Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Book: Warcross by Marie Lu

Published September 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers|353 pages

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

Series: Warcross #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. 

The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I really liked Warcross!  I liked Emika, and the world she lived in.

Emika is a great character, and she really is a girl just trying to survive.  It’s obvious Warcross means a lot to her, and it’s a pretty important part of her life.  A glitch really changed everything for her, and as it would turn out, things do not go the way she though they would.

Emika’s world was interesting, she does struggle.  But one of the things that kept me from truly loving Warcross was that the world (and Warcross) wasn’t explained very well.  I wasn’t quite clear what Warcross was or how it was played.  Obviously, it’s virtual reality, but it didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Maybe I wasn’t reading the book well enough, or maybe it didn’t make a lot of sense because I’m not a gamer.  I did like the descriptions when Emika and her team was actually going up against another team, and I thought that was well done.

Maybe I just wish that it translated to the rest of the book.

Worldbuilding aside, I did like Emika’s team as well.  Something about them reminded of the group of people we see in Six Of Crows.  It might be an odd comparison, and I’m not at all sure why these two reminded me of each other, but I’m just going to go with it.  I do wish we knew more about them.  Emika is not at all concerned about what’s going on with them, so because she doesn’t know a lot about them, we don’t know a lot about them.  I wish we did, but hopefully that will change in the next book.

Warcross was entertaining and fun and I feel like I went through it pretty fast.  I did understand some of the motivations behind certain characters, especially Hideo.  And he especially had this really interesting balance of good and bad, so I am curious to see how his story plays out.  Him, more than anyone else.  As interesting as he is, part of me doesn’t like him.

I can’t wait to read the sequel to see where things go!

4 stars.  I really liked Warcross, and I thought Emika and the impact Warcross had on both her and the world was interesting.  It’s entertaining and fun, and an especially great book for people who like video games and technology.  I didn’t love it, but it was still a fun read.

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Book Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Book: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published March 2017 by Knopf|297 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

I liked You’re Welcome, Universe!  I didn’t love it, but I did like Julia’s story.  She’s artsy and fun, and she’s pretty into art, especially graffiti art.

There’s very little romance, and even then, it’s two background characters, so it was nice to see a YA contemporary where the main character isn’t actually dating someone.  I’m trying to think of one with no romance, and I can’t think of any off the top of my head, so if it’s not your thing, this would be a good book to check out.  There’s nothing wrong with romance, of course, but it was a nice change from what we usually see.

And I did want to talk about Julia adjusting to a mainstream school.  She was kicked out of the Kingston School For The Deaf, and Julia had a lot of challenges adjusting to school.  It seemed very realistic, but as I’m not deaf, I can’t speak to how accurate or realistic the portrayal is.  Still, I felt like I understood where Julia was coming from, and there were so many things I didn’t think about- like waking up on time for school, or trying to find visual cues for a lot of things, like the bell ringing.  It really is a community of itself, and I think this book provides a much needed representation in the YA community.

I also like the world of graffiti art, and how territorial it is.  I wouldn’t have thought that, but it does make sense.  I did like the artwork throughout the book, and it really brought things to life.  It was nice to actually see the artwork mentioned throughout the book.  Even though it’s described (and some might not like the visuals of something already mentioned), I thought it added a nice touch.

It is a pretty straightforward book, and it’s right to the point.  Which was fine, but I also thought it could have used something a little different.  I get Julia’s anger and frustration at what was going on, but it did seem a little over the top at times.

3 stars.  I liked the story and Julia as a character, but I had a hard time truly connecting with the story.

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: Stepping On Roses, Volume 1 by Rinko Ueda

Book: Stepping On Roses by Rinko Ueda

Published April 2010 by Viz Media|200 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Stepping On Roses #1

Genre: Manga

A rags-to-riches romance from the creator of Tail of the Moon! Poor Sumi Kitamura… Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi’s financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition–he’ll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi pull off fooling high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth it to give everything up for this sham of a marriage?

This is another book I’ve had on my bookshelf for a while, but never read until now.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series.

The story itself is interesting, and it’s your typical rags-to-riches story.  Sumi is trying to keep her family together, and she wants stability, obviously, but how it happens is…different.  I didn’t particularly care for Soichiro, and he’s a horrible person, in my opinion.  I thought he was horrible to Sumi, and things are bad enough at home that she’ll get married if she has to.

It is a different take on romance, especially with the few romances I’ve seen in manga.  There’s possibly a love triangle though not really.  She seems to be interested in someone other than her husband, who she’s not supposed to fall in love with.  It’s more business arrangement than anything else, and you see how people treat her because of the poverty she lives in because of her brother.

