The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli| yes, yes and yes

30653853Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I feel like there has already been a lot of great reviews surrounding this book but I will still put in my two cents.

REVIEW

I loved this book. Becky Albertalli has a way of constructing these relatable hilarious characters. I found myself saying, “yes, this character is me” to basically all the characters.

Like Molly, I was also a fat teenager. Strangely, it felt like I was reading my own autobiography because Molly’s thoughts were basically the same thoughts I had. Like Molly, I felt slightly jealous of the other girls who were getting in relationships, I noticed most of them had under size 7 bodies. I felt jealous for the so-called “sluts” because they were getting laid and they had rock hard bodies and I thought there were some type of correlation between the two. I felt guilty for thinking this throughout high school and I honestly thought something was completely wrong with me.

Some people have critiqued this book for such “another self-conscious fat girl who wants a boyfriend” and frankly I find that hilarious.  I’m going to give an example:

” Because chubby girls don’t get boyfriends, and they definitely don’t have sex. Not in movies–not really–unless it’s supposed to be a joke. And I don’t want to be a joke.”

This line may see this line as an “woe is me” type of thing but I see this as a commentary of the lack of authentic positive body representation in media/entertainment. That’s just me and some may interpret such differently

Anyways, I liked how this book was the journey of Molly trying to find confidence in her own skin. However, I also liked how it’s expressed that confidence isn’t something that’s easily handed to people and it takes time. By the end of the book, Molly doesn’t become some overly cocky woman who can take on the world. She still has her insecurities and she embraces them  and I think that’s something anybody can learn from.

Molly’s twin sister, Cassie, was also a delight. She’s a lesbian, outspoken and deeply cares for her sister. I loved her relationship with Molly and it almost felt like it was sort of their story rather than just Molly’s so that was just fucking awesome. I also just admired how how she outspoken on patriarchy and LGBTQIA+ issues and generally was just a kickass character.

“Um, let’s just start with the implication that becoming a woman has anything to do with whether or not you’ve had sex”

The relationship between Molly and Reid was adorable as shit. My favorite character relationship trope is when both characters are extremely awkward, especially when it’s first love. Frankly, first love relationships are awkward as hell and I’m glad that was portrayed in the book. I hate when books make first love like both characters know exactly what they are doing but both Molly and Reid are like “what are we supposed to do?” “I don’t know, honestly.” Like yes! It’s authentic cute dialogue that makes me squeal in delight (I never squeal but this relationship did)! And ohhh the fan art can we please. Check out this fan art because yes.

Before making my rating, I was thinking about the ending and the overall message that it might send to some readers. The whole “fat girls finds love and now she has confidence” trope. I thought about this and even considered lowering my rating. However thinking about it more, I don’t think it even presents that trope.

Usually when we see this trope in books, we have these classic lines:

“he can have all the girls in the world but he chose me”

“he likes me for me”

“he doesn’t care that I’m fat, he likes me for who I am”

I can honestly go on all day but these phrases never present themselves (at least I’m aware of, hopefully I’m accurate lmao). I honestly don’t think the main love interest, Reid even mentions her body is any way (even the other love interest, Will). Yeah, the main character is nervous about sex when because of her wait but I honestly shared those same struggles in high school too. So for those reasons I simply don’t see it. However, I do understand those who do and more if you are a fellow fat girl.

Becky also somewhat addressed this issue on her twitter here if you guys are curious.

At the end of the day, I see a book where a girl finds first love.

I applaud the healthy conversations about sex and importance of birth control. Anything that I sex positive earns an A+ from me.

Now, this doesn’t account for my rating but I think it’s good to note that this is an #ownvoices book when it comes to Molly’s underrepresented body type, her anxiety and her being Jewish. Molly and Cassie also has two moms (one of them being Jewish and the other being black),  Cassie’s girlfriend, Mina is Korean-American and pansexual, and  Reid the love interest is also Jewish. There’s a shit ton more such as POC and LGBTQIA+ wise but you get the picture.

