American Street

american street

American Street

By Ibi Zoboi

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Review

Fabiola was born in America but has lived in Haiti her entire life so when she and her mother try to move to Detroit, her mother is detained but Fabiola is not.

So I’m in the minority here and I would like to begin by saying that I REALLY wanted to like this book and it started off well but I just didn’t like it and here’s why.

This book was incredibly predictable.  Predictability is a dealbreaker for me and maybe it was intentionally predictable but that was my main issue.  If a book is supposed to be predictable than it should have some nuance or strong character development just something to distract the reader. I know I’m not the only one who predicted everything so that’s why I think I must have missed something great that everyone else saw.

The cousins were a bit too tropey for me and none of them had a unique voice.  I appreciate their rationale for why they are intentionally mean but that’s all I got that made these characters special.  I liked that Donna explained her devotion to Dray but it bothered me a bit that her dealbreaker was his association with a white girl and not him beating her or cheating on her with black girls.

There’s instalove which is also a dealbreaker for me and I felt the relationship was forced and a means to an end.  I thought Fabiola was a little uneven.  She begins the story as a scared girl aching for her mother. She had a hard life in Haiti but when she stepped off the plane she came across as meek.  Then a couple days in she tells herself she’s going to be brave and then she steps out with weave and a tight dress and engaging with dangerous men. A girl who does the latter is a confident person and Fabiola just didn’t seem all that confident when she stepped off the plane. I got her sense of desperation and the fact that she put herself in harms way for her mother and that was believable but that initial personality switch was a jolt.

I did like the Dray character and thought he was a complicated young man and a good villain.  I also enjoyed Bad Leg and Fab’s belief in him as a higher being.  It made the reader also wonder if Bad Leg was just an observant crackhead or if he was a something else.  My only issue was that the cousins told Fab that he was a crackhead and to leave it alone but when she tells them that Bad Leg says to not go to the party, they believe her.  Now I was skipping around and maybe I missed something that made them start believing in Bad Leg and if that is the case, ignore what I just said. I also liked the curse surrounding the house.

I really wanted to like it and I must be missing the greatness of this book because I didn’t enjoy it.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

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Landscape with Invisible Hand

landscape with invisible hand

Landscape with Invisible Hand

By MT Anderson

Genre: Science fiction/Contemporary

Publication Date: 9/12/17

Review

One day aliens inhabited, not invaded, earth promising a better life but it was actually only for the 1%.  The rest of the world is poor and starving and trying to find a way to get up to the sky to live like the wealthy.  Adam and his family is unfortunately the 99% and their life is abysmal.

Adam is an artist and paints everything he sees and I wondered how he could afford all his supplies when his ever optimist mother is unemployed. I know his teacher buys supplies for his class but does Adam take supplies home?  Paint and especially canvas is expensive; I guess we aren’t supposed to ask questions.  Back to the review…

Adam and his girlfriend get a great idea to make money- a reality show about their love.  They film episodes of their dates and since the aliens, the vuvv, “invaded” during a 50’s themed drive-in movie, the vuvv love everything 50’s nostalgia and Adam and his girlfriend have to use words like groovy.  Of course at some point they begin to hate each other and it becomes a problem much like Adam’s entire life.  He has a disease that gives him no control of his bowels, his father is a dick, and his girlfriend and her family are dicks too.  So when Adam has an opportunity to win an art contest that could get his family up to the 1%, you just know that that is NEVER going to happen-DAMN YOU MT; CAN”T THIS LOVELY FAMILY HAVE ANY GOOD LUCK?  I was so angry and frustrated at this wonderful family’s bad luck that I began to hate this book but I knew there was a deeper message so I trucked along.

There is an ending and that’s all I’ll say but I liked it and the message and it stayed true to the story and the family.

This was a short albeit heartbreaking story about a little family who tries to stay positive in their shitty lives.  Adam had a great attitude and took no crap from anyone and his mother’s half glass full perspective really helped me get through this depressing book.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Turtles All The Way Down

turtles all the way down

Turtles All The Way Down

By John Green

Genre: Contemporary/Mental Illness

Publication Date: October 10, 2017

Overview

Aza fears she’s going to contract C Diff, a bacterial infection, so she is aware of all bacteria that enters her body.  She’s specifically focused on the sore on her hand.  Aza has a best friend named Daisy and a car named Harold that she loves.  When an old friend’s father goes missing, Daisy sees this as an opportunity to get rich.

