Officially, I threw in the towel at p.181 but I skimmed to and read the end because I wanted to see if the journey was worth it. Spoiler: it wasn't. I'm actually pretty disappointed because I thought TAKE ME WITH YOU had a really interesting premise and what sold me on the book was its superficial similarities to Danny Tobey's THE GOD GAME, which was basically the YA version of a cheesy potboiler.
Basically, the premise of this book is this: four teens are summoned to a classroom under mysterious circumstances where they find a device. The device tells them that they must take it with them, trading off every 24 hours. They are not allowed to talk about the device, they can't abandon the device, and they cannot get it wet. The first one hundred or so pages are mysterious and creepy because the rules give the appearance of dramatic stakes should the rules be defied.
I guess my problem with this book is that it didn't really go anywhere. It had all these opportunities to be either a bit ridiculous but fun like THE GOD GAME or a cheesy techno-thriller like Paycheck, where even if the science doesn't make sense, you can at least tell a good and compelling story with some emotional stakes. It's never really clear why these four teens were chosen and none of them really leaped out at me, personality-wise. The ending is anticlimactic and it just seems like this book goes on for way too long with way too little payoff. Very disappointing.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
Hi everyone this book is on sale for $2.99 right now, so if you like me were waiting for a price drop, N*COMES INTO YOUR MENTIONS LIKE A RECCING BALL*
Hi everyone this book is on sale for $2.99 right now, so if you like me were waiting for a price drop, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE
Edit: This is going to be my next read after I finish WOLF OF OREN-YARO. I actually cheated and read about 25% of it already and I really like it. Don't be worried by the comparisons to Harry Potter, that's really not the best. It's more like THE MAGICIANS, but set in Nigeria, and the characters are actually likable.
Also, people have spirit faces and bad-ass juju knives....more
High key obsessed with the cover. Low key disappointed with what was inside it. The first 100 or so pages had me thinking that this was going to be a four or five star book and then it loses steam. I think that part of that is because the opening made it seem like this was going to be sort of a YA Handmaid's Tale sort of tale, about subversion within the patriarchy, and while this is partially that, it becomes more of a journey/military-style of fantasy, which is fine, but took some adjusting since it wasn't what I was mentally prepared for.
I like how colorism and racism and sexism are tackled in this book and the female friendships that develop within Deka's ranks are heartwarming and positive to see in YA, a genre which is often criticized for the girl-on-girl hate that runs rampant in the books. Looking at some of the other ARC reviews, I have to say that I agree that the narrative is a bit weak and unstructured. It starts out strong in the beginning of the book but then peters out, and I ended up skimming pretty heavily in the second half. Especially because of a forced love interest that, in my opinion, became too intense, too quickly and wasn't even really that convincing.
I think a lot of kids are going to love this book when it comes out, because of the surprisingly gritty battle scenes and, yes, the romance. But I wish the world had been developed a bit more and the narrative more compelling. I'm not sure this needed to be 400-plus pages. I think the first half is four stars-worthy and the last half is two-stars worthy, so I'm averaging those two together and giving this a three, even though I'm feeling that this is more of a solid two in terms of final execution. I'd read more from this author but I probably wouldn't read more from this series.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
I'm going to save you a bunch of time and heartbreak, and tell you something I wish someone had told me before I was seduced by the sea of glowing four- and five-star reviews for this book: If you liked the first book, THE THIEF, the sequel, QUEEN OF ATTOLIA, is going to depress and anger you, and KING OF ATTOLIA is going to bore and frustrate you. There, I said it.
THE THIEF was one of my childhood favorites. I read it in middle school and really enjoyed it-- it stayed on my childhood bookshelf for years before I finally got rid of it in favor of other books, but it was a story I never forgot. All of these stories are set in a fantasy world inspired by Ancient Greece, where the gods interact with and look over their charges, but tend to take a light hand in favor of letting the mortals figure out things for themselves-- even at the cost of their suffering (read: see QUEEN OF ATTOLIA).
THE THIEF is narrated in first person and I loved Gen's voice, which made QUEEN OF ATTOLIA somewhat of a disappointment because it's narrated in third person-- and Megan Whalen Turner decides to torture the everloving hell out of her poor character, in a way that wouldn't have felt out of place in a Game of Thrones episode. I was honestly shocked, because even though there is violence and intrigue in the first book, it's pretty mild, whereas tonally and contextually, the sequel seems much older in terms of the age group it's targeting. This is not really made clear, and thank goodness somebody warned me.
In KING OF ATTOLIA, the reader is removed yet another step from Gen. Now the narration (still in third person, blast it) is from a guard named Costis, who is loyal to the queen of Attolia but ends up serving the king by marriage. Costis has a lot of scorn for the king at first and undermines him at every turn with resentment. But gradually, he comes to realize that the king isn't the usurping fool he imagined; in fact, he might be worse-- a blend of compassion and danger that makes him infinitely lethal and foolish to underestimate. That is really the only saving grace of this book-- the twists. There's always a great twist at the end of one of these books that just completely turns everything on its head.
So, I'm a little torn on what to read this book. It's filled with way too many characters I didn't care about (including the narrator), and takes way too long to get where it's going. Towards the 55% mark, it picks up-- finally-- and the payoff is good but isn't really worth the slog. Plus, I freaking hate the Queen of Attolia still and I think it's quite disgusting how the ship between her and Gen is forced in. I don't buy them as a couple anymore than I did Rhysand and Feyre from the ACoTaR series. I'm sorry, but you can't just ret-con a bunch of abuse and problematic behavior for the sake of your ships and your plot contrivances. I won't buy it, and it's lazy as all get out, and it makes me write reviews with a frown.
If I hadn't already bought the next two books in the series, I would have quit here. But apparently Sophos is in the next book and I like him, so hopefully this means Costis will be left in the dust.
P.S. Hugs and smiles to Erika for BR-ing this series with me. Her reaction to the events in QUEEN OF ATTOLIA made me feel like I was slightly less delusional and I'm so grateful for that.
This is one of those gems that I found while browsing the Daily Deals on Kindle. At the time that I bought this, a lot of my friends gave this really low ratings, but I wanted to read it anyway because of the title and the premise. A bunch of illegitimate children find themselves at the center of a dark plot to overthrow the kingdom and end up going on an adventure to save the world-- and each other.
As others have said, it starts off sounding like a very young YA book, but then something happens-- the inciting event-- and suddenly, the book gets dark. In some ways, this is a bit like Game of Thrones with the more offensive content removed, and that actually made it work really well for me because I loved the court intrigue of GoT but really hated the over-the-top torture and violence. There are some graphic scenes in here that are darker than what you would usually see in YA, but it isn't lingered on the way violence tends to be in adult fantasy.
All the characters in this book are likable, except for the ones who aren't supposed to be. Tallia, the main character, is crude and strong and funny, but she's also into feminine indulgences, as well. I'm honestly shocked that this character was written by a man, because way too often, male authors write female characters in a way that feels stereotypical and two dimensional, and both Tallia and Lyriana were interesting-- but in different ways, and they always felt like they were their own person.
Shvarts is also very comfortable writing from the perspective of the female gaze, which makes the scenes between her and Zell a pleasure. One of my favorite parts of this book is how Lyriana talks about her reasons for wanting to be chaste and Tallia later ends up sex, and her reasons for doing so were not diminished by Lyriana's, and she wasn't shamed for it (except by one bad character). It made the book feel very sex positive, but I liked the message that it's okay to not have sex, too.
The fantasy world itself was pretty good. It's a little stock but the complexity of the story makes up for the cliches. The only thing that took me out of the book at times was that all of the characters speak in a way that feels very contemporary and modern, despite this being one of those Medieval-Inspired Fantasy Stock Universes, which can be a bit jarring and anachronistic. I think it works for teens (and me), though, because it makes it much breezier to read without all the whilsts, thous, and verilys.
Honestly, I ended up liking this soooo much more than I thought I would and I would read the sequel happily. Definitely looking forward to this author's 2021 release too, which is set in a magic school. If you, like me, were hesitant to read this because of the initial negative reviews, I'd say give it a shot!
The whole time I was reading this book, I kept comparing it to Riley Redgate's NOTEWORTHY, and it kept falling short. NOTEWORTHY was published six years after BABE, and has the advantage of time. It covered a lot of the things that usually bother me about gender-bending books, like bisexual erasure (dude attracted to girl in drag: oh thank god, I know my heterosexuality radar wasn't broken! I'm not REALLY gay! I knew she was a guy all along) or how they can kind of come across as mildly transphobic (or at the very least, mildly insensitive) by appropriating the sorts of techniques that trans people have to do every day to pass and making tons of "I'm practically a boy already since my chest is so flat"-type jokes. Ick.
Gender-bending/girl-in-an-all-boys'-school books have always been a weakness of mine, though, and I can usually overlook some of that if the story is good. The problem is... it really wasn't? Natalie is an advice columnist for her school paper, running a Dear Abby-type column called "Dr. Aphrodite." She's never had a relationship, but just affirms girls in her article by telling them everything they want to hear (think: "yes, he ignores your texts because he's into you and he's so blinded by your beauty that he can't think of what glorious poetry to send you" / "make him choose between you and the Xbox, 'cause girl, you know"). Obviously... this doesn't work, and one day, she finds her fellow editors laughing at the comments (first rule of the internet: don't read the comments) because all these incels and angry ex-boyfriends have taken umbrage with the way that she has rallied the women-folk against them with her bad advice. Natalie is suddenly in danger of losing her column, and she decides she needs to do serious reporting. So while at a party, she starts asking guys what they really think, like why they won't call when they say they well.
Spoiler: it doesn't work.
Since boys are such lying, twisted creatures, Natalie decides hat the only way to get her answers is by becoming a boy. Luckily, one of her friends just happens to know a hacker who despite being a teenager, makes himself home at the FBI's virtual files, so of course he can toggle his way into the admissions roster and make her a student at an all boys' boarding school. And I guess Natalie's parents are the stupidest parents alive, because they see nothing sus about her being MIA for a week, spending literally every night at a friend's house, working on an inter-disciplinary project about biology and history... because that's what the teens do, you know. Spend the night getting all taxonomical.
Anyway, Natalie goes to the boys' school and is like, "Wow, being a boy is so hard. I have to keep remembering to stop swinging my hips and twirling my hair!" And I was like ... This girl has zero chill. She announces to the whole world that she's using a stall but "not because she has to pinch a loaf." While reading this book I kept thinking it was reminding me of something and then it hit me just now: the Disney Channel, circa the Hannah Montana years. The years where everyone wore neon outfits and teens shouted their way into every scene and all of the adults were total idiots.
I probably would have loved this book when I was a teen but sadly I'm reading it in my 30s and I'm none too impressed. I think the author was trying to poke fun at gender norms instead of upholding them, but the book really hasn't aged all that well, and it really does come across as being quite stereotypical and bad to me while reading it now.
THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA doesn't even feel like it's written by the same person as THE THIEF-- and not in a good way. One of the things I loved about THE THIEF was (Eu)Gen(ides)'s narration. Gen is such a great narrator: he's witty, wry, and through his POV, we get to see the fascinating worlds of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis. It's written in first person so we get to experience everything through Gen's eyes, and even though the concepts of court intrigue and political coups are a bit mature, Gen's narration has just enough humor that he feels young enough (despite being, I think, an older teenager) that a preteen could relate to them. I would categorize THE THIEF has highbrow literary middle grade, like THE GOLDEN GOBLET or THE CAY.
THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA, on the other hand, is narrated in the third person and feels like it's geared towards an older audience (older teens). All of the charming wit and humor I loved in the first book is mostly gone, except as an occasional aside, and the story is much, much darker. In the beginning of the book, something terrible happens to one of the main characters and it's honestly like something out of Game of Thrones. I was so upset I put the book down and stopped reading for a day, and even though I was able to eventually get back into the book, I wasn't prepared for that tonal shift, and I'm sure it would be way worse for a kid to see a character suffer like that.
Once I got over my disappointment at the lack of a Gen-focused narrative, I did warm to the story. Turner plots very intensely and there were so many great twists that were carefully planned. It's one of the smartest young adult fantasy novels I've read in years-- everything was done so well, and I felt like all of the characters were developed in a way that felt real. Attolia's backstory, for example, felt like something a young queen might do if she were essentially a captive in her own palace and was willing to do anything to get her freedom back. Eddis was the perfect blend of cunning brutality and motherly kindness that one would expect to see in a queen that ruled with kindness but wanted to keep her throne safe from invaders. And Eugenides's depression was-- well, let's just say that it was warranted, realistic, and potentially triggering to anyone who has ever had a depressive episode or struggled with grief/loss.
Regarding that one missing star-- I think this is a book that, despite being incredibly successful and popular, doesn't really seem to have a specific audience. It will appeal to precocious younger teens and adults who love YA that doesn't feel dumbed down, but I also don't think it really seems to be a middle grade series anymore like the first one. I was also a little confused about the world-building because the first book made it clear that this was a Greek-inspired fantasy world, with its own Greek-inspired pantheon of the gods, and yet in this book, Gen is studying Euclid at one point, and the Queen of Eddis makes a sly reference to Helen of Troy. So, what-- do the Greeks actually exist in this world and this is just a made up set of countries that exist nearby them, the way Genovia was a made-up country in Europe created for the sake of the Princess Diaries? It was very odd, and I spent way too much time thinking about that as I read, because I'm compulsive like that.