It’s just…the romance didn’t work at all, and I have the feeling that they’ll end up falling in love.  That, or things will end terribly.  I’m just not interested enough in the story to find out.  It was a quick read, but it’s manga, so that’s not surprising.  I did like the illustrations, though, and I thought the story came across pretty well with the artwork.  I did like the historical details included, and it makes it clear that it’s not necessarily happening in present time, which I did think at first.  There is an emphasis on class and social structure, and I though Ueda did a great job at showing that.

2 stars.  I’ve read some manga, but this wasn’t one of my favorites.  It just wasn’t for me, though it might be a better fit for someone else.

Book Review: Daughter Of The Burning City by Amanda Foody

Book: Daughter Of The Burning City by Amanda Foody

Published July 2017 by Harlequin Teen|384 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

This is a book I’ve had for ages, but it was something I hadn’t read…until it was selected for the #MGYABC.  I really wish I liked it more, because the cover is really pretty (and that shade of purple is amazing), and it’s a cool idea.

I don’t know that a stand-alone was the best fit for this world.  I thought the world-building was really confusing, and most of the time, I wasn’t sure if Gomorrah was a festival or a city or both.  Maybe I missed that part, and maybe it’s both, but I thought it wasn’t clear what Gomorrah actually was.  Also, we barely see the festival itself, other than Sorina’s illusions, and I honestly thought that we’d see more of the festival.

Honestly, this book was more murder mystery than fantasy, and I felt like it could have happened anywhere.  Other than the illusions, there really weren’t a lot of fantasy elements, and I was disappointed by that because for whatever reason, I thought it would be more of a fantasy.  I thought that the person behind the murders was pretty obvious, and I figured it out pretty early on, so that’s something to keep in mind.

I also felt like a lot of names were thrown at me.  I mean, Sorina has a lot of illusions, and I sort of liked that they were her family,  but it was hard to keep up with who was who.  What was interesting and cool and really different was that we get drawings and a description of each one throughout the book.  It didn’t really help me keep track of everyone, but it was an interesting way to go about it.

I did think it was a little sad that she’d rather be around her illusions than real people.  They get better treatment than a lot of the actual people in the book, now that I think about it.  I’m not sure what to make of it, but people clearly don’t think much of the people of Gomorrah.  There also seems to be a distinction between those who live Up Mountain and Downghill.

I had such a hard time picturing everything.  I had no idea where things were, especially in relation to each other, and I felt like we were at place after place, but for me, there wasn’t enough to distinguish each place from each other.  There were parts where I was skimming because the book was either painfully slow or painfully boring, so that’s something I could have missed as well.

And then there’s the festival itself.  Okay, Sodom and Gomorrah is one of two things I thought of when I saw Gomorrah (Gamora being the other, though that’s probably because I saw Infinity War while I was reading this book).  And that definitely brings a certain image to mind, but I didn’t expect to see much of the biblical Gomorrah, since this is YA.  But while there are mentions of sins and a woman-turned-pillar-of-salt and the history of Gomorrah, it’s not really explored in-depth, and I wish we got more of the Festival.  I was picturing something like the Night Circus or Caraval, but like I said, this book was more murder mystery with some magic than a festival in a fantasy setting.

I don’t think being a stand-alone worked in it’s favor.  I felt like it was too short page-wise to fully get immersed in this world, and I feel like this book being a stand-alone hurt it because we weren’t able to get more of the world Sorina lives in.

1 star.  I thought the world was really confusing and not explained very well.  The concept is cool, but I don’t think it was well-done.

Book Review: Mambo In Chinatown by Jean Kwok

Book: Mambo In Chinatown by Jean Kwok

Published July 2015 by Riverhead Books|448 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

From the bestselling author of Girl in Translation, an inspiring novel about a young woman torn between her family duties in Chinatown and her escape into a more Western world.

Twenty-two-year-old Charlie Wong grew up in New York’s Chinatown, the older daughter of a Beijing ballerina and a noodle maker. Though an ABC (American-born Chinese), Charlie’s entire life has been limited to this small area. Now grown, she lives in the same tiny apartment with her widower father and her eleven-year-old sister, and works—miserably—as a dishwasher.

But when she lands a job as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio, Charlie gains access to a world she hardly knew existed, and everything she once took to be certain turns upside down. Gradually, at the dance studio, awkward Charlie’s natural talents begin to emerge. With them, her perspective, expectations, and sense of self are transformed—something she must take great pains to hide from her father and his suspicion of all things Western. As Charlie blossoms, though, her sister becomes chronically ill. As Pa insists on treating his ailing child exclusively with Eastern practices to no avail, Charlie is forced to try to reconcile her two selves and her two worlds—Eastern and Western, old world and new—to rescue her little sister without sacrificing her newfound confidence and identity.