Although the diversity aspect didn’t account for my star rating, I did take .5 away due to the fact that I wished more character arcs were explored such as the dynamics of Molly’s parents, Cassie’s girlfriend Mina, their Jewish religion, etc. I am going to give credit to the wonderful character development of Cassie though.

I wished this was published when I was in high school. This could have possibly helped me get through some tough times.

Great book by a beautiful author, would recommend.

 

You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner| Sorry, but the universe never thanked you.

25701463When 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.

Review

You’re Welcome Universe left me feeling indifferent and slightly annoyed.

It was unbelievably difficult for me to get through this book. For some reason, it felt like I was reading a 500 page novel when in reality, this falls under 300 pages. This wasn’t a horrible per say and I’ll start with the positives just to prove that.

Although this isn’t OwnVoices, you can tell as the reader that the author did a lot of research on the d/Deaf culture. In her author’s note (something I’m going to make an effort to start doing to all the books I read for now on), Gardner explains how she had d/Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and interpreter sensitivity readers that helped with making this story authentic. Also, there is review, a person who is part of the d/deaf/hard-of-haring community, here that pretty sums up all what the book did right when it came to the representation.

It’s good to note that Julia is Indian and has two moms who are also Deaf!

Another good aspect of this book was the plot. The main character gets into this graffiti war with this mysterious person and it was fun to see their “artsy” interactions with one another. If you are an artist, you would definitely appreciate this book. However, I don’t advise others to tag personal property since 1. it’s illegal, and 2. it’s hella rude towards the property you are tagging, unless they deserve it.

There’s also a really somewhat great female friendship (Julia and “Yoga Pants”). Although there is very light romance (I honestly wouldn’t have called it a romance), this friendship took center stage. I like how “Yoga Pants” became such a loyal ally and even though she says some questionable things, she’s still eager to learn about d/Deaf culture. Although, I feel like I can’t really say the same about Julia because I felt she was terrible to “Yoga Pants” at times but I’ll save that for later. “Yoga Pants” definitely carried the friendship and made me appreciate it, even if Julia was a complete a-hole at times.

Despite these three solid points, this book unfortunately fell for me.

Julia. Oh Julia. As the story progresses, I start to hate Julia more and more. I think she was the reason why it took me so incredibly long to finish this story. She was astonishing rude and petty all the time for no apparent reason. She did something in the book out of “revenge” and it was frankly one of the most disgusting things I have ever read! Yet, she barely received any repercussions for her actions. Then she was also extremely pissed at her friend “Yoga Pants” for not really a good reason and as the reader, it was hard for me to read because she talked about her so negatively. I wanted to scream “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THIS IS SUCH A WASTE.” Julia also doesn’t have a care in the world for those around her, she constantly lies and there’s a bunch of girl hate/slut shaming that served no purpose.

Even though this was only under 300 pages, it could have honestly been a lot shorter. There were a lot of unnecessary rambles and over explanation of the art, not about the art itself but rather how she makes the art. I ended up skimming some of the paragraphs because it grew rather boring.

Also, the way that eating disorders was explored in the book left me a little uneasy. How everything was handled was kind of irresponsible and it sort of fell in the “love heals all illnesses” trope.

You’re Welcome, Universe is a book if you’re looking for pretty good d/Deaf representation and a solid plot. However, if you think you can’t stand being in a point of view of a self-absorbed teenager, then perhaps read something else.

 

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Review

I’m kind of late to the game when it came to this book since it took me over a month to finish. I finally sat down and read the entire book through and I must say probably for the first time EVER, this book lived to the hype.

If you don’t know, this book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement that was started by an amazing group of women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. The movement fights for justice when

This book should have made you livid, disappointed, upset but it should also spark you to gain hope (even if it’s only a little bit).

The writing is extremely accessible and engaging. The main plot follows the aftermath of a black teenager getting killed by a police officer and Starr was in the car when all this went down. Starr obviously plays a crucial role in the case and tries to seek justice for her friend.   

