Source: print ARC from the publisher

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Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

January 30, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin TalleyOur Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 31, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
four-stars
Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex.

No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

Diversity: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Aki and her brother are biracial, as is Aunt Miranda; lots of Mexican characters in the background)
QUILTBAG: 5 (three bisexual characters, an out-and-proud lesbian, use of the more inclusive LGBTQIA acronym, and the book is basically Forever… for queer girls)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 4 (really engages with the difficulties of being a queer girl and mentions racial attitudes toward queerness at one point)

At some point in your life, I hope you’ve gotten unexpected mail that was so wonderful it made you scream. I’ve had two such moments: when a letter arrived telling me I’d been offered a full-ride scholarship to a college I applied to (I recently graduated from the same college) and when Our Own Private Universe appeared on my doorstep. Talley’s previous novels with Harlequin Teen have seen a lot of criticism lately and they raise valid points. I loved Lies We Tell Ourselves and have no problem admitting that! With Our Own Private Universe, Talley is moving in the right direction and has written a book I expect parents will pass onto their children the way they do Forever… by Judy Blume. Read more »

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Review: Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

December 29, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 1 ★★★

Review: Afterward by Jennifer MathieuAfterward by Jennifer Mathieu
Published by Roaring Brook Press on September 20, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
three-stars
When Caroline's little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can't help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can't see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend--and their best option just might be each other.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Ethan has PTSD; Caroline’s brother Dylan is autistic, but the author cites poisonous org Autism Speaks)
Intersectionality: 0

Jennifer Mathieu can write some incredible novels. Both The Truth About Alice and Devoted occupy precious space on my bookshelf and the latter especially has stuck with me since I read it. Of course I was going to read Afterward! Sadly, I come away from the novel with mixed feelings and without the same kind of deep impression her previous works left. It’s still good, but it’s definitely not something I can recommend if you’re looking for good representation of autism for a number of reasons. Read more »

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Review: The Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen

June 23, 2016 Reviews 0

Review: The Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. NguyenThe Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen
Published by Swoon Reads on June 7, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
DNF
Taylor Simmons is screwed.

Things were hard enough when her single-minded dedication to her studies earned her the reputation of being an Ice Queen, but after getting drunk at a party and waking up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip.

Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they're in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it's better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard.

Readers will be ready to sign their own love contract after reading The Way to Game the Walk of Shame, a fun and addicting contemporary YA romance by Jenn P. Nguyen.

[No diversity rating because I couldn’t be arsed to note it for once. Such was my annoyance with this book.]

If I’d really thought things through, I would have avoided this book altogether. Fake-dating to save one’s reputation sounds super cute, there are plenty of ways to make something like this work, and it didn’t seem offensive to my sensibilities at the time.

Then I started reading. WHOO, BOY. Read more »

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Review: The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

January 14, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ½

Review: The Heir and the Spare by Emily AlbrightThe Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright
Published by Merit Press on January 1, 2016
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
half-star
Family can be complicated. Especially when skeletons from the past pop up unexpectedly. For American Evie Gray, finding out her deceased mother had a secret identity, and not one of the caped crusader variety, was quite the surprise. Evie’s mom had a secret life before she was even born, one that involved tiaras.

In this modern day fairytale, Evie is on a path to figure out who her mom really was, while discovering for herself what the future will hold. Charged with her late mother’s letters, Evie embarks on a quest into her past. The first item on the list is to attend Oxford, her mom’s alma mater. There, Evie stumbles upon a real life prince charming, Edmund Stuart the second Prince of England, who is all too happy to be the counterpart to her damsel in distress.

Evie can’t resist her growing attraction to Edmund as they spend more time together trying to unravel the clues her mother left behind. But, when doubts arise as to whether or not Edmund could ever be with an untitled American, what really ends up unraveling is Evie’s heart. When Evie uncovers all the facts about her mom’s former life, she realizes her mom’s past can open doors she never dreamed possible, doors that can help her be with Edmund. But, with everything now unveiled, Evie starts to crack under the pressure of new family responsibilities and the realization that her perfect prince may want her for all the wrong reasons.

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0 (one character is described as being “mocha-skinned;” no points ever for describing POC skin with food)
QUILTBAG: 0 (lesbian couple tagged on at the end)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

I came for the cute and stayed because The Heir and the Spare was a review book. Solely because it was a review book. I had some hope at first that things would get better, but that hope was extinguished the first time I came across the words “Miss BitchyBoobsInYourFace” as a nickname for a character Evie dislikes for flirting with her love interest Edmund. This is just the start of what’s wrong with Evie and Edmund’s love story. Read more »

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Review: Young Man with Camera by Emil Sher

December 7, 2015 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ½

Review: Young Man with Camera by Emil SherYoung Man with Camera by Emil Sher
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on September 29, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
half-star
A picture is worth a thousand words--and with a unique photographic format, a stunning original voice, and a provocative portrayal of bullying, Young Man with a Camera is a book to get people talking.

