review: Flying Lessons and Other Stories


flying lessons and other stories.pngFlying Lessons and Other Stories

edited by Ellen Oh

read in April 2017

format: hardcover

spoiler-free review!

Buy this anthology on Amazon, Book depository or Wordery!

Flying Lessons and Other Stories is probably the first anthology I have ever read. As expected, I wanted more from each story, but I enjoyed them all nonetheless! This anthology features diverse stories written by diverse authors and I plan to read more books by them. It definitely focusses on diversity of ethnicity and race, which is great. But diversity also means LGBTQIAP+, mental health… representation and there wasn’t enough of that.

I absolutely love how all these stories were heart-warming and positive. The experiences of a child of colour are probably different from those of white children, but that doesn’t mean all these stories have to deal with racism and bullying. So make sure to get this anthology in the hands children!

I’m going to discuss each story separately. I really liked the writing styles and how distinct they all were! Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of middle grade novels because the characters sound juvenile, but that wasn’t the case in Flying Lessons and Other Stories! The writing was understandable for children, yet enjoyable for adults as well.

1. How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium by Matt de la Peña

The main character in this story is Mexican American. The writing style was very unusual: 2nd person perspective and mostly future tense. But it totally worked and I was sad when it ended so soon!

2. The Difficult Path by Grace Lin

The Difficult Path is probably the one that made me want more the most. I’d definitely read a full length fantasy or historical fiction novel by this author. It seems to take place in Asia, though I don’t remember whether that was exactly specified. Perhaps it took place in Taiwan, where the author’s parents are from.

3. Sol Painting, Inc. by Meg Medina

This short story features Latinx representation. was a bit disappointed because I thought there was a mystery element going on – I had the feeling as if the brother didn’t go to that school, because of the way he behaved – but that wasn’t the case.

4. Secret Samantha by Tim Federle

Secret Samantha was one of my favourite short stories!

5. The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn by Kelly J. Baptist

I also very much enjoyed this one, but it was too short!

6. Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains by Tim Tingle

It’s an absolute shame that this was probably the first fiction story I’ve read featuring Native Americans (Choctaw, to be more specific). Therefore, I really wanted to love it, but I couldn’t follow the story. Because a tale was told by a family member, it was mostly tell instead of show. I also had a hard time remaining concentrated during the action-packed scenes.

Having said that, as soon as I finished Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains, I did some research to find out more about Choctaw. So the author definitely succeeded in motivating people to read more stories about Indigenous people.

7. Main Street by Jacqueline Woodson

Main Street is about a girl who’s mother passed away from cancer and who’s best friend is black. Even though I thought it was too short, I really liked some of the things that were mentioned (e.g. about white people touching a black woman’s hair and how that’s not okay), so I’m very interested to read more by this author. At first, I thought it was odd to have a white characters discuss racism, but somehow, it worked just fine.

8. Flying Lessons by Soman Chainani

Even though I didn’t think Flying Lessons was the best short story in this anthology, it certainly is the one I remember the most. So maybe I did love it more than I’d thought. It features Indian representation (and maybe queer representation?). Even at 22 years old, I related to the protagonist. I’m as afraid as him to make friends. I had tears in my eyes.

But I had some problems with the language that was used. Some if it seemed iffy:

  • “It’s like a chromosome of fun I didn’t get”. I instantly thought of Down syndrome when I read this description, so I really think the author could’ve used a better way to express that the protagonist doesn’t have fun often.
  • “g*psy bangles” I’m absolutely not certain whether this is offensive, but I do know that g*psy is considered a slur. I don’t know whether it’s harmful in this context, but I wanted to warn you nonetheless.
9. Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents by Kwame Alexander

I really liked the way this was written, but there was a bit of blackmailing going on and I didn’t like that. Hopefully, that part of the story wasn’t real, as the protagonist said he took some liberties with the truth.

10. Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push by Walter Dean Myers

This story features a disabled character. It was very short! I don’t know whether it was because of the writing or the pacing, but I sometimes struggled with knowing what was going on.

Conclusion: Flying Lessons and Other Stories is an anthology filled with diverse short stories. It has given me hope that I shouldn’t give up on middle grade novels, as I absolutely loved the writing style in this one. I plan on re-reading this in the future, as I honestly have already forgotten what most stories were about (as you can tell by my “reviews”). But I definitely want to read full-length novels by most of the featured authors!


