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.
This is the story of a diverse student body. There are gay characters, trans characters, non-binary characters, bisexual/biromantic characters, asexual characters, Black characters, Latinx characters, Muslim characters, undocumented characters, characters with disabilities.
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.
MARK OSHIRO is the queer Latinx, Hugo-nominated writer of the online Mark Does Stuff universe (Mark Reads and Mark Watches), where he analyzes book and TV series. He was the nonfiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction! and the co-editor of Speculative Fiction 2015, and is the President of the Con or Bust Board of Directors. When not writing/recording reviews or editing, Oshiro engages in social activism online and offline. Anger is a Gift is his debut YA contemporary fiction novel.
Anger Is A Gift features such a diverse cast of characters to the point where I don't believe I can list them all and I am so down for more books with this trait. There are gay characters (own voices!), trans characters, non-binary characters, bisexual/biromantic characters, asexual characters, black characters, Latinx characters (own voices!), Muslim characters, undocumented characters, disabled characters. It is so well rounded and so wonderful! I will be honest that at times I was confused by the secondary characters because this book follows a HUGE group of friends, but at the same time, they did have their distinctive traits (if the dichotomy of these two contrasting details makes any sense.) I do wish these side characters did have stronger individual story lines, but nonetheless, for the size of the cast, I do feel they were all authentic and well-fleshed out. The diverse elements of these characters do not feel "shoe-horned" in at all and I was so pleased with the natural vibe of the story.
While I loved Mark Oshiro's dialogue, characterization, and plot construction, I do feel there is room to be more concise with his writing. For a young adult contemporary, this is a pretty long book (with small text too!! what the heck!!) and I think many scenes could have been condensed to still hold the same value. This book was just a tad long-winded at times and I feel editing down it's length would have been an improvement.
Though the synopsis of Anger Is A Gift depicts some strong content matter, it does little to explain the intensity of the story. This book is extremely emotionally jarring and describes graphic violence against teens and adults of color. I've seen a few reviews claiming "This could almost be a dystopian" and I concur, there were a few moments that were so shocking I almost could not believe them to happen in real life, but the sad truth is they do. I would advise readers to be aware of the sensitive and serious happenings of this novel, but to also recognize that they are indeed the unfortunate true experiences of everyday people.
I really really loved Anger Is A Gift and would highly highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of The Hate U Give, Dear Martin and other novels depicting teens dealing with social justice issues. It is a striking and unforgettable debut novel and I cannot wait to see what Mark Oshiro publishes in the future.
This was one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read. Wow.
I will probably not be able to put words into any kind of order that does the emotional aspect of this book justice. But I'm going to try. Just know that whatever I say pales in comparison to the masterful story that Mark Oshiro has given us with his debut novel.
Anger is a Gift is an incredibly difficult book to get through for numerous reasons. Please be aware going in that it features intense and frequent scenes of police brutality, detailed descriptions of anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, and overall that it is not a book meant to comfort the reader. And it shouldn't have to be. What Mark Oshiro has given us is a brutal look at police brutality and systematic racism in the world we live in, and that's not an easy story to read. It feels real because it is real.
Moss, the main character, is a black, gay teenage boy whose father was killed by the police. We spend the entire novel inside his head, and that means reading descriptions as he is faced with PTSD, and as he has multiple severe panic attacks. He is full of anger that he isn't sure what to do with, and grief he can't let go of. But beyond his trauma, Moss is also such a deeply loving character. He adores his mother and his friends. He is also searching for connection, and for a way to explain his experiences to the people around him.
Speaking of the people around him, I'm sure one of the things you have heard in the praise surrounding the book is how diverse it is, and I am just here to back that up. There are almost no white, allocishet characters present at any given time. Besides a black, gay main character, there are also side characters who are lesbian, bisexual, trans, nonbinary, and asexual. There are a variety of black and latinx side characters, as well as a disabled side, a hijabi side, an adopted side, an immigrant side.... you see what I mean? The world created in this book is incredible, and it is mostly due to the incredible cast of characters.
Within this group of incredible people, I think there is a real willingness to hear one another out and to understand different experiences. There are certain characters that have particular privileges others don't, and they are almost all willing to discuss, to address those privileges and how their lives are different. And I think that support along with an openness to gently calling one another out is a remarkable strength to the relationships in the novel.
I will say that my only negative with this book boils down to one thing. I think Mark Oshiro excels at writing action and the emotion surrounding that action, but the writing is weaker in the moments between these scenes. There is a forced aspect to some of the dialogue for the first half of the book, especially during a few of the scenes between Moss and his mother. However, once the second half hit, I could not put this down. I read it in a single sitting and sobbed for over an hour. That weakness really vanishes as Moss becomes angrier and as he uses the people around him to help direct his anger.