I also felt like ~that one love story~ appeared out of nowhere, and I didn't really feel the chemistry between the two of them at all. I certainly wouldn't fall in love with my torturer and it was really weird and kind of uncomfortable for me. Flip the genders and people would be losing their minds over the abusive plot, and yet because the perpetrator of violence in this book was a woman people are like YAAAASS WHAT A STRONG QUEEN. I never really forgave her for what she did and was not impressed with that ending. I can't say anymore because spoilers but if you've read the book, you know what I mean.
Huge thanks to Erika for reading this series with me. I'm having a lot of fun.
When I was really struggling with my depression as a young woman, someone trying to comfort me actually said something to me that made me feel about a thousand times worse for a really long time. She said that people with depression were "deep, sensitive, caring people" and that we cared too much about others and didn't spend enough time caring about ourselves. It made me feel like trash, because I didn't feel sensitive or caring. I felt angry all the time-- mostly with myself, but with others, too. I just despised myself slightly more than I did the things and people around me. I walked away from that person hating myself a little more that day, because it was like, "Oh, great, so not only am I depressed, selfish, and hateful, I'm not even feeling depressed in the way that I'm supposed to."
It really messed me up.
And while it's true, some people with depression are outwardly caring and compassionate, it is also a condition that can make you incredibly self-absorbed through no fault of your own. I don't think enough people really talk about the different ways that depression can manifest. Sometimes it's a deep feeling of despair that feels like persistent sadness. Sometimes it's emptiness. Sometimes it's anger. Even though I understand why so many readers felt put off by Julia as a narrator for her snarkiness and her attitude and her explosive, confrontational rages, I actually related to her more closely than I have related to any other YA character in a long time because the way she behaves is actually a lot like how I did as a teenager. I can understand that if someone doesn't like themselves, it can be hard to like them as a person. Mental health disorders, especially depression, can be incredibly self-centered. When you feel bad inside, it's really hard to muster the energy to care about others, and Julia is so consumed with her pain that it does make her seem selfish, but she's actually in desperate need of help.
Julia has a lot on her plate. Her perfect older sister just died and her parents are grieving. Olga, the sister, always related to their parents better than Julia did. Olga knew what her parents expected and was only too content to deliver. Julia, however, doesn't subscribe to the traditional beliefs that her parents have brought with her from Mexico. She doesn't like cooking, and she doesn't want to get married, and she has a lot of thoughts about Catholicism and conservative values. She wants to go away-- far away-- to college, and eventually, become a writer. The gulf between her and her parents feels very wide, and even though her parents try to demonstrate their love, they do it in a way that Julia perceives as them ignoring her own wishes and desires, and Julia, with the dreadful, self-consuming weight of her own depression, does not have the means or the will to breach the gulf.
And sometimes, the pressure of trying to fulfill so many expectations, with the crushing threat of failure looming over her head, just makes her feel like she's about to explode.
This is just such a great book on multiple levels. The portrayal of depression, as I said, is incredibly relatable. I loved that the author had Julia's depression manifest as anger, because I think it shows how many teens acting out might do so because of hidden problems that aren't quite so obvious. Meg Medina did something similar in YAQUI DELGADO, with the heroine retreating into herself and acting out because of the depression that bullying at school brought on. I also really liked how the author wrote about Mexican culture, and how there were parts of it Julia really loved, and parts of it she tried to distance herself from, and this becomes especially clear when Julia's parents send her to Mexico to make her feel better, and Julia begins to question her own privilege and the way that she has misunderstood some of her parents' intentions. It reminded me a bit of the PATRON SAINT OF NOTHING, where a character goes to the Philippines and it cements his identity by making him more aware of his roots while also making him realize how much he had to learn about his own culture from his biased perspective of it living in the United States.
There are so many great conversations and dialogues that are brought up in this book. Sexual abuse. Suicidal ideation. Depression. Pleasing and disappointing your parents. Being the first in your family to go to college. Mental health. Cultural identity. Immigration. Fear of deportation. Family sacrifice. Privilege. Miscommunication. The divides that can arise between generations. Family values. Compromise. Dating. Socioeconomic status. And just-- so much. It's a mature young adult book that isn't afraid to tackle tough subjects with finesse, and everything, from Julia herself, to the way mental health is discussed, to the way Julia and her parents relate to their own culture, and how their cultural identity was influenced and shaped by living in the United States as immigrants, and how age and generation influenced that shaping-- it was all so brilliant, and the ending was satisfying.
I did see some people complaining that there is a lot of Spanish in this book-- and yes, there is. Most of it you can probably guess from context, though. I'll admit to being biased: I speak Spanish as a second language, so I knew most of the words, and the ones I didn't, I was able to look up or guess. I really liked it, though. I think it adds a lot of depth to the book, and it sounds like the way people around me talk in real life. Spanish speakers living in the U.S. dip in and out of English and Spanish, slipping back and forth depending on which word or phrase comes first, and I really don't think the book would have felt so comfortably natural without all the Spanish words and phrases. Some of them are actually quite cheeky, or lewdly insulting, so if you look up the words, you may find yourself quite amused.
I loved this book. I wish it had come out when I was a teenager, as I would have loved it then, too.
I actually read this for the first time as a child back when it was still a standalone and I remember my edition had a really cheesy, cartoonish cover. THE THIEF is a book that won't appeal to everyone, and even as a child, I had difficulty getting into it. For one thing, it's one of those fantasy novels that revolves around journeys, which I know isn't everyone's cup of tea. For another, it's very slow-paced and mostly character-driven. Towards the end, there's a series of rapid twists, but I think if you aren't into the characters or the world-building, it just isn't going to appeal, and that's fine. Not everybody loves everything.
THE THIEF is set in a pseudo-Ancient Grecian world, where three kingdoms-- Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia-- are constantly at odds, their ways changed and evolved over time following the influence of invaders. Attolia and Sounis are enemies, with Eddis to keep the peace and maintain trade, but of course, that doesn't always work.
Of course, Gen, our hero, doesn't know all that much about politics ostensibly, since he's a lowly thief currently biding his time in prison. He stole the king's seal and bragged about it in a bar, which resulted in his getting arrested and chained to his bed, denied even the creature comforts of exercise in the sun. When he's brought out for release by the king's magus, he's understandably suspicious: they want him for something and it isn't for cake decorating in celebration of his own release party. No, he's the "greatest" thief in the kingdom and they want him to steal something BIG.
