Monday, January 15, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (64): Extraquels

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.

Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Published: November 1st, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 373 plus the acknowledgements.
Part of a series? This is the fourth and, as far as I know, final Naturals book. Beware of spoilers ahead. You can see my thoughts on the first book here, and my thoughts on the second and here here.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI’s Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother’s murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock.

The bodies begin piling up, the deaths hit closer and closer to home, and it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.

They’re being hunted themselves.

Thoughts: I think these are actually best read one right after the other, although this does a pretty good job of catching you up. I have like no memory, so maybe other people do better, but I had forgotten some of the details and it took me a little bit to get back into the voice and flow of the book. As this one is also the last book, too, the vast majority of it is about the plot.

I both liked that and had some issues with it. It's super exciting, and so much happens, but some of the characterizations suffers as a result of that. It's not bad with the existing characters, as we've had three other books to get to know them, but one of the new characters especially gets hit with it. That bothered me especially because it was the first and last queer character in four books to show up. Related, something that's started bothering me is how infantalized Sloane is in these books - she's the only character who doesn't end up in a romance by the end of the series, shown to be very clueless when people flirt with her, and the book at one point calls her "the most childlike". It's bordering on problematic honestly, because she's also somewhat coded as autistic or something similar. She's a really funny and sweet character, but I became less comfortable about it the more I read it and the more some of these things were emphasized.

Coding without actually labelling is becoming one of my least favourite tropes because... you could have gone for representation instead!

I think my biggest problem with these is I enjoy the voice and the writing and what they do well so much that what they do badly really bothers me because they could be absolutely amazing if they didn't fall into certain traps, or lack diversity so much. I like the characters so much, though, and the plot twists always surprise me, so it leaves me conflicted. I honestly love these, but they have problems. They're really fun, but I wouldn't expect them to be great on representation, I guess.

Sink or Swim by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Kat Leyh, Grace Ellic, Carey Pietsch, Maarta Laiho, and Brooke A. Allen

Published: April 10th, 2017 by BOOM! Box
Genre: YA Fantasy Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 112
Part of a series? This is Volume 6 of the bind-ups, containing issues 21-24.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Knot On Your Life!

Camp is about more than just crafts and acquiring badges when you’re a Lumberjane. When April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley all decide to learn more about the mysterious Seafarin’ Karen, things take a turn for the strange. Shapeshifters, strange portals, and friendship to the max make for one summer camp that never gets boring!

Thoughts: SEAFARIN' KAREN. I love her so much. Lumberjanes is just my favourite in general, and this is a really good one, too. SELKIES. I also can't wait to learn more about the on-going plot arc and I really adore a certain relationship that has developed. The next volume comes out the day before my birthday and I already want it. I'm not a super big fan of the current artist, but I'm still super excited about the series and I really enjoyed this volume. I just end up so happy when I read these.

Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond

Published: April 18th, 2017 by Switch Press
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 357 plus acknowledgements and about the author.
Part of a series? This is the third and I believe final book in the Lois Lane series. See my thoughts on Fallout here, and Double Down here.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): For the first time, Lois Lane has almost everything she wants. Non-temporary home? Check. Dream job? Double check. Incredible BFFs? The absolute best. And now, her online crush, SmallvilleGuy, is coming to Metropolis. If all goes well, they'll turn their long-distance friendship into a some-kind-of-fairy-tale romance. But when does all ever go well?

Before she can check boyfriend off her list, Lois must take down a mad scientist plus a trio of mutant teens, protect the elusive flying man from the feds (including her dad), and navigate her very first date with SmallvilleGuy. In the follow-up to FALLOUT and DOUBLE DOWN, Gwenda Bond's reimagination of DC Comics's first leading lady takes on her toughest challenge yet: Love.

Thoughts: I am both bummed that this is quite likely the last book and very satisfied with it as a finale to the series. It wraps things up in a satisfying way and really shows how much Lois has grown in her friendships, and how far she's come from having none.

