Book Review: The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Book: The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Published February 2017 by Simon & Schuster|296 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. 

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

I really liked this book!  I really liked Margot, and how I can relate to wanting to fit in.  Not to the degree that Margot wants to fit in, and I never went as far as Margot did, nor can I see myself going to the lengths she did, but I can understand why she did what she did.  After seeing her friends, though, part of me wonders why she was friends with them, since she couldn’t really be herself when she was with them.  It seemed like she tried too hard, and she definitely needed to figure out who she was.  I think that’s pretty normal, though.  Sometimes I still feel like I’m trying to figure out who I am, and I’m a lot older than Margot.

I did like seeing her work at her dad’s store, and there are definitely some characters.  I think, though, her dad and brother were the most frustrating.  Her dad didn’t seem to care what her brother did, and I thought her dad and brother not wanting her to be around Moises was a little hypocritical.  Especially considering her dad had affairs with a lot of the girls at the store (and why they felt uncomfortable talking around her), and her brother dealing drugs.  Being concerned is fine, but it was hard for me to take them seriously, especially once I found out what I found out.  And their behavior for most of the book made a lot more sense at the end of the book.

I really liked seeing her at the supermarket, but at the same time, I really wish we saw more of her with her prep school friends and her with her old friends.  Or more with Moises and the community organizing.  I would have liked to see Margot navigate those friendships a little more, and I think it would provided some interesting context for what lead up to her working at the family store.  And also what happened with her friends (old and new) after the summer was over.  And the community organizing Moises was doing- things were clearly changing for the neighborhood, and I would have liked to see more of how different things were.

I really wish it were longer!  It felt really short, and I think adding in something with Moises and with her friends could have added something really special to it.

4 stars.  I really liked it, but I think it could have been longer, and gone more in depth with a few things.

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Book Review: I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Book: I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Published May 2017 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux|325 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

This book was so cute!  I really loved Desi and how she needed steps to finding true love.  It kind of sounds like something I might have come up with in high school.  I loved Desi, and she’s full of awesome and amazingness, and I dare you to not like her, because it’s pretty damn hard not to.

I really liked the relationship she had with her father, and it was nice to such such a great parent-child relationship. I know parents who aren’t around a lot are a big part of YA, so it was nice to see Desi’s dad and how involved he was in her life.

I haven’t watched any K-dramas, so I am completely clueless about it would parallel them…especially since they are her guide to find love.  It kind of makes me want to watch them, just to get a sense of the stories, and how they influenced her guide to getting a guy.  The author does have a bunch of recommendations at the end of the book, so maybe those will be a good place to start…assuming I actually sit down to watch one of them.

Back to the book, though.  As much as I loved Desi, I kind of hated how she thought she was different than Luca’s ex. In her own way, it was a little bit manipulative, plus the whole blowing off her college interview for him kind of bugged me too.  But also in line with your typical rom-com…so…I guess I have mixed feelings about it.  She makes some questionable decisions, but there is something very endearing about her, hence the mixed feelings.

4 stars.  It is a cute book, and even though I wasn’t a big fan of some of Desi’s decisions, I still really liked the story and I especially liked her relationship with her dad.

Book Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Book: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Published February 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books|436 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: Wintersong #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-Telling

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

I loved this book!  Wintersong was one of the books I was looking forward to reading, but I’m just now getting around to it.

I was reminded of a few books when I was reading Wintersong.  If you like the Iron Fey series, this is the book for you!  It has a similar feel to the Iron Fey series, so they’re pretty good read-alikes for each other.  I’d describe it as Hades & Persphone meets The Iron Fey meets Caraval (which I read after Wintersong but I’m still going with it because this review is obviously being written after reading both books).

I felt very much like I was in a fairy-tale, particularly a German fairy-tale.  I loved the idea of the Goblin King, and how people ended up in the Underground.  It’s such a vivid book and I really felt like I was in their world.  I really didn’t want the book to come to an end, because it meant leaving Liesl’s world, and I didn’t want to do that.  At least there’s a sequel, so there will be more to this story.  Which is good, considering the way Wintersong ended.  It’s going to be a long wait until the sequel comes out.

Liesl is such a great character- she is more courageous than she knows, and she would do anything for her sister- even agreeing to marry the Goblin King to keep her sister safe.  I think being Underground and around the Goblin King ended up being a good thing for her- she learns a lot about herself, and I feel like she becomes more confident in herself as she worked on her music.  She’s a character I can really relate to- taking care of everyone, and feeling like she isn’t good enough, even though she is, and she just needs to believe in herself.