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review: Queens of Geek


queens of geek.pngQueens of Geek

by Jen Wilde

read in April 2017

format: paperback

spoiler-free review!

Queens of Geek is a perfect book. There’s nothing I disliked about it. At first glance, this novel might seem predictable, but it absolutely wasn’t. I would recommend this quick and fun read to everyone!

First of all, this book is so diverse. Taylor is fat, has anxiety and autism spectrum disorder. I very much related to her insecurities and anxiety. Charlie, the other protagonist, is bisexual and Chinese Australian. The way she describes her bisexuality is probably the most relatable portrayal I’ve read so far! It’s exactly like my experience. Alyssa is a queer woman of colour and (I think) Jamie is Latinx.

It’s very hard for me to like male characters and M/F romances. But Jamie blew me away. I absolutely loved him. I was even rooting for him and Taylor to get together. That is so unlike me! I always have a hard time thinking of book boyfriends, but if Jamie were a couple years older, he’d definitely be on my list!

Normally, I’m not a fan of geek culture. Though I’m probably a geek myself, I can’t stand them most of the time: “I’m so awkward because I read comic books and like superheroes, no one else at school understands me. Girls are fake fans, because they only watch it because of the hot actors.”. Thankfully, Queens of Geek was not at all like this.

I love it when authors don’t shy away from topics such as fatphobia and misogyny. I think it says a lot about the author, so I definitely want to read more books written by Jen Wilde.

If you’re doing Diversity Bingo like me, this book qualifies for bisexual MC (own voices), neuro-diverse MC (own voices), MC with an under-represented body, LGBTQIA+ MC of colour and MC with an invisible disability.

conclusion: Queens of Geek is one of the most relatable books I have ever read. On top of that, it is diverse and fast-paced. I would recommend everyone to pick up a copy if you haven’t yet!


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ARC review: How to Make a Wish


26626118How To Make A Wish

by Ashley Herring Blake

read in March 2017

format: e-ARC

publication date: 2 May 2017

spoiler-free review!

I received an e-ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

I feel horrible for not absolutely loving How to Make a Wish. This book is everything I needed: a bisexual main character (written by a bisexual author!) and a not-so conventional mother-daughter relationship. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with it as much as I should’ve. I blame my busy schedule: it almost took me three weeks to finish this, whereas this is probably a book you should read in one sitting. Trust me though: this is definitely a case of it’s me, not you.

To be clear: this is not at all going to be a negative review. There’s nothing I didn’t like about How to Make a Wish. Grace, the main character is bisexual and so is the author, so this is an #OwnVoices novel. I absolutely loved that the word ‘bisexual’ is used, because a lot of authors seem to be afraid to use that term. Eva, the love interested, is biracial (her skin is described as “warm brown”) and gay. She even explains why she hates being called exotic. On top of that, this book is very sex-positive. Jay, Grace’s ex, posted their sexts online for the entire school to see. Grace isn’t ashamed she did that, but she’s rightfully pissed that he broke her trust. Furthermore, female masturbation isn’t a taboo.

Ever since Grace’s father died, her mother Maggie has been unreliable. Though I wouldn’t call my mom as bad as Maggie, I very much related to their relationship. Since my parents’ divorce, my mother has become a completely different person. She loves going out, posts a lot of pictures online you never want to see of your mother, generally doesn’t know much about what is going on in our lives… Even though Maggie was so god-damn relatable, it was hard to read at the same time. I was afraid she was either going to be vilified or be forgiven for everything she did. Thankfully, the book dealt with this subject in a very good way. While you are reading the book, however, you naturally cannot predict it’s going to end that way. So that definitely got in the way of my enjoyment as well.

Like I said, I loved the final chapter and especially how things ended between Maggie and Grace. The thing is though: it’s sad those scenes always occur at the very end of a book. I want more books that focus on healing instead of the process and heartbreak leading up to it. Considering my mental health situation at the moment, those books are too emotionally draining for me.

Okay, enough about me and back to the book: I would definitely recommend this book! I plan on reading a finished copy of How to Make a Wish once I have some more time.

conclusion: Due to personal reasons, I didn’t love How to Make a Wish as much as I would’ve liked. However, I would absolutely recommend it, especially if you are biracial and/or bisexual! The bisexuality was #OwnVoices and as someone who identifies as bisexual, I loved the representation! I will certainly keep my eye on Ashley Herring Blake.


