21 February 2017

Review: Crazy Messy Beautiful

Crazy Messy Beautiful
by Carrie Arcos

Publisher: Philomel Books / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

CRAZY MESSY BEAUTIFUL is an unconventional story that deeply examines the meaning of true love. The story follows Neruda Diaz, named after famous poet Pablo Neruda, as he attempts to find the passionate love described in his namesake’s work. However, as Neruda’s personal relationships grow more complex, he is forced to reevaluate his previous perceptions of what love really is.

While this story is set up like a very traditional YA romance, the plot was more nuanced than I had originally anticipated. First of all, the story is more of a coming of age story than a love story: by starting to experience life instead of simply witnessing it or drawing it, Neruda matures vastly and gains understanding beyond the confines of romance. While I appreciated that this book was not especially clichéd, I would still definitely say that it is more of a light read. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a story that’s somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of extreme playful romance to extremely serious literature.

Review: Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined
by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 21, 2017

EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED by Danielle Younge-Ullman follows Ingrid as she treks through uncharted wilderness with other troubled youth. Haunted by her glamorous past and the drama that ended her mother's career in opera, Ingrid finds her future is drastically different than what she’d expected. All the while Ingrid chronicles her journey in letters to her mother. Younge-Ullman does a great job of keeping the reader's interest, juggling past and present, which at first seem like different life times. However, as the reader reads on, it becomes clear why and how Ingrid ended up in Peak Wilderness for four weeks.

Emotional and exciting, Ingrid’s past is revealed and by the end of the novel each piece finally falls into place, and a big secret is discovered. Each character in this book develops uniquely throughout the novel. They take their own challenges and overcome them just as Ingrid does. Ingrid’s hilarious take on her adventures at Peak Wilderness balance out with her heartfelt and sorrowful past. It’s easy to identify with Ingrid as she’s just as sarcastic and conflicted as any teenager. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

Review: Long May She Reign

Long May She Reign
by Rhiannon Thomas

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: February 21, 2017

LONG MAY SHE REIGN by Rhiannon Thomas is the story of a girl named Freya who is 23rd in line to be queen, but is suddenly made queen after a deadly banquet where hundreds of people die, including the king and all of those in line before her. So she's instantly elevated to the throne, and now has to fight death threats, people who think she's the murderer, and a council that doesn’t listen to her. She also has to solve the mystery of who poisoned the entire court.

What I really liked about this book is how the author had this young girl be smart and powerful at the same time. She's science-y and loves to solve problems, and is so unlike many of the girls that you see in a court setting. She also has to fight her council: because she's a young girl and they think she's easy to manipulate, she has to prove herself to them.

The book takes a very feminist approach to many of the problems that females might have faced in the court setting back in the day, and lets us follow the story of a girl who wants to defy the expectations of what a queen is. I would recommend this book to lovers of medieval fiction, and those who are looking for a powerful feminist book to read.

14 February 2017

Review: American Street

American Street
by Ibi Zoboi

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 14, 2017

AMERICAN STREET is a brilliantly written, courageous novel that explores familial and romantic relationships, religion, and the true nature of the American Dream. Fabiola Toussaint is a Haitian immigrant who finds herself unexpectedly alone in an unfamiliar country after her mother is detained by US Customs Officials. Fabiola’s cousins welcome her into their Detroit home and teach her the ways of American society, but she longs for the comforting presence of her mother. Ultimately, Fabiola is faced with a choice that threatens to shatter the bonds she has made in her new life. Aspects of Fabiola’s religion were woven into the plot, with characters and symbols from Haitian religion making appearances on the gritty streets of Detroit. This unique setting enhances the reader’s understanding of Fabiola and the relationships she has with her mother, cousins, and a new love interest. As far as the writing goes, Ibi Zoboi is, quite simply, an amazing author. This novel was her debut, but I will personally be on the lookout for any other books that she publishes in the future, because her writing style was so compelling and her message was universally relatable. Each of her characters were beautifully crafted, with layers of identity that slowly emerged as the novel progressed, but I especially enjoyed reading about Fabiola--she was strong, compassionate, moralistic, and flawed. As I read this book, it reminded me a bit of THE OUTSIDERS, and I would highly, highly recommend it.  

Review: Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together
by Renée Watson

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: February 14, 2017

In PIECING ME TOGETHER, Renée Watson writes about Jade, an artist and scholarship student at a predominantly white, private high school in Portland. Jade lives a different life than her classmates and is constantly being given “opportunities” by her school counselor, one of which is an offer to become part of a mentorship program called Women to Women. Though Jade accepts, she struggles to connect with her mentor, Maxine, and feels as though Maxine is attempting to repair Jade instead of supporting her. Throughout the novel, readers watch as Jade discovers the power and voice she has in the world, which Watson beautifully depicts through descriptions of Jade’s artwork. Her story is told clearly and expresses the importance of treating people equally, allowing yourself to discover what matters to you, and finding beauty in everything. She and her friends are strong characters with important messages and ideas. 

Review: Valiant

The Valiant
by Lesley Livingston

Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 14, 2017

THE VALIANT by Lesley Livingston is a creative retelling of the Spartacus story from a female's perspective. It is about a girl named Fallon who is the daughter of a king. She gets captured and sold into slavery. Where she finds herself at an all female gladiator training school. The book is well-written, with a multitude of creative names(though sometimes difficult to pronounce). I really enjoyed the plot and I had recently watched the movie Spartacus. Halfway through the book is when I found out it was a retelling of Spartacus and it was a pleasant surprise. I highly recommend this book!

Review: The Wish Granter

The Wish Granter
by C. J. Redwine

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 14, 2017

In THE WISH GRANTER by C.J. Redwine, Thad makes a deal with the mysterious Wish Granter so that he and his sister Ari ascend to be the King and Princess of the kingdom. Thad does the best he can to protect his people, but is restricted by his side of the Wish Granter’s deal. Sebastian, the new weapons master, helps Ari try to find a way to get Thad out of his contract, and return peace to the kingdom. The motivation of the Wish Granter, Teague, felt a little weak, such that the extent that he goes to in order to achieve his goal seems like overkill. I enjoyed reading THE WISH GRANTER, which retells a certain fairy tale with a dark twist. Those who are not familiar with the fairy tale will not understand what it is based off of until the end of the book, but those who are familiar with it will be able to figure out the ending. I recommend this to fans of the book CINDER.