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Monday, June 11, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (72): All Around Me Are Familiar Faces

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.

All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island, New York's Most Notorious Jail by Liza Jessie Peterson

Published: May 2nd, 2017
Genre: Memoir
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 243 including all the acknowledgments and such.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Eighteen years ago, performance artist Liza Jessie Peterson never thought that her day of substitute teaching at Rikers Island C-74 would change the course of her life, but it did. It ignited a lifelong passion--which continues in her work with incarcerated kids today--to make a difference in the lives of youth in trouble.

Her powerful narrative captures the essence, humor, intellect, creativity and psychology of children in the penal system. She intimately introduces readers to her students. We see them, smell their musk, feel their attitudes, hear their voices and learn how they came to be jailed--residents of "the island."

Everyone in the classroom grows-including the teacher-in this must-read memoir for anyone who cares about children and education. Peterson's perspective and insights will make any teacher a better teacher. This book will encourage and empower anyone committed to social justice.

Thoughts: This was really interesting. I don't have a ton to say about this one, and I'm probably not going to rate it on goodreads because I just don't feel like I know enough about the subject matter to really have any clue what I'm talking about and I'm just going to come off ignorant and out of my lane, because I would be.

I will say there was some fatmisia from the author (using "oversized" and "obese" to describe the bodies of others), and that irked me. I enjoyed her voice a lot, and it was a very easy book to read, and very approachable. Oh, also, can we talk about how gorgeous this cover is?

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

Published: February 27th, 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers which I believe is an imprint of Macmillan.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 369 plus acknowledgments and stuff
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don't want to get involved with a girl like that, they say.

So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia?

When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

Thoughts: This was interesting. I was surprised about how much the book was about things not mentioned in the summary. TWs for rape culture and child neglect/abuse, bullying, sexual assault... I think this review has a good summary of the content warnings for this. I personally found this easy to read despite that. It's not that it's a light book or anything, but I think the author manages to balance heavy topics without feeling like you're drowning. That will obviously differ for everyone, especially if those things are a specific trigger for you and not just generally upsetting.

And if you want to go into this book not knowing what's going on with the premise beyond the content warnings, skip to the next book. Since this stuff happens basically on the first page, I'm not really considering it a spoiler, but you know. You do you, boo.

Now, to actually explain what I'm actually talking about - this book has a similar premise to If I Stay, in that the main character(s) are dead when the book starts, and it's told mostly through flashbacks. Cool premise, and I think it's very interesting to do that from a perspective that isn't Christian or Christian-adjacent. Zarin's thoughts of afterlife and what she thinks could happen are really cool. However, I think the book kind of loses at some points. It's almost entirely negated to the first and last chapters, and the epilogue. It doesn't connect to the rest enough. There isn't really perspective from people in the present about what happened, so it seems more like just a normal book than a flashback or anything. While it's told in past tense, it's still as though things are just happening to characters in the moment.

Honestly I wish it had used that more often. It would have been very interesting to see the characters in the present reflecting on it more. It's kind of a bummer because it is a very unique premise, and I don't feel like it delivers on that.

One thing I really liked was Zarin pointing out how hard it was for her to get popular YA books like the Hunger Games. We as a community tends to take it for granted that access to books is easy for us, and that if you can't afford them, there's always the library, when that's really not true in all places. I found a couple reviews that I'm going to link to because some parts of this isn't my place to be talking about, but overall, I thought the voice of this was great, and I thought it was a solid read.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Published: Originally published April 29th, 2008 by Henry Holt and Company, my edition was releasedd September 1st, 2009 by Square Fish.
Genre: YA Science-Fiction
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 265 plus discussion questions, author interview, and an excerpt.
Part of a series? Yes, this is the first of the Jenna Fox Chronicles trilogy.
Got via: According to the sticker on the back, it was an amazon bargain book.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Everything is different

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox has just awoken from a year-long coma - so she's been told - and she is still recovering from the terrible accident that caused it. But what happened before that? She's been given home movies chronicling her entire life, which spark memories to surface. But are the memories really hers? And why won't anyone in her family talk about the accident? Jenna is becoming more curious. But she is also afraid of what she might find out if she ever gets up the courage to ask her questions.

What happened to Jenna Fox? And who is she really?

Thoughts: How is this book nine years old and I managed to avoid being spoiled but I get spoiled for movies the day after they come out? No, I'm not bitter!

Anyways, I don't actually want to talk abou this one too much because I don't want to ruin it for you all if you've managed to avoid finding anything out about it either. I don't think it's the most unique premise ever, or one that you have to not know to enjoy the book, but I think it's a lot of fun to try and figure it out yourself as you read.

It kind of super lacks almost any type of diversity, and honestly I don't personally think there was any need for a sequel let alone a trilogy. I kind of felt like the ending wrapped things up well enough, and there didn't need to be more books. But, you know, yay for the series being successful and the author making money and everything. I'm just probably not going to seek them out. I will keep this one, though, and I'd totally reread it. It's a neat book and I really enjoyed it.

I would love to read like a really detailed analysis on this book/series from someone who's disabled, though.

Shadow Girl by Liana Liu

Published: December 19th, 2017 by HarperTeen
Genre: YA horror
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count:
Part of a series? Honestly that'd be cool, but it's very well finished and leaves everything wrapped up as a standalone.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The house on Arrow Island is full of mystery.

Yet when Mei arrives, she can’t help feeling relieved. She’s happy to spend the summer in an actual mansion tutoring a rich man’s daughter if it means a break from her normal life—her needy mother, her delinquent brother, their tiny apartment in the city. And Ella Morison seems like an easy charge, sweet and well behaved.

What Mei doesn’t know is that something is very wrong in the Morison household.

Though she tries to focus on her duties, Mei becomes increasingly distracted by the family’s problems and her own complicated feelings for Ella’s brother, Henry. But most disturbing of all are the unexplained noises she hears at night—the howling and thumping and cries.

Mei is a sensible girl. She isn’t superstitious; she doesn’t believe in ghosts. Yet she can’t shake her fear that there is danger lurking in the shadows of this beautiful house, a darkness that could destroy the family inside and out… and Mei along with them.

Thoughts: I really liked this. I didn't really realize what this book was really about when I ordered it. Which is kind of silly, because it's not unclear in the summary, lol, and that is what I read when I ordered it. But my memory is terrible at times, so. It was a really pleasant surprise when I started reading it and realized how much I was probably going to like it because it's a kind of book I really like.

And I was right! That atmosphere in this is really, really great and there's a certain way that the book uses repetition very strategically to install a sense of deja vu and really unnerve you that I loved. I thought it was neat that this was a book set during the summer after the MC had graduated high school. Those seem to be becoming more common. It also had a really good "creepy summer" atmosphere that I'm super fond of. And since Mei is Chinese, the book does talk about microaggressions and I suspect that was done well, along with the rep in general, since this is ownvoices, but you know. You should trust my opinion on that about as much as you should trust my opinion on which fuel works best in a rocket ship. I'll try and find some reviews to link to before this goes up.

The book's not perfect. There was one moment that made me be like "wow, that's not really very ace/aro friendly" and it lacks diversity in other areas - there's not really many fat people, no disability rep, absolutely no queer characters. But overall it did a whole lot that I really liked and I had a lot of fun reading it. I read it basically all in one sitting and if you want a spooky summer read, I'd recommend it for sure.

Also, the cover is great.

Geez, look at all the faces in this post! That's weird when something like that happens. It wasn't on purpose or anything.

Thanks for reading!

Peace and cookies,

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