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review: The Hate U Give


THUG2The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

read in March 2017

format: hardcover

spoiler-free review!

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

It’s kind of pointless to review this book. It’s all everyone is talking about (and rightfully so!) and it has probably been recommended to you over ten times already! Still, I have to add to the praise.

If anyone is wondering: yes, The Hate U Give is definitely worthy of the hype it’s receiving. If any white person is reluctant to pick this up, I’m absolutely side-eyeing you. The Hate U Give is quite possibly the most relevant book I have ever read. I think it’s incredibly brave that Angie Thomas decided to write about a problem that hasn’t been solved yet. Police brutality is very real. The Hate U Give might be a fictional story, but the murders of so many black people aren’t.

Angie Thomas also deserves praise for writing a book that is so unapologetically black. This book wasn’t written to please white people and therefore doesn’t sugar-coat anything. Furthermore, Thomas isn’t afraid to voice the anger people feel.

The family dynamics and their relationships were probably my favourite part of the book. Starr’s family isn’t perfect, but they seem so very realistic. It breaks my heart to hear that Starr is used to hearing gunshots in her neighbourhood. No child should have to go through that, and especially not grow used to it.

Even though this book deals with such serious topics, it still managed to make me laugh out loud multiple times!

The white people in this book pissed me off! Why are we so horrible?! They only pretended to support the Black Lives Matter movement so they could get the day off at school. It made me so angry and that’s why white people have to read this book as well. It baffles me that some people use “Blue Lives Matter” hashtag, but fail to see why black lives matter. First of all, blue lives don’t exist. Second of all, just because you are a cop, doesn’t mean you can’t be racist. And police officers are protected by law much more than people of colour. I’m the daughter of a police officer, so when the Black Lives Matter movement just started, I felt uncomfortable. Though I do not live in the United States, I was in denial. I didn’t want to believe that the police would target black people like that. But so many black people have lost their lives already! And there have been little to no consequences for the murderers! So how can people not realise that the Black Lives Matter movement is indeed necessary? I’m sorry, I’m ranting!

Talking about white people: I didn’t like Chris. Right from the start, we learn that he did a very shitty thing to Starr. Even though she was able to forgive him, I couldn’t. He came across as a white straight boy who tried to be black. Furthermore, I find it kind of unbelievable that such a privileged boy would support Starr unconditionally. Have y’all seen the people who support Donald Trump? Boys like Chris fit right in. Chris tried too hard, it just didn’t seem genuine to me. I don’t know, maybe it’s because he reminds me of my ex. He also watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and listened to a lot of rap music, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be racist.

And that’s why I struggle with Hailey being the biggest racist in this book, besides the cop who killed Khalil, of course. Yes, women can absolutely be racist as well, but there wasn’t a lot of racism coming from white men in this book and that just doesn’t add up. Whenever I hear people say racist shit, it’s 90 percent of the time coming from white men. You have no idea how many of them use the N-word over here, even though they very well know they shouldn’t say it. They’re cool with listening to rap music and love watching comedies with black actors, but as soon as black people need support, they’re gone. Like the book said:

“It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.”

Anyway, I’m ranting again. Back to Hailey. She is the only character who is described as a feminist, though Starr refers to it as “feminist rages”. Feminism isn’t feminism unless it is intersectional. I think it’s great that Angie Thomas showed us that. But since no other female character calls herself a feminist, the book almost vilifies feminists. On top of that, there was some unnecessary girl-on-girl hate in the book. Even though this isn’t a recurring theme, it isn’t addressed. Models are called “toothpicks”, so there’s body-shaming. And they referred to other girls as “hoes”. And I already mentioned the “feminist rages” part. Like I said though, there isn’t much girl-on-girl hate besides that. Do not let this stop you from picking up the book! I only mentioned it because I always mention things I don’t like in my reviews.

Having said that, Hailey was absolutely terrible! I’m absolutely not making any excuses for her. I wanted to slap her!

Conclusion: The writing is great, the characters’ voices sound so genuine and even though the premise is so sad, this book managed to be entertaining as well! I cannot wait to see what Angie Thomas writes next! This book is phenomenal and very unique, so you should definitely read this if you haven’t yet!