Reading this as an adult, I was struck by the maturity of this work. I'd often see it at Scholastic book fairs (remember those?) and I read it in grade school, I think. When I rate children's books and young adult low, I often get comments from people saying things like, "It's a kids' book, what did you expect?" which I think is a bit cheap, really, because it underestimates how clever kids are, and how layered a good YA or MG book should be. Children don't want to feel talked down to, and a really good book for preteens and teens should be as faceted as a diamond, because you want them to come back to it again and again and find new things every time they read it. Those are the books that become timeless.
With THE THIEF, I picked up on a lot of clever banter and references that escaped me as a kid. As a kid, I found Gen's sarcasm to the "adults" very funny and daring (even though I think Gen is an older teen/young man, he is a bit childish in a way that children will relate to). As an adult, he was still amusing but also quite exasperating-- but in a way that felt believable to his character. I was more interested in his developing relationships with the other people in his travel party (Ambiades, Sophos, Pol, and the magus), and how complex it became as we learned more about the other characters and their motivations. Turner also created her own mythology for this book, inspired by the Greek mythology, and that was really fun as well, to see how it paralleled the myths I'm familiar with.
While this isn't a book that will appeal to everyone, I think that anyone who enjoys fantasy books where the focus is on the development of the world and the characters, light political intrigue, and journeying will really enjoy this. At times, it almost has LORD OF THE RINGS vibes, and then at others, it feels more like Indiana Jones. This isn't a fast-paced, action-packed story until the end, but I really enjoyed it as a quiet sort of story that you can sink into until it springs on you. I look forward to reading the sequel.
Before Martha's Vineyard became a getaway for the rich, it belonged to the Wampanoag, who then sold the land (arguably under incredibly unfair terms) to English settlers, who came from a town in England called Weald where Deafness was a recessive trait that ended up showing up more and more in the small and isolated population, which ended up resulting in the community developing a village sign language called Martha's Vineyard Sign Language. I had never learned about any of this before and was really excited to learn about the history of Martha's Vineyard.
Our heroine is a young girl named Mary whose brother has just died in a terrible accident. She feels responsible, and the death has caused a rift in her family, as her brother could hear (like her mother), whereas her father is Deaf like her. Watching her mother grieve and her lack of care in expressing her obvious favoritism among her children is heartbreaking, and Mary ends up spending more and more time with her friend, getting into mischief, when a scientist named Andrew comes to the island to make discoveries.
Pretty soon, however, it's clear that Andrew's intentions are less than pure and he has absolutely zero respect for those who are Deaf in the community. Prior to this point, I was thinking that this book reminded me a lot of the American Girl books I used to read as a child, but this book, with the way it confronts ableism, cruelty in the name of scientific advancement, and racism, is actually much darker than I anticipated. I don't think it's inappropriate for middle grade, but it will definitely give kids a lot to think about while reading. It gave me a lot to think about while reading.
SHOW ME A SIGN is #OwnVoices in that the author is also Deaf and worked to incorporate sign language into the story in a way that feels fluid and conveys to readers who might not speak sign language what that sort of communication feels like to "speak." I loved the physicality of it, and how LeZotte incorporated the motions of hands into the dialogue, and it was really, really well done. She wrote a great author's note in the back about the liberties she took to convey MVSL, which is now a dead language, as well as the history of Martha's Vineyard itself.
I liked this book. In terms of pacing, it's decent. Definitely feels slow until the dark twist with Andrew's character, and then everything speeds up. I do think that this will appeal to those who like American Girl books, as it ticks all those boxes: it is part of the history of the United States, but it also explores the darker side of that history, and a young girl who has that history as part of her heritage gets to pilot through that story with her own agency as vehicle. SHOW ME A SIGN will probably appeal more to young readers and educators than older teens and adults, but I do think it is worth reading and talking about, if only so it finds its way into the hands of more kids (particularly kids who are Deaf/HoH).
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
I bought this a while ago because I used to see RTs from the Brooding YA Hero account on Twitter and they would always make me laugh or smile, so I figured I might as well take my chances on the book, because book adaptations of internet phenomena and memes are always better than the source material. To quote Julia Roberts, "Big mistake. Big. Huge."
Making fun of YA is kind of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to literary parody. Once something becomes popular, it feels like everyone falls over themselves trying to copy, until, like a Xerox (remember those??), there are so many copies that the trend is completely burnt out to exhaustion and has literally and figuratively become unreadable. BROODING YA HERO seems specifically to be targeting what I call the "Byronic Revival Movement" of the late 2000s/early 2010s, which started with the popularity of Twilight and persisted with love interests from things like Six of Crows or Empire of Storms, with brooding, ridiculous love interests whose sole claim to fame was being a hot bad boy.
BROODING YA HERO is an exhaustive criticism of young adult books, tackling a number of elements that result from frenetic copying of popular trends, lazy writing, and reliance on tropes. Some of the things that are mentioned in here are the fetishization and stereotyping of people of color, the chosen one stereotype in fantasy novels, and the treat-em-mean-to-keep-em-keen style of "wooing" where the love interest often acts in ways that are quite abusive to the heroine and it is accepted that his lack of emotional intimacy is a weakness that should be tacitly understood and accepted and overcome by others because he is worth get to knowing and making the effort for. The author also points out that YA books have a tendency to punish female characters who exhibit agency and confidence (especially sexual confidence), and that most popular heroines typically are either unaware of their appeal, or act as blank slates that exist only to further the hero's narrative arc.
I think all of the criticisms in this book are fair and part of the fun is trying to guess which books in particular that she is making fun of. Sometimes the references are fairly obvious (Twilight, Meg Cabot's Mediator series, etc.), but others are fill-in-the-blanks that you can populate with your fave-to-hates. Where the book really fails in my opinion is the repetitiveness and narrative structure of the book. It's written from Broody McHottiepants's POV, which quickly starts to grate. I had been hoping, when I bought this, that it would be written and constructed in the vein of Sarah Wendell's BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS, which was a fun criticism of bodice-rippers and romance novels, while also essentially providing a reading list of some of the author's faves, even as it talked about cliches and popular trends that could be a bit ridiculous. This was definitely not that.
I ended up DNF-ing this around the 27% mark during my first read of this book and I can see why.
WICKED FOX is the perfect fall read-- it's an urban fantasy novel set in South Korea that relies on Korean folklore, with shamans and demons, including the gumiho, a fox demon that's kind of like the Japanese kitsune/yako, only slightly more evil (they seduce men and eat their livers). Our heroine, Miyoung, is a gumiho who lives with her mothers but only kills evil men. But one day, she catches the attention of an ordinary human boy who ends up finding more about her than she ever dreamed, and makes her feel things she shouldn't. This is more than just a romance, though. Secrets and betrayals abound, and some of them might be deadly.
