Book Review: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Book: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Published January 2009 by Delacorte Books For Young Readers|240 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When her father loses his job and leaves India to look for work in America, Asha Gupta, her older sister, Reet, and their mother must wait with Baba’s brother and his family, as well as their grandmother, in Calcutta. Uncle is welcoming, but in a country steeped in tradition, the three women must abide by his decisions. Asha knows this is temporary—just until Baba sends for them. But with scant savings and time passing, the tension builds: Ma, prone to spells of sadness, finds it hard to submit to her mother- and sister-in-law; Reet’s beauty attracts unwanted marriage proposals; and Asha’s promise to take care of Ma and Reet leads to impulsive behavior. What follows is a firestorm of rebuke—and secrets revealed! Asha’s only solace is her rooftop hideaway, where she pours her heart out in her diary, and where she begins a clandestine friendship with Jay Sen, the boy next door. Asha can hardly believe that she, and not Reet, is the object of Jay’s attention. Then news arrives about Baba . . . and Asha must make a choice that will change their lives forever.

I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, and after reading You Bring The Distant Near last year, I finally decided to read Secret Keeper.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and I didn’t like it as much as You Bring The Distant Near.

I did feel for Asha and Reet, and I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have a marriage arranged for you, or to know that your decisions are not your own to make.  Asha has her own path, and while it differed from the traditional path her family wanted her to take, she knew what she wanted.  It’s very different than the path that her sister took.

I found it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that their uncle could make decisions- such as their future spouse- for them since their father was trying to find a job in the U.S.  It’s a very different life than the one I know, and it’s not bad.  It’s just very different and hard for me to picture.

I did like Asha, and how much she wanted to help people.  Wanting to be a psychologist really opened doors for her, and it really seemed like a way for her to take care of her mom and her sister, especially after her dad died.  I also liked that she considered her diaries from her father her secret keeper, but I didn’t particularly care for actually reading the diary entries.  I also liked how Reet wanted to take care of her mother and sister as well, and how getting married allowed her to help them.  It’s strange how one event can change everything, and how we all need to make sacrifices.

2 stars.  Even though there were things I liked about Secret Keeper, it was just okay for me.  I had a hard time getting into it, and I wish I liked it more than I actually did.

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Book Review: The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Book: The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Published December 2012 by Knopf|243 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family. 

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented.  Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave.  She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation. 

Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is wondrous from first to last—glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream, Mathis’s first novel heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

I wasn’t as into this book as I thought I would be.  It seemed like it would be interesting, but I found the book to be cold and distant.

Considering the book is about Hattie’s children, you’d think she would have more of a role.  But she didn’t.  I got the impression that her kids didn’t have a lot of contact with her once they were adults, and that she was a cold, uncaring woman.

It felt more like a collection of short stories of people than a cohesive story told over decades.  Maybe even a series of stories connected by one or two characters.  There are a lot of time jumps and narrators, and while it worked for Homegoing and You Bring The Distant Near, it didn’t work for The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie.  I felt like her children were introduced and then abandoned- we were lucky if they were even mentioned again, and while we see Hattie throughout the book, it is from a distance.

And while you see the heartache and struggles each character goes through, it felt flat and one-dimensional.  There wasn’t anything to make me really care or feel invested in their stories.  She did do well with painting a picture of how oppressed Hattie’s family felt, and how she really seems to understand people who had limited options, and how much those limited options changed them.  I don’t necessarily need to like or relate to a character in order to like a book, but I found that I didn’t care about these characters or what happened to them.

1 star.  I couldn’t get into the book at all, and the structure didn’t work well for this story.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Resolutions For The Year

Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  Every Tuesday, bloggers share their own bookish top ten list based on the topic of the week.  Check out the upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics here.

Top 5 Bookish Resolutions For The Year

It’s strange to think that TTT is no longer hosted the lovely bloggers over at The Broke And The Bookish, but I’m glad that one of their contributors is keeping the meme going!  I really love these lists, and it’s a lot of fun to be doing them again!  To be honest, I haven’t really thought about resolutions (bookish or otherwise), since I’ve had a lot going on for the last 2-3 months.  However, I do have a few bookish things I want to do this year!

1- Continue to read diversely! 

