Genre: YA Contemporary

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Review: Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie

September 18, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzieSpin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie
Published by Sky Pony Press on November 1, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. Forced to put up with the snide comments and hateful looks the townspeople throw at them, Mags thinks she’s destined to pay for the horrible, awful thing her mom did—and that she’s left her and Rose to deal with—until the day she dies.

But when a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. Not only have they spent the past fourteen years of their lives dancing side-by-side, dreaming of a day just like this, but also it could be Mags’s chance of a lifetime—a chance to win the grand-prize money and get her and Rose out of Summerland, a chance to do the thing she loves most with everyone watching, a chance to show the town that she’s not—and has never been—a “no-good Woodson girl,” like her mother. But will the competition prove too steep? And will Mags be able to retain her friendship with George as they go head-to-head in tryouts? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (identities unclear; I think Rio is black and Magnolia is biracial?)
QUILTBAG: 0 (a few queer characters, but the book is seriously biphobic)
Disability: 1 (Mags’s mom is a drug addict but only appears in the book via flashbacks)
Intersectionality: 1 (Mags and her sister are pretty poor)

Dance remains an underappreciated art and it’s an especially difficult one to translate into writing because it’s so visual. You can list off what the character is doing as they dance or be vague to let the reader’s imagination to do the job, among other things. Does Spin the Sky nail it? Definitely! Other problems in the book, like rampant biphobia, create a major sticking point, however. Read more »

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Review: Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

September 8, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★½

Review: Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth ClarkJess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on November 8, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
two-half-stars
The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy named Jeremy. Now she’s a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first, Jess has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend. It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just told them she wasn’t coming. Surprise!

Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her. Chunk has always been there for Jess, and he’s been especially supportive of her transition, which has recently been jump-started with hormone therapy.

Along the way from California to Chicago, Jess and Chunk will visit roadside attractions, make a new friend or two, and learn a few things about themselves—and each other—that call their true feelings about their relationship into question.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 4 (Jess is a trans girl, Chuck is pansexual)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: -3 (the book is heinously fatphobic in how it describes Chuck and it takes the entire book for Jess to learn better)

Though it was troubling at times and my feelings might change upon rereading it, I enjoyed Clark’s debut novel Freakboy. Where Freakboy was serious and at times scary due to violence against two of its narrators, Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity is more lighthearted and features no violence against Jess whatsoever, though two instances of violence against other QUILTBAG individuals are mentioned. Its trans rep shines, but the rest of the book leaves something to be desired. 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: 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.

Read more »

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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).

Read more »

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Review: Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley

July 28, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly PauleyCat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley
Published by Tu Books on April 1, 2012
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary, YA Paranormal
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
two-stars
Natalie Ng’s little sister is a super-genius with a chameleon-like ability to disappear. Her older sister has three Class A Talents, including being a human lie detector. Her mom has laser vision and has one of the highest IQs ever. Her dad’s Talent is so complex even the Bureau of Extra-Sensory Regulation and Management (BERM) hardly knows what to classify him as.

And Nat? She can talk to cats.

The whole talking-to-cats thing is something she tries very hard to hide, except with her best friends Oscar (a celebrity-addicted gossip hound) and Melly (a wannabe actress). When Oscar shows her a viral Internet video featuring a famous blogger being attacked by her own cat, Nat realizes what’s really going on…and it’s not funny.

(okay, yeah, a frou-frou blogger being taken down by a really angry cat named Tiddlywinks, who also happens to be dyed pink? Pretty hilarious.)

Nat and her friends are catapulted right into the middle of a celebrity kidnapping mystery that takes them through Ferris Bueller’s Chicago and on and off movie sets. Can she keep her reputation intact? Can she keep Oscar and Melly focused long enough to save the day? And, most importantly, can she keep from embarrassing herself in front of Ian?

Find out what happens when the kitty litter hits the fan.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Nat and her family are Chinese from the father’s side; her best friend Oscar is Japanese through his mom)
QUILTBAG: -1 (Oscar is gay and one of the worst Gay Best Friend stereotypes I’ve seen in a while)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Oh, were you not aware that I like cats? Understandable. I’m pretty subtle about it, what with my constant cat pics on social media and running a book blog called The YA Kitten. Of course I’m gonna read a book about a girl who can talk to cats as a superpower! Alas, Cat Girl’s Day Off is a mess. Read more »

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