Source: YA Books Central

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Review: Keeping the Beat by Marie Powell and Jeff Norton

July 17, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Keeping the Beat by Marie Powell and Jeff NortonKeeping the Beat by Jeff Norton, Marie Powell
Published by KCP Loft on April 4, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 372
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
two-stars
Fame. Love. Friends. Pick any two.

It was supposed to be the best summer of her life. Instead, seventeen-year-old Lucy finds her best friend, Harper, shot dead in an LA swimming pool. How did things go so wrong? Their band, Crush, was once the top prospect to win an international talent contest. But things fell apart when Lucy discovered Harper’s real reasons for starting a band — which had nothing to do with music. Meanwhile, her other bandmates are throwing themselves into sex, drugs and rock and roll. Can Lucy get the rest of the girls to play to her beat?

One-part wish fulfillment, one-part cautionary tale, readers will be thrilled to go behind the scenes of “reality” TV.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (a single Mexican man who’s hired help in a Hollywood exec’s household)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Robyn gets addicted to drugs)
Intersectionality: 0

Once a sucker for books about average kids ascending to superstardom, always a sucker for books about average kids ascending to superstardom. They can be cliche, but they can be a lot of fun if they embrace their natures or at least put a twist or two on things. Keeping the Beat initially left a positive impression on me when I first finished reading it. Thinking on it now, however, I’m less impressed with its story. Read more »

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Review: Once Upon a Cruise by Anna Staniszewski

July 10, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Once Upon a Cruise by Anna StaniszewskiOnce Upon a Cruise by Anna Staniszewski
Published by Scholastic Paperbacks on September 27, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Ainsley never wanted to spend her summer on a fairy tale cruise--especially since, instead of lounging by the pool, she's running around the ship doing favor after favor for her cruise director mom.

Things aren't all bad--it's good to see her mom acting confident again after the divorce, and she's learning a lot about obscure German fairy tales and how to fold towels into entertaining shapes for little kids (um, yay?). There's also a guy who's super cute, even in a dorky dwarf costume--if only Ainsley could get Prince Handsome to stop babbling about himself long enough for her to say more than 'hi' to the cute dwarf!

But once the cruise starts, things start to go wrong: the laundry turns pink, the kitchen runs out of food, the guy playing the Pig King is always in Ainsley's hair, and her mom expects her to be in a hundred places all at once. Is this fairy tale cruise under a wicked curse? Or can Ainsley stand up for herself and make the cruise end happily ever after?

Having had the good fortune to go on three cruises in my lifetime, I can tell you that cruises are pretty darn good when they’re good. When they’re bad, they’re the 2013 Poop Cruise aboard the Carnival Triumph. You’ll probably get a different story from the cruise ship workers, though. Listening to them, you’ll get the idea every cruise is a small clusterfuck hidden beneath a veneer of order. That’s certainly how it seems when you read about Ainsley’s adventures onboard a fairy tale cruise!

Read more »

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Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

June 13, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca ZappiaEliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Published by Greenwillow on May 30, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
five-stars
Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Wallace’s stepmom and half-sister are black)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 5 (Eliza and Wallace are both living with anxiety disorders)
Intersectionality: 3

A couple of years ago, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell came out and everyone loved it and I thought it was pretty awful, honestly. That the fictional fandom in the book got its own massive book last year mystifies me. But Eliza and Her Monsters? Yeah, I’d pay good money to enjoy the entirety of the fictional webcomic since it’s an original story all its own rather than the barely-even-veiled Harry Potter fanfic that Carry On was. Since Zappia’s debut novel Made You Up merely whelmed me, I wasn’t expecting Eliza and Her Monsters to knock me off my feet the way it did.

Read more »

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Review: Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

May 11, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Unbecoming by Jenny DownhamUnbecoming by Jenny Downham
Published by David Fickling Books on February 23, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
five-stars
Three women. Three generations. Three secrets.

Katie's life is falling apart: her best friend thinks she's a freak, her mother, Caroline, controls every aspect of her life, and her estranged grandmother, Mary, appears as if out of nowhere. Mary has dementia and needs lots of care, and when Katie starts putting together Mary's life story, secrets and lies are uncovered: Mary's illegitimate baby, her zest for life and freedom and men; the way she lived her life to the full yet suffered huge sacrifices along the way. As the relationship between Mary and Caroline is explored, Katie begins to understand her own mother's behavior, and from that insight, the terrors about her sexuality, her future, and her younger brother are all put into perspective.

Funny, sad, honest, and wise, this powerful multigenerational novel from international bestseller Jenny Downham celebrates life like no book before.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 4 (Katie is a lesbian and her arc is written so, so well)
Disability: 3 (Katie’s little brother Chris has an unspecified developmental disability; Mary has Alzheimer’s)
Intersectionality: 1

Early on in my time as a book blogger, I read You Against Me and fell in love with it. The characters were vivid, the story engrossing and complicated, and I was genuinely amazed to look at my shelves and see I don’t have my own copy of it. (That will be fixed shortly.) You’d think I’d be excited for Unbecoming, but you’d be surprised. It’s unfortuantely common that I read a book by an author, love it, and then feel indifferent to or dislike the next book I read from them. Even though it’s absolutely not a betrayal for that to happen, it can sure feel like one sometimes.

Reader, Jenny Downham did not betray me. Read more »

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Review: Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager

May 8, 2017 Reviews 1 ★★★½

Review: Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah PragerQueer, There, and Everywhere: 22 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager
Published by HarperCollins on May 23, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Nonfiction
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
This first-ever LGBTQ history book for young adults will appeal to fans of fun, empowering pop-culture books like  Rad American Women A-Z and Notorious RBG.

World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals—and you’ve never heard of many of them. Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 22 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn’t make it into your history books, these astonishing true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.

By turns hilarious and inspiring, the beautifully illustrated Queer, There, and Everywhere is for anyone who wants the real story of the queer rights movement.

As a queer chick, I think I’m qualified to say that queer people rock. We write your literature (Oscar Wilde), we start modern civil rights movements (Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson), and we’ve been so overwhelmingly present in the military that in 1947, General Eisenhower found out lesbians were everywhere in the Women’s Army Corps and gave up on “ferreting them out” because he’d lose a lot of people. (No seriously.) Too bad he banned LGBT people from occupying federal government positions when he became president. Now queer teens have their own small history book detailing queer people in history! Well, kinda. Read more »

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Review: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

May 5, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: A List of Cages by Robin RoeA List of Cages by Robin Roe
Published by Disney-Hyperion on January 10, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (two of Adam’s friends are black)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 2 (Adam has ADHD)
Intersectionality: 0 (though Julian is viciously abused by his uncle and both he and Adam develop PTSD later on, it doesn’t quite fit as disability rep)

I still do my best to avoid YA books with male narrators simply because books written by and/or about guys often get the most marketing and the most awards buzz. See: John Green, Andrew Smith, Jeff Zentner, Jay Kristoff, Pierce Brown. Even though YA is dominated by women, it’s still the men who reap the most benefits because that’s how systemic sexism rolls. Naturally, I’m not worried about giving those guys unpaid, labor-intensive marketing via my reviews and try to focus on the girls and women of YA instead. Well, A List of Cages mixes it up a bit with a female author and two male narrators. It’s… good. Misery Lit to the highest degree, but good.

Read more »

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Review: Lucky Girl by Amanda Maciel

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

Review: Lucky Girl by Amanda MacielLucky Girl by Amanda Maciel
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 25, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-stars
Lucky Girl is an unflinching exploration of beauty, sexual assault, and self-worth, from the author of the acclaimed novel Tease. Perfect for readers of Sara Zarr and Courtney Summers.

Being a pretty girl is who Rosie is, but it’s the start of a new school year and she wants to be more. Namely, she’s determined to be better to her best friend, Maddie, who’s just back from a summer program abroad having totally blossomed into her own looks. Rosie isn’t thrilled when Maddie connects with a football player who Rosie was hooking up with—but if it makes her friend happy, she’s prepared to move on. Plus someone even more interesting has moved to town: Alex, who recently garnered public attention after he stopped a classmate from carrying out a shooting rampage at his old high school. Rosie is drawn to Alex in a way she’s never really experienced for a boy before—and she is surprised to discover that, unlike every other guy, he seems to see more to her than her beauty.

Then one night, in the midst of a devastating storm, Rosie suffers an assault that tears apart her life and friendship with Maddie. Forced to face uncomfortable truths about beauty, reputation, and what it really means to be a friend, Rosie realizes that change doesn’t always happen the way you want it to—every disaster has consequences. But with a lot of help and the right people around you, there might also be a way forward.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (there’s one black character who’s barely in the book)
QUILTBAG: 1 (Rosie’s other best friend Ryan is gay and he gets a cute football player boyfriend, but they just aren’t in the book much)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

What I remember best about Amanda Maciel’s debut novel Tease is that its ARC and hardcover had covers reflective enough that I could use them as mirrors! I did actually use my ARC to touch up my makeup once when I lost my compact mirror for a bit. Good times, y’all. I’m a complete glutton for books to do with sexual abuse/assault and Lucky Girl clearly falls in that category, so on my TBR it went! I must admit, this one stands out among the crowd with its characters and how it approaches the message. Read more »

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