Book Review: A Good Kind Of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

Book: A Good Kind Of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

Published March 2019 by Balzer + Bray|368 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

From debut author Lisa Moore Ramée comes this funny and big-hearted debut middle grade novel about friendship, family, and standing up for what’s right, perfect for fans of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and the novels of Renée Watson and Jason Reynolds.

Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.)

But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what?

Shay’s sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn’t think that’s for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum.

Shay is scared to do the wrong thing (and even more scared to do the right thing), but if she doesn’t face her fear, she’ll be forever tripping over the next hurdle. Now that’s trouble, for real.

I really liked A Good Kind Of Trouble!  There’s a lot of heart in this book, and if you like The Hate U Give or All-American Boys, you’d really like this one.

I really liked Shay, and how scared she was to do the wrong thing but also scared to do the right thing.  It was interesting to me that her hands felt really itchy, whenever she had to face her fears, and I wish it were explored a little more.  It wasn’t, of course.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s middle grade, and there just wasn’t the time to explore it more.  But there were so many other things going on that I didn’t mind it wasn’t explored in depth.

I liked seeing Shay navigate middle school and changing friendships and being a part of the track team.  There are a lot of changes in her life, and she really does open up to new things and new people.  I loved how her parents encouraged her to use her voice instead of ignoring it, even when it would have been easier for them to do the opposite of what they did.  She has a great family, and I wished we saw more of them.

I really came around to Bernard, and he ended up being a great character.  He wasn’t what I thought at all, and I’m glad Shay gave him a chance, and saw he wasn’t as bad as she thought he was.

I wasn’t a big fan of her friend Julia, but I am glad that they worked things out.  Julia did want to fit in, and I can see how she got caught up in that.  I really liked Isabella as well, and she’s so sweet and thoughtful.  All three girls really seem to balance each other out.

A Good Kind Of Trouble is a great middle grade book!  It has some of the issues we see on the news and in YA, so it’s great to have a middle grade book that’s about social justice and standing up for what you believe in.  It’s worth reading!

4 stars.  I really liked A Good Kind Of Trouble, and it’s perfect for fans of Angie Thomas and Jason Reynolds.

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Book Review: Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Book: Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Published October 2018 by Starscape Books|288 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz’s debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines’ North Manila Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

I liked Everlasting Nora!  I really felt for Nora, and she has a lot to deal with.  There’s something very hopeful about this book, and I definitely finished the book feeling like everything was going to work out for Nora and her mom.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a shany town set up in a cemetery.  Even though everyone seems to be living where they have family members buried, I wonder if that’s the case for everyone, and how it works if it’s not a family member and their family comes to visit?

We do see in one or two scenes where they have to move so that they’re not seen at a funeral service.  Granted, it was at a different cemetery than the one Nora lives at but it still highlighted things that Nora possibly had to deal with.  That was an interesting detail, and it made the book seem more real somehow.

She has to rely on others when her mom disappears in order to pay off her gambling debts.  Nora has to help out too, and I felt so sad that she had to leave school when her father died, and they ran out of the money they had after his death.

We see the difference between having money and having nothing and needing to help out by working in order to survive.  It’s not a new concept for middle grade or YA, but I liked the setting of living in a graveyard.  It showed that life is different in other countries, and that everyone is going through something.

I’m glad things got better for Nora, and I hope things continue to work out for Nora and her mom.

3 stars.  I wish I had more to say about Everlasting Nora, but it don’t.  It’s pretty hopeful, and I definitely recommend it.

Book Review: Aru Shah And The End Of Time by Roshani Chokshi And The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

Book: Aru Shah And The End Of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Published March 2018 by Rick Riordan Presents|355 pages

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

Series: Pandava Quartet #1

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary/Mythology Re-Telling

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

I really liked Aru Shah And The End Of Time!  I really liked seeing Aru and Mini stop the Sleeper and save time.

I liked Aru and Mini, and they seem like such an unlikely duo.  I thought they worked well together, and I’m curious to see if we’ll meet the other 3 Pandava sisters in the rest of the series, or if we’ll just see Aru and Mini.

One thing I thought was interesting was how surprised people were that the legendary Pandava brothers were, in fact, sisters.  It made for a unique twist, and people seemed to underestimate these two girls.  It makes me wish that I knew more about Hindu mythology because it would have been fun (and pretty cool) to know the real stories that Chokshi drew from.

Also, I love that Rick Riordan acknowledges that this was not a story he could have written, and that he believes Chokshi can.  I think it’s cool he’s giving other writers a voice and the chance to re-tell the mythology that they’re familiar with.

Back to the story, though.  I really liked seeing Aru and Mini work together to save the world.  They’re scared and not always ready for what’s in store, but they get it down, and it’s a pretty interesting adventure for the two of them.  I also loved their pigeon sidekick, who was pretty funny.

