Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Published: 2017
Source: Local Library

Summary: Starr is in the car when her friend Khalil is pulled over for a broken taillight as he's driving her home from a party. The next thing she knows, Khalil is dying on the street in front of her, shot in the back three times by the policeman who pulled them over.

Starr's heard this story before - Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and too many others to count. She's always thought she would be front and center, advocating for justice. But when she's in the middle of it, when the complexities of her school life, her family, and her neighborhood are intersecting with the news stories of an innocent boy's death, all her firm resolutions suddenly seem like soap bubbles. What's the right thing to do?

First Impressions: My god this was so good. It's about the murder of Khalil, but it's also about how Starr navigates her identity as a young black woman in several worlds and how she can reconcile those worlds, and how sometimes, they can't be reconciled.

Later On: This draft has been sitting in my Google Docs since June 2017, when I first read this book. Part of the reason it's been so hard to write a review (other than my overall difficulty blogging last year) was that this has gotten so much attention, and it seems like everyone has already said all the things I feel about this book.

What made it such an incredible and affecting book for me was how immersive it is. There are some books that feel like they're being told to you. You're standing at a distance like it's a news report. This is a book that positions you right behind Starr's eyes, and everything that happens and everything she feels about it all feels close enough to touch.

There's the horror of witnessing Khalil's senseless death, and the helplessness you feel along with Starr, knowing it's unlikely that his murderer will answer for the crime.

But there's also Starr at school, and the mask she puts on to fit in among her (mainly) white and well-off classmates. You feel the distance between herself and her friends and boyfriend, who don't understand the devastation she feels because it's not a part of their experience. Some of them are still able to be there for her, and some aren't.

There's Starr existing in her community, the richness and interconnectedness of her life and relationships. She loves her family and her friends and her neighborhood, but also feels conflicted because she wants to leave.

Finally, there's the fear about speaking out, about stepping forward and putting a target on herself, and the courage she has to muster to do it anyway.

I'll be seeing the movie when it comes out.

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

First Impressions: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: At seventeen, Molly can claim twenty-six crushes but not one first kiss. When her twin sister Cassie sails confidently into her own first romance with equally cool and confident Mina, Molly feels even more left behind. She's struggling with anxiety and feelings about her weight, and It doesn't help that her friends are trying to push her into romance with cute Will (spoiler: he's not worth it) and away from dorky Reid (spoiler: he is). With their moms finally able to get married, it's going to be a summer of changes.

First Impressions: Gaaaaaaaaaaaah I loved this book with all of my heart. There's so much here about how growing up and falling in love changes all your other relationships, and it's not really good or bad, it just is.

Best for: Readers who want stories about family and sisters, are encountering (or remember well) this bittersweet feeling, and enjoy a romance that is not with the obvious partner.

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Saturday, August 04, 2018

First Impressions: The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend

Title: The Other F-Word
Author: Natasha Friend
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Hollis's life is kind of a mess right now. One of her moms died of cancer six years ago, she's entangled in a weird hookup situation with a classmate (and getting nasty texts from his ex), and honestly she can't take one more thing. But then Milo, who was conceived via the same sperm donor as Hollis, reaches out to her and their other half-sibs. Hoping to learn more about their shared father, they all wind up learning a lot more about themselves.

First Impressions: Ugggghhhh this was so good! Hollis's story was so complex and I loved that her hooking up with a classmate wasn't a terrible thing in itself, it was the reasons why. So good. Milo's story was a little less compelling but still very readable.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Book Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Title: Breadcrumbs
Author: Anne Ursu
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

Summary: Hazel and Jack are the best of friends, but she feels things changing as they work their way through fifth grade. When he suddenly shuts her out, she knows something is wrong, and when he disappears completely, she's determined to find him for the sake of their old friendship. Armed only with what she's learned from books, Hazel will have to survive a strange new world and all its dangers if she wants her friend back.

First Impressions: Eeeeeee this booooook. I want to hug it.

Later On: This is billed as a retelling of The Snow Queen - which it is - but that's not the only way that books and stories impact it. Hazel is a reader. She buries herself in books like a lot of the kids (and former kids) reading this very book. She refers to characters as if they are old friends and tries to draw on the things she's learned from their stories. Sometimes it's helpful. Sometimes it's not.

Of course, the best fairy tale retellings aren't just a rote recitation of the story. Ursu uses the idea of the Snow Queen's icy grip to explore ideas of changing friendship, depression, and growing up.
This is a quietly beautiful book that actually becomes more complex as Hazel moves into the fantasy world. With no pat answers (and barely a hint of prepubescent romance, thank you), this book curled right up in my heart and stayed there.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

First Impressions: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Title: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Sal feels like a stranger to himself. He's punched two classmates (in fairness, one called him a pinche gringo, and the other called his father a homophobic slur), his friends' lives are coming apart at the seams, and he has no idea what to write for his college applications. Then he discovered his beloved grandmother is dying. As he makes his way through his senior year trying to work out what it all means, he'll have to come to terms with the messy, happy, sad, confusing, glorious business of living.

First Impressions: Awwwwwwwwwwww this made me cry. No plot but really about coming to terms with death and life and growing up.

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

First Impressions: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Title: American Street
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Fabiola and her mother are almost out of Haiti for good. But her mother is detained at the airport in New York, and Fabiola has to go on alone to a new life on Detroit's west side with her aunt and cousins. America is very different from Haiti, but Fabiola draws strength from her ancestral vodoun religion, and capably takes the lessons from her first home into her second.

First Impressions: Arrrrrgh I want to clutch this book to my heart. Fabiola is so strong and struggling, and I love that neither Haiti nor Detroit are glorified nor demonized.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Autumn was looking forward to the holiday weekend, hanging out with her friends at a snowy cabin in the woods, and maybe getting to actual girlfriend status with Jeff. But then the library closes early for the weekend, locking her and Dax Miller in together. No phones, no heat, and nobody's coming to rescue them. Dax is taciturn and mysterious, with a bad reputation, and he clearly isn't any happier with the situation than she is. Will they survive until the library re-opens?

First Impressions: This was very sweet! Not sure why the library didn't have phones but okay. I want to read more about the depiction of anxiety disorder.

Later On: The whole trapped-in-a-library thing required a lot of suspension of disbelief on my part, if only because I know full well how many phones any library has, and there was no mention of a power outage that would have knocked them out. But once I leaped that hurdle, I was able to enjoy the forced proximity of the locked-in trope, as they both let their guards down and learn to enjoy each other. Their newfound closeness chills once they return to the real world, with the pressures and expectations of other people affecting their behavior again.

A little about the portrayal of mental illness in this book: Autumn has anxiety and struggles with that during their involuntary lock-in. She ends up confiding in Dax - the only person she's ever told - and he is sweetly supportive, but she still keeps it a secret from her other friends, until a dramatic moment later in the book. I haven't seen anxiety in books a lot, at least as a named and treatable mental illness. Often what you get is a character portrayed as an uptight control freak. Autumn approaches it as an illness, not a personal flaw, but she's still self-conscious about it, which felt real. And most of all, it was an aspect of her character but not the defining characteristic.

Overall, this was a light, sweet romance with some more serious elements that didn't overwhelm the tone.

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