Now, just in case you didn't gather this from the title, one of the central themes of this novel is anger. How we consider anger a negative emotion, especially when it comes to the anger of people of color. While the stereotype of the angry black man attempts to delegitimatize rage, Anger is a Gift gives the power of anger back to the people who are rightfully furious. It validates rage and opposition and organized resistance. And that is a deeply powerful message.
This book is incredibly difficult, but it is necessary. It addresses the nature of systematic oppression in way that feels fucking impossible to overcome, because it is the truth of the world we live in.
Moss is a powerful narrative voice. Mark Oshiro's ability to bring him to life is absolutely remarkable, as is the unflinching way he looks at violence and oppression. I want to recommend this book because of how necessary it is, but I also think a couple of notes are needed. White readers need to go in ready to address privileges and preconceptions that we have. Queer people and people of color need to be prepared for the emotional toll of this novel, because it is difficult. But if you can handle it, I think this is one of the most important YA novels we have. And it deserves to be read and shared as widely as possible.
This book actually made me angry - I was hoping for a thoughtful book about racism and police brutality that treated its diverse cast well. Pity then that it's poorly written, deeply misogynistic, ableist, and has an unpleasant "bury your gays" plot - and yet it wins praise for being woke. It's also a book that very much falls into the "the main character is perfect, all praise him" category, which, granted, is common in YA and may or may not be a problem for the individual reader. Oh, and there's police officer who - and that's not even the most unrealistic thing in the book (that would be the metal detector that tore metal pins out of someone's body).
The sexism is the thing that bothers me the most: the women in book are either "good" for making Moss, the main character, the center of their lives and never disagreeing with him or "bad" because they have opinions of their own and think they have the right to speak their minds. The most egregious example of this is when Esperanza, Moss' supposed best friend, is And her story arc ends with her making a grovelling apology to Moss for not agreeing with him 100% of the time. It honestly reads as an abusive relationship: he's glad when she gets injured and her character development is learning how to sit down, shut up, and agree with Moss at all times. She is literally beaten into silence.
The disabled character, Reg, is used in an offensively ableist manner to further Moss' angst. There's a scene in which Reg is also biromantic and in a relationship with an asexual girl (it's left unclear if Reg is also ace), and while disabled people can absolutely be ace or have a low sex drive, when the only disabled character in the book is portrayed as uninterested in sex it comes across as fitting into the unpleasant stereotype of "all disabled people are sexless".
There's plenty of additional weirdness in how "Anger is a Gift" deals with intersectionality and oppression. Moss is both black and gay, but he never experiences homophobia. Esperanza is a lesbian Latina woman seen as universally privileged. The author seems uneasy portraying the minor bigotries characters might face. And for a book that takes place in a high school, there's a remarkable lack of bullying and prejudice coming from other students, which is strange given that I assume teenagers are the intended audience.
(One small but illuminating point: Njemile, a transwoman of Kenyan descent, chooses her name to "honor her Kenyan roots" - except 'Njemile' is apparently a name associated with the Ngoni people of Malawi. Of course, there is nothing wrong with her choosing that name, but if she is wants to choose a name specifically to reflect her Kenyan heritage, the author should have given her a name used in Kenya. FYI, Mark, Africa is not a continent with a single culture and language. It's not like the most common language in Kenya is obscure - Swahili is spoken by about 100 million people.)
And the writing, eh. YA as a genre doesn't usually have fantastic writing, but "Anger is a Gift" is below average (though hardly the worst I've read - I'd put it in the bottom 50% but not in the bottom 25%). There's also some weird pacing issues - apparently the book was originally dystopian near-future sci-fi and I suspect a lot of the pacing, continuity errors, and strange plot points come from changing the setting to a contemporary one - the change probably came too late in the writing/editing process to fix those problems. I assume the publishers didn't want to change the release date, but they really should have pushed it back to allow for more editing. Or kept the dystopian setting, which probably would have made for a better book.
Not recommended. Just because a book handles social justice issues doesn't mean it does it well, and it doesn't mean it should be recommended on the subject matter alone.
“But we just wanted to go to school. I'm sixteen. I shouldn't have to beg for that. But we just want to get to class without fearing for our lives.”