T-- is used to getting grief. He gets it from his mom, who blames herself for his accident years earlier. He gets it from Mr. Lam, who suspects every kid of stealing from his shop. Worst of all, he gets it from Joined at the Hip, a trio of bullies so vicious that they leave T-- terrified of even using his entire name.

But T-- has his own strength too: his camera, which captures the unique way he sees the world. His pictures connect him to Ms. Karamath, the kind librarian at school; his friend Sean, whose passion for mysteries is matched only by his love for his dog; and especially Lucy, a homeless woman who shares his admiration for the photographer Diane Arbus. When Lucy is attacked by Joined at the Hip, T-- documents the assault on film. But the bullies know he has the photographs, and their anger could be deadly. What's the right thing for T-- to do? Do pictures ever tell the whole truth? And what if the truth isn't always the right answer?

(I know, I know. I’ve been bad taking a vacay without notice, but this semester’s end has been hella busy.)

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (T–‘s best friend Sean is black)
QUILTBAG: 0 (one character is maybe-gay)
Disability: 1 (Homeless woman Lucy is mentally ill)
Intersectionality: 1 (Lucy as mentally ill and homeless; T–‘s facial burn scars)

Damn. I’m normally not one to lecture about inappropriate content in books for children because MG and YA readers aren’t that easily corrupted by books, but what the hell is this? Who is this book intended for? Middle-grade characters (all of them are thirteen and in middle school), YA material, and pseudo-literary writing from a bad adult novel combine to create the kind of book you would only give to someone you hate. Spoilers abound because there’s no way to discuss all the ways Young Man with Camera fails without it. Read more »

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Review: The Detour by S.A. Bodeen

November 6, 2015 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: The Detour by S.A. BodeenThe Detour by S.A. Bodeen
Published by Feiwel & Friends on October 6, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 224
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
four-stars
On her way to a writer’s conference, a bestselling teenage author takes a detour that has been deliberately set up by her biggest fans—a mother and daughter who kidnap her.

Livvy Flynn is a big deal—she’s a New York Times-bestselling author whose YA fiction has sold all over the world. She’s rich, she’s famous, she’s gorgeous, and she’s full of herself.

When she’s invited to an A-list writer’s conference, she decides to accept so she can have some time to herself. She’s on a tight deadline for her next book, and she has no intention of socializing with the other industry people at the conference.

And then she hits the detour. Before she knows it, her brand new car is wrecked, she’s hurt, and she’s tied to a bed in a nondescript shack in the middle of nowhere. A woman and her apparently manic daughter have kidnapped her. And they have no intention of letting her go.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Livvy is multiracial; her mom is the child of a Vietnamese mother and a man with “some black ancestry”)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Misery by Stephen King was written, published, and made into a movie before I was even born, but it’s such an iconic horror story that it’s part of the cultural consciousness in the US–especially if you write. Then that story is your worst nightmare. Well, S.A. Bodeen’s newest novel gives modern writers a new nightmare to be afraid of while giving plenty of nods to King’s novel. Read more »

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Review: Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond

August 21, 2015 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen EmondBright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond
Published by Roaring Brook Press on August 11, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
one-half-stars
A story about first love, first fights, and finding yourself in a messed up world, from the acclaimed author of Happyface.

Walter Wilcox has never been in love. That is, until he meets Naomi, and sparks, and clever jokes, fly. But when his cop dad is caught in a racial profiling scandal, Walter and Naomi, who is African American, are called out at school, home, and online. Can their bond (and mutual love of the Foo Fighters) keep them together?

With black-and-white illustrations throughout and a heartfelt, humorous voice, Bright Lights, Dark Nights authentically captures just how tough first love can be...and why it's worth fighting for

Diversity: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (plenty of black characters, but many of the males are antagonistic)
QUILTBAG:
0
Disability:
0
Intersectionality:
2 (no one in the novel is particularly well off)

According to the author’s note, Stephen Emond began writing Bright Lights, Dark Nights three years ago, so its beginnings preceded the Black Lives Matter movement and the increased attention to anti-black police brutality, but that doesn’t mean police brutality against black people wasn’t unheard of when he started writing. I remember Rodney King and wasn’t even born when that happened. So yeah, there’s a lot for any novel with an element of anti-black police brutality to live up to. Bright Lights, Dark Nights doesn’t cut it. Read more »

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