I loved how smart Mini and how she’s obsessed with anything and everything that can make you sick.  Aru, even though she just wanted to fit in with the popular kids and ends up starting this whole adventure because of it, is funny and curious and determined to make things right.  They support each other, even when they fight, and they really do have a great friendship.  It’s nice to see in a middle grade book, though I feel like we see more of it in middle grade than YA (at least, in my experience).

My Rating: 4 stars.  I didn’t love but I still really liked it.  I’d recommend it everyone, but especially Rick Riordan fans.

Book: The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

Published February 2018 by Scholastic|351 pages

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

Series: Kiranmala And The Kingdom Beyond #1

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary/Re-Telling

MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMON SLAYER
(Only she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories-like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world.

To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’ve come to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…

I really liked The Serpent’s Secret!  It’s another mythology-inspired re-telling and this one is inspired by Indian mythology.

Kiran, on her 12th birthday, goes on a very unexpected adventure.  Spells are broken, and she learns that the stories her parents have told her about being a princess are not just stories.  They’re real, and she’s from a place that is not the world she knows.  I definitely felt like we were on this journey with Kiran as she learns what is real and what is not.

There are a lot of stories I was not familiar with before reading this book, and I love seeing stories I’m not familiar with because it makes me want to learn more.  I really felt like these were stories that DasGupta loved growing up, and I felt these were stories she knew really well and wanted to share with everyone else.

It was silly at times but also really fun, and I felt like we knew who Kiran was.  She didn’t feel older or younger than she really was, and though the book was longer than what I expected for a middle grade, I really liked Kiran as a character.  It felt like the book was the perfect length for the story DasGupta was telling, and it didn’t feel too long or too short.

It’s also funny, and there were quite a few times when I laughed or smiled.  Mostly when TunTuni was involved, but sometimes serious things need some not-so-serious-moments.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it and I loved how fun and funny the book was.  I can’t wait to read the next book!

Book Review: Property Of The Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

Book: Property Of The Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

Published September 2018 by Random House Books For Young Readers|256 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

When twelve-year-old June Harper’s parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval. 

But June can’t give up books . . . and she realizes she doesn’t have to when she spies a Little Free Library on her walk to school. As the rules become stricter at school and at home, June keeps turning the pages of the banned books that continue to appear in the little library. It’s a delicious secret . . . and one she can’t keep to herself. June starts a banned book library of her own in an abandoned locker at school. The risks grow alongside her library’s popularity, and a movement begins at Dogwood Middle–a movement that, if exposed, could destroy her. But if it’s powerful enough, maybe it can save Ms. Bradshaw and all that she represents: the freedom to read.

Equal parts fun and empowering, this novel explores censorship, freedom of speech, and activism. For any kid who doesn’t believe one person can effect change…and for all the kids who already know they can!

I really liked Property Of The Rebel Librarian!  I love the story, and I loved June and how having a library and being able to read what she wanted was really important to her.

When I was reading this book, I found myself angry at June’s parents.  Most of the books at her school library were gone, because they think a lot of books are inappropriate.  What made me the angriest was that they went to the school, and had so many books removed.  It’s one thing if they decide they don’t want June reading certain books, but to decide that for all of the kids in her school?  That goes a little too far for me.

Also…the fact that they rip out pages of books she already owned and read and that they glued note cards to the pages of other books to change the story…I just had a hard time completely understanding why they would go to that length to make sure she’s not reading something they deem inappropriate.  I guess I don’t understand why they’d even give the books back to her at that point.

Still, I can believe that parents would edit books so their kids don’t read something “bad” and try to get books removed the library (or remove the librarian from the school) for the good of the children.

I just love June so much, and the school librarian was awesome!  It’s clear that the librarian encouraged kids to read, and had a lot of recommendations for her students.  What happened to her was sad, and I loved seeing June and her school take a stand.  June reminds me of myself, and I love that she became a rebel librarian.  I also loved that she wanted to be a librarian after everything that happened.

Also, I loved that a lot of the students started reading because of the restrictions in place.  These are kids who know what they like, and have a pretty good idea of what books they want to read.  They are kids who want- and are more than capable- of making their own decisions about their reading material.  I hated seeing that choice taken away because of a few parents.  I’m glad they took action, even when parents and the school administration didn’t want them to.

4 stars.  Though a few characters (like June’s parents) made me really angry, I also really liked June and seeing her find her calling as a future librarian.  There were times where it seemed more YA than middle grade, but overall, this is a great book for everyone who loves reading!

Book Review: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Book: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Published May 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books|240 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt. 

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Here is another really great middle grade contemporary!  I really enjoyed this one, and I actually felt really sad for Amal.  I can’t imagine a world where you have to work as a servant to pay off debt and because you said the wrong thing to the wrong person…especially at the age of 12.

Initially, I assumed that this book was historical fiction, and then I was horrified and sad when I realized it was more contemporary.  I feel terrible that I had assumed indentured servants were a thing of the past, but that the Khan family used children as servants made me feel sick to my stomach.