I wish I had read this book earlier. It could have taught my so many things that I needed to hear and understand years ago. I went into this book only knowing that it was gay and somewhat devastating. It didn't take long for me to realise that this book was both about police violence and the defunding of schools. It's an infuriating book because we live in an infuriating world. The book paints a bold picture about the effects of structural racism on poor neighbourhoods, communities of colour, the school system and generally the life, mental and physical health of marginalised folks and BIPOC. This book is about trauma and it hits hard. It also features a super diverse cast of kids, with nonbinary, ace, biromantic, lesbian, bisexual and trans rep - also something that I would have needed to see and read about years ago. It's the kind of representation that I would love to see in all the books I read. I can't speak much about how well the rep was done but I felt it was done with respect.
All that being said, I didn't love the book. I was prepared to, because I follow the author on twitter and insta and they seem like a super cool person. I'm also quite excited for their next book, Each of Us a Desert. I can't quite put my finger on it but I would say it was a mix of the writing and the characters that created a disconnect. It took me a few chapters to really get into the book at first and then the characters kept me wanting more. It was a large cast, which means there's a lot to take in. But everyone was very kind, very understanding and very compassionate. Which is cute, you know, but it doesn't make for very complex characters if everyone is so...nice. Whether it was Moss' mum, his teacher, his boyfriend or his friends. I also found the constant gushing over Moss' (gay) relationship slightly uncomfortable. Like, give the boy some space, you don't need to be so up in his face about how cute he and his boyfriend are and ask whether they're going to get married soon when they've only known each other for a week.
I've come to realise that yes, I'm a softie and cry a lot when I read books so I was prepared to have my heart broken by this book, but while I was angry and frustrated about the state of injustice, I wasn't invested on a deeply emotional level. Still, I encourage everyone to read it.
Anger Is A Gift tries to hold a mirror up the world to show you its ugliness. Racism, classism, hatefulness and good intentions gone awry are the cornerstones supporting the message that police brutality is real and awful. But the mirror is distorted and the message diluted in frequently sloppy writing, an unlikeable protagonist and the characters who exist solely to prop him up or draw his fire. The diversity of its cast is squandered, and while it might try to make you angry at an unjust world, one of the most infuriating things is how evident the potential was for this to be an all-around good book.
The story centers on Moss, a gay black teen haunted by the shooting death of his father six years prior at the hands of the Oakland PD. It wasn’t just a case of mistaken identity, but mistaken location and trigger-happy officers, and its effects have lingered. Moss is a ball of anger and anxiety and depression, and when new school metal detectors seriously injure a student, it sets into motion a wave of protest, pushback and tragedy as Moss and his friends go up against a corrupt system.
The book by Mark Oshiro of “Mark Does Stuff” fame has gotten a lot of praise for its diverse cast of characters, and it certainly does have that. And it is indeed refreshing to see so much representation across gender, sexuality and racial lines. But they mostly feel like they’re checking boxes. Look, here are a couple trans characters! One’s a lesbian! Oh, and over there’s the nonbinary kid, and the disabled biromantic kid dating an asexual girl! How progressive!
They’re window dressing for Moss, there to add color and hold his hand and reassure him that he’s good and pure and righteous. The problem is that Moss is horrible. He’s a horrible son, a horrible friend, and he embodies the Angry Black Man trope that you would think a book praised for its diversity would either avoid or subvert, but it does neither.
Oshiro tries to wash it away in Moss’s anxiety and his grief and his’ “broken brain”, but all it really seems to do is demonize mental health issues as he makes accusations about his so-called best friend that are baseless until she randomly admits that he was right all along, gets so enraged he throws a chair at a community meeting and rants, rages and runs away whenever he doesn’t get his way. But after every outburst there’s always someone falling all over themselves to reassure Moss that everything is always something or someone else’s fault.
There’s a misogyny that permeates the pages as well. It’s always the women in Moss’s life who have to “learn their lesson” and “just listen and believe” whatever Moss has to say instead of “making everything about themselves.” It is so egregious that at one point Moss’s mother, a giant among activists, sounds more like a battered woman constantly apologizing for her faults and begging her abuser to not hate her. This is all to say nothing of the friend who has to become a literal punching bag before Moss decides maybe (but only maybe) she understands his plight.
And it’s all treated as normal and right.
I would be 100 percent down for this book if while fighting for the people he’s lost Moss realizes how awful he is to the people he still has, but Moss gets no character growth. The closest thing that counts is the realization that some things are worth fighting for, but even that is only after loss touches him again.
There are very few positive things to say about this book as it sits. Sometimes the writing isn’t bad, and it tries to tell an important message about police brutality and racism and marginalized communities that have no hope, but it gets lost in paper villains like the nameless, faceless police force with high-tech weaponry and the shadowy Principal Elliot, who is never more than a voice over a loudspeaker. It loses itself as allies become antagonists to the point where the only clear message is “Police and white people bad, everyone else good.”