Star was such an amazing beautiful character. She’s smart with that bit of sass that I love with any main character. The side characters definitely didn’t feel like side characters because they actually play a role in the story. Starr’s parents played a big part and so did the rest of her family and friends. What I liked about the book is that it promoted community involvement

Being black, a lot of this stuff resonates with me in such a personal level. Struggles that black America has to deal with goes even beyond police brutality, and Angie Thomas definitely accounts the adversary, especially the ignorance many of the characters had in the novel. It talks about privilege, race, “hood” neighborhoods and gang violence. Reading this, I didn’t read anything new, but it’s an important read for not just black people, but for all people. It doesn’t sugarcoat anything and it doesn’t make excuses for people. This book reminded me of Black Girl Dangerous {review here} when it comes to the harsh but real tone of these topics that’s depicted in these books (Unlike Pepsi’s newest ad lmao)

I would also like to note that the above does also mean that this book isn’t fucking hilarious at times. Starr’s dad was definitely the comedic, especially when he talked about his Harry Potter gang theory. I told so many people about this theory and everyone also thought it was brilliant. He’s hilarious when he applauds some of the stuff that Starr does that makes her mom mad and also when he’s around Starr’s boyfriend, Chris.

This book teaches you to use your voice as a weapon and to always fight for social justice for not just for yourself, but for everyone. There’s someone out there, innocent, who has been wrong by our messed up system and are facing the unjust consequences because of this. Young people are taught that they can’t do anything because they don’t have degrees or even experience but The Hate U Give teaches young individuals that a no one is ever to young to fight for what’s right.

Ooooo let me just say how angry I was with Starr’s friends. I snap-chatted all the stupid shit that was spewed from these girls mouths such as them complaining about their travels on spring break. One of the girls was basically like “ugh, went to the Harry Potter world in Florida, UGH woe is me.” I don’t get how people can just complain about that type of stuff.

I love Angie Thomas for publishing The Hate U Give. I love her for educating people on black culture and black adversary. I love her for giving young black girls out there a voice.

I hope you love her too.

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Hope in Nautical Dusk by Miri Castor {Review}

31965913The Gift of Twilight flourishes within Opal Charm as winter descends on Dewdrop. Life was already rough before, but Opal’s got new obstacles to face – getting into high school, bringing her brother back home, and training to protect Athre and Earth from Samael, the mysterious overlord who seeks to rule all, and put an end to her and the Charm lineage. The balance between harsh truths and sweet lies is more fragile than ever.

Yet, as winter rolls on, the balance begins to break as a new threat emerges. Memories Opal once trusted are disintegrating her friendships, and lies are clouding her Path of Dawn and Dusk. Opal must seek the truth while protecting those close to her, no matter how painful it may be.

This is a story about what it means to have hope in the face of despair

 

Review

Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy from the author/publisher in exchanged of an honest review.

So, this was interesting.

I read this book without reading the first one. Even though you technically don’t have to read the first book, I sort of wished that I read the first one because I feel there were a lot of references that went from one ear out the other.

Let’s start with the Positives.

1. Our Main Character! We have a black bisexual character as our MC. I really liked Opal because although she was young, she was strong but realistic, capable but not too independent.

2. The talks about asexuality! I feel as if this book falls into the upper middle grade/younger YA category and so it feels good to see asexuality representation and discussions in these types of books.

3. Aaron! Aaron is one of Opal’s friends and he’s such a sweetheart.

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4. The Writing style: Castor has a great knack for writing. It’s not too simple, but it’s accessible to any reader out there. I think young high schoolers would appreciate the story the most since it’s near the age group and it discusses topics that’s mostly relevant to them. It’s fast pace for the most part, however, there’s some unnecessary things that I will discuss later on.

5. Friendships. I just love when authors create friendships. I love Opal and Everon, Opal and Aaron and Opal and Anza.  It’s definitely a friendship heavy story and so if you love those types of relationships, I highly recommend you pick this up!

6. I actually enjoyed the somewhat unreliable narrative. Opal’s memories are all over the place and it makes the plot a lot more interesting. Although it’s not the most original plot device, it’s still interesting because as the story progresses, the fallout is epic.

