Book Review: Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Book: Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Published March 2009 by Margaret K McElderry|256 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Samar — a.k.a. Sam — has never known much about her Indian heritage. Her mom has deliberately kept Sam away from her old-fashioned family. It’s never bothered Sam, who is busy with school, friends, and a really cute but demanding boyfriend.But things change after 9/11. A guy in a turban shows up at Sam’s house, and he turns out to be her uncle. He wants to reconcile the family and teach Sam about her Sikh heritage. Sam isn’t sure what to do, until a girl at school calls her a coconut — brown on the outside, white on the inside. That decides it: Why shouldn’t Sam get to know her family? What is her mom so afraid of? Then some boys attack her uncle, shouting, “Go back home, Osama!” and Sam realizes she could be in danger — and also discovers how dangerous ignorance can be. Sam will need all her smarts and savvy to try to bridge two worlds and make them both her own.

I liked Shine, Coconut Moon!  I really liked Sam, and I liked seeing her decide to learn more about her family. 9/11 really changed things for a lot of people and I thought Shine, Coconut Moon really showed how much people changed.

Like Sam’s boyfriend.  I hated him, I really did.  How he treated Sam because of her uncle was absolutely horrible, and you’d think he’d give her a chance and try to see things from her perspective.  But he had no interest in doing that, and refused to leave her alone, even when she wanted to have nothing to do with him.  It’s hard to believe that she was ever interested in him, and I was relieved when they were no longer together.

And how things changed with her best friend.  Her best friend is the stereotypical character who doesn’t understand how hard things are for Sam after 9/11.  Her friend does come around, and I wonder if maybe she noticed things but didn’t want to admit it.

This book is very much Sam learning about her heritage.  I thought the summary was confusing- it made it seem like her uncle showing up and him being would be a huge part of the book, but it wasn’t.  His appearance does change things for Sam, and she does meet both him and her grandparents because of it, but it wasn’t as important as the summary would have you believe.

Don’t get me wrong, the way he was treated by people he didn’t even know was horrible, and he doesn’t deserve it.  It’s sad that people saw him a certain way because of how he looked, and that people make assumptions and stereotype.  I wish we didn’t live in a world like that, but unfortunately, we do.

Something I thought was odd was when the book took place.  There were times where it seemed like it happened right after 9/11 and we’re in the months right after.  But towards the end of the book, it seemed like more time had passed.  Maybe I missed something, but the timeline seemed really strange and confusing to me, and it took me out of things a little bit.

I did like seeing Sam expand her worldview, and how she started talking to people that she previously ignored.  It’s too bad some of the other people in her life couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do the same.  It made me angry that people started treating her differently because of her uncle, and that even though they’ve known her for years, they started looking at her with suspicion.

I’m really not sure what else to say about Shine, Coconut Moon.  It’s definitely worth checking out and reading.

3 stars.  Even though I liked Shine, Coconut Moon, I didn’t love it.  I really felt for Samar, and I felt so angry on her behalf.  I definitely recommend it!

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Book Review: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Book: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

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

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Book: Sing, Unburied, SIng by Jesmyn Ward

Published September 2017 by Scribner|304 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: 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: Enter Title Here by Rahal Kanakia

Book: Enter Title Here by Rahal Kanakia

Published August 2016 by Disney Hyperion|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

I’m your protagonist-Reshma Kapoor-and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success-a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

In this wholly unique, wickedly funny debut novel, Rahul Kanakia consciously uses the rules of storytelling-and then breaks them to pieces.

When I first heard about this book, I was pretty intrigued.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and while it is a cool idea, it didn’t work for me.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it does feel like Reshma’s story isn’t a new one.  It definitely falls into the “I must do all of the things I never did before in order to truly live” trope.  Which is fine, but it really didn’t work for me, and it felt really fake.  I mean, I know Reshma is doing it so she can have an easier time writing a book people will want to read, and maybe Reshma herself is why it didn’t work for me.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Reshma, and I feel like a lot of people would see her as unlikeable.  She is ambitious, and will do anything to get into college.  I was really surprised by the lengths she went to in order to get into college, and I kind of wish the book had gone more into that.  What she did isn’t okay, and she really is ruthless and cruel.  There is no redemptive arc for Reshma, and even at the end of the book, she still believes she did the right thing.

I do wonder if her parents business deal played a part in why she did what she did.  Maybe she didn’t want what happened to their business happen to her, and I get that.  But it doesn’t change the fact that she is cold and willing to do to others what someone did to her parents.  She didn’t learn from that at all, and I felt like, even though there were some very real consequences for her actions, she was still determined to lie, cheat and sue in order to get her way.

And as terrible as Reshma was, I kind of liked that she didn’t really learn her lesson or change because of what she did.  Would it have been easy for her to change and learn something?  Of course, but I feel like that would be the predictable thing.  Her not changing was a little bit refreshing, and sometimes, we don’t learn or change, even though we should.

