American Street

30256109by Ibi Zoboi
YA Contemporary / Magical Realism
4 of 5 stars

This cover grabbed me and the story inside is just as vibrant and layered.

Fabiola and her mother arrive in New Jersey from Haiti as they journey to join her aunt in Michigan. But her mother is detained, and Fabiola arrives in Detroit with their luggage to meet their family for the first time in years. She’s alone, adrift, and unsure what to make of her three cousins, Chantal, Donna and Pri. The American dream isn’t what she expected. Fabiola clings to her vodou faith as she tries to get her mother to Detroit and make a place for herself in a birth country she barely knows.

Young adult novels are full of insecure characters learning to find and use their voice. Fabiola was a refreshing new perspective! She is confident in herself and her faith. Her decisions revolve around how and when to use her voice, not finding it, and her self-assurance in the face of everything unknown is inspiring. She learns that the money sent to her and her mother over the years might not come from a legitimate source, and she has to face uncomfortable truths about her aunt’s business, her cousin’s boyfriend. What she chooses to do with this information and a curious detective that claims she can get Fabiola’s mother to Detroit could destroy her newfound extended family.

The complexity of family relationships and loyalty is explored in humorous and horrifying situations. Fabiola struggles to discern whether her spirit guides are opening doors or whether she’s seeing what she wants to see. All of the women in this story fight for their dreams despite everything that tries to claw their hopes out of their hearts. I highly recommend this!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, American Street is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Starr is the only witness to her friend Khalil’s death, and her testimony could destroy her community or bring it together. See my review here.
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quinetro – Gabi is caught between two worlds, trying to please her traditional Mexican American family, and trying to fit in at school. Both worlds give her nothing but stress: college apps, one best friend coming out to his religious family, her pregnant sister, her father’s drug habit, and her mother’s constant advice to lose weight. Finding her voice through poetry might be the only way she survives. See my review here.
  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Lush prose that draws you into a small town filled with magic, secrets, and romance. Sam and Miel have been best friends their whole lives, but when the Bonner sisters decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrists, protecting Miel could reveal all the secrets Sam and Miel have kept from each other and themselves. See my review here.
  • Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali – Janna is constantly balancing her family’s expectations with forming her own beliefs, which is complicated enough. But only Janna knows the dark secret of the golden Muslim boy in her community, and telling the truth could alienate her friends and family for good. See my review here.
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Modern Romance

23453112by Aziz Ansari
Nonfiction
4 of 5 stars

This came highly recommended to me and I loved how in-depth it is! This is a funny but well-researched book on how dating and romance have changed in the age of the Internet, and I found myself fascinated. I grew up right in the middle of the transition–in high school, it was unusual to have your own cell phone. Then in college it was uncommon to have a smartphone. Now of course, they are omnipresent, and Aziz’s observations tended to line up with mine.

There are a lot of “rules” people almost instinctively observe (if you don’t have the instinct, you will fall in line pretty fast don’t worry) when it comes to response times, length of messages, punctuation / emojis and subtext that I had been taking for granted until I saw it laid out in bullet points. That quickly cleared up why communication is exhausting! When you add the hopes and fears of starting a romantic relationship, it’s mind-boggling in its intensity. I definitely share the fear of commitment to meeting up in person, but apparently the only cures for social anxiety or nerves is to just do it. Everyone else is just as nervous as you!

Basically, we’ll all be happier if we choose to live more in the real world than in the phone world, so it’s worth remembering that no matter how much fear you have of missing out on something online, the sure way to miss out is to ONLY be present online.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Modern Romance is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler – A funny and inspiring autobiography about being a woman in comedy and television. I really enjoyed her perspective! See my review here.
  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass – If you want an interesting contrast between the relationships we see in media and the relationships in your life, check this out. It’s all about what evokes emotions within us, and how we manipulate those emotions when we can pull all the strings. I feel like romance and friendship are both idolized on screen and in books and maybe Aziz’s book can help you pick apart why that is. See my review here.

A Line in the Dark

9780803739260_NearlyGone_JKT.inddby Malinda Lo
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars
*ARC review

This quietly creepy read is perfect for October!

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. No one knows about her secret crush on Angie, and that’s fine with her. But when Margot Adams from the nearby boarding school develops an interest in Angie, Jess is pushed aside to deal with her jealousy alone. And not just jealousy–there’s something dark and secretive about Margot.

This engrossing love triangle comes to life through each girl’s warped longing, and I was sucked into their world wholeheartedly. The interpersonal drama unfolds against the backdrop of a fateful party one winter night, and you don’t know who is telling the truth or what lies in store for the girls’ relationships. I really loved how the artwork was integrated to the story, just enough to add some doubt and anxiety, but not enough to overpower what was actually happening.

As with any fun mystery, the smallest observations and word choices offer meanings that get twisted through the narrative lens. When I finished, I immediately had to go back and see everything in a new light!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, A Line in the Dark is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie – Three weeks after she pledges her life to the Pirate Queen (thus competing against her ex-girlfriend to become the heir) Cassandra’s life is falling apart. When more untamed Reckoners are found loose in the NeoPacific, she must decide if she will side with the pirates against the mainlanders in a struggle to determine the fate of the oceans. See my review here.
  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Lush prose that draws you into a small town filled with magic, secrets, and romance. Sam and Miel have been best friends their whole lives, but when the Bonner sisters decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrists, protecting Miel could reveal all the secrets Sam and Miel have kept from each other and themselves. See my review here.
  • The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – A brutal, unflinching take-down of rape culture in America. Alex Craft took vengeance into her own hands when her sister’s killer walked free, but keeping that secret becomes harder when star athlete Jack and preacher’s daughter Peekay befriend her during senior year. See my review here.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren decides to find her biological father on her 16th birthday—largely because she wakes up that morning to discover her mother has abandoned her. Maren doesn’t blame her mother—it was for her own safety after all. Maren has a tendency to consume the people who care about her, bones and all. She hopes finding her father will explain why she can’t stop herself from eating human flesh. See my review here.

Want

32333174by Cindy Pon
Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

Cindy Pon has been recommended to me many times and I’m so glad I finally grabbed one of her books! This was fun to read and balances a healthy push towards activism–particularly when it comes to climate change–with a tight plot and characters that feel like a version of you (you know, if you rode airborne motorcycles and could climb skyscrapers like a super-spy).

Jason Zhou and his group of friends live in futuristic Taipei, when pollution is so bad that the wealthy buy special suits to protect them from bad air and acid rain. Most people don’t have that luxury, and lifespans have shrunk to 40 years or less. With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the wealthiest circle in the city, growing close to Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO–the suit manufacturer worth billions. He hopes she will be the key to accessing Jin Corp’s secrets and shutting down the company from the inside. What he didn’t count on was falling for her.

This world is gritty and largely unpleasant, but Zhou’s undying love for his city is a bright spot in the darkness. (Literal darkness–the air is so polluted the sun is dim and the skies are brown). He has an interesting dynamic with his friends. They’ve known each other for years, yet he’s told none of them his real name. There’s a carefully cultivated distance rarely breached, yet they risk their lives for each other. It’s an interesting mirror to our friendships, when technology allows you to craft a persona and it can be difficult to allow any true intimacy.

Although this centers around people wearing protective suits and helmets and keeping all kind of barriers intact, this allows the blend of sensory details to flood your mind in ways they normally don’t. When Zhou is rock climbing, or gardening outside his secret apartment, or telling Daiyu about the rumored blue skies of the past, the imagery is compelling, wistful, and vulnerable.

This is a timely story and Zhou is the voice of everyone who feels frustrated and powerless. As he finds a path to creating change, you feel as if you can do the same.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Want is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas has spent her whole life training Reckoner beasts to fight pirates in the NeoPacific, but her first solo trip goes horribly wrong. Pirate Queen Santa Elena captures Cas and orders her to train a stolen Reckoner for the pirates, under the watchful eye of Swift, a girl who seems to understand the darkest parts of Cas. See my review here.
  • Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh – This debut explore futuristic Korea through the eyes of Jaewon, a soldier commissioned to guard a girl in a test program for people given superhuman abilities. Jaewon will have to guard his heart as well as Tera if he wants to succeed–but success means choosing to support a regime that goes against everything his parents fought for.
  • A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – A sci-fi retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Rosalinda Fitzroy awakens from 62 years of stasis to find out her family is dead and she is the missing heiress to a global conglomerate. The acting CEO is not pleased to hear she was found, and Rosalinda must come to terms with her past if she is to survive the fight for her future.

The Last Namsara

32667458by Kristen Ciccarelli
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut: October 3, 2017
*ARC review

I was eagerly awaiting this book the moment I heard the author was inspired by my favorite novel. At ALA I got my hands on an advanced reading copy and I could not be more excited!

Asha is the Iskari–the most-feared dragonslayer in the land. To atone for a terrible dragon attack when she was a child, Asha is determined to eradicate all dragons from their land, and the threat of the old stories along with them. But no matter how many heads she brings to the king, she is still set to marry the commandant, a man Asha despises and fears. Until her father makes a deal with her: bring him the head of the First Dragon, Kozu, and escape the betrothal. Asha only has six days, but she has never failed to kill a dragon she’s hunted.

The mythology of this world is addictive! I was most fascinated by the old stories that poisoned their tellers–for a story to eat a person from the inside out whether they speak or write it down kept my imagination up late into the night. Several of the stories are included in the book and I found myself wanting a bound copy of all of them. Of course, the dragons kept me enthralled! It is HARD to find good YA stories with dragons. I don’t know why. I would have loved even more of them, but their presence in this story always stole the show.

