Sparrow blog tour – review + GIVEAWAY!!

Author: Mary Cecilia Jackson
Publication date: March 17, 2020
Genre: young adult contemporary
My rating: 4.5/5 stars

Huge thank you to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for selecting me to participate in this blog tour! At the end of this review, you’ll find the link to a giveaway for this truly impactful book.

Poignant, painful, but ultimately hopeful, Sparrow provides a harrowing look at one girl’s journey from victim to survivor. This is the sort of book that will stick with you for a while–and, yes, you’ll probably shed some tears.

Continue reading

What Kind of Girl – ARC review

Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Publication date: February 1, 2020
Genre: young adult, contemporary
My rating: 4/5 stars

What Kind of Girl is one of those books that, regardless of your opinions on its execution, you have to acknowledge is vitally important for its willingness to openly address difficult social phenomena that society likes to sweep under the rug. It is a heavy read, but in a necessary way, not the maudlin sort of sob-story that is an inherent risk of writing about so many serious issues that teens face today.

“Doing something when you’re scared is braver than doing something when you’re not.”

Continue reading

Swallowtail – review

Author: Brenna Twohy
Publication date: October 1, 2019
Genre: poetry
My rating: 4.5/5

There is no love poem here.

I know
because I looked for it.

from “It Has Been Too Long Since Anyone Has Seen Me Naked”

Surprise, surprise, another collection from Button Poetry that I absolutely adore. As many of you know, I’m a poetry geek, especially about spoken word poetry, and when it comes to spoken word, Button Poetry has some of the best talent out there. Frankly, if there’s a Button book on NetGalley, the odds are pretty high that I’m going to insist on reading it, and Swallowtail certainly did not disappoint. In her debut collection, Brenna Twohy examines topics including abusive relationships, trauma, suicide, femininity, love (or lack thereof), and healing, using metaphors ranging from the traditional (e.g. fruit) to the incredibly contemporary (e.g. Harry Potter). Her language is highly readable–seriously, I finished this entire collection in one sitting, on my lunch break–which makes me think that (a) these pieces would all be fantastic as spoken word/performance pieces, and (b) this collection will appeal to fans of contemporary poetry in general, as well as those who generally don’t like poetry because they find it “too stuffy” or “not relatable.”

Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday 11/26 – Fictional families I’m thankful I’m NOT a part of

Its freezing outside and the approaching holidays are stressful, but hey–at least there’s comfort in the routine of weekly memes. You know the drill: Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s TTT is a “Thankful Freebie,” and while I initially wanted to do something cheesy and happy like “books I’m thankful to have in my life” or something, I started thinking about big things we associate with Thanksgiving…like family. Honestly, not all families are great; there are racist grandparents and cruel siblings and overly critical parents and just generally shitty people. Even my family has quite a bit of its own drama. But we’ve got nothing on these fictional families, which I am so incredibly glad I don’t belong to.

Let’s begin.

1. The Parrish family (The Raven Cycle)

Continue reading

Pet – ARC review

Release date: September 10, 2019

A refreshing #OwnVoices story offering a highly relevant take on the concept of angels and monsters, Pet proves that Akwaeke Emezi can write for younger audiences just as well as they can for adults.

Pet is, at its heart, a story about finding and eliminating evil, even—or especially—when that evil goes unnoticed by most. Jam, a selectively-nonverbal black trans girl, finds herself caught in a moral quandary when a terrifying creature climbs out of one of her mother’s paintings and into the real world. This creature, who calls itself Pet, tells Jam that it has come to hunt a monster. Jam is confused at first, because in the town of Lucille, all monsters—the abusers, the corrupt billionaires, the racist police officers, the sexual predators, and so on—have been eliminated. There should be no monsters to hunt; the mere existence of one means that the supposed safety of her home is a lie. Even more upsetting is the fact that Pet says the monster resides in the house of Jam’s best friend, Redemption. How could there be a monster in such a happy household? Should she tell Redemption about it? And how do you hunt a monster when you don’t even know what, or who, it is?

