Book Review: Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Book: Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Published May 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books|439 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

I really liked Allegedly when I read it earlier this year, so I knew I wanted to read this one.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, though.

I think my biggest issue was the timeline.  It jumps around a lot, so you’re getting before, after and 1-2 years before the before.  I had a hard time distinguishing between the time lines, and the twist didn’t really help.  It is sad that Monday’s disappearance is brushed off, and that Claudia is the only one who seems to care.  I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Monday had been white- a very different story than what happened to Monday.  It’s heartbreaking that no one really follows up with what happened to her, because things appear to be okay, and that she seemed to get lost in the shuffle.

It just really got lost in the three different timelines, and while Claudia had her own memories of Monday, it clearly was a different picture from what was actually going on with Monday.  It seemed like there were some people who seemed to care, and tried to follow up, but things didn’t go anywhere.  I felt for Monday and Claudia, and I wish I was more into the story, because I think Monday’s story is an important one.  I think the confusing timelines took away from what actually happened.  I know it did for me.

There’s another reason why Monday’s Not Coming was just okay: I’m tired of the “I only have one friend and I’ve somehow lost them” story line.  Look, I know some people have a hard time making friends, and Monday made things a lot better for Claudia, especially at school.  But I’m just not a big fan of something happening to the only friend they’ve ever had plot point.  It was hard to get into it knowing something bad happened.

Also, mystery isn’t my thing (especially this type of mystery), so that didn’t really help either.

I’d definitely read Allegedly, though.  It’s a great book, though I know Monday’s Not Coming is going to be a book some people are probably going to like.  It’s obviously not my cup of tea, but I know it’s someone’s cup of tea.

2 stars.  This one turned out to be okay, but I’m still interested to see what Jackson writes about next.

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Book Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Book: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Published March 2018 by Little Brown Books For Young Readers|304 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

I liked Tyler Johnson was here.  I’ve picked up a few books about teens dealing with police brutality, and I think this one is one to read.

I loved Marvin, and you really felt what he was going through.  I’m an only child, so I can’t imagine losing a sibling, much less a sibling who’s my twin.  I liked seeing how much he grow over the course of the book, and how important it was for him to speak up about what was going and what had happened.

I didn’t care for the romance we see in the book- it was unexpected, and while it didn’t take away from everything we see in the book, I also would have been fine without it.  Maybe it’s there to show that love can be found in unexpected places, or for some other reason.  Whatever that reason is, it didn’t work for me.  Still, I’m glad he seemed to find some sort of happiness after everything that happened.

The one thing that stood out to me was how there didn’t seem to be a big search party for Tyler when he went missing.  Something that did come up was race and how it plays into missing kids and media attention, and it’s sad that no one seemed to care about Tyler until he was found dead.

I felt devastated for Marvin and his friends, and the everyday racism they face.  I will never know what it’s like to almost be shot for potential shoplifting, and the assumptions made because of his race makes me horrified that people have to deal with this on an everyday basis.

There is a lot of hope in Tyler Johnson Was Here, and I like that there’s hope.  Hope that they’ll find Tyler, hope that Tyler gets Justice, and that hope that things will get better for Marvin.  I hate that he lost his brother, but I love that Marvin finally realized what he wanted to, and why he did some of the things he did.

4 stars.  I know there are a lot of books out there about police brutality, but this is one to pick up.

Book Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Book: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Published October 2017 by Crown Books For Young Readers|210 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

I really wanted to like Dear Martin.  I really did, and while I can see why this book is popular, it wasn’t for me.

One thing I didn’t like was the format- the book went between scripts, letters, news reports, and the typical narrative you usually see in books.  It was really jarring, and the book would randomly switch formats.  It was disorienting, especially because you’d have a few paragraphs, then it would switch to a script format for three sentences, and back to paragraphs.  It took me out of the story, and it made me feel like I was being told what was happening, instead of seeing or experiencing it myself.

It also felt really heavy-handed and preachy at times.  I think what the book is about is really important, and I was intrigued by the connection to Dr Martin Luther King, but it didn’t really work for me.  I think I was expecting that to be more important than it really was- it turned out to be just a few letters, and those letters really felt like they could have been addressed to anybody.