I still haven’t done bookish stats for last year, but I’m pretty sure that around half of the books I read last year fall into the diverse category.  I want to keep that going, and as long as I’m in the ballpark of 50%, I’ll be happy.

2- Purge my print books as much as I can. 

Sometime in the very near future, I will be moving…and while I would love to take all of my books with me, there is not going to be enough room for all of them.  I’ve gone through a few shelves, and dropped some off at the library, but I still have a lot more to go.  Including the stack of books sitting next to me as I write this.  That’s not counting the cookbooks and the crochet books, but I suppose I’ll get to those eventually.

3- Reading the print books I own.

This is going off of the my second goal, but there are some books I still swear I’m going to read.  Those are definitely going to the top of my TBR pile because the sooner I read them, the sooner I can decide if they’re worth keeping, or donating to the library.  (Who will hopefully enjoy and can use the donations I’m randomly dropping off).  This goes for audio books and e-books as well, but I’m much more focused on print.

4- Being more selective with the print books I buy.

There’s a definite theme emerging in the goals/resolutions I have for this year- to really limit the physical books I own, and this goes along with that.  While I haven’t moved yet, I am going to have to think carefully about what I buy- while I do audio books and e-books, I may turn to that more to save on space.  And of course, keep using the library, because those have to go eventually.

5- Take the time to read my library books sooner.

And also to not check out three more books when I have at least 5 sitting on my desk.  I renew and renew, and take way too long to read them.  I clearly need to get this under control.

Hopefully I’ll be able to stick with at least some of them, and that they’ll work out pretty well!

Book Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Book: Sing, Unburied, SIng by Jesmyn Ward

Published September 2017 by Scribner|304 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward.

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

I liked Sing, Unburied, Sing!  If you like Toni Morrison, this is the book for you, because Sing, Unburied, Sing is very much a story Toni Morrison would write.

I did find parts of the book confusing- notably with Richie and with Given.  It didn’t make a lot of sense, and while it didn’t feel completely out of place, it did take me out of what was going on.  It was jarring to go into their stories, and it’s integration into the book could have been better.  It is interesting, though, and Jojo’s family clearly has their demons (and ghosts), but the way it’s done in this book didn’t work for me.

I did struggle to get through this book, and I felt like I had to really work at getting through this book.  Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for Sing, Unburied, Sing, since I had a hard time paying attention to what was going on.  But I do think part of it is the book.  You’re jumping around between past and present and different narrators, and it was hard for me to connect with any one person or thing that was going on.  It made things seem more convoluted than they really were.

It did take away from Jojo’s story and even Leonie’s story.  I can’t imagine having one parent in prison, and one who’s addicted to drugs and not around a lot.  He did have his grandparents, who did everything they could to make sure that he and his sister were okay, and in a loving home.  I can relate to growing up and being raised by your grandparents, but I really wanted more with them and Jojo.

The book certainly sounded beautiful, and while I wasn’t too interested in the story, there is something about the way that she writes.  Basically, the way I feel about Sing, Unburied, Sing is the same way I feel about every Toni Morrison book I’ve read- not super interested in the story, but way more fascinated and in love with the writing.  Morrison is much more…minimal…when it comes to writing, as opposed to Jesmyn Ward, but maybe I’ll give this book another read one day.  And I might give her other books a try as well, but I’m not too sure about that.

3 stars.  I liked but I didn’t love it.  The magical realism/supernatural elements took me out of the story, but the writing is beautiful, which is why Sing, Unburied, Sing isn’t getting a lower rating.  I can see why people love it, but it’s just not for me.

Book Review: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Book: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Published November 2016 by Disney-Hyperion|240 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: MG Contemporary

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

I honestly don’t know what I think about this book!  I thought some things were confusing and strange but other things I really liked and thought were important to read about.

Let’s start with what I liked.  I liked the look at a detention center for refugees.  The conditions were horrible, and it makes me sad to think that anyone seeking asylum and fleeing their country may end up in similar conditions.  It’s horrible that they’re known by number, and not by name.  It’s sad and horrible the way they are treated, and all they want is a better life.  But they are treated horribly, all because of where they’re from or what they believe in.  People like Subhi and his family deserve so much better than that.