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Review: Coffee Boy by Austin Chant



Coffee Boy

by Austin Chant

read in March 2017

format: e-book

spoiler-free review!

All I knew about Coffee Boy before reading it, was that the main character is a trans man. And that was enough for me! Because of the title and cover, I had expected him to be a barista in a coffee shop, but that was definitely not the case! Still, this novella was very enjoyable.

I’m a cisgender woman, so my review really doesn’t matter. This book is #OwnVoices, because Austin Chant is a queer trans man. Still, I have to convince you to read this as well!

First of all, I love that we got to read about a trans man who doesn’t always pass (e.g. Kieran wears a pronouns pin). When trans people are represented in media – which is almost never – they often pass very easily. However, there are many more trans people who do not pass so easily or who cannot afford or do not want to undergo surgeries. And I love that Chant showed us that side as well.

This is an M/M New Adult romance and there is one explicit sex scene. Once again, as a cisgender person I don’t know much about it, but I really loved how the author handled it. None of the sexual acts had anything to do with the stereotypical, cisgender and heterosexual idea of what sex should be like. The cisgender bisexual man was actually the bottom and even though that’s only a detail, that seemed very important to me.

As I have mentioned a few times before, I love diverse stories that don’t revolve around that aspect of the character. This isn’t a story about a closeted Kieran who is dramatically outed to his entire workspace and has to deal with the aftermath of that. No. This is a cute M/M romance about Kieran who is a trans man. Having said that though, he does have to deal with micro-aggressions at his workplace, such as people using the wrong pronouns. But the conversations about those micro-aggressions seem so very real and (I hate to say it, but) important.

As a bisexual woman, I was kind of iffy about the way the bisexual character was represented as one point. The following quote didn’t sit well with me:

“God, you are the tragic gay man.”
Seth smiles. “I’m bisexual.”
“Oh.” Kieran swallows his food. “I guess that’s more original.”

First of all, Kieran knew that Seth had been married to a woman. So why did he assume he was gay? Secondly, the last sentence kind of implies that bisexual people identify as such to be considered “different” and “edgy”.
Having said that, that was the only instance I noticed such phrasing, so I might have interpreted it wrong.

Kieran is brutally honest and blunt. Most of the time, I dislike such characters, but that wasn’t the case with him!

I cannot wait to read Peter Darling, Chant’s other book. The ‘about the author’ section says he always writes about trans characters who get the love they deserve, so I’m looking forward to that!

conclusion: Coffee Boy was a fast-paced and diverse M/M romance! I would recommend this to everyone, though be aware that there is one explicit sex scene.


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ARC: The Paths We Choose

33299493The Paths We Choose

by M. Hollis

read in March 2017

format: e-ARC

publication date: April 6th 2017

spoiler-free review!

I received an e-ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review!

I’m back with another incoherent review! When I love a book, I suddenly have no idea how to write reviews anymore. I honestly don’t even know where to start.

If you enjoyed The Melody of You and Me, you’ll definitely love The Paths We Choose. I actually enjoyed Hollis’ second novella even more than her first. This was incredibly cute and even the most cliché scene had me on the edge of my seat.

As you know, I usually read Young Adult novels. But because I want to read more books written by diverse authors and/or books that include diverse characters, I’ve started reading other genres as well. Even though I never thought I’d read New Adult books again after reading quite a few sexist ones, I’m so glad I picked up Hollis’ novellas. If anyone feels the same way as me about the genre: please don’t give up on it! There are so many NA books out there that aren’t sexist, cliché and problematic. Anyway, I digress. I was going to warn you that this book includes some explicit sex scenes.

Just as The Melody of You and Me, The Paths We Choose is very sex-positive and filled with queer women and tons of women of colour! Lily had a conversation about what she does and doesn’t like in the bedroom and I love that Hollis decided to include this. Some people might look down on this genre while they absolutely shouldn’t. Talking about your preferences is very important, as people shouldn’t have to do things they don’t want to do.

The author is Brazilian and identifies as sapphic, so this is an #OwnVoices story. I’m very much looking forward to what the author brings us next!

conclusion: The Paths We Choose is even cuter than Hollis’ first novel! I’d recommend these novellas to anyone who is looking for diverse F/F new adult romances!


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DNF: See You in the Cosmos

33282947See You in the Cosmos

by Jack Cheng

started in March 2017

format: e-ARC

spoiler-free review!

