Book Review: Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

AlwaysNever_BOM_4p.indd

Book: Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Published May 2018 by Speak|340 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Megan Harper is the girl before. All her exes find their one true love right after dating her. It’s not a curse or anything, it’s just the way things are, and Megan refuses to waste time feeling sorry for herself. Instead, she focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theatre, and fulfilling her dream school’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible. 

But her plans quickly crumble when she’s cast as none other than Juliet–yes, that Juliet–in her high school’s production. It’s a nightmare. No–a disaster. Megan’s not an actress and she’s certainly not a Juliet. Then she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright who agrees to help Megan catch the eye of a sexy stagehand in exchange for help writing his new script. 

Between rehearsals and contending with her divided family, Megan begins to notice Owen–thoughtful, unconventional, and utterly unlike her exes, and wonders: shouldn’t a girl get to play the lead in her own love story? 

Always Never Yours is a really cute book!  I liked it and if you’re looking for a cute romance, I think this would be a great book to read.

I really liked the concept behind the book- a girl who dates guys, only for them to find the love of their life after they break up with her.  It’s definitely different than what I’ve seen before, and it seems like she has a reputation as a flirt.  I certainly liked that she seemed to be okay with it, and didn’t feel any shame in it.

I thought it was interesting and different (in a good way) that Megan dreaded acting, and was only in the play to fulfill a requirement to get into her dream college.  I think I had assumed that if you’re in theater, you wanted to be an actor.  Which is stupid, because there’s a lot more to theater than acting.  There’s all of the behind-the-scenes stuff as well, and I kind of liked that she didn’t really have any interest in acting

Of course, it’s not a YA contemporary unless she learns something about herself, and over the course of the book, she does learn a lot about herself.  I can’t say I’m a fan of Megan’s best friend, but her friend does seem to realize she did something wrong, and did seem really sorry about what had happened.  I also liked her relationships with her family, and I can definitely understand why she felt the way she did.

I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare, and I think that might be why I didn’t love the book.  At least one reason, anyway. But I think it’s the main reason.  I did like it as a backdrop for Megan’s story, though.  And I didn’t get a Shakespeare re-told vibe from the book, but I think if you like Shakespeare, YA and romance, this book is for you!

3 stars.  It’s cute and fun, and while I liked it, I didn’t love it.

Advertisements

Book Review: Royals by Rachel Hawkins

Book: Royals by Rachel Hawkins

Published May 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers|296 pages

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

Series: Royals #1

Genre: YA Contemporary

Meet Daisy Winters. She’s an offbeat sixteen-year-old Floridian with mermaid-red hair; a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Daisy has no desire to live in the spotlight, but relentless tabloid attention forces her to join Ellie at the relative seclusion of the castle across the pond. 

While the dashing young Miles has been appointed to teach Daisy the ropes of being regal, the prince’s roguish younger brother kicks up scandal wherever he goes, and tries his best to take Daisy along for the ride. The crown–and the intriguing Miles–might be trying to make Daisy into a lady . . . but Daisy may just rewrite the royal rulebook to suit herself.

I liked this one!  Her books are always fun and light-hearted, and Royals was no exception.  It reminded me of The Princess Diaries, but in an alternate universe Scotland, and the main character is the sister of the future princess of Scotland (by way of marriage).  I was also reminded (at least a little) of Princess Kate and Prince William (and Harry and Megan) and if you need more royal family in your life, this is an entertaining read.

So, I kind of expected Daisy to have a slightly different interaction with the tabloids.  I don’t know, the summary made it seem like the attention she was getting was a lot more attention then she really did.  I was kind of let own by with what actually led her to going over to Scotland.

In general, I feel like what happened in the book didn’t match up with what I thought would happen.  I thought there would be more rewriting the royal rulebook and going along for the ride with the prince’s younger brother.  Or getting dragged along, as the case may be.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still enjoyable, and it’s very much a Rachel Hawkins book.  I think I just had a different idea of what would could happen, and it didn’t match up with what actually happened.

