book review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin |entertaining fiction about slut-shaming

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Afbeeldingsresultaat voor young jane youngYoung Jane Young

by Gabrielle Zevin

read in July 2018

format: paperback (library)

rating: 3.75 stars

This is a spoiler-free review!

synopsis

Young Jane Young‘s heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late‑night talk show punchline; she is slut‑shamed, labeled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.

How does one go on after this? In Aviva’s case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She tries to start over as a wedding planner, to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long‑ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. For in our age, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you’ve done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it’s only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane’s daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her. (source: Goodreads)

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“A mother must act like the woman she wanted her daughter to become.”

Young Jane Young has received some praise, mainly by the people I follow on Instagram. When I noticed this novel in the library, I decided to borrow it. I actually had no idea what this book was about, so I was pleasantly surprised when I learnt this is feminist contemporary fiction dealing with slut-shaming and starring Jewish characters.

I didn’t like the writing style in the very first chapter. It threw me off and I considered putting the book down because at that point, I didn’t even know much about it anyway. However, I changed my mind because only a few pages in was clearly too early to make such a decision and I am glad I did.

For me, Young Jane Young won’t be very memorable. It wasn’t innovative and the feminism isn’t very intersectional, but it was an entertaining read. I finished the entire book in two sittings and I genuinely enjoyed reading this story.

Each part is from a different point-of-view. Gabrielle Zevin has published many books, so the transition between each part was seamless. Each character had a distinct voice. The final part was written in second person. Usually that takes me some time getting used to, but I hadn’t even noticed! It was done beautifully.

Jane and Ruby were my favourite characters. Ruby’s reaction when she found out the truth was tough to read, but I found her nonetheless enchanting.

If you are looking for a quick and interesting read, Young Jane Young might be what you’re looking for. There’s one plot twist I did not see coming, I was so surprised! That said, I would’ve liked an epilogue as I grew attached to these characters and wanted to see how everything turned out.

As I have mentioned, the feminism isn’t very intersectional. It mainly deals with slut-shaming; women of color, trans women, etc. are never really mentioned. There is in fact a minor side character who is a trans woman, but it was treated as a “fun fact” and the word “transgendered” is used. I am cisgender so this isn’t mine to talk about, but I can’t figure out why the author decided to mention this character. She’s treated as an oddity, so I’d hardly call this representation. Additionally, in a book that deals with feminism, she is completely excluded from the conversation.

content and trigger warnings for many anti-fat remarks, slut-shaming (challenged), mentions of Holocaust and Hitler, sexual harassment (challenged), bullying (challenged), ableist language (including cr*zy), transphobic language (“transgendered people”), mentions of a miscarriage, cancer, mentions of sex (M/F), mention of rape, mention of depression


Young Jane Young was an entertaining read and I enjoyed following these characters’ stories. That said, if you are looking for feminist literature, I don’t think this is the most inclusive one.

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book review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman | a new favourite!

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Afbeeldingsresultaat voor alice oseman radio silenceRadio Silence

by Alice Oseman

read in July 2018

format: paperback

rating: 5 stars

This is a spoiler-free review

synopsis

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…

She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

my_review_001I was incredibly hesitant to pick up Radio Silence. So many of my friends absolutely love this book, so I was afraid my expectations would be too high and I’d end up feeling disappointed. When I finally started reading this book, however, I immediately knew this would be a five stars read!

Frances Janvier is the main character. She is bisexual and biracial (her mother is white, her father Ethiopian). She was an incredibly relatable protagonist. When I was in secondary school, I was exactly like her. The only thing I excelled at, was getting good grates. When I went to college, however, I realised I wasn’t as clever as I thought. I graduated a year ago and that’s still something I struggle with. I studied to be become a teacher for four years, finally got my diploma and now I realise I can’t handle the stress of the job. I want to do something completely different now which I don’t even need a degree for and that hurts. It feels like I wasted four years of my life. Anyway, Frances went through these same emotions, which felt very comforting.

The centre of the story is Frances’ and Aled’s friendship and the podcast Universe City.  The friendships in this novel were absolutely beautiful. They’re complex and messy, but so very strong. These characters love each other and it made me cry many times. I really appreciate that Aled and Frances never got romantically nor sexually involved. Instead, Alice Oseman gave us a complicated M/M relationship and some F/F moments ❤

Besides the friendships, I also adored the relationship Frances has with her mother. Her mom is hilarious and I love that Frances felt so comfortable to share so much with her.