The romance in this is just the cutest thing. And honestly, I think one of my favourite things is that there's no love triangle, or real romance drama. The romance is obviously a tiny bit predictable, because we know where it's going to go (I mean... we do, lol), but the book, and the series, does the best thing with that. It takes the time to develope the characters so that we love them as much as they love each other.

One thing I gotta ask - what's with this series and the name James? There's two James (father and son) and also a random "Jamie". It's just that name, but still, I notice these things XD

Overall, I really liked this and I'd recommend the series if you want something fun and comic-book related. I'd really love to read more like this, too.

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

Published: April 21st, 2015 by Amistad
Genre: Historical MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 285
Part of a series? This is the third and final book in the Gaither Sisters series. See my thoughts on the first book here, and the second here.
Got via: Library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother Big Ma and her mother, Ma Charles. Across the way lives Ma Charles’s half sister, Miss Trotter. The two half sisters haven’t spoken in years.

As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that’s been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible.

Thought: This is a great way to wrap the series up. I like how things are both kind of wrapped up, and there are new things happening in their life so it's like all beginning and end all at once. That was a terrible sentence. The characters are growing, and things they've been dealing with throughout the series come back and they work through them and learn to not just fall into the same patterns they've always fell into. Characters have to learn new roles and things about themselves.

At the same time, I thought the girls exploring their roots as a family just as they're getting to an age where they're not going to be as close and lean on each other so much was a great idea. They're also away from home again, and thrown into a different environment, shaking things up. Their family story is great, and it's really interesting what a contrast this one especially is from the first one. But at the same time, there's a lot of similarity in what happens in them - the girls spend a summer together, exploring both their relationships with each other and others, and learning about their family.

Great book on its own, and a really great way to wrap up the series.

Trigger warnings for child abuse, racism, animal death, and a near-death experience, which could especially be upsetting for a younger child.

And I believe that's it!!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, January 8, 2018

YA Review: Starfish

We're actually gonna try something new. You all know I usually do that format thing with sections, but I'm thinking that if I go over 500 words, I'm gonna just make it a review on its own instead of a Things post. I mean, if it's over 500 words, is it really mini anymore? I'm probably not going to abandon the formatting thing completely because it can be really useful, but hey, we can always try something new.

We're also using "misia" instead of "phobia" from here on out. It has roots in Greek and means like hatred, that kind of thing. Think "misogyny". Google it if you want, but we're doing the thing in posts written after this one. (Maybe not ones immediately posted - some of my stuff goes up out of order and time is confusing.)

Let's see how this works.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Published: September 26th, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 340 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

Thoughts: They are some mixed feelings indeed that I have here. I think a lot of this is incredibly relateable. I am in fact going to shoot you over to another review real quick that talks about a couple of the elements in the book, especially the race rep and the social anxiety rep. I also think that the depiction of Kiko's abusive mother is painfully realistic. I have read first hand stories of people who have parents who are like her mother, and they are so similar to this character.

But I also had things I didn't like as much. I think the biggest deal for me is that while the voice is okay, the writing never felt polished enough or strong enough to totally carry me. There are strong moments, and good parts, but there are others where I was pretty meh. Sometimes the writing of Kiki's anxiety came off as reminiscent of "I'm not like other girls" and I know this is ownvoices so I'm not saying that's not a real experience or anything, but in combination with other things, and the voice just not always working for me hugely, I didn't enjoy it.

And that's where we come to one of my biggest things - Jamie is too perfect. He can almost read her mind at times, and he sometimes sounds more like a therapist than a typical teen boy. And there's no prompting or anything that makes him know how to talk in this rather coached way. He just does, which no one else has really apparently been able to do before. I did not like the romance very much in general. I did not get the chemistry, and was way more interested in the parts about her art than the romance. But while the book says a lot about Kiko not wanting to become overdependant on him, it doesn't show it very much. There was also icky consent moments, like him kissing her even though she was about to stop him, and him texting her like twenty times in a day when she said she didn't want to talk to him. Dude. Back off.

Other minor things - there was borderline fatmisia. Her mother definitely is, and sometimes weight shames Kiko, but sometimes Kiko or the narrative is sort of as well. Nothing I would jump out of my way to say was immediately offensive, but a few comments that rubbed me wrong, especially kinda food-shamey ones. No fat rep, no queer rep, no disability rep besides mental illness/personality disorder rep, possibly borderline cissexism/transmisia, and aromisia. There were like four or five repeated instances of "just friends" which ugh. Here's a twitter thread if you're wondering about that.

Some moments were borderline girl-hatey and I wished Kiko had had more positive female relationships and role models. Personally I thought things were maybe a little too easy for her at the end. Not that Kiko should have suffered more, or something like that, but she didn't really do anything for herself. Everyone else arranged the things she wanted and did things for her, and she's never proactive about doing things for herself.

Okay, small spoilers here, but this is bothering me more than I thought it would. You know how we talk about agency a lot and whether a female character moves the plot or the plot moves her? The plot moves Kiko. The best thing she does in the book is stand up to her mother and leave, but what she does after that is arranged by everyone else. I loved her standing up to her mother, but the growth of letting herself take things, and not just let them happen to her, isn't there for me.

And also related to that - I know not every character (or person) needs therapy or medication to deal with their anxiety. But I don't love the message that you can just decide to fix your anxiety, and that's essentially what Kiko does. It almost, even, feels like the romance is what "fixes" her anxiety, or at least makes her start working on it, which ties into that "Jamie sounds like a therapist" thing I mentioned. But overall, I don't like the way it seems like the book is implying that you can just decide to think differently and not be anxious. me, if thinking could make me not anxious, I'd be all over that. Thinking too much tends to just make me more anxious, personally.

There is also ableist language and I took note of this specifically. Apparently the author did a search and took out all instances of "crazy" or "insane" and that's awesome. But that is maybe not the same thing as critically looking at your writing. There are instances of using "blind" in ways that are kind of uncomfortable, a very casual use of... I'm gonna censor this just to be on the safe side... "l*me", a conversation about how being a sociopath is worse than being a people pleaser. And the big one is the use of a phrase about Kiko's mother that two thirds of is really inappropriate. I'm actually going to link a couple of articles here and here for context about one part, and why I don't agree so much on that third part. I am going to link to another review that goes more into detail about the ableism. I don't necessarily agree with everything said in that review, but I do think it's important to boost. I think if you read those posts, you'll see why I don't necessarily agree with everything, but I'm not gonna ignore that.

And don't be a dick and leave rude comments or anything, we're not doing that.

Okay, where are we? Oh, this is almost a thousand words. Yeah, this can count as a standalone review, right?

So, overall, this was not one of my favourite books of the year. I think it did a lot of things very well, but the romance and some of the general writing felt kind of dated in a way, like a lot of YA stereotypes that we've been moving away from. There's definitely a lot that people could connect to, and I would like to read more from the author, though. I think I'm about a three out of five roses here.

Content warnings for:

Emotional abuse, child abuse, childhood sexual abuse, fatmisia, racism, alcoholism, ableist language, possibly villanizing of a mental illness/personality disorder, aromisia, a suicide attempt, and realistically depicted anxiety that could shake you up if you've dealt with that and you're not prepared.

And I think that's it for this review. No other notes!

Let me know what you think of this style of review from me.

Peace and cookies,

Friday, January 5, 2018

Book Bingo Finale Post

Alright, buckle in, kids, we're in for a long post.

Romance with a trans MC

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Published: May 3rd, 2016 by Flatiron Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

The part where I talked: I reviewed this here. While this book had a romance, it wasn't necessarily a romance by genre. I do think it was a good book, and I'm glad I read it, so close enough.