I did feel a little misled by this book’s categorization. It’s listed as YA, but it felt very much on the young side of that age bracket. Yes, the protagonist is sixteen, and there is some mention of mature topics like child abuse and rape, but the discussions tastefully avoid most details, and Jam herself feels pretty naïve for a teenager. Some of that, I’m sure, is a result of the safe and sterile society she lives in, but I couldn’t help feeling that this novel would be better suited for a late middle-grade reader.

Now, don’t take that the wrong way. There were plenty of things I loved about this book. For one, the diversity is spectacular, both in its inclusivity and in its handling of intersectional identities. The fact that Jam is trans is not just casually dropped once and never mentioned again; she has multiple moments where she realizes her estrogen implant feels cold, or when she thinks about how her life could have gone so differently if her parents hadn’t allowed her to transition when she first insisted, at age three, that she was a girl, not a boy. It isn’t aggressively forced on the reader, nor is it a focal point of the book, but it is a facet of her character that is just there for token diversity points. This is the kind of trans rep I want to see more of: where trans characters can have stories that don’t center around their gender identity, but that also don’t ignore the ways that identity impacts them.

Racial identity is also dealt with exceptionally well; Jam’s parents speak English with distinct linguistic patterns that echo their immigrant status, and when they cook, they make traditional Caribbean dishes. Again, Emezi is able to make sure that characters’ identities are not forgotten but also not exploited. And there are casual allusions to other varied identities as well: Redemption has three parents, all married to each other, one of whom is nonbinary; and the librarian, Ube, is in a wheelchair. 

Emezi’s use of language is what really allows this tale to flourish. The imagery is vivid without being excessively flowery, and Jam’s thought process is introspective without feeling self-indulgent. All the characters’ voices come across distinctly, from Pet’s tendency to use circular, repetitive language, to the dialects of Jam’s parents, to Redemption’s use of AAVE, to the distinctions Jam makes on when to sign her thoughts and when to voice them. That final element, Jam’s frequent use of sign language, brought an especially interesting element to the narrative, as she decided when and what was significant enough to necessitate the use of her voice aloud. Sometimes, things got confusing—Emezi did not have a good way to indicate the difference between Jam signing things and thinking them in her direct telepathic link to Pet—so the use of italics made it a little vague as far as who was speaking. That said, without using an outright different font to indicate thought-communication, I don’t know that they could have handled it any differently.

One more positive note: Jam’s relationships to everyone and everything around her are fascinating and fully realized, multi-dimensional connections. Her relationship with Redemption is seriously friendship goals, full of trust and the sort of instinctive understanding that comes with knowing a person for most of your life. Jam’s constant uncertainty on how much to involve him in the monster hunt, her acute awareness of how any of her choices could impact their friendship, felt incredibly real. Similarly, her relationship with her parents, including their unconditional love for each other, how readily they accepted her being trans even as a child, their willingness to talk about anything and everything, and her guilt over not telling them about her ongoing hunt, is both pleasantly simple and surprisingly nuanced. Jam’s psychic connection with Pet, and their frequent disagreement, presents an interesting exercise in self-awareness. And the odd connection Jam feels with her house, able to sense when things are wrong simply through vibrations in the floorboards, is a nice touch that enhances her intense connection with and innate understanding of the world.

However, I did get the feeling sometimes that this story was a rather predictable, parable-like tale. The plot was incredibly linear, none of it particularly surprising; even the identity of the monster, while not necessarily expected, is still not unexpected. As a narrative about the deceptive nature of evil and the blurred lines around who is truly bad and who is just misguided, about how even someone who seems so good can have dark secrets, it fulfills its function perfectly. But for a novel of two hundred pages, it could stand to have a little more substance, or some plot twists along the way.

As a whole, I highly recommend this read to anyone interested in #OwnVoices representation, the difficulty of discerning right from wrong, and the nuances of relationships. It is not a long read, nor is it perfect, but it is certainly impactful. And, in a time when so much in this world is confusing and scary, where there are monsters at every turn and even in high political offices, it is a necessary reminder that we are the ones who need to take change into our own hands.

TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNINGS: child abuse, rape, mention of racism and police brutality, graphic violence.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.