And, look, I didn’t come into this book expecting or wanting white saviors. They’re not needed. We NEED books like what Anger Is A Gift could have been.
Instead, we got this. It certainly makes me angry, but if it’s a gift, it’s one I’m more than ready to return.
For a book trying so very, very hard to be an inspirational tale of a gay black man and his assortedly diverse friends fighting against oppression, it is kind of amazing how racist, sexist, and ableist it turned out to be. It's a poorly written mess of a first novel that was apparently changed at the last minute from a dystopia to a contemporary, and good god does that show. And the effects of that are often unfortunate. When you're attempting to write about real oppression that actually does occur IRL, if you need to make up silly fake machines and ridiculously implausible scenarios for your characters to be hurt despite the fact that you are ostensibly in the real world, you're implying that the oppression they face isn't real. In a book about police brutality, that's insulting.
Speaking of ridiculously implausible scenarios, let's talk about Reg. Reg was badly hurt a few years ago and is still alternating between wheelchair and crutches, and because of this, and because he's a poor probably black kid going to a majority PoC school, the state, through its utter and malicious disregard for his health This is not implausible, which is why it's so ridiculous that what it takes to It is breathtakingly stupid.
What takes it to breathtakingly stupid to really fucking ableist is where the entire storyline goes from there.
Because what really, seriously, truly made me absolutely fucking furious at this book was the misogyny of one particular storyline: Esperanza. Esperanza is Moss' best friend, a wealthy Latina lesbian who was adopted as an infant by white people. Esperanza adores Moss! Her favorite story is how he got his nickname as a child, she's endlessly good about helping him with his mental illness, she's always willing to be the one taking on the work of arranging their meetups, and Moss- Moss quietly, viciously, despises her. And the book doesn't even seem to realize it. Esperanza suggests an ice cream place and pays for his ice cream, it has too many white people and Moss spends the entire time mentally disparaging her for taking him to a place like that. Esperanza says she'd like to go to school with him and the rest of their friends, because she's lonely over at her white-majority school, and all he can think of is she's not good enough to handle it. Moss and Esperanza talk about their respective schools' college fairs, and she's a little tone deaf as she tries to understand why his is so bad and suggests he apply to the schools that didn't show up anyway, and he leaves in a snit of you don't deserve to have me tell you all about my awesome boyfriend when you ask and spends literal ages fuming about how she made the conversation about herself.
...Ahem. This is not the only way the misogyny in this book shows up; there is a stark disparity in general between how women of color are treated by the narrative and how men of color are treated, and in how white women are treated versus how white men are treated. And what it all boils down to is this: Women's job is to direct men's anger productively. When it comes to white women, it comes down to they are being held disproportionately responsible for the violence of white men, until you start to wonder if the author even thinks that white men are capable of being violent without a white woman directing it. (For those who need to ask: they are.) When it comes to the WoC who surround Moss, the degree of responsibility his mother constantly bears in regards to monitoring his emotions and keeping him stable, and how much all the women are expected to drop everything and monitor his emotions when it comes to, well, anything. And Moss monitors the purity of the women around him's anger and judges them for a lack in a way that is...honestly, really feels like a vague underlying threat to me. Especially after the way Esperanza's storyline turned out. And that is really, really not something I wanted to read in a book that was being sold to me on its diversity and social justice.
Look. Police brutality is an important topic. Racism is an important topic. I wish I had something nicer to say about this book; I didn't think it was going to be a work of spectacular genius, but I was hoping for reasonable competency? And there were a few moments that were genuinely well done. But. I could maybe overlook on its own, if the rest of the book were well done. I could maybe overlook the intensely ableist inspirational cripple story on its own, if the rest of the book were well done. I...okay, I could overlook at least some of the sexism, if it were well done. I'm going to be honest, the way the book treated women really creeped me out in a way that I have very rarely been creeped out by a book's sexism, but normally I do accept that books that are good on one axis may not be good on another and I am willing to deal with reasonable amounts of sexism if it's good on another. I could overlook the clumsiness of the writing, if the author had managed to make the characters reasonably likeable and the social justice issues reasonably well-handled.
But at some point, I have just give in: this book is a steaming dumpster fire.
The best way I can describe this book is "Imagine THUG and DEAR MARTIN had a gay baby." (ETA: Actually, I'm going with "Imagine THUG and DEAR MARTIN had a gay baby that was then single-mothered by JULIET TAKES A BREATH.") I think there are more Q/TPoC in this book alone than in all of YA combined (well, excepting CB Lee's awesome SIDEKICK series, maybe), and the fact that that's in a social justice book about police brutality...it's a really nice thing to imagine how many people are going to feel seen by this book. And maybe I cried a few times, maybe I didn't; who's to say?