There’s something very dreamlike about this book, and it’s very magical.  There’s something dark and…nostalgic isn’t necessarily the word I’m looking for, but…maybe lament and looking for something lost and/or forgotten?  This book is downright beautiful and poetic, and if you haven’t read it, trust me when I say that you really need to read it!

5 stars.  I’m so glad it lived up to my expectations and the hype!  This book is dark and beautiful and amazing!

Book Review: American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Book: American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Published December 2008 by Square Fish|233 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Graphic Novel

 

Jin Wang starts at a new school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn’t want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny’s reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He’s ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there’s no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They’re going to have to find a way—if they want fix the disasters their lives have become.

I really liked American Born Chinese!  After reading his Boxers And Saints series, I knew I wanted to read this book, since I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it.

We see three different stories in this graphic novel- Jin, Danny, and The Monkey King.  I really liked The Monkey King’s story, and I also really liked Jin’s.  I felt so bad for Jin when we first meet him in American Born Chinese, and how his classmates and teachers made assumptions about him.  I also loved the story of The Monkey King, and I really want to know more about that story, because I really liked it.

Danny’s story was my least favorite of the three.  I still liked it, but…I’m not sure what it is about his story, but it just didn’t appeal to me the way the others did.  I wasn’t sure how Danny fit into the book at first, because he seemed really entitled and I wasn’t sure why his story was included for most of the book.  It did become clear at the end, and I honestly didn’t see it coming.  Now that I think about it, I might re-read it, because knowing how all three stories connect would definitely help me see Danny’s story in a completely different way.

One of my favorite things was how it all tied together, and I really liked how the book was about liking yourself and being true to yourself, no matter what.  And I loved how well-plotted the book had to be, because everything was so detailed and thought out so well for everything to work together so well.  I can’t imagine American Born Chinese being told in any other format, and I think, if it were told more traditionally (i.e., a novel) it would lose something. Somehow, it works beautifully as a graphic novel.  I think the illustrations are what really bring the book to life.

4 stars.  Unfortunately, my initial dislike of Danny’s story is what is lowering my rating of the book.  Even though his story made more sense at the end of the book, it didn’t work for me at the beginning.  Still, American Born Chinese is a great read because it’s a really good starting point for talking about a lot of different issues.

Book Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Book: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Published April 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

I loved When We Collided!  I randomly picked it up at the library because the cover caught my eye, and I am so glad I did.  It’s been a while since I’ve really, truly loved a book the way I loved When We Collided.  The Hate U Give is probably the closest, at least of the books I’ve read, but otherwise it’s been quite a while since I’ve felt so excited and emotional about a book.

Vivi is bipolar, but at first, she’s very much this vibrant, colorful person.  It is isn’t until later on that we learn she’s bipolar and not taking her medication for a good portion of the book.  Even though I’m not bipolar, I have struggled with depression, and I found it was so easy to relate to Vivi.  I loved her as a character, and she is this bright, vivid character, and she, in this book, was a living, breathing person.  I feel like I don’t say that very often about characters.

As a book about a girl who is bipolar, this is an amazing book.  Emery Lord did an amazing job at capturing every single thought and emotion Vivi had, and there were times where I really felt like I knew what Vivi was experiencing and dealing with.  She is over-the-top and difficult and annoying, but I still felt for her.  You really see Vivi’s state of mind when she is and isn’t on medication, her illness isn’t manipulative at all, and I loved the way Vivi described things.

I think Vivi’s half of the book- which was so vibrant and full of life- made Jonah’s half a little bit hard.  His chapters were more dull by comparison, mostly because anyone would look dull and lifeless and lackluster next to Vivi.  He was compelling, to a degree, but not the way that Vivi’s chapters were compelling.

His story felt more tired somehow- he’s an older brother, taking care of his younger sibling after the unexpected death of his father, and a mother who has checked out emotionally.  Jonah’s story felt a little overdone, but I did really like that he realized he needed to tell someone what was going on with his mom, instead of trying to pretend like everything was fine and under control.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked that he and his older siblings did what they could for the younger ones, but I’m not the biggest fan of the older sibling(s) taking care of the younger ones because of dead/absent parents trope.