I received an e-ARC from Penguin Random House UK Children’s through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

I feel absolutely horrible about deciding not to finish See You in the Cosmos only 15 percent in. But I have to be honest: the only reason why I would finish this, is because it’s an advanced reader copy.

I requested this book because of its beautiful cover and because the synopsis sounds very cute. But when I started See You in the Cosmos, I immediately realised this wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. Though it was a page-turner, I had actually no desire to actually read it.

Firstly, I couldn’t connect with the writing style. This is a middle grade novel, so it might be entirely my fault I wasn’t enjoying it. Personally, I don’t like it when authors try to sound like children. Take this excerpt, for example:

“He got in line so I got in line too, and when we got up to the ticket guy, the ticket guy looked at him and he looked at me and he asked the older kid, Is he with you? And the kid said, Yeah, he’s my stepbrother. He said, I leave to go to the bathroom for one minute and Alex tries to ditch me at the station, some brother, huh? The ticket guy looked at me and asked me, Is he your brother?”

I generally don’t care much about the writing style, but when it bothers me, it bothers me! When Alex, the eleven-year- old main character, had a conversation with a five-year-old, it was nearly impossible to tell them apart.

The main reason why I decided not to give this another chance, is the mental illness representation. It seemed to me that Alex’s mother has a mental illness. Alex goes around telling everyone how he has to cook for his mother and she doesn’t even care he’s going on a trip all by himself. I really don’t like this narrative that people who have a mental illness are a burden for their family:

But my mom, she doesn’t care as long as I make us dinner and don’t bother her when she’s watching her shows. She’s a pretty cool mom.

My mom knows how to cook and she’s a great cook, but I’ve been making food for us so much this year that I’d feel bad if I didn’t do something. Plus she was having another one of her quiet days where she stays in bed and stares at all the little bumps on the ceiling. I think she likes counting them.

I wish I wasn’t so hard on this book. The author was born in China and the main character’s grandparents on his mother’s side are from the Philippines. Combined with the mental health, this could’ve been a promising diverse story, but I have my doubts after what I read about Alex’s mother.

conclusion: If you are still interested in reading this, I’d suggest you do! I tend to struggle with the writing style in children’s books, so it might be my own fault I wasn’t enjoyed this. And I’m very curious to see whether the representation of mental health is harmful or not.


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The Upside of Unrequited: my favourite contemporary!

the_upside_of_unrequited.pngThe Upside of Unrequited

by Becky Albertalli

read in March 2017

format: e-ARC

spoiler-free review

Actually, I don’t even hate my body. I just worry everyone else might. Because chubby girls don’t get boyfriends, and they definitely don’t have sex. Not in movies—not really—unless it’s supposed to be a joke. And I don’t want to be a joke.

I received an e-ARC from Penguin Random House UK Children’s through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

I have no idea where to begin. I absolutely love The Upside of Unrequited! For a while now, I thought I had grown out of Young Adult contemporaries. But I was wrong. Despite the fact that that the formatting of my e-ARC was absolutely horrible, this book is quite possibly the best I have ever read.

First of all, I want to thank Becky Albertalli for including so much diversity in her novels. The author’s second novel is about a fat Jewish girl named Molly, but her story isn’t defined by that. That’s the kind of representation I want to see more often, especially in this genre! This isn’t a story about a girl who is bullied for being fat and Jewish. This is a story about a girl who happens to be fat and Jewish.

Cassie, Molly’s twin sister, is a lesbian. Her girlfriend is a Korean-American pansexual girl. The twins’ parents are two women, Nadine being a black lesbian and Patty being a bisexual woman. Molly once had a crush on a trans guy. Molly is on antidepressant and it is completely normalised. There is no dramatic reveal of why she is taking them either. Asexuality is mentioned as well. Even though some of these things are only talked about briefly, at least they are mentioned and normalised. Trans, asexual and pansexual people exist and Albertalli respects that! Unfortunately, that cannot be said of many other books, even when they take place in our world and day and age.

If anyone is doing Diversity Bingo 2017, you can read this for ‘practising Jewish MC’ and ‘MC with an under-represented body’! Becky Albertalli is Jewish, so this is an #OwnVoices novel!