Looking forward to a whole lot more from Oshiro. A whoooole lot more.
I wish I liked this book more. Students organizing against the school-to-prison pipeline? An unblinking indictment against police violence? Tons of queer and POC characters? Near-crippling social anxiety? And it's written by Mark Oshiro, the guy who writes about books and TV with passionate love and withering scorn? I thought I'd love this.
But I really couldn't get past the characters. In a book with so many characters, there is ONE character with both strengths and flaws -- that's Esperanza. (I guess maybe the vice principal, too... but the book encourages us to see any apparent strengths as flaws in disguise.) Everyone else is so good and virtuous, full of unending love and organizing energy, or completely corrupt, cowardly, or empty. Wanda, the mom, is practically a saint. Even Moss's flaws boil down to anxiety and anger, and those are written as proofs of his inherent virtuousness.
I don't think this book needs to get into nuance with regards to police shooting of unarmed people of color. When it comes to that issue, the book's moral clarity is great and satisfying. But the first half of this book features a public school in which Moss, an overweight gay teen with a bunch of queer friends, exhibits no prejudice or bullying or even unwelcome teasing from anyone except the police. Maybe I'm just cynical or getting old... but I found that really hard to swallow. Kids are awful to each other, especially kids under massive pressure. It just didn't feel real to me.
And the writing is pretty stiff, too, keeping Moss's thoughts at a distance. There's times where the prose goes out of the way to avoid contractions before using them in the next paragraph.
I wish I could love this book, but I found myself getting irritated at how fairy-tale like the story's sense of morality is. And I'm not saying that to take away from the gross moral wrong of modern policing. But these teenagers don't act like teenagers under massive stress.
I so appreciated the theme of anger as a gift in this novel. In his young-adult debut, Mark Oshiro writes about a group of predominantly queer teens of color experiencing police brutality and systemic discrimination at their local high school. He writes about their pain, solidarity, and resilience in the face of blatant racism and disadvantage. Our main character, Moss, suffers from some form of anxiety in large part due to the murder of his father years ago. I can imagine this novel triggering people who have experienced police brutality or know those who have experienced police brutality, or I can see it feeling cathartic given how Oshiro highlights the usefulness of rage in response to racism, even if those who uphold systemic oppression view that anger as inappropriate. Oshiro holds nothing back and describes the violence inflicted by the police with unflinching honesty.
While I loved the message of this book, the writing fell short for me. I appreciated the diverse representation, but all the characters aside from Moss did not feel multi-dimensional enough. The dialogue felt clunky and the plot all blurred together. While in some ways this plot mirrors how racism occurs in real life – you may not have much time to process emotions if you are consistently trying to protect yourself and those you care about with no time for breaks – I wish Oshiro had slowed down the storyline a bit to provide more room for the deeper emotions (e.g., grief) to emerge so we could connect more with the characters.
I think this book could elicit complex conversation surrounding anger as a gift. I so appreciated Oshiro showing how Moss’s anger as a black queer teen helps launch change and enact justice. At the same time I see some reviewers stating that Moss’s anger came across as misogynistic toward certain characters. While I could potentially see that, I also see how Esperanza, Moss’s friend who he directs some of his anger too, acted privileged and ignorant toward the racism Moss and others experienced. Thus, I’m overall grateful for Oshiro for writing a book that promotes thinking, feeling, and dialogue about these topics, even though the writing in this novel left me desiring something more.
I usually don't cry when I read books, but Oshiro was able to craft a story that took my breath away. I didn't know how I would feel reading this book considering it is closely related to current events; however, there was a new and interesting perspective brought forward in this book. I personally went to a high school where we had metal detectors and a police presence, but I never really thought anything of it. It was my normal. But in reading this book I can see the implications of doing things like that at schools and how it effectively destroys relationships between students and their resource officers. There is this complicated power struggle that is at play in this book and Oshiro does a wonderful job addressing it. In addition to this well-crafted plot, there were beautifully written characters. The representation was astounding. There were not only characters from a variety of racial backgrounds but also a great representation of sexual identity and gender identity. The relationships that these characters build with one another is so real and honest. They were both beautiful and heartbreaking. I think I had such an emotional response to this book because I connected so deeply with the characters.
The only criticism that I have of this book is the length, but even that is a complex feeling. I don't believe that anything should have been taken out, but it just felt really long for some reason. Other than that I think that this is definitely an important book and really explores what we can do when we use our anger to our advantage. The results of this book is what happens when we funnel our anger in the right direction to make change. I cannot recommend this book enough and I can't wait to see what Oshiro puts out in the future.