The description seems like this is going to be a mystery but it’s not.  Although Aza and Daisy to look for a billionaire, it’s more about the relationship with Davis than the hunt for the billionaire.

Aza gets consumed in her fear of C Diff and it causes her to be self centered but not intentionally and I feel like this is the main point of Turtles.  As the story opens, we are instantly in Aza’s head and her fears of bacteria entering her body through food.  She also worries that she’s not in control of her life because of her OCD, the meds she has to take, and generally being told what to do and when to do it by everyone.

While she’s in her own head, Daisy and another friend are having a discussion about a missing billionaire and how they can find him and obtain the $100,000 reward. Aza coincidentally met the billionaire’s son at camp for kids with dead parents about five years ago and Daisy sees this as an opportunity to get clues.  When the duo arrive at the mansion, Aza reacquaints with a thoughtful sensitive boy that likes astronomy and quotes. Aza and Davis develop a sweet relationship that cause Aza to see the world differently.

The cover art includes a spiral which are referenced through out the novel and one of the more important references is the metaphorical use of the spiral in relation to how the OCD makes Aza feel. By the end of the book, Aza of course is not cured but she grows and I’m not going to say how because that’s for you to discover.  But her growth has to do with the self centeredness.

Speaking of self centered, teens and adults can be self absorbed and Green expounds on this annoying attribute.  Daisy has her own issues and the reader can confer on many of them and not through Aza but through Daisy’s comments and behavior.  Aza, however, does not seem to take much interest in Daisy because she’s consumed by her OCD.  The girls have a frank discussion about this and I thought it was written very well even though it’s unrealistic.  Sometimes I feel like Green writes typical teen situations as how they SHOULD go instead of how they DO go.  There’s nothing wrong with this; I think teens can gain new perspective but I do find it amusing.

Green uses a picture from Aza’s deceased father’s phone of a sky and Davis’ astronomy interests as a growth strategy for Aza and I thought it was very effective.

My biggest issue with the book is the over explaining of the OCD.  I’ve read a couple of books where the MC has this disorder and the author tries a little too hard to get the reader to understand what it’s like.  I think Green did one too many analogies.

What I think many teens like about John Green’s books are his quirky characters, their relationships/crushes/manic pixie dream girls, and heartbreak.  I fear Turtles has too much dialogue and not enough quirk to keep some teens’ interest.  A teen who is a thinker will like it and of course adults will like it.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Midnight at the Electric

midnight at the electric

Midnight at the Electric

By Lodi Lynn Anderson

Genre: Historical Fiction/Kinda Science Fiction

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

Overview

Midnight at the Electric is set in three different decades with three different heroines that all have the same mission-save their future.

In 2065, Adri is set to fly to mars to start a new civilization because the earth’s resources are depleting and before her departure this orphan goes to meet and live her aunt for three months.  Adri is a self proclaimed awkward girl with poor social skills and the beginning of her relationship with her aunt Lily is rocky but as they coexist, Adri and Lily form a touching friendship.  Adri’s 107 year old aunt is suffering from dementia and is a tell-it-like-it-is woman. On Adri’s first night with Lily, she finds a picture of a woman which leads her to uncover her identity and takes Adri on a journey back in time.

Catherine lived in Lily’s house during the Dust Bowl of 1935.  She’s a plain girl with not a lot of ambition but when her younger sister becomes ill from the dust, Catherine realizes that she needs to get out of Kansas.  Everyone around Catherine including her mother and her crush refuses to leave their home and Catherine must make a difficult decision- leave Kansas with her sister or stay with her family.  To avoid this decision, Catherine is mesmerized by a traveling carnival that features a ball of lightning that promises cure alls called Midnight at the Electric and Catherine believes this can save her sister.