I felt for Subhi, but there were things that took me out of the book.  The Night Sea didn’t make sense to me, and Subhi’s talking duck didn’t make sense to me either.  It seemed like they were Subhi’s way of dealing with what was going on, and I get that, since the detention center was a horrible place.  But it took me out of what was going on, and was really distracting.  It was imaginative, but it did not work for me at all.

We really should question why they’re treated like criminals, and why they’re in detention centers for so long.  I’m not sure how old Subhi is, but it seemed like he was born in the detention center.  I’d say he’s around 10 or so, since this is a middle grade book, and I find insane and ridiculous that he’s been living there for so long.  The system is broken if refugees/those seeking asylum are living in detention centers for that long.  There has to be a better way to handle it.

I didn’t really care for Jimmie’s story.  It’s odd to me that she couldn’t read, and I found myself skimming over her mother’s book when she and Subhi would read it together.  Also, how on earth were they able to meet?  It seemed odd that she’d be able to walk up to the fence.  She sort of faded in the background (at least for me) but they did seem to have some sort of bond.  We see how she learns how horrible things are for Subhi, and all of those in the detention center, and for Subhi, he gets a connection to the outside world, and a way for people to see the horrible conditions he, and others like him, have to live in.

It was a hard book for me to get into, and it started off really slow.  It felt like things continued to move slowly, and while I knew it wasn’t going to be action-packed, I still wanted something to really capture my attention.  But nothing really did.

Still, I think it’s a book that EVERYONE should read.  It’s an important book, and the world does need more books like this one.

3 stars.  I liked it, but there were some things that took away from what Subhi experienced in the detention center.

Top Ten Tuesday: My 10 Favorite New Authors I Read In 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Top Ten Tuesdays here.

Top Ten Favorite Brand New-To-Me Authors

Even though I did a lot of re-reading last year, and read quite a few books by authors I’ve read before, I still managed to read quite a few books by authors I’ve never read before.  Here are my new favorite authors.

  1. S. Jae-Jones.  I feel like I’ve been talking about Wintersong a lot lately, but I really did enjoy it, and I can’t wait to see what else she writes.
  2. Megan Spooner.  Hunted was an unexpected surprise, but I really liked it, and now I want to read her other books.
  3. Mitali Perkins.  Why has it taken me so long to read at least one of her books?  I’m glad I did, though, because she is amazing!
  4. Margaret Atwood.  I read The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time last year, but now I’m scared to read her other books, because what if I don’t like them and they don’t live up to this one?  I’m also open to suggestions on which of her books I should read next.
  5. Benjamin Alire Saenz.  I’m terrified to read Aristotle and Dante Discover TOmarhe Universe for the same reason I’m terrified to read Margaret Atwood’s other books.  But I will read it eventually.  I hope.
  6. Angie Thomas.  I loved The Hate U Give, and I can’t wait to see what else Angie Thomas comes up with.
  7. Colson Whitehead.  I really liked The Underground Railroad, but I’m hesitant to give his other books a try because I couldn’t get into Zone One.  But at least I liked The Underground Railroad.
  8. Stephanie Garber.  I’m glad I read Caraval, and I liked enough to consider Garber one of my new favorite authors.
  9. Karumi Riazi.  I thought The Gauntlet was a great book, especially if you liked Jumanji.  I am curious to see what other cool books she writes.
  10. Omar El Akkad.  I didn’t love American War, but I did like it enough to read whatever else he writes.

Book Review: Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

Book: Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

Published July 2017 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|465 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Court Of Fives #3

Genre: YA Fantasy

 The explosive finale to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s captivating, New York Times bestselling young adult series

In this third book in the epic Court of Fives series, Jessamy is the crux of a revolution forged by the Commoner class hoping to overthrow their longtime Patron overlords. But enemies from foreign lands have attacked the kingdom, and Jes must find a way to unite the Commoners and Patrons to defend their home and all the people she loves. Will her status as a prominent champion athlete be enough to bring together those who have despised one another since long before her birth? Will she be able to keep her family out of the clutches of the evil Lord Gargaron? And will her relationship with Prince Kalliarkos remain strong when they find themselves on opposite sides of a war? Find all the answers in this beautifully written and exciting conclusion to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s debut New York Times bestselling young adult trilogy!

I’ve really enjoyed this series but I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed the previous two.  I had a harder time getting into this book, and it seemed a lot more complicated than the previous books.  I did struggle to keep up with the characters, and what was going on, particularly with Prince Kalliarkos and his family.