Non-binary MC (own voices)

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver

Published: Originally published in 2014, this edition was released in October 11th, 2016
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Binding: Ebook
Page Count: Goodreads says 382 and Amazon says 439. I read it on my kindle and have no idea which one is right.
Part of a series? Yup, there is a sequel and several short stories available.
Got via: Luci bought it for me.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (mostly from goodreads but kinda shortened by me because it's really long for a blog post lol): The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire. The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die - directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

Regan, stealth and reconnaissance expert with a lizard's scales and snake's eyes, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. He join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.

Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way.

The part where I talk: I don't have a post to link about this yet. I kind of cheated choosing this one a little bit. This has a couple nonbinary characters, including one prominent one, but it does alternate POV a lot, and that person doesn't have a lot of POV time. However, I had chosen something else... but I wasn't enjoying it very much. And Luci really wanted me to read this.

I promise my other squares don't cheat so much.

SFF with a disabled MC

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Published: December 14th, 2009 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Paranormal YA leaning towards horror at times
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home.

But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.

The part where I talk: I don't have a post for this yet. Still writing it. I think this fit the square fine.

Practicing Jewish MC

The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz

Published: August 3rd, 2010 by Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Amy Finawitz’s best friend Callie has moved away to the heartland, leaving Amy to cope with eighth grade all alone. So now, while Callie is going for hayrides with boys named Bucky, Amy is stuck eating Chinese food at a table for one, hanging out with geeky girls who knit, and crushing on hottie, John Leibler, all by herself. But then Amy finds a friend in Miss Sophia, the little old lady who lives down the hall. Miss Sophia introduces Amy to a Hasidic boy named Beryl. Beryl is no John Leibler, but perhaps he understands Amy and her problems better than she realizes?

Told in wry emails and brilliant little one-act plays, this laughout-loud debut novel offers quirky characters, a whimsical tour around New York City, and an appealing story about what it means to be a good friend.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Indian MC (own voices)

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj

Published: Originally published January 1st, 2014, my edition was released March 1st, 2015 by Albert Whitman Company
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from the back of the book, but here's the goodreads link): All Abby really wants is to meet her father. It's not that she's ungrateful for what she has - nice mom, adorable grandparents, great friends - but she feels like something's missing. But she'd never tell anyone that.

Abby's about to find out that her dad lives a very different life in a very different country. From Bollywood movie premieres to the colorful and sometimes gritty streets of Mumbai, she is about to experience it all, for better or worse. This is what happens when all your wishes come true... Is Abby ready for the truth?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Displaced MC

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Published: March 17th, 2015 by G. P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier.

But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

MC with an under-represented body

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Published: April 11th, 2017 by Balzer & Bray
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Neuro-diverse MC (own voices)

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Published: March 8th, 2016 by Amulet Books
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Retelling with a queer MC

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Published: September 5th, 2017 by Flatiron Books
Genre: YA Fantasy
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): At sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

The part where I talk: The post where I talk about this isn't up yet, but I liked it a lot.

Bisexual MC (own voices)

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

Published: May 2nd, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn't have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace's mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

MC with an invisible disability

Two Girls Staring At the Ceiling by Lucy Frank

Published: August 5th, 2014 by Schwartz and Wade which I think is a division of Random House
Genre: YA Contemporary/Poetry
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness.

Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn’t sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

MC with an anaphylactic allergy

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros

Published: September 2nd, 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): If Life Was Like a Song

Nina Simmons’ song would be “You Can’t Always Eat What You Want.” (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, “We’re All in This Together.”

Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer.

Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well..

Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here. While this is not ownvoices, this was written by a parent of an anaphylactic allergy. I would love to see ownvoices books like this, but I think because this is a middle grade book, that's okay. I talk more about that in the post, but I think it still fit the square fine.

MC of colour in SFF

The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

Published: April 17th, 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: YA... either Urban Fantasy or Magical Realism, I'd say
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him.

Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Own voices Latinx MC

Confetti Girl by Diana López

Published: June 1st, 2009 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Apolonia "Lina" Flores is a sock enthusiast, a volleyball player, a science lover, and a girl who's just looking for answers. Even though her house is crammed full of books (her dad's a bibliophile), she's having trouble figuring out some very big questions, like why her dad seems to care about books more than her, why her best friend's divorced mom is obsessed with making cascarones (hollowed eggshells filled with colorful confetti), and, most of all, why her mom died last year. Like colors in cascarones, Lina's life is a rainbow of people, interests, and unexpected changes.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Free Choice

This Song is (Not) for You by Laura Nowlin

Published: January 1st, 2016 by Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Bandmate, best friend or boyfriend? For Ramona, one choice could mean losing them all.

Ramona and Sam are best friends. She fell for him the moment they met, but their friendship is just too important for her to mess up. Sam loves April, but he would never expect her to feel the same way--she's too quirky and cool for someone like him. Together, they have a band, and put all of their feelings for each other into music.

Then Ramona and Sam meet Tom. He's their band's missing piece, and before Ramona knows it, she's falling for him. But she hasn't fallen out of love with Sam either.

How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Non-Western (real world) setting

Want by Cindy Pon

Published: June 13th, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Own Voices

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn

Published: June 27th, 2017 by Kensington
Genre: YA Thriller
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…

The part where I talk: I really liked this.

MC with chronic pain

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 29th, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company
Genre: YA Fantasy
Amazon and there's a free Kindle sample / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here. I do think I perhaps should have read Far From You for this square and found a different book for the month I read that as my monthly book, but that's looking back. I also didn't know how much I would not really like this, so. It fits fine.

West Asian setting

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Published: May 12th, 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Fantasy
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here. Spoiler, I didn't like it.

Arab MC (own voices)

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

Published: First published in 1997, this edition was released June 1st, 1999 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary YA
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?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here, and I talked about it at one point, but I'll again talk about the reason I chose this for this square when I was originally going to read "It Ain't So Awful, Falafel". The Isreal-Palestine situation is not something I completely understand, and I'll admit that readily. So I'm not going to be like "this is how it is", but Cindy in Falafel does not identify as Arab, and it talks about that a bit in the book, wheras Liyana does, so this seemed like the best fit to be respectful.

MC with a wheelchair

Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson

Published: May 2nd, 2006 by Henry Holt and Company.
Genre: Historical YA.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She goes to normal school and has normal friends. She's never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. But there Jean meets Sara, who welcomes her to 'Crip Camp' and nicknames her Spazzo. Sara has radical theories about how people fit into society. She's full of rage and revolution against pitying insults and the lack of respect for people with disabilities.

As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light. The camp session is only ten days long, but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Book by an author of colour

It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

Published: July 1st, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin
Genre: Historical MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy.

It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can't distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Biracial MC

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Published: September 26th, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

The part where I talk: I had some mixed feelings on this one. I have a review coming of it very shortly.

Pansexual MC (own voices)

The Traitor's Tunnel by C. M. Spivey

Published: June 2017
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Summary (from goodreads): Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she's not interested in the attention of the Thieves' Guild--and she's not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she's looking out for herself and no one else.

Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.

Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it's worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.

While spying on her brother, Bridget overhears a secret meeting that reveals a cruel plot. After more than a decade apart, Theodor and Bridget must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here. I heard the square was going to be changed to pansexual or panromantic MC, but I don't think that happened. You can consider this cheating, if you want, but I preferred to go with an ownvoices panromantic MC than a non-ownvoices pansexual MC.

Black MC (own voices)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: February 28th, 2017 by Brazer and Bray/HarperTeen
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

MC on the ace spectrum (own voices)

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Published: April 5th, 2016 by Tor
Genre: Adult fantasy
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Guests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Queer MC of colour

Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert

Published: August 8th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.

The part where I talk: This will be in an upcoming blog post.

