Source: finished copy from the publisher

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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: Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

December 23, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 3

Review: Moon Chosen by P.C. CastMoon Chosen by P.C. Cast
Series: Tales of a New World #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on October 18, 2016
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 608
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
zero-stars
Chosen to embrace her true identity. Chosen to follow her destiny. Chosen to change her world.

Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan, but she has been forced to turn from her duties, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save herself and her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating Tribe, strays across her path that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now evil is coming, and with it, a force more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By breaking Clan Law and forming an alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and battle the forces that threaten to destroy them all.

Diversity: -5 – What the Fuck Is This?

Racial-Ethnic: -5 (this is some goddamn racist shit)
QUILTBAG: 0 (one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gay character; there’s a lesbian couple, but one of them dies soon after being introduced)
Disability: 0 (one blind girl, heavily fetishized)
Intersectionality: 0

This is gonna be a long review and I’m not even covering everything I want to, so I’ve uploaded my notes on Google Drive for easy viewing. Just click the link! All quote citations and page numbers are in that document and based on the US hardcover edition.

Once upon a time, there was Revealing Eden by Victoria Hoyt, a novel that turned white people into the oppressed class and made the white main character donning blackface a narrative necessity. It was rightly called out for racism then and is still ridiculously racist now. If I weren’t already familiar with the Cast family’s brand of racism thanks to their House of Night series, I’d think Moon Chosen was written specifically to out-racist Revealing Eden and all the cultural appropriation and Magical Native American fuckery from the aforementioned series.  Between blackface and all the racial coding, Moon Chosen may actually be the most racist YA novel of all.

Read more »

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Review: The Only Girl in School by Natalie Standiford

November 18, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: The Only Girl in School by Natalie StandifordThe Only Girl in School by Natalie Standiford
on January 26, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
two-stars
When Claire’s best friend, Bess, moves away, she becomes the only girl left in her entire school. At first, she thinks she’ll be able to deal with this -- after all, the girls’ bathroom is now completely hers, so she can turn it into her own private headquarters and draw on the walls. When it comes to soccer games or sailing races, she can face off against any boy.

The problem is that her other best friend, Henry, has begun to ignore her. And Webby, a super-annoying bully, won’t leave her alone. And Yucky Gilbert, the boy who has a crush on her, also won’t leave her alone.

It’s never easy being the only one -- and over the course of a wacky school year, Claire is going to have to make it through challenges big and small.  The boys may think they rule the school, but when it comes to thinking on your feet, Claire’s got them outnumbered.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Reading has always been a solitary activity for me. As a little girl, my parents never read a book before I did to make sure it was safe for me, nor did they ever read it with me so I could discuss questionable stuff with them. Even when I was in elementary school and my fifth grade class read the entirety of Holes by Louis Sachar out loud with new students playing different roles from the book each day, I read ahead on my own. Well, The Only Girl in School is one of the very few books I’d ever think needs to be read by parent and child together. It’s important no matter the child’s gender. Read more »

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Blog Tour Stop & Review: How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You by Tara Eglington

October 19, 2016 Blog Tours, Diversity 0, Reviews 1 ★★★★½

Blog Tour Stop & Review: How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You by Tara EglingtonHow to Keep a Boy From Kissing You by Tara Eglington
Series: Aurora Skye #1
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on October 25, 2016
Genres: Comedy, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Sweet sixteen and never been kissed . . .

That’s Aurora Skye’s big secret. And the way she wants it to stay. She’s not going to give away her first kiss to just anyone. Busy dodging suitors and matchmaking for her best friends, Aurora (not so) patiently awaits her prince.

But everything changes when Aurora is coerced into a lead role in the school production of Much Ado about Nothing. Which means she’ll have to lock lips with her co-star Hayden Paris―the smart and funny boy next door who also happens to be the bane of her existence, always around to see her at her worst.

Now Aurora is more determined than ever to have her first kiss with the one who’s truly worthy of it. But first she’ll have to figure out just who that person is.

Romantic and funny, Tara Eglington's How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You is a feel-good tale of finding love where you least expect it.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

I got bullied in school. Badly. If you were too, you might have heard the line that “maybe they’re bullying you because they like you!” I can even recall one specific person from high school everyone suggested was bullying me due to a possible crush on me. My response has always been “WHAT THE HELL KIND OF LOGIC IS THAT?” (In kinder words, of course.) If that’s the way the bully expresses their feelings, how would a proper relationship with their bullying victim be any kind of healthy? Because of all that, I’ve never been a fan of any hate-to-love relationships in fiction. They always manage to take a wrong turn or fail to convince me the characters will work.

Then I read How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You and finally got it. Tara Eglington does so much right in her hilarious, friendship-heavy novel that I finally ship a hate-to-love ship! 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: The Possibility of Now by Kim Culbertson

April 18, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: The Possibility of Now by Kim CulbertsonThe Possibility of Now by Kim Culbertson
Published by Point on January 26, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
two-stars
Mara James has always been a perfectionist with a plan. But despite years of overachieving at her elite school, Mara didn't plan on having a total meltdown during her calculus exam. Like a rip-up-the-test-and-walk-out kind of meltdown. And she didn't plan on a video of it going viral. And she definitely didn't plan on never wanting to show her face again.

Mara knows she should go back, but suddenly she doesn't know why she's been overachieving all these years. Impulsively, she tells her mom she wants to go live with her estranged dad in Tahoe. Maybe in a place like Tahoe, where people go to get away from everyday life, and with a dad like Trick McHale, a ski bum avoiding the real world, Mara can figure things out.

Only Tahoe is nothing like she thought. There are awesome new friends and hot boys and a chance to finally get to know Trick, but there is also still massive amounts of schoolwork. Can Mara stopping planning long enough to see the life that's happening right now?

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0 (barista from Singapore, an unspecified Asian girl that hands around, a Latina best friend–all periphery characters with no depth)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: -5 (takes a large dump all over therapy and what it can do for people)
Intersectionality: 0

I go to college with two incredible women. One of them, Lori, is as nonstop as Alexander Hamilton. She won Undergraduate of the Year, she’s being inducted into the Student Hall of Fame, she’s our school’s first-ever Fulbright scholar, she’s done internships at Mount Vernon (among other places), and she did independent research her sophomore year on censored or otherwise altered artwork and literature from Nazi Germany. She’s a history major and museum studies minor genuinely excited by academia and the prospect of a challenge.

The other, Emma, is surely going to earn the Hall of Fame and Undergrad of the Year honors when she graduates next year. In three years, she’s worked up over 800 hours of community service and been involved in almost every way imaginable. When the pressure of academics and general school life got to her, she joined an international volunteer corps and spent two weeks in Peru. That’s not exactly something most of us would do to relieve stress, but that’s exactly what she did. When giving talks about it later, she said it helped center her and figure out what she wants to do in the future.

I mention both of these women because driven people like them are exactly the kind of people The Possibility of Now disrespects through Mara’s voice without any significant subversion of her through the story or narrative. It also treats therapy like something terrible only really messed up people need, which is deeply offensive to me as a woman who has been in therapy twice and gotten so much out of it. 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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