Asha’s journey was surprising to me and I’m interested to see what the next two books explore with the world and her place in it! I also hope to see more of Safire and Roa!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Last Namsara is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley – This was the main comp for Namsara and it’s my favorite story ever. I am so blinded with love that I can’t see it clearly but it’s about a disgraced princess slaying dragons and trying to save her prince and her kingdom. See my review here.
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey – Lessa is a kitchen slave harboring a plan for vengeance on those who killed her family and stole her land. But everything changes when she is selected to bond with the dragon queen, elevating her to leadership she has only dreamed of and forcing her to face a threat to the entire planet.
  • Eon by Alison Goodman – Eon has been training for years in magic and combat for the chance to become the next Dragoneye apprentice–the successor to bond with one of the twelve zodiacal dragons that governs the land. But Eon’s secret is that she is a 16-year-old girl, not a 12-year-old boy, and if this is discovered the penalty is death. See my review here.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – Seraphina is a talented musician with connections in the royal court. Yet she fears the discovery that she has more than diplomatic ties to the scientific geniuses that are the dragon ambassadors to humans. This is a complex, interesting world where dragons and magic must coexist with wary humans intent on preserving peace. See my review here.

Saints and Misfits

32333055by S.K. Ali
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: June 13, 2017

This is a perfect depiction of high school–a YA book truly written for teens, and I loved it!

Janna Yusuf is an Indian-American hijabi teen trying to fit her identity into every part of her life while making the fewest waves. But when her best friend’s cousin assaults her, she must decide if she will be the one to expose him. He’s a saint in their community, and she’s the only one who knows he’s a monster.

This is a serious novel and a heavy read, but the writing is excellent. Janna’s stress and emotional turmoil is portrayed in big and small moments. Sometimes she lashes out, sometimes she makes a surprisingly compassionate decision, but she does everything while navigating her parents’ recent divorce, her brother’s courtship with the perfect Muslim girl, and her network of friends. She learns who to trust, and what her personal beliefs are, and what forms a solid faith and what does not. Her female friendships are the brightest and lowest points of the book and I loved how true that is to high school. There are feel-good moments in this story but it doesn’t sugarcoat anything either. I rec this to anyone who enjoys YA contemporary with more nuance and reflection.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Saints and Misfits is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy – Ramona is as well-known in her small southern town for her blue hair as she is for being a lesbian. But her surety of her identity is tested when an old friend moves back and she discovers not everyone fits into a box. See my review here.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Starr’s life comes under intense scrutiny from both her white high school and her black neighborhood when she witnesses the police shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil. See my review here.
  • You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner – An art-filled story of friendship–and rivalry. When Julia is expelled and becomes the only Deaf girl in a mainstream school, she throws herself into her art even more. But she unwittingly stumbles into a turf war and must figure out who is trying to push her out. See my review here.
  • Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley – Aki has always known she is bi. At least, she’s pretty sure, even though she’s only had boyfriends. But when she develops a crush on another girl during their Mexico mission trip, she finds herself putting her theory into practice as they deepen their secret relationship. But Christa doesn’t want to keep it a secret. See my review here.’
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Gabi is caught between two worlds, trying to please her traditional Mexican American family, and trying to fit in at school. Both worlds give her nothing but stress: college apps, one best friend coming out to his religious family, her pregnant sister, her father’s drug habit, and her mother’s constant advice to lose weight. Finding her voice through poetry might be the only way she survives. See my review here.

Goldenhand

23302838by Garth Nix
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading about the Old Kingdom since I was….12? Sabriel (remains a favorite), Lirael, Abhorsen and then Clariel the prequel and now this one, another chapter in Lirael’s story. I love this world, I love the characters, the magic–it feels as familiar to me as our world and returning for a new story is always a cozy feeling!

Lirael is trying to fit in with her newfound royal family and manage her duties as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. She also has to adjust to her glowing, golden hand that Sam made her, and the loss of the Disreputable Dog. Sabriel and Touchstone go on holiday to enjoy the peace–which is of course when chaos returns. Ferin is trying to reach Lirael with a vital message from the north, and Nick is trying to reach Lirael about a Free Magic creature south of the Wall, and it takes some time for these events to be linked.

Although slower than some of the other books, I found the lead-in to the inevitable meeting between them all interesting, because we learn so much more about the Old Kingdom and its inhabitants, as well as about Charter Magic.

This hit all the sweet spots I expect for a continuation of a favorite series. Although the emphasis on romance was a bit disappointing, and I’ll always hope for more of Sabriel’s adventures, this was a satisfying, enjoyable read.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Goldenhand is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – A trilogy filled with dark magic and destiny. Lyra gets drawn into the political and religious fronts about to start a war for the freedom of human souls. It’s action-packed but thoughtful as Lyra grows up and faces her role in a prophecy that could change her world forever.
  • The Chronicles of Chrestomanci vol 1 by Diana Wynne Jones – The Chrestomanci is the nine-lived sorcerer responsible for keeping balance in the Twelve Related Worlds, but first he has to learn how that’s done. Especially if he can’t seem to do magic at all. These novellas are fun and imaginative like all of Jones’ work.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Kell is one of the last Antari, magicians that can travel between the four parallel worlds. Officially, he works for the king of Red London (where magic is vibrant and free) but unofficially, he smuggles objects between the worlds for those willing to pay. But when he accidentally smuggles a piece of Black London (which should be extinct) into Red London, all hell breaks loose across the four worlds. See my review here. See my review here.

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