So, this is definitely an alternate-reality Scotland where Scotland has a king and queen.  Which I just went with, but keep that in mind if you pick this up.  Also, there are mentions that the Scottish royal family paid for the medical bills for Miles’ mother.  I don’t know much about the healthcare system in Scotland, but that seemed a little off.  I’m not sure how much research went into the book, as far as life in Scotland goes, but based on some reviews I’ve read, it seems like Hawkins got some things wrong.  While I can’t speak to the accuracy of things like healthcare and tuition in Scotland, keep in mind that some things may not be accurate, if those things are important to you.

I liked Daisy well-enough, and I really liked her dad.  Miles was sweet, and I do like him and Daisy.  I didn’t really care for Daisy’s sister, but I felt like I understood her better by the end of the book.  I also thought Daisy’s story was pretty resolved in this book, so while it’s the first book in the series, Royals functions as a stand-alone pretty well.  And based off of what I’ve seen for the second book in this series, I get the sense that it’s a series where each book focuses on a character who was introduced in one of the other books.  Maybe I’m wrong about that (we’ll have to wait and see, I suppose) but hopefully, we’ll get more of Daisy’s story.  I do want to see what she’s up to.

3 stars.  I liked Royals, and it’s fun and entertaining.

Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Book: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Published May 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux Books|323 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? 

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

I really liked The Way You Make Me Feel!  I liked Clara, and she really changes a lot in this book.  Goo’s previous book was cute and fun and light-hearted, and this book was pretty similar in that sense.  It’s a completely different story, of course, but I really liked it, and I loved the relationships that she had with Rose, Hamlet and her dad.

It really is a heart-warming story, and I loved seeing Clara get really invested in her dad’s food truck.  She wasn’t happy about it at first, but it seems like she really does like it by the end of the book.  I think she learns a lot, especially after going to see her mom, and realizes that being around her dad, and doing better is something she needs to do.

All of the change we see in Clara felt really natural.  It didn’t feel forced at all, and it felt like it happened at a good pace.  Okay, maybe the friendship with Rose is a little bit forced, now that I think about it.  It is the typical enemies-to-friends story but I did like it, and it didn’t get in the way of me liking their friendship.  They do balance each other out.

Even though I finished this book pretty recently, I found the romance forgettable.  I mean, I like Hamlet, and I think he and Clara have a pretty good relationship, but I am finding that I’m not remembering them as a couple.  Maybe because they were friends for quite a while, or maybe other things were more memorable than them as a romantic couple.  I’m not really sure what it is about their romantic relationship but it’s clearly something that didn’t stand out.

And Clara and her dad!  It seems like he’s pretty lax as a dad, and obviously Clara gets into all kinds of trouble.  It is interesting that it took her prank at junior prom to get him to be more of a dad and less of a friend but I did really like their relationship.  It seems like Goo has a soft spot for father-daughter relationships, and it felt very real.  Clara seems really protective of her dad, and I know I’ve mentioned how invested she gets in his food truck, but I think it’s really sweet and really cool that she enters a contest in the hopes that he’ll win and be able to get his restaurant up and running.

I was sad to see what her relationship with her mom was like.  Her dad does try, but it would appear that her mom doesn’t really care about Clara.  I definitely got the impression her mom was more interested in maintaining a certain carefree lifestyle than she was in being a mother.  I know Clara’s parents were young when they had her, and it seemed like her mom tried for a while, but I honestly could have cared less about Clara’s mom.  Clara going out to see her, though, really seemed to get Clara to realize how important her dad was, and how she did have responsibilities at home.

4 stars.  I didn’t love The Way You Make Me Feel, but I still really liked it!  I thought it was fun and heart-warming, and I love the relationships Clara had with some of the characters.

Book Review: Lucky In Love by Kasie West

Book: Lucky In Love by Kasie West

Published July 2017 by Scholastic|337 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Can’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

Of the Kasie West books I’ve read, Lucky In Love is probably my least favorite.  I’ve read several of her books this year, so I don’t know if my feelings about this one are because it’s legitimately not one of my favorites or if it’s because I’ve gotten a little burnt out on her books.  Now that I see it written out, it’s probably a little bit of both.

Maddie…what can I say about Maddie?  She is pretty naive, and it was really hard to see her get wrapped up in winning the lotto.  Who hasn’t thought about it, and what they’d do with the money?  Still, in her case, it was hard to see how much things change, and part of me wishes her parents had been more insistent she see a financial adviser. She does, in the end, but it takes some growing pains in order for her to actual go.

She does mean well, and she really does have good intentions.  I think that, plus her age, plus the fact that her parents didn’t do more is what made it so hard to read.  And maybe part of it is that maybe, just maybe, I’m too old for a book like this.  I usually don’t think that with YA, and it is one of my favorite things to read.  I’ve spent years talking about the YA I read.  But this particular book?  It was hard to read as a 32 year-old woman, and I just really wish her parents did more to get her to see a financial adviser.  It seems like they were caught up in it too, which I can understand…but still.  I just had a hard time with it.

I’m starting to think that I’m a little burnt out on her books, because I was tired and not really into the romance.  Also, I just couldn’t trust Seth.  It seems like he genuinely cares about Maddie but the fact that it doesn’t happen until after her lottery win…I just couldn’t believe it, and while her books usually have some sort of cute romance in it, this was one I just couldn’t get behind.

I don’t actively dislike this book, because I honestly don’t even care enough to dislike it.  It’s obviously not for me, but if other people like it (or even love it) that is cool.  I wanted to like it more but I just really couldn’t.

2 stars.  Lucky In Love was just okay, and Maddie was just really frustrating.  Lucky In Love is definitely not the book for me.

Book Review: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Book: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Published January 2018 by Simon Pulse|384 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

A moving, lyrical debut novel about twins who navigate first love, their Jewish identity, and opposite results from a genetic test that determines their fate—whether they inherited their mother’s Huntington’s disease.

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.

I really liked this book!  I especially liked the relationship between Adina and Tovah, and how much Huntington’s changed their families and their lives, and especially the relationship with each other.

I can’t imagine having a twin and then finding out one of us had no risk at contracting a genetic disease, while the other one of us would.  Adina really struggled with it, and while she took it seriously, knowing that the results have completely changed her life, she also went down this very destructive path.  I can understand that maybe she doesn’t want to deal with it, and to a degree, she pretends like everything is fine.  But I still can’t imagine reacting the way she does.  Everyone’s different, of course, but she took it to a completely different level.

Adina has people who care about her, but she doesn’t seem interested in seeking help until the very end of the book.  Maybe she had to hit rock bottom to realize she needed more help than she wanted to admit.  Still, you never know how you would react to the type of news she receives, and I don’t want to judge her too harshly just because I don’t think I’d react the same way.

The book does make you think, not just how you’d react, but if you’d even go in the for the testing.  Some people want to know, and some people don’t.  Even I’m not sure if I’d want to know, but at the same time, part of me would.  Also, I think it’s important to know what runs in your family and to make sure you’re following up on things.  Like getting your yearly physical or mammogram, or following up on diabetes or whatever it is.  Seriously, though, it is important to follow up on stuff like that.

I did have a harder time relating to Adina, and I felt like Tovah and I were more similar.  And they have a really difficult relationship- they definitely drifted apart, and part of me hopes that they are able to work it out.  As an only child, I do not get the relationship between siblings at all, and I had a hard time relating to how much they seemed to dislike each other.

Still, we do see how they’re both dealing with everything, and this is one of the few times I actually like the dual POV.  It worked for this book, because you’re following two very different people dealing with a lot of different things.

4 stars.  I really liked You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, and there were a lot of things I was thinking about while reading it and even after finishing it.

Book Review: Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Book: Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Published October 2012 by Flux|262 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

“This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.”

My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life.

When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side–not heard as often, but just as good.

It’s time to let my B side play.