After reading Girl In Translation, I knew I had to read Mambo In Chinatown.  While I didn’t love Mambo In Chinatown, I still really liked it, and I liked it a lot more than Girl In Translation.

One thing I noticed while reading this book is that something about it rings true.  It seems like Kwok draws on her own experiences as an immigrant when she writing, and it shows, because something about Mambo In Chinatown felt really personal.  Also, I think Kimberly from Girl In Translation makes an appearance in this book…at least, it seems like her, and it would be really cool if it were.

I did like Charlie.  She’s doing everything she can to help out her father and her sister, and you see how she struggles with reconciling two different worlds.  I was surprised with what happens with her sister, and I hope she gets the help she needs.  I respect that their dad is doing what he thinks is best for them, but it ended up doing more harm then good, it would seem.

And Charlie did have a lot on her plate- for some reason, I initially thought she was younger than she was, but it’s clear she cares about her sister and that she’s doing her best to help out.  I love that she ends up learning how to dance, and considering her mom was a ballerina, I thought there would be more connections to that.  Still, I’m glad it worked out for her, and while her dad wasn’t happy about it, it seems like he comes around, which is good.

Speaking of her dad, he does do his best in raising Charlie and her sister, but a lot of work still falls to Charlie.  I’m glad she finally said something about it to him, because we do see some changes in him after that.  I did hate that he didn’t want to give Western Medicine a try.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the medical issues his wife had, or if he just didn’t believe in it, but it was frustrating, even if I could understand it.  He went through quite the change, and it happened pretty fast, so that was a little odd, but at least he’s trying.

Charlie was easy to relate to- she’s imperfect and clumsy and she just wants a better life.  I really liked her, and I thought she became a lot more confident by the end of the book.  I’m glad things worked out for her, and that she has great friends and family.

4 stars.  I really liked Mambo In Chinatown, and seeing how much Charlie changed by the end of the book.

Book Review: Saints And Misfits by S.K. Ali

Book: Saints And Misfits by S.K. Ali

Published June 2017 by Salaam Reads/Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers|325 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Like the monster at my mosque.

People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.

Except me.

I wanted to like Saints And Misfits more than I actually did.

I was never completely invested, and while Janna seems to like photography and books, it wasn’t as explored as it could have been.  For the most part, I was bored reading it but I was determined to finish the book.

As for the monster that we see referenced in the book, I knew where it was headed, and I waited quite a bit for the reveal.  Unfortunately, I found that I could care less, since I I was pretty sure of what was coming.  And it didn’t have the effect that it should have.  It was built and then it just sort of…went nowhere.  Well, that’s not completely right.  I thought it was built up for nothing, and it didn’t go in the direction I thought it would.  Which is unfortunate, because I thought it could have been interesting.

Still, I thought Janna was a pretty normal teen.  She has a crush, who is a non-Muslim boy.  She hangs out with her friends and takes a neighbor to game night at the local senior center.  She has to deal with people sharing pictures of her without her hijab.

I’m not Muslim, but it seemed like it was a really big thing.  It’s not something I completely understand, of course, but I can understand her being upset that those photos were posted on Facebook.  I was bothered by how easily her classmate posted that photo, without a single thought about how Janna might feel about it.  I’m not sure if it didn’t occur to her classmate that it was inappropriate and disrespectful (particularly because said pictures were taken during gym), or if her classmate knew and just didn’t care.

I did like how important her faith and identity was to Janna, and it was nice to see how, no matter what your beliefs are, we all have to with school and not-so-cool people and dating.  I also liked the interfaith conversations and that there wasn’t any Islamophobia.  At least that I saw, but it’s possible I missed it so…

I didn’t care for Janna, and she did keep people at a distance.  She was judgemental and mean and hard to like.  I’m fine with unlikable characters, but in this case, Janna was just…sort of…there.  Which is a weird thing to say, since the book is about her, but this book clearly isn’t my cup of tea.  I’d still recommend it, because it does seem like a good representation of a Muslim teen dealing with things a lot of teenagers deal with.

2 stars.  I was bored reading this book, and it’s clearly not for me, but I still think it’s worth checking out.

Book Review: Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland

Book: Every Falling Star: The True Story Of How I Survived And Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McCelland

Published November 2016 by Harry N. Abrams|336 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Nonfiction/Memoir

Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

I really liked Every Falling Star, and I’m glad I picked it up!  I feel like it’s rare to see YA Non-Fiction, and even though I know it’s something that’s out there, I don’t really read it or seek it out.  But this was worth reading, and in a lot of ways, it read like a novel.  Quite frequently, I forgot it was a memoir.

I don’t know anything about North Korea- I know they’ve come up a lot on the news a lot lately, but otherwise, my knowledge of them is virtually nonexistent.  I think this book is great look at what life is like in North Korea, and how not falling in line can change everything.

