Source: YA Books Central

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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: Without Annette by Jane B. Mason

August 11, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Without Annette by Jane B. MasonWithout Annette by Jane B. Mason
Published by Scholastic Press on May 31, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
A gorgeously written, witty, and poignant YA novel, about a girl who must forge her own path in the wake of a crumbling relationship.

Josie Little has been looking forward to moving halfway across the country to attend Brookwood Academy, a prestigious boarding school, with her girlfriend, Annette, for ages. But underneath Brookwood's picture-perfect image lies a crippling sense of elitism that begins to tear the girls apart from the moment they arrive.

While Josie struggles to navigate her new life, Annette seems to fit in perfectly. Yet that acceptance comes with more than a few strings. And consequently, Annette insists on keeping their relationship a secret.

At first, Josie agrees. But as Annette pushes her further and further away, Josie grows closer to Penn, a boy whose friendship and romantic feelings for her tangle her already-unraveling relationship. When Annette's need for approval sets her on a devastating course for self-destruction, Josie isn't sure she can save her this time -- or if Annette even wants her to try.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 4 (Annette and Josie are lesbians and so is an adult in the book)
Disability: 1 (Annette’s mom is a literal raging alcoholic)
Intersectionality: 1

Remember a while back when Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy inspired fury from readers who thought it would engage in bi erasure or lesbian erasure based on its original jacket copy? Yeah, me too, but I stayed out of it. From the sound of reviews, the book was actually very good and didn’t commit either crime in a story about a girl questioning her sexual identity. While reading Without Annette, I described it as “Ramona Blue in boarding school” and kinda regret it because that’s not the case at all. Oops? Still a good book, though.

Read more »

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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.

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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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