And I wasn’t into the romance at all.  I know their lives collided because of everything going on with both of them, but…it is most definitely a case of insta-love, so keep that in mind.  I’m not the biggest fan of insta-love, but sometimes, it’s okay.  This was not one of those times, unfortunately.  Their relationship worked, in its own way, with it being summer and particularly with Vivi, so the ending wasn’t that surprising.  But I felt like there was nothing between them- there didn’t seem to be a lot of chemistry, and there’s no build-up because insta-love.

I really would have been fine without the romance, and it didn’t really fit.  It didn’t take away from the rest of the book, and overall, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED When We Collided.  I just don’t know that the romance fit- it definitely didn’t work for me, because I liked both Vivi and Jonah, but not as a couple.

5 stars.  I don’t know that I did this book justice, but I thought it was completely amazing.  After finishing it, I literally hugged this book for, like, at least 5 minutes.

Discussion Post: I Miss Reading YA The Way I Used To

Every once in a while, I’d do a discussion-type post about something bookish that wasn’t a book review.  It’s been ages since I’ve done one, and I’m in a mood to talk about why I’m not as into YA as I used to be.

Reading wise, this hasn’t been a great year for me.  I haven’t been reading as much as I normally do, especially in comparison to previous years.  I am re-reading more, at least that I can recall, though this year is the first time I’m actually tracking what I’m re-reading, but for this year, a good chunk of what I’ve read has been re-reads. I’ve been crocheting a lot this year, and while audio books are great to listen to when I’m crocheting, I’ve found myself turning to Netflix or podcasts instead of audio books, and I’ve been turning away from books more than in previous years.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how little I’m reading this year, but there’s something in particular I’ve been thinking about a lot: how I don’t love YA the way I used to.

When I first started blogging, a majority of what I was reading was YA.  I loved it, and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was exciting and new and shiny, and everything was amazing and hit me right in the feels and I fangirled and said squee a lot.  There was a lot of jumping up and down in excitement and a lot of arm waving and it was something that really spoke to me.

But after 5+ years?  I’m not as in love with YA as I used to be.  It really bothered me for a while and while I still read it a lot, I’m not as excited about it as I used to be.  It still bothers me a little bit, because it’s something I really loved, and I want those feelings back.

I think maybe I’m a little burnt out on it.

I’ve read a lot of YA over the years, and I’m really starting to notice that a lot of books are really similar. Granted, I think YA’s always been like this- vampires and fairies and dystopia and…I could go on and on with the different trends.  Part of me feels like I really have to make an effort to read different genres, and to make sure I don’t read any genre back to back.  I notice tropes a lot more, and I’m reminded of similar books I’ve read, and how they compare to each other.

I feel like I’m reading the same story over and over, so I’m probably not mixing things up as much as I thought I was. That or most of what I’m picking up is in the same genre…probably a combination of both, knowing me. I’ve always been the kind of reader that just picks stuff up without really paying attention to the summary on the back of the cover.

Yes, the more I read, the more reference points I have for when I’m reviewing books.  And I’m a lot better at talking about books now then I was when I first started blogging.  I’m going to notice similarities more because I’m better at picking up on those things.  I’m a lot more critical now than I was in 2010.  It’s going to be harder for me to get excited about books the way I used to, because it takes a lot more for me to get to that point.

But I’ve noticed that over the last couple of years, my taste in books have started to change.

I’ve made more of an effort to read more diverse books- I’m reading more books that feature characters who are LGBT and characters who are people of color.  I’ve read a few translated books and books that set in different countries.  A lot of it is YA but a lot of isn’t, and I’m a lot more willing to get out of my reading comfort zone.  I always come back to YA, but I’m also not as willing to read one thing exclusively anymore.  Books are a powerful way to read about the experiences of those who are different from us, and everyone should have the chance to tell their story.

What I read is going to change over time- in middle school and high school, I used to love Stephen King, Anne Rice and Danielle Steel.  I didn’t read a lot in college, unless it was for a class, and then I fell in love with YA in my mid-twenties.  I’m going to like different things at different points in my life, and as I start reading a wider variety of books, I’ll probably start to find my new favorite book thing, whatever it may be.  Who knows, maybe I’ll still find that I love YA, and just need the book version of a palate cleanser.  Maybe I’ll read whatever I want, but still primarily read one thing.

I wonder if part of it is me getting older.

When I first starting blogging, I was 24.  I’m 31 now, and even though I feel like I haven’t changed that much…maybe I’ve changed more than I thought I have.  I still love YA, but maybe, as I’m getting older, the stories that speak to me are going to be different.  Maybe the stories I need to read have changed a little bit.  It’s not that YA doesn’t appeal to me anymore, because it still does.  Maybe, for now, I need something a little different.  It would be so much easier if I knew what that was, but if I keep reading different things, I could find it.