Because Dear Martin is so short, it felt like an introduction to some of the issues we see in the book, like race, equality and justice.  There are a lot of points that come up but they felt glossed over, and they weren’t explored in depth.

There is a pretty big moment in the book as well, but I felt nothing when it happened.  I should have felt something, and I hate that I didn’t feel anything.  Considering the story reminds me of countless news stories and that there are books with similar subject matter, I wanted to be more upset.  I think it just felt like something was missing- in the acknowledgments, she does thank her editor for helping her cut the book in half, and I wonder if maybe I just wanted that other half.

I…I was just bored.  It didn’t do anything for me, and I do think there are better books that deal with similar themes and stories out there.  Like The Hate U Give and any of Jason Reynolds’ books, though in this case, All-American Boys is the one I’d probably mention.  It falls short, especially in comparison to some of the other books out there, and in particular, with the ones I already mentioned.

I do think this is an important story, and what it’s about is an important one to read.  The formatting and writing didn’t work for me, and while I can see why so many people love this book.  I do think the message is great, and even though this book didn’t work for me, I think it’s worth checking out.

2 stars.  I hate giving this book 2 stars, and I was really close to giving it 1 star, because it didn’t work for me at all.  But there are some really interesting (and uncomfortable) discussions that are worth reading.  I would still recommend it for the story it tells because I think what he goes through is important to read.

Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson

Book: Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson

Published January 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books|400 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

I’m not sure what to think about Allegedly.  Part of me is angry, for how Mary was treated, and everything she had to go through.  But part of me is also wondering what really happened.

I felt angry that people would actually threaten a 9 year-old.  I felt so angry (and now that I think about it, sad) that people actually wanted the such strong punishment for a 9 year-old.  She was 9.  And I do wonder, what if it had been a white 9 year-old who was accused of murdering an infant.  Would it have been a completely different outcome?  Probably, and that makes me even more angry.

Not only that, but the people running the group home she lived in were horrible.  She wasn’t in a good situation, even after she left prison.  She was stuck, and as much as she wanted to try to get herself out, she had to jump through so many different hoops.  She was surrounded by people who told her that employers and colleges wouldn’t want her because she’s a murderer.  It makes you wonder how people are supposed to better themselves if that’s what our society really thinks of them, and won’t give them a chance to move on.  Now that I’m thinking about it, it doesn’t seem like there’s an easy answer, and one that I probably can’t answer.  Partly because I don’t know enough about it, but also, this is a book review, not a post on answering life’s questions.

This book definitely has its twists and turns, but by the end of the book, I was wondering if Mary really did it or not. She is a pretty sympathetic character, but I also felt like, by the end of the book, I wasn’t sure what to believe.  She did seem like an unreliable narrator by the end of the book, and while I was convinced that she didn’t do it, I wasn’t too sure by the end of the book.  You’re questioning everything, though I’m not sure about the ending.

I’m not sure if Mary’s a better liar than everyone thought or if she really didn’t do it, but deciding to be honest about what really happened, and then changing her mind….I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Maybe you’re supposed to be so angry, and then question everything.  Maybe things aren’t what they seem, and that in some cases, we’ll never know for sure what happened.  That not everyone is reliable.

It didn’t take away from the dark grittiness we see in the book.  It didn’t take away what the justice system is like, and there’s a lot I don’t know, like what happens to the children who are born to a mother in prison.  We see other issues, like mental health, how our environment affects us, and how the media sees certain cases.

Speaking of the media, throughout the book, we see excerpts from interview transcripts and from books about both Mary and her trial.  They really showed how people see Mary, and they are an insight into what people think of her trial.

While Jackson tackles a lot of different topics, she also did it well.  Everything felt equally important, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by everything we see.  It came together to paint a picture of a girl who needs a lot of help, but isn’t necessarily getting it.

