Posts Categorized: Diversity 4

Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

October 9, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: Dear Martin by Nic StoneDear Martin by Nic Stone
Published by Crown on October 17, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 224
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley, YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Blackness is centered through the novel by Jus’s own experience with police brutality and his friend’s death halfway through; his love interest Sarah Jane is Jewish)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 2 (after being shot halfway through the book, a bunch of nerves in one of Justyce’s arms are messed up and he has to relearn use of the limb)
Intersectionality: 4 (covers a lot of what black boys and men face but neglects the black woman’s perspective)

First off, black teens’ opinions on Dear Martin are worth much more than mine and you should seek out their reviews first before bothering with my white woman opinion. Being that I am a white woman, this book isn’t for me and there are a lot of small cultural touchstones that I won’t get but that black teens will. Doesn’t make it any less brilliant! I wanted to flip through some quotes in my eARC before I wrote my review, but I ended up rereading the entire book.

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Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

October 2, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. SánchezI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Published by Knopf BFYR on October 17, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley, YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-stars
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (almost everyone is Latinx, specifically Mexican/Mexican-American)
QUILTBAG: 1 (A gay character named Juanga is a minor character)
Disability: 4 (Julia attempts suicide, but it is only vaguely described and her recovery from depression is very therapy/medication-positive)
Intersectionality: 5 (Julia is overweight and her family is pretty darn poor)

Warning: book has a suicide attempt in it, but it goes without description until the final chapter. Even then, it’s only vaguely described.

First off, go read Latinx reviewers’ opinions and reviews of this book, especially if they’re Mexican/Mexican-American like Julia and her family. Boost their voices instead of white voices like mine. I’m reviewing I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter mostly because it’s something that’s right as a reviewer who requested the book, but I also want to say this book is good. There’s a reason it’s made the longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature!

White people like me are unlikely to get this book or get much from it either. It’s just a fact because this book is for and about all the Latinx kids chafing in their households and family traditions but still in love their heritage and culture because identity is cimplicated. Some of what Julia lives with because it’s a Mexican thing or just something her mom Amá just does are downright abusive. Even after learning about what Amá went through and why she is the way she is, it’s hard to forgive her for the way she treated Julia. Insulting Julia to her face so many times! Good God!

Julia is an abrasive girl narrating a very character-driven book, so her personality will either make it or break it for readers. She’s also diagnosed with depression later in the book, adding dimension to portrayals of the disease. The mere word makes you think “sadness all the time,” but that isn’t always how you see it. Some people, like Julia, are constantly angry instead. There is no single way depression expresses itself and we can’t forget that. What’s undeniable above all is how well-written Julia is in her fury and familial claustrophobia.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is very pro-medication/therapy for dealing with mental illness too. I swear, I’m going to start a definitive list of books like these for teens because THERAPY AND MEDICATION THAT FIGHTS BACK AGAINST MENTAL ILLNESS IS GOOD. DON’T LET THE STEREOTYPES ABOUT THE TWO STOP YOU.

My one true sticking point comes when Julia insults someone’s hair by saying the woman has an “asexual mom haircut.” I don’t appreciate my sexuality or anyone else’s used as an insult! (Well, except for heteros because it doesn’t hurt anyone, participate in systemic discrimination, or happen all that often, which therefore makes it hilarious. See: white people jokes.)

My best friend is Latina with roots stretching from Mexico to Peru. Her first language was Spanish and she was downgraded from advanced classes in junior high to regular-level classes for the first half of high school because her eighth-grade English teacher didn’t think she spoke well enough to remain in advanced classes despite having excellent grades. Her relationship with her family as of late has also been very complicated.

If she were a fan of prose novels, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is THE book I’d hand to her. Something tells me she’d find a kindred spirit in Julia. I hope its place on the NBA longlist will help get it into the hands of more Latinx teens who need it! If you’re a white person like me, I hope you do your part to get this book to the readers it’s for. If you’re not, I doubt you needed me to tell you this book is worthwhile. You’re smart like that.

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Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

August 25, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 2 ★★★½

Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey MillerMask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on August 29, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: eARC via NetGalley, print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen's personal assassins named for the rings she wears -- Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal -- their world changes. They know it's a chance for a new life.

Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: ? (Elise is brown-skinned, there’s a Japan-expy country called Mizuho and some of its people are in the book)
QUILTBAG: 5 (they don’t have the words for any of these identities, but Sal is genderfluid with pronouns depending on Sal’s choice of dress for the day, Elise is either bisexual or pansexual, Ruby skips off with a guy at one point during a party, and there are same-sex relationships all over the place)
Disability: ? (Emerald of the Left Hand is missing an eye)
Intersectionality: ?

(The question marks are because my ebook of Mask of Shadows locked up due to graphic overload and I can’t access any of my notes/highlights. The only category I can completely recall is QUILTBAG, but the book is definitely worthy of a 4 rating.)

Since we heard the words “genderfluid assassin” about this book, pretty much the entire bookish community has been excited for Mask of Shadows. It’s hard enough to get genderfluid characters in contemporary YA, let alone, fantasy YA–and if you want to bring quality into the debate as we always should when discussing the representation of marginalized people, it’s probably going to end with someone crying. I’ve got a few small quibbles with the book, but Mask of Shadows is otherwise a solid debut. 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: The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

August 3, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 1 ★★★★★

Review: The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam RiveraThe Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
Published by Simon and Schuster BFYR on February 21, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
five-stars
Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father's credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

Diversity: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (damn near everyone in the book is Latinx)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 2 (Margot’s brother has a drug problem)
Intersectionality: 4 (much of the book is about Margot’s experiences specifically as a Puerto Rican girl in a very sexist, patriarchal family)

Ughhhhh, do I have to review this? I’m just a white chick, you should go listen to some Latinx–especially Puerto Rican, seeing as that’s where Margot’s family is from–reviewers who will have a much more worthwhile point of view. But I kinda got review copies of The Education of Margot Sanchez twice over, so I guess it would be polite to review it instead of just sending in a bunch of links to Latinx reviewers’ posts and saying “what they said” of all of them. Anyway, good book, 10/10 (or 5/5, as the case may be).

Read more »

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Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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