Genre: Magical Realism

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Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

July 13, 2017 Diversity 5 0 ★★★★★

Review: American Street by Ibi ZoboiAmerican Street by Ibi Zoboi
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 14, 2017
Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
five-stars
The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Diversity Rating: 5 – Diverse as Fuck

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (the entire cast is black save Kasim, who’s Middle Eastern)
QUILTBAG: 4 (Princess is a lesbian)
Disability: 3 (Matant Jo recently had a stroke that’s caused some paralysis)
Intersectionality: 5 (also includes police violence, the difficulties of black girlhood and immigrant girlhood mixed, and so many more intersectional issues)

Back in the fall of 2015, I took a course called Literature by Women of Color, which was specifically focused on Caribbean authors thanks to the professor’s specialization in that field. It was one of the toughest courses I took in college because she demanded the best from my papers, but it was also one of the most rewarding for the same reason. I still own two of the four books we read in the course and I’d like personal copies of the other two.

What does American Street have to do with all that? It’s such an intelligent, gorgeously written book in touch with the modern immigrant’s experience that it would fit right into the course. If I weren’t such a coward, I’d email that professor and let her know about it if she didn’t already know. Maybe she could teach it in a future section or suggest it to students who are enthusiastic about the subject. Taking that class enriched this book for me and I think American Street would enrich the course too. Read more »

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Review: The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno

February 23, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 1 ★½

Review: The Lost & Found by Katrina LenoThe Lost & Found by Katrina Leno
Published by HarperTeen on July 5, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Sometimes you have to get lost before you can be found.

Lost: Frannie and Louis met in an online support group for trauma survivors when they were both little and have been pen pals ever since. They have never met face-to-face. They don’t even know each other’s real names. All they know is that they understand each other better than anyone else. And they both have a tendency to lose things. Well, not lose them, exactly. Things just seem to…disappear.

Found: In Louis’s mailbox is a letter, offering him a tennis scholarship—farther from home than he’s ever allowed himself to think of going.

In Frannie’s mailbox is a letter, informing her of her mother’s death—and one last wish.

Setting off from opposite coasts, Frannie and Louis each embark on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.

Diversity: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Frannie’s cousin Arrow is Vietnamese; Willa and Louis are Indian)
QUILTBAG: 0 (one gay character who is both a major part of the story and barely in it)
Disability: 1 (Willa lost her legs in a childhood accident; Frannie’s mom is problematic schizophrenic rep)
Intersectionality: 2 (all of the above; it’s kinda complicated in Willa’s case)

I wasn’t actually supposed to get a copy of The Lost & Found. It didn’t interest me at all; rather, I was meant to get the similarly titled The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke. It’s a mistake that happens sometimes! Not reading the book at all felt rude, so I put The Lost & Found on my TBR and its turn to be read came around. This book is an odd case of how the characters at the core of a story can be wonderful, interesting people but be surrounded by things that make their book downright bad. Read more »

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Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

September 2, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 2 ★½

Review: Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 8, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, Retelling, YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0 (Hatter has a thing for Jest, but it falls into old tropes)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

The gleeful absurdity of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has always been up my alley, but no adaptation of it so far has impressed me. The renowned Disney film annoyed me the many, many times my teacher in elementary school put it on for the class and the live-action film was a boring technicolor nightmare. Heartless made me wonder for a hot minute if the key was to tell the origin story of Queen of Hearts instead, but it turned out to be worse than either film. If I were the Queen of Hearts, I’d want this book’s head in a heartbeat. Read more »

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Review: Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West

August 19, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 1 ★★

Review: Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline WestDreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
Published by Dial on April 5, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
two-stars
Jaye wakes up from a skiing accident with a fractured skull, a blinding headache, and her grip on reality sliding into delusion. Determined to get back to her starring role in the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Jaye lies to her sister, her mom, her doctors. She's fine, she says. She's fine. If anyone knew the truth - that hallucinations of Shakespeare and his characters have followed her from her hospital bed to the high school halls - it would all be over. She’s almost managing to pull off the act when Romeo shows up in her anatomy class. And it turns out that he's 100% real. Suddenly Jaye has to choose between lying to everyone else and lying to herself.

Troubled by the magnetic new kid, a long-lost friend turned recent love interest, and the darkest parts of her family's past, Jaye’s life tangles with Shakespeare's most famous plays until she can't tell where truth ends and pretending begins. Soon, secret meetings and dizzying first kisses give way to more dangerous things. How much is real, how much is in Jaye's head, and how much does it matter as she flies toward a fate over which she seems to have no control?