I also love that the author learnt from the mistake she made in Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. I absolutely love that book, but a character said that bisexual women and lesbians have it easier than gay men because guys think it’s hot. That’s not true. Fetishisation doesn’t mean acceptance. Anyway, Becky Albertalli could have decided never to mention queer women ever again after being called out. Thankfully, she decided to do better by featuring tons of queer women in The Upside of Unrequited. Some allies would have said “Well, at least I tried. I didn’t mean any harm.”, but Albertalli actually listened to us and hired sensitivity readers to get the representation right in this one.

Clearly, I love how diverse this book was. It does not only feature great representation, but also wonderful feminist moments! I could provide an entire list of bad-ass quotes for you, but you should buy the book when it is released and see for yourselves! Furthermore, the book is also incredibly sex-positive and even mentions that sex and “losing your virginity” doesn’t have to involve a penis.

Even though it has been a couple of years since I was a teenager, I don’t think I have ever related to a character as much as I related to Molly. Even when she doesn’t have the right to be angry, you completely understand why she feels that way. She is so incredibly human and real. The praise on the back of my copy of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda says the following:

“Are we absolutely certain that Becky Albertalli didn’t just steal the diary of a hilariously observant teenage boy?”

The Upside of Unrequited felt just as genuine and realistic. Becky Albertalli writes teenagers perfectly!

I would recommend this book to everyone. Even as an adult, this book is incredibly relatable. I have scars on my face and because of problems with my spine, pelvis and legs, I don’t walk like most people do. When people tell me “Oh, your scars look much better today.” or urge me to pay attention to the way I am walking, I feel exactly like Molly felt in this moment:

So, I should be used to it. Still, it always throws me a little bit when people say stuff about my body. I guess I want to believe no one notices I’m fat.

Even though this is a completely different situation, I have tears in my eyes because it means so much to me to read about someone who faces similar struggles. This book is incredibly funny and heart-warming as well. I never thought fluffy YA contemporaries were my cup of tea, but I was clearly wrong!

In my opinion, The Upside of Unrequited is even better than Albertalli’s first novel! Oh, and to all my fellow Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda fans out there: there may or may not be a cameo in here… 😉

Normally, I am a very critical reader, but The Upside of Unrequited was a perfect novel. The only criticism I could have, is the under-age drinking. I don’t really mind, since drinking is legal in my country when you turn sixteen years old, but it’s literally in every YA contemporary these days. As a teacher, I’m always hesitant whether I should recommend books to my pupils that promote that.

conclusion: The Upside of Unrequited is probably my all-time favourite contemporary! Even though it was cheerful and funny, I have tears in my eyes because this novel meant so much to me. I will definitely buy a hardcover when this book is released on April 11th and would recommend everyone else to do the same!


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ARC review: Noteworthy


by Riley Redgate

read in February 2017

format: e-ARC

spoiler-free review!

I received an e-ARC from ABRAMS Kids through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

Noteworthy was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so I am very happy this book didn’t disappoint! This is a very enjoyable Young Adult contemporary and much more original, fun and entertaining than a lot of other books I’ve read in the genre. Though the general course of the story is quite predictable, this book still had me gasping out loud multiple times!

Jordan, the main character, is Chinese-American, just like the author. She’s also bisexual, though I couldn’t find out whether that part was #OwnVoices. Jordan grew up poor: her father is in a wheelchair and her family can’t afford the hospital bills. The main character’s best friend is a lesbian and has “curves you could see from three blocks away”, though the reader never meets that character. A lot of the Sharpshooters’ members are diverse as well. Nihal is Sikh and gay and he was probably my favourite side-character: too pure for this world! Though I have to admit I completely missed that Isaac is Japanese-American and Trav is black.

I absolutely love that the cast of characters was so diverse. Jordan’s story isn’t about being Chinese-American. Her story isn’t about being bisexual. That’s not a bad thing! My life doesn’t revolve around my bisexuality either. But if you pick up this book thinking it’s going to focus on the representation, you might be disappointed.

If anyone is doing Diversity Bingo 2017 like me, you can read this book for ‘book by author of colour’ or ‘LGBTQIA+ MC of colour’. Like I’ve said, I’m unsure whether this book is #OwnVoices when it comes to bisexuality, so I don’t know whether it qualifies for ‘Bisexual MC (own voices)’. EDIT: Some people told me that this is indeed #OwnVoices for bisexuality as well!