As I have mentioned, Frances is bisexual and biracial. Aled is demisexual and his best friend Daniel is English-Korean and gay. Aled’s sister Carys is a lesbian and Frances’ friend Raine is Indian. I really liked the diversity and I absolutely adore my queer children! Frances’ “when I realised I was bi” story was so relatable, I cried!

Aled is such a complicated character. It’s never explicitly said in the book, but he’s clearly depressed.  Radio Silence shows that mental illnesses can be ugly and that’s okay. Yes, they’re no excuse for being shitty, but your brain can be convinced that e.g. everyone hates and uses you, so it’s understandable that you lash out. What some would call irrational behaviour, I found honest and relatable.

Alice Oseman is a very young writer – she’s only one year older than me! – and I think that’s one of her strengths. She understands fandoms because she has been part of them, which once again made Radio Silence so relatable. I loved that she showed how toxic fandoms can be. The creator of the podcast Universe City gets stalked and receives death treats; it’s very ugly. To outsiders this might seem dramatic, but as someone who has been a part of many fandoms, I can assure you that some fans know no boundaries.

Additionally, I completely understand why our characters preferred to stay anonymous online. I could identify with this as I also freak out whenever someone I know in real life discovers my social media. I am not the same person online as I am in real life – I’m much more myself on here – so that made me like these characters even more.

I don’t have any experiences with podcasts, so whenever they talked about Universe City and Frances’ drawings, I kind of envisioned the Hot Daga from Buzzfeed Unsolved 😛

content and trigger warnings for parental abuse, anxiety, depression, mentions of suicide, “just friends”, outing a character to their sibling, alcohol, animal death


Clearly, I adored this novel. I can’t wait to read more of Oseman’s work and I hope I will love it as much as I did this one. While reading Radio Silence I cried and hugged my book many times, so I will surely re-read this in the future.

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book review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid | 3 stars

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Afbeeldingsresultaat voor exit westExit West

by Mohsin Hamid

read in July 2018

format: hardcover (library)

rating: 3 stars

This is a spoiler-free review!

synopsis

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their story begins. It will be a love story but also a story about war and a world in crisis, about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow. Before too long, the time will come for Nadia and Saeed to leave their homeland. When the streets are no longer useable and all options are exhausted, this young couple will join the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . . (from Goodreads.com)

my_review_001I didn’t really know what Exit West was about, but I’ve been keen to read it for a while now. Literary fiction that receives much praise always grabs my attention, but I’m beginning to understand the genre might not be for me, yet. I’ve loved Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, but most of the other critically-acclaimed novels I have read were merely three star reads. Unfortunately, Exit West is among those books.

Because someone made a reservation for this novel at the library, I had to read the entire book in two days. I have been in a reading slump for over a month, but I managed to complete it in time. Exit West is a short read and the topic of immigration was interesting.

Unfortunately, I was not font of the writing style. The sentences were very long with a lot of commas, yet it also seemed clipped and matter-of-factly. This style created a distance between the characters and me as a reader.

I think fans of Station Eleven would enjoy this novel. Both books are character-driven and discuss changes in the world, and I remember thinking I didn’t truly get to know the protagonists while reading Station Eleven either.

This book has two protagonists: Saeed and Nadia. I enjoyed their dynamics and Nadia was my favourite. She’s absolutely not a stereotype and she’s queer (probably bisexual)! That said, I would’ve liked to feel more connected with the characters, but the writing style prevented that from happening.

While reading I considered DNF’ing this novel. I had a deadline and I wasn’t loving it, but I decided to continue because it has received so much praise. I understand why this novel is so well-loved, but sadly, it didn’t really work for me.

content and trigger warnings for mentions of sex (F/F and M/F), recreational drug use, mentions of racism (anti-Filipinos), mentions of bullying, detailed suicide plans, bombings, guns, sexual assault, executions, anti-Indigenous language (‘tribe’ used with negative connotation, ‘savage’, ‘native’ used to describe people e.g. born and living in London instead of actually referring to Indigenous people)


I wasn’t a fan of the author’s writing style, which ultimately made me give this novel three stars as I never truly connected with the story nor characters. I would, however, recommend this to fans of Station Eleven as I think these books have much in common and I had the same criticism for both.