I don’t think I read it at the best time, and maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a fantasy.  Still, I did really like it, and it was a pretty good ending to the series.

In particular, I really liked seeing how Jess dealt with both her Efean heritage and her Saroese heritage.  She didn’t really belong to either world, and it felt like she was very much torn between both.  You see what a balancing act it is for her, and how she ended up being part of the revolution.

I really felt for the Efean people, and the anger they felt at their land and their way of life being overtaken.  While it will take a long time for the dust to settle, things felt really hopeful, and I liked that there was hope that things would get better.

However, it felt like there were endless discussions about the revolution, and not a lot of action.  It made the book seem really slow, and there wasn’t enough conflict or struggle in this book to keep me really interested in what happened next.  It felt like this book lost the momentum that the previous books had built up.

I also wanted more magic, like the sparks we see in Court Of Fives.  Even though it’s fantasy, there weren’t a lot of fantasy elements.  The very few that we do see aren’t explored the way I thought they would be.

I was never a fan of the romance between Jes and Kalliarkos, and I thought their relationship ended with a whimper.  It seemed so strong in the first book, but by the end of Buried Heart, I found I didn’t really care.  He was put in a hard position and Jes also had some things she really needed to work out, but I would have been fine without it in this book.  It was also strange, because it seemed liked she wanted to be with Kalliarkos, and yet…it seemed like Ro was an option for her.  It felt very sudden, and almost like she settled for him because Kalliarkos wasn’t around a lot.  Maybe I’m misreading things, but that’s how it seemed to me.

4 stars.  I didn’t love Buried Heart, and it is my least favorite book in the series.  It is a pretty solid ending to the series, even if I would have liked a few things to be different.

Book Review: When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Book: When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Published January 2014 by Atheneum Books For Young Readers|240 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut that Publishers Weekly calls “a funny and rewarding read” captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.

When I read All-American Boys a few years ago, I really liked it.  Enough to want to read his other books, but unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

One of the biggest reasons why it was just okay was the writing.  The writing style is perfect for middle grade, and I really did think I was reading a middle grade novel, but the writing style itself didn’t match up with what happened in the story.  I was surprised that Ali was in high school because I (wrongly) assumed he was 12/13, and not the 15/16 that is actually mentioned in the book.

It’s also pretty short, and you could easily read it in a couple of hours.  I did want it to be longer, because it felt like things weren’t developed enough.  In particular, the big moment of the book really felt like a let down.  I expected something bigger, and something that wasn’t so easily resolved.  It was resolved a lot faster than I thought, and even then, it felt like Ali got very lucky that his father was there to take care of it.

However, it really did feel like I was sitting next to Ali on the stoop as he told me this story.  There is something about his voice that’s very honest and raw, and I did want to hear more of Ali’s story.  It felt really personal, like we were there with Ali, instead of feeling distanced from what was going on.

I also liked seeing the relationship Ali had with his family, his friends, and his neighbors.  In particular, I liked seeing how Needles dealt with Tourette’s.  While I don’t knit, I do crochet, and crafting as therapy is pretty accurate.  It’s different, but I also thought it was really cool.

2 stars.  I thought it could have been longer, in order to develop the characters and flesh out some of the events a little more.  But I also thought that Ali was pretty easy to relate to, and I think a lot of readers will really like him.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I’m Really Looking Forward To Reading In 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Top Ten Tuesdays here.

Ten Books I Really Want To Read In 2018

I am really excited about all of the books coming out next year.  2018 looks like it’s going to be a good year for books, and here are 10 of the books I really want to read.

