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Monday, December 10, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (82)

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.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Published: February 22nd, 2011 by HarperCollins
Genre: Historical MG told in verse
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 260 plus acknowledgements and author's note and such.
Part of a series? No, standalone.
Got via: I think I bought it at the thrift store? It's secondhand and I bought it, I know that.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

Thoughts: Last year, I read the author's other book, and I really liked it, so when I found this wherever I found it (I really think thrift store), and saw the author's name and also how pretty the cover was (I'm weak), I snapped it up.

I didn't actually realize this was told in verse basically until I started reading it, but it's super neat. And if you're looking for those, I definitely recommend this one. It's set in 1975, and based somewhat on events from the author's own life, and something they mentioned in the author's note was something I was thinking while reading it. They mentioned realizing their neices and nephews knew where their parents came from, but didn't really understand the experience. I think a book like this could totally reflect the emotional experience of a child going through this now, and help children understand where their family came from and maybe a little more about their parents. That's an important thing, and props to this book for handling it so well.

I thought the book being told in verse also was neat, especially because that can be a little more approachable for readers. All in all, very good. This one gets to keep its spot on my shelf.

The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay

Published: I believe this was originally published in the UK in 2015, but this edition was released August 2nd, 2016 from Soucebooks Fire.
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: ARC
Page Count: Mine has 317 plus acknowments and a space for an about the author, but goodreads says the final copy would have 325 pages.
Part of a series? No, standalone.
Got via: I won it in a goodreads contest. This isn't a review book I've been putting off for two years, lol.
Amazon (and the paperback is only 4 dollars) / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): At Cate's isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game—it’s an elite secret society. Members must avoid being “Killed” during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the “Killer” is. When Cate’s finally invited to join the Assassins’ Guild, she know it’s her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.

But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she’s the next target?

Thoughts: I'm really sick and my brain is not working very well. So, it was really nice to read something that I didn't have to think too much about. I mean I tried a little to guess where the plot was going and who the "Killer" was, but not that much, honestly. I was not up for trying to figure out twists or whatever.

This is kind of trashy but like, really fun and reasonably well-written trash. It reminded me of old horror books from the 90s and I always loved the heck out of those, so I was having a grand ole time. I also very much like books set on creepy, isolated islands. It's a trope I really enjoy. So this had a lot of stuff that I had fun with, especially once it got past the initial boarding school stuff with mostly rich teenagers being kind of obnoxious. (Not my favourite trope.)

There's a few things that I really disliked. There's quite a bit of ableism, including a number of cracks about OCD, and several instances of cissexism - Cate's jacket being described as "girl-sized" (THAT'S NOT A SIZE, GIRLS COME IN ALL SIZES), talk about every girl having a period, that kind of thing, and an aromisic line. The book also has some fatmisia, both some lines that are full of diet culture/food guilt, and a character described as a "chubster". Who then disappears for the rest of the book. Seriously, I'm not sure he has a single line in the whole book. There's also some hazing at the beginning of the book that's really graphic and gross, like feces gross, and I found that unnecessary and could totally see it throwing people off the whole book

Oh, and Cate's supposed best friend (they aren't really written that close) is Latina and it's... not written well. There's random Spanish just dropped into all her dialogue.

Those things are really a shame, because otherwise once this picked up, I liked it. I end up landing right in the middle, where I had fun reading this but I had some serious issues at the same time. I would cautiously recommend this one for some, but not all. It is fun, but it's not wonderful. I'm gonna keep it, probably, 'cause it was fun for me, and the cover's pretty.

Content warning for sexual assault in this one, also.

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez

Published: August 22nd, 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: It's on the floor, so I'll add this when I review it. I'm tired. Goodreads says 336, so. Close to that, I'd assume.
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: La bibliothèque.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school--you can't fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School's queen bee, violates the school's dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She'll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Thoughts: This was really cute. It reminded me a lot of  "My Year of Rock and Roll", which I also really liked, and they would work well together in a themed list with, like, Drum Roll, Please if you wanted to make a list of music-themed MG. And I'm getting off topic now because I like lists too much.

I think that's the other thing, too, is that this isn't anything super duper unique when it comes to plot, or premise, or anything. Kid moves to a new town, kid finds things they like, kid makes friends with "outcasts", big finish. It's mostly pretty standard and that is absolutely fine. Things being repetitive in kids' media is not automatically a bad thing. A lot of kids are more comfortable reading something that feels familiar.

Second, as I've said before, the additions of things like different identities make it unique, too. Which is kind of unfortunate, honestly, since those things should also be standard, but that's where we stand. Malu is biracial/Mexican is not something you see very often in MG, especially in a book that's contemporary and modern and not historical, and that increases my rating greatly, because it's great to see.

In the end, I thought this was cute and fun, but I'm not the intended audience, and that's fine. This is definitely a book that somebody out there needs, who isn't me, and I very much hope they find it and love it, because it's a real good one. It's predictable, but that's me looking at it with adult eyes, and kids aren't going to see it that way. My only real complaint is that the characterization on Malu's friends could probably have been a little better, but overall, it's solid.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Published: May 22nd, 2018 by Tor Teen
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 456 plus a really great author's note and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? No, I believe this is a standalone.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Six years ago, Moss Jefferies' father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media's vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Thoughts: Honestly this was great and I've been putting off writing up my thoughts about it because I don't know what to say. I did struggle with connecting to the voice a bit, but it's told in third person and you all know I have some issues with that. I'm glad, though, that it's told in third person past tense, because if it was present tense I would have had a real problem. But it's definitely a me thing with that, I think.

I loved how many queer identities there were in this book. Moss and most of his friends are queer, and it's so great to see that, especially how casual it was, and that it included characters beyond just allo-cis-gay characters. There were trans characters, and nonbinary characters, and an ace character!!! Kaisha is ace in this and biromantic. It's very nicely handled. I also thought the parental relationships in this are really good. Not all of the parents are perfect, but a lot of them are very supportive and involved and it's great to see that, especially with families that aren't nuclear families. The book is still completely the teens' story (especially, but not exclusively, Moss') but there are a number of great adults who don't just throw them to the wolves to fend for themselves.

Ugh, this is a terrible review ("review") and there are so many better ones, lol. I'm just gonna say this was good and you should read it. (But like pay attention to the trigger warnings and take care of yourself, first.)

Speaking of, trigger warnings for misgendering (not by Moss or the narrative, by an antagonist character, but still), police brutality, racial profiling, violence, assault, homomisia, fatmisia (Moss has some internalized fatmisia/body issues that he works on in the book, but it can be hard to read), and one thing I'm going to say could be considered a spoiler but I think it's important to warn for. So skip this if you want, but it's more important to warn about it. Moss meets a boy during the first half of the book, and begins dating him, developing strong feelings. The boy is killed by police, and the plot of the rest of the book is directly dealing with the aftermath of his death.

That's it for me for now! What have you all been reading?

Peace and cookies,

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