4.5 ~ This book made me cry on public transportation. I didn't expect it to be this difficult to read but I'm glad it was.
What's this book about?: When the "security control" in Moss' school gets out of hand and violence follows, he, with the help of his friends, his ma and his comunity, get together to start protesting.
And damn did it punch me in the gut... Not only was it greatly important to find a book focused on the expression of police brutality on a horrific level, we also got some brilliant diversity on so many levels : gender (inc. trans & non binary), sexuality (inc. gay, bi, ace, demi, lesbian), race (mostly african-american and latinx), religion (christian, muslim) and even disability (wheelchair user!)... They literally call themselves a queer family.
Moss, as a character, is very well written. He's a young black gay kid still figuring things out. He loves his mama, is going through a tough relationship with his best friend, is starting to date a cute guy, and has panic attacks regularly. The portrayal of his anxiety was amazingly written in my opinion. I felt his sruggle and simply wanted to believe that if I closed the book and didn't read it for a couple of days, he and his friends would be okay. Of course that's not how it is. We don't get to pause life's struggles. We need to face them. Realise that some struggles have the right to cause us anger, and that our anger can be put to good use.
As this is the author's first book, I still think some technical elements aren't perfect. But it didn't matter that much. The goal was to tell a story, a story which so many people have to go through, and one which not many people understand fully until they've experienced it themselves.
The last two lines of this book are the biggest punch and they are so damn important.
I'll put the last couple of paragraphs in spoiler brackets even though it doesn't spoil the story. You can decide whether you want to to read them or not:
Rep: gay black mc, gay Latino li, physically disabled side character, wlw side characters
I really need to start a shelf which sorts books into the category of "it's not you, it's me" because this is one of those ones. I figure the best way to get through this review is by listing the good and bad things so, here we go.
- The diversity! The cast of characters in this book was fairly diverse, especially in terms of the LGBT community being represented, which was great to see. And I really did like most of the characters a lot.
- Moss and Javier were cute, though perhaps their relationship progressed a bit fast, but I get why it did for the plot. (I also get why That had to happen, but I'm not happy about it.)
- The writing was, not objectively bad bad, because obviously people have really loved it, but for me it was cringey, and at times felt like the author was trying too hard to be relatable and down with the kids. And, yeah, at times I did think it was straight up bad so, that too.
- Because the writing was bad, my enjoyment of the book plummeted, if I'm honest. The writing is what makes or breaks a book for me first off. Characters are secondary - I can get through a book with unlikeable characters alright if the writing is good, but a book with bad writing becomes a slog, no matter how much I like the characters.
- Another personal quibble I had: the use of the q-slur as a blanket term. So, sure, reclaim it for yourself, but I hate having to read it as a blanket term. It's actually started making me feel sick seeing it so, that wasn't fun when it showed up in this book.
- At one point, an ace character compared her struggles to those of a lesbian character, which felt really uncomfortable. (I didn't realise how angry this has made me, but here I am, 8 hours later, still angry.) Specifically, they make a comparison between men offering the lesbian character sex to "turn her straight" and men offering the ace character sex because "she might like it with them". Firstly, they're not the same, no matter who's comparing them. There's such a history of oppression behind the first, and yeah, it feels a lot like he's belittling the other factors that contribute to that idea. This isn't to say the latter isn't terrible in its own right, but it's honestly not the same. They cannot be compared. And, you know what, it hurts that someone thinks you can disregard all the history and they can be. Secondly, and more majorly, I don't feel like it's Mark Oshiro's place to be making that statement of comparison. He is not a wlw, let alone a lesbian, so he should just be staying in his lane on this one.
- He did similar things with women making comments about men being trash and all too, and it just felt uncomfortable. Like when a straight author has their gay characters make comments about straight people. It just doesn't feel right.
So yeah. Overall, my one word review for this book would probably, unfortunately, have to be: disappointing.
This was brilliant. And gutting. I wouldn't expect any less from Mark--I've been a big fan since he was writing about Harry Potter--but it still blew me away. It was a fresh breath of air to read about a cast of mostly people of color, most of whom are queer (including trans, nonbinary, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and asexual characters).
This is the diverse, gay dystopian story we always wanted--except the dystopia is present day and already happening.
I also appreciated that Anger Is a Gift deals with Moss's anxiety and self esteem issues realistically. His struggles to accept that he might legitimately be wanted and desired were way too relatable.
Do be warned that this is primarily a story about police brutality and murder by police.
I don't have a lot of eloquent words about this, because I am still processing it, and I suspect I will be for a long while.
This book could have been extremely valuable and I'm so disappointed by it. I really wish I could have given this more stars based on the potential (and what I think was the intent), but I can't.