Lenore is an English girl during the post WWI era.  Her brother has died in the war and although she has other brothers and sisters, Lenore feels alone.  She decides to save money to travel to Kansas to be with her best friend, Catherine’s mother. While she’s earning, she befriends a mysterious young man who’s face has been left deformed by the war.

This is a very simple story about three generations of women who must make drastic decisions that impact their futures and their families.  Anderson retold this simple plot by featuring three different women who are all connected yet live in different decades and who are facing very different circumstances.  I liked that Anderson began Midnight in the not so far future where this current generation has consciously used up the earth’s resources which ultimately makes this novel incredibly relevant.   Midnight avoided tropes while introducing a new refreshing voice with Adri.  This was a touching novel and I found myself really caring about all these women and the turtle.

If you are a librarian who is looking for an engaging discussion book for your teens, I highly recommend this.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

 

Tower of Dawn

tower of dawn

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)

Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

Overview

Tower of Dawn is happening concurrently with Empire of Storms.  Chaol and Nesryn have gone to Antica which is not on the map in the beginning of the book but the in southern continent. They have gone to heal Chaol’s back as well as ask the king to join forces to defeat Erawan.

Let me begin by saying that is book is 660 fucking pages.

Secondly, Maas spends 400 pages developing a romance and about 200ish pages on the actual story.

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Considering the fact that there is A LOT going on in this story with the wydkeys and the Valg and faeries and the wyverns and now we have ruks and SIX NEW MAIN CHARACTERS and Brannon and Mab & Mora and Maeve and a new continent which means new world building and that owl symbol on the cover and OH MY GOD!!!  I feel like Maas is trying to write a Game of Thrones epic type story but she’s not doing a good job.  The story is too convoluted and the strategy to kill the Valg and Erawan is too complicated and I still don’t know how to do it.  I know one person needs all three key but then what? in GOT you kill the white walkers with fire, dragonstone or Valarian steel-That’s it!

But it’s not just about the keys.  She’s gone back hundreds of years with Brannon and Orcus and Elena and she info dumps all that information which, by the way, it EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO THE PLOT, yet she only gives it two short chapters.  Yrene salivating over Chaol’s body got more pages than the main plot.

And while we are talking about Chaol.  I like Chaol but damn; he got on my last nerve with the brooding.  Hey Chaol, everyone has suffered.  People around you have brutally lost their loved ones, been sexually assaulted or had to sell their bodies for money.  They had to travel on their own to get to safety while you were on a cushy boat and you have the nerve to bitch about your problems for 500 pages? And we still don’t know what happened with his father.

Basically, this book is too big for Maas.  She seems to like romance and if that’s the case then write some erotica and get it out of your system already.  But if you are going to write an epic fantasy, please spend more than 20% of your novel on the fantasy part.  Don’t info dump all the back story into your book.  Take a page from Rowling and RR Martin and write the back stories on your website or write separate history books.  Have an easy to follow plot in your main story, sprinkle in some interesting history, and allow people to read those history books if they want to learn more about your world.

I’m this close to giving up on Throne of Glass but I’ve invested five years into this series and there’s only one book left so I guess.  And if someone knows who the last chapter was about, could you leave it in the comments?

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4 (I’m being generous)

Click here for spoilers.

Little & Lion

little and lion

Little & Lion

By Brandy Colbert

Genre: Contemporary/Mental Health/LGBTQ/Pansexual

Publication Date: August 8, 2017

Overview

Suzette aka Little is returning home for the summer from her New England boarding school.  After a particular mental health breakdown from her brother Lion, we as the reader don’t know until midway, Little’s parents felt it was best for her to go to a new school on the other coast of the US.  Little hasn’t seen her friends or her brother for several months and it understandably apprehensive.

Suzette is a cool chick with dreads and that nose ring that you see on bulls-I don’t know what it’s called but you get the visual.  She’s also very shy and unsure of her sexuality.  Before she went to her new school, she liked boys however something changed when she met her roommate Iris. No one but her best friend knows this and Little plans to keep this private until she has some sort of grasp on the situation.

