Category: Young Adult Lit

ISO: Books about Sibling Abuse

When I was a teenager, one of my friends had a brother who beat her up. At the time, I didn’t understand what that meant and couldn’t reconcile it with what I thought I knew about sibling relationships. To me, the fact that he “beat her up” meant that they got into fights sometimes. And, for me, then, fights were fair and equal matches that both people signed up for.

I remember I mentioned it/them to my parents once, and my dad even remarked with a shake of his head on it. “Isn’t that the boy who beats up his sister?” he asked. And I corrected him. “No,” I said. “They get into fights sometimes.”

I was young and had a limited understanding of the world. However, I knew about intimate partner violence and child abuse by parents/guardians because of soap operas and books. I had no clue that sibling abuse was a thing. I thought that siblings could fight or maybe get on each other’s nerves or participate in schemes and manipulation (okay, yes, this is all stuff I read in Sweet Valley High), but not once did I understand that domestic violence could occur between siblings.

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It took me over two hours to write this post.

Not because it was hard, but because (a) my daughter kept talking to me and (b) I kept getting distracted by The Oscars. And Twitter and Facebook. Also, I was trying to figure out which leggings to buy. Anyway.

Okay, I had to look at my calendar to see what I actually did this past week. Is that sad? It feels sad. I guess it’s a good thing I’m doing the Slice of Life challenge next month, huh? Anyway, that’s where I am. So yes, this past week I:

  • went to a Hamilton trivia night (my team lost)
  • went to the dentist
  • went to a search committee meeting for the church’s new minister
  • attended a plagiarism hearing as a witness
  • visited an astronomy class as part of the pilot Teaching Squares program at my school (and learned quite a bit!)
  • attended a student conduct hearing as a member of the conduct board
  • went to see a student production of The Drowsy Chaperone, which was super fun (I love a good farce and a good meta-narrative)
  • dropped in to a party I wasn’t invited to to visit a friend who was only in town for one night
  • went to the Women’s March celebration and activist fair held by the local chapter of the march

And that doesn’t even count my regularly scheduled activities (work, gym, etc.).

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First Full Week Back: Monday check-in

I only met with my students once last week, so this week is the full grind. A miracle occurred today, though! I didn’t bring any work home. The key seems to be going back to my office to do work instead of leaving immediately after class. Imagine that.

The rest of last week is a blur, for sure. All that course prep makes my brain go to mush. Oh, and I forgot to post this e-card a friend sent me when I was complaining about course prep last week, so here it is now:

Now that I’m back, of course, I’m fine (and even in the zone). But, man, that prep week is whoa.

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It’s Monday & I’m Never Going to Finish All the Books on My Shelf

No, seriously. I still have ten left in the stack that I want to get to before the move, and I don’t think it’s going to happen. Also, reading them is starting to feel like work now–probably because I am trying to read them in a specific order. It might be time to start jumping around the stack.

This past week, I read:

Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other StoriesDear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories by Norma Fox Mazer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The best stories were the title piece, the first story, and “Chocolate Pudding.” But these are all honest, real, and raw and, as someone who will likely be a spinster, I appreciated the last story a lot.

View all my reviews

Two weeks ago, I saw:

Love and Friendship

I forgot to mention that I went to see Love & Friendship, which is based on the novella Lady Susan by Jane Austen. I am not a huge fan of Austen’s books, but I think they translate really well to screen. I should state up front that I’m also not super into period pieces. However, I liked the humor in this, and I loved how Lady Susan was always ten steps ahead of everyone else. This movie is very talky-talky, so if you don’t go in much for that, you might not like it. I am generally a fan of talking movies, though, so this worked for me.

Also, I haven’t read the book but the movie kind of makes me want to and, as I said, I’m not a huge fan of Austen’s books, so it definitely has that going for it.

I do have to say that I don’t get the title at all. It didn’t seem to match the movie. Maybe I’m missing something, though. I think Lady Susan would have worked just fine. I mean, it is all about her and her machinations after all and not really all that much about friendship and Love & Friendship is so darn generic (I kept mistakenly calling the movie Love & Acceptance, for example). Ugh. Anybody else who saw it have an opinion on the title? (ETA: Duh, the title is meant to be ironic. But still, generic and bland, especially given the rest of the movie.)

As of today, I’m reading:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

 

I was feeling kind of slumpy (and it’s almost time for The Cursed Child), so I decided to reread Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (I mean, it’s only been a little over a year since my last reread of Prisoner of Azkaban, so. It might be time is what I’m saying.) I’m about 1/3 of the way through, and I can tell you right now that the beginning of the book needed way less Quidditch. Also, there’s a lot of great foreshadowing and framing in all of the opening scenes when they head to the World Cup and before they get to Hogwarts. You know, minus the Quidditch match descriptions.

