"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

19 March 2018

P.S. I Miss You

Petro-Roy, Jen. P.S. I Miss You. Feiwel and Friends, 2018.

Evie's older sister becomes pregnant at 16, so her parents send her away to stay with an aunt and plan to send her to a private Catholic school after the baby is born. This book contains Evie's letters to her sister while she is away.

When I heard this was a middle grade book about a queer girl, I was excited, as I have loved Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World; Drum Roll, Please; and Star-Crossed. However, this book was disappointing. The letters do not make for compelling reading, and while it is absolutely possible that there is a strict Catholic family who would send their daughter away while she has her baby, that family is shrinking into a very small minority, so the entire concept tends to date this book a bit.

There are certainly strict families, particularly strict religious families, who would not look well upon their teen becoming pregnant or their tween discovering she is queer, but this book isn't compelling or realistic enough to engage the intended audience. The idea is great, but the execution is lacking. Not recommended.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: other than the inevitable slut-shaming of the older daughter, nothing really
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

Read Instead: Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World; Drum Roll, Please; Star-Crossed

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.

16 March 2018

An Unkindness of Magicians

Howard, Kat. An Unkindness of Magicians. Saga Press, 2017.

New York City is filled with magicians who all belong to various houses. When there is a Turning, the houses compete to see who will be the ruling house. Some of the competitions are deadly. Sydney is a magician who escaped from the House of Shadows, and she has more power than can be imagined. Will she beat the others in the Turning and become the new ruler, or is something more sinister at play?

This is a great read-alike for those who enjoyed Lev Grossman's The Magicians series. This is grown-up magic: dangerous, serious, and deadly. It took a while for my questions about the backstory in this novel to be answered, but they were eventually answered. Recommended.

Recommended for: adults and teens
Red Flags: as an adult book, it contains adult themes as well as violence and language
Overall Rating; 4/5 stars

14 March 2018

Time Bomb

Charbonneau, Joelle. Time Bomb. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018.

Six teens each go to their school before the start of the school year. Each of them has secrets and things they are ashamed of. Each is carrying a nondescript backpack or duffel bag, the contents of which are unknown. But when bombs start detonating in their school, they will have to work together to survive.

The description makes this book sound like it is very compelling and intense, and I truly wish it were that way. Unfortunately, the characters were all a bit flat, except for Rashid, and their voices weren't distinct enough to differentiate whose character you were reading in each chapter. The reader is thrown right into the action, which would be intense if we had had any idea of what was going on. Each chapter starts with a time stamp, but as the reader isn't informed how many bombs there are, when they are going off, etc., the time stamp only proves how little time has passed throughout the story.

And the plot itself felt super-contrived. This may be colored by recent events (the most recent school shooting of which I am aware was in Florida in February), but the plot didn't seem intense, and the story didn't keep me turning pages like I thought it should.

All that being said, this would be a good book to spark discussions among teens, and I'm sure many teens would not guess the ending as quickly as I did, so they may be wondering throughout the book and changing their guess of who set the bombs, etc. I won't be purchasing this for my library or book talking it, but it could be popular with teens in another location.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, suicidal ideation, some graphic descriptions of injuries
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

12 March 2018

Speak: The Graphic Novel

Anderson, Laurie Halse and Emily Carroll. Speak: The Graphic Novel. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018.

Melinda begins her freshman year a very different person from the one who just finished eighth grade; over the summer she was raped at a party and called the cops. Her classmates don't know about the rape, but they do know about the cops breaking up the party. Melinda is an outcast at the school. She finds herself unmoored without her former friends and is further traumatized by her rapist, who also attends her school. Throughout the school year, Melinda slowly finds her voice and begins to heal.

The novel version of Speak is one of those rare timeless teen books which belongs on every library's shelf. This book is an amazing adaptation of that story. Parts of the book have been updated (references to Instagram, etc.), while the original message of the story is still present. The black and white drawings are appropriate for the serious topic, and the novel manages to portray the ridiculousness of some aspects of high school (such as the constant changing of the school's mascot and the lack of supplies for the art class) while also demonstrating the very real impact the social aspects of school have on a teenager's ability to thrive and learn. Melinda is shown as a very real, developed character who has hidden inside herself; throughout the story we get to watch her unfold and learn to speak again.

I have recommended before that everyone read Speak; I say the same of this graphic novel adaptation.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: underage drinking, rape, bullying
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

09 March 2018

Reading Challenges

Although I have written before about my choice not to complete the annual Goodreads Reading Challenge, there are other challenges which I enjoy participating in. One of these is YALSA's annual Hub Challenge. Every year the youth media awards - Newbery, Caldecott, Stonewall, Belpre, etc. - are announced during ALA's Midwinter conference. Some people watch the livestream in their pjs and cheer on the winners. I am usually in the middle of something else (sleeping, commuting, etc.) when the awards are announced, but I definitely look at the final list after the announcement has been made. Then YALSA puts together a list of all the books for teens that have won awards or made it to one of several top ten lists, and the challenge is this: read at least 25 of those books between the announcement of the awards and the end of June.