  1. Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones.  I loved the first book, so I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel.  I hope it lives up to the really high expectations I have for it.
  2. Legendary by Stephanie Garber.  I really liked Caraval when I read it last year, and there are some things that I’m hoping are answered in this book.
  3. Smoke And Iron by Rachel Caine.  If there’s one series I need to keep reading, it’s this one.  This world scares me, and the Library Of Alexandria is absolutely terrifying, but that’s not going to stop me from reading this book when it comes out.
  4. Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner.  This book seems cool!  It’s about intercepting a message from an extinct group of aliens, and I’m very intrigued.
  5. Reign Of The Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh.  The cover is haunting, and it seems like a pretty cool book.  I mean, Necromancer’s are involved, and how can you not like that?
  6. American Panda by Gloria Chao.  This book seems cute, though the cover seems very inspired by When Dimple Met Rishi.  I think we have the new trend in YA covers.  Back to American Panda, though.  It seems right up my alley since it’s about a girl who connects with her brother and is also trying to live up to the expectations that her parents have set for her.
  7. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland.  I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot about this book, and it doesn’t even come out until next year!  Just reading the blurb, it seems like Pride And Prejudice And Zombies meets Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter meets YA.  It sounds really cool, though, and I can’t wait to read it!
  8. Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed.  I’m excited about this one as well, and I’m looking forward to this debut novel about a teen who has to deal with Islamaphobia.  I love Randa Abdel-Fattah, and this book seems like a great read-alike for fans of her books.
  9. Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi.  When I heard there was going to be another book in this series, I got so excited, because it means we get more of Juliette and what she’s been up to.  I can’t wait to read it!
  10. Bright We Burn by Kiersten White.  I’ve loved this series, and I need to know what’s going on with Lada.  Right now will be preferable, but I suppose I can wait if I absolutely have to.

And the honorable mentions, of course, because there are some books that came really close to making the list: the as-of-now untitled book in the His Fair Assassins series by Robin LaFevers (I’m super jazzed there’s going to be another book in this series), My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma (it seems like a cute romance that somehow incorporates Bollywood movies, and a good read-alike for I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo), From Twinkle, With Love by Sandya Menon (which seems to have a When Dimple Met Rishi-inspired cover, but also seems like another super-cute rom-com), and Dance Of Thieves by Mary E Pearson (because you can’t go wrong with a book set in the same universe as the Remnant Chronicles).

Book Review: Braced by Alyson Gerber

Book: Braced by Alyson Gerber

Published March 2017 by Arthur A Levine Books|309 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her–even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself. 

Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

I have mixed feelings about this book!  This is a book about a girl with scoliosis, and it’s not something that comes up a lot in books.

I did like that we see how much it changed her life, and how she had to adjust to pretty much everything because she wore a brace.  The author herself wore a brace for scoliosis, and that really came through when you’re reading it, because there was something very real about Rachel’s experience.  I could picture everything so clearly, particularly her resistance to wearing the brace but also her acceptance of it.  She learned to stand up for herself, and to tell her parents- especially her mother- how she felt.

I certainly don’t blame Rachel for not wanting to wear the brace at first, but she does realize how important it is over time.  One of her friends really didn’t get why she had to wear it, and I wasn’t a big fan of that particular friend.  She seemed to drop both Rachel and their other friend once they all went to middle school, but at least that other friend was really supportive and understanding.  And it was great that the one friend would help her practice soccer.  Rachel was so determined to make it work, and I loved her dedication to soccer.

As much as I loved seeing how Rachel dealt with her scoliosis, there were a few things I didn’t like.  Her mom was one of them.  I know Rachel’s mom had scoliosis as well, and it seemed like her mom’s scoliosis was a lot more severe than Rachel’s was.  But I got really irritated with all of the stuff about how lucky Rachel is that all she has to do is wear a brace, and how much easier Rachel has it because she doesn’t need surgery.  But it didn’t seem to help Rachel, and it really seemed like her mom’s behavior made Rachel want to do the complete opposite.  I’m glad Rachel talked to her mom, and that they worked things out, but seeing her mom constantly talk about how lucky Rachel was did get frustrating.

I’m glad the book was very much about Rachel in middle school, and that scoliosis was a big part of her life (but not her whole life), I still wanted more about her scoliosis.  It seemed like a pretty short amount of time to have to wear a back brace, and for some reason, I had pictured her treatment as being longer.

I was surprised by some of the romantic relationships in the book- I would get having a crush, but it seems like dating was somewhat common.  I certainly wasn’t thinking about dating anyone in middle school (or high school), but is that a thing now?  I honestly have no idea, but it did surprise me, and there are a couple of things that come up that really should push this book into YA, and not middle grade.  But overall, it’s more middle grade than YA.

2 stars.  Braced was an okay read.  I wanted more with her scoliosis, but at the same time, I’m glad that it’s only a part of her life, and not her entire life.