The Negatives

1. Like I said, I wish I read the first book before reading this. There were a lot of events that I didn’t understand too much because well, I didn’t read it in the first book (like it took me a while to fully understand went down with the whole Samael– the villain– in the last book since it was merely just loads on mentions). Also, I’m still tad bit confused on the whole magic system. I understand that Opal and a bunch of other characters possesses these special gifts but I’m still confused on how everything works. Like I get that there’s sand involved but I wish there was more clarification (again, regret not reading the first book)

2. Opal’s brother constant use of “squirt” irritated me to no end. Like I get that Opal is your sister and that she’s short but using that nickname in every sentence drove me up the wall! If I was Opal, I would have murdered him but I guess that would beat the purpose of the first book huh?

3. There’s A LOT of characters, like a lot. It took me a while to know everyone (I confused Addy and Anza oops!) and it hindered my reading experience a bit. Although I liked many of them, I had to put in a lot of effort to memorized everyone’s name and their significance of the novel.

4. I thought that there were some unnecessary chapters, specifically the “what do you fight for chapter.” Although it was cute, I thought her reason for fighting was already established before. I mean, it was cute, but at the same time, inessential.

5. The writing style. I know I know I put this as a positive but even though its accessible, I still wish there was more substance, more imagery. I was getting told what is what rather than being showed. I felt like that may have been the reason I was confused a lot throughout the story, especially with the magic system.

 

Overall, it’s a solid fantasy/sci-fi story. I don’t think it would be something I read again (though I might read the first book to get more context) but it was still an entertaining read. I feel like this is on the same level as Shadowshaper so if you enjoyed that book, the Opal Charm series may be something to check out!

Note: I would honestly read the first book instead of starting here as it might give you more insight on the characters and past events.

Release Date: March 15 2017

Buy Hope in Nautical Dusk: Amazon

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Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender by Mia McKenzie|BHM 2017

22293177Mia McKenzie, creator of the enormously popular website Black Girl Dangerous, writes about race, queerness, class and gender in a concise, compelling voice filled at different times with humor, grief, rage, and joy. Her nuanced analysis of intersecting systems of oppression goes deep to reveal the complicated truths of a multiply-marginalized experience. McKenzie tackles the hardest questions of our time with clarity and courage, in language that is accessible to non-academics and academics alike. She is both fearless and vulnerable, demanding and accountable. Hers is a voice like no other.

Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class, and Gender features a collection of blog posts on tumblr all made by Mia McKenzie. This book was hard, honest and extremely important. I loved McKenzie’s background around her blog. She made a tumblr account in response to ex girlfriend on how she called her (black people) scary. This collection (her blog in general) focuses on the social justices of QPOC.

Her voice was extraordinary. Her tone is vexed and strong conveying her frustrations on society as a whole (and also I guess you can say feeding the stereotype). She outlines the experience of a queer black woman. Although what I already may have said seems like a serious gritty book (which it still its), it’s also quite humorous and sarcastic at times (How to be Black in America)

Some people may feel uncomfortable at the various topics that McKenzie explores due to the fact that she’s harsh but honest. She sheds light on the people who call themselves an “ally” but does nothing to prove it, she talks about how the trend “acknowledging your privilege” does nothing without action, she struggles to sympathize killed/lost persons on the news because she knows that black people hardly receives the same attention. McKenzie constructs a list on how to be black in America and dives into white privileged. Even though many of these posts were 2012-2014, they are still relevant today (especially the police brutality).

The collection focuses on action rather than just talking about social injustice. She suggests that we educate ourselves by reading books about the experiences of marginalized groups. She tells the harsh truths that we should sacrifice (if you really want to go to an event but it’s not wheelchair accessible, simply don’t go) Note: Here’s a blog post on BGD that gives a great example on sacrifice. Go to rallies, go to talks, but rather being the one to stand on that pedestal, allow the oppressed to step up and use their voice.

Reading Black Girl Dangerous, it made me relate to my thoughts on how I used to be afraid to speak on Black America. For some reason, I was scared to become the typical angry black woman, too scared of offending white people. McKenzie’s impressions tells POC, especially QPOC, that people shouldn’t be afraid to speak out on injustices. As of now, I’ve been talking to friends and making posts about black (POC) injustices. I will continue to do so and this collection just amplify my desire to seek justice.