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book review: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado | it’s me, not you

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Afbeeldingsresultaat voor her body and other parties bookHer Body and Other Parties

by Carmen Maria Machado

read in July 2018

format: hardcover (library)

This is a spoiler-free review!

synopsis

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

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I had heard nothing but positive things about Her Body and Other Parties, so I was very excited when I spotted this short story collection in the library. Sadly, I really struggled while reading this.

I don’t have a lot of experience with magical realism, which might explain why I didn’t understand the majority of the stories. I don’t tend to read poetry often because I suck at understanding metaphors and that was my problem with this book as well. I wanted to understand the meaning behind each story – I could tell it was profound – but I just didn’t get it.

As someone who tends to be sex-repulsed because of past traumas, the importance of sex in these short stories took me by surprise. While I love sex-positivity, I struggle reading stories about e.g. pornography. There’s nothing wrong with writing female characters who have a strong desire for sex, but if anyone feels the same way about sex as me, I think this is valuable information, as the descriptions were rather graphic.

Though these stories didn’t really work for me, I really liked the characters. Carmen Maria Machado is queer (she has a wife) and I really appreciate that the majority of the characters are queer.

Now I’m going to take the time to briefly talk about each short story:

1. The Husband Stitch

This was my favourite story in the entire book. I understood the metaphor of the ribbon and was invested in the story. While reading The Husband Stitch, however, I was really confronted with my aversion of sex. Some descriptions were graphic (e.g. “semen running down my leg”) and it took me some time to get back into the story after reading sentences like that.

Once again, I want to stress that being sex-positive is not problematic. I merely want to warn readers who are repulsed by it (perhaps because of trauma) because it can be triggering ❤

content and trigger warnings for kissing (M/F), masturbation, sex (M/F), unsafe sex (“pulling out”), mention of paedophilia, oral sex (M/F), pregnancy, labour

2. Inventory

The female main character in the second story is queer but unfortunately, I didn’t comprehend fully what was going on.

content and trigger warnings for drug use, sex (M/F, F/F), rape threat, death

3. Mothers

I can’t say much about this one either.

content and trigger warnings for drug use, sex (F/F), abuse

4. Especially Heinous

In this novella, the author re-imagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I have never watched this show, so I don’t know whether readers were supposed to have any previous knowledge. That said, I didn’t finish this story. This chapter was really long and several pages in I found it very disjointed and I didn’t care to read more.

content and trigger warnings for murder

5. Real Women Have Bodies

This was my second favourite story because I liked the characters. Once again, however, I couldn’t fully comprehend the symbolism of the fading women.

content and trigger warnings for d*ke slur, sex (F/F), self-harm

6. Eight Bites

Eight Bites is about a woman who has surgery in order to lose weight. Surprise, surprise, but I didn’t really get this one either.

content and trigger warnings for anti-fat language (not being fat is described as ‘normal’ and ‘looking right’)

7. The Resident

This is the second story I didn’t finish. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t invested enough to read more.

content and trigger warnings for animal death, sex (M/F), cr*zy slur, masturbation, detailed descriptions of pus

8. Difficult at Parties

In this story, I was once again confronted with my traumas as there were e.g. detailed descriptions of pornography.

content and trigger warnings for trauma/PTSD and pornography


Clearly this novel didn’t work for me, but I can’t blame the book and author. I would recommend Her Body and Other Parties to readers who are familiar with magical realism and metaphors and who don’t struggle reading about sex.

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book review: Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake|a beautiful queer middle grade novel!

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Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World

by Ashley Herring Blake

read in July 2018

format: hardcover

rating: 4 stars

This is a spoiler-free review!

synopsis

When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

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Ashley Herring Blake is one of my favourite authors so naturally, I had to read her middle grade debut. It took me a while to get through Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World because I’m in a massive reading slump, so it’s definitely not the book’s fault. I’d go weeks without picking it up but whenever I did, I could easily follow the plot and the characters.

When a tornado destroys Ivy’s family’s house, the aftermath is devastating. They don’t have a place to live and they’ve lost all of their belongings. Ivy can’t find her notebook anymore in which she drew numerous pictures of her holding hands with girls. She doesn’t know yet what those pictures mean and she’s terrified they’ll get in the wrong hands.