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0 (possible gay guy, but that uncertainty is why I’m marking this as bad/no rep)
Disability: 0 (while Jaye has a major head injury and hallucinations, I’m not happy with their handling)
Intersectionality: 0

I’m sure Dreamers Often Lie will earn all sorts of honors and awards in the coming year. I’ve got a habit of recognizing literary YA and disliking it! See: Printz winner/National Book Award finalist Bone Gap, Printz Honor novels And We Stay, The Ghosts of Heaven. I like the occasional literary YA, but this book ain’t one of those exceptions. This novel wants so badly to be discussed that it leaves almost everything vague, which creates something that doesn’t make much sense. Read more »

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Review: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

August 1, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay RibarRocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar
Published by Kathy Dawson Books on June 7, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Paranormal
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-stars
Twin Peaks meets Stars Hollow in this paranormal suspense novel about a boy who can reach inside people and steal their innermost things—fears, memories, scars, even love—and his family's secret ritual that for centuries has kept the cliff above their small town from collapsing.

Aspen Quick has never really worried about how he's affecting people when he steals from them. But this summer he'll discover just how strong the Quick family magic is—and how far they'll go to keep their secrets safe.

With a smart, arrogant protagonist, a sinister family tradition, and an ending you won't see coming, this is a fast-paced, twisty story about power, addiction, and deciding what kind of person you want to be, in a family that has the ability to control everything you are.

“Rocks fall, everyone dies” is the classic joke about how to end a series. Harry Potter? ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES. Game of Thrones? THE ROCKS, THEY’RE FALLING. It used to be semi-serious and a way for game masters in tabletop RPGs to end things when they’re fed up, but now we just know it as something funny. So a dramatic novel with that title from an author I know and love? Of course I’m in!

Read more »

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Review: Guile by Constance Cooper

March 26, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Guile by Constance CooperGuile by Constance Cooper
Published by Clarion Books on March 1, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-stars
Yonie Watereye lives in the bayou. The water there is full of guile, a power that changes people and objects. Yonie, 16, makes a living investigating objects affected by guile, but in fact it’s her talking cat, LaRue, who has the power to see guile.

Yonie becomes aware that someone is sending harmful guile-changed objects to certain people, including herself. Her investigation becomes entwined with her hunt for the secrets of her mother’s past and leads her to discover dangers hidden within her own family.

In the suspenseful adventure that follows, Yonie and her furry sidekick face challenges that could end their adventuring forever.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0 (if the characters are POC to go with their Creole accents, it isn’t mentioned)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

There are some books you instantly know you want as soon as you hear about them. Others need some time to grow on you. Guile was neither of these. To be entirely honest, I requested it on a whim based solely on the fact that one of the major characters is a talking cat. REMEMBER, DON’T FOLLOW MY EXAMPLE. I MAKE BAD DECISIONS OFTEN. Surprisingly enough, this was not one of my bad decisions! Guile entranced me and drew me right into the heart of the Bad Bayous that Yonie calls home. Read more »

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Review: A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

January 11, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 1 ★★

Review: A Song for Ella Grey by David AlmondA Song for Ella Grey by David Almond
Published by Delacorte Press on October 13, 2015
Genres: Magical Realism, YA
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
two-stars
Claire and Ella and their friends are bound by ties so strong they seem unbreakable. Then the strange and handsome Orpheus strolls onto the beach, and he sings them all into an astonishing new understanding of themselves. Ella is caught the hardest, fastest, deepest—and Claire feels the pain of looking on.

Raw, emotional, lyrical, and funny, A Song for Ella Grey is a tale the joys, troubles, and desires of modern teens. It takes place in the ordinary streets of Tyneside and on the beautiful beaches of Northumberland. It’s a story of first love, a love song that draws on ancient mythical forces. A love that leads Ella, Orpheus, and Claire to the gates of Death and beyond.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 1 (lots of gay people and Claire has a heavily implied love for Ella)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

David Almond has both a Printz winner and a Printz Honor book under his belt, but I have admittedly never heard of him. Printz-winning or honored novels have a good chance of being used in school–I had to read Printz winners Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and Monster and Printz Honor novel/hotbed of stupid controversies Speak is also used in classes–but aren’t necessarily memorable. Look at this list of all the nominees and winners in the award’s history and see how many you do/don’t recognize.

Why am I talking about all this boring crap? Because literary novels win awards, but they’re not necessarily good. Bad books can have other stuff going on that’s good enough to earn awards or maybe the judges in one particular year had horrible taste. Almond clearly writes literary YA if his history with awards is any indication.  A Song for Ella Grey is literary without a doubt, but it’s also rather bad. Read more »

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