RSS

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

coverThe Sun Is Also a Star

A 2017 Michael L. Printz Honor Book and highlights Nicola Yoon as the John Steptoe New Talent Award!

Natasha refuses to give up on the day her family is supposed to be deported to Jamaica due to her father’s one DUI, and though she’s been trying to convince immigration officers for months, she’s still trying. Natasha believes in science, in logic, in Observable Facts. She wants to stay in the US and go to college, not leave the only life she’s ever known just because her father made one mistake and her family is undocumented. When the security guard at the immigration office makes her five minutes late for her appointment and she’s missed it, another man gives her a chance, sending her to an appointment with a lawyer to hear of her case. On the way there, she meets Daniel…

Daniel has always been overshadowed by his older brother Charlie, until now when he’s been suspended from college for awhile. His Korean American parents used to hold his brother up as a measurement to gauge how good Daniel was, and now Daniel has an interview for Yale to live up to his family’s expectations and be a doctor. As he’s making his way into the city, his train conductor forces everyone off the train to “go find God” and Daniel decides to make the most of it. When he gets off, he notices a stream of people making their way around a girl, Natasha, on the sidewalk who is completely oblivious and zoned out to her headphones. Daniel follows her into a record store and intervenes in a conflict with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend who is caught shoplifting. When he saves her life a few minutes later, they start and make a deal. Since Natasha believes in science and Daniel is a romantic poet, he challenges her that he can make her fall in love with him scientifically.

This deal results in one day that changes their perceptions, forces them to confront things they never imagined and ultimately shows how powerful love can be if only in a short time and how it can change the future.

I could read this book over and over again! The minute I read it I knew it was something special and not just because of the diversity of the main characters (though that is wonderful) and the story. Nicola Yoon writes beautifully and with such feeling for the backgrounds and possibilities of even the minor characters and shows how the universe around Natasha and Daniel relates into the past and future. I’ve been pushing this book at everyone possible because it really stays with you and is a eye-opening glimpse at the lives of this Korean American family and undocumented immigrant families like Natasha’s. Perfect for fans of Eleanor & Park and for high school age teens and adults.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Contemporary fiction, Romance, Young Adult/Teen

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

19370304The Smell of Other People’s Houses

William C. Morris Award Finalist for 2017

Four narratives of teens living in Alaska soon after it became a state intertwine into a coming-of-age story that is unflinchingly detailed and messy with emotion but ultimately heartwarming.

When Ruth was a young child, she lived with her mother and father who loved their life hunting and enjoying each other. After her father died in an airplane crash trying to keep Alaska from being a state, young Ruth and her infant sister Lily are taken to live with their firm, serious grandmother while their mother quietly goes mad from grief. Life with Gran means having church casseroles a lot and never feeling too good about yourself. The only thing keeping Ruth sane is her best friend Selma and her boyfriend Ray, but when Ray gets a new girlfriend and Ruth has a secret to keep, she begins to see things differently.

Dora feels she will never escape the shadow of her father’s abusive drunkenness and her mother’s alcoholism and inability to be responsible or loving. She lives with her best friend Dumpling and her family in order to stay safe. However, when she wins a portion of the Ice Classic and the newspaper really wants to know details, Dora must confront her worst fears, especially when an accident happens and her future is in jeopardy.

Alyce longs to try out for ballet to win a scholarship for college, but with her parents divorced, each summer she goes to help her dad during salmon season and that conflicts with her audition. Since her parents have been divorced, Alyce doesn’t want to make things worse, but she finds it hard to talk to them, especially when her dream is so different from theirs.

Hank and his younger brothers have stolen away on a ferry boat to find a better life away from the unhappiness of their mother and stepfather, but when Sam, the middle brother, falls overboard and goes missing, Hank does everything to try and find him. In their search, the three brothers might find something better than they expected.

I was unprepared to be emotional over the ending of this book! The descriptions sometimes sear in your mind (the description of the backstrap and bloody hands in her mother’s hair?), but yet it kind of brings you to the 1970’s Alaska. You never knew thoughts on Alaska could be so complex. It really brought about an understanding of the different types of characters that made up Alaska when it was new, and the heritage would still be important today what with the fishing trades, the hunting (newsworthy recently), and indigenous peoples. Since the descriptions could be unappealing at times and many of the characters so unhappy, I wasn’t sure what I was reading, but I am glad I finished it. It still propelled you along (as long as you didn’t get confused about who is narrating which section), and the ending blew me away. Lots of tears, happy tears?

If you want to read an interview with Bonnie-Sue, read this over at the Hub.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 23, 2017 in Historical fiction, Young Adult/Teen

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale

9781619634855Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy, 3)

For the first two in the series, read here.