Lion is Little’s white step brother who has been recently diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.  He’s a loner and a reader and a red head.  Emil is Little’s half Asian neighbor who suddenly got hot over the past year and he has new hearing aids.  DeeDee, Little’s best friend, has a new girlfriend and Little is a bit jealous of not only their closeness but the fact the DeeDee seems to know exactly who she is and is comfortable with her sexuality.  Rafaela Castillo is the new cool looking girl in town and Little begins to crush on her leaving Little confused because she also likes Emil.  Little’s mother did not marry her new live in Jewish boyfriend and happens to be the most supportive mother in any YA book I’ve ever read.

Have you checked the boxes yet?

X Black Girl

X Jewish Family

X LGBTQ

X Asian Character

X Latina Character

X Mental Health

There is technically nothing wrong with this story.  Sure there are some small plot issues such as the rant about racial insensitivity when a white girl claimed that blacks aren’t supposed to be able to swim and Emil going on about blacks not being able to swim in white pools in the 60’s.  I found it interesting that Lion reads classic literature from troubled authors yet he doesn’t know the consequences when you stop taking meds.  Aside from that, Little and Lion had a complete character arc.  There was a clear beginning, a exciting climax, and an ending even if it was a bit happily ever after.  There were also clear themes of identity.

The problem with the book is that there was no authentic voice.  Little’s voice was the same voice that I’ve heard from several other similar characters.  She’s shy and closeted and she envies other people’s confidence and she accepts who she is and faces her fears.  Is she flirting with me? Do I like him? Does he like me?  Little’s voice is relatable but it’s not special and voice must be special to make a book critical.

There was one clear theme, identity, but critical reads should have several themes that weave seamlessly throughout the narrative.  The supporting characters were not essential to the plot and several of them were planted to cause tension.  What was the point of Cait? Was she just a catalyst for Lion’s inevitable breakdown? What was the point of Grace? Was her blacks don’t swim comment there for Emil to defend Little? That’s not strong character development.

Little & Lion is very relatable and I’d recommend it to lots of teens but if you would have put this book in the hands of a Nicola Yoon or an Adam Silvera, it would have been beautifully written with rich new voices and strong themes.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Maresi

maresi

Maresi (The Red Abbey Chronicles #1)

By Maria Turtschaninoff

Genre: Paranormal/Feminism

Publication Date: January 3, 2017

Overview

Maresi is a thirteen year old girl sent to live in an abbey on a fictional seaside land.  Families send their girls to the abbey for an education or a better life and each girl has their own story.  At the beginning of the novel, Maresi is asked to tell her story of a horrific season that includes a mysterious girl and dangerous visitors.

Maresi is clearly a story about sisterhood and female empowerment and although it does a good job of conveying this message, the story wrapped in this message is a bit on the boring side.  This is a slow moving plot and I believe that if you have a slow plot, the novel should be filled with strong character development, or world building, or beautiful prose, or deep dialog but I feel Maresi fell short on all of the above.

We were only given the back story of Maresi and Jai, the mysterious girl, and it took up about one chapter.  The world was interesting but because it’s told from Maresi’s POV and she wasn’t allowed to read the history of the founding women, we as the reader aren’t privy to the mythology.  The reader is told the what but not the why so I felt disconnected.

Instead we get to see Maresi’s life in the abbey which is full of doors and food-two things that impact her life.  The door metaphor in particular is a profound theme but the author bashed the reader over the head with it and it lost it’s impact.  Maresi also decided to care for Jai which was also essential to her character development but once again, she’s thirteen so all we get are expositions about Jai being her shadow.

My other issue was the tone.  The first third is Maresi telling a story and it’s descriptive as far as the abbey and her day to day but suddenly men come and it a scene right out of Game of Thrones (excuse me, I’ve been rewatching GOT).  The men use a lot of “whores” and it becomes sexually abusive.  There was foreshadowing but the switch in tone was so abrupt that it led me to think this was an adult fiction book.  I don’t say that because of the sexual assault or the language but this story doesn’t seem to want to relate to a teen; it seems to be speaking to adults.  Teen fantasy is usually filled with world building and mythology and the WHY.  This book has none of that and I see teens getting bored.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb