Monday, August 28, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (55)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Published: March 10th, 2015 by Dial Books
Genre: MG Graphic Novel
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 240
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid's life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole...and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

Thoughts: I don't think I've ever read a book about roller derby before, and especially not a middle grade one. While this has its faults, I thought it was really cute and it was a fun book to read at the beginning of summer.

There are basically two problems I had. One is that it lacks some diversity in its main cast, especially some body diversity/disability diversity. There's no fat characters like at all, and also no queer characters (but there is a part where a character teases Astrid by calling a friend her girlfriend). And the second is, the story that isn't the roller derby parts, has been done a lot before. I've read a couple of these "why did my childhood friend and I stop being friends" recently and I don't think the message about how friendships can change as you get older is a bad one, just not a unique one. And when you read three books in one year with the same subplot, you kinda notice.

But the roller derby angle is unique, and really fun. I learned some stuff I didn't know, and how few male characters are actually in this book is kind of refreshing. It's all about the girls. Astrid's relationship with her mom is also really sweet, and nice to see. They don't always get along perfectly, but you can see how much they both love each other, and it's nice to see such a reasonable parent in a middle grade novel. Overall, I think this could have done a tiny bit better with its inclusiveness, but it's a fun book anyways.

(Although, nitpick time. Pro-tip to authors? You can totally save most colourful hair dyes if you don't use the whole bottle. There's no chemical reaction going on. That's not a thing that they say not to do in the instructions.)

Under Threat by Robin Stevenson

Published: January 1st, 2016 by Orca Book Publishers
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 129 plus the about the author and whatnot.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Franny is close to her parents, adores her horse and is head over heels in love with her girlfriend, Leah. But Franny's parents are abortion providers at the local hospital, and an anonymous stranger is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop them. A stranger who phones at all hours. Who knows where they live. Who knows Franny's name.

When Leah's older brother, Jake, refers to her parents as baby killers, Franny starts to wonder if perhaps the threats aren't coming from a stranger at all. If she tells the police about her suspicions, she could lose her girlfriend. But if she doesn't--and if she's right--she could lose her parents.

Thoughts: Okay, let's get something out of the way first - this is short. It's supposed to be. That's the point. Orca books mainly publishes what are sometimes referred to as "hi-lo" books, or high interest low reading level books. That means books with more mature subject matter and low reading levels/simpler vocabulary. These are designed for selective readers, teens who struggle with reading, people learning English as a Second Language, readers with learning disorders, etc. This isn't actually easy, and it takes a lot of skill to do it well. This article discusses 3rd to 5th graders, but it's a good place to start reading. This one, too, explains how much work it takes to write one of these well. If you're going to complain this is short, or that the plot is too simple, realize that this book might not be meant for you, and also you are missing the point completely.

Okay, now let's talk about the actual book. I really liked it. First over, I'm never going to be over seeing YA use the word queer positively. And the relationship between Leah and Franny is an established one, which I haven't seen very much before in YA. They're also, frankly, adorable. Like, Franny calling Leah a dork? That is so freaking cute.

Everything in the book is also handled so respectfully. And I adored that it was unapologetically pro-abortion. Despite everything that happens with Franny's parents, and how scary that is, Franny's opinion that people have a right to choose what they want to do with their bodies and their pregnancies never wavers. The only thing I wish is that the book had stated that not only women can get pregnant/need abortions.

All in all, I was so impressed by this. Queer girls, a really cute romance, frank discussion of anti-abortionists and abortion rights, what it was like to be a doctor before abortion was legal, really supportive parents, and some decent tension in the plot. I very much recommend this one.

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

Published: First published in 1997, this edition was released June 1st, 1999 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 272
Part of a series? No
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The day after Liyana got her first real kiss, her life changed forever. Not because of the kiss, but because it was the day her father announced that the family was moving from St. Louis all the way to Palestine. Though her father grew up there, Liyana knows very little about her family's Arab heritage. Her grandmother and the rest of her relatives who live in the West Bank are strangers, and speak a language she can't understand. It isn't until she meets Omer that her homesickness fades. But Omer is Jewish, and their friendship is silently forbidden in this land. How can they make their families understand? And how can Liyana ever learn to call this place home?

Thoughts: Something that's been really interesting about doing Diversity Book Bingo is that I've been reading way more newly released books this year than the last couple years. So it's kind of interesting that this is quite a bit older than anything I've read for bingo. This almost would fit more in one of the posts I do of old books!

This does read more like a book from 1997, but considering it's a full twenty years old, it's not as dated as it could be. The emotions of moving to a new place are pretty universal, although modern young readers would probably notice that there aren't a lot of references to email or cell phones - in fact, the Abbouds don't even have a landline for several months when they first arrive in Jerusalem, and Liyana at one point is said to not like computers and only wanting to learn how to type.

The voice is a touch dated, being a bit more of a removed third person, and there's a bit of fatphobia and ableism, but overall the feelings of moving to a new place are pretty universal, and it was definitely an interesting book. Check it out if you want. I think it's worth a read.

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lapage

Published: This edition was released April 19th, 2016 by Chronicle Books, but it was originally published in French in 2014 by Editions Somme Toute.
Genre: Adult graphic novel, I think.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 104
Part of a series? Not that I know of.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Not to worry, a book on anxiety is finally here! A clever antidote to everyday angst, this illustrated book captures universal truths and comforting revelations about being human. Artist Catherine Lepage uses her wry humor to help us see that "thinly sliced and illustrated, emotions are much easier to digest."

Thoughts: This is interesting. I'm not really sure how I feel about it, though. It's definitely a short, quick read. I didn't even have time to take any notes. I don't know. There were times where I was like, sold, I completely understand these anxiety feels, but also I'm not sure if there was really time to get a deep connection.

The art was neat, though, and I guess that it's kind of the point that it's not supposed to be that deep. It was different from what I usually read, so that was neat. Lots of thinky thoughts on this one, and I don't think I really have a conclusion. There's probably a metaphor or something there.

Okay, well, I think that's everything! What an unusual round up of books this time

What have you guys been reading?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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