While this isn’t specific to YA, I’ve noticed that in general, I just haven’t been excited about reading this year. I’ve read and blogged pretty consistently since 2010 and while I’ve had a few (short) breaks and slumps, it’s never been the slump I’ve experienced this year.  If I’m going to be honest, it’s been nice to have a break.  I think it’s something I’ve really needed.  Re-reading has been nice- and really helpful, actually- because I’m reading, and not worrying about finding the motivation to review anything.

While the point of this really long post hasn’t been to come up with a conclusion for my disinterest in YA, it has been really helpful to talk about why I’m not as interested in reading it.  Even writing this, I’m starting to feel better about reading, and I’m starting to feel excited about reading…especially YA.  For some reason, I’m in the mood to read some really cute, sappy YA contemporary.  I (very sincerely) hope this is a turning point in my reading!

If anyone else has experienced this, how did you get through it?  Did your reading habits change completely, or did you take a break by reading something else?  Let me know what you think in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Releases Of 2017 (So Far)

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 Ten Tuesdays here.

Top Ten Favorite Books Of 2017 (So Far)

This list turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be.  I’ve read a lot less this year than I have in previous years, and what I have read…I’ve been less than enthused.  These books are definitely the stand-outs, and I had no problem picking a list of 10 favorites!  All links go to Goodreads!

  1. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.  I really liked If I Was Your Girl.  Amanda is an amazing character, and it was hard to stop reading it.
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  I’m not going to lie, part of why I read this book was because it was mentioned on the Gilmore Girls revival.  I really liked seeing the journey she took, and how much hiking changed her.
  3. The Underground Railroad by Coulson Whitehead.  Don’t let the Oprah sticker fool you, this book is really good!  You felt what it was like to be a runaway slave, and how terrifying the Underground Railroad really was.
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  This is easily my favorite book I’ve read all year.  I thought it was completely amazing, and if you pick up one book this year, this is one I’d recommend in a heartbeat.
  5. The March Series by John Lewis.  This is right up there with The Hate U Give- I’m having a hard time picking a favorite between the two.  This series is one of my favorites because John Lewis shows how hard he- and countless others- fought so that everyone could be equal.
  6. A Court Of Wings And Ruin by Sarah J. Maas.  I didn’t like this one the way I liked ACOTAR or ACOMAF, but it’s still one of my favorite books from this year because I liked seeing where things went.
  7. The Wrath And The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.  I loved the audio, which I really recommend if you’re considering reading this book.  I felt very immersed i the world, and loved the take on 1001 nights.
  8. Legion by Julie Kagawa.  I was not expecting the book to start or end the way it did, and it’s my favorite book in this series so far.  Which is interesting/funny because I wasn’t a big fan of the series at first.
  9. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova.  I thought Los Lagos was really vivid, and it had an Alice In Wonderland feel to it, which I really liked.  The magic and traditions really made the book come to life.
  10. City Of Saints And Thieves by Natalie Anderson.  One of my favorite things about this book is how detailed and well-researched it seemed.  The author worked with refugees, and that really came through.  I also liked the rules of being a thief that we saw scattered throughout the book.

Book Review: Zahrah The Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Book: Zahrah The Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Published September 2005 by HMH Books For Young Readers|308 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

In the northern Ooni Kingdom, fear of the unknown runs deep, and children born dada are rumored to have special powers. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal girl — she grows her own flora computer, has mirrors sewn onto her clothes, and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. But unlike other kids in the village of Kirki, Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. Only her best friend, Dari, isn’t afraid of her, even when something unusual begins happening — something that definitely makes Zahrah different. The two friends investigate, edging closer and closer to danger. When Dari’s life is threatened. Zahrah must face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different.

In this exciting debut novel by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, things aren’t always what they seem — monkeys tell fortunes, plants offer wisdom, and a teenage girl is the only one who stands a chance at saving her best friend’s life.

I’ve read a couple of Okorafor’s books, and thought I’d read this one.  It’s not my favorite book of hers, but I still liked it a lot.  Zahrah The Windseeker is this really cool middle grade that’s about learning how to accept yourself and overcoming your fears and overcoming fear of the unknown.  I really liked that about the book.

I also really liked how there’s this interesting blend of past and present- there’s something about Zahrah that feels really old, and yet there’s something very modern, especially where technology is concerned.  I think that’s something she does really well.  If you liked Akata Witch, this is a really good book to pick up.  Even if you haven’t, it’s still a really good read.