My plan was also to sign up for the Potterhead July Blog Festival, but I (a) totally missed the sign up AND (b) will be moving in July so it’s probably not the best time to commit to anything. I am looking forward to reading the posts, though.

 

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older is one of my favorite people on Twitter, and my colleague highly recommended his book, so I finally decided to read Shadowshaper. I’m listening to the audiobook, and Anika Noni Rose narrates. I’m digging it so far.

 

Stepping to a New Day by Beverly Jenkins

I’m participating in a blog tour for Stepping to a New Day by Beverly Jenkins at the beginning of July. I’ll be starting this one later today.

 

 

Happy reading, everyone!

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Audiobook Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been on my radar since it first came out–not only because it has won so many awards and is lauded by many, but also because my summer book club picked it a few years ago. I didn’t read it then because I had required reading fatigue (it’s a thing I tend to get every summer), but I knew I would get back to it eventually. Well, eventually came this year once I found out Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) did the narration for the audiobook.

 

ari

The plot of the book is pretty straight-forward: Aristotle (who goes by Ari) is a lonely 15-year-old who befriends Dante one day at the swimming pool. Then, you know, life and stuff happens. Big life and big stuff. I am avoiding spoilers here, obviously.

What I Liked

– First and foremost, this is a friendship novel. I LOVE FRIENDSHIP STORIES. They make me happy. Friendships can be easy and challenging and hard and beautiful, and that’s exactly what happens here.

– Dante is pretty fantastic. He’s such a great character: open, honest, frustrating, angry, challenging. He’s just so earnest! Ah, it’s adorable.

– Ari is pretty great, too. He’s the narrator, so the reader is more privy to his thoughts, and he is struggling to find his place in the world. I liked that he is pretty much just doing what comes next like a checklist for life, even if he isn’t sure what he wants yet. I think that’s pretty accurate for how many teens do things.

– This is a kissing book. Lots of talk of kissing here. Lots of kissing happening, too. I approve.

– THE PARENTS. Both boys’ parents are excellent. They are supremely flawed human beings who are doing the best they can, which means they screw up sometimes but that they love their kids so, so much–and the narrative acknowledges it. Also, Dante’s father is an English professor, so that automatically raises his level of awesome for me.

– Gina Navarro and Sophie (I can’t remember her last name). These are girls Ari grew up with who drive him insane but also love him a super lot and force him to participate in life stuff. At first, I was jarred by their presence, but I really like how they challenged him and how he came to see their place in his life.

– So basically all of the characters were great is what I’m saying.

– THE ENDING. I 100% love the ending to this book, and that’s what took me from liking it to really liking it. And when I say the ending, I don’t mean the last chapter. I mean pretty much the whole last act, starting from the moment Ari’s parents sit him down for a heart-to-heart until the very, very end. It was pretty much perfection.

– The dialogue is super realistic and I loved, loved, loved any time the characters were talking to and interacting with each other. I could pretty much see every single one of those scenes playing out in front of me. They were so great.

– One of the running threads through the book is this idea of being a “real” Mexican. I loved that exploration of the boys’ identities and how the idea is tied into not only cultural expectations but also outside stereotypes. It’s really well handled and Saenz is subtle in how he completely and most emphatically states that the only thing that makes someone a real Mexican is being Mexican. Love.

– Lin-Manuel Miranda is A+ as a narrator. I would listen to another book he reads. Also, he can definitely roll his r’s. I tried over and over to say Bernardo the way he does, and it just wasn’t happening. I also don’t speak Spanish, so you know.

What I Didn’t Like

– I thought this was a summer book. It’s not. When Ari went back to school, I was so confused and a little upset. This is all about my expectations as a reader, but it is what it is.

– I am pretty sure Ari is depressed throughout most of the novel (thought it’s never explicitly stated), and that’s fine. He’s also a pretty interior character, which is also fine. However, what that meant for huge chunks of the novel is that Ari is completely in his head and most of what he thinks is expressed in negatives. There is a lot of “I don’t know why I did this” and “I don’t know why this” and “I didn’t say anything, but” or “I didn’t ask him this.” Those moments (and there are A LOT of them) made the narration and the story drag.

Also, one thing I was taught when I studied creative writing was not to describe what a character doesn’t do and so I am hyper aware of when an author does it.

Those moments may have played out better in the text than in the audio, but just imagine listening to someone tell you for five minutes straight all the things they didn’t do in a given situation. It would get real old real fast.

On the plus side, it did make the moments of dialogue and character interaction that much more enjoyable, so.

In conclusion: A really powerful look at friendship, family, and love with great characters and an excellent ending.

