Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR

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Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

October 5, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 5 ★★★½

Review: Warcross by Marie LuWarcross by Marie Lu
Series: Warcross #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR on September 12, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Sci-fi
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
three-half-stars
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Diversity: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Emika is Chinese, Hideo is Japanese, Hammie is Latinx, Roshan is Indian)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 3 (Asher is paralyzed from the chest down; another disabled player is mentioned for all of once scene)
Intersectionality: 2 (Emika is living in poverty)

Marie Lu’s series starters have a funny thing with me. Legend was underwhelming, but I liked its series as a whole. The Young Elites had some fatal flaws, but its sequel The Rose Society is literally my next read. Needless to say I didn’t know what to expect from Warcross. Now I can say it’s Lu’s strongest novel yet, but it’s got some significant flaws too.

Emika Chen, a Warcross bounty hunter with a dead dad and a mom who left to move on to richer men, is broke, in need of rent money, and good at hacking. Her attempt to snatch a valuable power-up from a player in the all-star opening game of the Warcross championships gets her glitched into the game for the world to see instead. That’s how she ends up a hot topic across the globe with a $10 million job from the Warcross creator himself, Hideo Tanaka. Emika’s desperation to live comfortably rather than surviving on nothing is palpable and her character development is fantastic. A girl who has been on her own since she was eleven or twelve has to actually work with other people and let them in. Though such territory is familiar, it’s no less interesting or affecting for it.

Her love interest Hideo (whom I kept visualizing as Hideo Kojima because there’s only room for one gaming giant named Hideo) is similarly well-written. He presents himself to the world as a very serious, quiet twenty-one-year-old man, Emika’s peek into his Neurolink-recorded memories reveal an angry, pained man who keeps the sad reason for Neurolink and Warcross’s creation close to him. If you prefer your sci-fi with only light romance, Warcross and its prominent romantic subplot may not be for you.

Sadly, only Emika and Hideo get solid characterization. Supporting characters like Emika’s teammates Asher, Roshan, and Hammie exist more in the way of facts about them, like Asher being paralyzed from the waist down and Hammie and Roshan being Latinx and Indian, respectively. The games of Warcross themselves bored me, though they’ll translate well into visuals if a movie gets made. The pacing is uneven, moving the story along slowly at some points and lightning-fast at others. Emika’s two trips to the Dark World, the VR equivalent to the deep web/dark web, stand out as high points, as does the book’s ending.

And maybe it’s just me, but I’m really disappointed this rainbow-drenched book has no queer characters? The cover is rainbow and Emika’s rainbow-dyed hair is regularly mentioned, but we get no QUILTBAG rep whatsoever. QUEER PEOPLE OWN THE RAINBOW NOW, IT’S JUST A FACT. That’s why you find all-inclusive queer orgies at the end of rainbows now instead of pots of gold. (I know it’s implied Roshan and opposing team player Tremaine were once in a relationship, but I only deal in explicit, on-the-page-using-the-words representation, not implications and subtext.)

The fact remains that Marie Lu’s books are always fun despite their flaws. Warcross, in a nutshell, is an entertaining sci-fi adventure with a strong romantic subplot and a dystopic twist right at the end. She’s got me on the hook for another of her series and I don’t mind that one bit! An excellent book to pass some time with.

Fall 2017 Bingo Warcross

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Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

October 13, 2016 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey LeeOutrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR on May 24, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Historical
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
five-stars
From the author of the critically acclaimed Under a Painted Sky, an unforgettable story of determination set against a backdrop of devastating tragedy. Perfect for fans of Code Name Verity.

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty of Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. Now she’s forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

Stacey Lee masterfully crafts another remarkable novel set against a unique historical backdrop. Strong-willed Mercy Wong leads a cast of diverse characters in this extraordinary tale of survival.

Diversity: 4 – This is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Mercy is Chinese and Lee accurate depicts the diversity of San Fancisco’s population)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 2 (a deaf black man appears for a scene and Mercy’s role model Mrs. Lowry is blind)
Intersectionality: 5 (see above; also discussions of how sexism Mercy faces differs from sexism white girls face)

The 2016 US presidential cycle has made it difficult to have any faith whatsoever in humanity and the goodness of people’s hearts. Seeing as one Australian show reported on our election with circus music in the background, I doubt even international readers need me to explain why. We still have a month left of this madness as I write this! This little tangent might seem unrelated, but it really isn’t. Outrun the Moon did what I thought wouldn’t happen until Hillary Clinton’s election as president: It made me believe even the worst people can come together and be good. Read more »

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Review: Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash

April 17, 2015 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Silent Alarm by Jennifer BanashSilent Alarm by Jennifer Banash
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR on March 10, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Alys’s whole world was comprised of the history project that was due, her upcoming violin audition, being held tightly in the arms of her boyfriend, Ben, and laughing with her best friend, Delilah. At least it was—until she found herself on the wrong end of a shotgun in the school library. Her suburban high school had become one of those places you hear about on the news—a place where some disaffected youth decided to end it all and take as many of his teachers and classmates with him as he could. Except, in this story, that youth was Alys’s own brother, Luke. He killed fifteen others and himself, but spared her—though she’ll never know why.

Alys’s downward spiral begins instantly, and there seems to be no bottom. A heartbreaking and beautifully told story.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Undiagnosed PTSD)
Intersectionality: 0

Stories of school shootings and other general tragedies are strangely fascinating despite the morbid nature of them. I guess I’m just weird. How else are multiple books written and multiple documentaries made trying to help us understand how the Columbine massacre happened? When high school students commit that kind of violence, people want to understand what was going on in their minds. Fictionalized novels of such crimes are bound to follow as another attempt to understand. Silent Alarm is a solid novel, but it never gets to the heart of the issue. Read more »

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Waiting on Wednesday (20)

March 18, 2015 Waiting on Wednesday 2

Waiting on Wednesday (20)Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR on September 22, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Horror
Pages: 352
Goodreads
“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

“unrequited love and murder”

“alchemy and immortality”

“a ceremony five hundred years in the making”

OKAY, THE HOOK IS IN MY MOUTH. REEL ME IN, PLEASE. My new appreciation for horror movies means a voracious desire for horror novels and Blood and Salt sounds like a fabulous one.

AND SHE WILL BE AT BEAAAAAAAA. I’LL SIT IN LINE FOR HOURS FOR THIS AND BE HAPPY AS A CLAM.

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Waiting on Wednesday (17)

February 18, 2015 Waiting on Wednesday 1

Waiting on Wednesday (17)Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR on April 21, 2015
Pages: 336
A laugh-out-loud high school adventure set in Greece, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot 

High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she's devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona's mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks... but no thanks.

In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary.

For fans of Meg Cabot? Exploring Greece through a unique narrator’s perspective?Family? SIGN ME UP, SUCKERS. I’m a little put off by saying it’s in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss because I was a total black sheep for that book, but it’s probably just in the sense that an American city girl gets uprooted and put in a foreign country for reasons she hates. As long as any love interest is nothing like that fuckwad Etienne St. Clair, I’m fine. But to get back to being positive, Sophomore Sounds Greek to Me sounds like a really fun novel about discovering your roots and loving your family. Doing it Meg Cabot-style is even BETTER.

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