This novel is a beautiful story about family, friendships and coming to terms with your sexuality at an early age. I teared up and Robin, who is a lesbian side character, was amazing! I also love that Ashley Herring Blake normalises the word ‘queer’ by writing it casually in this book.

The ending wasn’t 100% perfect, “everything is okay”; but it was very hopeful. I personally prefer endings like this and I applaud the author for taking this approach in a book that’s aimed at a younger audience.

I recommend picking this up and I will definitely purchase this author’s following middle grade novel The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James.

content and trigger warnings for tornado, mentions of Leukaemia


Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World is a heart-warming middle grade novel and I will continue to read everything Ashley Herring Blake writes!

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book review: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland | 3 stars!

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Afbeeldingsresultaat voor need to know karen clevelandNeed to Know

by Karen Cleveland

read in June 2018

format: audiobook

rating: ★★★

This is a spoiler-free review!

synopsis

Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—are threatened.

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

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I decided to read Need to Know because this thriller is pretty popular in the bookstore I’m currently working at. The synopsis sounded very promising and all the five star reviews convinced me this would be an amazing read.

Sadly, this novel didn’t live up to the hype for me. While it was entertaining and I never thought “I don’t want to finish it”, the many twists and turns were rather bland.

Towards the end of the book, I found myself only half listening to the audiobook. While the narration was good, the events became too convenient and ‘soap opera’-level dramatic. The epilogue feels like a cop-out. It seems lazy when the most shocking twist in the book is the final sentence. If the author decides to write a sequel, I won’t be reading it.

Additionally, the book lacked depth. The characters weren’t very fleshed-out, so I didn’t care about what would happen to them.

content and trigger warnings for cancer and death (off the page), murder (on the page), suicide (on the page), miscarriage (on the page), gun violence (on the page), blackmailing (on the page), rape threats (on the page)


Overall Need to Know was an okay read. It was entertaining, but it certainly didn’t blow my mind. 3 stars!

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book review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis | an uncomfortable read…

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Afbeeldingsresultaat voor tiffany sly lives here nowTiffany Sly Lives Here Now

by Dana L. Davis

read in May 2018

format: audiobook

rating: ★★ ½

This is a spoiler-free review!

synopsis

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

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Based on the synopsis, I was looking forward to reading Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now. I haven’t read a book similar to it before, so the plot seemed very promising. Sadly though, a huge amount of ableist language is used and it ruined my enjoyment of the book.

The anxiety representation is #OwnVoices. Tiffany has been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder – which I also have! – OCD and she has alopecia. I liked the positive portrayal of medication, as it was clear Tiffany’s anxiety instantly increased when her father took away her pills.

That said, the language that is often used to describe people and situations is high-key ableist and it made me very uncomfortable. “She has Tourette” is for instance used as an insult, an autistic character is referred to as ‘crazy’ on numerous occasions and I could go on. As a reader with mental illnesses, this made me feel like shit. I don’t understand how you can write a book featuring anxiety and OCD yet use dehumanizing and stigmatising language like that.

I am not autistic, so I can’t comment on the representation. I suggest you read this review instead. The autism is only a part of the story to highlight how horrible the father is, not the actually offer any representation. Additionally, I felt like Anthony’s abusive behaviour wasn’t challenged as much as it should’ve been. He mentally and physically abuses his kids, yet Tiffany was nonetheless hoping he would be her father? I don’t understand that at all.

The main reason why Anthony is so controlling is because of his religion. His family are Jehovah’s Witnesses and I personally thought religion was presented in a very negative way. I realise that many people who are religious are queerphobic, ableist, pro-life, etc., but the approach could’ve been more nuanced, in my opinion.

I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author herself. If you are still interested in reading this book, I’d recommend the audiobook.

content and trigger warnings for anxiety, ableist language (unchallenged), queerphobia, mentions of oral sex, sexual coercion, car accident, cancer, death, grief, racism, autistic abuse, transphobia (“If God was a man, he’d have a gigantic penis”; unchallenged), biracial erasure (e.g. calling a biracial character who has a black mother ‘white’; unchallenged), mentions of parent-teacher romantic relationship


Though I enjoyed reading about Tiffany’s journey, the book ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth. The abuse could’ve been challenged further. While I understand why problematic behaviour is featured in books – it’s realistic after all – I wish authors understood how difficult it is for some readers to read that.

