Author: Phil Stamper Publication date: March 4, 2020 Genre: young adult, contemporary, LGBTQIA+, romance My rating: 3.5/5 stars
Once again, I’m finding myself in a position where I’m a little too worn out to write full reviews, but I do have thoughts I want to share on books! To that end, I present you with this mini-review of a cute, if not remarkable, queer YA contemporary (with a splash of romance, a ton of commentary on media, and a hefty dose of outer space).
As I mentioned before, I’ve been digging into a lot of middle-grade books this month, including quite a few on audiobook. You know the drill: mini-reviews are all coming up next. This time, we have a contemporary told from the point of view of a gorilla who lives in a mall (currently one of my favorite books of the year), a touching novel-in-verse about a girl who immigrates to the US from Syria, and a cute-and-spooky book that is loosely part Coco and part Ghostbusters.
Up first: the book that OH MY GOD I WAS NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR.
Author: Don Zolidis Publication date: May 5, 2020 Genre: young adult, contemporary fiction, realistic fiction My rating: 4/5 stars
Speech team kids, rejoice: finally, the art of competitive public speaking has crept into mainstream consciousness enough for us to get a whole book about forensics! (For those of you who haven’t taken part in the wild experience that is high school or college speech team, “forensics” is another term for speech team. Seriously, their national organization is the NFL–the National Forensics League. I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to.)
Regardless of whether you did speech or not, you could probably guess that speech culture is…well, not the most positive. And so Don Zolidis, known in the real-world forensics community for his wide range of hilarious plays, often used in competition, has now written a book that leans into the toxic speech team culture with a team of hilarious, sarcastic, scheming social outcasts who want to change things for the better.
Author: Sophie Gonzales Publication date: March 3, 2020 Genre: young adult, contemporary, romance, LGBTQ+ My rating: 5/5 stars
Cute, queer, and oh-so-diverse, this might be my favorite book I’ve read this year thus far. Only Mostly Devastated is essentially a gay retelling of Grease, only with more humor (and emotions), broader social awareness, healthier relationships, and none of the “change the most fundamental aspects of your personality just to please a boy” nonsense that fills the end of the original musical. In other words, it is everything the world of light, contemporary YA thrives on, and I am so here for it.
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.”
Usually, I would do a Top Ten Tuesday post since, you know, it’s a Tuesday. But this week’s theme is “Favorite Books I Read in 2019,” and I’ll let you in on a secret (which isn’t really a secret): I’m not very good at choosing favorites. I agonize over making selections of which books were the “best” I read each year, especially once I try to account for things like literary merit vs my own personal enjoyment, different criteria for books of different genres, new books vs classics, what to do about multiple good books in a series, and so on. Plus, with 105 books under my belt from this year alone, there’s just such a high chance that a generic “top ten” would leave out books that deserve more love. So instead, this is a little clustered “list” of my thoughts from the year, across different categories, genres, and more, with both favorites and least-favorites galore. (Hey, that rhymed.)
Author: Claire Kann Publication date: January 23, 2018 Genre: young adult contemporary, LGBTQ+ My rating: 1/5 stars (and I considered giving it less than that…)
I. Am. So. Mad. At. This. Book. Seriously, I am one angry ace right now. I was so excited about this book; I had seen it listed so many times in articles with lists of books featuring asexual main characters, and plenty of people had written great reviews of it on Goodreads. I should have realized early on that most of those glowing reviews were not from OwnVoices reviewers; the one highly-ranked review I saw written by someone who is actually ace was quite critical.
It became apparent that the people who praised this book were glad because it taught them about asexuality. The thing is, simply having representation isn’t enough, especially if that representation is bad. And BOY HOWDY was this representation bad. Maybe someone out there can see their feelings reflected in the story told here, but for me–based on my own experience, the experiences of other aces I know, and the little research that actually exists on asexuality–it was inaccurate, full of stereotypes, and generally just not good.
Oh, and the book itself was pretty crap as well, so before I start tackling all the ways in which the book does aces dirty, might as well discuss those problems.
Author: Gloria Chao Publication date: Genre: young adult, contemporary My rating: 2/5 stars
What do you get when you cross an OwnVoices story with odd mythological tie-ins, a cheesy romance, and parental conspiracies? Hint: it’s this book, and it isn’t very good. At first glance, Our Wayward Fate looked perfect for me (Chinese-American story, discussions of racism, quirky protagonist who likes puns, etc), but like a poorly-planned recipe, the ingredients became stale very quickly and did not blend well, resulting in a forgettable trifle of a read.
Author: Christine Riccio Publication date: May 7, 2019 Genre: young adult, contemporary, speculative fiction (?) My rating: 1.5/5 stars
Note: I first published a version of this review on my Goodreads account in June 2019. I figured, with the fact that this dumpster fire is up for a Goodreads Choice Award now, I should clean it up a little and get my (very strong) opinions up here as well.
That was…disappointing. There were some promising elements (some of the details hit way too close to home…), and the premise was cool, but the execution was lacking, and it was a little painful to get through. For some context, I read this because the new Barnes and Noble YA Book Club chose it as their first monthly pick, and I was going to go to that discussion. But when I finished the book, I was not a huge fan–didn’t despise it, so I wasn’t going to rant about it or anything, but didn’t have any desire to spend even another minute on it. So when my mom and brother decided they were going to get Dairy Queen shortly before when I would have had to leave for that meeting, I opted to go get ice cream and skip the discussion altogether. That’s the kind of apathy I felt.
In retrospect, I actually did hate it a lot more than I initially thought, to the point that I decided to sell this book–which I had actually paid just about full price for, in hardcover–to Half-Price Books for about $3 (yeah, they’re kind of cheapskates…) because I didn’t want it on my shelf, nor did I want to give it to my friend who is a high school English teacher for her classroom library, because, again, it was garbage.
Hey, y’all! Hopefully everyone in the US enjoyed their long weekend for Labor Day, and hopefully everyone else enjoyed their normal weekend and subsequent Monday. Today’s post is another Top Ten Tuesday, a themed weekly post run by That Artsy Reader Girl, and the topic du jour is, as you probably gathered from this post’s title, “Top 10 Books I Enjoyed That Are Outside of My Comfort Zone.” A few of these titles are ones I read for school, but a fair number are also ones I tried out just because, so I included a little explanation with each one. As usual, the titles are in no particular order. Enjoy!