If you're a fan of the magical/spiritual girl anime, I think you'll really enjoy this book a lot. The pairing of a soft boy with a dangerous girl is a common plot thread in J- and K-dramas, and I loved the subtle nod to the K-drama, My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho. It also gave me Jigoku Shoujo and Vampire Princess Miyu vibes. Miyoung is the classic tsundere who starts out icy, aloof, and dangerous, but ends up being far more sensitive and vulnerable than she initially appears.
Jihoon was also a great character. He's sweet and ordinary, and his relationship with his grandmother was one of the best parts of the book for me. I like how both of them bond over their absent or neglectful parents, because it felt like a realistic connection to explain their need for intimacy and closeness. The Korean folklore elements were also really interesting and I loved learning about the every day life in South Korea, such as what schools are like there, what people eat, and what the social norms are. This is the first paranormal/urban fantasy novel I can remember reading that is set in South Korea, and I felt like Cho did a marvelous job bringing her settings to life.
I'm giving this three stars because it did feel a little uneven in terms of pacing. The beginning was wonderful but I felt like it began to drag in the second half. I liked the twist at the end, even though I suspected it, and I wasn't prepared for the emotional blow the author inflicted upon me. That didn't impact my rating negatively but I do appreciate when authors don't always take the easy, comfortable choice. I thought the plot of the story was good... I just wish I was more engaged in some parts than I actually was, and I thought the "legend" portions, told from omniscient narrator POV, were a bit too heavy on the exposition and actually ended up dragging me out of the story.
Overall, though, this was a really fun debut and has likable characters, an interesting story, and an exciting setting. I'd definitely read more by this author and I'd encourage anyone who's stick of the usual stock Western urban fantasy settings with the typical line up of vampires, werewolves, and witches to give this book a try-- especially if you're into supernatural girl anime and dramas.
I was very excited when I learned about WE ARE NOT FREE, not just because of that amazing cover, but because it's written from the perspective of Japanese-Americans during WWII. In WE ARE NOT FREE, we, the readers, are introduced to the atmosphere of racism many Asian Americans (not just Japanese-Americans) faced due to anti-Japanese sentiments, life in the internment camps, and how it feels to be fighting a war for a country you thought you loved that has done everything to show it doesn't love you back.
The result is simply heartbreaking.
I've had a bit of prior reading about internment camps thanks to Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's writings (FAREWELL TO MANZANAR and THE LEGEND OF FIRE HORSE WOMAN), as well as George Takei's memoirs, where he talked about his own experience in one camp as a child and young man. Chee really captures the surreal and horrific element of these camps, where the prisoners feared for their safety, knowing that they could have their property confiscated or even be shot, but also had in their daily lives theatrical pageants of normality in the form of sock hops and sports games.
I also liked how Chee wrote about war in this book. She doesn't pull back any punches. Something happens towards the end that is truly devastating, and the pain in this book feels authentic and real. I think WE ARE FREE would actually be a great companion to FAREWELL TO MANZANAR, and teachers should consider using it in their curriculums as required reading because it's a lot more accessible than some of Houston's work, and was written specifically for young adults in mind.
I'm giving this a three (more like a three-point-five) rating because WE ARE NOT FREE felt much longer than it needed to be. Fourteen POVs is a lot, and I almost wish the author had just stuck with a few characters for the reader to focus on so we could get to know them better. I felt like every time I was just about to understand what made them tick, there was a POV switch. And while sometimes characters would be seen again through each cycled POV, it felt way less intimate. Some of the POVs also weren't as engaging as others. I think my favorites were Aiko, Minnow, and Twitchy.
I definitely recommend this to anyone who feels fatigued by WWII fiction and thinks they would enjoy a book written from a fresh perspective. WE ARE NOT FREE deftly tackles some really tough subjects, and shows a side of history that I'm sure many people in the U.S. would like to-- but should never-- forget.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
I wasn't expecting a story about a teen escort written by Andrew Neiderman posing as V.C. Andrews to be good... but man, this was really not good. I blame Trash Nenia, of course. Trash Nenia and Drunk Nenia are responsible for 99% of my bad purchasing decisions. Trash Nenia buys dumb books "because it could be fun" and Drunk Nenia goes shopping on Amazon while drinking wine, which means I end up with way too many books like these.
ROXY'S STORY is about the eponymous Roxy, a sixteen-year-old girl who gets kicked out of her house by her militant father after he's had the last straw with her stealing, acting out in school, and raising hell with the boys. She ends up going to live in the slums where she catches the attention of a sleazy scout who likes that she's part French and thinks she's the prettiest girl he's ever seen and would be great for-- you guessed it-- escort work. Gag. And yes, he knows how old she is, and doesn't care. Double gag.
This is terribly written. Roxy talks like a fast-talking jaded dame in a film noir, and not at all like a teenager. It has a pulp fiction vibe-- not pulp fiction like the movie, but pulp fiction like the actual mass-produced novels from the 50s and 60s that were drowning in sleaze. I guess if you're into those types of books, you might enjoy this, but they were always too trashy even for me and my bodice-ripper-loving ass. I'm calling it quits now because I'm starting to get annoyed with this whole hot mess. The only thing this has in common with V.C. Andrews is the irrationally douchebag parents and the doormat mom. Family saga, this is not.
Some of my friends were saying that this is like The Mortal Instruments, and while I can kind of see what they mean, I also think that LEGENDBORN is a much better book. Clary and Jace were such immature little shits, whereas all of the characters in LEGENDBORN-- even if they aren't nice-- have nuance. Plus, the heroine, Bree, is just really fascinating. She is unlike a lot of heroines I've read in YA. She's allowed to have sexual agency. She knows when she looks good. She gets mad and calls people out when she should. She doesn't cower. She's a bona fide bad-ass. But she also has moments when she feels vulnerable and weak. In short, she behaves more like a teen and less like an adult's idea of what a teen ought to be, and I really loved that.
The premise of LEGENDBORN is kind of weird. Basically, people who are descendants of the Knights of the Round Table have magic powers called "Bloodfcraft" and they defend the world from evil demons called "Shadowborn." Bree ends up getting involved with one of their prodigal sons, Nick, when she starts to have reason to believe that they killed her mother.
Bree is a high school student taking college classes at a prestigious North Carolina university. Remnants of history-- and the grim legacy of slavery-- are everywhere, and that history ties into Deonn's take on Arthurian legend in several unusual ways. One of the things I liked best about this book was how it tackles inequality and racism. Bree faces discrimination from ordinary people (like a cop who lets her white friend go but takes her and her Asian friend in, or people who touch her hair without her permission), but the history of racism and slavery aren't ignored either, which is something that a lot of fantasy and historical fiction fail to touch on: that a lot of historical figures or people in power who exist in economies where exploitation of other human beings is a product often did terrible things to get their money and their power. In this book, all power has a cost, and sometimes the price can be unforgivable. It's a chilling and powerful lesson.
There were other things I really liked about this book, too. It's diverse. Bree is Black. Her best friend is Asian. We meet several other Black mages, and there's a focus on Black history and Black experiences. The LGBT+ rep was really pronounced and done really casually. One of the love interests is coded as bi or pan (I'm not sure which). There's a non-binary character. There are several F/F couples. There's a love triangle, but for once, I actually liked both love interests for different reasons, and I like that it's not super obvious which one Bree is going to end up with (maybe both??). The golden boy or the bad boy??? I mean, how does one choose? (Take the bad boy, obviously.)
Even though the premise was a little cheesy, I found myself really drawn to the inventive world-building, and I felt so much more invested when things got dark and things took a Hunger Games-like turn. Honestly, with the bonding Scions and the training sessions, LEGENDBORN gave me Vampire Academy vibes more than anything else. Especially with the whole "hot for trainer" trope. I could easily see this becoming a movie (in fact, I hope it does), and I'm really excited to see where the sequel goes with all of this since there's still so much left unexplored.
If you like books with strong heroines and immersive fantasy novels, you'll probably love this.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
While reading this book, I was like, "Why does this author's name sound so familiar?" And then I realized he was the author of BLACK HOLE SUN, which I think I received an ARC of back when it first came out. I remember thinking the teen speak in that book was really weird, but since it took place on a Mars colony or something like that, I was like, well whatever, it's the ~future~ and rolled with it despite being skeptical. But no, actually, it seems like it's just the author, because this book was also super cringe with its slang-- or what the author thought was slang-- with gems like "bitchlette" and using "zucchini" as an insult.
I was actually in a weird mood, so horror felt like a great choice, but this book is SO BORING and it's 500+ pages??? Why is it so long? NOTHING IS HAPPENING. There's a dude who possesses bodies with lightning and an evil undead witch and a girl with super powers, so really this should be the opposite of boring. I went to Goodreads to write my review and when I saw the low average rating, I felt SO VALIDATED. Apparently I'm not the only one who thought the writing was ridic and the pacing was off. Thank you, Goodreadians, for making me feel better about my choices.
I find that I have a love-hate relationship with Adler's work. Sometimes I love her books, other times... not so much. It's a shame, because I think she really tries to tackle relevant issues teens actually have to deal with-- things like taking care of younger siblings, dealing with sick or dying parents, living paycheck to paycheck, coming out and/or dealing with everything that comes along with that-- and considering how much she champions diverse books, that doesn't really surprise me. Adler seems to really get what teens want to see in their representation.
I just don't always love her characters or stories.
Initially I really liked BEHIND THE SCENES. Ally is an ordinary girl who's watching her BFF become the next famous TV star (picture the lead on the CW). When she falls for her friend's costar who seems totally out of her league (Liam), she can't help but second guess herself. Especially since she's dealing with her younger sis and a father who might be dying of cancer.
I posted a status update praising Adler for taking complex issues and being realistic about them. If you're a reader of new adult fiction, you'll know that the genre is infamous for taking serious issues and being ridiculous about them for drama's sake. And while drama can be fun, if a serious issue is handled badly enough, it starts to feel insensitive rather than... you know, real. That doesn't happen here, though. No, what made this story fall apart for me was just that I wasn't engaged with the characters. I didn't really buy the romance between Ally and Liam, and I didn't really like how it takes the "hating on Hollywood" low-hanging fruit and makes Liam secretly hate his career.
I own the sequel to this, which apparently has an LGBT+ romance in it, so I'm definitely going to check that one out, but sadly BEHIND THE SCENES will have to stay behind the scenes for now.
Books like these are why I don't five star everything I read just because the author "tried." It skews the whole rating system and undervalues the work of truly brilliant authors who aren't afraid to be edgy, messy, and real, which is part of the reason I loved THE REVOLUTION OF BIRDIE RANDOLPH so much.
Dove is a "good girl" with strict parents, but there are secrets she's keeping that even her parents don't know about. She's dating a "bad boy" named Booker who went to a juvenile detention center, and she's started doing things like sneaking out, experimenting with alcohol, and spending 1:1 time with her estranged aunt, who just got out of rehab and has just entered her family's life looking for a 2342343rd chance.
Every time you think this book is going to take the cliched route, it does a complete 180. I love the balancing act Dove strikes between trying to be her own person and make her parents proud. I loved the conversations about sexuality that arose because of her ex, Mitchell, and her best friend, Laz. I loved how Booker was so much more than he seemed, and while his history was treated with the gravitas it deserved, it also wasn't played up for the drama. He was a sweet kid who messed up once and was looking for a second chance. I loved Dove's aunt, Carlene, and her story. I felt like the way that this book treated addiction and recovery felt real, and it definitely didn't feel dramatic or easy. There was also a twist in the last half that I figured out before the MC did, but totally didn't see coming before then.
Anyone who loves YA books that deal with real world issues and have lots of diverse rep will love this. Our heroine is Black, and so is her family and several of her friends, including her boyfriend. Several of the characters are LGBT+. It deals with heavy-hitting topics like addiction, discrimination, sex, coming out, and substance use very maturely, never seeming too preachy or too exploitative. It's a tough line, handling topics in a way that feels natural and authentic without letting that "adult" pearl-clutching voice slip through, but Colbert did a fantastic job, and Dove sounds like a real, mature teenager.
Also, the feels. There were several moments in this book where I teared up. It definitely isn't a book that wraps up neatly with a bow, but real life is rarely like that, and the ending was satisfying, as it felt like a break and not a stopping point on Dove's journey to self-discovery. I'm so glad I read this book and would pick up more from this author in a heartbeat.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE was all kinds of good. Sometimes a middle grade novel can talk down to its audience, but this book is that rare gem that manages to be timeless, perfectly capturing that awkward time in our lives when we're navigating all the major firsts, whether it's a first crush, to the first stirrings of our burgeoning soon-to-be-adult identities.
Shayla is twelve years old. She has two best friends, Julia, who is Japanese, and Isabella, who is Puerto Rican. They call themselves the United Nations because they're proud of their diverse little group. But this year, things are different. Isabella has become really, really pretty, and the boy Shayla likes might like Isabella better. And Julia has started to hang out with an all-Asian group of friends, who are kind of catty and mean, and appropriate Black slang while also looking down on "less favorable" elements of Black culture, such as Black Lives Matter.
In the background of this novel, their community is rocked by several truly devastating murders of Black individuals, and one of the most heartbreaking moment is when Shayla doesn't understand why the murderers aren't punished. It truly says something awful about our country, when something even a child can see is morally reprehensible and unforgivable is excused by those in power. The injustice and sheer futility of that moment moved me to tears, and I was so proud of Shayla when that agony and unfairness pushed her to follow in her sister's footsteps to join the Black Lives Matter movement.