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4 mini-reviews: Undead Girl Gang, Amal Unbound, Forever Interrupted and What Happened (spoiler-free)

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Hello my fellow book lovers! I usually post separate reviews for every book I read, but whenever I listen to a book on audiobook, I notice I don’t take as many notes. That’s why I’m briefly going to share my thoughts on the following four books I read in May!

When you click on the graphic, you will be brought to the book’s Goodreads page. You can also read the synopsis there.

undead girl gangThough Undead Girl Gang deals with a lot of heavy topics such as grief and death, I would primarily describe this book as ‘fun!’. As opposed to many Young Adult mysteries, the fantasy elements prevented this book from taking itself too seriously, which resulted in a very entertaining read.

The author is Afro-Latinx and I loved the diversity in this novel! The protagonist Mila is fat and Mexican which has shaped her experiences and assure that her feminism is intersectional.

The female friendships were phenomenal. I have to disagree with other reviewers who say June and Dayton are one-dimensional. They might seem that way at first, but they grow as the story progresses.

If you are looking for an entertaining read that nonetheless explores numerous important themes, Undead Girl Gang is the book you’re looking for! I listened to the audiobook and the narration was really good.

content and trigger warnings for death, grief, graphic descriptions of suicide and corpses, drowning, anti-fat remarks (challenged), racism (challenged) amal unboundAmal Unbound is the best middle grade novel I have ever read. Though this is aimed at a younger audience, I thoroughly enjoyed this as an adult. Just like Saeed’s young adult novel Written in the Stars, the author managed to write a sad story that was nonetheless hopeful, heartwarming and important. The author’s note is beautiful and stresses why Saeed chose to write a book about indentured servitude. The Pakistani representation is #OwnVoices.

I listened to the audiobook and I adored the narration. I admire Amal and her feminism; she was a phenomal protagonist and I loved following her story. I will definitely buy a phyiscal copy of Amal Unbound because the cover is gorgeous and I see myself re-reading it in the future.

content and trigger warnings for postpartum depression, murder (off-page), indentured servitudeforever interruptedForever, Interrupted starts out with a bang: nine days after Ben and Elsie got married, Ben dies in a traffic accident. I was immediately pulled into the story and was invested to read how Elsie and her mother-in-law grieved. Sadly though, I didn’t care as much about the flashbacks. We learn how Elsie and Ben fell in love and it’s no secret I don’t like romance-centred books, so those chapters didn’t work as well for me.

content and trigger warnings: deathly traffic accident, ableist language (unchallenged), anti-fat remarks (unchallenged), mentions of sex (M/F), anti-asexual and anti-aromantic language (unchallenged), mentions of menstruation

what happenedI don’t live in the United States, but if I did, I certainly would’ve voted for Hillary Clinton. She isn’t perfect, but no one is. On November 9th 2016 when the results were announced, I cried. My heart goes out to every marginalised person in the United States who is facing even more injustices because of the new president.

So when I started listening to the audiobook of What Happened, I became emotional. I hope reading this book will be somewhat healing for other readers. I appreciate how Clinton takes some of the blame, but she’s also critical of the media’s and the FBI’s role. It makes her account seem very honest an nuanced.

I absolutely do not regret reading this and I love that it was narrated by the author herself. That said, it took me a long time to read this. Clinton mentions a lot of people, statistics and her policies, but in hindsight, that sadly doesn’t really matter.

content and trigger warnings for cissexist language (unchallenged), ableist language (unchallenged), mentions of sexism (challenged)


I rated Undead Girl Gang and Amal Unbound both five stars, so I highly recommend those! Forever, Interrupted and What Happened were solid reads and I definitely don’t regret reading those.

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ARC review: Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro | a powerful and diverse book about social justice!

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Afbeeldingsresultaat voor anger is a gift mark oshiroAnger is a Gift

by Mark Oshiro

read in May 2018

format: e-ARC

This is a spoiler-free review!

synopsis

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

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I received an e-ARC from Tor Teen through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

“Anger is a gift. Remember that. You gotta grasp on to it, hold it tight and use it as ammunition. You use that anger to get things done instead of just stewing in it.”