I liked Beautiful Music For Ugly Children!  I didn’t love it, but I still think it’s a book everyone should check out.  I was hesitant to read it, because it’s not an #ownvoices book, but Cronn-Mills did a pretty good job at writing Gabe, and what he was going through.  It seems like she really did her research, though I could have done without the author’s note at the end.  Something about it didn’t sit right with me.

I spent a lot of the book angry at how other people treated him.  His parents misgender him, they call him by his birth name, and there is quite a bit of transphobia.  He does live in a fairly small town (as small a town as a town that has 40,000 people can be), and I can’t say I’m surprised by how he was treated and with how people reacted.  I’m trying not to assume that everyone who lives in a small-ish town is transphobic, and we do see some people who are really accepting of Gabe.

Still, his parents do come around, and I can understand why they’d have a hard time accepting that Gabe is their son. Especially his mom, who seems to feel like she did something wrong, even though she didn’t.  I did find myself feeling uncomfortable at their insistence on calling Gabe Elizabeth, even though we see him correct them throughout the book.

One thing I thought was interesting was his best friend Paige.  She seemed so supportive, until she herself is threatened because of her friendship with Gabe.  And suddenly, she’s having a hard time with it.  I’m not sure what to think about it, because she did seem so supportive initially, but when she was threatened by the same people who threatened Gabe, she seemed to have a hard time.  Almost like it wasn’t real until she was personally affected by it.  I get she’s maybe having a hard time that Gabe is Gabe (and not Elizabeth) but I still found myself frustrated by how she was acting.

I did love his mentor John, and the whole idea of the Ugly Children Brigade.  It gave the book a nostalgic sort of vibe, and I think that part of it made me think of a couple of books: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford.  If you like either of those books, then you’ll probably like this one.  Plus, I liked how music tied into his story, and how A sides and B sides tied into how he saw himself.  They really are kindred spirits, despite their age difference, and I loved their relationship.

Some of the terms were really derogatory and out-dated.  I know this book was published in 2012, and that things have changed, but this still took away from the book a little bit.  And while Gabe was a great character, I wasn’t enthused with Mara, Heather or Paige.  The female characters fell flat and were pretty one-dimensional, though Paige seemed a little bit less so than the other two.  And they were all love interests, which is fine, but it would have been nice to see Gabe have at least one female in his life who he has a platonic relationship with.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  I can’t speak to the portrayal of a character who’s transitioning, since I’m cisgender, but it does seem like Cronn-Mills did a lot of research.

Book Review: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

Book: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

Published October 2013 by Harry N Abrams|256 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.

I liked this one!  For me, it’s one of those books that’s hovering between middle grade and YA- there is something about it that is a little bit more YA, but I could easily see it as an older middle grade book.

I thought Tara was interesting, and I liked seeing her balance both her Indian and her Jewish identities.  There were a couple of things that really stood out to me.  One was a comment from one of her classmates about how she’s not really Jewish because her mom converted to Judaism, and the other was someone assuming she was Muslim because she was from India.  She was easy to relate to, and I really liked her relationships with both her family and her friends.

Adult me’s reaction is that if someone says they’re Jewish, then they’re Jewish…and I’m pretty sure teenage me would felt the same way.  But I also grew up Catholic, and my knowledge of other religions is pretty limited, so maybe I’m missing something here.  I just liked seeing her struggle with her identity, and how she struggled with her faith.  She is full of questions, and for some reason, I really liked that about her.

I did like Sheila and I really, one of the other characters in the book.  It seems like she gets whatever she wants, but she also has some issues she needs to work on.  I felt a little bad for her, but I also wish we saw more of her backstory, because I am curious about why she did some of the things she did.

Something else I wish we saw was more of her mom’s experience as an immigrant.  Tara and her mom are very different, and her mom seems wary of Tara connecting with her Indian culture.  There does seem to be a little bit of a disconnect at times, but they are also very different.  Still, at least a little about her experience immigrating to the US would have been nice, and I think it would have added something different to her relationship with Tara.  But she was still an interesting character.