I loved the setting, especially the market and the jungle.  I thought the jungle was very vivid, and I could picture everything very clearly.  I really felt like I was with Zahrah in the jungle.  I really liked the market as well, but it didn’t have the life and vividness that the jungle had.

I also really liked that she came across another windseeker, and I wish we saw more of their relationship.  Even though Zahrah needs to take her own journey, and the other windseeker isn’t supposed to have a huge role in the book, I still wonder what sort of relationship they have once the book ends.  I thought her friendship with Dari was great, and how she kept going, even though she was scared, because she wanted to help him.  She really was willing to help him, no matter what.

I am curious about the ending.  I liked it, and it wrapped things up really well, but at the same time, I thought it left things open for a potential sequel.  As far as I can tell, it’s a stand-alone, which is fine, because it works really well on its own.  But there is part of me that wants to know how things turn out with Zahrah.

3 stars.  I liked it, and there are some things that I really liked (and even loved) about the book, but I didn’t love it the way I’ve loved her other books.

Book Review: Just Like Us: The True Story Of Four Mexican Girls Coming Of Age In America by Helen Thorpe

Book: Just Like Us: The True Story Of Four Mexican Girls Coming Of Age In America by Helen Thorpe

Published September 2009 by Scribner|400 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction

Written by a gifted journalist, a powerful account of four young Mexican women coming of age in Denver—two of whom have legal documentation, two of whom who don’t— and the challenges they face as they attempt to pursue the American dream.

Just  Like  Us takes readers on a compelling journey with four  young  Mexican-American  women  who  have  lived in  the  U.S.  since  childhood.  Exploring  not  only  the women’s personal life stories, this book also delves deep into an American subculture and the complex and controversial politics that surround the issue of immigration.

The story opens on the eve of the girls’ senior prom in Denver, Colorado. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States, all four want to make it into college and succeed, but only two have immigration papers. Meanwhile, after a Mexican immigrant shoots and kills a local police officer, Colorado becomes the place where national argu- ments over immigration rage most fiercely. As the girls’ lives play out against this backdrop of intense debate over whether they have any right to live here, readers will gain remarkable insight into both the power players and the most vulnerable members of society as they grapple with understanding one of the most complicated social issues of our times.

Moving, timely, and passionately told, Just Like Us is a riveting story about girlhood, friendship, identity, and survival.

I really liked Just Like Us.  We see 4 girls who are very much affected by immigration policies- 2 are legal citizens, and 2 are undocumented.  It highlights how hard it is to become a citizen, and how hard it is to come here legally. It doesn’t go into a lot of depth the entire process, but you get a glimpse of what it’s like to be undocumented, and how difficult it is to become a citizen.

All 4 girls were in limbo, and they all have one foot in each world.  I felt for them, because they never asked to come. They worked so hard in school, because they wanted better opportunities and didn’t want to end up being stuck, like their parents, even though it was a possibility.

There is a lot how to become a legal citizen that I don’t know, and it’s because I never had to think about it.  I doubt I’d be willing to do some of the jobs they (and their parents) took just to get by.

I also felt like the author was very sympathetic towards the girls.  It’s hard not to be, and she spent a lot of time with them, so it makes sense.  She does try to show all of the different sides of immigration, but it did feel uneven to a certain extent.  Almost everything relating to those opposing illegal immigration felt very technical and not emotional.  It did get bogged down in the legislative stuff.  It was a huge force for all four girls, and I understand why it comes up, but part of me wishes the book had completely focused on the girls.

They had a lot of opportunities, and there is no doubt these girls are hardworking and intelligent and deserve every bit of success they get.  But I wonder if maybe some of the opportunities the girls had are because of Thorpe’s involvement in their lives.

It was hard to get into at first, because it wasn’t linear at first, but once everything is set up, it settles is, and has a definite timeline.  Not only that, but once they get to college, we only see 3 of the girls, since one of them went off to college in California, and we don’t hear much about her once they all finish high school.  I get they were all best friends, and that she went her own way after high school, but I almost wish we didn’t learn more about her, because we got almost no updates after high school.

It did give a face to what it’s like to be an illegal immigrant, and that it’s so much more complicated than I thought it would be.  Their families were so willing to do whatever they could to survive, and the girls in particular wanted to change the world.  Their story made it personal.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I wish we saw all 4 girls through college, instead of 3 of them.  I do wonder how they’re doing, and how much their lives have changed since the book came out.

