Genre: YA

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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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Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

September 4, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon ThomasLong May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas
Published by HarperTeen on February 21, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Goodreads
four-stars
The Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power.

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 4 (Freya has panic attacks and Madeleine has depression)
Intersectionality: 3 (Freya has to confront the massive economic class gap created by her greedy predecessors)

Really, I think I’ve made it clear that Thomas’s Wicked Thing duology, a Sleeping Beauty retelling that doesn’t skimp on the dragons, was my thing thanks to its character-driven first book and defiance of typical fantasy tropes. Of course I was going to read Long May She Reign! And ooooooh, it was just as good as I was expecting. You know that Beyonce gif from one of her songs that has her singing “Who run the world? GIRLS!” with an explosion happening behind her? Pretty much Long May She Reign in a nutshell.

Read more »

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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: 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?

Read more »

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