Source: Library

 

 

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It’s Monday & Tropical Storm Colin is ruining my plans

I should be at the gym is what I’m saying. But no. Bands of rain with squall lines are coming through. RUDE.

This past week, I read:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounding up

Great characters, EXCELLENT ending. Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda is an A+ narrator. Will review on the blog.

 

Royal Day Out: A From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess e-shortRoyal Day Out: A From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess e-short by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I. Love. Grandmère.

That is all.
 

 

Kill the Boy BandKill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I made it about 1/3 of the way through this book and just could not bring myself to pick it back up again.

I find all of the characters grossly offensive and problematic on pretty much every level. If the author was aiming for satire, she missed. By a lot.

View all my reviews

 

As of today, I’m reading:

Dear Bill, Remember Me? by Norma Fox Mazer

I am still making my way through my library book sale finds, so I started Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories by Norma Fox Mazer last night. It’s a definite palate cleanser after Kill the Boy Band.

I’m currently listening to some podcasts so my audiobook adventures are on hold for now. However, I’m going to have to start packing soon (as in, I should have started yesterday), so I should really get on finding my next read.

Happy reading, everyone!

Book Review: Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee is another Friends of the Library book sale find. I probably picked it up because the main character is Koreanand completely ignored the football uniform. There’s a lot of football in here is what I’m saying. Basically, Chan’s parents move him and his sister Young to Minnesota from L.A. to take over their uncle’s store. There’s no soccer team so Chan joins the football team and encounters some violent racism under the guise of “necessary roughness.”

Necessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee

What I Liked

  • There’s some really good family stuff here, especially with Young and Chan’s dad and his brother and how that affects his relationship with Chan.
  • Chan frequently acts as a translator for his father, but his father expects him to be quiet and respectful at the same time.
  • I especially like that O-Ma is not to be slept on. She constantly comes through in surprising ways. She gets things done is what I’m saying. She’s probably my favorite.
  • As is Mrs. K, their neighbor. She and O-Ma have a great relationship.
  • Young and Chan are both good kids, so the conflict doesn’t come from rebelling against their parents but just from them trying to figure out their new town and how they fit in.
  • One of my favorite parts is Chan trying to find someone–anyone–of color he can relate to. And finding that in this particular town, that’s not an option. That is so real, especially when you go from a place with a lot of people of color to a lily-white town. It is jarring and weird and also means trying to recreate that feeling of home as best you can.

What I Didn’t Like

  • FOOTBALL FOOTBALL FOOTBALL. Listen, there’s a lot of football in this book, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it’s important to the main character, so he would talk about it a lot. But I find that the focus on drills and stuff in books only works if it’s to explore other stuff like relationships between characters.
  • There are a lot of dropped threads plot threads here: Young and Chan’s uncle, the bullying incidents, the money issues.
  • There are a lot of rushed and not satisfactorily resolved endings as well: the bullying incident, the money issues, Chan’s relationship with a girl, and the actual ending.
  • I really wanted more from this book: more character and plot development and more of a sense of the school beyond football–especially for Young. Even though the story isn’t told from her point of view, I don’t really get a sense of what her experience at the school is.
  • The tagline on the book is “Sometimes offense is the only defense.” Yeah, that wasn’t realized in the book at all.

In conclusion: This book had a promising start but left me wanting more. Reluctant readers who like sports might go for it, though.

It’s Monday & I read a bunch of YA from the last century

This past week, I read:

A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a SandwichA Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich by Alice Childress
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a little hard to get into because the first chapter is told in dialect, and I was tired when I started it. It’s told in alternating POVs by everyone affected by Benjie’s drug use and offers some interesting perspectives on family, race, and economic equality.

It’s a slim volume but took me longer than I expected to read–probably because it took me a little while to figure out.

That ending is killer, for sure. Worth it just for that.

(I also wrote a full-length review of this on the blog. You can read it here.)

 

Sweet SixteenSweet Sixteen by Linda A. Cooney
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars, rounding down

I liked that this was actually more about the girls’ relationships with their families and each other than anything else–even though the cover and back of the book description led me to believe otherwise. The beginning was a little slow and the emphasis on sixteen was a little weird, but this was firmly grounded in reality and the summer romance was more of a summer friendship, which is a thing I dig. Slice of life, man. It works for me.

 

The Boy Who Drank Too MuchThe Boy Who Drank Too Much by Shep Greene
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The title of this should really be “The Friend of the Boy Who Drank Too Much. Also: Hockey” or possibly “How to Tell If You’re the Friend of the Boy Who Drinks Too Much Who Is Your Hockey Teammate.” Too much?

This was fine but I will probably forget that I read it. Julie was cool, though.