Book Review: Human Acts by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith

Book: Human Acts by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith

Published January 2017 by Hogarth Press|218 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

From the internationally bestselling author of The Vegetarian, a rare and astonishing (The Observer) portrait of political unrest and the universal struggle for justice.

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.

An award-winning, controversial bestseller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.

I first heard about Human Acts from my friend Mollie, and since I liked The Vegetarian, I figured I’d pick up this book.

I’m actually going to do something a little different for this novel: each chapter is told from a different perspective, so I’m doing a chapter-by-chapter review, and then I’ll sum up my feelings about the book.

The Intro By The Translator:

I really liked the intro, since it talked about the real life event that inspired the book.  I especially liked that the author had a personal connection to the event we see in the book, and it made me feeling the author had a personal investment in seeing the story told.

Chapter One, The Boy, 1980:

This chapter is told in second person, and that’s really different, since novels are usually told in first person or third person.  I have such mixed feelings about it: I felt like we were really, truly seeing things first hand, and you really experience the horror of what happened.  At the same time, it was really off-putting, and I was really close to putting it down and not finishing it at all because of it.  You’re there, experiencing everything the boy is experiencing, but at the same time, I felt so distant and disconnected from everything.  I think, in a way, it made me feel like I was being told what happened, even though you’re experiencing everything as though it’s happening to you.  It is a strong start to the book, and I cannot say enough that this chapter, as horrifying and off-putting as it was, makes me want to learn more about what really happened.

Chapter Two, The Boy’s Friend, 1980:

I was really confused reading this chapter at first, because I didn’t realize it was a different narrator.  It took a couple of reads to realize it was a different person narrating.  This chapter is told in first person, and it felt very personal. It’s just as horrifying as the first chapter, but in a very different way.  It’s also a very powerful chapter, because you really see how it rippled out to so many different people.  And through the boy’s friend, you really see a different side of it.

Chapter Three, The Editor, 1985:

I had a lot of trouble understanding why we were seeing things from the editor’s point of view.  Third person was interesting, and it somehow made the chapter feel neutral.  It didn’t have the same horror that the first two chapters did, and it didn’t have the same effect those chapters did.  Looking back, this chapter was the beginning of me starting to lose a lot of interesting in the book, and how much this event changed things. Thinking about it now, I suppose the editor’s chapter is supposed to show how things are very much censored? And the point of forgetting the slaps…I’m not sure what the point of it is.  I am so fuzzy about what it had to do with the student uprising, because it seemed like it was the least connected to it.

Chapter Four, The Prisoner, 1990:

At first, I was curious about why he was in prison, because it wasn’t clear to me.  At least at first.  It did offer a different perspective on the student uprising, and what happened after.  Especially for those who lived through the uprising.  It really stayed with him, and you really see how it haunts him.  It’s not one of my favorite chapters, but it’s up there with the first two chapters.

Chapter 5, The Factory Girl, 2002:

So, we’re back to 2nd person for this chapter.  It felt very distant in the way the first chapter did.  Partially because we’re so far removed from the original uprising, but also because of how this chapter is told.  I was pretty bored reading this chapter, and it jumped around a lot in terms of time.  It really muddled her story, and even though, like the previous chapter, was a different perspective on what happened, I just didn’t care.

Chapter 6, The Boy’s Mother, 2010: 

This chapter felt very personal, like the chapters we saw with the first two chapters.  And since it focuses on the boy’s mom, it felt even more personal.  I liked seeing how little she knows of some of the people she knows, and also how she dealt with the loss of her son.  It really brought it back to the horror of the student uprising.  It was hard chapter to get through- at this point, I lost a lot of the interesting I had at the beginning, and I just wanted to get through it.

Epilogue, The Writer, 2013:

I don’t have a lot to say about this chapter.  You really see the effect the student uprising had decades later, and on so many different people.  By this point, you were so far removed from it, and yet, it still lingers haunts people.

Overall Thoughts:

I thought the chapters were really uneven.  It started off so strong and horrifying, and the passage of time, as well as some of the narrators, lessened it for me.  The chapters told in 2nd person were the hardest to get through, and I didn’t like the choose-your-own-adventure feel they had.  I definitely lost interest the further you got from the uprising, and I definitely didn’t like it as much as the The Vegetarian.

2 stars.  I had to read each chapter 2 or 3 times to get a sense of what was going on, and I could only handle a chapter at a time.