Miri is back again! This time she is supposed to be going back to her family on Mount Eskel from her stay in the capital with Princess Britta, but the king has decided that Miri needs to tutor the three royal princesses for a potential marriage alliance to a kingdom threatening invasion. If Miri succeeds, she will win independence for her province of Mount Eskel. After she accepts, she travels to the swamp where the girls live, and is unpleasantly surprised by the terrain and their livelihood. The three girls, Astrid, Felissa, and Susanna live alone and do not have any royal privileges other than living in a linder house. Their allowance and correspondence is stolen and they’ve never even heard from the king. Miri makes them a deal. She will learn their way of life and help them get their livelihood back and in return they will learn history, literature, and etiquette. But when the kingdom is invaded and the royal family captured, Miri and the royal princesses are the only ones left to stop the possibility of conquest.

This was a great book in the series, and I liked it much better than Palace of Stone. The royal princesses were fun and very much had their own personalities. I really enjoyed Miri’s process of learning and bargaining with the princesses, as their life seemed as crazy and unappealing as Miri’s did to them!

I would write more but my first edition of this post was somehow deleted, and my second just doesn’t come close. 😦

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 16, 2017 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

all the bright places by jennifer nivenAll the Bright Places

Atop their school’s bell tower, the notorious freak (so termed by his peers) Theodore Finch rescues Violet Markey who has frozen on the ledge from thinking about what it would be like to jump off the bell tower. Once Violet is safe, however, the school gathers and it is Violet who Finch lets get credited as a hero for talking the unpredictable, violent Finch from his latest stunt. In an assigned class project, Finch volunteers to partner with Violet where they must visit natural wonders of their state of Indiana and write about their experiences. Finch has another idea though and makes the assignment more about wandering, life, and finding the unexpected and under-appreciated areas of their state.

Pre-Finch Violet is still suffering the effects of her sister Eleanor’s unexpected death in a car accident nine months before, and everyone keeps giving her excuses or “extenuating circumstances” for not being normal. She does nothing besides go to school and go home. She doesn’t write, and before Eleanor’s death, she and Eleanor used to be well-known for their website EleanorandViolet.com with its conflicting opinions on boys, fashion, life etc.

On the other hand, Finch is the eldest boy in his broken family who lives with his exhausted and downtrodden mother; an older sister Kate who has terrible luck with boys, secretly smokes, and pretends to be Finch’s mother; and younger sister Decca who is also troubled but only eight. His father who also has anger, physical and alcohol abuse issues, recently divorced from his mother and has a new family, a wife with a bright house and her son Josh Raymond (who may or may not actually be Finch’s half-brother). Most of his father’s wrath used to be directed towards Finch who seems to be a constant disappointment. Add in his issues at school with violence and bullying and limited number of friends, and Finch with his episodes of mental illness (that is later revealed to be bipolar disorder).

When Finch and Violet start working on their project, Violet discovers the real Finch, a curious, hopeful, and gregarious boy who loves music and poetry and finding beauty in the world. Slowly, they fall in love, and Violet’s relationship with Finch puts her in compromising positions with her family and friends. As Violet’s world opens once more because of Finch’s influence, Finch’s struggle grows harder as his love for Violet becomes his only hope and yet a heavier burden. Two broken and unforgettable teens forge a deep connection in love and loss that leads them both to brighter places.

I listened to this on audio and the audiobook was fantastic! So, if you can’t read it in print, know that the audiobook narrators give a real teen voice to Violet and Theo and are energetic, fun, and truthful to the characters. I will find this book hard to recommend to most readers, but it is beautifully written and the characters will stay with you. Jennifer Niven writes with a gentle but persuasive and real touch about the heavy topics of death, suicide, and mental illness. This is a book like Thirteen Reasons Why or The Messenger I would suggest for teens to read because it’s a book that is meaningful and real but ugly, messy, and carries a message about life that will stay with them when they witness or live through bad experiences in their own lives. It’s a book to read if you’ve faced or been affected by mental illness, suicide, death/grief, or abuse. And please don’t think this book is terribly depressing. Just like life there are highs and lows and this deals with them so honestly…there is hope because just like Theodore Finch finds — the bright places (or the smallest things) can give you hope during the darkness.

To make your own bright places like Finch and Violet, make a post-it wall of everything that makes you happy or hopeful or you think is beautiful. Share your post-it wall on Twitter or Instagram with #allthebrightplaces. If you need help/are suffering a crisis, here are some resources that are readily available to help you. The first step is admitting that something might be wrong. If you want to learn more about mental health or helping others in crisis, go here. And remember, you are not alone. There is always someone who will miss you.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 9, 2017 in Contemporary fiction, Romance, Young Adult/Teen

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott (Court of Fives, 2)

This week I’m over at Tynga’s Reviews with Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott! Click the image to follow or click here! To catch up, here is my review for Court of Fives.

26853604

 

Tags: , , , , , ,