Visually impaired MC

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Published: My edition was released March 13th, 2012 from Square Fish which is a Macmillan imprint, but it was originally published September 28th, 2010.
Genre: YA Thriller
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her step-mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn't meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others.

But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne's father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there's a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn't know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here. This was not ownvoices, and I kind of wish I had chosen something that was for this square.

Book set in Central America

Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelsen

Published: April 13th, 2004 by Rayo
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): They call Gabriela Tree Girl. Gabi climbs trees to be within reach of the eagles and watch the sun rise into an empty sky. She is at home among the outstretched branches of the Guatemalan forests.

Then one day from the safety of a tree, Gabi witnesses the sights and sounds of an unspeakable massacre. She vows to be Tree Girl no more and joins the hordes of refugees struggling to reach the Mexican border. She has lost her whole family; her entire village has been wiped out. Yet she clings to the hope that she will be reunited with her youngest sister, Alicia. Over dangerous miles and months of hunger and thirst, Gabriela's search for Alicia and for a safe haven becomes a search for self. Having turned her back on her own identity, can she hope to claim a new life?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here. This was not ownvoices, and it showed. I'd choose something different now.

Contemporary World Arranged Marriage

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Published: May 30th, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Indigenous MC (own voices)

Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Published: June 19th, 2001 by HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary... upper MG to lower YA, in my opinion.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It's been six months since her best friend died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia's Indian Camp in their mostly white midwestern community, Rain decides to face the outside world again—at least through the lens of her camera.

Hired by her town newspaper to photograph the campers, Rain soon finds that she has to decide how involved she wants to become in Indian Camp. Does she want to keep a professional distance from the intertribal community she belongs to? And just how willing is she to connect with the campers after her great loss?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Diverse Non-Fiction

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls edited by Hope Nicholson

Published: Originally released December 9th, 2015, this expanded edition was released October 18th, 2016 by Dark Horse Books.
Genre: Non-Fiction Anthology
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 278
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is a non-fiction anthology mixing prose, comics, and illustrated stories on the lives and loves of an amazing cast of female creators. Featuring work by Margaret Atwood (The Heart Goes Last), Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer), Trina Robbins (Wonder Woman), Marguerite Bennett (Marvel's A-Force), Noelle Stevenson (Nimona), Marjorie Liu (Monstress), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), and over fifty more creators. It's a compilation of tales told from both sides of the tables: from the fans who love video games, comics, and sci-fi to those that work behind the scenes: creators and industry insiders.

Thoughts: This will be in a blog post that I have not written yet.

POC on the cover

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

Published: First published in 2009, my edition was released January 25th, 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA History/YA Contemporary
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Meet Mare, a World War II veteran and a grandmother like no other. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less than perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American Battalion of the Women's Army Corps. Now she is driving her granddaughters—two willful teenagers in their own rite—on a cross-country road trip. The girls are initially skeptical of Mare's flippy wigs and stilletos, but they soon find themselves entranced by the story she has to tell, and readers will be too.

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces readers to a larger-than-life character and a fascinating chapter in African American history.

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

D/deaf/Hard of Hearing MC

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Published: November 11th, 2010 by Dial Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.

The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.

The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf?

Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.

The part where I talk:I reviewed this here. This is another one that wasn't ownvoices, and it showed at times.

Immigrant or Refugee MC

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

Published: March 1st, 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea.

Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Hijabi MC (Own voices)

Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali

Published: June 13th, 2017 by Salaam Reads which is a fairly new imprint of Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers that focuses on Muslim books.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

The part where I talk: I reviewed this here.

Okay. So, that's my bingo this year.

That's a lot of books. And here's my card:

Those last two were a struggle. I was reading them right before midnight.

This, overall, was a lot of fun. I read a lot more recent releases than I had in years past, and I liked most of the books I read. It was a very interesting experience. I'd like to branch out a bit this year, but it was a great way to explore and try different stuff, and challenge myself to read more diversely.

Thanks for playing, guys.

Peace and cookies,