Posts Categorized: Diversity 3

Review: Antisocial by Jillian Blake

May 1, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Antisocial by Jillian BlakeAntisocial by Jillian Blake
Published by Delacorte Press on May 16, 2017
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Contemporary, YA Thriller
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
three-stars
Alexandria Prep is hacked in this exhilarating whodunit set in the age of social media and the cloud—Pretty Little Liars meets WikiLeaks.

Senior spring at Alexandria Prep was supposed to be for sleeping through class and partying with friends. But for Anna Soler, it’s going to be a lonely road. She’s just been dumped by her gorgeous basketball star boyfriend—with no explanation. Anna’s closest friends, the real ones she abandoned while dating him, are ignoring her. The endearing boy she’s always had a complicated friendship with is almost too sympathetic.

But suddenly Anna isn’t the only one whose life has been upended. Someone is determined to knock the kings and queens of the school off their thrones: one by one, their phones get hacked and their personal messages and photos are leaked. At first it’s funny—people love watching the dirty private lives of those they envy become all too public.

Then the hacks escalate. Dark secrets are exposed, and lives are shattered. Chaos erupts at school. As Anna tries to save those she cares about most and to protect her own secrets, she begins to understand the reality of our always-connected lives:

Sometimes we share too much.

Diversity: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Anna is half-Columbian; her best friend Radhika is Indian and Rad’s boyfriend Andrew is Chinese)
QUILTBAG: 1 (quite a few characters get outed as gay by the leaks, but only one has any major role)
Disability: 3 (Anna has social anxiety disorder and her ex has OCD/anxiety too)
Intersectionality: 3 (Anna is pretty well-written and I’m happy to see all three categories above represented)

In my book, it’s always time for a YA thriller. Putting together the pieces of a mystery, trying to solve it just before or at the same time as the main character, watching everything get worse and worse right up to the climactic scene,… Maybe I’m a bit cruel, but as often as I read YA contemporary novels, YA thrillers and mysteries are a bit above them in my heart. Antisocial is a pretty good one with plenty of representation across the board and its realistic stakes will chill just about every reader.

I’ve always tried to be my best self online, but even I’m terrified at the idea of all my texts, emails, etc. being leaked online. Whether it would expose someone’s two-faced ways or provides enough evidence that they could be successfully convicted of a felony, everyone has something to fear if their name gets attached to their anonymous or private online shenanigans. Anna’s fear: the friends who are just barely starting to accept her back after she abandoned them for her boyfriend will learn how she insulted all of them when talking to him.

Antisocial is a tiny little book at 256 pages and perfectly paced so you’ll feel compelled to read it all in one sitting. In particular, Anna is an incredible character Latin@ and anxiety disorder-ridden readers hungry for representation will love. She’s half-Columbian, has social anxiety disorder, and had a stint in a group home, but she’s still determined to find out who’s leaking students’ online histories, which were gathered via an app the school required students to download. Turned out the app was gathering all their data and storing it and then someone found a hackable hole! Oops.

Even when her ex-boyfriend’s data gets leaked and she finds out how easily he dumped her when he wrecked her with the break-up, she still wants to help him. He has a form of OCD (pretty respectful and nonstereotypical, at that!) and they shared a kinship over their anxieties. No matter how much he hurt her, she’d rather do what’s right than revel in his humiliation. If I explained my history with an ex-friend, you’d quickly learn I wouldn’t be as good of a person in the same situation as Anna.

Too bad it has a lot of stereotypes and cliches going on among both the characters and the events. One twist of an event in particular toward the end of the book failed to make me feel anything at all when it was intended to be gut-wrenching. Honestly, it made me laugh and quote Heathers, which made fun of something very similar. It doesn’t ruin anything for either book or film to tell you I was giggling to myself and quoting “I LOVE MY DEAD GAY SON” as the twist’s aftermath played out.

My giggling was sandwiched between me groaning at how melodramatic and ridiculously corny the whole ending is. This is what Heathers was making fun of almost thirty years ago! Considering everything the data leaks caused at their school, trying to spin it as “everything will be sunshine and rainbows soon” makes me want to gag. You know who things won’t be okay for? The kid who made a podcast out of the leaks and delighted in it. He better change schools or he is screeeeeewed. No one’s gonna forgive him that easily for having fun with someone else’s humiliation.

All in all, Antisocial is a gripping thriller for the modern teen. Its ending may not have left me feeling anything other than mildly amused, but the core conceit of the story is what will make it memorable for readers and get the most praise. I’m excited to read more from Jillian Blake in the future and would recommend this for anyone whose hunger for thrillers still needs to be satiated or is in a bit of a reading slump. This tiny little thrill ride should cure you pretty easily!

Divider

Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

March 13, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney GardnerYou're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
Published by Knopf BFYR on March 7, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-stars
A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

Diversity: 3 –  Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Julia is Indian and so is her birth mother)
QUILTBAG: 3 (Julia has two moms who got her via sperm donor)
Disability: 4 (Julia and both of her moms are Deaf and Julia is explicit about the fact she’s not particularly good at reading lips)
Intersectionality: 2 (though I love the intersectionality present in Julia, the deep historical relationship between black culture and modern street art like graffiti goes untouched)

Illustrated YA books are my weakness and will always remains so. Though I lack any artistic ability, cruising art installations and museums and online collections makes me so, so happy. Words will always be my favorite, but being visually engaged by images as well as words? JACKPOT. Plus You’re Welcome, Universe featured a Deaf Indian protagonist and I’m here for that even if it isn’t #ownvoices. Meanwhile, it is pretty darn good.

Read more »

Divider

Review: Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

February 24, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Enter Title Here by Rahul KanakiaEnter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
Published by Disney-Hyperion on August 2, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-half-stars
I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (POC characters are absolutely everywhere)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Reshma uses Adderall illegally and has a breakdown at one point)
Intersectionality: 3 (though it focuses on her race more than her gender, Reshma does reflect on how life differs from white girls’ lives at times)

Way back in 2006, I was a budding newsie but not yet a reader. The local news didn’t report on it, so I didn’t learn about of Kaavya Viswanathan and all the plagiarism in her YA novel until years later. It was about thirty kinds of messy and probably hard on her considering she was then a recent high school graduate and brand-new college student. I wouldn’t be able to go through what she did at eighteen. Enter Title Here and Reshma’s attempts to write a novel in order to ensure she gets into Stanford take clear inspiration from Viswanathan’s experience, but it goes far into the territory of being creepy while it does so.
Read more »

Divider

Review: The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia

December 8, 2016 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana ZiaThe Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia
Published by Peachtree Publishers on March 1, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kids — the fact that shes Muslim is just another thing to deal with. When Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares her faith if not her culture, comes to Aliya's school, Aliya wonders even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? She's old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself?

Diversity: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Aliya and her family are Indian Muslims; her best friend Winnie is Korean; Marwa’s family is Moroccan)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 4 (the book’s focus on Muslim girlhood creates plenty of intersections between gender and racial-ethnic identity)

One review of The Garden of My Imaan calls the book a modern homage to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, that classic book parents gave to their kids when puberty threatened to rear its ugly head and begin the monthly misery of menstruation. I never got to read that one because I was an ace at odd things like not getting to read things that were “normal” for kids my age to read. That continued all the way into high school. ANYWAY. The Garden of My Imaan is far from perfect, but it has a lot of value for its audience even if it’s a bit didactic. Read more »

Divider

Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

October 10, 2016 Diversity 3, Reviews 2 ★★★½

Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith RussoIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Published by Flatiron Books on May 3, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew

Diversity Rating: 3- Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 5 (Amanda is a trans girl written by a trans woman; there are also a lesbian girl and a bi girl in the book)
Disability: 3 (Amanda has previously tried to commit suicide; Grant’s mom has her own issues)
Intersectionality: 3 (Amanda has to deal with a great deal of transmisogyny once it all comes out)

Read more »

Divider

Review: Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid

September 23, 2016 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Perfect Liars by Kimberly ReidPerfect Liars by Kimberly Reid
Published by Tu Books on May 15, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
two-stars
Andrea Faraday is junior class valedictorian at the exclusive Woodruff School, where she was voted Most Likely to Do Everything Right. But looks can be deceiving. When her parents disappear, her life and her Perfect Girl charade begins to crumble, and her scheme to put things right just takes the situation from bad to so much worse. Pretty soon she's struck up the world's least likely friendship with the juvenile delinquents at Justice Academy, the last exit on the road to jail and the first stop on the way out.

If she were telling it straight, friendship might not be the right word to describe their alliance, since Drea and her new associates could not be more different. She s rich and privileged; they re broke and, well, criminal. But Drea s got a secret: she has more in common with the juvie kids than they d ever suspect. When it turns out they share a common enemy, Drea suggests they join forces to set things right. Sometimes, to save the day, a good girl's gotta be bad.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Andrea and her brother are biracial; Xavier is Korean; I believe Gigi is Latina)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 2 (plenty of acknowledgement of how different Andrea’s life is from Xavier’s because of her family’s ill-begotten wealth)

Tu Books is probably one of my favorite publishers and yet this is the first time I’ve read one of their books. Seems silly, I know, but their dedication to publishing diverse, representative books and the truth that flows from their Twitter feed daily has always impressed me. Meeting the tweeps behind the account at ALA was lovely and my copy of Perfect Liars has a dedication that I’ll likely remember the story behind for the rest of my life!

But to cut to the chase, I didn’t like Perfect Liars very much. It’s a deeply introspective caper and will need just the right reader to appreciate that. Read more »

Divider

Review: Girls Mans Up by M-E Girard

September 15, 2016 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Girls Mans Up by M-E GirardGirl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Published by HarperCollins on September 6, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
five-stars
All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty.

But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth—that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Pen and her family are Portuguese; Olivia is half-Asian; other minor POC characters)
QUILTBAG: 2 (Pen is lesbian, Blake is bi)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (perhaps not in the usual sense, but the nature of Pen’s story and its handling is excellent)

Thanks to all sorts of psychological stuff I learned about in high school, bright colors on a book cover make me think a book will be happy and fun and sweet. Something something schemas, our brains are like Google AutoComplete, something something. Girl Mans Up has a bright red cover, but it’s really representative of how you’ll be seeing red while reading. Pen’s story is necessary and beautiful and relatable no matter your gender or sexual identity, but you’re going to be mad at just about everyone in Pen’s life.

Read more »

Divider