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: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

August 18, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 2 ★★

Review: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda FoodyDaughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published by Harlequin Teen on July 25, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
two-stars
A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 1
QUILTBAG: 3 (Sorina is bi, one or two of Sorina’s illusions are QUILTBAG, there are plenty of QUILTBAG people in the background; I take issue with Luca’s asexual/demi identity as someone who is asexual)
Disability: 1 (Sorina has no eyes whatsoever but can still see)
Intersectionality: 1

Well, crud. What do I say about Daughter of the Burning City when I’ve already forgotten so much about it as I write this? I’ve gotta review it. Got a review copy, therefore must deliver review if possible–and it’s very possible. It’s just difficult. There’s plenty to like in Foody’s debut novel, but I have some issues too, particularly with Luca’s identity since we fall under the same queer umbrella.

Read more »

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Review: Exile by Rebecca Lim

August 17, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Exile by Rebecca LimExile by Rebecca Lim
Series: Mercy #2
Published by Disney-Hyperion on April 23, 2013
Genres: YA, YA Paranormal
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Bought (Used Bookstore)
Goodreads
five-stars
Mercy is an angel in exile and is doomed to return repeatedly to Earth, taking on a new human form each time she does. Now she "wakes" as unhappy teen Lela, a girl caring for her dying mother but never herself.

As Mercy's shattered memory begins to return, she remembers Ryan, the boy she fell in love with in another life, and Luc, the angel haunting her dreams. Will Mercy risk Lela’s life to be reunited with her heart’s true desire?

An electric combination of angels, mystery and romance, Exile is the second book in the undeniably mesmerizing Mercy series.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Cecilia is Filipina and speaks in broken English; Sulaiman is a Muslim man from North Africa)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Lela’s mom has terminal cancer in, I believe, her intestines)
Intersectionality: 1 (Lela and her mom are dirt poor)

(vague description of violence against animals in the book)

Another series, another sequel I didn’t get to read until years after I read the first book. The gap between Mercy and Exile sets a new record for me: SIX YEARS! Well, I sure didn’t know the difference once I started Exile and found myself unable to put it down. Why can’t all sequels improve upon their predecessors so well and hook me as solidly as this one did?

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Review: Without Annette by Jane B. Mason

August 11, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Without Annette by Jane B. MasonWithout Annette by Jane B. Mason
Published by Scholastic Press on May 31, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
A gorgeously written, witty, and poignant YA novel, about a girl who must forge her own path in the wake of a crumbling relationship.

Josie Little has been looking forward to moving halfway across the country to attend Brookwood Academy, a prestigious boarding school, with her girlfriend, Annette, for ages. But underneath Brookwood's picture-perfect image lies a crippling sense of elitism that begins to tear the girls apart from the moment they arrive.

While Josie struggles to navigate her new life, Annette seems to fit in perfectly. Yet that acceptance comes with more than a few strings. And consequently, Annette insists on keeping their relationship a secret.

At first, Josie agrees. But as Annette pushes her further and further away, Josie grows closer to Penn, a boy whose friendship and romantic feelings for her tangle her already-unraveling relationship. When Annette's need for approval sets her on a devastating course for self-destruction, Josie isn't sure she can save her this time -- or if Annette even wants her to try.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 4 (Annette and Josie are lesbians and so is an adult in the book)
Disability: 1 (Annette’s mom is a literal raging alcoholic)
Intersectionality: 1

Remember a while back when Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy inspired fury from readers who thought it would engage in bi erasure or lesbian erasure based on its original jacket copy? Yeah, me too, but I stayed out of it. From the sound of reviews, the book was actually very good and didn’t commit either crime in a story about a girl questioning her sexual identity. While reading Without Annette, I described it as “Ramona Blue in boarding school” and kinda regret it because that’s not the case at all. Oops? Still a good book, though.

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Review: Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu

August 4, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer YuFour Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 2, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
one-half-stars
They're more than their problems

Obsessive-compulsive teen Clarissa wants to get better, if only so her mother will stop asking her if she's okay.

Andrew wants to overcome his eating disorder so he can get back to his band and their dreams of becoming famous.

Film aficionado Ben would rather live in the movies than in reality.

Gorgeous and overly confident Mason thinks everyone is an idiot.

And Stella just doesn't want to be back for her second summer of wilderness therapy.

As the five teens get to know one another and work to overcome the various disorders that have affected their lives, they find themselves forming bonds they never thought they would, discovering new truths about themselves and actually looking forward to the future.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Clarisa is Asian, but I don’t believe her identity is clarified any further than that)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 3 (Everyone is mentally ill, but not everyone’s mental illness is written well)
Intersectionality: 2

I would have loved attending a camp for mentally ill teens like the one presented in Four Weeks, Five People when I was still a teen. Not the being-mentally-ill part, of course, but spending a couple of weeks in the wilderness learning coping mechanisms and interacting with other kids who understood what I was going through. So how in the world did a story idea I was completely open to go so wrong in Four Weeks, Five People?

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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).

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