 

Now That I KnowNow That I Know by Norma Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel the same way about this book that I did about Tiger Eyes. Super authentic and relatable, and I wish more current YA were written this way.

 

 

 

Necessary RoughnessNecessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Football, football, football, football. There is a lot of football in this book. Just…a lot. So there’s that.

I will say, though, that Lee gets the shock of moving from a multi-ethnic big city to a small lily-white town in the Midwest pretty right. I agree with other reviewers that the ending was rushed, but I did like the family stuff and most especially all of the stuff with O-Ma and Mrs. K. Those ladies are the best.

View all my reviews

 

As of today, I’m reading:

Aristotle & Dante

I’m still listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (and read by Lin-Manuel Miranda). That Dante kid is pretty great, huh?

 

The Obnoxious Jerks by Stephen Manes

As I mentioned before, I’m moving this summer and am therefore trying to read all of the (unread) books on my shelf to see what’s making the move with me. One of those books is The Obnoxious Jerks by Stephen Manes. I actually read this many, many years ago when I was a kid but remember absolutely nothing about it except the cover. So we’ll see how that goes.

 

Happy reading, everyone!

Book Review: A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich

I picked up A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich by Alice Childress at the Friends of the Library book sale one day, probably because I recognized the title and figured it’s a book I should have read by now. It’s a pretty classic problem novel about a kid named Benjie who is addicted to heroin. (The tagline on the novel is “Benjie is young, black, and well on his way to being hooked on heroin” lest there’s any confusion about its problem novel status or the topic of the book. But I digress. )

A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich by Alice Childress

The story is told in alternating first-person POV chapters from Benjie and the people who his drug use affect, including his mom, stepfather, grandmother, teachers, and friends. The chapters really serve as character studies to let the reader know who populates Benjie’s world as well as how they view not only Benjie but the neighborhood and other people in it.

When I found out the book was made into a movie (starring Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield, no less!), I wasn’t very far into the book and was surprised because it didn’t seem like there was really enough plot to hang a movie on, but I was wrong about that. While the beginning is pretty light on plot and heavy on premise (Benjie’s on drugs and people notice–seriously, that’s it), as the book goes on, there’s actually a lot of stuff that happens between characters, and it’s all pretty deftly handled. The characters reflect more on how they feel about what’s happened than  detailing what happened to get the characters to that point. I mean, we find out, but the chapters don’t follow the standard this happened and then this happened and then this happened progression.

While I ultimately found the book just okay (it’s super short but took me a ridiculously long amount of time to read it given the length), I really enjoyed all of the relationship stuff with the mom and stepfather, and I am 100% in love with the ending. THAT ENDING. Not to mention, all of the familial relationship stuff is ace. Yeah, so that was pretty great. Also, there’s a really interesting conflict between the white teacher Mr. Cohen (who has A LOT of contempt for his black students) and the black nationalist teacher Mr. Green across the hall. They are both effective teachers but they do not particularly care for each other and they have very, very different views of the children and neighborhood they serve.

Anyway, I’m going to end this by just quoting Mr. Green because, through him, Childress basically says what I was trying to get at in my diversity fatigue post:

Look around your city and let me know if you see coloreds represented fifty-fifty in the white community. No, it doesn’t go down that way. I’m sick of explainin and talkin race. Race is the story of my life and my father’s life, and I guess, his father and all the other fathers before that. As a kid, I was in on “race” discussions in school, at home, in church, everywhere. It’s a wonder every Black person in the U. S. of A. hasn’t gone stark, ravin made from racism…and the hurtin it’s put on us.

Also, for anyone doing any banned book challenges, this book was successfully removed from a school library in 1975.

It’s Monday! What are you reading? (5/16/16)

This past week, I finished:

The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, #1)The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was super fun. Apollo is a great narrator because his arrogance is beyond belief, yet he’s also kind of likable because he is hilarious. To wit, this is a thing he actually thinks: “If she could do it, then so could the brilliant, fabulous Apollo.” And that’s AFTER his character has exhibited some growth. So.

Lots of laugh out loud moments and two of my favorite characters in the whole series showed up (as well as Percy Jackson, naturally).

View all my reviews

Last week, I posted:

[wrap-up-posts week=”19″ year=”2016″ listtype=”ul”]

 

As of today, I’m reading:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson are both selections for my summer book club. I told myself I would give any of the book club choices 50 pages to grab me before moving on. I just started both today so have no real opinions on either yet. But I have heard good things about both of them, so I’m hoping I enjoy them.

So far Brown Girl Dreaming reminds me of Woodson’s picture book Show Way, which is amazing if you haven’t read it.

Happy reading, everyone!