I can’t begin to imagine life on the streets and having to beg, steal and fight just to survive.  I am curious about what his father did in the military, and I get why he doesn’t talk about what happened, for fear of what would happen to his relatives still in North Korea.  It has to be bad if it puts them at risk, and they did have to leave where they were living because of it, but I am curious about what really happened.  To me, though, it seemed like his did something that would have been fine nearly anywhere else in the world.  It’s sad and horrifying what they’ll apparently do to people who don’t follow along and who aren’t compliant with what the government wants.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around that, and once again, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what happened to your family and friends, particularly friends who are considered family.  I hope his mother and friends are okay, and that one day, if it’s something he wants, he will learn what happened to him.  I doubt it, if the entire book is any indication, but one can hope.

It was interesting to see how much of a deity Kim Jong-Il was.  People had their own opinions, as we see in the book, but it’s amazing how much people believed in him and looked up to him.  It was definitely clear to me, while reading Every Falling Star, that you really had to be careful about what you said and did, because you never what happen if people thought you weren’t anything other than a model citizen.

Every Falling Star is an eye-opener, and though it’s YA, it’s one of those books that everyone should read.  You see how quickly Lee changed when he realized that not everyone is cared for, like he originally thought, and what it must be like for most people living in North Korea

4 stars.  I thought this book was a great read, and an insight into a country that most only hear about on the news.

Book Review: The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

Book: The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

Published March 2018 by HarperTeen|345 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

I had a hard time getting into this book, to the point that I did not like it.  At all.

I mean, sure, I read this book in three days, but the more I read, the more I didn’t like it.  Is it an interesting idea?  Absolutely.  A book about a group of teenagers trying to start a settlement on Jupiter’s moon sounds cool.  But this book just didn’t work for me.

One of my biggest issues were the narrators.  The Final Six follows two teens, Naomi and Leo, as they go through training at the ISTC.

For starters, their chapters/sections sound EXACTLY the same.  The 24 teens are divided into different groups, and of course, Naomi and Leo are on the same team.  It makes no sense to have both of them narrate, at least for most of the book.  It isn’t until the end of the book where it made sense to see two different perspective.  Are they doing different things for most of the book?  No, they most certainly were not.  They’re together  for most of the book, especially with the training exercises, and that is what a lot of the books are.

Their chapters sounded exactly the same, and if it weren’t for the header of Leo or Naomi, I wouldn’t know who we were supposed to be following.  Not that it would have made a difference, because there was no shift in perspective.  Well, for the most part.  The few times they aren’t together…let’s just say that even when they’re not together, there isn’t much difference between their voices.

And the other thing with the narration is this: for the most part, each chapter focuses on either Leo or Naomi.  There are times at the beginning where we change narrators mid-chapter.  Thankfully, that was just at the beginning, when we’re still figuring out what’s going on, and we’re seeing how they’re dealing with being drafted into this program.  It was jarring, though, and really put me off of the narration.

It didn’t help that I didn’t care for Naomi or Leo.  Or any of the other characters.  But especially them, since we see them the most.  I get Naomi wanted to take care of her brother, and didn’t want to leave him or her family, but I also didn’t like how she seemed to hate having to go.  I mean, I get it, but you were chosen, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be part of the final six.  It’s a stark comparison to most of the other 24, who have nothing to return to if they’re not selected.  Like Leo.  I get he didn’t want to go back to Italy, and that being selected meant everything to him, but in case, it did get tiring.  Instead of feeling sympathy, I felt irritated at how whiny they seemed.

There were some twists, but if I’m being honest, I had a hard time caring about anything.  I didn’t care about some of the reveals, or some of the things that were hinted at.

And that ending!  At first, when I finished it, I was thinking that I wasn’t sure if I was interested in continuing with the series.  I really hated this book, and that is not something I say lightly.  But I was curious about what would happen next…and to my surprise, this book seems like a stand alone.  It is weird, because it seemed like it was setting up for future books, and it ends on a note that would make you think that there is more to come.  And yet, there is no series information, which makes me think this was a stand alone.

Though I probably wouldn’t continue with a series, it really felt like a first book to me.  I’ve read (and started) more than my fair share of series, and this book gave off a first book vibe.  So either series information isn’t out yet, or it might be coming, or it’s a stand alone.  I’m actually not sure where I’m going with this, but I did finish the book feeling like there should have been more answers if it is indeed a stand alone.

1 star.  I feel like my rating isn’t a surprise at this point, and if you, for some reason, didn’t pick up on this, I didn’t like The Final Six.  It’s a cool idea, but if you like people settling on a different planet (or moon, in this case), Across The Universe is a much better book to read.

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.