The final list is usually around 80 titles, and because I'm me, I generally try to read every single title on the list. I definitely read 25 that I haven't read before for the challenge itself, but then I attempt to conquer the challenge by reading all the other books, at least the ones I haven't yet read. The fun part of this is looking through the list and discovering which books I've already read (usually everything on the Rainbow list as well as the Stonewall winners) and which books I've never even heard of (generally the Alex award winners).

I like that this challenge exposes me to a lot of books I wouldn't have read otherwise. For example, I loved Andy Weir's The Martian. Loved it so much that I own a physical copy and have reread it probably five times. This is a book I wouldn't have known about until the movie came out, but I read it because it won an Alex award. Another example is Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series. Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones each won an Alex award, and these also are books I have copies of and reread occasionally.

So each year I start with reading the Alex award winners as well as the Great Graphic Novels, and then I will branch out for other books I haven't yet read but think look interesting. This helps me complete the basic challenge, and then I can slowly work my way through the rest of the list for my own personal challenge.

If you'd like to join me in completing the YALSA Hub Challenge, there is a post on their site that can be accessed here.

07 March 2018

Drum Roll, Please

Bigelow, Lisa Jenn. Drum Roll, Please. HarperCollins, 2018.

Melly joined the band at school because her bold best friend Olivia joined. She also signed up for a summer band camp so she could be with her friend Olivia. The day before she left for camp, her parents told her they were getting divorced. Reeling from this news, Melly flounders a bit at camp. Olivia is making friends and spending time with other kids, and Melly isn't quite sure what to do with herself. Slowly, Melly discovers her own interests and finds confidence to speak up for herself, including finding a person that she may like as more than just a friend.

The main story itself is not that different from many other tween books. A quiet girl finds confidence to stand up for herself and do her own thing, spurred on when her bold friend finds other friends and she has to forge her own path. The difference here is that Melly develops a crush on a fellow camper, a girl named Adeline.

There are not many tween books featuring girl characters crushing on other girl characters, so this book stands out for that reason alone. The other important feature here is that when Melly discovers she likes Adeline, she doesn't have a huge identity crisis. She doesn't have to hide her crush, worrying that her friends will hate her or her parents will send her to a deconversion program, etc. etc. I do wish that middle school me had had this book to read as it gives HOPE and provides a great mirror to kids who aren't getting one anywhere else. Highly recommended.

Recommended for: tweens / middle grade
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Star-Crossed, Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, Better Nate than Ever

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Edelweiss for the purposes of review.

05 March 2018

Aru Shah and the End of Time

Chokshi, Roshani. Aru Shah and the End of Time. Rick Riordan Presents, 2018.

Aru Shah lives in a museum, and when some frenemies from school visit her and dare her to light the lamp that she has been told she must never light, she does what they ask. Little did she know that this would waken an ancient enemy, that she would be one of the chosen warriors to fight this enemy, and that the fate of the world would be left in her hands as a result.

This book is very similar to Percy Jackson and other demigod stories, but that doesn't detract from the fun. Aru's companion on this journey is a pigeon whose story is similar to the dragon in Mulan; he has lost his status as a guardian, has been demoted, and is hoping for redemption but doesn't believe that will happen with Aru in charge. The ending leaves room for further books in the series, and I can easily see myself offering this book to the Percy Jackson fans in my library who want to read another adventure of a demigod. My only gripe with the book - and this is truly a very minor detail - is that the main character talks about how visiting Muir Woods near San Francisco was peaceful and amazing, and in reality Muir Woods is frequently overrun with tourists and is not the quiet, peaceful forest everyone expects. I would send my main character to a different forest, but as I said, this is an extremely minor detail.

Recommended for: tweens / middle grade
Red Flags: "mild fantasy violence" is the best description; this is a very clean book
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.

02 March 2018

Monday's Not Coming

Jackson, Tiffany. Monday's Not Coming. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018.

Claudia and Monday are best friends and practically inseparable, but one summer when Claudia is away at her grandmother's, Monday doesn't write to her, and Claudia can't find Monday once she returns home, either. No one else seems bothered by Monday's disappearance, but Claudia is determined to find out what happened to her.


This book alternates between "before," chapters before The Big Event, and "after," which are after TBE, and things that are labeled "One year before the before" or "two years before the before," etc. etc. It's extremely confusing to read because some of the chapters are short and the time jumps around so much. The bottom line is that Monday was from an abusive home and her mom beat her and locked her in a closet until she died, then stuffed her body in a freezer, and Claudia was the only one who noticed she was gone because Monday didn't live in a nice part of town and no one was willing to say anything. Claudia has a breakdown after Monday's body is discovered, and she loses about two years of her life as she tries to recover, during which time she often forgets that Monday is gone.

What I Liked: The premise is good and necessary, even if it doesn't make for a nice, happy story.

What I Didn't Like: The time jumps in the chapters were difficult to keep track of since there were so many timelines going on at once. This book is also WAY too long to tell the story it was telling. The 400+ page tale could have been reduced to maybe half that. Claudia doesn't read as 14 (the age she believes she is) or 16 (the age she actually is). This may be due to her trauma, but she still sounds so much younger than she actually is.

Bottom Line: I will probably buy it for the library, but it won't go on my personal shelf.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: abuse, domestic violence, murder, bullying, drug and alcohol use, language, homophobic language, ableist language
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars