Posts Categorized: Diversity 4

Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

June 8, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 2 ★★★★½

Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuireEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children #1
Published by Tor.com on April 5, 2016
Genres: Adult, Adult Fantasy
Pages: 176
Format: eBook
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests


Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Trigger warning for eating disorders.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (good mix of identities among the kids, though the core group of characters is mostly white)
QUILTBAG: 5 (Nancy is asexual (possibly heteroromantic) and Kade is a trans boy)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (basically delivers the message that any kids can have a whimsical adventure)

Portal fantasy books aren’t something I think much about. I didn’t read the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid; though I’ve seen the animated and live action adaptations of Alice in Wonderland, I greatly dislike them both. Even looking at my stuffed-full bookshelf of favorites, I see maybe two books that would fit the definition. But Every Heart a Doorway has an asexual main character and I therefore had to read it. Now I’m mad I didn’t read it sooner. 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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Review: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

February 6, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Piecing Me Together by Renee WatsonPiecing Me Together by Renee Watson
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on February 14, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars
A timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success, from acclaimed author Renée Watson.

Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (the vast majority of the cast is black)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (the book is 100% focused on the realities of black girlhood; Jade’s family is also extremely poor to the point of barely getting by)

To a class of creative writing students, half of whom were Those Guys and cited Hemingway as one of their favorite writers, I described Renee Watson’s 2016 novel This Side of Home as “a punch in the face–in a good way.” Saying I’m a big fan of what Watson writes? THAT WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT. But as much as I loved Watson’s debut, I think I love Piecing Me Together even more. Read more »

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Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

January 30, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin TalleyOur Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 31, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
four-stars
Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex.

No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

Diversity: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Aki and her brother are biracial, as is Aunt Miranda; lots of Mexican characters in the background)
QUILTBAG: 5 (three bisexual characters, an out-and-proud lesbian, use of the more inclusive LGBTQIA acronym, and the book is basically Forever… for queer girls)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 4 (really engages with the difficulties of being a queer girl and mentions racial attitudes toward queerness at one point)

At some point in your life, I hope you’ve gotten unexpected mail that was so wonderful it made you scream. I’ve had two such moments: when a letter arrived telling me I’d been offered a full-ride scholarship to a college I applied to (I recently graduated from the same college) and when Our Own Private Universe appeared on my doorstep. Talley’s previous novels with Harlequin Teen have seen a lot of criticism lately and they raise valid points. I loved Lies We Tell Ourselves and have no problem admitting that! With Our Own Private Universe, Talley is moving in the right direction and has written a book I expect parents will pass onto their children the way they do Forever… by Judy Blume. Read more »

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Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

January 13, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 1 ★★★★★

Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on August 28, 2014
Genres: Memoir, MG Historical
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
five-stars
Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (her identity as a black girl in both the North and the South is at the center of everything)
QUILTBAG: 3 (doesn’t come up in the book at all, but Woodson is a lesbian)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (Woodson’s black girlhood is basically what the book is about)

Though I pay attention to which middle grade and young adult books are winning awards just like any other more-bookish-than-average person, but I don’t put much stock in the awards. After all, John Green’s books have won quite a few prestigious awards and I don’t think his books are worth the discarded gum I pull off my shoes. Add in the fact I’m simply not a fan of the literary fare that usually wins awards and it’s no wonder I haven’t read Brown Girl Dreaming until now. THAT WAS A BAD CHOICE. I SHOULD HAVE READ IT SOONER. Read more »

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Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

January 4, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten WhiteAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror's Saga #1
Published by Delacorte Press on June 28, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Historical
Pages: 496
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-half-stars
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Most of the cast is Muslim once we get to the Ottoman Empire; Lada and Radu are Slavic)
QUILTBAG: 3 (Radu is gay; his arranged marriage enables a lesbian couple to life happily and safely)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 3 (if I remember correctly, Radu’s sexuality and religion don’t come into conflict with one another)

Kiersten White’s debut novel Paranormalcy was one of the first books I read once I started reviewing and I loved it then, but White’s novels have failed to impress me since. Then And I Darken started gathering all sorts of praise from major outlets and even people who disliked White’s previous books like I did. With so many like-minded people saying her latest was very different from her earlier works, of course I’d pay attention! I’ll add my voice to the chorus: And I Darken is much darker, features a brutal, unapologetic heroine, and is just plain good. Read more »

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Review: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

December 2, 2016 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola YoonThe Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Published by Delacorte Press on November 1, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Diversity: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Natasha’s family is Jamaican, Daniel’s is South Korean, and their identities are explored well)
QUILTBAG: 0 (very brief appearance of a lesbian women in one interlude chapter)
Disability: 1 (a suicidal woman makes brief appearances in two or three interlude chapters)
Intersectionality: 5 (see all of the above)

Look, I don’t set out to be a black sheep. It’s not fun thanks to all the jerkwads who will eventually show up in the comments to tell me how wrong I am and how I should die (legitimately a comment someone left in Portuguese on my review of a Cassandra Clare book). Nicola Yoon? Her fans are dedicated and I completely understand why because there’s a lot to like in Everything, Everything as well as her newest, The Sun Is Also a Star. I simply have grievances with both books that run too deep and mean too much for me. Read more »

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