4 stars.  I don’t know that you can necessarily like a book like Allegedly, and I wasn’t sure about the ending, which is why it gets a rating of 4 stars.  But Jackson has set a very high standard for her future books, and I hope they’re as good as this one.

Book Review: Midnight Without A Moon by Linda Williams Jackson And Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Book: Midnight With A Moon by Linda Williams Jackson

Published January 2017 by HMH Books For Young Readers|320 pages

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

Series: Rose Lee Carter #1

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Rose Lee Carter, a 13-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955. Her world is rocked when a 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. A powerful middle-grade debut perfect for readers who enjoyed The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Brown Girl Dreaming.

I liked Midnight Without A Moon, though I think I was expecting something that was more YA than middle grade when I first started reading it.  I still liked, and I definitely recommend it.

Something I was surprised by was how Rose Lee and her family lived.  It was hard to believe that the book took place in the 1950’s, because the conditions that they lived seemed so horrible and old.  It’s hard to imagine a time when voting as a minority could get you killed.  And that at 13, she was expected to not finish school to help out at home.  I can’t picture that either, especially since she seemed so smart.  It made me sad to see that because she was smart, and would find her own way, she couldn’t do the one thing she wanted more than anything.

Williams Jackson really paints a picture of what it was like to live in 1950’s rural Mississippi.  It was particularly interesting to see what her grandparents thought of things like the NAACP and race relations and the civil rights movement.  I was surprised to see that they didn’t want to rock the boat, and prior to this book, I would have assumed they wanted things to change.  They did seem okay with how things were, or maybe they just made their peace with how things were.  Maybe they just didn’t want something to happen to the people that they care about, which I can understand.

It definitely makes the book an important read, and while I only know the gist of what happened to Emmett Till, I do want to know more about what happened to him.  Does anyone have recommendations for books to read?  I’m definitely open to suggestions!

I did like her grandfather, and her grandmother was…really horrible actually.  Hopefully, we’ll see her grandmother open up a little bit, but it’s also possible her grandmother is just set in her ways and won’t change.  This is the first book in a series, and while I’m not sure if I want to continue on with the series, I might pick up the 2nd book one day. Maybe her grandma just needs some time.

It’s definitely an important book, and it’s so hard to believe that the history in it so recent.  And the book is still relevant, and I think it could be an interesting jumping point for a history class.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, and I especially liked Rose, but I think I was expecting something slightly older, particularly where Rose is concerned.

Book: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Published October 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dloughy Books

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? 

As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually used his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?

Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

This is one of those books that a lot of people love and think very highly of.  Unfortunately, I wanted to like it more than I did, and it would seem like I am in the minority.

The story itself was amazing.  I mean, you see why there’s a never-ending cycle of revenge-killing – someone dies, and then someone else kills to get revenge, and it just never ends.  I was sad to see how many people Will lost to guns, and I want a life for him where he doesn’t lose anyone else he knows and loves to guns.

The ending was pretty open-ended, but also a little confusing.  It had a “it was all a dream” feel to it, and you’re left wondering if it really happened, or if it was a dream or even if he wasn’t even alive.  I think it’s open to interpretation, which is good if you like that sort of thing.  If not, then keep that in mind if you pick this book up.  It does make you question what you know and what you thought you knew,

I have mixed feelings about the book being told in verse.  It did make the book a pretty quick read, and I feel like verse was a great way to tell this story because it somehow makes the book more powerful.  But I’m also not the biggest fan of books told in verse, and something about it didn’t quite work for me.  Jason Reynolds is very good with putting words together, and while I think I might have enjoyed this book a little more had I listened to it, I also would have missed out on some of the formatting.  It’s a trade-off, I suppose, though novels told in verse usually seem to work better for me when I listen versus reading.

Anyway, this seemed like a very long elevator ride, but I did like the concept of a different person getting on at every floor.  Now that I think about it, something about that makes me think of that one book, The 5 People You Meet In Heaven, and I’m not sure why.