If you enjoy books like The Hate U Give and Dear Martin, you have to give Anger is A Gift a chance! When the new school year begins, new rules are implemented to keep Moss’ school safe, but it lead to multiple occasions of abuse of power by the school’s police officers.  As a result, students want to peacefully protest these changes.

I liked the depiction of their school. There are thirty-four students in one classroom, there aren’t enough books for every pupil… It’s a disgrace and not a coincidence that mainly students of colour have to face these circumstances. Additionally, the school becomes more and more of a prison. On the one hand that’s probably true for many schools in the United States because of the high number of school shootings, but in this case, rules are primarily implemented to dominate brown and black students.

When you are reading Anger is a Gift, you might think “well, this is very dramatic/unrealistic”. As a white person and someone who doesn’t live in the United States, I can’t comment on that. That said, just because situations that are depicted in this novel don’t make the news, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This book proves the media’s role in depicting these stories, how people of colour are vilified and scrutinised when they’re completely innocent or when the punishment clearly doesn’t fit the crime.

Just like the novels I mentioned at the beginning of this novel, Anger is a Gift isn’t easy to read. In his author’s note, Oshiro mentions that a perfect conclusion would not seem honest, and I couldn’t agree more. Police brutality and racism and still very real issues many people face today, so it wouldn’t be realistic if everything worked out perfectly for our characters of colour. Don’t worry though, there are still plenty of hopeful moments in this book.

There is so much diversity! Moss is gay, black and has anxiety. The anxiety representation was very relatable; he mentioned his therapist and there’s a minor character who takes medication for her depression! Moss’ best friend Esperanza is Puerto Rican, adopted by white parents and a lesbian. Among the side characters there is asexual representation, disability representation (a character who uses a wheelchair and sometimes crutches), a character who uses they/them pronouns, trans female characters*, a characters who has two mothers, a muslim girl who wears a hijab, etc.

As much as I loved the author’s efforts to include so much diversity, it was a bit difficult to keep track of the large cast of characters. I did really love the dynamics with the adult characters though, it’s refreshing to see that in a YA novel.

content and trigger warnings for (might contain spoilers!!!): death of black parent, death of gay Latinx character, death as a result of police brutality, graphic descriptions of police brutality, panic attacks, racism (challenged), riots, poverty, ableism (challenged), negative body image (challenged), transphobia and misgendering *(it’s not explititly stated that these characters are trans, but they’re misgendered by antagonists and there are mentions of a name change)


I found Anger is a Gift an incredibly powerful novel and I cannot wait to read #OwnVoices reviews! This book will be released tomorrow, so grab a copy if you can handle the heavy topics.

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book review: Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman | #buzzwordreadathon

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29640839._UY630_SR1200,630_[1]Girl out of Water

by Laura Silverman

read in May 2018 (Buzzword Readathon)

format: paperback

rating: ★★★ ½

This is a spoiler-free review!

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?

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I am so sad I didn’t love this as much as my friends did. I love reading Young Adult contemporaries, but not every single one is my cup of tea. Girl out of Water is one of those books that just didn’t do it for me.

It’s definitely a case of “it’s me, not you” though. I couldn’t connect with Anise: she love sports (surfing in particular), has a large friend group and loves to do adventurous things. That’s completely fine, but I personally can’t relate to that, AT ALL.

I actually don’t need to relate to a character to love a book, but because some situations were so unfamiliar, I became a bit uncomfortable. Call me a prude, but I for instance don’t like it when teenage characters drink and do drugs. I also couldn’t relate to how fast Lincoln and Anise became close. I guess some of their interactions were supposed to be cute, but I even found it creepy at times (e.g. when he told her she couldn’t run of without telling him because he was worried).

That said, Girl out of Water is certainly not a bad book and I will pick up Laura’s next book. I liked the family dynamics and Lincoln (who is a disabled POC) was an endearing love interest.

content and trigger warnings for underage drinking, recreational drug use, kissing (M/F), language that excludes Native Americans (‘natives’ is used when referring to ‘residents’)


I would recommend Girl out of Water to readers who are looking for the perfect YA contemporary to read on a warm summer’s day. Though I didn’t fall in love with this novel, I will read You Asked for Perfect, which is set to be released in 2019.

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