The writing isn't the worst I've ever encountered, but there were moments it was awkward enough that I was ejected completely out of the story. The dialog can be spectacularly wooden and honestly kind of odd. Characters are flat and don't seem to develop further than their respective points of diversity -- which I actually found, on occasion, somewhat insulting and demeaning as a member of some of the same marginalized communities. Many of them only seem to be there to make the main character, Moss, feel better about himself -- a tall order, because he's frankly insufferable and never grows or shows any signs of learning or improving himself. I'd go back and count all the times a character pops up just to say a variation of "this is for you, Moss!" or "you're amazing, Moss!" but I think it would be too depressing.
I was also grossed out by what I perceived as sort of casual misogyny in the way some female characters are written and treated (in one case, as if a character somehow DESERVES to have been beaten up by police at a protest, and even that may not have been enough to teach her her "lesson.")
Also, it has to be said -- I have NO IDEA what was up with some of the technology the police use in this book. It feels like the author did only the most cursory research, then sort of upped the danger factor in whatever direction seemed more dangerous and cruel. It feels irresponsible and lazy, like something cut and pasted out of a sci-fi dystopia novel.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Well I guess it's time for me to go against the popular opinion again. This book was hard to finish. I mean it was a serious struggle. The writing was bad - clunky, a lot of telling instead of showing, etc. Moss was an unbearable MC - the whole chapter after the police riot at his school, when everyone was at the church and Moss had at least 5 tantrums - I had to put the book down several times at that point, and force myself to pick it back up again and continue on. It didn't get any better. Also maybe this is nitpicky but I couldn't get behind the 3rd person POV. This book should have been written in first person - although, on second thought, being inside of Moss's head even more might have made me actually physically ill, so yeah maybe it was better in 3rd person after all.
I don't even want to get into all my thoughts here about this book, because they are largely negative and I just don't feel like perpetuating this feeling of negativity, but I do want to end this by saying there are many important topics covered in this book, but I personally do not feel like this book covered those topics in the best way. I would say read The Hate U Give instead. It's just far superior.
This book about systematic oppression and police brutality is hard as hell to read. There is no flinching at violence in this one, and in addition to exploring race, this book explores gender identity and sexuality in myriad ways (including a gay main character, Moss, queer parents of one of his best friends, and a gender nonconforming best friend). Set in Oakland, Oshiro's book shines when it comes not just to highlighting oppression, but also in highlighting the liberal white world that can so complicitly take part in it.
Hand this to readers who want more books like DEAR MARTIN and THE HATE U GIVE. Hard, challenging, and truthful. I'm so curious what white readers will feel when they're inhaling this one (along with those others). I've been made utterly uncomfortable and reminded that, as much as it is my job to talk about these books, it's also my job to shut up and listen to what they have to say. Oshiro has a lot to say about whiteness in here, even if it's not overt (and when it is).
Inspirational Cripples are not progressive. Bury Your Gays is not progressive. "This girl lives in a white neighborhood so she's basically white" is not progressive. All the women in the book having to dedicate their lives to the author's self insert and cater to him at all times or be labelled evil and shouted down is not progressive. The self insert being happy to see his best friend beaten because maybe now she'll learn not to ever question him is not progressive. This was an astonishingly bad book. A few moments in Google or any time spent talking to the kind of people he's writing here would have ... well, made it less obvious he doesn't actually care enough to learn anything about the people he's writing about, I guess.
I really thought I was going to love this book, but I couldn't even finish it. Ok, the characters are black and gay and intersectional and plot is raw and politically relevant... these are all the things I was looking forward to. The thing is, I can't think of a single one of my students for whom this book would be the perfect read - and I teach diverse students of all sorts. The praise, I've noticed, mostly comes from adults and I wonder what will happen as more teens read and review this novel. Will they buy the premise and believe the characters? Will they feel that it is as numbingly predictable as I did? If they like it, I may give this a second chance and chalk up my frustrations to bad timing, misunderstanding, being a white cis woman... Who knows? For now, I found the writing clunky, the diverse characters mostly flat and hard to know, like they were filling check boxes for diversity, and the tension (sad and anxious, sad and anxious) drearily unchanging. As a result, nearly 200 pages in, I abandoned the book. I read the last chapter, pieced together what happened, realized I didn't feel sad and gave up.
I've been a fan of Mark Oshiro for years, but this book still amazed me and startled me with its intense emotional story of a queer kid dealing with intense trauma from his father's murder at the hands of the police. What's great about this book is that the protagonist never "gets over" his mental health problems, but he's still able to rise up and fight against the police brutality that invades his school, even in the face of horrendous loss. There is so much tenderness and sweetness in this book, and I absolutely fell in love with these characters. Anger Is a Gift should be required reading in high schools everywhere.