Still, I think meeting each and every one of these people really affected Will, and got him to remember things and think about things and question things.  It’s really up to him what happens next, though you find yourself questioning what that is.  Given how quickly this book goes, you don’t really get a chance to completely digest what just happened.  Multiple readings might be a good thing for this book, and I feel like the more you re-read it, the more you pick up on.  I just don’t know that I want to re-read it.

I love that he writes books so all teens can be heard and seen.  Isn’t that why we all read, to see ourselves reflected in the pages?  It’s sad that this is the reality for some teens, but authors like Jason Reynolds are so amazing at making teens feel seen and heard and more visible, even if the book isn’t one I personally loved.  Just because the book didn’t quite work for me doesn’t mean it’s any less important.

Long Way Down is a book that clearly speaks to a lot of people, and I really, really wish I were one of them.  I would still recommend this book to everyone, because I think Will’s story is one that should be read.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I hate giving this book 3 stars, I really do.  In fact, I almost gave it 2 stars, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Like I said, Will’s story is an important one, and while a lot of things didn’t work for me, there were some others things I did like.

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.

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.

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published February 2017 by Balzer + Bray|464 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give was easily one of my most anticipated books of the year, and there was a lot of buzz surrounding the book.  I was really hesitant to read it- as much as I wanted to read it- because I was terrified it wouldn’t live up to all of the hype and my really high expectations.

Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.

Because I loved this book, and it completely gutted me.  If you read one book this year, please make it this book.

I felt so much for Starr and Khalil and her neighborhood.  What Starr and Khalil went through…I will never experience, and I am grateful I don’t have to worry about getting shot at if I get pulled over by a cop.  The conversation her dad has with her about what to do if she gets pulled over?  That’s a conversation my mom and grandparents never needed to have with me, nor is it a conversation I will never need to have with my non-existent children.  However, I vaguely remember hearing that the police would help me, and that they’d protect me and keep me safe.

That is not the reality for Starr at all, and it makes me so unbelievably sad that not everyone is able to trust that the police will keep them safe.  That Khalil- and many others like him- are guilty until proven innocent, that Khalil, who was doing NOTHING wrong, is seen as trouble because of where he’s from.

It was such a hard book to put down, and even thinking about this book, I’m getting emotional.  The entire time I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of everything that’s going on in America right now.  It very much reflects real life, and it felt very honest.

Yes, it reflects real life, but it is unforgettable and powerful, and an amazing story with amazing, nuanced characters. No one is stereotypical or one-dimensional, and each character is unforgettable.

I did want to talk about Hailey, one of Starr’s best friends.  I hated Hailey with a passion, and how she took part in a protest just to get out of class.  In general, I hated her classmates for using Khalil’s death to get out of class, and yet, it’s something I would expect from Starr’s classmates.  But most of all, the things Hailey said, and how she didn’t see anything wrong with making comments about fried chicken to Starr, or comments about eating cats to their other best friend Maya.  Hailey…she didn’t understand why Starr had such a problem with everything Hailey herself said about Khalil, and completely dismissed Starr’s feelings about it.  Yes, she’s 16 or 17, but that doesn’t dismiss it at all. She, very clearly, didn’t want to understand, and it was frustrating to see Hailey want to stay in her own little bubble of people like her.  It makes me wonder why they were all friends to begin with.

No words will describe how I feel about this book.  Just trust me when I say that if you haven’t read The Hate U Give, you really need to.

5 stars.  I loved this book so much, and it’s easily my favorite book of the year.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part One!

I’m back…sort of!  I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post, and I’m trying to get back into reviewing and blogging again.  I’ve been reading, but not up to reviewing.  But I still wanted to talk about the books I’ve been reading, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the books I haven’t talked about yet.  I’m a bit fuzzy on some of them, since it’s been a while…but that’s not going to stop me from talking about them!

Book #1: Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

Here’s what I thought:

  • It’s a middle grade contemporary about a kid who runs track, which I thought was cool.  I feel like track doesn’t come up a lot, as far as sports novels go.  Cross country, yes.  Track, not so much.
  • I don’t know that I remember enough to say anything else, but I remember thinking it was okay.  Then again, All-American Boys was such a great book that I had really high expectations.
  • I did like the parallels between running and what was going on in his life.  Especially with how running turned out to be a really good thing for him.
  • I don’t know that I’d read the rest of the books in the series- it looks like this is the first one of…I’m not sure how many.
  • It’s definitely a must read if you like stories about sports.  And also how to move on and deal with your past.
  • I think my rating would be 2 stars.  It’s okay, and not a lot stuck with me.