I loved Amal, and all she wanted was to go to school.  Things changed, and not surprisingly, things worked out for her in the end.  This book showed how important it is to speak out against injustice, and that everyone deserves an education.  I’m lucky that I have had chances that Amal didn’t have, and while I appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book, the part of me that wants to learn more wishes there were a list of books for further reading.  Maybe that’s just me though.

It was a little bit darker than what I would expect for middle grade, but it’s not too dark for younger readers.  I was dropped into Amal’s world, and she is a character that I enjoyed seeing.  I loved her relationship with her family and friends, and how she found new friends at the Khan estate.  Saeed did such a great job at showing Amal’s village and you really felt Amal’s need to get back to her family.

4 stars.  I would recommend Amal Unbound to everyone.  I loved Amal’s determination to do what was right, and her story is one everyone needs to read.

Book Review: Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge

Book: Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge

Published August 2017 by Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers|272 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Debut author Kristi Wientge tackles the uncomfortable—but all too relatable—subject of female body hair and self-esteem with this sweet and charming novel in the tradition of Judy Blume.

Karma Khullar is about to start middle school, and she is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend. Or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of her dadima. Or even that her dad is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mother to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized that she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip.

With everyone around her focused on other things, Karma is left to figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise all on her own.

I think I’ve been in a middle grade contemporary mood lately because this is one of a few I’ve read recently.  I mostly read YA (and only rarely read middle grade), but this one jumped out at me because it tackles body hair.  I’ve read a lot of books in the 7.5 years I’ve been reviewing books and while I can’t always remember what I read a week or two ago, much less years ago, I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve read a book about a character dealing with body hair.

It does have a Judy Blume feel to it (for some reason, I’m specifically reminded of Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret), and I think Judy Blume fans will enjoy this one.  Regardless of whether you’ve read Judy Blume or not, this is a book I’m glad I picked up.

There is a lot that comes up in this book- food and identity, bullying, friendship, and much more.  It’s not long, and it’s middle grade, so it doesn’t go into a lot of depth, but I still thought that you get a really good sense of what Karma is dealing with.  I liked seeing her realize that both she and her best friend need other friends as well.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the new girl in town, who becomes friends with Karma’s best friend.  Even though I can understand why she acted the way she did, I still wasn’t a fan.  Hopefully, she’ll change and realize that she wasn’t always nice, and that how she treated Karma wasn’t cool.

Karma’s middle school experience was pretty relatable and I wish it had been around when I was around 11 or 12.  Not necessarily the friendship drama part, but the feeling insecure about how I looked part.  I’m glad that this book is on the shelves now, though, because I feel like it has an audience.

4 stars.  I didn’t love it, and I’m not quite sure why, but I still really liked it, and would recommend it to everyone.

Book Review: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Book: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Published March 2017 by Salaam Reads/Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

I really liked this one!  It’s a cute middle grade contemporary, and I don’t read a lot of middle grade (or children’s books) but I think this is a good one to read.

I really liked Amina, and how she had a fear of performing in public.  It was really easy to relate to, and I am not a fan of public speaking, so I liked that Amina overcame it.  I also liked her friendship with Soojin, and how Amina starts questioning if she needs to change because Soojin starts talking about changing her name to something more American.

Amina is such a great character, and I dare you to not like her, because she’s thoughtful and caring.  She has a great friend in Soojin, and Khan captures what it’s like to be 12, when you’re unsure of who you are and where things stand.  You really see how things change between Amina and Soojin, but I really liked their friendship.  I feel like I’m a broken record on that one, but it’s true.

I also liked Amina’s relationship with her family, and I just liked seeing them together.  I really liked the family dynamic and that we see slightly differing opinions on things within one family (particularly in regards to music).

One thing I didn’t like was when a particular plot point was introduced.  We don’t see the local mosque being vandalized until the end of the book, and for some reason, I thought it would have been introduced a lot earlier.  I wish it had, because I really liked how the whole community came together after it happened.  I know it’s middle grade, so it’s not going to be very long (or very in-depth) but it would have been nice to have it be more of a focal point.

It didn’t stop me from really liking it.  I think it’s perfect for everyone- whether you read middle grade or not, this book did a great job at showing how we deal with faith and culture.  It’s also great for the intended age group, but regardless of how old you are, it’s one to read.

4 stars.  I really liked Amina’s Voice, and while I wish the vandalization of Amina’s mosque hadn’t been introduced so late in the book, I still really enjoyed Amina’s story.

Book Review: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Book: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Published November 2016 by Disney-Hyperion|240 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: MG Contemporary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Braced by Alyson Gerber

Book: Braced by Alyson Gerber

Published March 2017 by Arthur A Levine Books|309 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’ve Been Reading: Part One!

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

Book #1: Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

Here’s what I thought:

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

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

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

My thoughts:

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

Book #3: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This is another hardcover from the library.

What I Thought:

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

Book #4: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad is a hardcover from the library.

And now, my thoughts:

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