I also liked the glossary at the end, which was helpful because there were a lot of phrases and words I wasn’t familiar with.  It was nice to actually see what they meant, instead of forgetting to google it later, or trying to figure out what it meant.  I like it when books include a glossary, and that Freedman recognized that not everyone is going to be familiar with some of the phrases we see throughout the book.

3 stars.  I liked it, and I especially liked Tara.  But while I liked it, I didn’t love it.  I thought a couple of things could have used some more backstory, but overall, I’d still recommend it.

Book Review: Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Book: Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Published April 2018 by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray|339 pages

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

Series: Creekwood #2

Genre: YA Contemporary

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

After reading Simon a couple of years ago, and reading The Upside Of Unrequited earlier this year, I was looking forward to reading this one.  I just didn’t like it as much as I wanted to, and for whatever reason, I wasn’t as into the book as I wanted to be.

I’m kind of wondering if I should have re-read Simon first, just to get back into this world.  I mean, it is a stand-alone, but I think it would have been helpful to read Simon first for a refresher, because there’s a lot I didn’t remember, and I felt like there was some history I was forgetting.

I didn’t particularly care for the romance in the book.  It felt forced, and initially, I thought the relationship between those two seemed to be based on jealousy.  And the way Leah to this particular character was frustrating because it didn’t feel like it was good enough for Leah.

I didn’t like Leah in this book, but I’m clearly in the minority on this one, since a lot of people really like her.  If reviews are indication.  I thought she was horrible to a few of the characters (and I did think some of them didn’t deserve it).  Still, one of the few things I did like about her was how she felt uncomfortable because she and her mom didn’t have the financial stability her classmates seemed to have.  For some reason, that made her seem like an actual person.  She wasn’t really easy to relate to prior to that moment.

It also seemed like a lot happened off-page.  We never find out certain things- like people’s reactions to the new couple, and Simon being nervous to talk to Bram about wanting to go to a different school, but things are magically fine.

Leah On The Offbeat ended up being okay, and it wasn’t all that memorable.  I’m having a hard time talking about it because I can’t remember what happened in the book, and I only finished it a few days ago.  Apparently, it’s a pretty forgettable read.

2 stars.  I don’t remember enough to actively dislike it, and there were a few parts I liked, but it wasn’t enough to actually get me to like it.

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

Book: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published March 2017 by Knopf|297 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Book: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Published March 2018 by Little Brown Books For Young Readers|304 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

I liked Tyler Johnson was here.  I’ve picked up a few books about teens dealing with police brutality, and I think this one is one to read.

I loved Marvin, and you really felt what he was going through.  I’m an only child, so I can’t imagine losing a sibling, much less a sibling who’s my twin.  I liked seeing how much he grow over the course of the book, and how important it was for him to speak up about what was going and what had happened.

I didn’t care for the romance we see in the book- it was unexpected, and while it didn’t take away from everything we see in the book, I also would have been fine without it.  Maybe it’s there to show that love can be found in unexpected places, or for some other reason.  Whatever that reason is, it didn’t work for me.  Still, I’m glad he seemed to find some sort of happiness after everything that happened.

The one thing that stood out to me was how there didn’t seem to be a big search party for Tyler when he went missing.  Something that did come up was race and how it plays into missing kids and media attention, and it’s sad that no one seemed to care about Tyler until he was found dead.

I felt devastated for Marvin and his friends, and the everyday racism they face.  I will never know what it’s like to almost be shot for potential shoplifting, and the assumptions made because of his race makes me horrified that people have to deal with this on an everyday basis.

There is a lot of hope in Tyler Johnson Was Here, and I like that there’s hope.  Hope that they’ll find Tyler, hope that Tyler gets Justice, and that hope that things will get better for Marvin.  I hate that he lost his brother, but I love that Marvin finally realized what he wanted to, and why he did some of the things he did.

4 stars.  I know there are a lot of books out there about police brutality, but this is one to pick up.