Book #2: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

My thoughts:

  • I really liked this book!  It’s a YA contemporary about Amanda, who transferred schools.  I felt for Amanda, who tried so hard to fit in, and who had to deal with a lot- bullying and transphobia are the first things that come to mind.
  • I really like that it’s not a coming out story- both are important, but I really liked seeing Amanda move to a new town and transition to a new phase in her life.
  • I liked the friendships she had too- people can be horrible, but I’m glad Amanda found some amazing people.
  • I can’t remember anything about the romance, other than I liked it…but that’s about it!
  • I loved the author’s note at the end of the book.  Don’t skip over it, because it really does add to an already awesome book.
  • I feel like I’m not doing this book any justice.  At all.  Mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve read it, and I remember next to nothing.  But it’s such a great book and really important and I doubt I’d do it much justice regardless.  But waiting months to do some sort of half-hearted attempt isn’t helping.
  • Part of why it’s important is because of what the book is about, but it is worth mentioning that the author is also trans.
  • And I’m not sure if it’s true, but the cover model is trans as well.  For some reason, that feels really important as well.
  • I know I got really emotional and starting crying at one point.
  • My Rating: 4 stars.  Had I reviewed it right after finishing it, my rating probably would have been 5 stars.
    • But I may re-read it at some point so I can properly talk about it.
    • I still really liked it though.

Book #3: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This is another hardcover from the library.

What I Thought:

  • I liked seeing how much Strayed changed during the hike.
  • She did seem ill-prepared for the hike, and I can see why some reviewers think she’s whiny and self-absorbed
    • and also why some people thought she made poor life decisions
    • There’s no judgement from me, though, because she did have a lot of things she had to work through, especially with the death of her mother
  • Hiking- especially since she was by herself for most of the hike- seemed to help her
    • there was a lot of opportunity for her to reflect on her life
    • she did randomly meet up with other people along the way, though
  • I think my favorite part was seeing her not give up, even when it would have been easy for her to do so
  • I can’t imagine doing such a big hike, especially with no hiking/backpacking experience whatsoever
  • It really felt like I was hiking with her, and it never felt boring or repetitive
    • I can’t imagine being alone with my thoughts for that long, but props to her for sticking with it
  • It’s a memoir of her experience hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, so if you’re looking for more information or history about the trail itself, this is not the book for you
  • I’ve heard of it before- because it was adapted into a movie, but I mostly picked it up because it was mentioned in one of the Gilmore Girls revival episodes
    • I’m glad I picked it up, though, because I really liked it
  • I think my rating would be 4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but it was an easy read, and there is something about the way she writes

Book #4: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad is a hardcover from the library.

And now, my thoughts:

  • This book deserves a lot more attention.  I feel like it didn’t get a lot of attention, despite the fact that it was an Oprah book club pick.  The publication date also got moved up because of it.  And I know it was recommended by Obama, so I had really high expectations.
    • It lived up to all of the hype…at least the hype that I heard.
    • It’s totally worth reading
  • I admit that I didn’t like it at first, and it took me a while to get into it.
    • I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because I really liked it
  • It is a hard read, because you see what it might have been like for slaves on the Underground Railroad
    • I’m not sure what to call them, but there are ads and wanted posters for runaway slaves, which really added to the journey Cora takes
  • The Underground Railroad is quite literal in this book but it was terrifying to see what it was like during that time period
    • so many people risked everything to be a part of it- whether they were a stop along the way, or the one trying to escape slavery
    • I know I said it already, but it really highlighted what it might have been like
  • It really is mind-blowing that people were willing to take a chance to have freedom than spend one more second as a slave
  • My rating: 4 stars.  It was hard to get into at first, but worth reading.

