City of Saints and Thieves
By Natalie C. Anderson
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
It’s now the end of the year and time to start reading the books-I-wanted-to-read-but something-else-came-along and maybe Goodreads will stop yelling at me for being 5 books behind my goal.
City of Saints and Thieves is a thriller/mystery set in Kenya where our MC, Tina, is a member of the Goondas gang. Tina’s mother was murdered five years prior leaving her and sister orphans but Tina finds a school for her eleven year old sister while she survives by stealing. Tina knows the identity of her mother’s killer, her former employer and lover, and is on her way to exact her revenge when she is caught by the killer’s son-Michael. Since Michael and Tina grew up together he doesn’t turn her in and convinced his father did not kill Tina’s mother, he helps her figure out the mystery surrounding her death.
Tina is a tough yet vulnerable thief which made her extremely likable. The rest of the ensemble, including Michael and Boy Boy, were a mix of rationality and comic relief to a story that was sometimes difficult to read.
City of Saints was a perfect mix of intrigue and what I’m assuming is an honest window into the lives of Kenyan women that we’d rather pretend doesn’t exist. At times, City of Saints was heartbreaking but Tina’s determination gave the reader hope for a better life for her and her sister.
I listened to this on audiobook and I really enjoyed the narrator. I think it’s a great book for teens because it’s relatable and not preachy.
Bang Bang Rating:
Little & Lion
By Brandy Colbert
Genre: Contemporary/Mental Health/LGBTQ/Pansexual
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
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 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: