from Aberdeen by flooding and the planned construction of a new dam, seems so much closer than it is. The efforts Keeley’s dad and other townspeople undertake to try and keep their town could practically come out of a nonfiction book. (I’m pretty sure one of my professors in college told us about a book like that once.)

That perfectly nailed tone and atmosphere genuinely brought me to tears multiple times and made me want to reread it even though it would just mean repeating 432 pages of pain. I like to think I’m good at telling the difference between books that are emotionally manipulative on purpose and books that pull on your heartstrings naturally. The Last Boy and Girl in the World? Yeah, it’s definitely the latter.

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