Book Review: Shiny Broken Pieces And The Boy Most Likely To

shiny-broken-pieces-coverBook #1: Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

Published July 2016 by HarperTeen|384 pages

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

Series: Tiny Pretty Things #2

Genre: YA Contemporary/Mystery

What It’s About: June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose…and no one is playing nice.

June is starting to finally see herself as a prima ballerina. However, getting what she wants might cost her everything—including the only boy she’s ever loved. Legacy dancer Bette is determined to clear her name after she was suspended and accused of hurting her rival, Gigi. Even if she returns, though, will she ever regain the spotlight she craves? And Gigi is not going to let Bette—or the other dancers who bullied her—go unpunished. But as revenge consumes her, Gigi may be the one who pays the price.

After years of grueling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever?

What I Thought: After reading Tiny Pretty Things, and after hearing there was a sequel, I knew I had to read Shiny Broken Pieces. It picks up where Tiny Pretty Things left off, and you learn what happened the night Gigi was injured. It’s been a while since I’ve read TPT, but I remembered enough to get me through SBP, and it really is Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars. Only this time, there is a new mean girl, and I was really sad to see the change that Gigi made. At least she recognized it wasn’t who she wanted to be, and the events from months earlier really changed her- and not for the better. I get things really changed her, but she became the person that hurt her. I was a little surprised by Cassie, and I didn’t realize how much things changed her until the end of the book. I don’t really remember her from TPT, though, so that might be why I was surprised.

There is a lot of mystery and back-stabbing, and that kept me going, even though I found I didn’t care for Bette’s story or June’s story all that much. June, I think, has the most to decide, and it seems like her future is up in the air. It’s very open-ended, and even though she’s set to go to college, there is also the possibility of going to Salt Lake City and dancing in their ballet company, but you don’t get a decision either way. It does seem like she was leaning towards ballet, but at the same time, it seems like maybe she’s done ballet too? I am curious about Gigi and Bette, and where things ended with them.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I did really like it, and I did like seeing the fallout of Gigi’s injury. I also really liked seeing them go for their dreams, which they all worked really hard for. But it didn’t have the same appeal as the first book, and some of the mystery didn’t hold quite as well this time around. It did hold my attention, though, and I did want to see what was really going on.

My Rating: 4 stars. I really liked it, and I liked the mystery and seeing the fall-out from the previous book.

the-boy-most-likely-to-coverBook #2: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Published August 2015 by Dial Books|428 pages

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

Series: My Life Next Door #2

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the liquor cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.

Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this novel is for readers of The Spectacular Now, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and Paper Towns.

What I Thought: I read My Life Next Door a few years ago and absolutely loved it, so when I found out there was going to be a book about Tim and Alice, I knew I had to read it. It took me a while to actually read it, but while I liked it, I didn’t like it as much as I loved My Life Next Door. I loved reading about Tim and Alice, and I loved seeing them fall for each other. I felt for Tim, who worked so hard to overcome his addictions, and trying to be responsible for Calvin and doing the right thing for him, even when it turned Calvin wasn’t his. I really related to Alice, who took on a lot of responsibility after her dad’s accident, and how much she has to deal with.

I did like seeing what things were really like for the Garrett’s, and how horrible Samantha’s mom really was. It seemed like she tried to do the right thing, at least for a while, but it didn’t seem to take long for her to try to get out of it, once she realized how much it was going to cost her. As much as I liked Tim and Alice, their story didn’t have the same hold that Jace and Samantha’s did. We barely saw them- which I get, considering we already got their story. But considering Jace is Alice’s brother, and both Jace and Samantha are best friends with Tim, you’d think they’d pop up more than they actually did. It just didn’t have the same magic that My Life Next Door did. I think part of it is that the book randomly switches between Tim and Alice’s narration- you’ll get both of them narrating in the same chapter, and it didn’t work that well for me. It seemed too random and sudden, and it took me out of the story a little.

My Rating: 4 stars. I really liked The Boy Most Likely To, but it didn’t have the same appeal that My Life Next Door did.