2 stars.  I didn’t like Enter Title Here as much as I thought, and it fell flat.  I didn’t mind Reshma’s ruthlessness, though I think she went overboard in what she did in order to get into college.

What I’ve Been Reading: The Fourth And Final Part

So I was going to try to fit this series of posts into 3 posts, but that would have meant the last part would have been insanely long, and I just didn’t feel like doing that, so I thought I’d try to get one more part out of it, especially since I have quite a few things to say about the last 3 books I wanted to talk about.

  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins.  When I saw Stephanie Perkins had a new book out, I knew I had to read it.  I loved Anna And The French Kiss and Isla And The Happily Ever After, and I figured I’d love this book as well.  Except I didn’t.  If Scream- or any of those teen horror movies from the late 90’s/early 2000’s- were in novel form, you’d have this book.  It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t work as a book for me.  I think it could be interesting as an audio book, particularly for the chapters narrated by the murdered students.  I just don’t know that I liked it enough to give the audio book a try.  It wasn’t as suspenseful as I thought it would be, especially when we find out who’s behind everything.  And the reason why was lame, in my book.  I can understand being jealous but it seemed like a pretty weak reason to start killing people.  I also didn’t really care, considering we knew nothing about this character who barely appeared.  And Makani’s reason why she ended up in Nebraska was…boring.  It was really built up, and then I felt let down when it was revealed what had actually happened.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that.  It had a lot more romance than I thought it would, and while I don’t mind romance, I think this book needed less romance and more suspense and tension.  There’s Someone Inside Your House gets 2 stars.
  • Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok, and narrated by Grayce Wey.  I did this book as an audio book, and I’m glad I did, because I really liked it as an audio book.  One thing that surprised me when I first started reading the book was the age of Kimberly.  I thought she was a lot older when the book started, and I was surprised when I found out how young she really was.  At the same time, it was nice because we see how much she changes after moving, and how hard she had to work to get what she wanted.  I really felt for Kimberly, and how she had to take on a lot because her mother spoke very limited English.  The apartment they lived in, and the fact that she had to help her mother at the factory just to finish the work on time.  And Aunt Paula was a horrible, abusive woman.  I was glad when Kimberly and her mother no longer had to rely on Aunt Paula to get by.  I can’t imagine going through what Kimberly went through, and how much I don’t see or realize because I don’t have to.  I can’t imagine living in such a horrible apartment and in terrible working conditions just to have a chance to live here and reach for something better.  I wasn’t a fan of the ending, because it was unexpected.  But I’m glad that things worked out for Kimberly, and she was still able to reach the goals that she had set for herself.  Girl In Translation gets 4 stars for a good look at what it’s like to be an immigrant in America.
  • Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.  I was both excited and nervous about this book when I heard that John Green had a new book.  Excited because it’s a new John Green book but also nervous because I loved TFIOS and Looking For Alaska, but didn’t care for his other books.  I ended up really liking it, and Aza is a great character.  She’s the most realistic of Green’s characters, and she was a lot more relatable than some of his other characters.  This book also focused on Aza’s mental health, and I really liked seeing that, because it really felt like it was something that John Green himself has lived through and dealt with.  And it was a nice change from the quirky teens falling in love that we usually see with his books.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s fine as well (and again, I did love TFIOS and Looking For Alaska) but it was still nice to see him do something different.  There’s still the philosophical conversations and trivia (both nerdy and regular trivia) that you see in a typical John Green book, and I will admit that it was nice to see that.  Aza’s struggles with OCD and anxiety were really well done.  And while everyone’s experiences are different as far as mental illness go, I still feel like it’s something that will speak to a lot of people.  I’m glad we got another John Green book, and that I really liked it, because TFIOS was such a big hit that I was nervous it wouldn’t.  I didn’t completely love it, but I did like it a lot more than I thought I would.  Turtles All The Way Down gets 4 stars.

Book Review: Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel Jose Older

Book: Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel Jose Older

Published September 2017 by Arthur A Levine Books|368 pages

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

Series: Shadowshaper Series

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

The extraordinary sequel to the New York Times bestseller Shadowshaper is daring, dazzling, defiant.

Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light — an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds …or risk losing them all.

 

I really liked Shadowhouse Fall!  I do wish I had re-read Shadowshaper first, because I didn’t remember anything from it, but I still managed to follow what had happened.  There were times where I was slightly confused about what was going on, and that was mainly with keeping up with the characters and the Deck Of Worlds.  I’m not sure if it was not remembering anything from the first book, or if maybe it had to do with the series.  A little bit of both, I think, thought it seems to be more of not remembering much of anything from Shadowshaper.

I did like the relationships Sierra had with her friends and her family, and she really worried about their safety.  Her relationships really gave her strength, and I liked seeing how much they relied on each other.  It really is about the group, and how they’re stronger together than they are apart, and I think that’s a really nice change from a lot of other characters who might try to handle things themselves.  And characters who seem to accept help but would rather not have it.