This is a wonderful coming of age story, with a sympathetic heroine who is awkward and unsure of herself, and sometimes selfish, but has a good heart and a loving family, and wants to do what's right. A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE deftly explores a lot of mature themes in a way that's easy to grasp for a middle grade audience without being at all condescending, and I was so impressed at the wide array of topics, whether it was internalized racism, the racism that occurs within other groups of people of color, institutionalized racism that facilitates the ill-treatment of people of color (and specifically BIPOC individuals), and what how sometimes you have to break the rules to do a good thing, if the rules that are set in place are flawed and causing people pain to begin with.
I loved Shayla's whole family, especially her mother and her sister, and the supportive teachers (especially her science teacher and coach!) were wonderful. I also liked how the principal ended up eating her words. That was SO satisfying. Oh-- and the whole character arc with Bernard was wonderful. I totally saw it coming, but it was still immensely satisfying and squee. I simply can't say enough good things about this. It's perfect for middle graders and shares many of the themes that made me love THE HATE U GIVE so much, only toned down for the 10-14 audience.
THIS IS KIND OF AN EPIC LOVE STORY is such a good book and it makes me sad that the average rating for the book is so low on Goodreads because I read it in just over a day and loved it so much, even if I do think I understand why so many people seem to have a hard time loving it (more on that in a minute). In some ways, it kind of reads as the prototype version of FELIX EVER AFTER, only with younger characters, but it's also a really great portrayal of diversity, realistically dramatic and tempestuous teen friendships, and the trials and tribulations of first love, so it does stand on its own.
Nate is an aspiring screenwriter who's painfully single. Ever since his dad died, he's had trouble forming close bonds with others because he's terrified of loving and losing again-- after all, everyone has to go away sometimes, why open yourself to hurt? It causes him to push people away and make bad decisions, even though you can kind of get where he's coming from, and how he's dooming himself with his behavior.
He has a close-knit group of friends, which includes his ex, Flo, who cheated on him with the girl she's now dating. There's also Ashley, an aggressively go-getter Hermione Granger type, Gideon, a jock, and, now, Ollie, the "new kid" in school who was actually Nate's closest friend as a child... until Nate kissed him on the day he moved away, which made everything awkward, and caused them never to speak again.
There really isn't a plot to this book, apart from teen boy is awkward and anxious, teen boy meets teen boy who is also awkward and anxious. Boys fall in love but keep messing up because they are bad at communicating with each other because teen boys are gonna teen. Some people complained about the drama and yes, there is a LOT. Everyone has histories with everyone and there's a lot of cheating. Normally, I hate cheating in romances, but I feel like it works better in stories about high school and college because we all know that most of those relationships DON'T last forever, and sometimes falling out with someone you used to like or even love is part of an adult journey. I've said in other reviews that I don't question teenagers making stupid decisions if they make them for believable reasons. There's a difference between a bad decision on behalf of the character and a bad decision on behalf of the author writing as that character, and here, all of the characters felt very real and believable to me.
I loved the diversity of Nate's friend group. Both heroes seem to be either bi or pan (I couldn't really tell, but it seems like both of them have dated or been interested in girls). Ollie is Latinx and I think the hero is Black. His friend, Flo, is Taiwanese and Black and also bi/pan, and I think Ashley and Gideon are white and straight. Ollie is also HoH (hard of hearing) and even though I don't believe this is ownvoices in that regard, it seemed very respectfully done. I liked the signing on the page, and how communication style between him and the other characters was inclusive and respectful and focused on Ollie's needs. I also liked how grief was approached, and how a big part of the story was about Nate's mom sorting out some of her own unresolved psychological trauma, and how a big part of the narrative arc between Nate and his mom was about communication and her learning to let him go.
THIS IS KIND OF AN EPIC LOVE STORY can be a really frustrating read at times because Nate does not always make the most likable decisions, and sometimes you, the reader, will get really mad at him. But the way he behaves is consistent to his character and it makes watching him learn and grow so much more rewarding as you watch him lower those prickly walls of his and learn to let others in. I think anyone who enjoys YA with topics geared towards older teens (sex, first time, relationships, long-stance relationships, college applications, internships, career decisions, grief, friend drama, etc.) will really enjoy this book, as it ticks a lot of the boxes of what I personally look for and love in YA.
I actually really hated this book, and ended up putting it off for days because reading it was so unpleasant. It's a shame, because even though I knew it wasn't going to be a happy book, the topics it dealt with sounded so important and relevant that I really wanted to give it a chance, despite my gut saying, "No, no, no, no, no, you're going to regret this! No, no, no, no, no."
I should have listened to my gut.
This is a story about two sisters named Violet and Indigo, who are twins. One of them, Violet, is terminally ill and wants to have medically assisted death because the act of breathing itself has become so painful. Indigo is 100% NOT okay with this, and the book literally opens with her deciding to take her own life because she is so upset about this decision.
Somehow, she survives jumping off the building, and when she awakens, she can hear the voice of God. God tells her that if she drags her terminally ill sister up a mountain in Arizona, she'll live, and for some reason the family agrees to go along with this, and it's road trip time, which ends up forcing the family to unpack a lot of the issues they've only tiptoed around.
If you've read books like THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, MY SISTER'S KEEPER, and ME BEFORE YOU, you'll understand what this book is trying to do, and what it's supposed to achieve. Indigo needs to learn how to come to terms with her sister's decision, and that death is what is supposed to push us all to live-- because, you know, mortality is what makes life precious and worth living, etc. I get the message and it's something I actually agree with. For me, I took issue with the bizarre handling of Indigo's mental health problems, and the way the Voice of God angle was presented, and how the tone of this oscillated between oddball quirkiness and incredibly depressing.
Maybe some people will really enjoy this but I found it frustrating and upsetting.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
I'm kind of a sucker for the "fake dating" trope, so even though this seemed like it was going to be fluffier than my usual fare, I was like "FAKE DATING?? YAAAAASS." Because I am weak.
CATCH A FALLING STAR is set in a beachside town in California called Little. The type of town where everyone knows everyone's business, and the local celebrities are descendants of the original founders. Until one day, a troupe of real celebrities arrive, to take advantage of the scenic views and quaint Victorian houses for a modern retelling of The Christmas Carol.
Shot in summer. Because of course.
The film's star is named Adam Jakes, a favorite of the tabloids because of his recent messy breakup and stint in rehab. This new movie is supposed to serve as his launchpad from troubled childhood star to serious adult actor. A fact made clear when the heroine, Carter, is cornered by his agent to act as his "fake girlfriend" to show that he really is on the up and up.