Black Girl Dangerous doesn’t sugar coat and neither should any other marginalized group’s frustrations on today’s America.

Here’s the website to the blog that features all the posts in the collection and more!

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Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaiporta and Dhonielle Clayton|BHM 2017 {review}

18710209Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

 

 

Man, I don’t know.

This book was kind of all over the place. Everyone in this book was just, so, mean. With the petty pranks, the jealousy, the backstabbing, the cheating and everything else it was just shocking. BUT, I can’t lie, I actually enjoyed this story. It’s full of completely unlikable characters, complex characters actually.

We are in three perspectives, Gigi, Bette and June and they all basically compete for a big roll in the upcoming dance shows. Throughout the story, there’s vicious pranks, name calling, dating but there’s some pretty serious problems each of the main characters go through.

Gigi: One of the only black girls in their ballet group (whoops, I forgot if she’s the only black girl in the school or level). She’s sweet, caring bur has a serious heart condition that no one knows about. She’s often the victim of bullying because she’s one of the best dancers and also because she’s black.

Bette: Probably the most malicious one of all. Right from the start, she loses her star role and her boyfriend, curtsy of Gigi.  In result, she begins to torment the poor girl and becomes a tad bit obsessive and will do anything to get back her spotlight and her on/off again boyfriend. Although not said explicitly, she has a prescription drug problem.

June: She’s half Korean and Half Caucasian. She has become Gigi’s understudy for the most part but also seems to be a loner, despite Gigi’s attempts to befriend her. However, she does seem to have trouble staying in her lane and often snoops around.  June has a lot of baggage, including being on the brink of an eating disorder.

As you can see, these characters far from being 2 dimensional. There’s also other character such as Alex( Gigi’s boyfriend and Bette’s ex), Will (carries heavy guilt) Henri(all about the drama). Like the main 3, these characters also have a compelling role in the story.

The book also explores the themes of the pressures of competition and parents. Pressure can really deteriorate a person, limb from limb and it was interesting to see. Racism is also discuss and how POC struggle to rise above in the ballet industry. Eating disorders and drugs became a reoccurring themes.  There were just a lot of depth in the story in general, making me never bored

But man, these characters were ruthless. Like, they did a lot of stuff that were over the line. I absolutely hated Bette. It went to the point where it was hard for me to feel bad for her when I think I was supposed to. I liked and hated June at times. Mostly, she would just extremely judgmental and slightly hypocritical and irrational. She has a feud with the other Korean ballerinas and she holds one of their secrets that they might like the opposite sex. JUNE’S PROBLEM IS THAT SHE STRUGGLES TO STAY IN HER LANE BECAUSE DESPITE HOW MUCH YOU MIGHT HATE SOMEONE YOU SHOULDN’T BE THE ONE TO TELL PEOPLE BECAUSE THAT’S A PERSONAL DECISION NOT YOUR DECISION. OUTING SOMEONE IS NEVER OK.

Some of the stuff these girls did made me uncomfortable because I don;t understand how they can get away with what they did. Like um, where are the adults in this?!?!?!

It was difficult for me to get behind any of the romances. I felt like Gigis and Alex were a bit insta-lovey and moved way too fast. Bette’s obsession with them also didn’t help either. Like she was really POSSESSIVE over Alex. Overall, everyone’s relationships (friendships and love interests) seemed weirdly unnatural to me.  I wish the relationships were more flushed out and slowed down.

Also, there’s this one scene where I almost threw my kindle (this isn’t a spoiler). Gigi was in the teacher’s office really distress and heartbroken about something and then the teacher was like “oh since you’re in here did you have an affair with one of the teachers?” Like what? IS THIS REALLY THE TIME?!?!?!?!?!

The book ended super abruptly and there’s still a lot of unanswered questions. I think I will finish the duology because the drama (even though it’s problematic at times) is addicting as hell.

It’s a fun book with some riveting themes. I don’t think books (or anything in general) about ballerinas are my thing because I tend to not care about that aspect. It’s a good book if you want to read some cut throat drama with a diverse cast of characters. If you like Pretty Little Liars, this might be the book for you.

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