Some of the moments that really stand out to me, however, have nothing to do with shadowshaping and the Deck Of Worlds.  The interactions Sierra and her friends have with the police are all too real, and it didn’t take away from the novel at all.  In fact, it added to it, because while Sierra and her friends are a part of this world that honors their culture and heritage, they also have to deal with people who don’t, and who would do everything in their ability to take their power and voice away.

The magic really is expanded in this world, and I liked seeing that there’s more to it than we thought.  It really added to the book, because it makes the world come alive in a way I didn’t think was possible.  We see how music and art really come alive, and there’s something about it that really drew me in.  Shadowshaping is so unique, but I love how the characters are able to use art in a really cool way.

4 stars.  Even though I didn’t completely fall in love with this book, I still think this series is amazing and a must-read.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.

Book Review: You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Book: You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Published September 2017 by Farrar, Straus And Giroux|320 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

I really liked this book!  I’ve heard really good things about her books, and I happened to be browsing e-books on Overdrive, and knew I had to read it when I saw it.

I really liked seeing how connected all three generations of women were.  The multi-generational aspect shows up more in adult fictions, at least in my experience.  I really liked seeing it in YA, and I’m hoping we’ll see more multi-generational stories in YA in the future.

I really liked seeing how different all of them were, but being family really connected them in a way that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  I thought Ranee was the most interesting- she really embraced American culture while still holding on to her Indian culture.  I really liked Anna as well, especially with her relationship with Ranee.  Anna really seemed disappointed that Ranee became an American citizen, and started adopting American customs and dress, but she still loves Ranee no matter what.

Something else that I absolutely loved was that they all identified as Bengali, but that there was no one way to be Bengali.  Each woman had their flaws but also their strengths, and they all had their own experiences with who they were and their own place in the world.

I will admit that the shift to Ranee was sudden, when the book, to that point, focused more on her daughters.  But I also liked that the book shifted to her because seeing more of her story really brought the stories of her daughters and granddaughters into focus.

I really appreciated the look at how to blend two different cultures- holding onto the culture of the place you grew up in while also trying to blend in and assimilate to a new culture.  I really liked seeing this aspect of immigration, and how moving to a different country can really change things.

I didn’t enjoy Chantal and Anna’s chapters as much as Sonia and Tara’s chapters, but I still liked them a lot, and how they still dealt with some of the things their mothers and grandmother did.  I loved the focus on family and family relationships and how much those family relationships can change over decades.

4 stars.  I didn’t love You Bring The Distant Near, but I did really enjoy it, and I think it offers something you don’t see a lot of in YA.  I loved the family and their relationships with each other.

Book Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez

Book: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez

Published October 2017 by Knopf Books For Young Readers|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. 

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

I really liked I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.  I could relate to Julia, and how she felt like no one accepted her for who she was.  I can also relate to how everyone wanted to her be someone else, and to live up to the memory of her older sister.  Granted, I have no siblings, but there were a lot of times where I really related to Julia.

Her family seemed really different after the death of Julia, which isn’t surprising because that’s a huge thing to happen.  If there was no effect on the characters, I’d be slightly worried.  The mom did act like how I thought she would- unable to deal with it by staying in bed all the time, but eventually getting out of bed and turning her attention to her other daughter.

One thing I thought was odd was when Julia ended up in the hospital.  One minute, she’s taking a walk, and the next thing you know, she’s waking up in the hospital.  It was really confusing, and I did find myself reading the end of the one chapter and beginning of the other one multiple times to see if I could figure out what was going in.  It didn’t make sense at first, and I thought maybe part of it somehow didn’t end up in the e-book or if I was massively missing something.

We later learn what happened in between those two moments, so it was definitely a decision on the author’s part to have things be fine one minute, and the next thing you know, things aren’t okay.  It does fit with the loss of Olga, and how things are fine and normal until they’re not.  But everything following the hospital incident seemed sudden and random, and there wasn’t any indication that things were that bad for Julia.  I know things aren’t always obvious, and Julia was having a hard time after Olga’s death.

Julia’s hospitalization really changed things for her.  She really did understand her parents better, and how hard they worked to give her and Olga a good life.  One where Julia realizes that she can be herself, and also to take control of her own life.

I wasn’t a big fan of the secrets that Olga had- it does seem very much the opposite of the person Julia and her family thought Olga was, and maybe that was the point.  That people aren’t always who we thought they were.  It certainly is true of her parents.  I think I was expecting something different from Olga, that’s all.

Julia, for some people, might be an unlikeable character.  She’s confrontational and brash, and fights with her mom a lot.  She’s very angry, especially in the beginning, but she really does mature and grow and learn how to deal with everything that happened with Olga.

I also really like that there was dialogue in Spanish, and that it wasn’t italicized or (if I’m remembering correctly) translated.  It wasn’t treated any different because it wasn’t English.

4 stars.  I really liked seeing how much Julia changed and matured throughout the book.  There was one moment that was really confusing, and I wasn’t completely thrilled about Olga’s secret, but overall, I think I think this book is a really great one to read.