Since Carter has a brother who's struggling with an addiction of his own and their family desperately needs the money, she agrees to the job. And it's all fun and games until the lines between real and fake inevitably get blurred and she gets way more invested than she ever wanted, because dating Adam means going out into the big world beyond, and she's afraid to leave the city limits.
I used to read a lot of books like these in high school. Most of them were written by Sarah Dessen and Elizabeth Scott and Deb Caletti because I am old now, but I did once consider myself quite the connoisseur of YA fiction. They're fun, but if you read too many of them, they start to feel a little empty. It's kind of like eating entire bags of potato chips for dinner-- once in a while is okay, but do it everyday straight for a week and you're going to start feeling pretty sick.
CATCH A FALLING STAR does have some surprisingly insightful passages on sacrificing for relationships and what it means to set aside the familiar to pursue your dreams, but it is pure fluff. It's well-written fluff and I enjoyed it, but by the time I finished the story, I'd already half-forgotten it. This is definitely what you'd call a "mood read," and I think if you're in the mood for light and slightly angsty romance, you've found your true calling with this book.
Okay, so the idea of a bunch of white kids in Japan (well, one of them is Japanese) had me rolling my eyes a bit. But I'm a sucker for books set abroad, and since I went on a trip to Japan myself a few years ago, I was excited to relive my trip vicariously since, you know, with quarantine happening, I ain't going nowhere.
I read in another review that this is a very loose retelling of PERSUASION by Jane Austen and I can kind of see that. Heads up that the storyline is very dramatic and confusing, so there are going to be lots of spoilers, not just so you can keep everything straight, but so I can too, because there is a LOT going on.
So, Sophia's parents are both teachers but split when she was young. Now her dad lives in Paris with his new family and her mom teaches as a professor in Japan but is about to move back to the states to teach at Rutgers. This is Sophia's last week in Japan and she's kicking it with her Japanese friend Mika, and their friend, David, who is the son of the Australian ambassador.
But plans sour when Sophia finds out that her childhood friend Jamie is returning. Jamie, who she stopped being friends with when he accidentally sent her a cruel text intended for Mika that was making fun of her for having a crush on David, who's kind of a playboy with a cruel streak. Sophia told him off and never wanted to have anything to do with him again after that so why is he HERE?
As they club it up and go to karaoke bars, alcohol makes the truth come out. David and his girlfriend, Caroline, seem to be on the rocks, which gives Sophia hope (she hates Caroline). But Jamie is way cuter than he was when he left and no longer seems to be as awkward or mean. Mika, on the other hand, seems to be hiding something, and David has actually gotten indiscriminately crueler (or maybe she's just never taken the time to notice his character). So it turns out that David and Mika have actually been hooking up, despite David having a girlfriend and despite Mika (and David) knowing how Sophia feels about David, and then Sophia finds out that her dad doesn't really want her to move with him to Paris, and when Jamie makes his move, he gets totally caught in the crossfire.
This book was OH MY GOD, SO MUCH DRAMA but I actually enjoyed it a lot. Unlike ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, which made me want to slap all the bitches, Sophia is respectful of Japanese culture (for the most part) and Tokyo exists more than just as a backdrop. I've been to the exact two-story Starbucks in Shibuya that they went to, I've seen the Hachiko statue, and I've definitely made late-night runs to konbini, which, if you've ever been to one of the Japanese ones, will make you cry in shame when you compare them to what convenience stores are like here.
So, part of my review is definitely biased by the fact that huge swaths of this book were a big old nostalgia rush. But I also felt like all the drama felt realistic. Teens are d r a m a t i c. And one of my quotes is that I'm down with stupid decisions if it's a character flaw and not an author flaw. I think people sometimes forget how stupid they were as teenagers, and how incestuous friend groups can be when it comes to dating. I was in band, and there was always so much drama when couples broke up. I remember on one of our trips, people were sending envoys in one of our hotel to deliver messages to each other because they were too mad to talk in person post-breakup. #drama
And also, this book really captures what it's like to be on the cusp of adulthood, wanting change, but fearing it; feeling nostalgic for childhood while anxious to leave it; making mistakes just to feel the rush. It's a tumultuous time, and I feel like SEVEN DAYS OF YOU really captures the yearning feeling that so many teens have, even if they're not quite sure what they're yearning for.
I read this fully expecting to hate it and it ended up being exactly what I needed. Even if you're side-eying the white kid cultural tourism angle, I feel like it's done pretty well and the author seems to have a passion for all elements of Japanese culture beyond the anime ones. The descriptions of the food, the shrines, the karaoke parlors, and even the convenience stores, are all so lovingly done, it makes me want to go back there asap, even though the summers are hell (and this book portrayed that quite well, too-- and God help you if your AC craps out). Definitely recommend this for anyone who wants to go to Japan, has been and is feeling nostalgic, or enjoys YA with older characters.
I bought this a while ago when it went on sale purely on impulse because I was so intrigued by the title. It's one of those titles that tells a story and makes the reader wonder: "Who is Yaqui Delgado and why does she have it in for ME?" But it's actually the main character, Piedad "Piddy" Sanchez that Yaqui hates. As with most things in the girl universe, it all boils down to jealousy and a boy. Piddy has always been a good girl, but as the bullying intensifies, her grades begin to falter and she starts cutting classes, fighting with her mother, and behaving more and more recklessly.
Speaking as someone who was bullied in high school, I can say that this book really hits deep. Some readers I saw were disappointed that we never found out the "reason" that Yaqui was a bully-- but honestly, does there need to be a reason? We already learned that the bullies figured Piddy was too full of herself and resented the fact that guys found her attractive. While I understand that there are gray areas, it was kind of refreshing to see a book that completely focused on the victim of the bullying and didn't make any sorts of apologies for the bullies themselves.
YAQUI DELGADO ticks all the boxes of what makes a great YA story for me. It deals with tough subjects in a nuanced way that never feels preachy. Piddy acts and talks like a real teen and the author allows her to make the mistakes that a real teen would. A few people didn't like the fact that Piddy fought with and disrespected her mother, and all I can say to that is COME ON. Being a bratty teen is practically a right of passage. I know I was a huge pain, and honestly, it's refreshing to see a book where the kid blows up at the 'rents, but it's clear that they still love each other despite everything.
I also liked Piddy's mom, and her story as a single mother. It was a really interesting take on what it means to be an adult making mistakes while parenting, and I think it captures that kind of poignant, heartbreaking moment when a kid learns that their parents can be weak and don't always have all the right answers to life's tough questions. All of the supporting characters were really great too, like Joey, Lila, and Allen. I like that each of their characters had an unexpected turning point.
If you're tired of the cookie cutter YA books that look at high school through Disney Channel glasses, mosey on over to this book and give it a read. I know I'm tough on YA as a reviewer, but I think it's important to really focus and laud the books like this one that take serious risks. It was so good.