Phew. This book. THIS BOOK. It tore my heart apart into pieces and then BLOWTORCHED THE REMAINS.
- Follows Moss, a Black Latinx teen who becomes a teen activist, who fights against the oppressive practices enforced by the police at his school. - I adored all of Moss's friends. They added unique voices of their own to Moss's narrative, had so mucha agency, and were so refreshing to red about. - An amazing and nuanced examination of activism, police brutality, racism, and how oppression is systemic and disproportionately affects not only people of colour, but particularly poor people of colour. - Moss also has anxiety disorder and panic disorder, and this representation is seamlessly integrated into the narrative. - The narrative was accessible, extremely engaging. This was my read over breakfast every morning and I was almost late a few times because I couldn't stop reading?! - And oh god, this book was so emotional. I tore my heart out at times, but I think the underlying messages of this book is important: that anger can be a gift and it can be a fuel for action.
If I could take Mark Oshiro's writing style and add it over top of the story in The Hate U Give I think it would make for the best YA story about USA police racism and prejudice against minorities. Oshiro's style is far more compelling and emotional than that of Angie Thomas. Additionally there are elements of each story that are done just a little bit better.
Comparison to The Hate U Give I can't help but compare these two stories. Unfortunately the Anger is a Gift I read The Hate U Give first and so my emotional response to Anger is a Gift was perhaps lessened. I remember my emotional response to Thomas' story having high impact on me. Given that I read The Hate U Give at least 6 months ago, and have become more educated about the police problem in the USA, I think that meant that I wasn't surprised by the eventual outcome or the way the story played out in Anger is a Gift. It's unfortunate as I am sure Oshiro's story would have been just as impactful, if not more so (as the writing is superior) than Thomas' story.
Character Development I really liked the development of our main boy. Oshiro gives a flawed, realistic teenage personality to our lead boy. Unfortunately, the love interest boy is not nearly as well developed. This bothered me. I felt like there was a lot more to know about him and that his feelings and conflicts could have been more developed. I'd have liked to know more about him overall. While his character is not the lead, he is the primary reason there is a story to tell here and so I wanted a lot more of him than we got. Although maybe it's appropriate, that I feel like we didn't get to know him very well, given the context of the story.
A Crazy Reality Having been relatively sheltered in Canada from the racial police violence; the last few years of media coverage and outrage from the USA has really allowed me to get a better understanding of some of the problems and situations Americans are faced with. Purely by numbers, Canada does not appear to have the same systemic problem with racial profiling. That's not to say it doesn't happen; because of course it does, but it's just not as widespread or obvious. Part of that may be because we don't have the same rampant gun ownership in Canada as there is the USA (but that's a whole other topic on it's own). I like to believe it's because Canadians are more welcoming and overall less racist than our neighbours to the South... However, as I handle statistics all day long at my day job, I know that numbers aren't always the best representation of something. It's all relative. And so while I hate, hate that anyone is profiled (in any way ever); I know that we need these stories and need to keep telling them so that the issue(s) receive the attention deserved.
Overall I won't lie, if you've read The Hate U Give you've pretty much read Anger is a Gift. Just place a boy and his gay (almost) boyfriend in place of the girl and her male friend and you've got, more or less, the same story. That's not to say that both aren't worth the read. They are both definitely worth a read; but maybe not back-to-back as you might feel like it's redundant. What I really liked about this story was that the boys being gay wasn't the primary concern of the book. It just was what it was. This is the second book this year (2018) where the lead gay character has had other issues or stories to tell besides focusing entirely on how they are gay. It's great to see this! And really important that it keeps happening. The more books we have that take race, sexuality, religion, identification and other 'differences' that have divided people in the past as the norm and focus on other issues, the closer we are to having some semblance of equality.
For this and more of my reviews please visit my blog at: Epic Reading
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
this book reads like the editor quit right after telling the author to drop the sci-fi dystopian setting. there's a lot in this book that would be... not good, but acceptable in a cheesy dystopian sci-fi but is deeply bizarre and ridiculous in an ostensibly realistic drama. and nothing kills drama like the 'lol wut' reaction of the reader to something completely unrealistic.
(like murderous metal detectors, just as an example)
the diversity of the sexual identity of the characters is nice, but it's like reading a checklist made by a 17 year old tumbler user, not a novel by a 30 year old man. actually, that's the problem with this whole book, it's incredibly juvenile in both world view and the way the narrative treats the protagonists behavior. the idea has potential, but the execution is underwhelming and honestly kind of embarrassing.