Talking about the bisexuality: I love that Jordan is in a relationship with a boy. If books feature bisexual representation, they always feature F/F relationship. It’s great that the author shows that Jordan’s sexuality is just as valid, even though she is dating a boy.

Noteworthy features a lot of amazing quotes, which really reflect how educated Riley Redgate is. No, I don’t always think that what a character says, reflects the opinion of the author, but there are so many quotes about equality and feminism in this book, there’s no way Redgate doesn’t feel the same way. Anyway, here are two quotes I really loved:

There was something deeply screwed up about that attitude. There is no world where “you’re wrong” is an acceptable answer to “this hurts.”

With so many queer kids at Kensington, people sometimes got weirdly comfortable, like they had a free pass to say anything they wanted about sexuality. I guess it was tempting to stick a rainbow-colored “Ally” pin on your backpack and call it a day, as if that were the endpoint, not the starting line.

Jordan cross-dresses in order to join the Sharpshooters and it is made very clear in the novel that she feels uncomfortable doing so, because she is using resources for trans people. Which once again shows that the author did a lot of research and handled every topic with a lot of respect.

Finally, there is some under-age drinking in this novel and some of the side-characters smoke weed, though readers don’t witness that. Still, I am disappointed that every YA contemporary I have read lately features drug and alcohol use, but zero mentions of sex. I find it more realistic that teenagers have sex than do drugs.

conclusion: Noteworthy is the reason why I continue to pick up Young Adult contemporaries, even though I tend to dislike those books most of the time. The setting is very unique: the boarding school stands out among other high school contemporaries. I will definitely read other books by Riley Redgate, as she proved to be very educated and well-researched. Make sure to get a copy on March 2nd! I sure will!


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Under Rose-Tainted Skies: an enjoyable #OwnVoices story

under_rose-tainted_skies.pngUnder Rose-Tainted Skies

by Louise Gornall

read in February 2017

format: hardcover

spoiler-free review!

I’ve heard You don’t look mentally ill at least a half a dozen times in the past four years, a couple of those times from my former friends. I blame the media, stereotyping “mental illness” and calling every murderer since Manson crazy. People always seem to be expecting wide eyes and a kitchen knife dripping with blood.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is about Norah who struggles with agoraphobia and OCD. The premise of this is similar to Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, but without the ableist representation (you can find more information about that here). This book is an #ownvoices story because Louise Gornall, the author, is also agoraphobic. Two reviewers who struggle with mental illnesses similar to Norah’s agree that the representation is accurate (as you can read here and here).

This book also deals with self-harm, eating disorders and depression, so be aware of that in case that triggers you. I did find the descriptions of self-harm and fainting relatable.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for me to love this. Contemporary romances are not my favourites and Under Rose-Tainted Skies is no exception. Thankfully, however, there was no instalove and mental illness isn’t “cured” once the characters fall in love.

Furthermore, I didn’t love the writing style. Because of Norah’s mental illness, she gets distracted easily during conversations. Which interrupted the conversations quite often. While I completely understand why the author did that, it wasn’t enjoyable to read. Once I finished a chapter, I put the book down for several minutes. This book just couldn’t keep me intrigued. I also spotted some spelling mistakes and things didn’t add up. Luke’s phone was being fixed, yet he was using his phone to talk to someone. This didn’t cause any major problems while reading, but I did find it annoying because it occurred more than once.

My main complaint has to be the lack of female friendships. Girls are called “chicks” multiple times and Amy, the only female character we learn about besides Norah’s mother, is basically described as a rich, blonde, popular bimbo. Naturally I understand that Norah doesn’t allow a lot of people in her life, but I would think that the internet could be a solution for that. If she were to make friends with people online, perhaps that wouldn’t trigger her agoraphobia.

Even though I didn’t love this book, I’m thankful it exists. The quote I used at the beginning proves there are stigmas of mental illness, so it is important that books represent it in an accurate way. Still, I wish more books focussed on recovery instead of primarily the struggles that are caused by a mental illness. Books like Under Rose-Tainted Skies end on a positive note, but the rest of the book is filled with anxiety, depression, etc. Which is okay, because those stories have to be told, but I wish there were as many books out there that focus on recovery. I’d for instance rather read a book about someone who is recovering from anorexia than someone who struggles with it throughout a book and only seeks help at the end.

conclusion: Under Rose-Tainted Skies is an enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone with mental illnesses or people who want to read an accurate portrayal of one.

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