What I’ve Been Reading: Part One!

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

Book #1: Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

Here’s what I thought:

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

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

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

My thoughts:

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

Book #3: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This is another hardcover from the library.

What I Thought:

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

Book #4: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad is a hardcover from the library.

And now, my thoughts:

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

Book Review: George by Alex Gino

George CoverBook: George by Alex Gino

Published August 2015 by Scholastic Press|195 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Blog Graphic-What It's About

BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part…because she’s a boy.  

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I’ve heard really good things about George, and I randomly picked it up from the library one day, figuring it was time to see what everyone was talking about.  If you haven’t read George yet, it’s definitely worth checking out!

What I liked most is that George is that it introduces transgender as an identity in a middle grade book- I don’t know of any other middle grade books, and I feel like we see transgender characters in YA, but not middle grade.

I found myself getting really angry at Melissa’s teacher (by the way, Melissa is the name George wants to go by, so I’ll be calling her Melissa), for not giving the role to Melissa, even though she auditioned for it, and she really wanted it. Her reasoning was that there were too many girls who wanted the part, and that’s why it couldn’t go to Melissa, but part of me thinks that part of why she didn’t want to give it to Melissa is because Melissa is a girl, even though the world sees her as a boy.  Maybe the teacher worried about what others would think, but it seemed like Melissa was the perfect person to play Charlotte.  When Melissa’s best friend let Melissa play Charlotte, everyone thought she was great in the role, and no one seemed to have a problem with it except for the teacher.  It made me sad to see that and yet, it wasn’t surprising.

I really felt for Melissa, who struggled to come out to both her mother and her best friend Kelly.  I loved Kelly, who was really accepting when Melissa came out to Kelly.  And even though Melissa’s mom had a different reaction (she seemed to think Melissa was gay, and not a transgender girl at first, before Melissa told her), she does seem to love Melissa a lot, even if she doesn’t seem to understand that Melissa is a girl.  I also felt for her because of the bullying that she has to deal with.  I can’t imagine dealing with everything that Melissa has to deal with.

I really liked how Melissa’s story is told- it’s simple, and right from the start, Melissa is a girl in a world who sees her as a boy.  She is not stuck in the wrong body, and she is not a boy wanting to be a girl.  She’s a girl in a world that does not see her a girl, which I think is an important distinction to make, because we see that Melissa is a girl right from the start, and that Melissa has known for a long time who she is.

George is one of those books everyone should read, no matter who they are.  It’s a book about accepting who you are, and it’s hopeful and heartwarming and lets the other Melissa’s in the world that they are not alone and that they have options.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I really liked George, and it’s a book everyone should read.

ARC Book Review: The Art Of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

The Art Of Being Normal CoverBook Review: The Art Of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Expected Publication is May 31, 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux|Expected Number Of Pages: 352

Where I Got It: I got a digital-ARC from netgalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Blog Graphic-What It's About

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long, and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I really liked The Art Of Being Normal!  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s a book I’d recommend to anyone!

I haven’t read many books featuring a trasngender character, but I liked seeing David struggle with telling his family that he’s transgender.  You see how he’s bullied because of this time, when he was little, and said he wanted to be a girl.  You see how people assume he’s gay (or suspect he his) because he’s interested in boys, when, in reality, it’s because David is really Kate.

David’s story is a really interesting parallel to Leo’s story.  As with David, you see bullying and how people treat him because Leo is also transgender, and what happened to Leo was heartbreaking.  It makes me so sad that people treated Leo the way they did, and that Leo had to transfer schools for his own safety.  You have David, who wants to transition, and Leo, who is in the process of transitioning, and I like how their stories come together.  I did like the dual narration, since you see how both teens are struggling, and what their lives are like.

Even though it worked fairly well, it was also hard to form strong attachments to both Leo and David.  I do love the connection they have with each other, though, and I’m glad they have each other for support.  Something about it the dual narration didn’t quite work for me, and I think it’s because we don’t focus completely on one character.  Like, David kind of gets pushed off to the side because of Leo’s search for his father, and it seems sort of random and I’m not sure it completely fits with the rest of the story.

It also starts a little slow, and you’re not really sure where it’s headed at first, but as you get into the story, you get a better idea of where things are headed.  Still, there were times where it seemed like it might be a little darker than you’d expect, and it didn’t really get there.  Yes, you see some of the prejudice that transgender people face, but it didn’t have a big emotional impact, and I guess I just wanted something more.  It did seem unevenly paced, and a little all over the place, and looking back, I think I wanted something a little more evenly paced.

More than anything, The Art Of Being Normal is about class and poverty and making friends and communicating with family.  It’s about growing up and dealing with family.  David doesn’t feel like he’s normal, and you see how hard it is for David to communicate that.  He was a character I think we can all relate, because we all feel like we’re not normal, and we’re all dealing with our thing.

Williamson captures what it’s like to be a teenager really well, and it was really easy to relate to some of the things the characters were dealing with.

I did want to see more of David’s friends, who are there, but not in an important way.  I wish we see them more than the random appearances they make.  Going in, I knew Leo was transgender, but it’s a while before it comes up in the book that Leo’s transgender, and it was frustrating to see the hints that Leo had a secret, but it not being revealed. I get that Leo’s not open because of what happened to him at his old school, but the hints got to me, and I just wanted to know what happened.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  I liked it, and I think it’s a book everyone should read, but for me, I wanted a little more than what we got in the book.

Book Review: Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Luna CoverBook: Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Published September 2008 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|248 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I’ve heard some really good things about Luna, and figured I’d read it.  I have mixed feelings about it, though, and it’s mostly because of the characters and (to me) the reliance on stereotypes and lack of nuance.

It was really frustrating to read Luna’s story through Regan’s eyes.  Regan came across as really selfish and whiny, and I felt like she was the stereotypical “it’s so hard and it’s such a burden to have a sibling who’s different, woe is me because I have to keep their secret, and if people find out that my brother is transgender, I’ll never have my own identity because I’ll only be seen as the sister of someone who is transgender” sibling.

Instead of feeling for her, and how hard it has to be to be your sister’s confidante and secret keeper, I instead spent most of the book feeling like she needed to get over herself.  Considering how close they were supposed to be, all I can tell you about Luna is that she is very stereotypical female. That’s not a bad thing, but we get no insight into Luna as a person and how much Luna is struggling to be accepted for who she is.  Luna is going through a lot, and Regan’s selfishness and need to be a martyr really took away from Luna’s story.

I felt very much removed and distanced from what was going on, and even the flashbacks we get are more about Regan than they are about Luna.

I also thought that Luna needed a lot more development, and she wasn’t very nuanced to me.  I did mention that Luna was a little too stereotypical- very into make-up and clothes and shopping, but not all females are. I’m not sure if the lack of nuance is because of the filter in which we see Luna, or if there’s just a lack of character development.  Maybe both.  Either way, this book is not about Luna and her transition, it’s about how Luna is ruining Regan’s life and how much better Regan’s life would be if Luna were “normal.”

Looking back at what I just wrote, it’s definitely clear to me that my feelings aren’t as mixed as I thought.  I wanted to read more about Luna, not Luna’s spoiled brat of a sister, and I wish we saw more of Luna.  Both Luna and Regan narrating could have been interesting, but given how stereotypical the characters were, I don’t know if Luna narrating even a few chapters would have made a difference.  Luna felt more like an object than an actual person, which was really disappointing because Luna’s story seemed much more interesting than Regan’s.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

1 star.  Regan was too frustrating and hard to care about, and her selfishness really took away from Lu0a’s story.