YA Book Review Roundup 3/8/17
As you can see from recent reading roundups, my reading has skewed towards teen and young adult novels of late. This is partly a response to a career move (dream job!!!!) into the public library sphere, as a Young Adult Specialist. But, I’ll be honest: novels focusing on the world of teens, even with all the stress of high school and coming of age are a relief from the day-to-day of being a grownup and dealing with news and bills. And, with the intro running the risk of being longer than the reviews that follow, let’s get down to it.
These are all books from the library. Where I work. “Bringing work home with me” is a pretty sweet deal these days.
Edited by Ellen Oh
Crown Books for Young Readers 2017
As soon as I heard that We Need Diverse Books was on board to do this anthology, I knew I was going to love it. And, I did. I’d heard of all the authors, and had several of their books enthusiastically on my TBR pile. But, I hadn’t read anything by any of them. (Not even Walter Dean Myers! I know! A major gap in my education.) I zoomed through reading the stories so fast, and so happily, that some of them blurred together, I admit. But, on going back to remind myself of the stories, and one poem in this anthology, at a more measured, less book-devouring pace, I find a lot to like in each story. It’s a good way to get to know authors I hadn’t encountered before. Standouts include “How to Transform an Everyday Hoop Court Into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium” by Matt de la Peña, “The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn” by Kelly J. Baptist and “Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents,” written by Kwame Alexander, but really, I enjoyed all the stories and would read more by all of the authors.
Show and Prove
by Sofia Quintero
Knopf Books for Yong Readers, 2015
Set in the South Bronx in 1983,Raymond “Smiles” King and Guillermo “Nike” Vega tell the story in alternating chapters: summer camp rivalry, breakdancing, first love, trying to keep their friendship alive, though Smiles has a scholarship to a fancy private school and Nike feels left behind. Money is tight, for them and for their families, and you can see where things like crack and the AIDS epidemic, and war in the Middle East have an impact on their ordinary lives. It’s a good account of the ordinariness of teenage boys, while also being grounded in the time and place… and I have to say, I’m more than a bit weirded out by a story that took place during years I was alive being called “historical fiction.” Eesh! But it is, in the sense of capturing a time and place that’s changed since. If not for my librarian life, I might not have read this. But I’m glad I did, even if parts of it basically gutted me. As I neared the end, I stayed up well past my bedtime, hoping things would work out for the characters, and not be heartbreaking. When I finished the book, I needed a hug. Make of that what you will.
Ghost Girl in the Corner
Daniel Jose Older
Arthur A. Levine Books 2017
This novella is a sequel of sorts to Shadowshaper. And I loved it as much as I loved Shadowshaper. You definitely need to have read that first to get this, as it works with the characters and magic established there. And you should read Shadowshaper anyway, because it’s glorious. This is a satisfying sort of coda/companion, focusing on the story of Tee and Izzy, two girls who show up as peripheral characters in Sierra’s story. I appreciated getting to know both girls, getting inside their heads, and seeing them try to figure out their relationship.In addition to being a beautifully described supernatural urban fantasy, this is a great take on two girls trying to be together, to navigate being in love with each other. I like how that’s handled, its ordinariness and being true to the particulars of the characters, rather than having their sexuality be An Issue. It’s more important to the story to have them learning how to communicate with each other, how to solve the supernatural mystery, how to be good friends and partners to each other as their interests diverge. Good stuff.